After the Bulls shocking performance against Peterborough Sports at Edgar Street on Tuesday, Josh Gowling now takes his side over to the Essex coast for an FA Trophy tie against Heybridge Swifts.
Gowling states he expects his team to win “every game” but, in reality, where does an FA Trophy run lie in his list of priorities? How many regulars will be rested for this one?
Simon Wright looks forward to the game.
“Oh goody,” said I. “Such a relief to be tatting over to the Essex coast in November rather than having to endure an afternoon home game…” I know, sarcasm doesn’t become me.
What are the plus points?
- Obviously visiting a ground and a location that for most of us will be a one-time only in our entire lives. A memory to bore grandchildren with.
- A few Exiles like Peter Nice, Andy Christopher and Adrian Kidley who live nearby are thought to be grinning manically.
- Heybridge are very pleased to host us https://www.pitchero.com/clubs/heybridgeswifts3/news/fa-trophy–home-tie-v-hereford-fc-2739797.html
- You can bring your dog to the game as long as he or she is on a lead.
- This will cheer everyone up. Heybridge installed an artificial pitch last year. Swifts’ chairman Gary White said: “If you look at the figures now and those likely post 3G, not to go ahead with construction of a 3G pitch is a no brainer. Currently the club’s income is around £250,000 but with the 3G in place it is estimated at £780,000. It gives you so much more playing time, so much more footfall coming through the place and then there’s the pitch hire and the revenue from the bar.” After handing over £100 per hour hire fee, the players can adjourn to the club cocktail bar. Honest! This is Essex.
Beyond that, I’m struggling.
Heybridge is a large village of 8,000 near the river Blackwater in Essex. There is another Heybridge near Brentwood so don’t mix them up! Neither Heybridge nor its neighbour Maldon have a train station and with rail replacement in operation to Witham station 5 miles distant, driving is the best option. And it’s a lot of driving – between 180 and 210 miles one way from the Street depending on route chosen.Not that our travel-dusty followers will be in testing mode but the Scraley Road stadium currently has a capacity of 3,000, of which 550 is seated and 1,200 covered. Admission is normally Adult £10, Concessions £5, U16 are free.
The Swifts can trace their lineage back to 1880 though its only comparatively recently that they’ve troubled the pages of the non-league paper. Heybridge are in their 13th step 4 season in Isthmian League North. though briefly threatened to reach Step 2 when they lost an Isthmian Premier Play-off final back in 2004.
My fag packet calculations note sub 300 attendances are the norm here so even an above average crowd suggests our take home share will be under a grand. Our travel expenses will blow a hole in the “total take.” Hereford are timewise very close to reaching the criteria for an overnight stay. But given that only the first £50 per person can be claimed as hotel expenses, can’t see our club wanting to pick up the rest of the bill. Hotels in Essex? Loadsamoney. Prize money might justify our trip. Winner bags £3750, losers get £1,000 for turning up.
Heybridge manager is Steve Tilson who is very big in Southend. Over 240 games for the Shrimpers followed by 7 years in charge as their gaffer. He’s only been in charge of Swifts since Sept last year. Their goalkeeping coach is good as is in genuinely Good – that’s his name- James Good.
Under their fairly new gaffer, Swifts are a club in form. They’ve only lost 2 of their first 20 games this season in all competitions and are pushing for promotion though have a backlog of League matches. Isthmian League North isn’t awash with familiar names. Probably the best known are Hashtag United though not for wholly positive reasons.
Swifts battled through 3 rounds of the FA Cup before Braintree put them out. Between the two cup competitions they’ve knocked out Step 3 opponents three times. Striker Andy Fennell has 9 goals in 14 matches. Ominously, these are nearly all in Cup matches. Swifts have a large squad of 24 with 4 ever-presents none of whom have much experience of higher-level football.
Not surprisingly, ex-Bulls connections are limited. Lionel Ainsworth was with Swifts last term but moved again in the summer to his thirteenth club after leaving Hereford in 2009.
With such an impressive list of plus points, expect to see you all in Essex.