Thursday, 16 April 2015

Hayes & Yeading, Vanarama South, 180415

Here we are, approaching the end of the 2014/15 Vanarama Conference South season, and I think we can all agree that it’s been an eventful one for all involved with Concord Rangers! There is still the possibility that the season could extend with the playoffs, but we’re relying on other results going our way which is never an easy spot to be in.

After todays game our focus switches to the Essex Senior Cup Final vs Billericay on Monday evening, which gets under way at 7:45 at the Dagenham & Redbridge ground. After winning this competition last year, retaining it this season was one of the objectives set by Danny Cowley. It’s not been easy, grafting our way through more than our fair share of penalty shootouts, but the lads have worked their backsides off and fully deserve to be in that final once again. It’s a huge old trophy too, so it’ll be good to get that back at the Aspect Arena for another year.

Our league form this season speaks for itself, with the recent 13 game unbeaten streak highlighting how far the team have come and how well they’ve settled into playing football at this level. With a top 10 finish secured for the second straight year, and challenging for the playoffs right up until the final week or so of the season, I don’t think there is anyone who can say that Concord Rangers don’t belong here!

The cup competitions have also provided the club with more than enough excitement, and that’s not taking the Essex Senior Cup into account. This seasons achievement in reaching the First Round proper of the FA Cup, and earning a replay at home to Mansfield Town, was something truly special for everyone involved. Our name being read out live on the BBC when the First Round Draw was made was an incredible feeling, seeing little Concord Rangers trending worldwide on Twitter just added to it! The support shown by the Islanders and Essex in general was fantastic during the whole period. We also can’t forget about the FA Trophy run, reaching the Second Round for the first time was another impressive milestone.

There’s been plenty of great moments since we kicked off this season against Bath City last August, every year this rollercoaster ride we call supporting Concord Rangers just seems to get more and more exciting. I wouldn’t trade this for the world, and feel privileged to be a part of it, as a fan, committee member, programme editor, and member of the Beachboys family. Thank you for being a part of it as well, thank you for supporting and being a part of this club, thank you for reading these articles I put out each week, thank you for the feedback (good or bad), and I look forward to seeing you all back here for more next season in the Vanarama “National League South”.

#YAMC

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Ebbsfleet United, Vanarama South, 280315

Football, the beautiful game, it’s the sport we love which provides us with a never ending rollercoaster of emotions and feelings. It also provokes opinions, and in many cases vastly differing ones between fans, players and officials alike.

I’m lucky enough to be able to voice my opinions here in the matchday programme and on the official website, and I try not to take that for granted. By putting my opinions (positive or negative) on show in these forms I am representing the club, so whilst honest, I wont be swearing or using some descriptive terms that I may use on a face to face basis!

Of course we also form opinions on opposition clubs and their fans, and that’s what has got me typing today. We’re a small, niche club with our loyal band of followers, we thrive on that and the fact that opposition teams underestimate us when they hear the name Concord Rangers. When the inevitable upset occurs and our “small club” pick up a result, it tends to bring us a lot of animosity from fans. Now being upset at a loss is understandable, we all do it, but losing to us, or even a late draw to one of our customary late goals, seems to bring on so much more!

Is it because of our small stature that we seem to provoke so much hatred? Because we revel in being the underdog and proving doubters wrong? Or because our 20 (at times) away fans can make more noise than the hundreds at some of our league rivals? Who knows, but you only have to look at some of the club internet forums around this league (and still some in the Ryman Premier actually) to see that we are a hated club by some!

It’s a shame, as personally I believe we should be given credit for the success we’ve achieved as a club, we do from media outlets and people around the game that know how we work and what we do here though. The main thing is though that we ourselves appreciate the support we get, the regular fans that cheer the lads on week in and week out, the fact that a lot of the work done around the club is done by volunteers (including editing the programme), and that the boys on the pitch work their backsides off every time they wear the shirt.

I’ve got opinions on other clubs, but I will give credit where it’s due and have a lot of respect for some sets of fans around this league, it’s just a shame some others don’t have that outlook! Anyway, on to todays game, it’ll be a tough test but I’m sure we’ll all get behind the lads and cheer them on to victory!

#YAMC

Friday, 13 February 2015

Chelmsford, Vanarama South, 100215

Tonight we host Chelmsford City, a team that, league aside, we seem to encounter on a regular basis, and tend to be fairly successful.

Go back to the 2008/09 season and our two sides met in the final of the Essex Senior Cup, with the Clarets winning 2-0 on the night. Since then though, the Essex Senior Cup has proven to be the place we keep meeting. Ok so there may not be too many teams in Essex, but other than this season we have a tendency to be drawn together!

The earliest that I remember is during the 2011/12 season, and the Beachboys were drawn away to the Clarets in that seasons Essex Senior Cup competition. Chelmsford were Conference South, we were just a lowly Ryman Premier side. Of course, any fan of Concord Rangers will know that league placing means absolutely nothing when you get onto that pitch with our lads, and it was highlighted with a 4-1 Beachboys victory at Citys ground.

It was the same story draw-wise the following season, but this time we were drawn at home in what was the Quarter Final stage of the competition. A thrilling game saw it end 3-3 after 90 minutes, and therefore penalties loomed. As has also become a bit of a trend in recent seasons (especially the current one) Concord Rangers were better from the spot, and won the shootout 6-5 to book a place in the Semi Finals (which we subsequently lost).

Promotion followed, so two further games a season would be contested between the Clarets and the Beach Boys. Our first league encounter last season was away from home, and much like the 90 minutes the year before the game ended with honours even. Goals from Jason Hallett and John Easterford helped us play out a 2-2 draw, giving us our first point in the Conference South. The Essex Senior Cup paired us up once again, and the trend of it being level after 90 minutes continued, this time the game ended 1-1. Penalties once more, and it was another Concord win, 3-2 being the score on this occasion. When Chelmsford visited Thames Road in the league, the result was slightly different, as the Clarets walked away comfortable 3-1 winners.

Tonights fixture essentially closes our business with each other for another season, and the Beach Boys will be hoping to have a repeat of the reverse fixture at Chelmsford when we got a hard-earned 1-0 victory.

Given that we are so close, and we have a tendency to be drawn together in our county cup competition, I'm sure there will be plenty of interesting and entertaining encounters still to come between our two sides.

#YAMC

Alan Jessup-Peacock

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Sutton, Vanarama South, 070215

Home at last! After what has seemed like an age (although it’s just been two weeks) the Beach Boys are back on home soil at the Aspect Arena.

Not much has happened though since we were last here beating (at the time) 3rd placed Whitehawk by 3 goals to nil. The Tuesday afterwards the boys and a small number of fans made the long journey down to the South coast to take on Havant & Waterlooville (who were 3rd in the league at the time). Last season on the same trip Concord were beaten by a single goal in dubious circumstances, so it was a fitting dose of football karma when this time round the scoreline was reversed.

Admittedly the pitch was horrendous, almost like quicksand in some places, and the groundsman was rolling it before the game and during half time, but that wasn’t the main story. It was all about the referee, who was one of those people who made sure the game was focused on him and him alone. A few soft bookings early on meant that he’d set his standard low, and had to maintain that throughout the 90 minutes. Of course a lack of consistency then through the rest of the game meant that both teams (and their fans) got incredibly frustrated with him, more so the hosts as two Hawks were sent off!

I can’t take anything away from the performance though, the Beach Boys were resolute in defence, and strong in midfield. The highlight though was an awesome goal from Tony Stokes with around 2 minutes gone. He knocked it past 2 defenders (whilst running uphill he’ll happily tell you) and calmly slotted the ball home before anyone had really got settled.

This past Saturday the weather struck, with our trip to Maidenhead United being called off that morning due to a frozen/waterlogged pitch. We have been pretty lucky until now with our games beating the weather, the only rearrangements really have been due to our various cup competition commitments.

Speaking of which, the draw was made the day after the Havant game for the Essex Senior Cup semi finals. Concord Rangers were the fourth and final name drawn, and we were handed an away tie to the winner of Redbridge vs AFC Hornchurch, which at the time hadn’t been played due to weather issues. The game took place this past Tuesday with the Urchins winning 3-0, therefore before the end of the month (date to be confirmed, see the website for details) Concord Rangers will look to continue their quest to retain the Essex Senior Cup by travelling to AFC Hornchurch.

Enjoy the game today, and we’ll do this all over again on Tuesday!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Whitehawk, Vanarama South, 240115

So we’re over 3 weeks into 2015, and already it’s provided a number of ups and downs for those involved here at Concord Rangers. We started the year with an impressive victory away at Bromley on New Years Day, which was a needed response after losing to them in emphatic fashion on Boxing Day, and the winning continued 3 days later at home to Staines Town with a 1-0 victory. Staines came into the game (and left) rooted to the bottom of the Conference South, but proved to be tough opposition on the day, just as you’d expect from any team in our league.

Then our away trips began, and first up was an FA Trophy last 32 clash at fellow Conference South side Hemel Hempstead Town. After beating Barnet in the First Round 6-2 in a replay, the prospect of facing another club in our league was one that we would have relished. However on the day it didn’t quite go to plan. Personally I wasn’t there, so can’t really comment on the performance, but from talking to those that were, it wasn’t the greatest and we were second best throughout. Hemel picked up a 3-1 victory to earn a place in the 3rd Round (at home to Torquay) whilst the Beachboys went home to lick their wounds.

Next up were Hemel’s local rivals St Albans City, the team we beat 1-0 to reach the FA Cup 1st Round last year. It was back to Clarence Park for the first time since that superb day back in October, but the similarities ended with that! It was a totally different Saints team that Concord encountered this time round, one with purpose, drive and determination. We were second to most balls, barely had a shot on target, and allowed ourselves to be bossed about by the more physical St Albans players. 2-0 was the score on the day, and it could have been more if it wasn’t for some fine ‘keeping from Josh Vickers (who will now be a Beachboy till the end of the season).

A massive response was needed, and it would come against tough opposition this past Tuesday night in the Essex Senior Cup. Concord made the short trip down the A13 to Dagenham & Redbridge, the first time we’d been to the ground since winning the competition against Braintree last year. We’d also been there and beaten Dagenham before, coming back from 3-0 down to win 4-3, so the ground held good memories for the lads. The Daggers put out a strong side on the night, with former Hammer Zavon Hines being a standout name on their teamsheet. But our lads weren’t fazed at all, and put on a dogged, determined performance to take the lead twice (through Gardner & Stokes). Dagenham equalised both times with goals right out of the top drawer though, and penalties loomed. Now in this competition so far this season we’ve played fixtures against Colchester United and Grays Athletic, both of which went to penalties where the lads obviously won through. Form was good in shootouts, and Tuesday night ended up being no exception. All 4 of our penalties were scored, we didn’t need a 5th though as Josh Vickers pulled off two excellent saves to send us into the Semi Finals for the 3rd year running. The draw will be made soon enough, but the three other QFs are yet to be played thanks to the inclement weather conditions recently!

So as you can see, ups and downs already and 2015 is barely a month old! Being a part of Concord Rangers is never dull, and I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of 2015 holds for the Beachboys!

#YAMC

Alan Jessup-Peacock

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Staines Town, Vanarama South, 040115

2014 has drawn to a close, and what a year it has been as a fan, hell as a part of Concord Rangers football club. The end of last season saw the Beachboys earn a 9th place finish in the (as it was then) Skrill South, whilst reaching the Essex Senior Cup final. That cup final was a fantastic night for everyone involved with the club, with a deserved victory being gained over Braintree Town. The lads left everything on the pitch, and it was brilliant to see them walk away with that massive Essex Senior Cup trophy.

Obviously the celebrations lasted well into the night, but it wasn't too long before the focus was switched right back to business and the 2014/15 season.

Preseason was its usual uncertain self, with trialists coming and going, games being won and lost, squads being rotated, but it gave us a hint of what was to come over the next few months. One trialist was knocking the goals in seemingly for fun in Jordan Chiedozie, and he proved to be a key addition to the team this season. Obviously now he’s moved on to professional pastures, and we wish him all the best in those endeavours.

The season itself up until now has already seen a number of highs and lows, along with a number of changes to our coaching and playing staff. Glen Alzapiedi stood down as assistant manager to take over the reins at Cheshunt, leaving Nicky Cowley to step up and take his place. Jamie Butler suffered a nasty injury vs Wealdstone and has been absent since, although he’s on the comeback trail as I type. I’ve already mentioned Jordan, Cheye Alexander came & went, whilst Taylor Miles returned to the Aspect Arena after his loan spell last season.

Cup success has been another big story of 2014, firstly with the Essex Senior Cup mentioned above, but also the FA Cup run to the First Round Proper, and the current run to the 2nd Round of the FA Trophy. There’s also the quest to retain the Essex Senior Cup which will continue on February 10th when we face Dagenham & Redbridge in the Quarter Finals of the competition.

On a personal level 2014 has seen me go from just being a supporter who wrote a bit, to being a committee member here at the club and editing this programme for every home game (which has turned out to be a lot more work than I imagined).

2014 has been a great year, but 2015 promises to even better for the club and all involved with it. And with that I wish you all a Happy New Year!

You Are My Concord!

Alan Jessup-Peacock

Friday, 26 December 2014

Bromley, Vanarama South, 261214

This club just has a knack of making history eh? We all know about the FA Cup, that’s now consigned to the annuls of time. The big story at the moment is the FA Trophy, and our recent 6-2 victory over Conference table-toppers Barnet.

Last season we reached the First round of the competition but were knocked out after a 1-0 loss to Gosport Borough, who eventually went on to make the final, so this season we were intent on going one better (as seems to be a club trend under Danny Cowley).

There’s been no easy games though in this competition, with Conference South leaders Boreham Wood coming to Thames Road in the 3rd Qualifying Round, followed by Barnet in the First Round. The second round awaits now, and a visit to Hemel Hempstead Town on Saturday January 10th.

That draw was made prior to the replay of the first round fixture, and gave the lads great incentive to get through. The Second Round of the FA Trophy is the first of the competition where the draw isn’t regionalised, so we could have ended up going anywhere in the country for this fixture! Thankfully Hemel Hempstead isn't too far down the road!

Back to the replay though, and what a night that was at The Hive (not Underhill as Steve Cawley thought at first). The first half was pretty even, both sides created chances but Concord were not quite 100% I thought. The second half though, well that was a performance to behold. At 1-1 with 45 to go, I thought it would be a fairly close game, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Barnet looked as though they had changed their system, but Concord were a team on a mission and were just too good for the Bees. Goals from Cawley, Taaffe, Pinnock, Stokes and Collins gave the Beach Boys an impressive and deserved 6-2 victory. Revenge was gained for last seasons FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round loss, and Concord Rangers place in the 2nd Round, and the history books, was confirmed. The picture here will be an image living long in the memory!

You Are My Concord

Alan Jessup-Peacock