Sevenoaks FC was formed in 1883 and were founder members of the original Kent League which ran from 1894 to 1959. However, Sevenoaks FC lasted just the one season, the first one between 1894 and 1895. The club reformed in 1906 as Sevenoaks Town and became founder member of the Sevenoaks and District league alongside Halstead United, Otford United, Shoreham United and Westerham. The club continued in the Sevenoaks and District League until they merged with local club St. Johns United, and then joined the Western section of the Kent Amateur league in 1951. They won the Kent Amateur League Western section title twice in the 1980’s, first at the end of the 1980/81 season, and then again two seasons later at the end of the 1982/83 season. The club’s next Championship winning success came at the end of the 1992/93 season by which point the Kent Amateur league had changed its name to the Kent County League and Sevenoaks Town were playing in the Premier Section after the league had re-organised. The 1995/96 season saw the club land a second Premier Division title in three seasons, but it was then it took seven seasons before the club recorded their third Premier Division triumph, coming at the end of the 2002/03 season.
After the Championship winning season in 2003, the club were promoted to the Kent League and finished their first season in 11th place. The club have remained in the Kent League ever since, and have finished bottom twice and 2nd from bottom between the 2011/12 and 2013/14 seasons, winning just thirteen games in that time. In the summer of 2014 the club appointed Micky Collins as manager. Collins, a striker in his playing days, had previously won the Kent League and Cup double with Erith and Belvedere at the end of the 2012/13 season. Collins signed a three year contract at Greatness Park in May 2014 with the club looking to progress on and off the field.
Wednesday 20th August 2014 – Southern Counties East League – Sevenoaks Town 2 v 1 Tunbridge Wells – Greatness Park – Attendance 183
Whilst watching Gillingham against Swindon Town at Priestfield the night before this game, I was reading the section in the Gills match day programme which covers local football when I noticed the article contributor had mentioned that a visit to Sevenoaks Town could possibly involve some sampling of local curry. Sevenoaks Town were sponsored the by Raj Bari Indian restaurant located in Sevenoaks, and apparently it wasn’t unheard of for the restaurant’s chef to visit the ground on match days and allow spectators to sample his dishes. However, when my alarm clock went off at 3:30am for work on the morning of this game, a curry was last thing on my mind in my sleep deprived state. However, by lunchtime I was home from work and I had a few hours spare to catch up on some much needed sleep before heading off to Sevenoaks later in the evening for a football game complete with a curry. This would be my first ever visit to Greatness Park and up until now a chicken Balti pie had been my standard food choice watching games over the years.
The County of Kent was in the middle of an Indian summer like much of the UK in 2014, so on a lovely August summer evening I decided to use my motorbike to make the relatively short trip from Rochester to leafy Sevenoaks. After winding my way through the quaint villages of Eccles, Burham, Wouldham and Aylesford I was making good progress via the A and B road network of North West Kent. The traffic got a bit heavier as I rode through East and West Malling and then into Ditton, but it was still preferable to using the manic M20 at rush hour. I arrived into Sevenoaks with about forty five minutes to go before kick off. Greatness Park is situated on a large open field and the ground itself is surrounded by a metal spiked fence. One of the unique features of the area surrounding the ground is a large grass banking area behind one of the goals where people can get a great vantage point to watch the game without actually paying to get in! The ground itself is very basic with one side having one pre-fab stand with a few seats and another some pre-fab shelter. On the night the majority of the visiting Tunbridge Wells fans took up residence in this part of the ground and made themselves heard throughout in this local derby.
Tunbridge Wells are a Kent club on the up. After reaching Wembley and contesting the FA Vase final in 2013, the club are now attracting regular three figure crowds, a lot higher than many clubs at step 5 in the pyramid where attendances rarely reach 100. The Wells and manager Martin Larkin have ambitions to join the Ryman South, however with only one promotion place up for grabs in the Southern Counties East League the task is a tough one year on year. Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells had both made good starts to the 2014/15 season with both clubs winning their first two games without conceding a goal between them.
The game was scrappy in the opening exchanges, much like many local derbies, as both teams struggled on a hard pitch that hadn’t seen much rain in months. After twenty one minutes Andy Walker put the home side in front when he met a cross at the far post as the noisy travelling support were briefly silenced. Around 100 Tunbridge Wells fans had made the short journey down the A21, but local bragging rights belonged to the home fans as the score remained at 1-0 until half time. At half time there was no sign of the local chef with his curry so I had to make my way out of the ground to a separate building that sold refreshments. Another unique and bizarre feature of Greatness Park.
The second half continued in much the same way as the first with both sides struggling to create much going forward, then with just a minute of the match remaining it suddenly exploded into life. Wells centre half Perry Spackman hit a shot from about 20 yards out that somehow squeezed underneath the Sevenoaks keeper and rolled into the net. The travelling supporters were jubilant as Martin Larkin’s team looked to have rescued a point. Unfortunately, their joy was short lived as in second half injury time Sevenoaks won all three points with the last kick of the game. Again the Sevenoaks goal came from a cross into the box as Miles Cronwell headed in from close range to the delight of the Sevenoaks manager Micky Collins and his players.
A third win in a row for Sevenoaks insured they stayed in touch with the league’s early pacesetters Erith and Belvedere. As for the Tunbridge Wells supporters, which as the their song goes includes “Lawyers, Doctors and architects” they were left to make the journey back along the A21 probably wondering if it was a case of their team suffering ill fortune or in need of little repair. I’ll get my coat…….