After Boreham Comes Boredom

Match report by ALAN ESSEX

Ebbsfleet 0 Pools 0 (National League)
Tuesday 19 February 2019
Kuflink Stadium

A ground I’d never been to before, The Kuflink Stadium. Kuflink are apparently peer-to-peer lenders. 

According to the GOV.UK website “Peer-to-peer loans are an alternative investment providing opportunities for individuals to lend directly to other people or businesses without using a bank.” Sounds like the kind of scheme Gary Coxall may have been interested in a while back. I suppose this is considered progress - it is all new to me. In the past if you needed a loan you would go to a bank or building society, but so is the relentless march of capitalism.

I didn’t get to see much of the area, Kent being called ‘The Garden of England’. I would have liked to have seen oast houses, rolling hills, castles and even the local streets and shops but the area where Wallace and Gromit and I found ourselves was just several gigantic car parks and an enormous station terminal – Ebbsfleet International. In all honesty, several international airports I’ve visited have been smaller with fewer facilities. The walk to the ground was between some of the aforementioned car parks and along what I imagined was the outskirts of the industrial area, all that I could see was a Kia dealership.

The Kuflink Stadium is quite spectacular at National League level when approached from Stonebridge Road. A new metal and (mostly) glass facade along modern lines runs the complete length of the ground. The upper floor of the two appears to be given over to food and drink, they also put on entertainment, past events seem to be mostly tribute acts. The ground floor comprises offices and changing rooms.

The other side of this structure forms the backdrop to the new stand which is only 5 tiers deep, holding over 1000 seats. Opposite this is an old stand, fully seated, running about half the length of the pitch. This has several columns at the front supporting the tin roof. Behind one goal is another tin covered stand, all seated. Between these two stands is a standing area- think of the area between the Mill House and the Rink End stands. For some reason this area was crowded for the whole game despite plenty of room around the ground. The only excuse I can find for this is that it is directly next to the food and drink hut. The opposite end is an uncovered stand for standing only. They have no segregation and once paid and inside supporters of both clubs can move around at will.

By the way, if you think this is all boring, I haven’t even got to the game yet. The club itself has a fairly interesting recent history. At the end of 2007 the website ‘MyFootballClub’ entered a deal to take over the club. They had not set out to take over this particular club, they had set their sights higher, Leeds United, Arsenal and Nottingham Forest had been mentioned, there was an amount of surprise and disappointment when Ebbsfleet were named. Around 27,000 members from around the country agreed to pay £35 each providing £635,000 to take over the club, all with an equal share. I have no idea where the other £300,000 would have gone but assume it would have provided a nice cushion from financial woes. The members would eventually vote on all major decisions including team selection and transfers. In the meantime, Liam Daish their manager, continued to control who played and who remained at the club and who was brought in. It sounds like a logistical nightmare equalled only by the current Brexit turmoil. However, in May 2008, Ebbsfleet won the FA Trophy beating Torquay 1-0. They also won the Kent Senior Cup.

The first real democratic decision that was made was to transfer John Akinde to Bristol City for £140,000 with over 82% voting for this. This money allowed Daish to re-sign most of the squad and add Michael Gash for £20,000 from Cambridge City.

After a year, following a peak of 32,000 members, many did not renew. In 2009 they had 9,000 members where 15,000 was considered the break-even (around half a million pounds), a year later it was down to around 3,500 and the club were relegated from the Conference. The fewer members continued to run the club and they surprisingly won promotion back to the Conference at the first attempt. The club having financial problems then reverted back to a more traditional style of ownership. From 2013 they have been owned by Kuwaiti business KEH Sports Ltd.
"Noble’s drag back left a defender on his backside and stunned Noble so much that when it came off, he forgot to shoot."

I’ve been putting it off but here is the match report. After the weekend's surprising and most welcome win at Boreham Wood expectations were high for another good display. A couple of weeks ago who would have thought that Myles Anderson and Aaron Cunningham would be our central defensive pairing? What’s more who would have put money on not conceding after 2 away games?

Pools had to defend for long periods in the first half with Michael Cheek, a prolific scorer for his present club as well as previously Chelmsford, Braintree and Dagenham & Redbridge and Cody McDonald looking dangerous for the hosts. Pools were having to defend in numbers with Kioso moving inside to assist the 2 central defenders and Amos and Donaldson in the full back slots. With the remaining midfielders, Featherstone, Hawkes and Noble, also having to play deep. Our front pair of Kabamba and James didn’t have much joy in attack. Kabamba did have one clear opportunity but his weak shot, which was more like a gentle back pass, went straight to Ashmore, the rotund Ebbsfleet keeper (think of Martin Burleigh in his prime). Two similar opportunities for the home team from their right-hand side, inside of the penalty box, went past Loach’s right-hand post with the keeper beaten. McDonald went off injured on the half hour and Ebbsfleet didn’t look so dangerous after this.

After the break Pools came out much stronger but it was Ebbsfleet who had a couple of good chances although poor finishing, one shot went over the stand and the other hit the tin roof covering it, prevented the electronic scoreboard operator from being troubled. James was his lively self and a last-ditch block turned his shot into a corner. The 2 highlights of the game for Pools came in the last 10 minutes, Kabamba had a great shot that was magnificently saved by Ashmore tipping the ball round the angle of cross bar and post for a corner. It was good to see Ashmore and Kabamba deservedly congratulate each other. There was then a sublime movement between Noble and Featherstone interchanging short passes in the Ebbsfleet penalty area. Noble’s drag back left a defender on his backside and stunned Noble so much that when it came off, he forgot to shoot. A defender then managed to clear the ball.

A hard-fought draw between 2 equally matched sides on the night. Both defences deserved credit with just a few attacking highlights. Well done to Hignett for getting the team to up their game in the second half and for motivating a team that had been going through the motions a few weeks back.

Good to meet up with some of the ‘South East Poolies’ and a few other London based Poolies. Some supporters had come down for the previous weekend's Boreham match and stayed down. Total attendance was 1265 – as no segregation, impossible to know for sure how many Poolies – I’d say about 150, mostly exiles.

No Man-of-the-Match from me as they all played their part, albeit in a defensive manner.

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