No.28 - Sat 23rd January 2016; Kent County League Division 1W;                                  2.45pm at the Dartford FC Community Pitch; Princes Park; Grassbanks; Darenth Road; Kent; DA1 1RT


Matchday images (49)

Halls AFC (0) 1 Bexlians (1) 2

'It's stress-free 3G'.


'Itís a lovely bright sunny day (for a change) and Iím making my first sortie of the season down into Kent for my footy fix. Iím heading to Dartford for my chosen game, the Kent County League match between Halls AFC and Bexlians who are playing each other in a Division One West fixture. Thankfully itís a pretty straightforward journey made easier by no longer having to stop and pay the crossing charge at the busy toll booths. Instead you are now able to complete the entire transaction online (after the journey) from the comfort of your favourite armchair and without the slightest whiff of car fumes filling your lungs. Happy days.

Halls AFC was established back in 1919 as a works team representing J and E Halls, a large manufacturing plant located in Dartford. The companyís long standing history goes back to 1785 when John Hall began his one man workshop in Dartford, Kent. The company quickly became known for manufacturing steam engines and gun carriages which were exported to Europe and Asia. It was not until the late 19th century that J & E Hall manufactured the cold air machine that gained the company its reputation for refrigeration innovation that still stands today. 

Indeed it was reported in The Times in 1886 that J & E Hallís first cold air machines froze 30,000 mutton carcasses being shipped from The Falkland Islands to the UK.  J & E Hall designed the first two stage carbon dioxide compressor in 1886 and, as early as 1910, supplied refrigeration equipment to the National Skating Palace. With over 120 years experience the company has unrivalled expertise and cutting edge production capabilities worldwide. 

As far as football is concerned the club itself is well known in the area for being pro-active in developing new players within its ranks. Incredibly there are currently eighteen different teams ranging from under sevens right up to the veterans age group which compete regulary under the Halls AFC banner. The senior first team plays its home games on the Community Pitch at Princes Park home of National League South Division side Dartford Football Club. 

It is easily accessed (no more than ten minutes) from the M25 by following the exit B1 slip road towards the town with brown signs along the A225 taking you into Darenth Road and then left into Grassbanks where a driveway leads up towards the ground and large car park on the left. The impressive stadium opened back in 2010 is found immediately beyond here on the left with the neatly landscaped Community pitch over to the right, under the shadow of the main stand. Itís a hive of activity with a golf course and mini pitches also established on site.

My last visit here was back in November 2007 when the Darts beat Horsham YMCA 3-1 for a Ryman League Division One South fixture in front of 4100 fans in the long awaited and much publicised ground opener. Although only a few years have passed since that memorable occasion the club has progressed remarkably up the pyramid hosting Conference Premier football, Iíve a sneaky feeling Princes Park looks a little bit more worn down and drab over this time. 

Despite the continuing awful weather over the last few days thereís no worries about the game going ahead as the action is taking place on an  artificial 3G grass playing surface. Indeed a quick phone call to club secretary Chris Michaelas at midday gives me the green light before setting out from Racing HQ. Phew. The facility is fully enclosed within a tall caged perimeter fence with the entrance close to the corner flag in the furthest corner meaning the players walk the short distance over from the designated changing room block opposite. A couple of perspex dug outs positioned on the far touchline cater for the teams and there is plenty of room for spectators to watch the action from inside the cage itself with a few extra chairs placed behind the touchline on the tarmac pathway. This is roped through some free standing red and white posts on the near side which continue up to the half-way line. The venue also has six sets of floodlights allowing locals to use the pitch throughout the winter months when it is dark. 

The match played in beautiful warm-ish sunshine attracts almost a dozen spectators who are treated to an exciting end to end contest throughout. The visitors from Bexley who are dressed in their Liverpool look-a-like strip come to Princes Park two places ahead of the hosts in the 10 team division. They start the game strongly and hit the back of the net three times early in the first half Ė sadly for them two are disallowed for offside but Tom Bradshawís (10) effort from a tight angle ten yards out does count. The visitors go two up just after half-time when Bill Turner (49) takes advantage of a poorly directed back pass to sneak in and drill the ball home. Things get interesting in the closing stages as Steve Vanstone (83) taps in on the line following a free-kick on the right to give the hosts some hope. Despite a frantic last five minutes the visitors hang on to their lead and take the spoils. Although the club doesnít issue a programme, a range of refreshments is available from some machines inside the concourse from the stadium next door. 

Indeed itís quite an eerie experience as this seasonís tenants and ground-sharers Greenwich Borough is playing Deal Town (4-1) in a Southern Counties East League fixture inside the main stadium. A few raised shouts together with a muffled tannoy-announcer's voice can be heard in the background at key times during the afternoon to distract the attention. As the sunlight fades late in the second half the floodlight pylons are switched on behind us but we manage to see out our game without any extra help. Is that luck or just savvy housekeeping?! 

For more information about the club go to its terrific website which includes both match video and photo gallery sections. In addition you can check out the excellent and regularly updated county league website which is a fabulous resource and all credit to web editor Philip Smith. A visit to this friendly club comes highly recommended. It is certainly worthwhile when the forecast is bad and in the words of FGIF superstar snapper Gary Spooner Ďyou donít want to be playing with the weather lotteryí. The joys of stress-free 3G! Have fun wherever you go'.



FGIF Match Stats

Scorers: (H) Vanstone (83) and (A) Bradshaw (10), Turner (49)   

Attendance: 10; Admission and Programme: None; Match rating: 4/5; Ground rating: 4/5.



edited on 24/01/16