Friday, 29 November 2013

A Loan Between Friends?

Some surprising news was announced yesterday by Concord Rangers, striker & club captain Tony Stokes is to go on a 5 game loan spell to Canvey Island FC. I’ll let you digest that for a moment before I continue!

Canvey Island is a small place with two successful non-league football teams, a massive achievement in itself. With the recent rise of Concord Rangers through the non league ranks the rivalry between them & CIFC has intensified. The results in the recent encounters between the two clubs have been in the Beachboys favour on all but one occasion, players (& coaches) have made the small jump across the island, more recently in the direction of Concord, and the fact that the Beachboys ply their trade in a division higher than Canvey all adds fuel to the fire. You only have to have a glancing look at Twitter to see the banter that flies between fans of the two sides, always increased when one side is victorious & the other is subject to defeat. I will openly admit that when at a Concord game & we find out that Canvey are losing, a bit of a cheer can be heard, and I’d put money on fans at Canvey doing the same. All part of a healthy rivalry eh?

Now on to Tony, he’s been with Concord Rangers for a few years now and has established himself as a potent force in front of goal for the Beachboys. He was made club captain at the start of last season, and was an integral part of the side as they won promotion to the Skrill South this past summer. Stokes did have a niggling groin injury last season, but was over that and fitter than ever coming into what was (and is proving) to be a historical season for the Beachboys. However, disaster struck in the final preseason game as Tony injured his knee as Concord lost in emphatic fashion to Billericay.

His recovery & rehab went well, with Stokes making his return to the squad around the same time that his partner Meg was due to give birth to their first child! Plenty going on for Tony on & off the field during that time I’m sure you’ll agree!

Being in a league like the Skrill South, players need to be able to hit the ground running as the competition is fierce, opponents are very tough & it’s a massive step up for a club like ours. This means that Tony has found it a struggle to get back into the starting 11 for Concord; he needs match fitness & sharpness by playing 90 minutes consistently but isn’t getting that at the moment. You could liken it to the old job application excuse, you need more experience before we let you in, but the only way to get experience is by being in there in the first place! This is where the loan move comes in, and it was announced yesterday that Canvey Island FC, our long time rivals & opponents, will have Tony playing for them on loan for 5 games. It was a shock, and will have surprised many people around both sides, however when you look at the bigger picture it makes a lot of sense.

Tony was prolific in the Ryman Prem, knocking in goals for fun, stepping back to that level for a period of time will allow him to get comfortable banging goals in again. He’ll play regularly, which will ensure that his match fitness is back up to its peak, and will ensure that his confidence is at a high when he returns to Thames Road. He’s got a young family, and Canvey Island FC are just down the road, which is ideal for him & his family. Concord want their club captain back to his best, he’s an important part of the Beachboy family and this loan move will ultimately be good for us in the long run upon his return. Canvey Island lost their striker recently to a broken jaw suffered off the pitch, and need a goal scorer to replace him for a short period of time. In this move they get a proven player at this level who’s attitude & commitment is unquestionable, and fill the void until their guy is back fit & healthy.

Benefits all round then from this move, as surprising as it all was! Tony’s a mate, and I wish him the best over there & hope it works out, so that when he returns home the goals are flying in. It’ll seem strange when on Saturday a mate will be playing for the rivals, certainly makes it tougher to want them to lose, but as much of a mate as he is, you wont see me cheering for a Canvey win any time soon!


Thursday, 21 November 2013

Trophy Trials

The FA Cup is the most revered & traditional cup competition in football, it’s the one all teams want to play in & win. As we know this year Concord Rangers fell agonisingly short of making the first round when they lost 3-0 to Barnet, FA Cup dreams then took a back seat until next season.

However, the FA Cup is not the only competition organised by the FA for teams such as ours in the Skrill Conference South. There’s also the FA Challenge Trophy, or FA Trophy as it is more commonly known. The competition is open to teams in steps 1 to 4 of the Non League Pyramid, with higher teams entering in the latter stages. The competition begins with the Preliminary Round, 64 regionalised ties between 128 teams from the Ryman Division 1 North & South, Evo Stick 1st Division North & South, and the Calor Gas Division 1 Central & South West.

80 more teams enter the competition in the 1st Qualifying Round, those being the clubs in the Ryman, Calor Gas & Evo Stick Premier Divisions. Again this round is regionalised, as are all the qualifying rounds in this competition. 72 matches take place at this level, leading to 36 in the 2nd Qualifying round as no new teams enter at this stage. The victors from this round then are joined by the 44 clubs plying their trade in the Skrill North & South divisions (including Concord Rangers) in the 3rd and final qualifying round. The Beachboys have never made it past this level prior to this season, so history was just 90 minutes away (or more if it went to a replay).

Nothing ever goes smoothly in football, and it took a lot more than 90 minutes for Concord Rangers to reach the First Round of the FA Trophy, but reach it they did! The lads were drawn away to Dulwich Hamlet, the team Concord had beaten the previous season in the Ryman Isthmian League Cup final. A hard-fought 1-1 draw was the result on the day, and a replay was held the following Tuesday at a very cold Thames Road! Held the same night as an England game, some would have thought to stay indoors rather than brave the cold; however those that did endure the freezing temperatures were rewarded with 7 goals over 120 minutes of football! Oh and my announcing of course, as I was filling in for the normal guy on the night.

Concord took an early lead through James White, however they were pegged back within 5 minutes after Dulwich showed some great pace going forward resulting in Nyren Clunis being able to put the ball past Jamie Butler. The second half started exceptionally well for Concord, as an attack within the first minute found Sam Higgins in the right place at the right time to smash Concord into the lead! Dulwich, much like the Beachboys, never know when they are beaten, & after fighting their way through the second half, equalised in the 3rd minute of stoppage time to force another 30 minutes play. Extra time is always a nervy time, this was no different, with the first period ending goalless & the second seemingly heading that way. Reece Harris had other things on his mind though, as he cut in from the right and hit a great shot past the diving Hamlet ‘keeper, helped by a great dummy by Steve King (shocker I know)! Sam Higgins looked to have put the game out of site with just minutes to go as he notched his second of the game, but the end was destined to be a tense one as almost immediately Hamlet scored in reply to make it 4-3!

That was how the game ended though, credit to Dulwich for what was an excellent game of football to watch, they took it to Concord but were outdone in the end by the Beachboys undeniable spirit and resilience! History is made once again, as Concord now head to Gosport Borough in the 1st Round of the FA Trophy. This round was still regionalised at the draw even with the addition of the 24 Skrill Conference Premier teams, however if we make it past them then there could be some long old trips heading our way! Exciting times for the Beachboys, and I hope we see as many fans as possible cheering the lads on as we progress!


Alan Jessup-Peacock, Concord Supporters Association Chairman

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