On the 30th of March, The Illustrated Game visited Cricklefield to give their unique take on our match with Ilford. You can visit their blog by clicking here. Hopefully it won’t be their last visit to see The Stags!
“Two for one on raffle tickets! Prizes are beer, shortbread and possibly wine – I don’t know yet!”
Unusually, I began the day rather brightly. I won’t claim to have got out of bed until Philfen his friend Steph buzzed at our door – but I will say I was spritely, something I’ve always wanted to be in the morning. Our previous non-league escapade to Kingstonian ended slightly early when we arrived at Vauxhall, only to hear via Twitter that the Hastings coach (vehicle) was unable to make the journey due to the snow. Needless to say, a month away from the Isthmian league had us all itching to get back to business, so our day out to Cricklefield stadium couldn’t have come sooner. With Martin honeymooning in Japan, the four of us made our way from Walthamstow over to Ilford. Upon arrival at Seven Kings stadium I was initially dismayed to realise that Ilford is just as much of a shithole as much of outer London. The bonus of this arrangement is getting to visit areas of London I’ve never been to before, though I’m not sure how much longer it is going to take for me to realise that most of London is quite horrible. However, to my delight – as we arrived at the stadium, the scenery changed remarkably. Wandering through the car-park of a new build I can only assume was some kind of college, we passed a charming little cemetery and a relatively modern outdoor sports area illuminating the entrance to Cricklefield stadium.
Continuing my trend of being the worst journalist ever, I will now reveal that I don’t remember exactly how much the ticket prices were – but I do remember that they were something like £7, and £2 for a programme, which is relatively cheap in comparison to some other clubs. At the turnstiles we met Waltham Forest’s Twitter Lord Andre, who nervously allowed us to take a photo. So here it is Andre, your big moment – it’s an illustration of you! Keep up the great Tweeting @walthamforestfc
We wandered into the rather confusing club house, and spent some time admiring the wall dedicated to the ’72 Club’ – adorned with photographs of East London’s best tribute acts. Rather amusingly, I became momentarily lost in one corridor before finding my way back outside to join the crew and walk over towards the pitch. The ground itself was rather nice, although having spent a reasonable amount of time at non-league games now I can honestly say I really hate the running tracks, helping to somewhat remove the crowd from the action on the pitch. We marched around to stand behind the dugouts and examined the teams crowding out on to the field. I took this opportunity to examine the current league standings and was excited to learn that this derby-tie was important for reasons beyond local rivalry. Sat perilously close to the drop-zone, Ilford desperately needed to grab some points from this tie, in further attempt to ensure their safety within the division. Waltham Forest, though ahead on points considerably, were also well into the bottom half of the league – however a reasonable gap was situated between them and the bottom four, allowing for a little easing of the mind.
Ilford took an early lead in the first half as a shot from #10 Warren M’Fula found its way into the back of the Forest net. It wasn’t long, however, before Forest levelled out the play when Adrian Clifton tapped it home amid a large scuffling of players in the box. At this point Philippe remarked that “we might be in for a goal fest here”, which is saying something at 1-1. Though as I reflected on our previous outings, I realised that three goals was the most we’d ever seen in one game. Excited at the thought of breaking a T.I.G record I watched on intently. We didn’t have to wait for long for number three, coming once again from Captain and my man of the match Adrian Clifton. Laying the ball within goal-scoring free-kick range after a clumsy foul, Clifton sweetly tucked it in the top corner, defying the goalkeeper’s flailing fingers. After a continued spell of pressure from Forest and a couple of easy chances, half-time arrived – arguably not soon enough for a tired-looking Ilford side, who hadn’t looked particularly dangerous on the ball for some time.
At half time we found ourselves a seat in the bar of the lovely club house. Changing up my tradition of a Lucozade and a mars bar, I ordered a coke and a Kit-Kat chunky (infinitely relevant information for this article). As we sat around a table reviewing the first-half of the game, a couple of people approached us. The first was a man asking Alice to put the battery back in his phone after he’d dropped it. He said he knew she could do it because she was “a young person”. This was rather amusing. The second man approached, initially addressing Alice as well (it has become apparent that having Alice with us at the games is remarkably useful for reasons more than her pleasant company), he handed us some fliers for the ’72 club, “£5 each and food if you bring 8 people”. I like to think he could tell from Alice’s clothes, camera and the mere fact that she was at this game that she probably liked Peckham, and therefore would clearly like something resembling an episode of Phoenix Nights. I doubt that was his exact train of thought but as it turned out he was right, Alice did like it and intends to visit the ’72 club on her birthday (with 7 friends). Score.
Ilford’s presence grew early in the second half, controlling more of the ball and keeping possession far better than their first half attempts. Their performance was unfortunately fruitless however, resulting in no goals from their flurry of opportunities and gradually the pace of the game began to increase as Ilford deployed more men further up the pitch. As a result of this, Forest’s counter attacking play become decidedly more fruitful, eventually resulting in the final goal of the game, coming in the dying minutes – once again from MOTM Adrian Clifton. The hattrick-hero managed to head home a deep cross played into the box, which effectively ended Ilford’s chances of obtaining any points from this match.
Though I spent much of my day moaning about how I had to go to work after the game, the display on the pitch and the general atmosphere of the club was lifting and enjoyable. Though the attendance, at 42, was at the lower end of what we’d come to expect at these games – the fans that were there more than made up for the lack of those not attending. It’s a special thing when dedicated followers turn up to the match, freezing cold during the Easter weekend – and this passion certainly rubbed off on me and the rest of the T.I.G crew. As previously mentioned we’ll be returning to Cricklefield stadium sooner than I’d thought – to watch some men pretend to be Take That on the 27th April (come along) – and it is precisely as a result of this atmosphere that I am excited to attend. Forest’s next game comes at home to Needham Market on Wednesday 10th April at 19.45.
Illustrations by Alice Devine and Phillipe Fenner