Stow begin their pre-season fixtures this Saturday as Isthmian Division 1 North side Heybridge Swifts visit Wadham Lodge. This will be Swifts’ first friendly too, but the Essex side have only been in training for a couple of weeks following the departure of manager Julian Dicks to be Slavan Bilic’s number two at West Bromwich Albion. He has been replaced by Karl Duguid with Stuart Nethercott as his assistant.
For Ryan Maxwell, it will be the first proper test for a squad who have already been training hard for the best part of a month.
Speaking after training on Tuesday, Ryan said “We’ve got 22 good players here, including a couple of new ones. This has been our best session so far. It had a great feel to it and the energy and attitude was spot on.”
The game will be played on the newly-relaid 3G pitch at Wadham Lodge, and kicks off at 3PM.
This will be the 28th meeting between the two clubs, but the first since 2014, following Forest’s relegation at the end of that season.
Games of note
In April 1999, we beat Swifts 2-0 in the semi-final of the Essex Thameside Trophy, and we’d go on to win the final too.
We met in another semi-final seven years later, this time the Essex Senior Cup. Two goals from Jermain Hughes helped us to a 3-0 victory. At the time, neither side knew that the semi would in-effect be the final. With Chelmsford City and Braintree Town’s semi-final being abandoned due to a ’22 man brawl’, both clubs were ejected from the competition, and the trophy was handed to Forest.
Then there was the ‘ghost’ goal.
There was perhaps a sign of things to come when Andre Humphries-Modeste was sent off for Forest after just 14 minutes for deliberate handball, with the resulting penalty giving Swifts the lead.
Rob Carter equalised on the stroke of half-time for Forest, but midway through the second half, Swifts thought they’d taken the lead again. But as the ball beat the Forest keeper, it squeezed through a hole in the net, and out behind the pitch.
Perhaps owing to Heybridge’s lack of real celebration, the referee awarded a goal kick, much to the bemusement of everyone else in the ground.
As the game entered injury time, the referee was then knocked out when he was hit in the head from a free kick. Whether it was intentional or not, we’ll never know… In the end that season, Swifts finished six points behind the last play-off place, while Forest finished a disappointing 16th, after an excellent first few months.