The 24th of March had the potential to be a pivotal day in the history of our club. In 2008, we played our last game at Wadham Lodge before a five-year hiatus at Ilford’s Cricklefields. It was perhaps fitting then, that we played Ilford in our last home match at Wadham Lodge.
Throughout the 2007-8 season, relations broke down between the club and the newly-installed management at Wadham Lodge. This management team was formerly part of the Wadham Youth FC set-up, and would eventually form Wadham Lodge FC with Waltham Forest (as the club was named then), evicted. A new 99-year lease the club signed with Wadham Lodge in 2003 appeared to hold little weight.
A huge amount of money was spent on new 3G facilities, and plans were drawn-up to redevelop the entire building and stadium. However, none of these dreams came to fruition, and the business was quickly losing a lot of money. The 3G facilities were not fit for purpose and were upgraded when the current managers at Wadham Lodge, Matchday Centres, took over.
Meanwhile, we were forced to play the final two league games of the season at Witham Town, before a ground-share at Ilford was secured for 2008-9.
On the day of the last match, a goal from Petrit Elbi secured a 1-0 victory for Les Whitton’s resurgent Ilford, in front of a paltry 64 people. It would take until the penultimate game of the season before Forest avoided relegation; beating Enfield Town 3-1.
A year before the sad final day at Wadham Lodge, Forest were seemingly on the rise. Managed by Danny Honeyball and with Terry Back as a hands-on Chairman, Forest travelled to Ware and won 3-1.
This would be the middle of a superb run, which saw Forest narrowly miss out on a play-off place. The one defeat that put a spanner in the works came on the Easter weekend against… Iflord.
In 1934, Southall upset the odds to beat us 2-1. The Leyton side that season had just qualified for the Amateur Cup final and were hotly-fancied to pick up the win here. They took the lead after a goal-mouth scramble and hit the woodwork a further four times in the first half. It looked like business as usual. But a missed penalty gave Southall hope, and they nicked two goals on the counter in the second half. It wasn’t all roses for Southall though, as goalkeeper Marshall was bizarrely “knocked out by heading a terrible shot in the last few minutes”.