Margate FC – Hartsdown Park
Result: Margate 2-1 Cray Wanderers
Competition: Isthmian League Premier Division
Date: Monday 30th August 2021
Entry: £12 / Programme: £2.50
Following the match between Sheppey United and Chatham Town on Saturday, I wanted to make most of my time on the Kent Coast, so with my family heading to the seaside town of Margate on Bank Holiday Monday, I felt it was a great opportunity to tick off ground number 62, with a visit to the Isthmian League side.
Had Margate not been scheduled to be at home, it was unlikely I would catch any football on Monday, so it was lucky they were scheduled to welcome Cray Wanderers to Hartsdown. Some would say it was fate.
The location of the ground was great. Positioned a 10 minute walk away from the seafront and the slightly closer to the train station, there is no better position for a football ground. The close proximity to the train station means it’s ideal for those making the trip down, while those spending some time in Kent, like myself, can plan a trip around going to the football.
Founded in 1896, Gate have found Hartsdown Park to be home for over 90 years, having called six different grounds homes before their move in 1929. Little developments on the ground had taken place in 2002, when the club had launched an ambitious scheme to completely redevelop the site. The club had moved out of the old stadium, with the timber and corrugated iron of the original ground was demolished in early 2003, with the local council disputing the plans submitted by the club. The redevelopment dragged on for a further three years, ground sharing with several Kent club’s before failure to confirm a return date to the ground saw the club ejected from the Conference North in 2004. In 2005, the club were finally able to return to the ground, albeit with pre-fabricated stands and temporary buildings in place before in 2014, the club applied to the council for permission to erect six new temporary stands.
Upon arrival at the ground, it was clear they had catered for everyone. After collection a programme and 50/50 tickets, the ground opens up with a main bar and club house lining the North side of the ground while a tea bar and a another bar, located to the East of the ground allows for spectators to get food, hot drinks and alcoholic drinks. I had grabbed myself a Cider at half-time, but having eaten at Dreamland a couple of hours prior, I had no intention of trying any of the food, so that will have to wait for another visit.
The ground from the outside gives the impression of a tiny, old school ground, but in reality, it’s huge from the inside. The ground is definite need of some renovations, but it has plenty of space for several hundred visitors and does it’s job as a football stadium. The talk of future plans for Hartsdown could make it one of the best grounds in the Isthmian League, but until then, I think it is very underwhelming. One thing I have only seen at this ground is that the changing rooms are directly behind the dugout, a unique idea that I’m sure others wouldn’t look to replicate with any ground renovations as it means the players have lined-up on the pitch before the game has even started.
Unlike the game on Saturday, I hadn’t chose this match due to the sides playing, instead, it was the fixture being played when I had the chance to visit the ground. The game wasn’t bad, but it certainly didn’t light any fires. The visitors had controlled possession in the first half and early pressure paid off for them as Danny Kedwell headed them ahead at the back post from a corner in the 8th minute. Despite dominating the opening half, the Wands didn’t find themselves ahead at half-time as out of nowhere, Vance Bola unleashed an effort from around 30 yards out which slipped through the keepers poised hands.
The second half was certainly a more open affair, but neither side really looked like winning the game. Both had great chances, but neither could take them before the hosts sealed the win with an 84th minute winner. The ball had fallen to Daniel Thompson in the box, with the forward firing the ball into the far corner.
Unfortunately, the atmosphere was the most disappointing thing about the day. With over 400 people in the ground, I had hoped it would be a good atmosphere with both sides coming in good numbers, but it was to be. The only way I can really describe it is that if someone had walked past throughout the game and knew there was a game on, they would have thought it was behind closed doors. One women could be heard trying to get the crowd going with one chant and a drum, but no one else seemed to join in while the Cray Wanderers fans seemed louder in the second half, but I was standing closer to them in fairness.
Overall, my visit to Margate FC was okay. The ground certainly wasn’t anything special and the atmosphere or lack of it has definitely made me aware that choosing the right game could be vital to the experience of the stadium. From this visit alone, I wouldn’t visit again anytime soon, but I want to give Margate the benefit of the doubt and assume, with a different game, the matchday atmosphere is a lot better.