Ground #: 176
Ground: North Road
Competition: FA Vase 4th Round
Kick Off: 3pm
Brightlingsea Regent 3
Holman 5’, Kelly 60’, Gould 88’
Bodmin Town 1
When the FA Vase reaches the national rounds, the ties that really stand out are ones that pit teams from different leagues together. No way on earth would an Eastern Counties League side ever play against a Southwest Peninsula League side in normal circumstances. Yet when the Vase sent SW cracks Bodmin Town on a 325 mile trek to Brightlingsea for the 4th Round, this was a tie that stood out. A first viewing of the Eastern Counties League and a first viewing of SW non-league football for me since 2011.
Brightlingsea is a coastal town in the Tendring district of Essex, situated at the mouth of the River Colne, on Brightlingsea Creek. Named in the Domesday Book as Brictesceseia, the medieval town grew up around two centres, firstly around the parish church and secondly close to the shore where a port had developed. Trade was in oysters, fish, copper and locally made bricks. The Cinque Ports were a confederation of the five most important ports on the coast of the English Channel. They had obligations to provide ships and men to fight for the king in time of war but were compensated by lucrative exemptions from taxation. Brightlingsea became a limb (or subsidiary) port for Sandwich although these days it is a purely ceremonial affair.
The port came to prominence again in the 1984-85 Miners' Strike where attempts were made to import coal through the Port. However the efforts of picketing miners prevented coal imports through Brightlingsea. It yet again came to national prominence in 1995 with an attempt to use the port again for a controversial cargo. Dubbed the "Battle of Brightlingsea" it comprised a series of protests against the live export of animals from the town for slaughter in Europe. During a nine-month period, over 150 convoys passed through the town and 250,000 animals were exported. 598 people were arrested by the police, of whom 421 were local residents but the campaigners eventually won and the live exports ceased.
Brightlingsea United were founded in 1928 by a merger of Brightlingsea Athletic and Brightlingsea Town. Playing their early football in the Essex & Suffolk Border League, they moved into their current North Road ground in 1929 and the Premier Division in 1931. After yo-yoing between the various divisions of the E&SBL over the years, Brightlingsea joined the Essex Senior League in 1972 and won the title two years running in 1989 and 1990 to join the Eastern Counties League for a new challenge. Promoted to the Premier Division in the first season, the upward trajectory suddenly stopped and were promptly relegated in 1993 before resigned from the league altogether in 2003. The resignation caused by a lack of proper changing facilities at North Road.
In 2005, a new chapter started with Brightlingsea United merging with youth team Regent Park Rangers. Back in the E&SBL, Regent won Division 2 at the first attempt and achieved a double promotion from Division 1 a season later. In 2011, nearly 10 years after resigning from the league, Regent were back in the Eastern Counties League after winning the Premier Division of the E&SBL. Under the guidance of boss James Webster, the Regent found their upward trend again and came 3rd in the Eastern Counties League 1st Division last season to be back in the Premier Division for 2013/14.
Regent’s North Road has been home to them for some time and still retains a basic look that it has most likely had throughout its history. A clubhouse with a changing room annex dominates the place and provides a good bit of standing cover for the usual 80 odd that normally attend Regent games. On the clubhouse side is a typical plastic stand that is usual sadly at this level today. Needing a minimum number of seats to achieve certain grading regulations, these quick fixes are never normally aesthetically pleasing or suit the ground well and this stand was no different. While the rest of the ground is hard, uncovered standing, Brightlingsea had used the money generated from the Vase run already to reach national news. Purchasing a similar uncovered plastic stand off eBay from the Isle of Wight, the club’s £5,000 fee for the stand managed to buy them national coverage from the BBC. The ‘eBay Stand’ (name it this lads!) has been plonked in the far corner of the ground next to the far car park to help Regent achieve another grading criteria and provide a tangible memento of this season’s Vase run for the future.
Before this season Brightlingsea in any form had never really had much of a Vase history, with only a 3rd Round appearance in 2012/13 being their furthest quest. Yet, having already seen off Felixstowe & Walton United (1-0), Stanway Rovers (3-0), Team Bury (1-0), Takeley (2-1) and then Colney Heath after a replay, they were already breaking new ground by reaching the 4th Round. They welcomed the might from the West Country in Bodmin Town to North Road in what was for me, the best looking tie of the Round. Bodmin have local pedigree being joint top of the Southwest Peninsula League and having previously seen them take down a higher level side in the Vase (albeit just over 3 years ago!) coming to Brightlingsea wouldn’t phase them. Having already dispatched of Bemerton Heath Harlequins and Kidlington, this game would be tougher, but I fancied Bodmin.
What I didn’t expect was Bodmin (who had made the long journey the day before) to actually not turn up for the opening spell of the game. Brightlingsea had already caused panic in the Cornish defence, but when a Ricky Griggs’ free kick was whipped in, up went Bodmin keeper Kevin Miller (yep, that one) and a home defender. Miller appeared to be unfairly challenged and a loose ball was flicked on and headed home by Jake Holman for a dream start. From where I was, it looked harsh on Bodmin, but Miller is tad bigger than his professional days so possibly could have used his strength better. Bodmin were all over the shop and only desperate defending and luck kept Regent out from adding a 2nd. Bodmin did get back into it but their anger with the ref increased when Chris Wright had an effort ruled out for offside. Despite beginning to impress forward, the Cornish team still could not defend crosses at all and Holman had a header from a corner smack the bar as Bodmin needed to regroup at HT. Intriguing tie.
Regent had looked ropey at the back and Bodmin needed to get at them for the 2nd half. They did from the off and grabbed an equalizer on 52 minutes. Danny O'Hagan received the ball on the right and just ran at the Regent defence. As they parted like the seas, Seb Broomfield collected the ball and drilled a low shot past Daniel Beeson in the swashbuckling manner I remember Bodmin to be. Regent looked stunned and as passes went astray and Bodmin began to push further forward it looked good for the Cornish side. So of course they fell behind 8 minutes later. In possibly their first foray up the field in the second half, Regent won a corner. The cross was drifted towards the goalie and Miller missed it completely to allow Phil Kelly to head into an empty net. Bodmin looked stunned now and despite a rally back into the game, they never again looked like threatening Beeson. Regent confirmed their place in the 5th Round with a late goal as Josh Gould arrived first from a free kick to head in. This time Bodmin were finished as Regent deservedly went through.
On the way home I did think that whoever met Regent in Round 5 would go through and that will fall to 2012 winners Dunston UTS. They are a lovely club and have come extremely far, but they don’t have the quality to trouble the Northern League side, especially up in the NE. Good luck to Regent for the future though – brilliant hosts and dealt with their big day well. Bodmin were a shadow of the side I remember them as and with the fears that some of the extreme ends of England are starting to become detached from the pyramid, (do you blame them for not going up in the current economy) the quality is starting to suffer. This was a long trip, but as with most Vase ties, one that was very much worth it. If only this rain would piss off eh!
- Match: 6/10 (war of attrition rather than quality)
- Value for money: 7/10 (paid more for Vase ties so good work Regent)
- Ground: 6/10 (basic, but hopefully doesn’t become a plastic stand fest)
- Atmosphere: 7.5/10 (good noise from the home fans)
- Food: 6/10 (fair bacon roll)
- Programme: 5/10 (looked professional, but light on content)
- Referee: Paul Forrester – 5/10 (so fussy and couldn’t let it flow)