Town Hit The Holy Grail

Chatham Town 0 Enfield Town 3

Report by Andrew Warshaw

It was one of those “I was there” occasions, still feels like a dream but really happened.

Twenty-three years after being founded, Enfield Town will play Step 2 football next season, a fantastic achievement by the players and management of our unique club. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Playoff games are unpredictable, nervy affairs and for 45 minutes at Chatham, in front of a passionate 3,000 sellout crowd, it was anyone’s guess who would reach the Promised Land of National League South.

But in yet another coaching masterclass by Gavin Macpherson and his staff, it was a case of “we’ve taken your best shot, now here’s what we’ve got” as Town produced a second-half goal blitz that sent the 400-plus travelling fans – squeezed into a totally inadequate standing section behind the goal and only provided with 32 seats — into utter delirium and prompted a pitch invasion at the final whistle.

Wind the clock back and shortly before kickoff, Gavin made a point of walking over to applaud the Town fans, a class act which only added to the bond of togetherness generated throughout the campaign.

Missing the presence of Jake Cass through injury, Town started with the team that ended the semifinal against Wingate and Finchley but the opening half, despite being goalless, was edged by the hosts whose passing was crisper and team play more composed, driven on by the dangerous, green-booted Jamie Yila whose pace and crosses into the box were a constant threat.

Town had to wait until past the half-hour mark for our first decent effort on target, a curling Ollie Knight effort that called home keeper Mitchell Beeney into action. Shortly before that, Rhys Forster, the busier of the two keepers, had to race off his line to save smartly.

H-T 0-0

Town may have had less of the ball and fewer clearcut openings but it was — of course it was — all part of the masterplan.

On the way to Chatham, the players’ coach had stopped for 90 minutes for a detailed presentation of Chatham’s strengths and weaknesses. And now, as the second half got under way, came our chance to exploit the latter.

Three minutes after the break, the Chats failed to clear a Joe Payne long throw and when the ball fell to Bernie Tanner, the “Enfield Maldini” as he is nicknamed rifled a low shot from 20 yards into the far corner of the net.

It was so nearly 2-0 when Marcus Wyllie bundled the ball over the line, only to be ruled narrowly offside.

As the Town faithful pondered how costly the decision might be, we were indebted to Forster for a sensational tip-over save to thwart Kareem Isiaka.

But the greater threat was now coming from Town and on 70 minutes, Beeney parried but couldn’t hold another Ollie Knight effort and Marcus was first on hand to double our lead with his 31st league goal as the division’s leading marksman.

Sam Youngs headed straight at Beeney when either side of the keeper would surely have made it three while at the other end  Yila continued to work his magic as he twinkle-toed his way past three challenges, only to shoot over.

With the clock ticking and the Town diehards in full voice, outsinging their counterparts as they had for most of the game, there was still time for substitute Lewis Taaffe, gutted to have missed the semifinal through injury, to complete a breathtaking second half with a side-foot finish into the roof of the net from Marcus’ assist.

Cue a mass celebration before the official trophy presentation to the winners to round off the most memorable day in the club’s history. Inevitably it was followed, when the team bus returned to the Dave Bryant stadium, by the mother of all promotion parties back home.

“The greatest day of my footballing life for sure, it’s the best way to go up but hasn’t really sunk in,” said Gavin. “But this is for everyone at the club and especially for Dave Bryant. When  I woke up this morning, my thoughts immediately turned to Dave and his family, some of whom were here of course. I’m so pleased to have piloted this for them.”

“The supporters may have wondered at halftime where that second half would come from but there’s invariably a plan. We felt that at 0-0 we’d got over a hurdle away from home on a plastic pitch. But it wasn’t really working for us so we tweaked a couple of things and came strong again.”

“I guess the really hard work starts now if I’m honest. We’ll enjoy this, of course we will. But when we come back down to earth, what this has moved us into is a task of huge magnitude. I’ve never managed at Step 2 and will need to start planning straight away in terms of where we’re at and how we move forward.”


Forster; Parcell, McKenzie, Tanner; Adjei-Hersey, Thomas, Youngs, Knight (Taaffe, 86), Harvest, Payne; Wyllie