As autumn turns to winter, new senior status club Little Oakley are benefiting from newly-unveiled floodlights at their Memorial Ground home, thanks partly to funding by the Football Foundation-managed Premier League & The FA Facilities Fund.
A first venture into the BBC Essex Senior Cup was an historic occasion for Little Oakley back in September when they welcomed West Essex for the club’s first ever fixture under floodlights. Oakley received positive funding news in February and can now look forward to many night time matches as they find their feet in the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League.
Founded shortly after the Second World War, the reigning Essex & Suffolk Border League champions are enjoying their first season in senior football, joining the Eastern Counties League during the summer. As a club which has the village Post Office housed within its clubhouse, Oakley has a real community feel which, as Club Secretary David Chopping explains, has played a big part in the club’s recent step into the unknown.
He said: “There’s been a lot of hard work from a lot of people and we have had no objections from any of the local residents about our upgrades to the ground, including the lights. The club itself has a good youth setup, with teams ranging from Under 9s to 16s. From there they can move into our Development Side, then our Reserve Side and then the First Team.”
Based for their entire history at the Memorial Ground in a semi-rural suburb of Harwich, The Acorns’ home had been totally transformed in preparation for Eastern Counties League football. “It would be nice to have a before and after photo, actually,” reflected Chopping on the fast building turnaround. “It only took around 18 months in total, starting with the 3G court and then completing the ground.”
Senior football has been a long-term dream realised for the club, who have grown into their new surroundings in Division One. David added: “It’s been a long old journey and we last seriously looked at making the step up around 30 years ago. It just proved too costly, but our target has always been to progress and we are still finding our feet.”
For Oakley’s Senior Cup bow, Essex Senior League side West Essex made the long trip from Metropolitan Essex and ultimately came away with a Third Round berth following an entertaining 3-2 win. Oakley swept ahead on 16 minutes as Harry Mann’s cross was turned in by Stephen Polley. West Essex levelled in first-half added time.
It came via a fine, curling finish from Michael Mignot just moments after Chris Wall had headed against the post for the home side. Mignot struck again to edge the visitors in front, poking home a loose ball at the far post, but Oakley made it 2-2 as Mann nudged home. However, West Essex responded immediately to grab the winner within a minute. Isaac Marfo went past goalkeeper Luke Tynan before slotting in.
Despite the result, Chopping believed the night had still been a special one for his club: “The official attendance was 183, which is our highest of the season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few more squeezed in through some gardens! I know the cold winter nights might see some low crowds, but we hope there’ll be more like this. We have a good following and we are hoping to average over 100, which would be more than ample.”
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