Dateline: Saturday 21st February 2009. Location: Ship Lane, Purfleet, Essex. Assignment: Match coverage of Thurrock vs AFC Wimbledon in the Conference South for the Thurrock Recorder newspaper. Image (above): Sam Hatton scores the winning goal for the away team with a free-kick. Weather: Sunny and cold.
A tale of two teams and their differing destinies: Phoenix club AFC Wimbledon were on course to win the Conference South title in 2008-09, continuing their relentless march up the pyramid system. Thurrock FC, founder members of the division some five years earlier, were at something of a crossroads.
They finished the season third from bottom but were reprieved from relegation when Rushden & Diamonds were expelled from the National division, sparing Southport relegation to the South division. A better season followed in 2009-10 with a top-half of the table finish but, two years later, Thurrock finally succumbed to relegation back into the Isthmian League.
AFC Wimbledon, on the other hand, won promotion into the Football League in 2011-12 and currently ply their trade in League One.
Thurrock’s fate would be to fold at the end of the 2017-18 campaign. The club’s demise was sealed when their indefatigable chairman Tommy South was unable to find a buyer for the club during that season.
Ship Lane had been the club’s home since their formation in 1985. It had evolved into a truly excellent stadium with stacks of covered accommodation and an imposing main stand (below is a view taken in 2016). The ground has stood unused since April 2018 and various plans have been mooted to revive the site with Grays Athletic expressing a particular interest. Let’s hope the site is in use again soon.
Returning to the 2009 Thurrock vs AFC Wimbledon match, have a gander at the seven minutes of extended highlights via the YouTube video below. In fact, if you pause the action at 2:18, you can spot me in my pitchside position on the left side of the screen…