Great Wakering Rovers entered the 2018-19 Bostic North Division following a superb season in the Essex senior league winning the double and earning promotion at the first attempt with Iain O’ Connell at the helm.
Unfortunately a couple of weeks prior to the start of the season Rovers were thrown a curve ball when O ‘Connell announced he was stepping down from the role for personnel reasons, it goes without saying that Iain done a great job in his second stint as the Rovers boss and will go down in club history a legend of the club.
Gary Kimble was announced as manager before the season got under way and the former Peterborough player brought his knowledge and pedigree to Rovers.
Before the season even started Rovers were tipped to go straight down, no one bar from the Wakering chairman, management and the faithful on the terraces gave us a hope in staying up, but internally I think that drove us on to prove the masses wrong.
The season got underway with a trip to Thurrock to play Romford who narrowly avoided relegation the previous season, Rovers going down 3-0, however wins at home versus Felixstowe and Walton, and then Leyton in the preliminary round of the FA cup got Kimble off to a solid start.
A win against Wisbeach Town saw Rovers progress to the FA cup 2nd qualifying round, travelling to National league south outfit Wealdstone, Rovers started strongly and gave a great account of themselves but the National league sides experience showed in the end, Rovers going down 2-0 .
This was also the month we picked up our first away win in the Isthmian league since December 2016 with a win against local rivals Canvey Island, and also started our FA Trophy journey with a win at Romford, we also put on great display away to Coggeshall in the league cup but went out losing in the dreaded penalty shootout.
Wins in the league against Dereham and Witham saw us climb up the league but unfortunately a home defeat to Sussex side East Grinstead saw us exit the FA Trophy, however a thrilling 4-3 win under the floodlights at Burroughs park in the Essex county cup versus Aveley saw us progress to the fourth round in what some fans said was one of our best performances of the season.
A quiet month where only three games were played, a home draw to Sudbury followed by another performance of the season which saw us beat Julian Dicks high flying Heybridge Swifts 3-2, but that was followed by a loss away to Soham Town.
December is always an important month in any league and the Bostic North is no different, with 6 league games and a Essex senior tie game crammed in it was imperative we picked up some much needed points to ease our concerns of not returning to the Essex senior next season, however we only managed 5 points, and a loss to Hornchurch saw an end to our Essex county cup campaign, the pressure was beginning to mount on Garry Kimble’s shoulders as January approached.
The New Year started with a loss to Maldon and Tiptree then another away defeat to Brentwood and although Garry Kimble’s men picked up three points at home to lowly placed Romford, a close fought away defeat to Felixstowe and Walton signalled the end of Kimble’s leadership.
Kimble said on his departure “It’s with a heavy heart that I have left the club,”
“I love Wakering and it’s a shame that it has ended in this way, but it was perhaps in the best interests for everyone if we parted ways
“The fans were great to me from the moment I took over at the club and I hope they have plenty more to celebrate going forward.”
Footballs a fickle game and there was no time to dwell on Kimble’s departure as interim manager and Wakering favourite Stephen Butterworth (scouse) stepped in to the helm to try a steer us away from danger , and he started with a win and our first double of the season with a victory at home to Canvey, this was followed by an extraordinary game at home to Grays when with seconds remaining in normal time Rovers were 2-1 down ,Jake Gordon equalised from the penalty spot and then one minute later another penalty was awarded but on a hat trick the nerves got the better of Gordon and he blasted over ,however another point was gained , February ended in another two away Defeats to Witham and Sudbury
March started badly for Scouse and the team with 2 losses one to Aveley at home and the re arranged fixture away to Barking, however the next few games would prove to pull Rovers away from relegation and be on the brink of safety by the end of the month, a hard fought draw away to Heybridge Swifts which in fairness we should of taken all 3 points then a home draw to Soham which again we were unlucky not to take all the spoils , then in my opinion the result of the season when we beat Tilbury away 3-0 in only our second away win of the season, a home game against Coggeshall was next and ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw , with results going our way that meant a win in our next game away to Mildenhall Town would guarantee a Bostic North return next season.
The last month of the season was upon us and with tough games coming up against Maldon, Bury and Bowers and Pitsea is was important to get the away win to Mildenhall to take the pressure off, and the boys did not disappoint with an impressive 3-0 win and a hat trick for Shomari Barnwell, but as predicted tough games against Bury and Maldon ended in losses.
The last home game of the season proved that the team had improved under the guide of Butterworth with a hard fought win against champions Bowers and Pitsea , the boys also gave the visitors a guard of honour before the game ,great news was received before the final game of the season when Butterworth was rightly announced as permanent Manager , unfortunately he couldn’t find a win in his first official game in charge with a loss to Norfolk based Dereham Town
Rovers in there centenary year ended the season in 15th place 5 places from where we were predicted to finish at the start of the season, Jason Ring was announced supporters player of the season and with the appointment of Butterworth and his assistants all is looking positive for next season.
And finally a big thank you to Garry Kimble , Stephen Butterworth , all the players and management for keeping us up this year, chairman David patient for his tireless work ,and also to all the committee , board members ,volunteers and supporters who without them a club like ours would not survive.
See you next season.
By Neil Hope.