Paying the penalty

Maldon & Tiptree celebrate winning a penalty shoot-out at Enfield Town last month (credit Tom Scott)
Maldon & Tiptree celebrate winning a penalty shoot-out at Enfield Town last month (credit Tom Scott)

Andrew Warshaw witnesses the agony of another shocking shoot-out for Enfield Town FC

To be knocked out of one cup competition on penalties may be considered unfortunate. For the same fate to strike twice in a matter of weeks is heartbreaking. Just ask fans of Enfield Town.

With no sign of a resumption of league matches – more on this later – the Towners’ recent FA Trophy fixture against Maldon & Tiptree could hardly have been more crucial – both for the prize money on offer and to keep confidence and momentum among the players amid such uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yet, just as spot-kicks decided the Towners’ fate in the FA Cup at Peterborough Sports back in September, so they went out of the FA Trophy the same way on a night of high drama and no little emotion.

The game had finished 2-2 after 90 minutes, but the scoreline did not tell the whole story. Manager Andy Leese and his team can consider themselves desperately unfortunate, with both players and fans looking utterly shell-shocked after the Towners totally dominated their opponents, only to concede a late, late equaliser in normal time – and subsequently exit the tournament in the cruellest possible fashion.

Maldon & Tiptree may be from a division below, but only a few days earlier they had taken on League Two Morecambe in the FA Cup and lost only by a single goal. To suggest that the Towners would have fully deserved the £3,000 prize-money that went to the winners of the tie is an understatement, and the defeat was all the harder to take given the much-needed revenue at stake and the fact that no-one knows when league fixtures might resume – or how the season as a whole might pan out.

At one stage there were tentative plans to perhaps start again in January, but that now seems unlikely as so many Isthmian League teams are now within (at time of going to press) the government’s Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions. In a clear statement of intent, league organisers confirmed before Christmas the ‘pause’ to the season would be maintained until further notice.

The league statement said: “Since the initial survey on 2nd December the infection rate has deteriorated in the geographical footprint of member clubs, which has resulted in a much larger number of Isthmian League clubs being placed in high tiers.

“In reaching this decision the board considered several factors, such as the lack of income from secondary spend revenue, the reduced attendances at high-tier clubs and, more importantly, the duty of care the league has to layers, club officials, volunteers and supporters during this current pandemic.

“The board will continue to monitor the situation in line with the government review dates and/or any decision that allows government grants to become available to member clubs. The board has not yet set a formal re-start date, but clubs will give at least 14 days’ notice of the recommencement of the 2020/21 season, allowing them preparation time to stage league matches.”

A number of options will now be considered, including a shortened version of the season, or extending the regular campaign into June. The Towners, like everyone else in their division and beyond, are struggling to work out when the situation will improve for all concerned – the board, management team, playing staff and fans alike.

Just before Christmas, club chairman Paul Reed issued a statement saying the club remained supportive of the decision to pause the league season. He added: “I know that there is still a strong feeling among many of you wanting to see Town back out on the pitch sooner rather than later, but of course health and safety is the overriding concern at the moment, as it has been for many months.”