Carl Marston's Around the Grounds: Bowers & Pitsea's Len Salmon Stadium

PUBLISHED: 15:56 15 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:56 15 March 2019

The wet and rather dreary scene before kick-off when Heybridge Swifts visited the Len Salmon Stadium in January, 2017. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The wet and rather dreary scene before kick-off when Heybridge Swifts visited the Len Salmon Stadium in January, 2017. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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Football writer Carl Marston dons his anorak to visit clubs in the region (and beyond) in his quest for good football and a good cup of tea. Here he puts the spotlight on Bowers & Pitsea

Bowers & Pitsea and Heybridge Swifts are ready to kick off, on a damp January evening two years ago. Picture: CARL MARSTONBowers & Pitsea and Heybridge Swifts are ready to kick off, on a damp January evening two years ago. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Bowers & Pitsea is the name on everyone’s ‘Bostik League’ lips this season, and for good reason.

They are running away with the Bostik North, despite the best efforts of a quartet of in-form Essex clubs in Maldon & Tiptree, Aveley, Heybridge Swifts and Coggeshall Town, to say nothing of the presence of the Suffolk trio of Bury Town, AFC Sudbury and Felixstowe & Walton United.

Bowers are currently nine points clear at the top, having won 23 and lost just two of their 30 league games.

They have won their last 10 on the bounce, since suffering a 1-0 defeat at Heybridge’s Scraley Road on January 5, and have rattled up 15 victories in their last 16 league outings.

The match-day programme for Heybridge Swifts' visit, on January 31, 2017The match-day programme for Heybridge Swifts' visit, on January 31, 2017

That, in anyone’s books, is promotion form!

I have had first-hand experience of the Bowers & Pitsea juggernaut this season, and plan to repeat the dose this weekend.

At the beginning of September, I was at King’s Marsh to report on Bowers & Pitsea’s 1-0 win over hosts AFC Sudbury.

Not a convincing margin of victory, I hear you cry, but Bowers played more than an hour with just 10 men that sunny afternoon, due to David Knight’s early red card, and AFC Sudbury rarely looked like breaking them down.

Since then, AFC boss Mark Morsley, although championing Maldon & Tiptree as having “the best side in the division” – he told me this after the Jammers’ 5-1 win at Sudbury earlier this month – did add that Bowers & Pitsea had the advantage of having the more know-how non-league players.

“If that squad at Maldon have started the season, they would have been winning the league,” said Morsley. “They are the best side in the league by a country mile, they are very impressive.

“What I will say is that Bowers & Pitsea have got some knowledgeable non-league players, but Maldon are technically very, very good.”

Well, I have visited Bowers & Pitsea’s home ground, the Len Salmon Stadium, in the past, so this is as good a time as any to recall that trip.

Furthermore, I plan to be at Ram Meadow tomorrow to report on Bury Town’s unenviable task of trying to stop that Bowers steam-roller. I wish Ben Chenery’s men all the best.

The low-down

Club: Bowers & Pitsea

Formed: 2004 (previously Bowers United from 1946)

Ground: Len Salmon Stadium

Manager: Rob Small

The background

Bowers United was formed after the War Years, in 1946, to cater for the young men returning from war.

The club was established by Bert Salmon and originally played their home games on the site of what became Pitsea Market, with an old wooden cricket pavilion as the main facility.

Founder Bert Salmon died in a car accident (1959), but his brother Len then became heavily involved over the next four decades. Bowers moved to Gun Meadow in 1963, and when that was the subject of a ‘compulsory purchase order’ to make way for the building of the new A13, the club took up residence at their current home in Crown Avenue in 1973.

The club absorbed Sunday League side Pitsea FC in 2004 to adopt its current name, winning promotion to the Isthmian League in 2016.

After Len Salmon died in 2000 the stadium was renamed the Len Salmon Stadium in his honour.

Carl’s visit

Tuesday, January 31, 2017: v Heybridge Swifts (Bostik North One, 2-0 home win)

I remember this visit to South Essex very clearly, even though it is now more than two years ago.

And that’s because it rained, and rained, all evening.

Bowers & Pitsea were chasing promotion, and goals from Lewis Manor and Billy Jones were enough to see off Jody Brown’s in-form Heybridge outfit.

It was a very soggy night, all round.

The match had survived a midday pitch inspection, I struggled to find the ground with car wipers at full speed, and I got soaked on my walk from the car to the stadium.

For the record, Bowers & Pitsea missed out on the end-of-season play-offs that season, by one place and one point.

Brightlingsea Regent went up as champions, and Thurrock FC through the play-offs – of course Thurrock no longer exist, having been dissolved last year.

Bowers & Pitsea, by contrast, are still very much in existence, and will be playing their football at Step Three next season, barring a late-season capitulation.

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