SEASON 1979 – 1980
ESSEX SENIOR LEAGUE
Under the leadership of Player/Manager Geoff Bennett Wivenhoe Town had won the Essex & Suffolk Border League Premier Division Championship the previous season and, with an ambitious committee led by Vic Williamson, had put in a successful application to join the Essex Senior League having been granted Senior Status by the Essex County F.A following improvements to Broad Lane. Many sceptics voiced the opinion that the club was making a big mistake by moving up from Intermediate Football and would struggle to compete with the likes of Basildon United and Heybridge Swifts.
With the majority of the successful Border League squad remaining at the club Bennett set about adding more strength to the side in order to meet the new challenge. In came goalkeeper Dickie Bokenham, defender Robert Taylor, experienced midfielder Dave Lamont, plus a young striker named Paul Harrison who had just been released by Ipswich Town having suffered a series of injuries. After retaining the Pre- Season Cristal Monopole Cup, saturday 18th August 1979 saw the club’s long awaited debut in Senior Football finally come as they ran out onto the Broad Lane pitch to face Brentwood (who on that day included in their team a young midfielder named Trevor Putney who went on to enjoy a Football League career with the likes of Ipswich Town and Watford). Wivenhoe broke new ground by also issuing a programme for the first time for a league match and, roared on by the “Whymark Kop”, celebrated the occasion by recording a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Keith Bain and Paul Harrison. Following a 0-0 draw at Ford United, the Dragons were brought back down to earth with a 1-2 home defeat at the hands of local rivals Coggeshall Town who were Managed and Coached by two men who in time were to become familiar faces at Broad Lane, Peter Barlow and Alan Springett.
On the 8th September the club made their first appearance in the Essex Senior Trophy and faced a powerful Heybridge Swifts side. Despite being slightly apprehensive before the game, once they were able to contain the tricky Billy Woodhouse the Dragons recorded a notable 1-0 victory thanks to a Keith Bain strike. “Bainer” was on target again the following Saturday as was Paul Harrison (2) and Steve Sharman in a 4-0 victory at Stansted, however, this win was achieved at a cost as Stuart Shaw, who had been playing his best football for the club at left back, was carried off after 25 minutes with torn ligaments and never played for the First Team again. By now some of the players performances were beginning to catch the eye and at the start of October both Bain and Bokenham were selected to play for the Essex Representative Team against Sussex.
Progress in the League Cup at the expence of Maldon Town after a Replay was counter balanced by a disappointing exit in the Essex Senior Trophy at Halstead Town. A new signing was made in the shape of front runner Dave Knight from Brightlingsea United while off the field Eric Jennings stepped down as Treasurer following eight years’ service and was replaced in the post by Bob Taylor. Also leaving the club at the beginning of November was First Team Coach Tony Jenkinson who, after three years with the Dragons, took up the post of Youth Team Manager at Colchester United. With the club now in 4th place Bennett raided neighbours Brightlingsea again to bring in the experienced Tony Ward and he made his debut in a 4-1 victory over Witham Town on 10th November. Taylor and Knight were both on target on this occasion to add to a brace from Paul Harrison, in whom Wivenhoe had discovered a rare talent with his ability to turn even the most experienced defenders inside out and finish with a deadly shot. Harrison was again on target to earn a 1-1 draw at Heybridge before finding the target again against 2nd placed Sawbridgeworth Town in a 2-1 victory on Saturday 1st December, Dave Lamont scoring the other goal having been appointed Assistant Manager prior to the game.
Despite injuries to Harrison and the impressive Chris Dines Wivenhoe were in a rich vein of form which continued over the Christmas period and into the New Year to take the Dragons to the top of the table. The backbone of the side was still the players who had come up with the club from the Border League with the likes of Dines, Bain, Neil Milburn, John Hammond, skipper Doug Warner and of course Geoff Bennett himself all adapting to Senior League football. The Dragons were certainly the surprise package of the season and had emerged as serious challengers to the all powerful Basildon United who had been runaway champions for the previous three seasons. United visited Broad Lane on 2nd February 1980 with the top of the table looking as follows;
PL W D L FOR – AG PTS
Wivenhoe Town 19 12 6 1 38 15 30
Basildon United 16 14 1 1 37 4 29
Sawbridgeworth Town 21 7 10 4 20 12 24
Heybridge Swifts 21 9 5 7 33 20 23
Witham Town 19 9 4 6 32 18 22
A Dave Lamont goal gave the Dragons a memorable 1-0 victory on the day and for a brief while some dreamed of a debut Senior League Title. Unfortunately it all came crashing down. A 0-3 exit at Canvey Island in the League Cup was followed by a 0-1 home loss to Bowers United bringing to an end a 17 match unbeaten league run. Another 0-1 defeat at Basildon basically ended any Title ambitions as the South Essex outfit gradually disappeared out of sight to retain the Championship. The Dragons eventually secured the Runners-up spot which was still an impressive achievement although the season did end on a disappointing note as, following away victories over Brantham Athletic (3-0) and old rivals Mersea Island (2-1), Wivenhoe suffered a 1-2 reverse to Sudbury Wanderers in the Semi-Final of the Worthington Evans Cup.
The Second string also had a steady campaign after stepping up into the Essex League Reserve Section and finished in 5th place under Player/Manager Terry Simmons who was assisted by long serving club member and former player Mick Hatch. They also enjoyed good runs in both the Essex Intermediate Cup (during which they defeated the highly fancied Rayleigh) and the Reserve League Knock-out Cup.
FIRST TEAM APPEARANCES (Inc.Sub
39 – Keith BAIN, Paul HARRISON, 38 – Geoff BENNETT, Doug WARNER, 37 – Dickie BOKENHAM, Neil MILBURN, 35 – Dave LAMONT, Robert TAYLOR, 34 – Chris DINES, 31 – John HAMMOND, 25 – Tony WARD, 23 – Steve SHARMAN, 17 – Dave KNIGHT, 10 – Doug McDONALD, 6 – Stuart SHAW, 5 – Mark GOOCH, 4 – Ian MEADOWS, 2 – Nick BENNETT, Russell MILBURN, 1 – Dave BAXTER, Barry CARTER, Scott INNES, Jimmy MUSTO, Terry SIMMONS.
FIRST TEAM GOALSCORER
26 – Paul HARRISON, 13 – Keith BAIN, 8 – Dave LAMONT, 6 – Chris DINES, 4 – Steve SHARMAN, 3 – Dave KNIGHT, 2 – Tony WARD, 1 – Geoff BENNETT, Ian MEADOWS, Neil MILBURN, Robert TAYLOR, Opponents Own Goal (1).
Programme Cover from Season 79-80
Are you related to any of those in the below photos? Have we got all the players names correct?
Eddie Goldsmith, Keith Bain, Dickie Bokenham, Neil Milburn, Doug McDonald, Doug Warner
Paul Harrison, Geoff Bennett, Dave Lamont, Tony Ward
Chris Dines, Robert Taylor(?), Dave Knight(?)