(ESSEX SENIOR LEAGUE)
With the majority of the previous season’s squad remaining at the club, Player/Manager Geoff Bennett made several summer signings. Defender Neil “Twiggy” Partner joined following a distinguished career that embraced Colchester United, Clacton Town, Tilbury (where he was voted “man of the match” in their F.A.Cup tie against Stoke City) and Harwich & Parkeston, midfielder Kenny Papworth arrived having spent most of the previous season out of the game building his own house following a spell playing in the Southern League at Bury Town, and 30 year old Barry Greygoose was persuaded to step up into Senior football having previously been an outstanding performer in Mersea Island’s midfield in the Essex & Suffolk Border League. In addition 17 year old striker Paul Chalmers returned to Broad Lane having originally played for the club in the Border League at just 15 prior to being snapped up as a Junior by West Ham United before having a spell in Cambridge United’s youth team.
All five pre season games ended in victory. First off there was an International flavour as the Bahrain national Under-21 team (who were staying at the University Of Essex) were defeated 3-1 before Hampshire Senior League side Morsehanger were beaten 3-2 as Wivenhoe retained the Cristal Monopole Cup. Colchester United (who included five 1st teamers) were edged out 3-2 while Clacton Town and Basildon United were both defeated 1-0.
The season kicked off on August 16th at home to Chelmsford City Reserves and with Neil Partner, Dave Lamont, Doug Warner and the prolific Paul Harrison all missing, it was satisfying to win 2-1 thanks to goals from Paul Chalmers and Steve Sharman. This set the standard for some tremendous early season form as, apart from a 0-2 home defeat against Maldon Town in the Essex Senior Trophy, the Dragons won all five of their opening league fixtures and defeated Ford United 3-1 in the League Cup. This latter game marked the end of Ken Papworth’s brief association with the club (as he left to join Brightlingsea United along with Doug Warner) and saw the appearance of new club colours as the old red shirts were replaced by blue & white stripes. With “Twiggy” being appointed team captain, Wivenhoe sat in 2nd place in the table as they travelled to play league leaders Bowers United on Saturday 11th October. What followed was an entertaining game between two evenly matched teams until the home side took the lead through a highly controversial goal and we eventually went down 0-2, becoming the last team in the league to lose their 100 per cent record in the process. There was no time to dwell on this defeat however as the very next day the Dragons had a Worthington Evans Charity Cup date away to Eastern Counties League side Brantham Athletic. Around this period in time quite a few clubs (including ourselves) did not have floodlights therefore the only way to fit this type of competition in around the regular fixtures was to play on a Sunday. Goals from Keith Bain and Paul Chalmers saw Wivenhoe make progress 2-0. One player who was so far having a storming season was Neil Milburn who had been switched from full back to central defence where his cool, calculated, almost casual approach was to see him eventually rank amongst the best centre backs to play for the club.
Following the Bowers defeat Bennett signed defender Kevin Anderson from Witham Town having previously gained three F>A>Vase Winners medals with Billericay Town. He made his debut as a 2nd half substitute on Saturday 18th October as the Dragons got back to winning ways against Sawbridgeworth Town at Broad Lane. Teenager Chalmers continued his impressive start to the campaign by scoring twice in the opening 15 minutes to record his 9th goal in 10 appearances while a piece of Chris Dines magic provided the opening for Paul Harrison to score with a tap in. A resounding 4-0 victory was rounded off when Harrison almost broke the net as he smashed the ball home from an almost impossible angle. 3-0 victories at Maldon Town (Harrison 2; Dines) and at home to Stansted (Dines 2; Chalmers) saw Wivenhoe go top of the table with 8 wins and 1 defeat from 9 matches and a realistic Championship challenge looked to be on the cards. With three players (Paul Harrison, goalkeeper Dickie Bokenham and midfield wizard Chris Dines) being selected to play for Essex in a Representative match against the Army at Aldershot it was all looking bright. Unfortunately, following a creditable 1-1 draw at 3rd placed Witham, we suddenly began to display a failure to put away struggling opposition. A 0-0 draw at home to Coggeshall Town (only achieved thanks to a Dickie Bokenham penalty save) on 15/11/80 was then followed by a complete disaster seven days later as the Dragons went down 2-3 away to bottom of the table Halstead Town, who had not previously won a game in any competition and had lost 0-7 to Stansted a couple of days before. Significantly it was probably no coincidence that Geoff Bennett was in the USA when this sudden loss of form happened and with influential player coach Dave Lamont also sidelined for seven games with an ankle injury, a lack of consistency throughout November and December undid all of the excellent early season work. That said the Dragons were still in the mix and on 23rd January 1981 the league table looked like this.
Wivenhoe’s title bid was all but ended in the space of the next three matches as they lost 0-3 at home to Heybridge Swifts in a miserable performance (a game that saw the last appearance of Robert Taylor and Barry Greygoose for the club) drew 1-1 at Canvey Island where Anderson was sent off and Dickie Bokenham made a double penalty save to preserve the point, and then crashed 0-3 at home to Bowers. For some unexplained reason this seemed to lift the pressure off some of the players and performances immediately improved beginning with a 2-1 victory over Heybridge Swifts (28/2/81) in the League Cup thanks to goals from Lamont and Steve Sharman. Indeed, the Dragons went on to lose just one of their remaining ten league games. Stuart Bright was signed in early March from Chelmsford City to boost the midfield and although out of league contention, victories over Clacton Town 3-2 (Coggeshall Brotherhood Cup) and Halstead Town 3-0 (Worthington Evans Cup) saw the Dragons chasing cup honours on three fronts. The League Cup semi final draw saw Wivenhoe face Sawbridgeworth Town and having already “doubled” them in the league hopes were high to reach the Final. Unfortunately it turned out to be a massive disappointment as we went down 1-2 in the 1st leg at Broad Lane (scorer John Blackwell) and could then only draw 1-1 away (Scorer Anderson).
Although injury had put paid to Paul Chalmers season, Paul Harrison was still doing the business in front of goal much to the delight of the “Whymark Kop” and the “Bocking Boozers” (named after club Promotions Manager Paul Bocking) and the highlight of his scoring feats had to be a five goal haul against Ford United on 9th May (Sharman netting the other in a 6-0 win). Unfortunately the goals dried up four days later as we lost 0-1 at home to a strong Harwich & Parkeston side in the Final of the Worthington Evans Cup. That left just one more chance to gain some silverware and goals from Chris Dines and Kevin Anderson gave us a 2-1 win at Burnham Ramblers in the semi final of the Coggeshall Brotherhood Cup on 17th May. Two days later we met Coggeshall Town in the Final on their own pitch and triumphed 3-0 with Keith Bain grabbing a brace to add to Stuart Bright’s first goal for the club.
The Reserve team under player/manager Terry Simmons finished the season as Runners-up to Witham Town Reserves in the league and also enjoyed an excellent run in the Essex Intermediate Cup defeating Harold Wood Athletic (home 3-2), Heathwell United (home 3-0), Heybridge Swifts Reserves (home 2-1), Dagenham Working Men’s Club (away 2-1) and the much fancied and previously undefeated Rayleigh Town (away 4-2) before eventually going out at the semi final stage to Burnham Sports.
FIRST TEAM GOALSCORERS
33 – Paul HARRISON, 14 – Keith BAIN, 13 – Paul CHALMERS, 9 – Steve SHARMAN, 7 – Chris DINES, 6 – Dave LAMONT, 3 – John BLACKWELL 2 – Kevin ANDERSON, 2 – Tony WARD, 1 – Geoff BENNETT, 1 – Stuart BRIGHT, 1 – Neil PARTNER
FIRST TEAM APPEARANCES
44 – Tony WARD, 43 – Chris DINES, 43 – Keith BAIN, 42 – Paul HARRISON, 42 – Neil MILBURN, 41 – Dickie BOKENHAM, 38 – Neil PARTNER, 33 – Dave LAMONT, 31 – Kevin ANDERSON, 31 – Geoff BENNETT, 28 – Paul CHALMERS, 25 – Steve SHARMAN, 23 – Robert TAYLOR, 17 – Barry GREYGOOSE, 13 – Stuart BRIGHT, 10 – John BLACKWELL, 8 – Mark “Gus” HARRISON, 4 – Kenny PAPWORTH, 3 – Doug WARNER, 3 – Nick BENNETT, 3 – Russell MILBURN, 2 – Mark GOOCH, 1 – Colin McWILLIAMS, 1- John GILLAN.