Romford return to former home

Boro going back to Rush Green

Romford face an emotional return to their former home at Rush Green as they take on Ryman Division One North rivals Grays tonight.

Boro had used the former Ford Sports & Social Club ground as their base for six years before they were forced out at the end of the 2007-08 season when the car manufacturer sold the facility to Premier League club West Ham.

Their last competitive match at the ground ended in a 5-2 defeat to Barkingside, when Paul Clayton and George Tubey were on target.

Current boss Paul Martin had not been in charge long, since succeeding Mark Reed, and said: “This is my 15th game in charge and that has to be our worst performance.

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“They got their tactics right and we just couldn’t cope. We didn’t get the ball on the floor enough and completely lost our shape in the second half.”

Boro ended that campaign in fifth place, before agreeing a ground-sharing deal with Aveley, and romped to the Essex Senior League title a year later.

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They have established themselves in the higher division since, but are now playing home matches at Thurrock’s Ship Lane ground while Grays, having agreed a deal with West Ham last year, have relocated to Rush Green, which had remained unused in the intervening years.

Grays celebrated their move with a 4-1 win over a Hammers XI last July and are unbeaten in the league on home turf so far this term.

They are currently sitting in third place, just two points behind Heybridge and with three games in hand as both clubs chase runaway leaders Maldon.

Romford, meanwhile, have slipped down to 13th place after seeing festive fixtures against Wroxham and Tilbury fall victim to waterlogged pitches.

They have taken just four points from a possible 15 and their last outing ended in a controversial 1-0 defeat at Witham on December 15, when captain Jack Barry was sent off for two bookable offences and James Ishmail saw red after the final whistle.

But they have been buoyed by the return of striker Kurt Smith, who has rejoined the ranks from East Thurrock, and celebrated victory in the corresponding fixture last season.

Martin was serving a touchline ban at the time, while assistant Mark Lord was on holiday, and it was left to the injured Smith and kitman Keith Preston to call the shots from the dugout at Rookery Hill, where Grays were groundsharing with East Thurrock at the time.

Bradley Thomas headed Grays in front on the hour, but Abs Seymour levelled soon after from David Ottley’s cross.

And the same pair combined again on 78 minutes, with Ottley centring from the left for Seymour to fire home the Romford winner.

Barry, Clayton, Matt Toms and Joe Oates are the only Romford survivors from that meeting, but Boro have plenty of incentive for wanting a repeat outcome this evening.

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