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The Story of Cheshunt Fc - From Step 4 to Step 2 And Back Again

Publish Date:22/03/2024
Fact checked by: James Leeland

Hertfordshire-based strugglers Cheshunt Football Club currently find themselves entangled in what is a gruelling and unpredictable fight to stay in the Isthmian Premier Division, the third tier of English non-league football. The Ambers, despite current woes, experienced overwhelming success in recent years including an exploration of the heights of the National League South after achieving full-season back-to-back promotions coupled with a dream tie against current Football League club, Stockport County. This is the story, told by Ben Chalkley, of a team that under the guidance of Craig Edwards, made the impossible seem possible.

The Start Of The Rise

It begins in August 2018, Cheshunt FC are preparing themselves for another season in the Bostik South Central Division. In front of a crowd just shy of 200, Cheshunt kicked off their 2018/2019 campaign against Hayes and Yeading United who eventually went on to win the league by an outstanding gap of 16 points. The Ambers held the champions to a 3-3 draw, with Jason Hallet on the score sheet who set the tone for the rest of the season. Hallet, who sits high in the all-time Cheshunt top scorer list, was vital in the comeuppance of Cheshunt, he epitomised the fighting spirit within the club and oozed passion alongside the remainder of the spine which included Northern Ireland international Mark Hughes and Dave Kendall.

The Playoffs

For the remainder of the season, manager Edwards established a squad that would grind out results and eventually see The Ambers in a playoff place, a position that Cheshunt would become more accustomed to. A third-place finish meant that Buckinghamshire outfit Marlow awaited Edwards’ men in the South-Central division play-off semi-final. Two second-half goals saw Cheshunt book their place in the final with one of them coming from the towering Brian Moses. As the ball hit the back of the net for his fellow strike partner Hallet’s headed goal, Moses shook the net in relief, rallying the jubilant fans behind the goal and breaking the stanchions in the process. Bracknell Town stood between Cheshunt and promotion.

A heavily outnumbered army of Cheshunt supporters huddled behind the Bracknell goal in anticipation, a great season now in the hands of an outperforming group who aspired to take this club to the next step of the vast English football pyramid. After a slow start to the final, the man dubbed the “Romanian Messi,” Shane Cojocarel got to work in what turned out to be one of the most delightful, complete displays of the season. 3-0 was the final score and Edwards and his team could celebrate their remarkable season, topped off with silverware and a place in next season’s Isthmian Premier Division, but Edwards and his infinite confidence desired more.

Curtailing Of The League

It was a rocky start to the 2019/2020 season for the Ambers. Despite the addition of current York City number nine Dipo Akinyemi now amongst the squad and firing, Cheshunt saw themselves struggling to amass points with losses to local clubs Haringey Borough, Bishop’s Stortford and rivals Enfield Town. Although, eventually this will have little to no meaning as during the final stretch of the season on March 13, the Isthmian League announced an immediate postponement of all fixtures until further notice, due to the outbreak of COVID-19. It comes as no surprise that this was a worrying time for most clubs, without a steady income from match-going fans, sponsors, or the league, but it stood as a lifeline with Cheshunt only two points from the drop and a worrying goal difference, the league was suspended, and the season was eventually registered invalid.

New-Look Ambers

The start of the following season saw a marked improvement from Cheshunt, with 19 points from their first 10 games putting them in second place behind dominant high-flyers Worthing, a team that was extremely unlucky not to go up following the late postponement of the league the previous season. But alas, the season ground to a halt yet again when a second wave of COVID-19 swept the nation, causing another season to be registered null and void. Cheshunt supporters were frustrated with this news given their impressive start to the campaign, but they had no idea what glory awaited them in the very near future.

Cheshunt entered the 2021/2022 season with a fresh team, talisman Ken Charles displaying Hallett-like tendencies and finding the net mercilessly early in the season and later passing the torch to Rowan Liburd and Kayne Diedrick-Roberts. Early signs showed that this may become a season to remember for The Ambers as they bypassed Worthing, Enfield Town, and Hornchurch all before Christmas, confirming to the league that they are a force to be reckoned with and will be present at the head of the table come to the end of the season. Giving Cheshunt FC even more hope was the sheer heroic performances put in by central defender Adam Crowther, who justifiably got a clean sweep of all awards at the season’s conclusion, not to mention a spectacular perfect hat trick away at Wingate and Finchley. Crowther now deservedly applying his trade in the National League for Southend United and already picking up a Player of the Month award, the first of many to come you would imagine.

Historic Cup Run

Following five statement wins in the FA Trophy for Cheshunt, fans were glued to Talk Sport awaiting their destiny which came in the form of an away draw to Stockport County. Less than a month later, a near 250 Cheshunt fans made the journey to the Northwest of England to Edgeley Park, 50 more fans than the 2018/2019 season opener at their home stadium Theobalds Lane, an indicator of how far the club has come in recent years. A chance from the powerful Liburd coming closest to sending the Amber away end into raptures, unfortunately, went begging, and Cheshunt lost 1-0 to a relentless Stockport side who went on to gain promotion to the Football League the same season. Nevertheless, a proud day for the club that will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Unthinkable Season

The season just kept producing magic days and magic moments for the club, with two coming within the same week as each other. A mere 2 months after the Stockport matchup, Cheshunt got the better of local rivals Bishop’s Stortford at home which confirmed that they will be competing in the playoffs come the end of the season. Furthermore, The Ambers had a Hertfordshire Senior Cup final to navigate. Being firm favourites and by far the most in-form team, Hadley were brushed aside thanks to goals from Diedrick-Roberts and the versatile Mo Camara, Cheshunt had some silverware to boost their confidence ahead of what would be their most important two games in the modern history of the club. With a chance to progress to step two of non-league and a chance to make a name for themselves, the pressure began to build.

Step 3 Playoffs

The stage was set for the Isthmian Premier Division playoff semi-final, Cheshunt travelled to familiar foe Bishop’s Stortford who were also dreaming of the financial gain and prominence that came with National League South status. The Hertfordshire rivals exchanged blows early on with Darren Foxley opening the scoring for Bishop’s Stortford early on and a reply from Cheshunt in the form of a Rowan Liburd penalty. Former Cheshunt player Billy Cracknell put the hosts a goal ahead. Chants of “Cheshunt get battered, everywhere they go” filled the pyrotechnic-tinted air before Cheshunt captain Joe Re levels via a deflection. Perfectly poised now, the game approached the final stages. In the final few moments of the game, Zak Newton’s long throw is met by the head of Taylor McKenzie who finds the top left corner. Bedlam. The Ambers defeated The Blues and are now a game away from the National League South.

Hornchurch were next to try and deter Cheshunt and ultimate glory, in a game that had nerves racing for both teams and both sets of fans, saw both teams at a stalemate at the halfway stage. It was evident that a moment of absolute magic was needed to win this game as both teams just seemed too stubborn and impossible to break down. Up stepped Newton. A stunning curling effort guided into the top right corner sent the amber wall off to the left of the pitch wild and put Cheshunt in the driving seat for the remainder of the game. With clear moments of discomfort from the Ambers’ backline, the final whistle blew. Players and fans alike were in tears. The rapid incline of Cheshunt football club had just taken another monumental leap.

What Now For Cheshunt?

It is quite difficult to decipher and understand why fortunes have turned for Cheshunt Football Club since that day. Is it because they were punching above their weight? Was it the personnel within the team? Finances maybe? There is no tangible way to tell, but what can be appreciated is the heroism and fight that the Ambers have shown throughout adversity with COVID-19 restricting their already limited budget in comparison to others, the commitment to being a community-driven club and creating a group of players and staff that fans can be proud of and young fans can look up to.

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