Violence and 100 person brawl follows derby clash

Violence and 100 Person Brawl Follows Derby Clash

A TILBURY football supporter has been hospitalised after being hit by a brick after a fight involving around 100 people took place after the Tilbury v Grays local derby today.

The violence took place just outside the Chadfields ground after Tilbury had beaten Grays 3-2 in the Ryman League Division North fixture.

There were concerns about potential problems after trouble at the corresponding fixture earlier in the season when Tilbury fans clashed with Grays Chief Executive Andy Swallow after the game at Grays’ rented ground at East Thurrock.

For today’s match Tilbury employed a number of stewards and two police officers attended the match, though their presence was so “low profile” they were in the Tilbury boardroom drinking tea at half time and left the ground minutes after the final whistle.

The first flashpoint of the afternoon came when Grays took the lead 14 minutes into the first half with a hotly disputed and controversial goal. Two young Tilbury supporters, aged probably les than eight-years-old, threw two full cans of Coca-Cola at a linesman. He drew the attention of the referee to the incident, but appeared to ignore the antics of a supporter who climbed over the pitch-side fence and held a lengthy conversation with Tilbury manager Paul Vaughan.

The rest of the match was uninterrupted by fans and Tilbury came from behind to secure a 3-2 victory that was against the formbook.

The two young supporters who had thrown cans at the linesman raced across the pitch to barrack Grays fans as they streamed out of the ground, but, despite being clearly observed by the two police officers as they threw two more Coke cans at the Grays their antics were ignored.

What happened 15 minutes later took the violence to a new level. Bricks, bottles, chairs as well as punches were thrown leaving a number of people injured and at least one person requiring hospital treatment.

An Essex Police spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we had a call to a mass brawl involving over a 100people outside Tilbury FC. One person who was hit by a brick has been taken to Basildon hospital.

“We can confirm that there have, at this time, no arrests.”

A police source disclosed that they believed that a number of the “participants” were a “Loughton contingent” pointing at finger of blame at a connection with Grays Athletic, who are based at a training centre in Loughton.

Eye witnesses have spoken to the Essex Enquirer saying who was at the midst of the brawl, though Grays Chief Executive Andy Swallow who owns The Academy in Loughton distanced himself when questioned by the media.

He said: “I saw something kicking off but I quickly drove away. I learned my lesson from last time.”

The violence appeared to have potential to carry on into the evening with reports of Tilbury-based people driving into Grays in search of Grays fans. The matter has also been discussed on West Ham United forums where bloggers have been giving the impression that the incident was pre-meditated.

As for the game itself, Grays will be immensely disappointed that they didn’t take advantage of first half dominance.

They had a number of early chances but fluffed them, the most notable being when Simon Thomas missed the target with the goal at his mercy. They also had valid claims for a penalty inexplicably waved away.

However, they grabbed the lead on 14 minutes when Simon Thomas was among several players who sprang the Tilbury defensive line and, despite being yards offside and with the referee ignoring the linesman’s raised flag they bundled the ball home at about the third attempt.

Tilbury were rightly incensed as it was a shocking decision by the ref but there was no excuse for the fans’ behaviour which is likely to result in a big fine, if not even ground closure after the ‘innocent’ linesman was targeted by juvenile missile throwers.

To their credit, Tilbury’s players battled on and were rewarded before half time when Chris Taylor volleyed home an angled equaliser which embarrassed Grays keeper Steve Northwood.

In the second half most people expected Grays to move through the gears to victory but it was Tilbury who dominated, though they were immensely fortunate to be awarded a penalty when Chris Stowe took a tumble under very little pressure.

It was converted and, when Northwood messed up his angles and allowed an innocuous ball into the box to evade him for a third goal, Tilbury were set up for an unlikely victory.

Grays’ best player, in many people’s opinion, was finally unleashed from the subs’ bench, but Alex Osbourne can’t be expected to rescue a whole season on his own and though he played a part as Grays grabbed a late consolation, they never really threatened even an equaliser and slumped to a defeat.

Juvenile antics excepted, Tilbury were celebrating their victory in sensible style until a cohort of thugs, apparently directed an led by a senior Grays Athletic club figure (who it is believed is now being sought by police) unleashed an avalanche of violence about 15 minutes after the final whistle.

Police flooded the scenes, and there were  many substantiated reports of individual acts of violence involving known supporters of both Grays and Tilbury, and a number of unknown men. Fans, including women and children supporting both teams were locked in the clubhouse as the fight carried on outside. A number of Grays fans have confirmed to the Enquirer that they recognised a senior Grays club official at the centre of the violence.

Police have confirmed no arrests but spokesmen for the FA and Ryman League have confirmed they will be investigating, while Essex police say they are pursuing several lines of enquiry, with a number of specific people being named as responsible for the violence.

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George Hughes

George Hughes
Senior Editor

George Hughes is the senior editor of The Enquirer. George has been with the company for ten years and has seen it grow to be one of the UK’s most trusted news outlets.