Grier's Guide to Margate
The match: Margate v Kingstonian, Isthmian Premier. Saturday 23 March, 15:00
The club: Founded in 1896 as Margate Town, The Gate have become Isthmian stalwarts in recent years. In the 1980s they were called Thanet United, in an attempt to win support from the wider borough. They've won both the Isthmian and Southern leagues, and they've twice been to the FA Cup third round.
The town: Seaside town immortalised by Chas 'n' Dave and the Jolly Boys' outing in Only Fools and Horses. Like many British seaside towns its tourist trade suffered in the late 20th Century as low cost airlines meant people increasingly favoured more reliably sunny climes for their holidays. In the last decade the town has become a prime example of gentrification on the south coast with the Turner Gallery, a renovated Dreamland and new micropubs drawing hundreds of people from London and beyond both to visit and to live - a process that covid and hybrid working has further accelerated.
The ground: Hartsdown Park, Hartsdown Road, Margate, Kent, CT9 5QZ. It has a decent terrace behind one of the goals but little on two sides of the ground after problems with planning permission curtailed a redevelopment in the mid-2000s.
Directions: The high speed line from St Pancras is a little faster than the regular line from Victoria, but also more expensive. It's about a further 15 minutes on foot from Margate station. By car it takes about two hours from Kingston, with parking usually available on the street outside.
Tickets: £12 adults / £9 concessions / £5 11-17 / U11s free. You can buy them online at https://margatefc.ktckts.com/event/mar2122h21/margate-v-kingstonain-fc
Our record there: Our most memorable visit was in 2011 and not for good reasons, as we flushed a playoff berth away on the last day of the season by losing a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3. Of all our near-misses for a chance at promotion into Conference South it was definitely the most avoidable.
Recent form: At time of writing they're a point behind us in ninth place, so neither side will have anything but pride to play for.
Players to watch: Top scorer Ben Greenhalgh won the reality TV show Football's Next Star in 2012, bagging a contract with Inter Milan. He never appeared for the Nerazzurri but he did bag eight goals on loan at Como before returning to England to forge a career in non-league.
Crowd: Generally well-supported and capable of making some noise, although neither side has much to play for in this one.
Drinking: Lewes might be the traditional favourite for Ks fans when it comes to pubs but, depending on your preference, Margate might just be better these days. It's a very different vibe - whereas Lewes' pubs are mostly highly traditional, Margate blends the Kentish micropub trend with a quirky, craft-focused East London influence. The result is that Margate now has a great variety of newish places in the area just south of the Turner. Traditional backstreet boozer The Northern Belle is still going strong and it's now been joined by The Harbour Arms, with lovely views back across the beach; Fez, a super-quirky micropub where seating includes a barber's chair and a waltzer carriage; plus Xylo, The Lifeboat and The Two Halves. If you're pushed for time and won't make it into town, Ales of the Unexpected is another micropub, on the walk between the station and the ground.
Food: Firmly fish and chips by the beach territory, our long standing favourite being Peter's near the Turner Gallery. Get there early as it's popular and the queues can be big. A recent article in Kent Online bemoaned that Margate's greasy spoons had been replaced by 'chichi little bistros, all serving organic essence of iguana coulis drizzled on a cow's bottom.' But the Dalby Cafe, where Libertines singer Pete Doherty was photographed scoffing a mega-sized English breakfast, remains open.