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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 August 2005, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Football club enjoys homecoming
'Football's coming home' poster
A three year wait for Margate fans has come to an end
Margate Football Club has played the first game back at its home ground after a three-year exile.

The club was relegated from the Conference in 2004 due to problems with the redevelopment of Hartsdown Park.

It was forced to ground share with other Kent clubs until an agreement was reached to reinstate the ground to Football Conference South status.

Manager Chris Kinnear said Saturday was a big day and he hoped Hartsdown would become the fortress it once was.

'Massive support'

"Hopefully we can go back to the old days when Margate was a fortress.

"Three years ago we beat Stevenage and went to the top of the Conference and that's where we want to be again," the boss added.

Hartsdown Park after demolition work
The Hartsdown Park site had stood empty for three years

Director Keith Piper said the club had received "massive support" from the community.

"It is over-whelming really and demonstrates just how much the people of this town have missed their football club," he added.

Only three or four Margate players who played at the old ground are still with the club.

Many Margate fans spent Friday helping paint and clean parts of the ground to get it ready for Saturday's match against Maldon.

Ownership disagreement

Redevelopment plans for the club include a 5,000-capacity stadium with a hotel and theme bar.

But a temporary stadium and playing surface has been laid for the 2005/06 season in the Ryman Premier League.

Hartsdown Park had been Margate's home since 1929.

It was closed and demolished in 2002, with plans for rebuilding on the same site, but work stopped after a disagreement about ownership of the land if the club went bust.

Margate initially played home games at Dover Athletic's ground, then transferred to Ashford's Homelands ground.

As a result the club was demoted from the Conference because ground-sharing was not allowed at that level.

The first game back home was a success on the field as well as off it - with Margate beating Maldon 1-0 in the Ryman League Premier Division clash.


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