Sunday, 11 November 2018

Wormley Rovers 8 v 0 Lopes Tavares

Saturday 10th November 2018
Eastern Counties League Division One South
Wormley Sports Club, Wormley
Admission: £5.00
Programme: Online only
Attendance: 45 (estimate)
Match Rating: 4

After a couple of Saturdays involving long and tiring journeys to the Salisbury area, I wanted to head for a ground much easier to get to and from. Persistent rain forecast to fall all day in Hampshire put me off a trip westwards, and with a bright and sunny forecast north and east of London, I settled on this game, to see another pair of clubs newly promoted into senior football following this season's creation of a Step 6 league in Essex.

The Wormley Sports Ground is just under half hour walk away from Broxbourne train station, and a rather pleasant walk it is too, walking along the New River canal for the most part. The football ground is part of a large sports complex, including a playground, cricket field and several other football pitches. Spectators walk through a small car park, and then along a path to the side of a brick clubhouse, paying admission at a kiosk. Currently, it would be very easy to enter for free though, as the football ground is not enclosed from the surrounding complex, which can be freely accessed. There are excellent facilities in the clubhouse, with a bar in one section and a café in another. There is overhang along the front to offer shelter from rain, but it is set quite some way back from the pitch behind a goal and at an angle, meaning it is not ideally located to watch the game from. The changing rooms are housed in a separate brick building some way back from the corner flag. A neat hedgerow closely lines one length and behind the other goal, and straddling the half way line there is a small home made stand consisting of corrugated iron held up by scaffolding and painted in red and black, covering two steps. Either side are brick dugouts, with neat metal doors to prevent access when not in use. The remaining length, which backs onto the cricket field has just grass to stand on but is railed. It is a basic but quite charming ground, with some lovely autumnal colours amongst the surrounding trees, although presumably improvements will need to be made very soon - enclosing the ground and installing some seating are the most obvious. The club does not issue printed programmes, instead publishing an online one, but even that is woeful, consisting only of an introduction to the away club, and expected line-ups for today's game.

Both clubs have found progression to senior football quite a tough challenge. Wormley Rovers, who finished in fifth place in the Hertfordshire Senior League last season, came into this game in 15th place in the 19 team division, following two wins and four draws from their 12 league games, but they have picked up just one point from their opening five games at home. Lopes Tavares' elevation to senior football raised eyebrows to say the least, finishing fifth in the Essex Alliance League Premier Division, which is not officially a part of the pyramid structure. They came into this game in 17th place, following one win and five draws from their opening 12 league games. The reverse fixture of today's game took place in September, with the game finishing 3-3 in East London.

Although conditions were sunny and dry right up to kick off, rain started to fall a few minutes in, and it barely stopped throughout the game, falling heavily at times and with a little thunder and lightning mixed in. Wormley took the lead with barely a minute on the clock, a ball through the middle finding the run of the striker, and as he drove forward towards goal, the keeper seemed to have misjudged where his goal was as he faced up too far to one side of his goal, and the ball was slotted into the other half of the goal. They doubled their lead on 13 minutes when a long punt upfield by the keeper bounced through the defence and the striker found himself running clear and as the keeper sprinted out, he lobbed the ball perfectly over the keeper and into the net. The scoreline became 3-0, following a slip by a defender and a Wormley player dribbled along the box before passing to an unmarked team mate, who struck the ball low across the keeper and into the opposite corner of the net. And it really was game over with just 18 minutes on the clock when Wormley scored their fourth following a ball through the middle, and the player took a touch before passing the ball into the net. At this stage, one really feared for the visitors, as they just couldn't deal with balls launched towards their defence, and seemed to show a chronic lack of discipline and shape. But surprisingly, they did not ship any more goals before half time, and managed to have a few shots at goal, mostly not threatening apart from a punted shot from the edge of the area forced the keeper to tip the ball over the bar.

Wormley finally increased their lead to 5-0 on 51 minutes following a free kick floated into the area from deep and the ball was headed the ball into the net, and it became 6-0 on 72 minutes. The ball was crossed too far beyond goal but it tempted the keeper to sprint wide of his area to chase the ball down, failing and then it was passed to his team mate who took a few touches before flighting the ball beautifully over the keeper and defenders and into the net. Three minutes later and Wormley scored their seventh, after the ball was crossed from close to the right corner flag and was emphatically volleyed home through the keeper's hands and into the net. They finished off the scoring on 83 minutes after a shot from the outside of the area came back off the post and the loose ball was eventually driven home. Thanks to some missed chances and a drop in intensity at times, a double digit scoreline was averted. Perhaps this was an off day for Lopes Tavares, but they really were awful today, the sort of performance that has one wondering the wisdom of elevating clubs several divisions artificially, as they looked anything but of senior standard.

Bexhill United 0 v 1 Burgess Hill Town

Tuesday 6th November 2018
Sussex Senior Cup Second Round
The Polegrove, Bexhill-on-Sea
Admission: £4.00
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 138
Match Rating: 3

This evening I decided to take in another local midweek game, to watch another David and Goliath clash at the Polegrove, after witnessing a terrifically brave, but ultimately fruitless, performance against a team (Haywards Heath Town) two steps higher in the pyramid four weeks ago ago. This evening promised to be even tougher for the home side though, with the visiting club firmly established three steps higher.

Bexhill United have continued their very good form in the Step 6 Southern Combination League Division One, and were in second place, having won nine and drawn one of their opening 12 league games, winning their last four league games, as well as progressing 0-5 away on Saturday to progress to the next round of the divisional cup. To set up this evening's fixtures, they won 2-7 at Billingshurst in the previous round. Since being promoted into the Step 3 Isthmian League Premier Division in 2015, Burgess Hill have just about survived relegation in each season, finishing no higher than 20th in the 24 team division, and the signs are that this season will be no different, as they currently sit third bottom, following two wins and five draws from their 14 league games.

On a mild, dry but very windy evening, this would turn out to be remarkably similar to the game against Haywards Heath - a very strong, defensively organised performance by the home team to combat the clear gulf in quality with their opponents, more than holding their own, but were beaten by just the one goal and with a bit of luck, they could have forced extra time at the very least. As to be expected, Burgess Hill dominated possession from the off, as Bexhill tended to sit back and soak up pressure, and the visitors did not look particularly threatening - the closest they came to opening the scoring coming on ten minutes when a free kick went into the keeper's midriff, but the ball spilled gently goalwards before being gathered in time. As the half wore on, Bexhill managed to get forward a little more, and on 20 minutes, 21 goal Jack Shonk took the ball down the left before cutting inside and firing a long distance shot just over the bar. But just as it looked like Bexhill would get to half-time level, the visitors scored. A fast move through the middle ended up with the ball being slipped into the path of Pat Harding, who passed the ball first time into the net.

Bexhill started the second half really well, creating some decent chances, the pick of which came on 52 minutes when half time sub Jack McLean ran into a defender's header back to the keeper, just getting to the ball before the keeper, lifting it goalwards but it was headed away by a defender. Burgess Hill then had perhaps their best spell of the game in search of a probably decisive second goal, and although they came close a couple of times, Bexhill stayed well in the game right up to the final whistle, as the visitors seemed to make little effort to close the game out. But in the end, the visitors did scrape through, and in truth fairly comfortably so, always looking the better team, but all of the praise should go to Bexhill for another brave performance, defying the wide gap in status with their opponents, but can now concentrate more on their main focus of achieving promotion to the top flight of the Southern Combination League. They look in great shape to do just that, albeit much can change over the long winter months.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Shaftesbury 5 v 2 Fareham Town

Saturday 3rd November 2018
Wessex League Premier Division
Cockrams, Shaftesbury
Admission: £5.00
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 43
Match Rating: 4

During yet another weekend of rail engineering works preventing direct trains to London, I decided to head back down to the Salisbury area for the second consecutive Saturday today. Although a visit to Warminster Town of the Western League was tempting and would have been easier, as it would involved staying simply on the same train for an extra 20 minutes, I instead opted to visit a Wessex League Premier Division ground as I near its completion.

Shaftesbury is about a one hour bus ride from Salisbury, a seemingly never-ending roller coaster ride along tight country lanes, with Cockrams about a five minute walk north eastwards from the town centre. Plenty of attractive club signage greets visitors to the ground, and after passing through the car park and the modern clubhouse, spectators enter the ground behind one goal, paying admission and obtaining a programme at a window of a brick building which stretches to the corner flag. The building also houses a tea bar window pitchside, with the changing rooms located inside. Overhang allows for slightly elevated covered standing along the front, and team line-ups are posted on the wall next to the tea bar window. Along one length, there is quite a long stand covering three rows of seating, whilst on the opposite side there is a small stand covering a couple of steps, although it is virtually pointless, as tall dugouts are located immediately in front of it, almost completely obscuring the view of the pitch. There is just hard standing around the rest of the ground, which is enclosed with tall cage like metal fencing, but at least leylandii has been planted in front, so the perimeter is not too much of an eyesore. Well done to Shaftesbury for a very reasonable entry fee for step 5 football, and the 16 page programme contained all of the important information, without having a lot to read.

On paper, this would be a game between two closely matched teams, coming into this game level on points, both winning four and drawing three of their league games so far, although Shaftesbury had played a game more, having played 13 league games. After back to back promotions from the Dorset Premier League, Shaftesbury are in only their second season at this level, having finished in 12th position last season. Fareham Town have been in the top flight of the Wessex League since the late nineties.


On a very overcast, windy and slightly chilly afternoon, Shaftesbury took the lead on 9 minutes when Nick Hewlett headed home a corner. They forced a smart save low down by the keeper three minutes later, but the visitors equalised on 18 minutes when Curt Robbins chipped the keeper from outside of the area. Things got even better for them on 27 minutes when the ball was headed back by a defender into the path of Gary Austin running towards goal, and as the keeper raced out to meet him, he tapped the ball to one side before slotting the ball calmly into the empty net. The home side came close to equalising on 32 minutes when a free kick was fumbled by the keeper over his head but the ball was hacked away, and on 39 minutes, Greg Peel headed home a delicious cross from the left, but the goal was ruled out for offside to deny the hosts an equaliser, but the reprieve was to only last for four minutes when Peel curled a lovely free kick low into the bottom left corner. Things were starting to go badly wrong for the visitors now, as their full back Garry Moody was shown a straight red card five minutes into added on time for a stamp, and there was still time for Shaftesbury to take the lead in the seventh minute of added on time. The ball was curled into the box, a defender couldn't deal with it and it landed at the feet of Peel, who took a touch before tapping the ball home, to put his team in a great position with the visitors down to ten men for the second half.

At half time, I wondering if I would have a similar outcome to the exhilarating 5-4 game I had the pleasure of watching at nearby Amesbury last Saturday. It wasn't going to turn out to be such an exciting second half though. The next goal was clearly going to be crucial, and both teams had decent chances, but it was Shaftesbury who got it on 76 minutes, when Hewlett headed home a corner at the back post. The result was put beyond all doubt on 84 minutes when the ball was crossed low into the box and Alexandru Staffie seemed to take too long to control the ball and think what to do, but then he judged a perfect delicate chip over the keeper and into the far side of the net. They really should have scored a sixth on 89 minutes when a low cross found Staffie completely unmarked and in front of goal, but he ballooned the ball first time high and wide. But it mattered little as his team claimed what, in the end, was a comfortable win, but it was the events of first half injury time that decisively swung the game in their favour.