Sunday, 21 August 2011

Pagham 1 v 2 Herne Bay

Saturday 20th August 2011
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Nyetimber Lane, Pagham
Admission: £6.00
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 75
Match Rating: 4

My first taste of domestic football action of the season took in the very first step on the long road to Wembley in the FA Cup today, in the Extra Preliminary Round. A trip down to the West Sussex coast most appealed to me, with an appealing looking tie with two of the better sides on the Sussex County League and the Kent League.

Nyetimber Lane is about three miles from Bognor Regis train station, from which there are buses every 15 minutes dropping one virtually outside the ground. Having been greeted with a rather firm sign at the door that all must pay and don't take your anger out on the gateman if you disagree, I entered a very smart and neat looking ground that has obviously has had plenty of TLC and licks of paint in recent times.On one length of the pitch there is half a dozen terrace steps covered by a wooden roof - but with open sides and rear. On the other length is the clubhouse and alongside that is a small tradional stone stand that is entered from the rear and has an attractive modern sign welcoming everyone to Nytimber Lane. Hard standing is available around the rest of the pitch. The programme was an interesting one - just 8 pages for £1.00, but to its credit, contained no advertising, has a very attractive and professional cover and design and contains the all-important thorough welcome message, league fixtures and results including line-ups for each game, predicted line-ups for this game and potted histories of both clubs.

This would not exactly be a tie for Herne Bay to relish though, with perhaps one of the longest trips possible at this stage of the competition, from the north-east Kent coast right down to western extremity of the Sussex coast.Both teams cames into this fixture in perfect form - Pagham winning both of therr opening league games 2-1 in the Sussex League and finished last season in fourth place, albeit a whopping 20 points behind champions Crawley Down, whilst Herne Bay have also won both of their opening games in the Kent League. They are always a strong outfit at this level, having finished runners up in the Kent League for the last two seasons, last season being denied the championship and promotion by goal difference, losing only two league games all season.

In prefect conditions - a gloriously sunny day with barely a cloud in the sky and with temperatures pleasant but not oppressive, this match was a really good advert for this level of football, with both sides playing good football along the floor, although Herne Bay were probably guilty of over playing in the final third, seeming to prefer tippy-tappy football around the box instead of driving towards goal. They were made to pay for this approach when Pagham took the lead on 13 minutes, when following some confusion in the box, a shot was saved but only palmed out into the path of Phil Turner, who struck home from close range.

This was how the scoreline remained at half-time, slightly harsh on Herne Bay, although it did not take them too long to put it right. On 55 minutes, they were awarded a fairly controversial penalty for off-the-ball holding, which was converted by a well struck shot high into the top left corner by Byron Walker. Within a couple of minutes, the visitors went in front when a long looping free kick from close to the half way line was headed over the keeper caught in no-mans-land and into the net by Tom Bryant. Herne Bay deserved this as they did adopt a more clinical approach in the second half and could have scored several more, hitting the woodwork twice and a couple of breakaway shots drifted agonisingly wide of the post. Pagham only sporadically threatended - although they always looked capable of scoring when they did, and the intensity of chances stepped up in the closing stages, but in the end, Herne Bay claimed a good and well deserved victory, to set up a tie with neighbours Deal Town.

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