Sunday, 23 October 2011

Wadhurst United 4 v 2 Ticehurst

Saturday 22nd October 2011
East Sussex League Cup Round 2
Washwell Lane, Wadhurst
Admission and Programme: N/A
Attendance: 65 (head count)
Match Rating: 4

I had originally intended to go to Chatham Town's game against Heybridge Swifts today, which would have completed the "set" of Kent senior football grounds for me. However, a delayed train meant I missed my connection and would not have arrived at Chatham train station until well after the 3pm kick off. Therefore I decided to divert to a game that I had considered as a possibility anyway, an attractive looking cup game, albeit at intermediate level, which would be a derby game between neighbouring villages.

Today would be a revisit to a ground I visited last season, a very pleasant rural village location, and a description of the ground can be found here.

All of the ingredients were there for an intriguing game today. The match would be between two clubs separated by just three and a half miles, with many links between the two clubs. There would also be a chance of a giantkilling today, with Wadhurst United in the Premier Division of the East Sussex League but have made quite a poor start to the season, with one win and four defeats from their opening five games, against Ticehurst, of the First Division, who have made a strong start to their season, winning four and losing the other of their opening five games. In the latest annual memorial match between the two clubs in August, Ticehurst won 4-1 at Washwell Lane.

On a bright, sunny but somewhat chilly autumnal afternoon, the match started off as would have been expected - at a high tempo. However, with just seven minutes on the clock, Ticehurst's task suddenly became a lot harder when they unbelievably had their top striker, Liam Bull, who has scored twelve goals in just 6 games this season after scoring 23 in 24 games last season, sent off for a second yellow card. Both yellow cards seemed very harsh - the first for not retreating from a free-kick but he barely had time to do so before the referee waved his yellow card, and the second picked up whilst he was battling his way towards goal with a defender. This did not seem to impact too much on Ticehurst's play, as the game remained even, and on 17 minutes, they hit the post with a header in a crowded penalty area. Wadhurst were then awarded an indirect free-kick was awarded deep inside the penalty area after the keeper was penalised for picking up a long range back pass, but the shot was blocked. With around half an hour on the clock, Ticehurst's task seemingly became mission impossible, when they had a second player sent off, their captain Calvin Bull, brother of Liam, again for a second yellow card, again very soft, and indeed the referee had a really poor game throughout, dishing out countless yellow cards that rarely seemed necessary in a competitive but not overly physical game, and he seemed to be completely out of touch with the level and spirit of the game. On 41 minutes, Wadhurst broke the deadlock when good approach play resulted in a shot being parried by the keeper, only for the ball to be tucked away by James Mitchell from close range. On the stroke of half time, Wadhurst were awarded a penalty thanks to a rather agricultural shove on the striker heading away from goal, and the penalty was slotted into the left corner by Nick Holland with the keeper diving the other way. No sooner had the game restarted and the half time whistle was blown.

One feared for Ticehurst, as several of their players completely lost their composure at the end of the first half in response to the shocking performance of the referee, and they conceded a third goal on 48 minutes, with a corner met by a simple downward header into the net by Lee Bates. Surely game over now, and Wadhurst now took their foot off the gas, playing a pedestrian passing game with Ticehurst looking completely beaten. However, out of the blue, the Wadhurst keeper carried the ball out of his area under pressure, and a free kick was awarded wide of the penalty area. The free kick was dinked in perfectly and met with a header that gently went into the net via the inside of the post on 55 minutes by Martin Richardson, for what was surely only a consolation for Ticehurst. Almost unbelievably, Ticehurst were very much back in the game five minutes later when they scored again, with a powerful drive by Richardson for his second of the game after an initial shot was blocked. By now, Ticehurst really had their tails up and an equaliser very much looked on the cards, even playing with nine men. However, with ten minutes remaining, Wadhurst finally put the game to bed when a peach of a curling cross from wide was headed perfectly into the top corner by Bates for his second of the game. Wadhurst went on to have plenty of chances to further extend their lead, most notably when they had a goal questionably ruled out for offside and had a shot blocked close to the line with the keeper beaten, but any heavier defeat would have been harsh on Ticehurst.

So it was Wadhurst who progressed to the next round, job done for them, but enormous credit to Ticehurst for making a real game of it despite being reduced to nine men in the first half - it was just a shame that an incredibly poor performance from the referee impacted so heavily on the game.

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