Sunday, 14 April 2013

Haywards Heath Town 3 v 0 TD Shipley

Saturday 13th April 2013
Sussex County League Division Three
Hanbury Park, Haywards Heath
Admission and Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 47
Match Rating: 2

At the conclusion of my earlier game at Balcombe, I hurried back to the train station for the five minute ride down to Haywards Heath, to take in the second half of another top v bottom clash, this time in the Sussex League Division Three. I did wonder if this game would survive as I had heard it was in doubt this morning and with persistent rain from lunchtime onwards. However the game did indeed kick off, so I set off on the walk to the ground.

Hanbury Park is about a twenty minute walk eastwards from Haywards Heath train station and is certainly an impressive stadium for this level of football - most grounds in this league are only slightly upgraded recreation ground facilities. Hanbury Park however is fully enclosed, has floodlights and railings around the pitch attractively painted in club colours. An impressive, imposing old fashioned grandstand straddles the half way line, with a cosy clubhouse to one side of it. Hard standing is available along this length and behind the goal where one enters the ground. The 12 page programme was a photocopied black and white affair with a reasonable amount of information on the home club and players. Nothing to write home about, but one of the better ones I have encountered in this division.

After years of languishing in intermediate football - indeed last season, on league position, they should have been relegated out of the Sussex League - it looks like they will achieve promotion into senior football at the end of this season. They went into this game in third place, four points behind second placed Barnham (who will not be eligible for promotion) but with four games in hand, and six points behind leaders Sidlesham but with two games in hand. They have only lost once in the league all season, back in September. TD Shipley have struggled at the foot of the table for most of the season, although they have had an upturn in fortunes recently, claiming seven points from their last three games which was preceded by four straight defeats conceding 21 goals in the process. They were second from bottom in the 12 team division. Relegation looks unlikely for any team though as the Division is struggling badly for numberd, with just twelve teams.

As I arrived at the game a couple of minutes before half time, Haywards Heath were two goals to the good, scored by Jamie Wanstall after 15 minutes and Kieron Purkis after 20 minutes. At half time the pitch was being forked frantically to try to drain away some of the surface water that was accumulating. Playing conditions were poor which inevitably led to a game low on quality, with players frequently losing their footing and the bounce and roll of the ball became increasingly unpredictable. The second half was quite even although Haywards Heath always looked in control with their two goal lead and TD Shipley never really looking like they could half the deficit to make the game more interesting. Haywards Heath had the better chances and on 75 minutes they secured the three points by scoring a third goal. A corner was flicked on at the near post and as the ball dropped at the far post, players from both sides had chances to deal decisively with the ball, but it was Dave Juniper who prodded the ball home from a couple of yards out. To their credit TD Shipley continued to battle gamely and had some good chances to score a consolation goal towards the end. Indeed, credit to both teams for always trying to play football despite atrocious waterlogged pitch conditions, and credit too to the referee for allowing the game to reach its conclusion.

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