Saturday, 15 March 2014

Sutton Athletic 0 v 1 Orpington

Saturday 15th March 2014
Kent Invicta League
Lower Road, Hextable
Admission and programme: £4.00
Attendance: 40 estimate
Match Rating: 3

Fancying a fairly local grass roots game today with the sun shining, I decided to visit a ground which would mean that I will have visited every Kent Invicta League ground, to watch a derby game between two clubs who do not play where their names suggest.

Lower Road is about a 2 mile, 40 minute walk northwards from Swanley station, some of it down a small country lane through pleasant countryside. Having moved from their home village Sutton-at-Hone last season, the ground is very much a work-in-progress. Facilities are currently sparse, although planning applications are in place to develop the ground with a seated stand and floodlights, both required to remain in the Kent Invicta League next season. Currently, the ground is railed off, with hard standing in the form of shale available down the length where one enters and behind the far goal. At the opposite end of the length to where the entrance is is the clubhouse, which is as charmless inside as it is outside. A grass bank runs along the opposite length, and the ground has a pleasant, rural setting with hillside farms visible around. Programmes were included with admission and the club produces a very impressive publication for their level, printed in colour and on glossy paper, containing ample stats, interesting articles to read, and even a number of colour photographs from recent matches.

As well as being a local derby, Orpington currently playing just three miles on the other side of Swanley, this would be a match between the third and fourth placed teams in the league. Sutton went into this game two points ahead of Orpington having played two games less, although they are nine points adrift of second placed Holland and Blair and eleven points adrift of leaders Lydd Town. Sutton have been in fabulous form, winning their last four league games, scoring 17 goals in the process, and were unbeaten in the league since early September. A goalless draw was thrown outcome when the two teams met back in October.

On a warm and sunny afternoon, playing passing football proved that be tricky on a hard, bobbly pitch. The game would turn out to be something of a smash and grab. Sutton Athletic were the dominant side throughout the first half - although Orpington did occasionally look dangerous on the counter-attack - but a combination of excellent saves and poor decision making in the final third ensured a goalless half-time scoreline.

Into the second half and Sutton Athletic were even more dominant, and they were made to pay for failing to convert their superiority into goals when Orpington took the lead on the hour. A fast break down the right wing by Robbie Haines resulted in a low cross into the box and Glenn Brewer tapped the ball first time into the net. That seemed to take the wind out of Sutton's sails who, although they continued to dominate possession, struggled to create further goalscoring chances until they forced a succession of corners in the closing minutes, but Orpington held on for a win they barely deserved to leapfrog Sutton into third place, although the result wasn't too surprising given that one always felt Orpington had a goal in them, looking dangerous on the break, whilst invariably teams that squander so many chances are often left to pay the price.

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