Monday, 28 April 2014

Mountfield United 1 v 1 Battle Baptists

Saturday 26th April 2014
East Sussex League Division One
Riverhall, Mountfield
Admission and programme: None
Attendance: 14 (head count)
Match Rating: 3

Today I decided to stay local to watch a local derby that could result in promotion for the visiting team.

Riverhall is located about three miles north west of Battle, and is adjacent to both the busy A2100 road and a railway line. Despite this and the inevitable accompanying traffic noise, this was a really pleasant venue to watch football at, surrounded by trees, which cover a steep hill behind one of the goals. Facilities are very basic, although there is a waist-high wooden fence along one length of the pitch and a wooden building houses the changing rooms in one corner of the ground, with a further smaller corrugated iron building located adjacent. The pitch is certainly not conducive in any way to good football, undulating considerably throughout, and with a pronounced slope towards one of the goals. The pitch has been poorly maintained in recent times too, with the grass rather long but with some bare patches also.

Coming into this game, Battle Baptists led the division with two games remaining (including this one), and a victory here would virtually guarantee promotion, and might also be enough to become champions, if third place Sedlescombe failed to beat second placed Crowborough Athletic III today. Battle had accumulated 35 points from 16 games, Crowborough 34 points from 17 games, Sedlescombe 34 points from 16 games, whilst fourth placed Hollington had 12 points less than Battle but had three games in hand.  Battle have been in great form recently, dropping just two points from their last six games, which included win against promotion rivals Sedlescombe and Hollington United II. Mountfield went into the game in seventh place in the ten team division with 19 points from their 16 games. They have drawn their last five league games and unbeaten in their last six. In the reverse fixture of today’s game, Battle comprehensively won 5-0 in early September.

On a warm afternoon which frequently alternated between bright sunshine and overcast skies, with Mountfield kicking down the slope, they almost took the lead inside the first minute when a looping cross struck the top of the crossbar. They did take the lead on 7 minutes though, when a free kick from the left was floated into the area, and Johnathan Novis was completely unmarked as he headed across the keeper and into the net. Battle were very disappointing given their lofty status in the first half, and only on 35 minutes did they have a good chance to equalise, when a cross from the right was poked just wide of goal. But by the time half time arrived, Mountfield were worthy of their lead.

Battle did look a little more threatening in the second half, now kicking down the slope, and another close range toe poke following a cross went just wide. Mountfield almost doubled their lead twice though – on 68 minutes, a gentle looping cross seemed to be an easy take for the keeper, but the ball went through his hands and hit the cross bar, whilst on 73 minutes, the ball was ballooned over the bar from close range after the Battle keeper spilled a previous shot. On 78 minutes, Battle got back on level terms with a slightly controversial goal. There seemed to be a high boot from a Battle forward as he took control of the ball before crossing the ball low, allowing Josh Barraclough to hit the ball home at the far post. From this point, the game could have gone either way, on 82 minutes a Mountfield striker headed the ball over from a central position at close range following a cross from the right, whilst on 86 minutes, following sustained Mountfield pressure, Battle broke to the other end and forced a point blank save from a shot, and in added on time, another breakaway move ended with a shot that went just wide of the left hand post. But eventually the points were shared, for Mountfield’s six consecutive draw, whilst Sedlescombe’s win at Crowborough meant that Battle dropped to second but cannot now be overhauled by Crowborough, and a win at home against mid-table Orington next week will ensure promotion.

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