Monday, 2 June 2014

Hannakins Farm 1 v 2 Kelvedon Hatch

Saturday 31st May 2014
Essex Olympian League Premier Division
Hannakins Farm, Billericay
Admission: None
Programme: Sold out
Attendance: 84 (head count)
Match Rating: 3

For my hundredth game of the season, and on what will almost certainly be my last groundhopping day of the season, I headed to Essex this afternoon prior to my evening international action, for a step seven game that had something left to play for.

Hannakins Farm is about a twenty minute walk north westwards from Billericay train station, a pleasant walk passing through the very attractive Lake Meadows Park en route, and the ground is similarly rural, peaceful and pleasing on the eye. After passing a bridge over a river into the car park, beyond a large brick building containing changing rooms, indoor sports facilities and a bar are two football pitches, both roped off on all sides with wooden poles holding the rope, although there is no hard standing. Behind the goals opposite to the sports centre are trees, as there are behind one of the lengths although further away, beyond the pitch not in use today. Behind the opposite length are tennis courts and an artificial pitch with American Football goals in place. Unusually, a programme was produced for this game, however the numerous groundhoppers  present today soon snapped those up, and there were even a couple of unofficial editions produced, with those being promptly snapped up too.

On this, the final day of the season in the Essex Olympian League and with only one other game taking place today, the visitors would secure a runners-up finish with a win today. They went into the game in third place, with 52 points from 25 games, three points adrift but with a superior goal difference to second placed Frenford Senior, who have completed their fixtures. They certainly came into this game in great form, winning their last four games and unbeaten in their last seven. The hosts were in eighth place in the 14 team division, and a win would see them move up into a seventh place finish. When today's teams met in Kelvedon Hatch back in August, the home side won 3-1.

On a warm, overcast afternoon, Kelvedon Hatch came within a whisker of opening the scoring in the first minute, but saw a powerful low shot come back off the post. The visitors went on to be the better side throughout the first half, taking plenty of shots that were either fired straight at the keeper or went high or wide from distance. Hannakins Farm played their part though, without ever really looking like they would score, and goalless was how it remained at half time.


The visitors upped the ante after the interval, and deservedly took the lead on 58 minutes. A cross shot was going wide of the goal but the striker smashed the ball in from about ten yards at the far post. They had some great chances to extend their lead before they did on 65 minutes. A great throughball beat the offside trap, with two players bearing down on the keeper, and the player in possession passed sideways to his team mate before striking the ball just inside the far post, although the keeper wasn't far off smothering the ball away. Soon after, the hosts had their best period of the game, finally looking like they could score, and six minutes from time they did pull a goal back, when the ball was hooked from the right edge of the penalty area, over the keeper and inside the far post for a great goal. They could easily have got an unlikely equaliser, had the ball dropped kinder in the box, and their keeper went up for a few set pieces in the closing minutes, whilst the visitors again hit the post following a fast break. But in the end, Kelvedon Hatch held on for the win they needed to claim the runners-up spot. This was a surprisingly entertaining game of football, competitive and with plenty of commitment show and with no end of season feel to the game at all. It's too bad that this will probably be the last season when I can watch league football season in late May, with the FA demanding that all league fixtures are completed by the first weekend in May from next season.

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