Sunday, 17 January 2016

Alfold 2 v 1 Montpelier Villa

Saturday 16th January 2015
Recreation Ground, Alfold
Southern Combination League Division Two
Admission: None
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 32
Match Rating: 3

With my Network Railcard expiring last week and fancying a drive more than a train journey today, I decided to drive to the West Sussex / Surrey border to recomplete the Southern Combination Football League, at a venue that is quite difficult to reach by public transport. There was also the added attraction that I would be able to catch the second half at nearby Loxwood after this game which kicked off at 2pm.

The Alfold Recreation Ground is located about a mile to the north of Alfold village and situated within the Alfold Sports and Social Club. From the main road, a short lane leads to the large and welcoming clubhouse, with the football pitch to the right and a play area, village hall and cricket field to the left. The location is peaceful and spacious, and would probably be more rurally attractive closer to the summer months. There is wooden railing along the length where the dugouts are located, lined with a hedge, behind which is a training pitch and then farmland. The rest of the pitch is roped off, with hedging behind one end and the clubhouse behind the other. Behind the remaining length is the lane and the rest of the recreation ground. There is no hard standing available, which caused muddy, squelchy conditions pitchside, but to the groundsman's enormous credit, the pitch itself was in fine condition considering the recent prolonged and heavy rain and most recently hard frosts over the last couple of nights. Considering the level, the programme was basic but informative enough, 12 pages printed in colour with an attractive cover, welcome message, league table and predicted line-ups.

This is the first season that both team have played in the Southern Combination League, having profited from promotion based on their facilities rather than their on the field achievements. Montpelier Villa finished last season in eighth place in the Mid Sussex League Premier Division, while Alfold finished in sixth place in the second tier of the West Sussex League. This season, Alfold went into this game in 13th place in the 16 team division, with three wins and four draws from their 17 games, while Montpelier Villa were two places better off, with five wins and a draw from their 15 games. When the two teams met in the league in September, Alfold won 1-3, but in the league cup game, also played at Sussex University, Montpelier Villa won 4-2.

On a rare bright and sunny afternoon - with occasional cloud cover - Alfold started the game doing most of the attacking, but gradually the visitors got a foothold in the game and they took the lead on 17 minutes with a lovely goal by George Hatton, shooting the ball into the top left hand corner from just outside the area. Alfold got back on level terms on 40 minutes when Daniel Hallett shot the ball into the net from a central position after the ball was played back to him by Ben Thompsett.

1-1 was a fair reflection on a tight first half between two evenly matched teams, but on 55 minutes, Alfold almost took the lead when a shot from outside of the penalty area struck the underside of the crossbar. They did take the lead on 65 minutes though. Zach Gray passed the ball to the edge of the penalty area, and Hallett spun with the ball, took a stride towards goal before firing the ball past the keeper. Alfold looked fairly comfortable with their lead for the remainder of the match apart from four minutes from time, when a floated shot from outside of the area was just tipped over by the keeper, before Alfold went down the other end and, with two attackers against one defender, the ball was played across the field to a player on his own, but his eventual shot was smothered. A couple of minutes later and the visitors thought they had equalised when a free kick into the box was headed down and the ball was tucked home but the officials ruled it out for offside. But Alfold claimed the three points, which they probably just about deserved, although the game really could have gone either way.

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