Sunday, 20 November 2016

Bracknell Town 5 v 2 Thatcham Town

Saturday 19th November 2016
Hellenic League Premier Division
Bottom Meadow, Sandhurst
Admission: Free
Programme: Free
Match Rating: 4

This was one of those days when nothing really stood out for me as an attractive fixture, but in the end I chose this match, between two clubs going well in their division, and with this being the last “home” game being played at Sandhurst Town’s home ground whilst the finishing touches are made to the redevelopment of their own home ground, Larges Lane. An announcement on the club's Twitter feed in the morning that this game would be free entry for all sealed the deal for me.

Although Sandhurst train station is closer to Bottom Meadow, with less frequent trains stopping there I decided to walk from Blackwater station, taking in a very pleasant half hour walk along the Blackwater Valley Path, through Shepherd Meadows to Sandhurst Memorial Park, amongst which the football ground is located, neatly mainly natually enclosed away from the rest of the parkland and recreational facilities. Spectators enter in one corner of the ground, next to the brick clubhouse which is located behind a goal. It is rather cramped and basic inside but nicely decorated, and outside there is some overhang to provide covered standing on a tiled area, and there are also some tables and chairs. There is a modern metallic all-seater stand beyond the half way line on the opposite length, whilst there is just hard standing around the rest of the ground. Trees surround the ground and being quite colourful today, made for a really pleasant enclosure to the ground. As well as free admission, programmes were available free of charge from the clubhouse and was a decent effort, professionally produced and covered the essential stats to preview the match.

Thatcham Town came into this game top of the table, with twelve wins and five draws from their 17 league games, although they have played more games than all teams immediately below them. Bracknell Town were in fifth place, with nine wins and two draws from their 14 league games, and with games in hand on all teams above them. On Tuesday, they inflicted the first league defeat of the season on Thame United, to really propel themselves into the mix at the top of the table. This match was the fourth time the two clubs had met this season, and Bracknell certainly have had the upper hand in those meetings, winning 2-3 away in the FA Cup, 1-4 away in the league, and 2-1 at Sandhurst in the Berks & Bucks County Cup.

This turned out to be a truly remarkable game, beginning with a lightening start which saw the visitors race into a two goal lead inside the first four minutes. Virtually straight from the kick off, Thatcham wanted through Bracknell’s midfield and defence before James Tennant slotted the ball low across the keeper and into the net. In the third minutes, a close range shot forced a good reflex save by the keeper, but from the resulting corner, Tennant headed the ball past the keeper’s dive and into the net. Thatcham had another great chance with just eight minutes on the clock when a rasping drive from a fairly tight angle saw the ball take a slight deflection to divert the ball into the woodwork. The match was looking remarkably one sided, although as the half wore on, Bracknell came more and ! more into the game, creating some presentable chances. But the visitors went into the half time interval two goals to the good and well placed to go on and claim a valuable away win to consolidate their place at the top of the table.

What happened after the break was quite astonishing, as Thatcham contrived to completely implode and convert a winning half time position to be on the wrong end of a thrashing. It was Bracknell's turn to score quickly at the start of the half, within a minute of the restart a quickly taken free kick caught Thatcham napping and some slick passing through midfield and defence ended with TJ Bohane firing low past the keeper. On 50 minutes, Thatcham had a goalbound shot hacked away by a defender, but that was a good as it got for the visitors in the second half. On 52 minutes, a powerful first time near post shot went just wide of the post, and three minutes later, a far post header following a free kick went wide of the post. But on 57 minutes, the scores were level. The ball was floated towards the far post and Adam Cornell headed home. On 65 minutes, Bracknell were awarded a penalty for a foul tackle on Cornell towards the left edge of the penalty area. Seb Powerman drilled the ball into the bottom right corner despite the keeper diving the right way. On 69 minutes, Bracknell scored a fourth, when the ball was again floated towards the back post and Cornell headed home. Thatcham had really lost the plot by now, and following some increasingly robust challenges, what felt was inevitable happened on 75 minutes when they had a player, Callum Wilmoth, sent off for a stamp which also provoked handbags amongst most of the players on the pitch. They had another player sent off on 83 minutes for a second yellow card, and in truth they should have had at least one further player sent off with sustained mouthing off to the referee. Bracknell scored a fifth on 86, minutes when a delicate little flick sent the ball past a defender down the right, before the ball was passed low into Cornell, who had the easy task of slotting the ball into the net to complete his hat-trick.

So, in the end a convincing win for Bracknell which no-one could have predicted after the first quarter of an hour. Thatcham's implosing was amazing, and came out of the game with little or no credit, with some increasingly agricultural tackling developing into a complete lack of discipline and composure for the most part in the second half, and one felt that, in the end, something of a thrashing was exactly what they deserved.

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