Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Halstead Town 1 v 2 Framlingham Town

Monday 2nd January 2017
Eastern Counties League Division One
Rosemary Lane, Halstead
Admission: £6.00
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 153
Match Rating: 3

On the New Year's Bank Holiday, and my final day of my festive holiday from work, there was nothing locally to me that would be a new ground visit, and so instead I decided to head for another taste of the Eastern Counties League. This match in northern Essex appealed most, between two teams going well in the league this season, and at a ground with not a modern metallic stand in sight.

Rosemary Lane is located barely a five minute walk from the town centre, but is over six miles away from the nearest train station, in Braintree. After passing through the car park, with bright club signage around, spectators enter the ground along one length, and virtually all of the spectator facilities are along this length. To the right of the entrance is a double decker construction of portakabins, with the tea bar on ground floor, adorned with club photos. To the left of the entrance is a large, old fashioned stand which, apart from having supporting pillars along the front, is an excellent place to watch the game from, with a good incline between rows and relatively comfortable seating. It’s a refreshing sight in contrast with the metallic and Atcost stands found so frequently at non-league grounds these days. Behind the stand there is the clubhouse. Around the rest of the ground there is just hard standing, although behind one of the goals a couple of terrace steps have recently been laid. Some trees and the town's church perched within sight make for a pleasant backdrop to a pleasant ground. The 36 page programme was very good, neatly presented with lots to read inside an attractive colour cover.

Halstead came into this match in seventh place in the division, following 10 wins and 7 draws from their 20 league games, five points adrift of the promotion places. In their first season in senior football, following promotion from the Suffolk & Ipswich League with a fifth placed finish, Framlingham went into this game in fourth place, following 12 wins and four draws from their 21 league games. When the two teams met in the reverse fixture October - the first ever meeting between the two clubs – the match finished 2-2.

On a beautifully sunny but very cold afternoon, this was a most enjoyable game, full of attacking intent and a game which the visitors dominated the opening 20 minutes or so, before the home team were the better side for the majority of the remainder of the game. With 3 minutes on the clock and sandwiching two decent goalscoring chances for the home side, Framlingham's Will Aldis saw his shot hit the post. But they did take the lead on 10 minutes, when Aldis struck a shot from the edge of the area and although the keeper was well positioned, the ball sailed over him and into the net. Both teams continued to create chances and on 39 minutes, Halstead equalised with a lovely goal, Tom Cook hitting the ball with the outside of his boot from the edge of the area and it went over the keeper and into the far side of the net. Things almost got even better for the home side two minutes later, but Alvis saw his shot from a tight angle come back off the post.

The second half continued with both sides creating chances, perhaps with the home teams looking the better to start with but towards the end it was the visitors who reassumed the superiority. The game had the feel of one that would see a late winner and so it proved a minute before the end of normal time. Following a quick break, Framlingham’s Danny Smith drove in from the left wing before firing a shot across the keeper and into the net. A good goal, although the ball did seem to go through the keeper’s hands. In the final minute of added on time, Halstead had a good chance to equalise following a free kick, but Framlingham broke quickly down the other end and their striker did all the hard work by racing to meet the keeper, side footing him but then unbelievably placed hit shot wide of an open goal. Ultimately that miss was not to prove costly as the final whistle blew shortly afterwards and Framlingham claimed the win they deserved overall for creating the better chances, although with a little more luck, Halstead could easily have claimed at least a point, following a very entertaining game during which both teams went out to win it.

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