Sunday, 2 April 2017

National League South XI 12 v 0 British Army XI

Wednesday 29th March 2016
Representative Match
Priory Lane, Eastbourne
Admission including Programme: £5.00
Attendance: 304
Match Rating: 3

For my first midweek evening action of 2017, I was sufficiently enticed by an interesting looking fixture, arranged as one of three matches played simultaneously across the UK between representative teams of the National League and of the British Army (the other games being played at Tamworth and Harrogate Town), with the aim of building on close links between the Army and their local National League football clubs.

Priory Lane, home of Eastbourne Borough of the National League South, has seen the introduction of a 3G pitch since my last visit last season, and it looks very smart and far from the ball pinging as one often witnesses on such surfaces, the pitch seemed to noticeable slow the ball down as it rolled along the surface. Otherwise, there have been no other noticeable alterations to the ground, and so it remains a very decent National League South stadium, if lacking somewhat in character. The programme was glossy and looked good, but was lacking in information with 12 pages and six of those including line-ups of all three games.

It would be very difficult to gauge how the teams would compare this evening, with this not even being the British Army representative team, rather a regional Army Unit XI. Unfortunately, it soon became very clear that this would be vast mismatch of teams, as the National League South XI's relatively silky skills and quick tempo play would be far too much for a very static Army, as time and again the National League XI sliced open the defence and the Army struggled to retain possession. The National League opened the scoring on 3 minutes when Hemel Hempstead's Charlie Sheringham headed in unmarked from close range. They came close on numerous occasions to extend their lead, although on 16 minutes the Army saw a free-kick curled just over the bar. But the National League doubled their lead on 28 minutes, Sheringham getting on the end of a low forward ball to slot the ball under the keeper. Eastbourne Borough's Miguel Baptista flicked the ball delicately over the keeper and into the net on 33 minutes for 3-0, before the Army had a goal disallowed for offside three minutes later. On 41 minutes, Sheringham was fouled in the penalty area and he converted to claim his hat-trick, shooting in the bottom left hand corner, and the National League made it 5-0 when Hemel Hempstead's Ben Greenhalgh brought the ball in from the right wing before smashing the ball into the net.

After the break, which saw The Forces Covenant signed on the pitch by host club Eastbourne Borough, the game was actually much more even for the first 20 minutes of the second half, before the floodgates opened on 66 minutes. Sheringham beat the keeper in a race to a ball played forward, eventually knocking the ball to one side before slotting the ball into net, and two minutes later it was seven, when the ball was knocked down following a corner, and Eastbourne Borough's Nathaniel Pinney smashed the ball high into the net. It became 8-0 on 70 minutes, when Greenhalgh scored, stroking the ball home after some quick incisive passing through midfield, and and minute later it was 9-0 when Pinney crossed the ball low for Sheringham to sweep the ball home. On 76 minutes, the National League XI made double figures, Pinney firing the ball low past the keeper. The Army saw a drilled shot go just wide on 79 minutes, before Pinney completed his hat-trick on 82 minutes, chipping the ball over the keeper. On 84 minutes, the Army forced a good save from the keeper, but the National League XI made it a round dozen on 85 minutes. Pinney retrieved a ball that looked to be going out of play, crossed it for Sheringham to fire home for his double hat-trick. Willed on to grab a consolation goal, the Army again came quite close but just couldn't find the back of the net, and credit to them for keeping on battling throughout the game despite being utterly outclassed throughout.

Indeed, although the final scoreline could have been considerably more emphatic than 12-0, and both teams deserve great credit for producing an entertaining game of football, with the National League XI continuing to play good, expansive football despite the scoreline. Indeed, this proved to be an enjoyable evening, with a friendly and positive atmosphere around the stadium and very much played in the right spirit on the pitch.

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