At the match: Bexhill United v Southwick

The officials inspect their balls. - Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2016
The officials inspect their balls. – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2016

When people who live in Bexhill (I presume we call them Bexhillians) use the following sentence then you know you’re in trouble: “Yes, it is windy today.”  For a town that could power the national grid with its gusts on a calm day that giveaway line means that anything not bolted down is in danger of being blown away. What this particular day of north-south blowiness meant for non league football was a match where the play never settled and neither side really managed the situation but the home side did more than enough to justify running out 2-0 winners with a goal in each half.

There was some good play – and Bexhill will be pleased with how much control their midfield was able to muster but the most positive outcome I could really point to was that they are now back at the Polegrove having ended their annual nomadic start to the season waiting for the cricket to end. For Southwick – or “Wickers” as their fans had them – they had the ball for stretches but really struggled to put the Bexhill defence under any sustained pressure.  They did have chances though and on another day might have come away with a point.

I took a few photos. They are not brilliant but they are here.

At the match: Hastings United v East Grinstead Town

The home side under the home banner, just before kick off – (C) Jon Smalldon 2016, All rights reserved

A Bank Holiday Monday when neither the Premier League or Championship are playing means a Bank Holiday Monday when you journey to and from the game without the usual sounds.  Nothing on Five Live and regular programming on the other stations.  Coupled with a guy who lives opposite the ground asking you why there’s a match on and you could be forgiven for thinking that this is not really a time and place for football.  And, given the match that was then offered, maybe this point of view was shared by the two teams involved.

To be fair this is a tough gig for players at this level.  Play hard on Saturday and then 48 hours later you go again.  But even with that understanding this was a very hard game to love.  Hastings were by far the better team – and had enough of the ball to win by more than the 2-0 they managed – and yet even they went long stretches without gelling.  For East Grinstead they had some good play dotted around the pitch, and a few players whose movement caught the eye, but very little came together for them.  They will feel a bit hard done by though as it took an own goal and then a rather brilliant second strike to defeat them.

But still, even with low level fayre on offer, this wasn’t a bad way to pass the time. The sun shone and the crowd mostly enjoyed itself.  I took some photos and, should you wish, they are here.

At the match: Westfield v Cowfold

Handshakes and have a good game ref … – (C) Jon Smalldon 2016, All rights reserved.

One giveaway that you’re nearing the all-but-hidden Parish Field home of Westfield FC is when an errant football flies out from between some trees and causes a car passing along the A28 to brake or swerve.  Such it was today … with the ball being sheepishly followed by a player from Cowfold who had the duty of collecting it.  Westfield were warming up at the other end – their balls just fly into back gardens.

In another nod to non league whimsy, the visiting goalie appeared to have borrowed a shirt from his hosts.  And, in keeping with the most obvious tradition this far down the pyramid: on a hot afternoon in August you’ll get goals.  Nine duly arrived and that was with both defences being pretty tight most of the time.  Westfield led 1-0 and 2-1 with scores being level 2-2 at the break.  Cowfold had the edge at 3-2 before Westfield got to 5-3.  The last action of the game was a close-in header that made it 5-4.  There was some neat play from both teams but Westfield were, overall, worthy winners.  I hope the Sussex roads weren’t too bank holiday terrible for Cowfold as they made their way back.

I had the camera with me and took some photos.  You can see them here.

At the match: Hastings United v South Park

At times things got a bit “Oi, mate”. (C) Jon Smalldon 2016, All rights reserved.

England were losing at cricket. A message alert arrived to tell us of gold in the men’s eights in distant Rio. And, under the hot Sussex sun, the Ryman South season got underway with Hastings coming from behind to dispose of South Park 4-1. A crowd of 322 looked on and, as the away team appeared to bring no travelling supporters, we can safely say that they all departed the Pilot Field happy.

At times the game was slightly tetchy. There were also times when it drifted, as if neither side could quite believe this wasn’t another pre-season run around. Hastings had, by far, the lion’s share of possession and half-chances as their visitors were content to stick to a solid approach and take whatever offerings came their way. They would have felt vindicated when they took the lead from tap-in midway through the first half. And if they’d held onto the lead until the break it could have been different. But just before the break James Wastell in the South Park goal fumbled a routine free kick into his net and from then on, with only the most moderate of scares, it was all Hastings.

Three more goals were added during a second half bright spell when everything began to click for the hosts.  They still need a striker who wants to actually strike the ball though. This far down the pyramid is no place for a team filled with people who want to Portugal the ball into the net. But there was enough going on to ensure that the first day of the season ended with hope in Hastings’ hearts. South Park will need to want to play a bit more if they are to avoid this early-starting season feeling like a very, very long marathon to next Spring.

So, a pretty pleasing afternoon in non league country. Three generations (my dad and younger son joining me) watched together – and we managed to avoid the protestations from the junior member that not buying him a hot dog would be child abuse.

We settled on a Twix.

A few photos from today are here.

At the Cass Sculpture Foundation

London to Paris (Eduardo Paolozzi) at the Cass Sculpture Foundation

Sitting in twenty-six acres of West Sussex countryside the Cass Sculpture Foundation is a welcoming, accessible, explorable, mostly outdoor gallery of large-scale contemporary sculpture. You don’t have to follow the arrows and you don’t need to ‘get’ every piece to have a good time.

It probably helped that we had ideal conditions. Sunny but not too hot. Other people but not too busy. And a friendly, informative welcome from a knowledgeable woman determined to get through every Cass fact but without being overbearing. So now I know that they are a commissioner as well as presenter of sculpture, that the profit from every piece they sell is reinvested and that the display at Goodwood is constantly evolving. Whilst we were there the ‘permanent’ collection was complemented by works from modern Chinese artists under the banner of “A Beautiful Disorder”.

Encampment (Diane Maclean) at the Cass Scuplture Foundation

There’s a lot here to enjoy. I particularly liked “Folly (The Other Self)” by Sean Henry which is almost a physical reinterpretation of the voyeur-style paintings of Edward Hopper. The bright yellow swirling, interlocking shapes of Tony Cragg’s “Declination” are fun and eye-catching, whilst the playful “It Pays to Pray” from Rose Finn-Kelcey gave me no prayer for my 20p. I guess that says something. Diane Maclean’s “Encampment” uses shape and light to play with your perceptions but, for me, the eeriest and most striking work away from the Chinese selection is Peter Burke’s “Host”: shadowy faces emerge from tortured bodies like some forgotten, accusing army.

The “Beautiful Disorder” commissions are all interesting, in a good way. They show a China almost unsure of how to present itself both internally and externally as old meets new and the domestic becomes international. Most obviously in the whirling confusion of Wang Yuyang’s “Identity” monolith but recurring in works like Cui Jei’s silvery, twisted “Pigeon House”. It is an excellent show to catch.

Pigeon House (Cui Jie)

To help you round you get a leaflet that handily (and pictorially) identifies the pieces, the artist and their inspiration. It feels delightfully old school in an age when everyone is sticking it all on an app. Rather like the simple pleasures of seeing art you might otherwise ignore presented so simply and so well.

At the match: Eastbourne United AFC v Tunbridge Wells

There may be football ahead - (C) Jon Smalldon 2016, All rights reserved
There may be football ahead – (C) Jon Smalldon 2016, All rights reserved

Diesel the dog looked on and so did 219 humans of various motivations. Diesel is clear. She goes to every Tunbridge Wells (“The Wells”, never “Tunbridge”) home and way, provided they let her in. The man we met in the bar was less definite. He just needs new grounds to tick off. The Oval isn’t new but it can now be logged. But six matches in six days had left our explorer a little jaded. I hope he stuck around to the end of this FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round replay because after a slow start this game was worthy of that highest of praises: “a proper cup tie”.

Neither Eastbourne United AFC nor Tunbridge Wells have begun their league seasons with their drawn game on Saturday opening both of their campaigns. All agreed that the match in Kent was hard fought with a fair result. For much of this evening it looked like we were going to witness another tight one. The ball was often in midfield with defensive smarts stifling any go-forward from either team. When Eastbourne did take the lead, around the half hour mark, it came via a pounce on an error. They did the same again after the break to take what looked to be a fairly comfortable 2-0 lead. But Wells ploughed forward. It looked like they wouldn’t get the breaks but with about twenty minutes left they pulled one back. And then it all broke loose.

Defensive resilience, even common sense, seemed to fly out the window. Half chances were there for both sides. Eastbourne fired a one-on-one break well wide and Wells got goal shy even when they pushed through into the box. Somehow seven minutes of injury time were found – and during it a red card was brandished as an Eastbourne player lunged though from behind.

So it ended 2-1. For the winners, a home tie against either Newhaven or Rochester United. For the losers, the knowledge that they came so close. For everyone watching: some pretty decent entertainment as the football juggernaut fires up once more.

At the match: Sussex v Glamorgan

It looked like this for a while. That's my son on the scoreboard - showing off his #SharksTogether look. - (C) Jon Smalldon 2016 - All rights reserved.
It looked like this for a while. That’s my son on the scoreboard – showing off his #SharksTogether look. – (C) Jon Smalldon 2016 – All rights reserved.

Sussex 30 for 1 v Glamorgan 101 (Garton 4-16) – No Result

T20 cricket is, like much about our Article 50 awaiting country, living in interesting times. The counties who launched the brave new world of Twenty20 cricket nearly a decade and a half ago now find themselves on the wrong side of modern.  The media and ECB (sometimes you can tell them apart) eye the city-based franchise world of the IPL and Big Bash, and decide they want some of that.  They will have found much in Hove to support their world view, as perversely because that is cricket, would those who believe the past is the foundation for the future and that the 18 counties of varying size and debt should continue to be the spine of cricket here.

We got less than 18 official overs although many more balls were bowled but, surely, nobody could feel shortchanged as the play we did see was as compelling as it was bizarre. George Garton took an amazing 4/16 as Glamorgan were bowled out inside their allotted 14 overs (the match start being delayed by 80 frustrating minutes) for 101.  26 of those were extras as Sussex took wickets regularly and spectacularly but also coughed up wides and no-balls for fun. Tymal Mills being particularly guilty – but then he also took two wickets at critical moments. In reply, Sussex reached 30/1 off 4.1 overs – technically behind the run rate, about level with Duckworth Lewis – but,despite valiant efforts from the ground staff as the drizzle became rain then stopped then started then stopped then half started then, the game fell five agonising balls from becoming official. No result.

Rain will fall on city-based franchises of course. This is England (and Wales). Cricket being cricket, umpires will continue to communicate in huddled whispers with only occasional nods to the crowd.  We only knew this game had been called off because the players began shaking hands on the balcony. But, maybe, at the football grounds the ECB is dreaming of there will be magic ways of restarting quickly and, rather like Corbynites believe in untapped reservoirs of eager non voters, there will be tens of thousands not single digits of thousands cheering the groundsmen as they sweep the outfield with their tractors. Who knows?

What we do know is that tonight two teams gave their all for a match that, ultimately, couldn’t even do them the courtesy of generating a result.  That’s cricket.  Long may it continue.

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