At the end of the match there were smiles. A few sighs of relief. Crawley could congratulate themselves on another job well done. Eastbourne Town could finally relax. An afternoon chasing shadows and working hard just to keep up was over. The final score was 7-0 to the visiting Wasps. It could have been more.
The Saffrons is almost too idyllic a venue. Even the Pier Pressure posters talking about saving the NHS and smashing the Tories have a nice retro vibe that fits well in God’s Waiting Room. The leaves were autumnal red and the weak sun shone. There was a cold side of the ground in shadow and an optimistically named warm side where the benefit of the sun was negated by being unable to see anything thanks to the glare.
Crawley are insanely well organised and today nearly everything they attempted seemed to come off. Town are a good side. They are balanced and work well for each other. I saw them put away lower league opposition 7-0 in the Cup earlier in the season. Nothing went their way in this game beyond Lauren Callaghan, Crawley’s indefatigable number 11, twice striking the inside of the post. But by then she had already opened the scoring (a parried save fell into her path) and set up several others. The management team on the bench were finding plenty to comment on in their Wasps’ performance. When you’re top of the table and averaging winning by nearly five goals a game I guess you have to seek perfection. Eastbourne’s team just asked for commitment. They got it in spades but some games are never going to go your way.
After this game, Crawley are well clear at the top and unless something odd happens they must be odds on for the title; Town will have days when the effort they put in today translates into a positive outcome.
“This is my first time at a girls match,” the bloke trying to find a spot in the sun from which to watch the game said. He paused. “They know what they’re doing, don’t they?”
League Cup action in Bexhill. Not the Polegrove, the usual home of Bexhill United, but the even more windswept 3G pitch at the college. It wasn’t warm but it did mean the ball moved well and we had two sides playing good football to keep us entertained. They really did know what they were doing.
Burgess Hill took the lead after a scramble from a corner but Bexhill led 2-1 at the break. It could, and should, have been 3-1 as one shot rattled the inside of the goal-frame before coming back out. It didn’t make too much difference in the end as a second half goal, another swung from the right wing that caused the ‘keeper too much difficulty, gave us that score in the end.
Bexhill should probably have more. They rattled the woodwork and forced some decent responses from the goalie. Burgess Hill played well and were always in the game without ever truly threatening a comeback. At the end everyone rushed off to find some semblance of warmth, pleased at least that the match had been one worth standing around for as the temperatures plummeted.
It’s not unusual to arrive in Bexhill and find yourself bewildered by the state of the weather. The sunshine coast seems to be at its most blusterous here and so it was again today as the Polegrove played host to a competitive and compelling South East Counties Women’s Football League fixture.
Another week, another two avoidable goals conceded, another defeat … but actually this week was about as different from the game last week as it’s possible to imagine. All you ever want to see, really, is two teams who aren’t going to die wondering – and that’s what we had today. The wind played its part but so did a massive amount of heart and a fair bit of skill.
Crawley, with the wind, led 2-0 at the break. A goal direct from a corner that their manager thought hadn’t gone in – he was shouting unlucky even as the ball was going back to the middle – and a bit of a messy one that deceived enough people were the goals. They had a lot of the attack but Bexhill looked smart breaking themselves. A bit cooler and they’d have been testing the Crawley ‘keeper a lot more. In the second half, virtually all the attacking came from the home side as they pressed but time and again either bad luck or good defence kept the ball out. Their consolation goal came late on and despite further rushes forward the match ended with the ball at the other end of the pitch and the spoils heading back to Crawley.
This was a game played in great spirit and which defied the conditions to become something very enjoyable to watch. One of these days Bexhill women will win when I’m there. I’m sure they will be grateful to know that I don’t think I’ll be able to see them again for a while. The camera was there too and when I could get the focusing right I took some photos. They are here.
Back to the Polegrove now that the cricket season is over and football can take up residence. The grass was long, the numbers peeling off the backs of the Bexhill players and, on the touchline, two old blokes relived the Wapping printers strike. And there was also a game of football, one which Kent Football United thoroughly deserved to win even if their two goals (one a defensive mix-up, one a header from a corner) weren’t quite the decisive way to do it their performance deserved.
After this game, Bexhill are propping up the rest of the division with three losses from their first three games and a minus seven goal difference. Their first half showing was pretty poor but they played with a clearer structure and more determination in the second. They still conceded a goal in each though and only intermittently looked like they might score themselves. Only one on the bench as well. Not a good look when the opposition can’t fit all their subs into the dug out. I’ll cut the negatives though because if they build on that second half performance they will surely move away from the foot of the table.
Kent Football United – Dartford, apparently – looked like a decent outfit. Some neat movement off the ball and some smart ideas when they had it meant they were always a threat, and they could move through the phases with pace as well. On another day they might have had a few more goals but they were a little shy when the chances came and a combination of that and some fast recovery from the Bexhill defence limited them to only two. Still, they will have enjoyed the journey back assuming the sunny day traffic wasn’t too gruelling. Nice to see a few travelling fans come along to support as well.
As is my want, I turned up with a camera and took some photos. They are here.
And so we return to the Pilot Field where Hastings United now play in all-white and the Ryman League has turned into the Bostik League. Clearly, following the Evo-stik North and South leagues it is essential that this level of football is sponsored by adhesives. Smarter people than me would make a joke about stickiness. I’ll leave that to the brains. All I can say is that this was a tense, rather than good, game that Lewes thoroughly deserved to win and so, even though we might comment on some aspects, it’s hard to begrudge them their 2-1 win.
The first goal came in the first minute. Bouwe Bosma putting Lewes ahead from an attack on the right that left Hastings all over the shop. Moments later they could have scored again via the same route. In fact, every time they tried it the hosts looked vulnerable. Hastings equalised through an eleventh minute penalty. But nobody had really settled down even by the time Ollie Rowes saw red for a lunging challenge ten minutes before the break. Hastings down to ten men ran hard without really threatening any more (I don’t think there was a genuine save from the Lewes goalie in the second half) but Lewes’ greater assurance didn’t translate into dominance. Their winning goal came within twelve minutes of the restart and they really should have added to it but the second half, like the first, didn’t actually feature that much football.
What the 699 watching (highest in the division by over 400) saw instead had plenty of guts and passion, and plenty of controversy too. To be honest, that’s a lot more fun that technical majesty even if the end product was jagged rather than coherent. So this was all quite fun even if you’d not necessarily recommend anyone to watch it again if the opportunity presented itself.
I went along with the older, autistic, boy. He only once had to comment on my swearing so clearly I was better behaved than usual. I brought along the camera and the photos are here.
And so to Arundel. And a bloody big queue. The old ‘followed the crowd and I ended up in Tesco’ joke might have had to be deployed because the obstruction in the picturesque town was not because of a traffic blocking level of interest in the final day of the Kia Super League but because the August Festival meant the roads were shut. Thus, after some swearing, I made it to the cricket ground with the match already four overs old. Still, mustn’t grumble.
There was a fair crowd here though and what they saw was a match that felt close at times but in which, throughout, the hosts always seemed to have the edge. Hayley Matthews and Mignon du Preez were responsible for 90 of the Vipers’ 138 runs. The next top scorer was Extras. Still, it felt like a more than suitable total and so it proved. The Diamonds lost wickets fairly regularly and when Katherine Brunt was unluckily run out on 42 that was that. There were some decent shots and plenty of potential but the Vipers, in their wide awake tangerine, were altogether sharper.
This is the final match of the group stage. It is something of a farce that the regular season lasts a mere five games. These groups come together for such a short time it must be very hard to gel. There was a more than decent turnout today which must surely be a good argument, along with playing standards and the need for more competitive fixtures, to at least make it a home and away 10 game season and then have four on finals day. The ECB could revisit their pledge to incorporate a fifty over element alongside the T20 as well.
But enough griping. The sun shone brightly and the cricket was good. Even though Yorkshire lost, I left in good spirits. I even managed not to swear at anyone as I fought my way through the festival traffic and back to the pleasures of the A27 in August.
Banbury’s red and yellow ground never looks subdued but it’s positively garish when the summer sun hits it at the start of the season. Maybe it was that brightness that got in the eyes of Dorchester’s defenders, or maybe it was some kind of early season jitters, or maybe, just maybe, they really are in for a very long season indeed. Their loyal band of followers will have had much to mull over as they completed their 300 mile round trip to watch their boys get splatted 5-1.
Five. One. Banbury will be delighted. Or, at least, their fans will be. The manager seemed to find plenty to fault. Hardly surprising given that for most of the ninety minutes the game didn’t even have the intensity of a pre-season knockabout. With a few honourable exceptions Dorchester didn’t look up to it today, so how to judge how good a side the redmen really are? Impossible to say. Two tap ins inside the opening ten minutes and then a flow of three more before a late-ish penalty offered the visitors a sliver of consolation. Banbury found it hard to keep their shape and harder still to stay motivated to the end. At least the crowd had the pleasure of a win and the latest news from Chelsea’s home loss to Burnley to keep them engaged.