Category Archives: Photos

At the Match: Bexhill Town v Rye Town

Tackled? … Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2019, All rights reserved

An unfamiliar league at a very familiar venue. This was my first visit to East Sussex Football League – an oversight for which I really should apologise – but it was at the Polegrove where I’ve already seen Bexhill United and Bexhill United Ladies several times. And the old ground played host today to what some commentators might call a proper showing of good, honest football. By which I mean: there were hard tackles, competitive play, obscene attempts to fool the ref, several dodgy calls and a game whose result was in doubt right until the end. I loved it.

For those needing a frame of reference, we’re officially below the level 11 formal base of the English pyramid but with teams that could easily gain promotion and compete at that level. Why, with a dozen or so promotions, Manchester United could be the visitors. It’s good to dream.

Rye took the lead early in the first half but were pegged back by a determined Bexhill side before half time. A soft (but technically correct) gave the home side a 2-1 lead in the second half, which they held until the finish, overcoming a very close call that saw a late equaliser disallowed for offside. Bexhill deserved the win as they seemed to have more of the possession and their attacks were more probing; Rye will feel gutted they blew a lead and came so close to a leveller.

All in all,  a good afternoon of football. I took the camera along and some photos are here. I shan’t leave it so long before venturing to the ESFL again.

At the match: Hastings United v Cray Wanderers

Close quarters action … Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2019, All rights reserved.

It was the kind of day where a person dressed as an animal because they are raising money for charity winds up leading the home fans in a chant of “We’ve got the best bear in the league.” It was the kind of day where going 2-0 down after six minutes never seemed to anyone like the end of the match. It was the kind of day where the ref looks stern and blows the whistle for an imagined ankle tap but then fails to notice actual wrestling. It was a superb kind of day, full of all the best that non league can offer.

Elsewhere in the country they’ve been having weather. This is Hastings, we have wind. Parkrun was cancelled because Storm Hannah meant volunteers could not safely stand still and marshall. Later in the day, up the hill and a bit more sheltered, it had calmed down a little but was still ever present. And so, on this very blustery day, we got ourselves a whirlwind of a match.

Cray are top of the table by a country mile. One defeat all season long. Hastings gave them determined pursuit earlier in the year but have drifted back a fair bit since. Only a fool would have backed anything other than an away win … and I would have loved to have seen the odds when the Hastings defence fluffed their lines twice in quick succession to give the almost invincible visitors that two goal lead.

But, how things change. It was 2-2 at the half’s midpoint. Cruttwell sent in a howitzer that, wind assisted, deceived the keeper and stayed true under the bar before Rodari scored a carbon copy of Cray’s goals with a close-in tap.

In the tempest, more madness. Good luck to anyone trying to explain what happened. Bars and posts were hit. Players felled. Others dived. Goalie redemption from well-saved shots. The referee waved cards. Some felt the urge to introduce themselves to opponents with some choice expressions. 491 people got their money’s worth and then some. A dancing bear lead the chants and several hundred quid went towards a homeless charity. The usual.

The winner came surprisingly early in the second half. Another well struck shot, this time against the wind. With still more than half an hour to go more goals seemed likely but despite no let up in the end to end action, none came. In the end, after five and more minutes of injury time, it was 3-2 to Hastings. Somehow.

I brought along the camera. Some photos are here. Hastings are in the running for the end of season play offs even if I have no idea how they will actually work; Cray will win the division even despite today. And we will all be back again for more in the future. Although maybe not the charity bear.

At the match: Westfield v Worthing Town

Midfield tussle … Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2019, All rights reserved

“I feel sorry for their goalie,” so offered the ten-year-old as the fourth goal rolled in, “because he’s not really had the chance to show whether he’s any good or not.” A fair point. Worthing Town conceded five today on their visit today and if there’s a grim positive they can take away it’s that no one person was to blame. Their defeat was most definitely a team effort.

On the Baker and Lineker podcast this week someone asked if players can tell they’re in a stinker. Sure, Lineker said, sometimes, for whatever reason, you just know that nothing is gelling, nothing is working. And so that was Worthing Town today. Right from the off they just didn’t seem to click. Individual touches would be followed by the player not being where the pass was going, or the midfield not being able to get the ball forwards into anything like a threatening position. On another day they might have been able to work through it but, in contrast, Westfield looked like they’d been fed on raw meat and brain tonic. Their moves worked, they looked assured and, rather crucially, at no point did they start yelling at each other.

No wonder they were 2-0 up inside ten minutes (two for George King). The surprise was that they didn’t keep adding to it. Worthing’s only real decent spell came in the fifteen minutes before the break but you’d be hard pressed to remember a clear chance. In the second half, despite a Town goal midway through the half, it was more or less the same. Westfield moved the ball quickly and well. Three shots went in but many more could have done. The bar was hit, a couple of open goals spurned and lines fluffed when it seemed easier to score. In the end it was 5-1. It actually felt a lot more comprehensive than that.

The result leapfrogs Westfield over Worthing Town, so I have to assume that our Internazionale clad boys are usually better than today or else they’d be much lower down the table. A bad day at the office (they appeared to have travelled light) from which I suspect they will recover. They may even get themselves together for next week. They have a home match. Their visitors will be very familiar to them. It’s Westfield.

I brought the camera long. Some photos are here.

At the match: Bexhill United Ladies v Meridian Ladies

I call this “save” … Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2019, All rights reserved

A game from the wrong end of the South East Counties Women’s League Premier Division. Two teams with one league win from the season between them and a combined -63 goal difference. We had no right to expect a vibrant, competitive fixture with chances aplenty but that’s what we got. And a controversial penalty. The only thing this game was lacking was a tea bar to help fight off the January chill. I may have to set one up the next time I wend my way over to the Bexhill College 4G.

Meridian had 10 goals from 10 games before today but had let in 57. Watching them play it was genuinely hard to see why. The ‘keeper pulled off some excellent stops but, whilst there were times when their structure didn’t hold, their defence and midfield were strong and they had several decent breaks, not least through their hard running #17.

Bexhill’s stats are tighter but their results are still not setting the world aflame. 6 points from 11 games before this match. Although, perhaps bizarrely, it was possibly easier to see why they haven’t turned their undoubted strengths into results. They really do just need to put their foot through the ball and shoot more. The build up play is consistently good, the defence work well for each other and the midfield is solid. Just bloody shoot. And shoot hard.

But enough of all that. It was 0-0 at half time, with Bexhill having had the better of the play, and 2-0 to the home team at the end. The first goal was a header from a corner and the second … well, the second was a penalty given when two Meridian defenders sandwiched a Bexhill player in the box as a high ball looped in their direction. No one fell over, no one appealed, Bexhill thought they’d given away a free-kick. After a fair bit of confusion, the Meridian keeper got her hand to the shot but could not keep it out. I’m guessing it’s that kind of season for them.

So a good game on the 4G. Meridian’s next game is a trip to the Lewes Development Squad whereas Bexhill are off to Worthing. We’re past the halfway stage already but if they both play as well as they did today they should be able to get something positive from the remainder of the season.

I took the camera – minus sadly defective telephoto – the results are here.

At the match: Bexhill United Ladies v Phoenix Sports

Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2018, All rights reserved

Bexhill has weather. Even with a cursory look back at *every game I ever seen in Bexhill* it’s obvious that Bexhill has weather that is worthy of comment nearly every day. And so it was today. During the ninety minutes of the game there were times when the sun was so bright players couldn’t see the ball, there were deluges, there was wind that shook the ball off its direction and there was such darkness the floodlights had to be switched on. And we had several rainbows just to complete the mood. There was also football as Bexhill United and Phoenix Sports played out an entertaining and combative 1-1 draw.

As today is Remembrance Day there was a well-observed minute’s silence before the match. Amidst all the talk of the armistice being 100 years ago there was so much about the game and setting that would have thoroughly bewildered those men who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the Great War. Perhaps the least surprising would have been the sight of women playing football. After all, the Dick Kerr Ladies were founded in 1917 and women’s football was popular entertainment during the war. But plastic pitches, lightweight boots, balls and shin pads, and illegal passbacks … truly, the world turns in odd ways.

This was a decent game. Perhaps lacking too much that would have made a highlights reel there was a competition across the park and enough chances to satisfy any passing thrill seeker. The Phoenix goalkeeper in particular showed some expert shot-stopping to deny Bexhill, although the visitors in green probably had more of the play and territory. Evenly balanced and the two shared first-half goals (both the result of corners) probably led to a fair result.

Maybe next time I come to Bexhill I’ll be able to avoid mentioning the weather. I doubt it. For now though, here are some photos of the game (not great but then they never are).

At the match: Hastings United v Molesey

Sam Adams scores a Hastings penalty – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2018, All rights reserved

The drizzle turned to rain and the grey skies only got darker. The lights were on from the start. The stage wasn’t set for greatness and the game matched the stage. Just over 400 were at the Pilot Field and the game they say went the way the table said it should: a relatively straightforward win for Hastings United over a Moseley team whose effort was solid throughout but who didn’t produce much to suggest their lowly position is an oversight to be corrected.

It finished 3-0 and could have been more. Craig Bradshaw in the Molesey goal was a busy man. An excellent shot-stopper and a commanding presence he was only beaten in the end by two penalties and a close-in scramble; other shots hit the post and were cleared off the line. Without his hard work Hastings could have had a hatful, with him there it had begun to look like Molesey might get out of Dodge with a point. A goalless first half was carrying on in much the same vein – all Hastings attacks but without a killer punch – until those two spot kicks either side of the hour mark, both put away by Sam Adams and the latter leading to a straight red for Taylor Roles. After that, nothing was in any doubt but still Bradshaw kept the home side at bay until the dying seconds.

Molesey remain in the relegation spots with only one win from fifteen attempts on their travels; Hastings lie in ninth but are a whopping thirteen points off the final play-off spot. They seem to be going through another period of transition so will no doubt settle for good performances and decent wins in front of high-for-the-division crowds. For now. The new ground may have stalled but there is still a belief that the division above, at least, is where Hastings belong. The locals may well become restless again if this transition fizzles into another one and then another …

I did have my camera with me but also two children and a lot of rain. So the handful of shots are here.

At the match: Bexhill United Ladies v Eastbourne Ladies

The bench, well wrapped, look on … Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2018, all rights reserved

Switched from the Polegrove to the 3G pitch at Bexhill College, this was not a match for the faint hearted. The rain didn’t stop falling, the mercury never seemed to rise and the gloom was typical January. On the pitch, no quarter was asked or given as two local rivals went at it and, in the end, were split only by a single goal.

My abiding memory though is an entirely selfish one. It was trying to wrap the lens and camera in Sainsbury’s bag. There’s no cover at Bexhill College and did I mention the rain? The upshot was that I was able to take plenty of photos throughout (some even in focus) but that a few had an orange tinge redolent of the sort of lens flare that would get you a sticker from Boots in days of film processing.

But, enough of me, back to the game. A tight contest which never sparked into greatness but which was close enough and hard enough to always maintain the interest. Chances were very few and far between despite good midfield play from both sides. Solid defences kept their shape and soaked up whatever was thrown at them. The only goal came in the second half from a Bexhill corner – somehow the scramble led to a goal and that settled matters. A shot moments after rattled the post but 1-0, rather than 2-0, kept it interesting to the very end.

A draw might have been a fairer result but sometimes football isn’t particularly fair. Hopefully both these teams are doing enough to stay in the same division as each other into next season. I’d certainly welcome the chance to see them go toe to toe again. Although possibly somewhere drier next time. And maybe a tea bar. I like my creature comforts.

I brought my camera. Some photos are here.