Category Archives: Photos

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.

At the match: Eastbourne Ladies v Crawley Wasps Reserves

Eastbourne in possession fairly late in the game – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2018, All rights reserved

“Excuse me, but … where actually is the football pitch?” Thus was your correspondent momentarily confused upon his arrival at Eastbourne Sports Park. Such is life. Thankfully, the match I then saw was more than worth the vague embarrassment of being a man in need of directions.

Sport needs to be competitive to be enjoyable and this was certainly competitive. Both sides are skillful and well drilled – but I suspect it will be Crawley would view the eventual draw more as two points lost rather than one won.  Eastbourne took the lead early and added to it just after the break; two goals in quick succession pulled it level before a lot of Crawley pressing made it more likely they would score but both sides had opportunities. A very good game indeed.

This, bizarrely, is the third time I’ve seen Crawley Wasps this season. Twice for the reserves in this division and once for the first team in the league above. Eastbourne Ladies beat Eastbourne Town in the Sussex Cup a week ago and their reward will be a visit from Crawley’s first team. Who knows I may even make it four views this year.

I brought the camera. Some photos are here.

At the match: Rugby Town v Highgate United

Another melee in the box – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved.

“Have you seen what they’re wearing?” So asked Les, longtime Valley sufferer and regular conversor with my dad when their paths cross at Butlin Road. He was talking about the visitors. Highgate United were all in pink. And not just the kind of soft red one might be able to call scarlet, or salmon, or any other masculine escape clause. This was pink and people were talking. It says everything you need to know about this game that by the end of it the colour of anyone’s kit was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.

Rugby were two nil up inside the opening ten minutes. Two strikers’ pounces from David Kolodynski causing delight amongst the majority of the 220 looking on but fury amongst the Highgate players who, throughout, remained each others’ biggest critics. Highgate are a big, strong team and they play as a unit. For most of the match, they looked the side most likely to score. They even got a first half penalty which Gary Roberts sent high and wide.

Most of the madness came in the second half. The game was repeatedly stopped to allow for the referee to baffle all around him. I don’t normally agree with criticising officials as, after all, a high proportion of football fans don’t even properly know the rules of their very straightforward game. And yet. The one today (I think it was Adam Clenaghan) was baffling. A tussle that could have been settled by telling the players to stop messing about resulted in a long discussion with the assistant followed by a red and a yellow. Rugby down to ten men. Later we had the Highgate bench receiving cards for abusing the other official. Again, following a detailed analysis. Further digressions followed to stop play to lecture players about time-wasting, dissent and, quite possibly, how time appears to grind to a halt on December afternoons when a football match gets interrupted by an official who has effectively lost control.

Thankfully, from a neutral perspective, the final real drama came from the game itself. Two late-ish goals from Highgate – Scott Turner’s shot on 74 minutes rapidly followed up by Marco Adaggio’s close in header – levelled things. We then had a dozen or so minutes of relentless pressure as Highgate pushed for a winner. They came close but so did Rugby. Honours even was, possibly, fair but a boxing panel would have put the visitors ahead on points.

This was my first visit to the Midland Football League. Butlin Road was a venue for higher levels of the game ‘back in the day’ when I was an occasional visitor. I doubt there can have been many games here from any league which were quite this much fun. Even if fans from both sides were likely tearing their hair out in frustrated angst by the end. This is what it’s all about. Even if one of the teams is dressed all in pink.

I brought my camera. Some photos are here.

At the match: Bexhill United v AFC Varndeanians

Belligerent attack and defence – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, all rights reserved

“I don’t know what you’re complaining about, you’re in the lead …”
“Are we?”
“Aren’t you?”

You know it’s been an afternoon when the home side’s centre forward not being aware scores are level rather than (as he thought) showing a lead for the opposition isn’t the most interesting memory. It was 1-1 at the time of the chat with a vexed Vardeanians fan but the more telling score was 11-9, as Bexhill had a full compliment of men on the pitch but their visitors from Brighton were down by 2. That score finished 11-8 and the cold facts will show that Bexhill managed to complete the game ahead on goals 2-1. I doubt a single person on the away coach thought any of it was remotely fair.

AFC Vardeanians did not want the game to go ahead. The Polegrove pitch was firm to frozen where the stand had cast its shadow, heavy elsewhere. Their bench made repeated attempts to show that it was too dangerous to proceed. At times they could have put themselves forward for the Turner Prize such was their commitment to performance art of the “Man Confronting His Destiny on a Frosty Sussex Field” type. Maybe if they’d converted their early penalty instead of firing it wide they might have been happier.

Bexhill took the lead around the 25 minute mark, ten minutes after that missed penalty. It was 1-1 at the break though as Varndeanians more than matched their hosts. They may have complained but they were definitely in the mix. Very shortly after the break it all went wrong. Jamie Cradock committed a series of fouls, two of which saw him get a yellow card. The protests from his teammates led the ref summoning captain Joe McTiffen and, from that conversation, another red was produced. Who knows what was said that led to that but its impact on the game was decisive. Varndeanians organised themselves ferociously. A nine man moving defensive unit determined only to repel, and not to create. Bexhill struggled to work their way round it.

The bar was rattled and there were good saves but it looked like the visitors’ hard work was going to be rewarded with a point but a final scrappy bout of pinball saw a goal for Kev Barden. It was too much for some. The linesman who had frequently flagged for offsides was now accused of being bent. One player went far too far as the match restarted – I caught a bit of it, I’d have sent him off – and the ref wasn’t left with much option. Vardeanians ended the match with eight men and, let’s assume, a growing sense of bitterness. Their defensive shift was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time and deserved more than they got.

I brought along the camera. Some photos are here.

At the match: Eastbourne Town Ladies v Crawley Wasps

The Crawley Wasps goalie looks on … Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

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.

I brought my camera. Some photos are here.