Tag Archives: football

At the match: Bexhill United Ladies v Ashford Ladies

The team talks just before extra time … Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017

There’s an unspoken rule in football. An observation. When a game is about to go into extra time watch the teams. The one that sits or in any way relaxes is about to lose. The photo above is moments before the start of the first period of extra time. Both teams are champing at the bit, a game which drifted for long periods in regular play coming alive in a frenzy of hard tackles, red cards, chances, challenges and running as the ninety minutes ended. And the fans were the same: what started with a few people almost killing time in the stand ended with everyone up to the barrier and beyond. A proper cup tie, you could say.

“This feels like a very long game …” so said the lineswoman as play carried on the ensuing gloom at the far side of the field. She meant it positively.  “So much has happened,” she added. Far more than I can relate, given that I don’t take notes and spend endless time cursing my ability to focus the lens properly. Ashford, in luminous green, took the lead in the first half when a shot that should have been saved beat Bexhill’s stand-in goalie in bright orange. They held the lead until early in the second half when their own keeper in bright orange let a dolly shot go between her legs – the only blip on an otherwise commanding display, such is the lot of goalkeepers.

There were some good moves but the heavy pitch led to some leaden running and encouraged some very hard challenges. From very early on there was an edge as players from both sides made sure the other lot were being kept honest. The only surprise, in the end, was how late it was when it all flared up. A challenge, a retaliation and suddenly there are 20 odd players and coaches going for it. The tension hung in the air afterwards but there was nothing to spark another incident.

Instead, we got a demanding extra thirty minutes. Both sides created but it was a strong strike from distance by Bexhill that won the day.

So, at the end of the day, Bexhill progress to the next round. But if they crave league points more than cup glory they know they will have to do it all over again. Ashford are just above them in the table and the two sides must meet in the league. The way this game sizzled throughout, it should be another hot and tasty one when that happens.

I took my camera. It took some photos. They will be here later in the week.

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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.

At the match: Bexhill United Ladies v Burgess Hill Town Ladies

An early contest for the ball – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

“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.

The camera was with me. Some photos are here.

At the match: Bexhill United Ladies v Worthing Ladies

It was a windy day – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

As an experiment, I got on my bike and cycled to this game. It was windy. On the way there, from Silverhill to the Polegrove, I was riding into an absolute sod of a headwind. I’d call it a brutal only that would leave me without an adequate word to describe this humdinger of a South East Counties Women’s Football League clash. Played with that same wind lashing from one end of the field to the other, it was tiring just watching it. Lord knows what it was like for the players who gave their all and then some in an always-competitive 1-1 draw.

Before today, and indeed after today, Bexhill were/are bottom. They’ve played a fair few more games than most other teams in the division so that’s not a good position to be in.  Worthing had played five games and were unbeaten.  Last week the two sides met in Worthing and the match ended 5-2. It wouldn’t have been entirely unexpected to see another big win for them today.  It didn’t turn out that way.

The wind, I’m sure, helped. But if you’d been unaware of the table you would have presumed you were watching two teams in similar runs of form. There were close contests all over the field and even if the side with the wind behind them had the lion’s share of attacking there were still plenty of chances falling to both sides throughout. Combined with hard running and hard tackling, it made for a very entertaining afternoon.

Bexhill scored, with the wind, in the first half.  A long distance shot well-judged for height swerved a little in the wind to take it away from the keeper (who collided with the post and was substituted for her troubles).  Worthing scored, with the wind, in the second half. A corner was deliberately floated into the breeze and swerved back deceptively enough to get through the defenders and goalie who had anticipated what was coming.  Both teams could claim they should have the spoils which likely makes a draw a fair result.

My journey back was rather fun as the headwind turned into a tailwind and drove me onwards along the seafront. No need to describe anything as brutal.  Neither side from today gets a let-up. Next week, Bexhill face Chichester City Development who have five wins from six whilst Worthing entertain top of the table Crawley Wasps Reserves.

The camera came too. Some photos are here.

At the match: Bexhill United Ladies v Crawley Wasps Reserves

Bexhill on the attack – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

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.

At the match: Bexhill United Ladies v Kent Football United Ladies

I call this one “offside” … – Copyright (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

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.

At the match: Eastbourne Town Ladies v Dartford Ladies

An early fight for possession – (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

The last time I was at the Saffrons, the boys from Pier Pressure beat their drums and let off their flares.  Today, their signs were on display but the boys were not, instead the off-game noise came from an end-of-season cricket match, a well-attended display of bowls and the distant thwack of croquet.  Quite a few of those taking part in other sports took time out every so often to see what was happening on the football field. The question was easily answered: Eastbourne Town were putting on an authoritative display to power past their visitors Dartford and so progress to the next qualifying round of the FA Women’s Cup.

It was 6-0 at half time. The first goal was a sweet strike from Catherine Hyland after seven minutes.  The Dartford goalie made some neat stops and the defence tackled hard but they just could not clear the ball deep enough or retain possession long enough.  Town were relentless.  It really looked like we could be heading for a record margin of victory (at least a personal one – for a women’s game my most one-sided game finished 8-1).  That that didn’t materialise was due to a combination of a switch of fortune (posts were struck, balls drifted just wide) and a step up in harrying defence from Dartford who put a proper shift in to restrict their hosts to only one more goal: Meg Woods adding a seventh on 66 minutes.

At half time, whilst snaffling a coffee from the committee room (I had permission) the conversation turned to Town’s chances for the season. Apparently they have struggled for goals in the past. Overrunning a side by all seven goals in seven would, on the face of it, make something of a mockery of that.  But they will be aware that there will be tougher tests ahead in the season, not least Aylesford who they will face in the next round, also at the Saffrons.  For Dartford, they will lick their wounds and return to league football but they should, at least, take some pride in how they kept going right to the death.

I brought the camera along.  The spots of rain (and my incompetence) played havoc with the autofocus but what survives can be found here.