Tag Archives: football

At the match: Banbury United v Dorchester Town

There’s a cross coming in … – (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

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.

I took along my camera and the photos are here.

At the match: Eastbourne Town v Broadbridge Heath

Not your usual Southern Combination crowd – (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

Henry Blofeld once described The Saffrons as being the quintessential English venue.  He was in Eastbourne for the cricket, as indeed Sussex will be later this summer, but, today, whilst there was cricket (and bowls) to see at the Saffrons the noise, colour and crowd were here for the final day of the Southern Combination season.

To the sound of almost constant drumming and the sight of flags and the occasional flare, two sides with only pride to play for did a pretty good job of creating a match worth giving a damn about.  Eastbourne took the lead with a neat lob before being pegged back by an absolute scorcher of a shot early in the second half.  After a fair bit of nip and tuck a smart header from a corner sealed the deal.  Although some of the tackles had a feel of a pre-season friendly (obviously no one wants to be damaged heading into the holiday season), overall it was a pretty enjoyable game.  My younger was pleased with his burger and only occasionally complained about how long 45 minutes takes to pass so all was definitely good.

And whilst Blowers quintessential Englishness probably didn’t include ‘Still Hate Thatcher’ t-shirts I like to think there’s something defiantly and wonderfully welcomingly English about the knowing and knowledgeable inclusive passion that sport, even this far down the pyramid, can generate.

Some photos here.

At the match: Westfield v Bosham

Big throw needed - (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved
Big throw needed – (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

The rain relented enough to allow a soft pitch to play host to a hard match.  League-leaders Bosham, the visitors to the Parish Field, came away with all the spoils but only after a tough encounter that required a somewhat dubious penalty to separate the two sides. Aye, it was a good day.

At the end, the Westfield players slumped as if they’d lost a semi-final and missed out on Wembley.  Bosham didn’t quite dance for delight but their reaction betrayed that they knew they’d passed a bloody tough examination.  The men in yellow had had most of the ball, rattled the crossbar, forced saves and sent shots just wide.  But then, with their smaller amount of possession, Bosham had threatened, shaken the woodwork and pressured the goal. Whilst Westfield had their first-half penalty turned down (rightly, it was outside the box), Bosham had theirs given (possibly correct but very soft).  That was the difference.

This was, as ever, a very enjoyable visit to Westfield. The chat around the pitch alternated between acknowledgement that Chelsea have wrapped up the Premier League title and discussion about whether Bosham, a dozen levels below, have enough of a ground to see them promoted. That’s football for you.

Some photos here.

At the match: Hastings United v Hythe Town

A spot of rain - (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

A spot of rain – (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

Some days you just ain’t got it.  Some days you need to wonder if it’s you, them or some deep problem with the world.  I’m sure there were plenty in the crowd who felt a deep and abiding connection with this south coast tussle.  I’m not one of them.  The positive is that Hastings won (and I’m biased like that), the negatives were pretty much everything else in the game.

Hythe, according to the dour voice behind me as I tested out the wet-weather capability of the D7200, have a bunch of ex-Hastings players in their line-up.  “Four,” he intoned.  Then after a pause that would make Pinter blush there came a reply: “Five.”  I think sometime after the next pause Godot arrived*.  And he’d have turned up to see a game that never settled despite some occasional sparks of good movement or good play.  There was too much niggle, too few good chances, and a lot of things not quite working out.

Hastings led 1-0 at the break but when Hythe pulled level it was more than deserved.  The visitors, higher in the table, looked the more coherent unit and were unlucky to find the Hastings’ defence in one of its more miserly moods, backed up by an excellent goalkeeping performance.  It took a spark of magic at the other end – a darting and determined run from a substitute leading to a strong (and slightly deflected) shot – for Hastings to claim all three points.

I don’t have any photos beyond this one, yet.  I will do (and I’ll link them at some point).  And maybe when I go back properly I’ll rethink my harsh words.  After all, this was a tight local derby with some bruising challenges, comedy reffing and a decent plate of chips.  That can’t be all bad, can it?

Photo here.



* I know

At the match: Bexhill United v Oakwood

When backs against the wall defending falls short ... fifty seconds from full time. - (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved
When backs against the wall defending falls short … fifty seconds from full time. – (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

You know it’s non league when you arrive to see a kids’ party winding down in the clubhouse and leave a couple of hours later to the accompaniment of furious players and fans swearing at the officials, in between having watched a match of brutal commitment in difficult conditions.  Bexhill were the livid hosts as, in the dying seconds of added on time, they let a win become a draw, but only the most myopic of Pirates fans would be able to say with a straight face that Oakwood did not deserve a share of the spoils.  It was a good day.

We kicked off at 2pm because there’s something not quite right about the floodlights at the Polegrove. I stand firm in my belief that all non league football should start at two to save clubs down the pyramid a few quid on electricity bills. But, I digress.  The wind seemed to be blowing from every direction and it was bloody cold.  Thankfully, the rain that threatened around the start of the match did not, aside from a pathetic attempt just before half time, return.  There was a female assistant referee.  I wouldn’t normally mention this and I do now only to observe that many players and coaches present also noticed we had a female assistant referee. If you’ve ever seen Pepe le Pew in action you’ll have some understanding of the dialogue that, at times, followed.

Bexhill took the lead in the first half.  A solid finish from a decent break. And, at the time, they were on top. A couple more chances came their way but Oakwood firmed up at the back and then began to control the midfield.  By the equivalent point in the second half it was, counter attacks aside, one way traffic. The boys in blue were the ones with the ball and, as the challenges become harder, they were the ones proving slightly better at keeping their heads.  Bexhill went down to ten men following a dismissal but still they managed to keep out the waves of Oakwood attacks.  It was five minutes into added time when they cracked and the swearing could begin in earnest.  A point each was fair but both sides will know that on another day they could easily have taken all three for themselves.  Which is how it should be.

Today was the first run out for my new camera. It can do things that cameras have been able to do for a few years but my D90 can’t and so with things now falling off that one a purchase of a D7200 has been made.  I’m a little in love.  Some photos from the day are here. The one thing they don’t show is how little I could feel my fingers by the end.

At the Match: Hastings United v Lewes

They may have run out of cards ... - (C) Jon Smalldon 2016, All Rights Reserved
They may have run out of cards … – (C) Jon Smalldon 2016, All Rights Reserved

Boxing Day football has a charm. I know I’m not alone in this opinion because today’s game was watched by 702 people, which is more than double Hastings United’s average gate. And not all of the extra folk were from Lewes. Which is just as well because what could have been a proper festive fight for Sussex supremacy was, for most of its duration, just a mite one-sided.

It finished 3-0 with all of the scoring over and done inside the first fifty minutes. Hastings took the lead through a smasher from the edge of the box from Harry Stannard. There was a decent bit of ebb and flow to the game from then on but it was definitely Hastings who were getting the better chances and growing in confidence. When Lewes gave up a free kick not too far out which was then converted beautifully, combined with the second yellow meaning a red that went with it, it meant they had a mountain to climb in the second half. But they never got the chance. Jack Harris finished a sweeping move on 49 minutes and, with only occasional sparks from then on, that was that.

Hastings showboated a little in the second half but never so much that Lewes wanted to kick them too hard. They could have had a couple more. It was only really towards the end that the sky blue clad visitors started to click in any meaningful way and, by then, it was all far, far too late.

So, for Hastings, a pretty successful day and a nice run of form heading into 2017. Lewes will look to bounce back at home to Three Bridges on New Year’s Eve.  The two sides next meet at the end of April and there’s every chance there could be the serious matter of play off football to fight over. Let’s hope that one’s more of a contest.

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.