Tag Archives: football

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.

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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.

At the match: Hastings United v Lewes

It was this sort of game – (C) Jon Smalldon 2017, All rights reserved

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.

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.