“Is this your first time?” So asked the Sussex groundhopper as I made my way through the muck covered path behind the goal to set up a position to take some photos. I tried to appear quite the veteran of East Sussex soccer but my interlocutor, even more recently arrived, made my experience look puny. This is someone who goes to Battle Baptists and Hollington when the heights of the County League get too dizzy. I can’t compete with that. I just took some photos instead.
But what of the game? Well, we waited for a game of football to break out but it wasn’t that sort of afternoon. There was a lot of effort, a lot of physicality and a lot of passion. What there wasn’t, for most of the time, was anything resembling sustained, coordinated play. In the first half, when the tackles flew, that was kind of fun. In the second, as Westfield tired and neither team did much to inspire, it was less fun. But I can’t be too sad. Any match which features an exploding sugar bowl has to be worth remembering fondly. For the record, Sidlesham won 3-1, overcoming an early deficit to run out deserved winners.
Nobody is going to claim what we saw today was a classic but, as the man who goes from game to game to game will no doubt agree, that’s not why we’re here in the first place.
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.
Such was the conversation when, after having had chance after chance after chance, Westfield found themselves still in a goalless encounter and with Alfold about to take a penalty. There was fifty minutes of the game gone. The penalty was well struck, the visitors went a goal up and for a few minutes, with Westfield unsettled, it seemed that the gods of fate were going to chuckle their way to full time. But then the hosts scored a goal and then they scored another … and by the end of the match it was Westfied 6 Alfold 1. That’s football, as they say.
If football was won on possession and chances this would have been stopped at half time. Saying Alfold were leading a charmed life would be unfair. They defended well and their ‘keeper made some superb stops. But they had few chances of their own despite some decent probing runs, particularly from their tireless #7. 6-1 may not be an easy pill to swallow but it’s hard, on the balance of play, to say it wasn’t a fair result.
As ever, it was a pleasant visit to Westfield. Around feeding my younger son the world’s biggest hot dog I found some time to take some blurry photos. They are here.
The glorious sun gave way to cloud and intermittent rain but, in spite of the disappointing weather, those who made their way to the Parish Field had themselves an entertaining game of football, one that both sides will be annoyed with themselves with not winning and which ended with honours even and a 3-3 draw.
This was a topsy-turvy game that never actually really settled. The ball spent a lot of time in the air and neither side seemed able to put their foot down and control the match. If Sky were here they would almost certainly have 50/50 possession and 33/33/33 territory. Westfield led 1-0 and 3-2 and the visitors held the advantage at 2-1. The woodwork was rattled. The referee had to calm uncool heads. In the end hands were shaken with rueful smiles.
All in all, an enjoyable afternoon. I took some photos: they are here.
“I think we’re the crowd,” I said to the man next to me as our conversation about the Scottish Welfare Football Association came to a close. “I think we are,” he agreed. The only other people around us, five minutes before kick off, were club members, match officials and players.
After a mostly dry week, albeit one with stormforce winds that blew Hastings’ seafront helter skelter over, Saturday morning saw virtually every local football match fall victim to waterlogged pitches. Biblical rain began at the sunrise and didn’t let up until well into the afternoon. Somehow the sodden Parish Field home of Westfield passed the test and so we had a football match. There weren’t many here to see it (although it did grow beyond the two I’d feared) and those who were there stood cowering under the inadequate shelter provided by the small patch of roof attached to the clubhouse. The players stood up to the test though and whilst the match was never even close to classic it was far more skilful and entertaining than we could ever have predicted.
The only goal came on 31 minutes via the boot of Nick Boutal. Clear chances were as rare as clean jerseys but even with that the posts of both teams were rattled and there was plenty of probing attack – even if they were often undone either by the conditions or by strong defence. Remarkably, again given the conditions, the quality of play was decent throughout and nobody felt the urge to use the slippery surface as an excuse to take someone out with a full-on slide. The Westfield no. 16 deserves credit for ending the match looking like he’d spent the previous two hours on a rugby field at the bottom of a ruck.
All in all, a good time was had by most – I’m sure Westfield would have been happier if they’d finished with a point although Montpelier probably did enough to justify plundering the spoils. Around me there was talk that Westfield’s much planned new ground over the road could be nearing reality. A decent home is the least this excellent club deserve.
(I took the camera. Resultant photos, all from the same vaguely dry spot, are here.)
The last time I went to Westfield I ended up at a caravan park cursing my SatNav. This time, suitably prepared, I knew exactly which hedge to drive through to get to the Parish Field home of the Westies. Their visitors, Billingshurst (who have the unlikely nickname of “Hurst” according to Wikipedia) had made the arduous journey from West Sussex for this game in what is no longer called the Sussex County Football League. They made their way back having achieved the unusual feat at this level of playing a game and neither scoring nor conceding any goals.
When I arrived Westfield were focusing their warm up on getting the keeper to dominate the box and then set up an attack. Billingshurst similarly had a defensive focus in much of their play. The result was a hard game with few very clear openings. The visitors did hit the bar and there were occasional glimpses of attacking potential but the match never really settled and neither team had any spell where you could say they were dominating. A draw was a fair result. Nil nil a reflection of the teams’ desires to be solid.
But if the game wasn’t great it was still a pleasure to attend. October hasn’t yet turned wintry and the afternoon sun was pleasant. A few good chats were had and it was good to catch up with the Hastings Observer correspondent whose Saturdays are spent chasing sport across his paper’s dominion. I hope his SatNav never sends him into the wrong hedge.
Westfield will be pleased to have arrested a three match losing run; Billingshurst looked disappointed at the end and will expect to stay above their hosts in the table throughout the season. I expect to be back in the future. And, next time, I expect goals.
A mix-up with the Sat Nav meant I arrived at the Parish Field home of Westfield Football Club just as the match was starting. The ground is just off the A28 but I swear you’d never know it was there unless you were looking for it. I found myself thinking of the start of Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom: “Hidden among thorny brambles …” Well, surrounded by massive foliage anyway … I could now say that my photo shows a Wise Old Elf but I’m not sure the Referees Union would allow it.
And it was an odd game and the official in question played his part in that. There were heavy tackles, there were fouls, there were a couple of melees that if they’d occurred in the Premier League, Match of the Day would have gone into meltdown. And through it all the referee had long glances, long talks and long pauses before decisions. But the cards did not come until later in the game by which time the players were mainly all fouled out. The second half being noticeably better than the first because the instinct to severely damage their opponents seemed to have left most of the players whilst they were sucking half time oranges.
Bexhill won by the odd goal in one. A header with about twenty minutes ago was the difference. Either team could claim they’d done enough for victory but it was the Bexhill supporters (yes, they did bring some and they gathered round a jaunty pirate flag) who got to be warmed by three points as the sun set. I took some photos other than of the referee and you can find them here.