Hendon 2 Harrow Borough 4 – Southern League Premier South – Mon 27 August 2018 KO 3pm

Bank Holiday Monday football at Silver Jubilee Park, saw the visit of near neighbours Harrow Borough, for a game which based on early season form, Hendon probably started the slight favourites. Alas it was not to be….

With Marvin Morgan and Ricardo German again leading the line together, hopes were high that Hendon could continue their good early season form, however for one reason or another they never seemed to click and for much of the game looked disjointed, finding themselves over run in midfield at times, which put pressure on a defence which sadly creaked throughout the game.

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After early half chances at both ends, Harrow began to take control, looking brighter and quicker to the ball and it was no surprise when they scored the opening goal, with O’ Connor’s shot taking a deflection to take it past the stranded Hendon goalkeeper Boness and into the net.

Hendon didn’t heed this warning though as to Harrow’s intents and the visitors went close on several more occasions before the second goal arrived, with the Hendon goalkeeper sadly at fault as the ball when Keita’s cross shot squirmed through his grasp and into the net.

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It has to be said 2-0 at half time in no way flattered Harrow who had dominated proceedings in the first period but there was hope that the half time break and some reorganisation would help Hendon get a foothold back in the game. However, the second half couldn’t have started any worse for the home side, as Harrow went further in front in the 48th minute, with yet another deflected shot from Cole, finding its way past Boness and into the corner of the net.

Just before the hour mark, Harrow should have been reduced to ten men, when a challenge from O’Connor which was very late and high and left Cole Brown unable to continue after lengthy treatment, was somehow only punished with a yellow card by the referee, despite the close proximity of both himself and a linesman to the incident.

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The game became more tetchy after this and Morgan let his frustrations get the better of him, as he was late on a Harrow player with a challenge that probably also deserved a red card but with the referee having set the bar for dismissal quite high following the O’Connor challenge, again it was only a yellow. Morgan was substituted moments later to probably save him from the inevitable.

Hendon found a glimmer of hope in the 79th minute when a clear push in the box on a Hendon forward saw the Greens given a penalty kick which top scorer German dispatched. Harrow had begun to sit back and it invited more pressure from Hendon, as defender Demuria was sent further forward to bolster the forward line and they went far more direct. However, as Hendon threw men forward, they were exposed to the counter attack and from one of these Harrow added a 4th goal as Rush tucked home the goal that finished off any lingering Hendon hopes of getting back into the game. German did pull another goal back almost immediately but in all honesty the game had got away from Hendon a long time before and Harrow were in the end very good value for their 4-2 victory.

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So, after the bright start to the season for Hendon, the first real set back has arrived and it will be interesting to see how Jimmy Gray’s side reacts. During the game, frustrations became visible between players once the home side fell behind and the positive spirits of the opening games seemed to dissolve.

Hopefully, this result can be put behind Hendon quickly as a one-off, when for whatever reason, tired legs following the long trip to Taunton 48 hours previously or just a general off day for too many players, the Greens did not gel at all. There is a lot of individual talent within the side but on Monday sadly too many players were off the pace. Now it’s a trip to Swindon Supermarine on Saturday where hopefully things will come together again. As for Harrow, they will be pleased with the three points which push them up into mid table but they will be also looking for defensive improvements, as to date they have conceded 14 goals, which is the most in the division.

For both sides, their opening season in the Southern League Premier South will no doubt continue to be a learning curve, with ups and downs along the way.

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Isolation and how it affects what is currently going on in my mind.

It’s hard to talk about how you feel at times.. I suppose it is ultimately why i started doing this blog and talking about what i do, who i am and all the other boring sh*t that no one else should have to care about but that makes me who i am..

Over the last few months, since the extremely toxic work environment i was now working in pushed me close to who knows what and i made the decision to leave after 15 years service (the last 12 months of which were terrible) to try and get my mind back, my emotions are constantly flitting around.

I have spoken before about how i have tried to give my life some structure on a daily basis.

  • searching for suitable new positions
  • volunteering for a homeless charity
  • trying to learn new skills and improve my existing ones, marketing wise to hopefully help me on a return to a suitable position
  • writing to new and old network contacts to see if they will speak to me or consider me for any suitable positions or projects
  • trying to do things i enjoy, watching football, reading, listening to music etc

And you know what most of the time, i think  i am getting better, i still have a value and some worth and one day an employer will value the 20 years of experience i have within the football / sports industry and that i am someone who just wants to be of value and help people and make a difference.

But then i have moments, like the last 48 hours when it all caves in around me, it’s hard to describe what mental illness / depression feels like but it’s overwhelming when it grabs me again.

The last 48 hours i have been totally by myself, i went out for a pint of milk last night and for a five minute walk today to the book shop to see if there were any new titles i could ask the library to find for me.

I haven’t spoken to anyone. And the thoughts start to build up again

  • Would anyone honestly miss me if i wasn’t around?
  • Will anyone even have the decency to respond to job applications, networking letters / emails i have sent out? I sent out another 15 speculative applications and CV’s etc last Thursday to various organisations (in an industry where i have spent 20 years working at a senior level). One responded immediately and professionally the following morning thanking me for writing but advertising they had nothing suitable (which is a professional response and my mind moves on). The rest, not a peep again, similar to most applications, networking moves i have made over the last few months. Being totally ignored is not a pleasant feeling. It doesn’t take much effort even to politely say ‘no thank you’ to someone, no matter what their request.
  • What is the point of ‘all of this’?
  • Why is the world or at least the news i seem to read everyday, full of so much bad news, bitching, self-interest and money mad people.

And no matter how hard i try to rationalise things and tell myself the thoughts about are stupid and that people do care, things will get better, the rest of my life isn’t going to be like this.

It scares me…

I am obviously too sensitive for my own good at times but what good comes from all this nastiness in the world both on a macro and micro scale, trolling on social media  etc and where do i fit into it all?

Hopefully things will get better, to be honest i just wanted to get how my head felt for the last 48 hours down on paper, as it’s the closest thing to a voice i have at the moment.

These feelings of isolation, lack of value, self-worth, who the hell i actually am etc , i hope will pass again and i will step back into work, day to day contact with people, laughter, friendships, challenges, goals, achievements but at the moment i have none of it and it saddens me.

Roll on tomorrow…. and probably another blog about something nicer, like watching a football match or reading a book and spot of volunteering tomorrow night, trying to help people i know really need help. I just felt i had to get this out of my mind and into words.

 

Battersea Ironsides 0 v Westside 3 – Surrey Elite Intermediate Football League – Mon 27 August KO 11am

I haven’t attended a Step 7 game for a while now (it tends to be the start and end of the season with those early evening kick off’s) but this morning i noticed Battersea Ironsides were at home, probably actually one of the closest clubs as the crow files to where i now live, so with plans to attend the Hendon v Harrow Borough derby later that afternoon, the 11am kick off at Battersea seemed the perfect excuse for me to finally visit them.

After attending many Step 7 games in the Middlesex County League and the Herts Senior League, this was also the first time i had dipped my toe into the water of the Surrey Elite Intermediate Football League, as Battersea took on local rivals Westside, who i discovered now groundshare at Croydon Athletic , another great little ground i haven’t visited now for far too long. Westside are a Christian based club, out of the West Side Church Wandsworth, South West London (SW18).

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The Battersea Ironsides sports and social club ground is in the Earlsfield / Wandsworth Common area of London and there are easy train and bus connections close by for anyone travelling by public transport. The pitch only really has standing for spectators on one side, with the far side reserved for the two benches and club officials and today there were a few crash barriers to lean on down one side of the pitch. The ground is situated next to a whole array of other sporting facilities belonging to several clubs, adjoins Battersea’s own cricket pitch and has a very smart pavilion, unfortunately though there was no tea / coffee etc available today but a very smart bar area with Sky etc.

The early stages of the game, were fairly even with both sides creating a couple of half chances but the very narrow pitch did make finding space difficult at times. Battersea then began to take control and should have found the net on more than a couple of occasions, with one long range drive in particular bringing a fabulous full length save from the visitors goalkeeper. But the home side were made to pay in the last few minutes of the first half, when firstly Amir broke clear in the box to fire the visitors ahead and this was followed soon after by a second goal as Touhami found space in the box to drill his shot into the bottom corner. After having the best of the first half, Battersea’s failure to take their chances cost them dear against the more clinicial finishing of their opponents.

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In the second half, both teams had their chances but the home side seemed to miss the hold up play and presence of their centre forward who was taken off at half time. The second half also became less disciplined with the home side becoming increasingly frustrated as they struggled to find the goal that would have brought them back into things.

The visitors then broke away again with the pace of centre forward Webster who had provided a real threat throughout, proving too much for the home defence as he latched onto a through ball and showed composure to steer his shot into the far corner. After that the home side lost their discipline further and the referee sent players from both teams off for a bit of a handbags incident before another Battersea seemed to be ordered off for something he said with moments remaining.

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Overall an entertaining game, with the visitors in the end proving worthy winners, Battersea could and probably should have been ahead in the first half, but once the visitors edged in front, they never really looked like letting go of their lead. A decent overall standard of play as well for my first helping of the Surrey Elite Intermediate Football League,  which means i will probably dip into this league again at some stage in the season.

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Westside take on AC London next week in the FA Vase at Croydon Athletic on Sunday, which should be an interesting fixture!!

Apologies for any mistakes with names etc in this report but there was no teamsheet / programme i could see.

Stansted 0 v Takeley 1 – FA Cup Preliminary Round – Sun 26 August 2018.

My second FA Cup Preliminary tie of the weekend, took place on Sunday at Bishop’s Stortford FC, where Stansted hosted local rivals Takeley.  Stansted’s own home ground is currently still tied up with cricket fixtures, so both their FA Cup games this season have been switched to Woodside Park, in Bishop’s Stortford, which allowed over 200 people to enjoy this clash on Sunday afternoon.

And for the first time in a while, we were reminded of what is like to be damp and a bit chilly at a game, as the light rain didn’t lift all afternoon and saw the game played on a zippy surface.

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Takeley began proceedings as leaders in the Essex Senior League, with three wins from their opening three league fixtures and an impressive away win in the FA Cup Preliminary round at Norwich United, whilst the home side sat mid table in the same division.

The early exchanges saw both sides mount attacks without really extending either goalkeeper before the turning point in the game, came in the 14th minute, when Stansted goalkeeper Charlie Turner had a bit of a rush of blood and came out of his area at speed to make a tackle on the onrushing Mitchell Das and arrived very late and took the Takeley winger out. Given the ball was drifting towards the corner flag and there were other players retreating into the box, it probably wasn’t as clear cut a red card as some but given how late the challenge was Turner unfortunately probably couldn’t have too many complaints as the referee sent him off.

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Stansted had to reorganise with outfield player Jack Smith going in goal, due to the lack of a replacement keeper on the bench and in all honesty he had a decent game in goal without being overly extended. Takeley did in fact have the better of the remainder of the first period but missed several good chances, including a far post header from George Wappett , who nodded wide when well placed.

Stansted had their moments too throughout the game but you always felt if there was going to be a goal, it would be the visitors that scored it and so it proved when after an hour or so’s play Mitchell Das finally found the target from the right hand side, after Stansted failed to clear their lines. After that Takeley continued to press and a delightful cross from Wappett was nodded home by centre forward Stuart Zanone but it was ruled out for offside.

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Stansted deserved create for their attitude on the day, playing for so long with 10 men but you never quite felt they had the goal they needed in them, despite a couple of late opportunities. So it’s Takeley who progress to Wednesday’s first qualifying round draw, which could even see them return to Woodside Park, as Bishop’s Stortford enter the competition at this stage.

A decent enough game for a Sunday afternoon without it ever really catching fire, with the star man for me probably Takeley left winger Wappett who showed good technique and an eye for the right pass throughout the game.

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Warrington Wolves 14 Catalans Dragons 20 – Rugby League Challenge Cup Final – Wembley Stadium – Saturday 25 August 2018.

So for the 5th time in the last ten years, the Wire had made it through to the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, where they would meet Catalans Dragons who were aiming to be the first side to take the trophy outside of the UK.

Prior to the game, most of the focus had been on what the attendance (or lack of it would be) and sadly despite the RFL claiming a 50,000 plus attendance, i would still dispute that given the lower bowl at the far end of the stadium was nowhere near full and the Club Wembley section where many people had their seats upgraded to was also under capacity but i suppose quoting a 50,000 attendance helps the RFL save face to an extent in terms of attendance.

On arrival at Wembley, the turnstile quoted on my ticket wasn’t open and it soon became apparent why, as fans holding tickets for the upper tier of Wembley were shepherded through a different entrance, in order that their match tickets could be exchanged at a table lined with stewards for seats in the lower tier. The upper tier for the first time in the final’s history was completely shut in order to make the stadium seem fuller than it was for TV purposes.

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As a life long fan of the game of rugby league, it is saddening we have reached this point, where an occasion that was once a focal point for everyone in the game, now struggles to half fill a stadium and that is even after upgrades, giveaways and offers  on Group On etc. The game has fallen a long way in people’s mindsets, even in the heartlands and the RFL and Super League really now have to think long and hard about the game’s future and how to re-engage with people. A whole generation of supporters have been lost over the last 20 odd years, of Sky TV deals, weird kick off times, licence based promotions (or lack of them) etc and by my reckoning a major strategic chance is needed to ensure this is just a low point from which the game returns rather than the beginning of a slow and dismal demise.

Rugby League is a magnificent sport, players who put their bodies on the line, club’s with immense history and tradition and town’s that will still back their clubs on the big occasion but too much has been lost for little return and a focus on the long-term rather than the short- term is now essential.

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As for the game itself, as a Warrington fan it pains me to say it but on the day Catalans were worthy winners. We all knew what was coming in the first 20 minutes, anyone who had watched the French side batter St Helens from the start in the semi-final did but for some reason Warrington seemed to have overlooked it.  Catalans were aggressive, demanding and in the Wire’s faces from the start and scored an early try through Lewis Tierney in the second minute after Warrington spilt a high kick off the last tackle, this was converted and swiftly followed by a penalty to make it 8-0 and it was a deficit you felt Warrington would always struggle to claw back as the game went on.

The effort of the Warrington lads couldn’t be faulted, sadly as has happened on too many big occasions over the last few years, the application could, as nothing seemed to flow as they would have wanted to it and although they could claim not to have got the rub of the green in terms of refereeing decisions, with the eternally frustrating Robert Hicks in charge, if i am honest Catalans got the result they deserved.

The last few weeks have seen the Dragons focus purely on this game, resting players in large numbers in recent Super League games benefited them and their level of intensity was of a team who knew they had the chance to create history and create history they did, as despite Warrington’s valiant late efforts as they got within a converted try of forcing extra time, Catalans held on in the face of some late pressure and achieved something no other club ever has in the 122 year old history of the competition and took the trophy away from these shores.

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For the neutral no doubt it was the result they wanted and for us Wire fans it was another day of what might have been, after all it is always our year. But for me, this final goes beyond the result. The game has to change, has to learn. It needs to market itself better, it needs to re-engage with town’s and cities across the north of England especially where generations of people no longer even consider going to watch their side, it needs to continue to strive to grow the game outside the heartlands of course (i welcome Toronto, Catalans etc and actively pay money to watch London Skolars and Hemel Stags at a lower level of the game) but the game must not forget where it game from, the people it drew support from for years because Saturday’s attendance shows many of those people have now forgotten the game and the likes of Ralph Rimmer (chief executive of the RFL) and Robert Elstone (newly appointed Head of Super League) need to remember this and begin to re-engage, they are the torch bearers for a sport with a long and proud history and decisions they make over the next few years are going to decide the game’s future.

 

FC Romania 2 v Grays Athletic 0 – FA Cup Preliminary Round – Sat 25 August 2018

I expected a rare Saturday without football yesterday, as i was heading off to see Warrington in the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final at Wembley later in the day (my thoughts in a later post – sadly!) but the early rounds of the FA Cup often throw up the odd kick off time in the very early rounds, given the number of groundshares these days and clashes with league games that are already in place.

And that was the case yesterday, with a very unusual FA Cup kick off time of 11am, as FC Romania took on Grays Athletic at the new Parkside home of Aveley FC. FC Romania were struggling to find a time to schedule the game at their usual groundshare home of Cheshunt FC, so the game was switched to an early kick off time at Aveley FC (who also played in the FA Cup at home the same afternoon) and just to add to the complexity of this one, Grays Athletic currently groundshare at Aveley but for this fixture were the away side! Hope you managed to follow that!  By all accounts according to the programme notes, both Aveley and Grays were a massive help to the FC Romania admin staff in getting this game played and it is always great to hear of clubs helping each other out at this level.

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FC Romania and Grays Athletic are at Step 4 for the 2018/19 season in the South Central and North Divisions of the Bostik League respectively. Grays had begun the league season well and with FC Romania having suffered a 1-3 home defeat to Northwood in their first game at this level, perhaps the Essex side started as slight favourites, especially given their long standing non-league pedigree.

But for some reason, Grays never seemed to get going and whilst the first half was relatively cagey with few chances, the Romanian side were always threatening moving the ball well on the artificial surface and in centre forward Toby Cleaver had a target man who held the ball up well and whose movement never allowed the Grays central defenders to settle and FC Romania in fact took the lead mid way through the first half when Cleaver moved onto a long through ball, got the wrong side of the defender and drew a foul just inside the area for a clear penalty. This was dispatched comfortably by Gabriel Ghinea to give the hosts a 1-0 half time lead.

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At half time, we were entertained by the unique PA announcer who gave us his views on anything and everything , before the players re-emerged! In the second half , you expected Grays to offer a little more in terms of goal threat but if anything they continued to lack in ideas going forward and whilst FC Romania were content to remain solid at the back and attack on the break, it was they who continued to create the best chances. Eventually a second goal arrived, five minutes from time following more impressive hold up play by Toby Cleaver, the ball should have been cleared by the Grays defence but they failed to do so and the ball was worked through to substitute Oliver Cleaver in the box who tucked it away and FC Romania saw the remaining time out comfortably to seal an excellent 2-0 win.

So Grays Athletic exit the FA Cup at the earliest stage in their history and FC Romania progress to the first qualifying round, where on this display they will be a handful whoever they are drawn against.

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As for the ground, whilst of course it lacks the character of the old Aveley stadium, with it’s fabulous main stand and views of half of Essex! , the new Parkside ground is definitely one of the best new builds at this level, an excellent main stand with lots of function room space and cover on all 4 sides of the stadium, definitely a club keen to make progress.

Overall, an enjoyable match and one that FC Romania deserved to win and from their very humble origins as a Romanian workers team in the London Sunday leagues, playing on Hackney Marshes in 2006, the club must be delighted with the progress they have made both on and off the field and hopefully one day soon they can find a stadium they can call their own, in order to take things to the next level. As for Grays, they are a long way from the team i saw take the old Halifax Town all the way in a fabulous Conference Play off semi final back in 2006 but they are one of those proper non-league clubs run by good football people and now under the management of ex player Jamie Stuart, you hope they can begin to find the good times again and a base of their own back in Grays from which they can build for the future and increase attendances once again.

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Ilford 3 v West Essex 2 – Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy (Essex Senior League) – Wed 22 August 2018

Cricklefield Stadium in Ilford, is one of those grounds you either love or hate, the Athletics track around the pitch edge often makes a lot of groundhoppers dislike a place immediately but my visits here over the years have always been interesting, whoever i have seen play at home there and over the years as well as Ilford, i have also taken in games hosted by Barkingside and Waltham Forest.

I must admit though, i enjoy visiting the ground, it has a bit of character for an athletics type stadium, huge amounts of banked old fashioned terracing and a decent view and the welcome last night was a nice one as well, as Steve the club secretary said hello and thanked me for coming along, whilst i pondered my tea bar selection.

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The stadium is hidden away behind between the redeveloped Isaac Newton academy and a stone’s throw from Seven Kings station, giving easy access from central London. £6 on the gate and an extra quid for an excellent programme. There seems to be a lot of debate re programmes at the minute but for me they will always be a part of the matchday experience and i love it when you come across a programme which has had real effort made with it and last night’s was definitely one of these. A cracking design, fabulous old school style cover and team layouts and everything you need including a proper welcome, league tables, recent results and some terrible jokes! A fantastic effort for a quid and an example to many other clubs in the Essex Senior League.

The game kicked off in pleasant late summer conditions again, on a pitch that is the one downfall of the stadium. It never seems to improve, come rain or shine and i felt sorry for some of the players last night , as Ilford especially tried to play some flowing passing football on a pitch that does very little to help them do so.

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In spite of the surface though, last night was as good a game as i can remember seeing at Ilford, the first half was probably just about edged by Ilford in terms of possession and chances created as they took the game to West Essex from the off but the visitors were dangerous on the break as well and took their chances well. Ilford took the lead midway through the first period, with Callum Maltese coolly tucking the ball home after a nice through ball but not long afterwards the visitors were level as Emmanuel Obeng-Kouassi finished from a ball over the top that left the Ilford keeper exposed as it dropped behind the Ilford defence.  Not long after that Maltese put the hosts ahead again after good work from Mitchell Victorin, who showed great composure on the difficult surface all night. The scores were level again at half time though, as West Essex made it 2-2 just before the break with a fine header from Joe Lefley from a corner which flew into the roof of the net.

The second half was finely balanced as both teams had opportunities to win the game but the home side claimed victory as Maltese completed a deserved hat trick, with a free kick from over near the touch line, which the West Essex keeper and defence left each other to deal with and which bounced on the six yard line and into the net.

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All in all, a great night’s entertainment on a bobbly surface, with a real effort to try and play football, Ilford look to have a young squad this season but have some real quality in the likes of Callum Maltese, tireless right winger Ellis Lentell and central midfielder Mitchell Victorin and whilst the physicality of some of the league’s more direct teams will probably cause them an issue or two, it was great to see a team really try to play football.

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My only gripe on the evening was nothing to do with either team but more the ongoing issue that non-league clubs (especially in and around London) need more support from the governing body in promoting games and encouraging attendance. It is sad to see such a small crowd (probably 40 odd spectators on a rough count last night) in such a large stadium, for what was a great game of football.  Sure, there are now so many distractions for people’s leisure time attention but we should treasure what we have in this country, a non -league pyramid that is as broad as it is wide but club’s need more support. London has a population of nearly 9 million people but non-league clubs throughout the capital all seem to struggle for attendances, perhaps it is the transient nature of the capital’s population who don’t always identify so much with the area they live in, as people in town’s and cities outside London do but surely the FA should look at some level of support to try and drive attendance and interest from locals who might not even know they have a club and assistance in centrally finding sponsors for competitions at a lower level etc. I guess there is no solid solution but given the product on offer, it would be great if those in charge of the game did offer more support the game at this level (although to be fair the re-distribution of prize money in the FA Cup, so losing teams in the Extra-Preliminary and Preliminary rounds do get financial reward from this season is a start).  Not getting political at all, but football in this country seems to see the rich seem to get richer, whilst the other clubs struggle along…

Climbing down from my soapbox for a moment , all in all an enjoyable evening at a very friendly club and i wish them all the best for the rest of the season and will hopefully see another game or two at some stage.

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Cray Wanderers 2 v Whitstable Town 0 – Bostik League Division One South East – Sunday 19 August 2018.

At least a couple of times a season over recent seasons , Cray Wanderers have had to move games to a Sunday afternoon, due to their continued long term groundshare at Bromley FC’s Hayes Lane ground and generally if i am able to, i will pop along, as Hayes Lane is always a great old ground to visit, plenty of old school terracing  and bench seating (though some of it behind the far goal has disappeared since i was last year in the spring! – a new stand in the pipeline for Bromley it would seem).

All these new divisional names at Step 3 and 4 are taking some getting used to this season but this fixture was in the Bostik League Division One South East, as Cray entertained Whitstable Town who had made the journey up from the coast, backed by a decent number of supporters, who as is always the case when i have seen Whitstable over the years, provided some good vocal backing!

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Cray just missed out in last season’s play offs, a bitter pill to swallow given the number of goals they scored and their style of play but have had to re-group and on this showing are still going to be a very competitive side in this new division.

Cray created several chances in the first half and with more composure in front of goal definitely should have got their noses in front, with some slick passing and two wingers in Junior Dadson (who i seem to remember seeing play for Halifax Town on loan from Blackburn Rovers many moons ago) and Aaron Rhule who got into good positions throughout the first period. Rhule especially, has great technique and pace to burn,  one of those increasingly and sadly rare old fashioned wingers who just seemed at will to be able to go past the full-back like he wasn’t there but he was frustratingly let down by his final touch or finish on a few occasions, which was a shame given the quality of his approach play.

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Whitstable themselves though, were threatening on the counter-attack and Ricky Freeman drew a great save from Cray goalkeeper Nick Blue, as he hit a dipping half volley on the turn.

After the break, the early stages were fairly quiet but eventually Cray got the goal they deserved in the 68th minute when a low shot was parried by the goalkeeper and Junior Dadson made no mistake with the follow up, as he side footed the ball home into the bottom corner.

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Whilst at 1-0, the game was still open but Whitstable although threatening from set plays, didn’t really look like they would draw level and with a couple of minutes remaining, Aaron Rhule moved onto a pass from centre-forward Power and slotted the ball home to make it 2-0. A goal his endeavours more than deserved and one that produced a final scoreline that probably reflected the overall balance of play.

An enjoyable enough afternoon, in a game played yet again in bright sunshine in front of a decent crowd of 316, including numerous groundhoppers taking in a Sunday game like me and lots of Cray’s youth teams and parents.

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Hopefully, Cray will get to the promised land of their own stadium back in their own heartlands soon, the battle goes on to get their Flamingo Park development underway and i know they have the support of all of those in London with the non-league game at heart. For now though as the wait continues , i will certainly have no complaints about enjoying one or two more pleasant Sunday afternoon visits to Hayes Lane.

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Hendon 2 v Farnborough 1 – Southern League Premier South – Sat 18 August 2018

Stayed local today, as a long trip to find a new ground (my usual Saturday routine) wasn’t possible for a couple of reasons today but i must also be honest i have really enjoyed what this ‘new’ Hendon side have had to offer in the early stages of 2018/19. Building from nothing at all player wise a few weeks ago , through the ups and downs of pre-season with lots of trialists, to this has been very interesting and enjoyable to watch.

So, a rare Saturday visit for me to Silver Jubilee Park  and yet again Jimmy Gray’s new look side didn’t disappoint. I am sure there will be plenty of twists and turns during the season but you cannot fault the effort of the Hendon players and already a decent team spirit and an immediate bond with the crowd seems to be building, which can only be a good thing.

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Farnborough arrived in NW9 top of the table with two wins from their opening two league fixtures and although it is always hard to read anything from the league table at this stage of the season, they look a strong outfit, with some proven players at this level and backed by a decent away following in a crowd of 278.

The early stages were a bit cagey with both defences on top but gradually Hendon began to develop an attacking threat, with Marvin Morgan beginning to win the physical battle, holding the ball up well and allowing players to play off him.

And it was Morgan who created the first goal after 35 minutes, slipping past a defender on the left edge of the box before his cross to the far post was eventually turned in to the net by Cole Brown, for his first goal of the season.

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Morgan starting his first league game for the club, added some bite against Farnborough’s two imposing centre backs and never let them settle and was involved again in the second goal midway through the second half, finding Laste Dombaxe with a square pass on the edge of the box, after a great attacking move and Dombaxe fired a  shot into the far corner of the net, to the delight of the home crowd.

Ricardo German replaced Morgan with twenty minutes to go and had a couple of chances to put the game beyond the visitors, with one effort hitting the bottom of the post but with ten minutes remaining the jitters began for Hendon who were dropping deeper, when substitute Connor Cullen turned in the box and slipped his shot into the bottom corner of the net.

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Hendon then endured a heavy spell of pressure from the visitors as Farnborough went more direct in search of an equaliser which should have arrived with a couple of minutes to go but a shot was dragged wide when it seemed easier to score.  The late storm though was ridden and on the balance of play, Hendon just about deserved the three points.

They were solid in defence, with debutant Romario Jonas having a very impressive first start and dangerous going forward throughout, although a little more composure and thought as to the final ball at times, probably would have brought even great reward, as Farnborough pushed forward and Hendon failed to take advantage of some good situations after breaking up play and getting into good positions several times.

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Overall though, Hendon will be delighted with the opening week to the season, 7 points out of 9 and more importantly a team that is showing real potential and hopefully can only improve further as players begin to get to know each other better. The performances have also definitely begun to build a bond between the fans and the new line up, with supporters again staying behind to applaud the players from the field at the end.

As for Farnborough, they looked a strong side, more streetwise than Walton Casuals on Tuesday and with more players who know this league, so i doubt they will be too far away from the top end of the table come the end of term.

Optimism abounds though at Silver Jubilee Park though at the moment and it will be an interesting next few weeks, as the true look of the table begins to take shape.

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Hendon 3 Walton Casuals 0 – Southern League Premier South – Tues 14 August 2018

First midweek of the new season, so it must be Silver Jubilee Park, the home of Hendon FC, for their opening home league fixture in the Southern League. The visitors were Walton Casuals ( relatively speaking –  one of the shorter midweek trips in this division) who are enjoying their first season at Step 3 under the management of Anthony Gale, son of Casuals chairman and former West Ham defender Tony Gale.

A perfect evening for football, still warm enough for a t-shirt at a push (how much longer will this last!) and the 4G pitch which as a purist i always have reservations about but i must admit does help at this level, allowing teams to get the ball down and try and play, especially during the heavy pitch winter months. And outside of that the pitch has allowed an enormous amount of community and pitch hire activity to the benefit of everyone at Silver Jubilee Park , Hendon & Edgware Town football clubs.

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Hendon kept a similar starting 11 to Saturday but one key change saw Rene Howe drop to the bench and Ricardo German, Saturday’s goalscorer play a more central role up front, which was to bear fruit during the first half.

After early goal mouth action at both ends, Hendon took a foothold in the game midway through the first half, with a couple of goals in quick succession. Firstly Luke Tingey headed home  a really inviting corner from skipper Lee Chappell in the 17th minute, one of those set piece deliveries that is begging to be put away and it was, as Tingey towered above a rather static defence and opening the scoring.

Hendon stepped things up a gear and were rewarded with a second goal in the 25th minute, which was all down to the persistence of Ricardo German as he evaded several challenges on a great run into the six yard box before managing to hook the ball under the keeper and into the net, for a fabulous solo goal.

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Late in the first half, Walton Casuals were given a potential route back into the game with a penalty for a late challenge but Hendon goalkeeper Danny Boness was equal to Kyron Farrell’s strike, diving to his left to push the penalty away.

German sadly had to be replaced at the break after suffering an injury late in the first half but it didn’t affect the balance of the game too much as Hendon dominated the early stages of the second period and after a couple of good chances were missed, they put the game to bed when substitute Tyriq Hunte slotted home from close range after Hendon pressure following a weak clearance by the Casuals keeper.

Walton Casuals had their moments after that but overall the Hendon backline was relatively solid and on-loan keeper Danny Boness produced a number of good saves when called upon.

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Still early days for Hendon but i think everyone connect with the club would have taken 4 points from the first 6 available and whilst not always free-flowing i think the opening two performances have given supporters an early cause for optimism in what was always going to be an interesting season given all the upheaval of the summer.  Walton Casuals offered a threat  going forward and with a bit more composure and luck could and probably should have got on the score sheet, however they looked vulnerable at the back throughout the game which is no doubt something they will look to address.

Probably not until 10 or 12 games have been played will we have a better insight into the overall quality of the division but with Farnborough the next visitors to Silver Jubilee Park on Saturday, Hendon have given themselves a solid base to build momentum from.

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