Vale Farm, is a ground i have visited on numerous occasions over the years, since my first visit there about 10 years ago, to see Hendon during their nomadic years when their Claremont Road ground was lost to the housing developers that have blighted the non-league grounds of London for many years.
Tonight though the visit was to watch Wembley FC, who took on London Tigers in their opening home league fixture of the season. Again another humid night (t-shirt weather), how long will this last? Perfect evening weather for watching non-league football or any other kind of football for that matter!
Vale Farm is one of those grounds that has all you need, plenty of different vantage points from raised terracing, a very well appointed stand running most of one side of the ground and plenty of cover and added to that a decent tea-bar, club house and always a decent well produced programme (which i tend to generally miss out on as i usually arrive a couple of minutes before kick-off and the loyal Wembley readership tend to have snapped them all up!) Tonight though i managed to bag one which killed the 20 minutes prior to kick off.
The other thing about Wembley FC is the pitch. For this level of football it must be the best pitch in the country bar none and as this blog proves recently sun baked yellow pitches seem to have been the norm of late, as clubs struggle with the lack of rain. Vale Farm though tonight was perfect, lush, flat, faultless green turf perfect for playing a passing game on. Credit to the groundsman and the quality of the pitch must even help Wembley attract a player or two it is that good.
As for the game, in all honesty it was probably decided on a huge decision from the referee early on, an on rushing forward reached the ball for London Tigers towards the corner of the box and after clipping his shot goalwards was perhaps just caught by the onrushing Wembley keeper, the ball sailed wide but the goalkeeper was sent off, after the referee and linesman conferred. As this was in the 10th minute and Wembley had no substitute goalkeeper it was a huge moment… one aside to this though was the way the London Tigers players made every effort to influence the decision, chasing the referee, raising imaginary cards etc, the usual sadly, which is always not my cup of tea…
Following this early dismissal, Wembley reorganised, with an outfield player taking over in goal and a tactical substitution and then actually went up field and took the lead, following a lovely flowing move. The early stages of the second half though saw the game turn and the replacement keeper was unfortunately probably at fault for one of the goals that saw the Tigers take a 2-1 advantage.
Wembley continued to press though and were rewarded with a penalty 15 minutes from time, which was converted to bring things level again. However they let the lead slip again in London Tigers next attack and then in injury time, the visitors scored the goal of the night with a fabulous individual piece of control and curling shot, to run out 4-2 winners.
All in all, an entertaining fixture, in a league i often find is a little heavy on players moaning at the officials rather than trying to play football but tonight was enjoyable on a quality surface that allowed both teams to concentrate on the football. Two opening defeats from their opening two games have left Wembley with ground to make up on the early pace setters but again they will probably finish comfortably in mid table as they have shown they are prone to do in recent years. As for London Tigers, after numerous seasons of struggle i thought they showed more organisation and have a few more flair players than in recent years, so perhaps a more impressive season beckons this time around.
As with everything, only time will tell…