Defeat for Arundel as Midhurst claim opening day points

After pre-season action it was finally time for league action and points on offer as 2021/22 kicked off for me and James Easton at Mill Road Arundel in the Southern Combination League Division One.

Midhurst and Easebourne were the visitors on a glorious sunny afternoon in West Sussex with both sides wanting to get their campaign off to a winning start. A summer of change for the Mullets in Jason Mines coming in to manage the team, assisted by Arundel veteran Richard Towers, both I know well from Wick FC days.

With Mines unavailable for the game, Towers was assisted by Aaron Millar, another known to me from those days at Crabtree Park and with a very young side in the red and white, it was interesting to see how they would fair against a visiting side who were in and around the thick of the promotion race last season before a halt was called.

Both sides were keen to knock the ball around on the slightly long playing surface which did make passing a little difficult if not needing to be very precise. Towers was forced into an early change on 26 mins, Ollie Hawkins replacing a limping James Ayling.

The Mullets thought they had taken the lead a minute later; the impressive Josh Mines shot was tipped onto the post by Josh Bird and then rolled along the goal-line without going over.

Midhurst did have the ball in the net on 35 minutes but the effort was ruled out for offside whilst five minutes later Mines had other shot tipped by Bird, this time onto the crossbar.

Then came the big talking point in the game and one that effectively decided the second half mentality. Hawkins was adjudged to have fouled his man just outside the penalty area and was promptly sent off, protests from the Arundel sideline that the decision was harsh, backed up by some independent spectators view that the foul wasn’t even really worthy of a yellow, the referee actually quite card happy throughout the game with yellow cards flying here there and everywhere.

The free kick came to nothing and the sides went in level at half time, both probably feeling they could have been a goal in front.

A man short saw Arundel look to contain the visitors and some dogged defending at times ensured they made it look as if Midhurst were going to be denied anything more than an opening day point, Chris Wyatt coming closest to breaking the deadlock hitting the post just after the hour mark.

As it was the pressure told just minutes later, substitute Liam Dreckman slotted home after a bit of pinball inside the area, latching onto the loose ball and giving Mullets keeper Jack Hickman no chance.

Marcus Bedford doubled the visitors lead two minutes later with a smart finish inside the area as the extra man was starting to pay dividends for the Stags and the tired legs of the young Arundel side were starting to flag.

Ten minutes from time the seal was put on the visitors second half performance, fellow substitute Kieran Carter tapped in at the far post for a third Midhurst goal after a superbly flighted cross from the left hand side to send the Stags home with the three points.

No doubt the game changed on that sending off decision, both sides were fairly well matched despite a clear pitting of youth against experience in favour of the visitors, but the extra man for the Stags was clearly the difference with Arundel unable to fashion many notable second half chances.

So there we go, number one in the bag for the season and Mr Easton’s first trip to Arundel ticked off the list, fingers crossed I can find a destination for Tuesday or Wednesday evening.

Rebels record another fine pre-season win

Pre-season was wrapped up for me on Tuesday evening as Worthing took on Welling Utd. Despite the fact both these clubs still have three more Saturdays until they kick off, Steps 5 and 6 at County League level begin this coming weekend, 31st July, and attention now turns to competitive action.

This is the fourth time I’ve seen Worthing in pre-season action, not by design, more by the opposition and the first return to Woodside Road for any fans since March last year included in that.

Welling Utd were one of the sides my late father used to take me to see fairly regularly as I was growing up along with the likes of Dartford, Maidstone Utd, Gravesend and Tonbridge, so quite a nostalgic return to the past following Tonbridge gracing Woodside Road at the weekend. Watching the likes of Gary Abbott, Terry Robbins, Lee Harrison, Steve Barnes and Steve Finnan to name a few, Google the scoring records of those first two.

In two National League outfits, a good test for Adam Hinshelwood’s men as they gear up for a new season, already in explosive form across this pre-season raining goals.

And again, the Rebels were quick off the mark as has been a feature of their play so far during these friendly matches. Just two minutes into the game, the home side were in the lead, the sole trialist being given minutes by Hinshelwood was once again on the scoresheet with a superb finish and the Wings not settled into play.

Worse was to come for the visitors just three minutes later, Worthing’s blistering start continued, Ollie Pearce getting in behind the Welling back line and a shot across the keeper found it’s way inside the far post for 2-0.

Five minutes gone, Welling chasing shadows and Worthing in complete control. The game settled down after the explosive opening moments although the Wings were being repelled by Worthing’s relentless attacking with Dean Cox and Jasper Pattenden giving both full backs a torrid time and the former’s delivery into the box was of the highest quality time after time,.

Efforts from the trialist and Pattenden could have extended the lead, that eventually came two minutes before half time, Shaq Gwengwe pole-axed in the penalty area, picked himself up and slotted home the penalty for a commanding half time lead.

Credit to Welling as they started the second half, there was more purpose about them and ball retention was a lot better than the opening 45 minutes which meant Worthing had to be a little more patient in their build up and the next goal didn’t arrive until just after the hour mark but not in the fashion Welling would have wanted, a back pass from a defender was placed wide of the keeper and calmly rolled into the net at the far post to sum up their evening.

The usual raft of substitutions again didn’t alter the quality of the play across the park with those coming on pressing hard to be involved in the starting eleven come the opening day.

Welling continued to press forward showing more attacking intent and were rewarded with a goal 15 minutes from time, a good strike from Dipo Akinyemi and the visitors almost had a second a minute later but for a goal line clearance from Joel Colbran.

Reece Meekums put the icing on the cake five minutes from time with a superb solo effort, twisting and turning the visitors defence inside out from the left wing before smashing the ball home to complete a comprehensive victory once again for the Rebels and leaving home supporters purring with the football on offer over the past three weeks.

It’s hard to pick out individuals over a classic team performance but it’s got to be done. Hinsh doesn’t often go for two up front and with Pearce and Gwengwe in great form so far both deserved the start. It was interesting to watch Pearce and the trialist often inter-changing making it harder for the opposition to pick either player up to mark.

Should the Rebels be able to sign the trialist whose made quite an impression on the pitch, he can easily be the difference between winning a few more points and a title or the play-offs in my opinion. The pockets of space he finds in games between the lines makes him very hard to mark and creating that can give the side an extra dimension.

But, if he doesn’t sign then there are plenty of players within that squad who are equally capable to provide the same flashes of brilliance. The delivery from Cox was constantly spot on the money, something you would expect from a player with his class and quality and with those balls into the box week in week out defenders are going to have their work cut out.

On the other wing you have Pattenden able to deliver or cut inside and unleash the mother of all curling shots whilst Danny Barker and Marvin Armstrong make you not miss Jesse Starkey and Ricky Aguiar and they are some midfield pairing!

One more to note, Tom Chalaye. Looked very sharp when he came on, could have had a goal or two, notably the timing of his runs were on the mark and having bulked up some over the last year or so like Pattenden he’s becoming harder to knock off the ball when in possession.

510 were there to witness the goal-fest, a lot of work for Steve Lovell and Welling Utd to do over the next three weeks before their season begins, there can’t have been too many that came out of last week with much credit in the tank going forward.

Rebels too strong for lacklustre Angels

This season I think I’ve watched more pre-season friendlies than the last few years put together. Maybe it’s the lure of missing the game being played on the pitch in front of me instead of the television for most of the last seven months and the quality I’ve seen so far hasn’t disappointed me.

Worthing vs Tonbridge was on my radar from the time it was announced a while ago, two managers in Adam Hinshelwood and Steve McKimm who have been very helpful to me when it comes to blogs and indeed Steve took me around the London lights back in December in his black cab, a birthday treat to myself.

Tonbridge is also around the area I originally come from as well so always a glance towards their results, I grew up watching some fantastic players go through their club, the likes of the late Ray Tumbridge, Mark Gilham, Neil and Paul Emblen, Roly Graham and many more that I’m sure readers will remind me of.

Rather than the wet weather predicted to fall all afternoon, the South Coast was bathed in beautiful sunshine before the sides took to the pitch and despite the Angels missing four or five likely starters, McKimm was still expecting a performance to match his opponents and once again named his own son 16 year old keeper Toby and Bobby Moore, 16 year old son to assistant manager Barry amongst the substitutes.

The opening exchanges were fairly even, the experience of Doug Loft and Ricky Modeste in the Angels midfield were matched by Danny Barker and the returning Marvin Armstrong in the middle of the park, almost trading sparring punches with neither side committing too much.

Worthing, renowned for their passing game from back to front, began to move the ball about a bit quicker and were rewarded with a penalty when a ball whipped into the box was handled by Harry Hudson, Ollie Pearce making no mistake from the spot putting the Rebels into the lead on 16 minutes.

Minutes later the Rebels were almost two goals in front, Reece Meekums put clean through lifting the ball over Angels keeper Jonny Henly only for Hudson to recover and clear the ball for a corner before it could end up in the net.

Worthing’s sole trialist should also have extended the lead on 37 minutes, heading over the bar when unmarked in the six yard box. As it was the home side didn’t have to wait long for their second goal.

Joel Colbran was allowed to stroll forward from the back line and unleashed a fierce drive from all of 25 yards past the hapless Henly to double the Rebels lead.

Tonbridge though were back in the game just before half time, Tommy Wood pouncing on a rare error from keeper Harrison Male to reduce the arrears and giving the visitors hope as they headed for the dressing rooms.

The good fortune lasted for all of three minutes in the second half as the home side’s trialist took advantage of the visitors hesitant defending and slotted home a third goal for Worthing.

Five minutes later, the scoreline was put beyond doubt with Pearce scoring his second and Worthing’s fourth from the spot once again after Pattenden was fouled inside the box whilst in full flight.

The next ten minutes allowed Hinshelwood to rest some of his starters and as per all the friendlies I’ve seen so far at all levels the quality of the game didn’t drop at all and although McKimm had just the four substitutes at his disposal they all made a decent contribution when they arrived on the pitch.

The Angels matched Worthing for chances in the final half hour, Ibrahim Olutade forcing Male into a point blank save and Sonny Miles heading over while Shaq Gwengwe’s overhead kick and Ty Mthunzi’s effort were both wide of the target and Worthing coming off comfortable winners.

For some reason it just didn’t happen for Tonbridge all afternoon, second best all over the park to a Worthing side who seem to have the knack of producing a performance whichever eleven players Hinshelwood selects.

What’s to be commended is the amount of young players on the pitch at the final whistle and having seen both McKimm and Moore being blooded during this pre-season for Tonbridge, neither looked out of place. McKimm dealt with all coming his way in the Angels goal whilst Moore looked tidy up against the experienced Darren Budd in midfield.

Worthing’s policy of youth getting it’s chance is well known, ‘providing the pathway’ is their motto and with two 14 year old’s getting their chance earlier this week, a chance they will get under Hinshelwood if you are good enough.

Speaking to both managers after game, neither was getting carried away with the result and both conceded there was plenty to take from the 90 minutes. Hinshelwood was happy with the performance one he felt wouldn’t have happened a few years ago:

‘I felt we looked fit and strong against a physically imposing Tonbridge team, maybe a game that we would have lost out on the battles individually across the pitch so that was pleasing to see.’

‘I’ve been quite pleased with the squad of players we have at the moment; I feel it allows us to play a variety of formations and also the emergence of some of our younger players who have come in and done well in recent weeks has been an added bonus for me.’

McKimm said before the kick-off he was expecting a good workout and despite missing a few players he did think it’s served as a little wake-up call:

‘I definitely learnt more from that game than from the good run we have been on so far this pre-season, there were a couple of positives to take from the game but also some negatives that we need to get to work on.’

‘It was excellent to see so many youngsters on the pitch to finish the game and if they’re good enough then they should be given a chance.’

Rebels brush aside hard working Golds

Two games in two nights for me this week, although this one had to be cut a little short as the eldest daughter required picking up from her final guides meeting of the current year!

Having already seen both Littlehampton Town and Worthing in action this was a further chance to see how much difference a week or two makes in the company of former Rebels chairman Pete Stone for the first half and Simon Hull manager of East Preston for part of the second half.

With players Mitch Hand and George Gaskin jointly managing Town after Mark Bennett’s resignation a week ago, Hand sat out the game to manage from the sideline up against Adam Hinshelwood whose side the night before had beaten Baffins Milton Rovers 3-2 and once again the squad rotation was in full effect.

With so many promising young players coming through the Worthing ranks, pre-season is an ideal time to integrate them into the squad and while most are currently involved in training with the first team nothing compares to game time especially against County League sides where the games are much tougher.

And with Worthing keeping together a majority of their squad from the past two interrupted seasons there aren’t much tougher tests locally. Littlehampton have also kept together most of their squad too and will be hoping to make an impression on their return to the Premier Division of the Southern Combination.

The Rebels were out the blocks quickly with Shaq Gwengwe leading the line, looking sharp and ready to cause problems. The first chance however fell to the hosts inside five minutes, Joe Benn blazing over the bar with Worthing slightly back on their heels.

The visitors then took over the possession stakes although the Golds were very rigid in their two banks of four making it hard for Worthing to get through, patience and movement was the key for the Rebels.

That paid off after 14 minutes when the impressive Kyle O’Brien’s ball into the box wasn’t cleared and fell to Gwengwe who cheekily back-heeled the ball past James Binfield for the opening goal.

The lead however lasted just six minutes, Dion Jarvis’ ball over the top gave Benn the chance to score and slotted the ball past Harrison Male to level the scores.

O’Brien, who was finding acres of space down the left hand side, was at the heart of everything creative for the Rebels causing no end of problems. Again though it was the home side who should have scored just after the half hour mark when Benn was clean through and although his effort beat Male it also beat the far post.

As it was, the Rebels took the lead again through Aarran Racine seven minutes before the break, heading home at the far post from a Darren Budd corner to give the visitors the half time advantage.

That lead was almost increased early in the second half as Ty Mthunzi smacked a header against the bar from another Budd corner. There wasn’t long for Rebels fans to wait as Alfie Hall netted the third after Gwengwe harassed a Golds defender and Hall was left with the easiest tap in.

That was pretty much the end of my watching with said pick up occurring, Worthing added two further goals, both from Hall, to complete a comprehensive 5-1 win for the visitors.

Whilst Worthing are very slick in the way they play, it’s been honed over seasons and the Golds working as they do to protect themselves with the two banks of four defending not many sides should take them apart this season.

Very impressed with O’Brien on the left hand side, considering he looked like playing as the left back in a four, he spent more time providing the crosses as a left winger and with Joel Colbran providing width on the opposite flank Littlehampton had lots to think about for the 90 minutes.

Just over a week of pre-season left before Steps 5 and 6 begin their league campaigns whilst Step 4 have a wait of a little longer but that will arrive in no time and every hope there is no interruption this time around……..

Hard fought pre-season win for East Preston

A balmy Tuesday evening this week took me to East Preston once again where they took on a Dorking Wanderers XI, expected to form their reserve side who this season will appear in the Southern Combination League Division One.

After a good start to pre-season for the home side, they were sluggish out the blocks for the first twenty minutes as the visitors got the ball down and played across the park stretching East Preston as much as they could.

Slightly against the run of play, the home side took the lead. Matt Storm gambled and won a 50-50 ball against the visiting keeper, coming off best to score and EP were in front.

With both sides getting into their stride, there was plenty of attacking intent but with very little in the way of clear cut chances during the remainder of the first half and the home side went into the break one goal to the good.

The second half was of a similar pattern although there was no slow start from EP this half and with a half time change of the once again impressive Storm replaced by Lew Broughton, there was no let up with attacking intent although while moving the ball around the pitch well Dorking were this time well marshalled by the EP back three of Charlie Robinson, Dan Howick and Ben Hack.

It was Howick who provided the hosts with their second goal, a superbly flighted free kick from Broughton found the head of the tall centre half and the ball nestled in the back of the net.

Substitute Dan Geal stung the palms of the visiting keeper in the final few minutes of the game, unleashing a rasping drive from fully 20 yards that was destined for the third goal of the game.

EP finished the stronger of the two sides and besides Geal’s effort could have added another goal or two, some stand out performances for EP in the shape of the previously mentioned back three whilst keeper Sam Marsden looked assured when danger did come his way.

A fine 45 from Storm and the same from his replacement Broughton who once fit will be a big asset to manager Simon Hull while Geal’s cameo in the centre of midfield showed class and composure in what is still a very young team but one that could excite and has the potential to upset the apple cart a few times this season.

Running the rule over Kewell’s signings

As many regular readers will know Barnet FC had a torrid season last time out, torrid for its supporters and some thoughts along my lines of a gamble from the chairman which came off by the skin of his teeth, however you look at it it’s done and in the history books.

Exactly a year ago today as I write this I was heading to The Hive to watch the Bees in the play-offs albeit on TV’s surround by fellow Barnet fans, but my first viewing since mid-March of the black and amber.

An end of season clear out has made for a summer of signings under new head coach Harry Kewell and head of football Dean Brennan and with a lot more quality than we saw arrive under Peter Beadle. Last year we were found lacking, but it appears this time around there is to be no mistake from Tony Kleanthous with the club in need of a big re-build on and off the pitch.

Underneath and around the top two appointments it was vital to see some continuity in Gary Anderson, Dave Anderson and physio Ollie Galloway all re-signing for the new season.

With around only 6-7 contracted players still in the building there has been massive scope for making this a Kewell and Brennan squad for the future and so far we’ve seen some good names coming through the door and one or two with points to prove or potential to be untapped.

Before the signings began, it was good to see Wes Fonguck accepting a new offer and staying with the club after an ACL injury curtailed his season early last year. A player with potential to make his mark in the game, this could turn out to be the biggest year of his career.

The day after Josh Payne was the first one through the door, experience in both the EFL and National League and a loss for Eastleigh when he moved to Woking a couple of years ago. One same day, two more joined Payne at The Hive, a striker in Mason Bloomfield and one that Bees fans were desperately wanting left back Sam Beard.

Bloomfield doesn’t have the most prolific of career stats in front of goal, but at 24 can provide the height of a target man at 6’3 and be a real threat from set pieces, he will need to have his best return ever of goals to ensure the Bees finish high up the table.

Beard was one of the two ‘need to be made’ signings. Having impressed all around the club with his loan spell at the end of last season, Beard brings a good positional sense at full back and isn’t shy of a tackle, already a fans favourite and one that should continue to prosper.

A day later, four more arrived through the doors in the shape of Jake Askew, Kian Flanagan, Jordan Thomas, and Josh Doherty. Askew arrives from Wealdstone and will compete with Aymen Azaze for the number 1 jersey although there currently is no date for Azaze to return following the nasty injury he was on the receiving end of last season so expect another keeper to likely come in, possibly on a short term basis.

Flanagan arrives from Crystal Palace, highly rated by former Bees manager and player Gary Phillips, just 21 and again with potential to make a decent start to his career.

Thomas also comes from the Premier League, Norwich City his previous club and another youngster looking to make an impression in the professional game in the right back position.

Doherty played under Kewell at Crawley and can play up and down the left hand side, giving cover to Beard whilst also allowing the Irishman to ping the ball into the box and brings a wealth of EFL experience to the club.

Hot on the heels of those boys just a couple of days later were a couple of cracking signings.

First up was striker Adam Marriott, a goalscoring record second to none at Kings Lynn and finished up the season at play-off chasing Eastleigh. Certainly, a compliment to Broomfield as a striking pair as it currently stands, a signing there that means business in my opinion if he can replicate his form in Norfolk.

The Bees added to that with the capture of title winning defender Jamie Turley from Leyton Orient where his medal comes from. At 6’1 a towering central defender who can also provide cover at right back, like Doherty his cover in extra positions will come in handy over the course of a long season and the experience he brings in alongside the youth coming in has given the squad a nice blend.

Not to be finished there, Mitch Brundle pitched up to become the 10th signing of the summer. Brundle like the two prior arrivals has bundles of experience at this level and a potential crucial partnership with Payne, Harry Taylor or Fonguck when fit could be the key to a successful season.

With arrivals there are almost always departures and it was no surprise to see centre halves Liam Daly and Matt Preston leave the club, the former having fallen down the pecking list last season whilst the latter understandably wants to play week in week out after missing so much of last season through injury and not guaranteed a starting position this time around, a mutual agreement was reached.

I don’t believe this is the end of the incomings either, potentially as many as six more to come through the door and with a big number of trialists currently featuring in behind closed doors matches one or two at least will surely do enough to earn a squad number for next season.

Already this is a good blend of experience and youth, but with all clubs around us making some useful signings it’s going to take a very, very top drawer effort to make it out of the National League……….

Rebels run riot on return to Woodside

Tuesday evening saw the return of Worthing FC to Woodside Road. You might ask well surely that’s the same for most clubs who either haven’t played since late last year or those at lower levels who managed a few games behind closed doors in April and May.

The Rebels didn’t manage to play a home game last year after extensive work to replace the playing surface after countless many months of waiting and the ‘home’ matches they did get to play were up the A24 at Horsham’s Camping World Stadium.

457 fans were there to welcome the team back on home turf and along with the much better playing surface the installation of long overdue new floodlights were also given their debut on a sun kissed evening on the South Coast.

Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood kept his players fit and together once the lockdown period subsided and almost all of last season’s squad have re-signed for new campaign. Joining them are goalkeeper Harrison Male, defenders Will Seager and Pat Webber and the statement signing of former Orient midfielder Dean Cox, some uncertainty around the season long loan for Kane Wills from Dorking Wanderers it appears.

Worthing’s last competitive game before a halt was called to the season was a Sussex Senior Cup exit at the hands of Three Bridges in early November, a game the Rebels should have won but credit to Bridges who turned the game around and deservedly progressed to the next round.

But there was to be no repeat this time around as the Rebels literally blew their opponents away with a scintillating first half performance. It took just three minutes for the home side to open their account, Jasper Pattenden’s corner headed home at the back post by Aaron Racine.

Eight minutes later Worthing went further in front, a very lean and sharp looking Ollie Pearce crossed for Pattenden to tap in for 2-0. There wasn’t very long to wait for the third Rebels goal, a miscued clearance from the visiting keeper went straight to Pearce who strode into the area and netted with some aplomb.

Less than twenty minutes were on the clock when Jesse Starkey added the fourth passing the ball into the net after neat footwork from Cox and Pearce fashioned the opportunity.

It didn’t stop there as Pearce calmly fired the ball under the keeper for his second and Worthing’s fifth with a little more than 23 minutes on the clock, Bridges not able to keep hold of the ball when they did get it and Worthing just clinical with every opportunity.

Pearce thought he had his hat-trick on the half hour mark, but his free kick around the wall was inches wide of the post and the Rebels went into the half time break with a very comfortable lead.

That lead was almost increased one minute after the re-start, substitute Shaq Gwengwe capitalising on a weak back pass, beating the keeper but the ball striking the bottom of the post and away to safety.

The best goal of the night came on the hour, when Pattenden cut in from the left hand side and unleashed a curling shot into the top right hand corner for his final touch of the night. A host of changes from the home side didn’t hamper the game with Bridges still struggling to get hold of the ball and escape from their own half.

The visitors did find the back of the net thirteen minutes from time for a consolation goal, the home side then content to play out the final throws of the game without troubling the scoreline.

I’ve found in all three pre-season games I’ve watched so far with six different sides the quality is not dipping after the substitutions are made, I’m not sure if that’s because players are so eager to play and express themselves after two years of stop start football or something else but I’m not complaining at all!

The Rebels definitely look like they have enough to be in the title race once again for promotion, some big signings made and that continuity they’ve kept within the squad looks as if it will bode well for Hinshelwood and the club.

Honours even at The Lashmar

When it comes to pre-season games they come along like buses, as the saying goes. And little had the ink dried on Thursday’s blog than Saturday was here and game number two.

Once again it was a local choice and a game of landlords vs tenants, East Preston hosting Littlehampton Utd. The latter have this season moved out of the Sportsfield they shared with Littlehampton Town to pitch up at the Lashmar whilst also extending their club sides with the addition of an Under 23 outfit.

Just to add to the mix, Utd are managed by Chris Horner who had a spell in charge of East Preston after the resignation of Terry Dodd last season and are certainly a club who are looking to impress this coming season whilst EP will hope the appointment of Simon Hull over the close season will provide some stability after going through a raft of manager’s last season.

Rather than club’s struggling with players away on holiday lots are suffering from having to isolate needlessly but we won’t be going there with that! But as with the game I watched on Thursday night there was no shortage of commitment from both sides.

With EP residing two divisions above their tenants the difference in moving the ball around and the extra quickness to the ball was evident across the first half, played on a surface which has certainly seen some TLC over the short close season.

Not surprisingly the home side took the lead just before the half hour mark through an own goal having threatened a few times testing the visitors Maciek Kason a couple of times which gave EP the half time lead.

Utd certainly came out with a bit more freedom in the second half and duly equalised through Craig Rennie, latching onto a ball over the top of the centre halves taking it in his stride and rounding the keeper to score with around 20 minutes to play.

The raft of substitutions then followed but didn’t disrupt the flow of the game, in fact it kept momentum going and the home side had the chances to win it including a penalty which saw Kason save from Harry Margeson whilst EP also hit the bar and Kason called into action to tip over a free kick.

With no further goals added, a draw was a fair result with both sides happy I think with what they got from the game.

Some good performances in the EP ranks, notably Matt Storm on the left wing causing problems with his pace and balls into the box while Dan Geal looked composed in midfield, Charlie Robinson and Ben Hack could prove to be a strong defensive partnership over time.

Kason certainly had his work cut out for Utd over the 90 minutes but with I believe a few more players due back the starting line up for their opening game might look a little different.

And no disrespect to either side here, but the best part of the afternoon was seeing people I’ve not seen for over a year and some not since the best part of last year, that meant a lot more than what was taking place on the pitch, lots more of that to come over the next few weeks and months, it’s been too long coming………

2021/22 kicks off at the Sportsfield

Around 24 hours after England reunited the nation after a tough 15 months for everyone, I was back watching live football with a trip up the road to see Littlehampton Town take on two divisions higher Bognor Regis Town in the opening pre-season friendly for both sides.

It also marked the opening of the home side’s new floodlights, contributed by sponsorship donations from its supporters and the general public with the work carried out by Dave Wade who I know well from the repairs completed at Wick FC when I was there.

A reasonable size crowd estimated at around 200 saw the home side start in a fast manner against a Bognor side who utilised their whole squad over the course of the 90 minutes. Town certainly had the more attacking intent in the early stages as Bognor slowly felt their way into the game but chances were at a premium which maybe wasn’t surprising given it was the first action for both sides.

The home side took the lead just before the half hour mark through George Gaskin from a well delivered Mitch Hand corner on the right, Gaskin being deployed more in the number 10 role rather than the left wing he enjoyed much success on last season before it’s interruption. The striker was close to extending the home side’s lead not long after but the ball struck the outside of the post and away to safety.

As it was Littlehampton went into the break two goals in front as Gaskin pounced on a defensive mix up between keeper and defender and slotted home at the far post.

Regis made a raft of substitutions at half time and certainly began the second half much the stronger team which Littlehampton found hard to contain and it was no surprise when Jordy Mongoy fired past James Binfield in the Littlehampton goal five minutes after the re-start.

It did look as if that would open the floodgates but the home side weathered the storm and worked their way back into the game but were unable to carve out any opportunities with Bognor much tighter at the back than during the first half.

The visitors were back on level terms 22 minutes from time when substitute Alfie Lis pounced on a poor back pass to Binfield, rounded the keeper and restored parity once again.

Neither side fashioned out many good scoring opportunities in the closing stages and both sides were left to reflect on a good workout for those involved, the new floodlights shining down some fantastic light across the pitch despite the natural July evening trying to prevail.

Despite not being the biggest fan of pre-season games I can’t wait to get around over the next three weeks or so and see friends, people I know at clubs and the enjoyment being at a football match brings. If it comes home on Sunday evening, then I think it completes and heals a lot of the past few months, over to you Gareth Southgate, we still believe………..

Time to make a mark

As pre-season starts to move into full swing with the National League clubs now back in training, my attention turns in a lot of directions. With details of friendlies now on the horizon, plans start to get made.

As many know I can’t stand pre-season friendlies! Well I can for about 60 minutes then the raft of substitutions slows the game down and my interest quickly goes.

Now of course I know the reason for the games is to get minutes in the legs of all the players and some sharpness whilst working out which formation fits and which one doesn’t.

And that’s ok, some of these teams haven’t been in action since December at best last year although some had a dabble in April and May this year. I know that this is not the reason for every pre-season but the former paragraph is.

On the other side of the fence there are supporters who haven’t seen their team in action since last year, I was lucky that Barnet enjoyed their two final league games with fans allowed into The Hive and I made both games and for that reason I’ll be finding my way to some games over the next few weeks to catch up with friends at other clubs that I’ve not seen for months!

Which also means that I can start to return this blog back to the story of non-league football, Barnet FC of course will feature as they are my club, but the beauty of such a large game at grassroots level means there is always scope for a story or a game to cover.

What the new season also means for me is the time to get the writing outside of this blog back on the go and getting paid for something I love to do. Last season I was approached by Step 5 Langney Wanderers to compile their round up of Southern Combination League Premier Division results in article fashion for each home game.

They were followed by East Preston from the same division here in Sussex who wanted an article for each home match programme and finally by Step 4 Met Police who joined just before the lockdown in November and had the pleasure of a couple of articles written for them.

Now these aren’t just any old article nor are they regurgitated with the same topic for everyone. Each one is written off the cuff in time for printing and both clubs gave me license to write on whatever I felt although it can be tailored to whatever each individual club wants.

Unfortunately, Wanderers didn’t make it out the other side of the pandemic and have sadly folded. But, both East Preston and Met Police will be featuring my work again this season and I am on the look-out for more clubs to join these two and benefit from not only having someone do something extra to contribute for the club programme, but something different.

It might work for some, it might not for others, it might mean a few more programmes need to be sold to cover the small outlay. As each club has their own article, they’re free to use it on any social media channels they have if they wish to, you won’t find the same article out there twice!

Both Langney Wanderers and Warminster Town found by using an article on their club website increased their traffic fourfold, put it out there and they will come.

Anything a club uses of mine I will plaster all over my socials along with giving them some coverage within this blog, I mean 3,500 visitors per month on average is not too bad if you want people to see who you are and what you are doing.

If any club wants to see what was produced last year to see what they get for their money, then feel free to get in touch (details will be posted below) and I’ll happily provide them.

Last year should have been the year to start hitting this market, but some things had other ideas, I’m not planning on letting anything get in the way this time around, by the way it’s still coming home isn’t it………….

You can contact me on Twitter, @trevk37 or email me tkenterprises2019@outlook.com