Monday night football at the Withdean Stadium, current home of AFC Varndeanians and Brighton Electricity, was drawn to me given the fact by Thursday non-league football is once again on the back burner.
Not often you get games thrown at you so early in the week but those restrictions coming in have certainly made me look at getting a few extra in the bank as much as I can.
As it was, Varndeanians were hosting Langney Wanderers, the Eastbourne based club one of three I write for, more work being put on hold for the sabbatical, and with Simon Colbran returning to manage the club after departing shortly before the season started a chance for a look at what he was aiming to build once again.
The V’s came into the game off the back of a weekend 2-2 draw at Wick, whilst Wanderers suffered a 2-0 reverse at Broadbridge Heath, attentions now turned to the Sussex Senior Cup.
When Brighton & Hove Albion frequented the Withdean I never saw my team Barnet win there, got soaked a few times, generally quite miserable. This was my first return to the ground in some ten years or so, derived of temporary seating now but of course the running track remains.
A reasonable sized crowd was in for this one, no doubt a last football fix for some keen to take in the fresh air and the play on offer. There was certainly no tentative start from either side, lots of endeavour and a keenness to get the football on the grass and pass it forward.
Varndeanians were the first to strike hitting the post just four minutes into the game, Ben Whiting beaten and relieved to see the ball bounce back out to his defenders and cleared to safety.
Wanderers though made sure the V’s didn’t have everything their own way, Pete Cooper and Tim Bennett making sure the hosts experienced back four were being tested across the park.
The first half was short on clear cut goalscoring opportunities for both sides, but not devoid of attacking intent and with some more guile and composure in front of goal either side could have gone in at the break in front but goalless was the scoreline.
Wanderers were the brighter of the two as the second half began, although Varndeanians made sure their opponents had to work hard either side of the ball. The home side came close to breaking the deadlock mid-way through the half but failed to test Whiting in the Wanderers goal whilst at the other end much probing resulted in a similar vain for the visitors.
Wanderers skipper Pete Featherstone thought he finally had the ball in the net only to see his shot hit the post on 78 minutes, the follow up shot blocked and Varndeanians scrambling the ball away.
There was one final chance for the visitors to win it, a mazy run in the closing stages from substitute Delight Akerjola ended with a fierce shot fizzing over the bar sending the game to penalties.
Spot kicks didn’t begin well for Langney with the first penalty saved, but Wanderers went on to win the shoot out after Varndeanians hit the post and then sent their final penalty high over the bar giving the visitors a place in the last 16 to be played whenever we resume once again.
On Tuesday morning, I caught up with returning Wanderers boss Simon Colbran to get his views on the game:
‘I thought the first half was pretty even, but we looked the better side in the second half and deserved the win. We worked very hard all game but just missed that clinical edge in front of goal, but overall a great performance against a good, experienced side.’
‘I was confident we wouldn’t concede so it was either getting that winning goal or having to do it on penalties.’
‘Despite the fact we now have to stop for a month it might work in our favour so I can assemble the squad I want ready to go again in four weeks’ time.’
‘I’m pleased to be back involved again, at the time I left family had to come first but football is so much in my blood, it’s great to have that feeling once again.’