Rebels stung by Wasps

Tuesday night was FA Cup action once again, so far I’ve managed to watch a game in all three rounds which again is another first for me this season, creating quite a few of those so far in the early days of the 2020/21!

It was also the first chance to take a look at Adam Hinshelwood’s Worthing as they travelled to division lower East Grinstead in the first qualifying round, the Rebels not changing too much from last season’s squad as they attempt to win promotion into the National League South.

This was also a first visit to the home of The Wasps for me and it’s a nice tidy little ground, well set out for social distancing inside the bar and around the ground as you would expect for a Step 4 club, temperature taken on the way in and off you go!

The Worthing starting eleven had a familiar look to it for me with the likes of Jesse Starkey, Joel Colbran, Jasper Pattenden and Reece Meekums to name a few added to by newcomers Mo Diallo, Leon Moore and Sam Keefe whilst the unavailable Rocco Rees saw the return of Jack Fagan between the sticks.

It was the hosts who started the brighter despite Worthing keeping most of the possession and moving the ball quickly across the surface into feet, as it was though a peach of a free kick from Starkey from 25 yards out gave the Rebels the lead.

Standing in line behind the free kick, it was easy to note the wall was not far enough over given the potency of Starkey’s left foot and the ball was bent around said wall and into the top left hand corner.

Both sides then traded chances as Worthing tried to settle the game down while their hard working opponents battled hard going up the slope. The visitors went into the interval two goals to the good, a strong run and shot from Marvin Armstrong was spilled by the home keeper and Diallo was on hand to tuck in the rebound and appear to put Worthing well in control a minute before the break.

The hosts came out with good purpose in the second half and Worthing initially struggled to get a measure of the game resulting in Grinstead pulling one back early on through Theophanous after a fine save from Fagan but couldn’t drop on the ball.

The game then swung from end to end with good chances for both sides, the home side thought they had equalised just past the hour mark, but Uwezu was ruled offside to keep Worthing in front.

A double change for the visitors saw Diallo and Pattenden depart for Dajon Golding and Shaq Gwengue just before Wilson rattled Fagan’s bar with the ball coming back out to safety.

Worthing thought they had made the game safe in the 73rd minute, a breakaway from Gwengue saw the striker slip down the right hand side and crossed low for Golding to drag the ball back and past the keeper for 3-1.

At that point the visitors looked home and dry but what I believe was the wrong substitution made with Ollie Pearce coming on for Gwengue, following a disagreement between the striker and Hinshelwood, instead of a midfielder to shore things up a bit allowed the hosts to get themselves back into the game and that they did in fantastic style.

Theophanous added his and the home side’s second goal ten minutes from time and while the Rebels were reeling from that blow, Thompson broke away past the Worthing backline and levelled the scores with six minutes to play.

With no more goal scoring action it went to penalties and the first four dispatched from both sides all went to the keeper’s left and into the net. At 2-2, Armstrong went down the middle to find his shot saved whilst The Wasps went 4-3 in front and it was left to Ricky Aguiar to send the 5th Worthing penalty over the bar and the hosts into the second qualifying round.

East Grinstead certainly deserved the win following their second half performance but Worthing would have felt at 2-0 and 3-1 up they were in control of the game, but that’s cup football for you, a great game for the neutral but hard if you were wearing the red of the Rebels.

Clubs simply will not survive

The latest change in the restrictions could sound the end for many non-league clubs over the course of the next few weeks and definitely months. Less than 24 hours after it was announced clubs were already beginning to make noises to suggest this latest change could mean closure for some.

Clubs at Steps 3-6 have been fortunate to have fans attending their matches since the beginning of September and currently appear to exempt from the news rules coming into force this week although most are aware that can change at a moment’s notice.

The National League who are due to start their season a week on Saturday have once again been told no fans will be attending their matches due the ‘elite’ status placed upon them. It is no different right to the very top and whilst financial blows can be absorbed at the top end of the game, there is little to share around the further down the pyramid you go.

Whilst there maybe a handful of clubs at non-league’s top level who could survive for a short while, the consensus is the majority cannot. Fans being inside grounds are the lifeblood for all non-league clubs, that ship has sailed from the top table and while grounds are soulless in the Premier League gate receipts are mere pocket change but the atmosphere is the game changer.

It’s not just getting the fans inside grounds it’s also the food outlets and bars that provide much needed revenue for all clubs and without being able to open those places for hire income streams are still very much marginalised and they need people in them just as much as ticket sales.

The loss of any club will have far reaching implications on a wider scale than just a football club disappearing. Jobs will be lost at each club, businesses who supply them and those around some of the grounds will see a drop in income as we are seeing in cities across the country with people not returning to work.

The mental health aspect of shutting everything down once again will tip a lot of people over the edge and once things re-open again, will there be much to re-open afterwards? I don’t want this to get too political as it’s about football but there are more far-reaching consequences this time around.

I’ve been to around 10 games since the beginning of the month from Steps 4-6 and each one has been different in its approach inside the ground. I was expecting it to be in all honesty, whilst all clubs can undertake a Covid review of an empty ground, policing it all is a different matter. Volunteers run these clubs, not business owners and those of you and I who attend games know there isn’t a huge abundance of volunteers coming forward for any club.

Some grounds have been set out well, others don’t have the ability for separate entrances and exits, and they’re not exactly going to be able to build one in a matter of weeks if there is actually room to do so. Clubs are doing this to the best of their ability and are very much reliant on common sense being applied by most if not all. We all know 100% compliance is going to be a struggle with a minority, but with transmission being lower outside is the risk higher or not?

The first club to fall is likely to cause a domino effect and the question then becomes where will it stop? Dover Athletic were on the brink before making some huge cuts to try to remain sustainable, its being reported they are two weeks from closure if fans are not watching games at the season start on 3rd October inside their Crabble ground. Other clubs in the National League South are also making noises about the same kind of thing, it’s not going to be isolated incidents.

Some clubs I believe are asking if they can ‘mothball’ their season, but what happens if half of them want to and the others want to play on to recoup wages they’ve already agreed to pay for a year? It is going to be very dangerous territory for all to step onto over the next few days and weeks and I for one am glad it’s not me that needs to be making decisions.

600 fans allowed in NL stadiums as per the current guidelines for Steps 3-6 is more manageable with stewards and more room for social distancing to be comfortably observed than for clubs at the lower level and more importantly while it’s not a huge amount of people it gives clubs a little bit of a base to build upon, without it your club, my club, your mates club might not be here to see 2021……………

Town come good despite windy battles

This weekend saw me head ‘home’ to Kent and to Greatness Park, home of Sevenoaks Town. I lived in Kent for nearly 31 years until I moved down to Sussex, Sevenoaks might be the hometown but Otford Utd were my club having lived in the nearby village for 18 years. However, going home to places from my childhood I really love but this was to be the first time I had watched Town in an enclosed ground scenario.

I saw many great games and battles between the two clubs and sadly while Otford went out the Premier Division via relegation, Oaks went the other way and won the title and with it promotion to the Kent League. Stabilisation in that competition eventually led them to another league title and into the the Ryman/Bostik/Pitching In Isthmian South East Division where they sit now. They were 10th in the table before Covid-19 struck in March and on Saturday it was a first return to competitive league action since then.

Of course this ‘new normal’ is quite different for each of level of grounds you go into. Pre-paid for ticket is now expected, easily done, face recognition for a temperature check is a new one in the first three weeks, luckily I passed and of course sanitising points as you enter the turnstiles and a one way system to enter and exit the ground, very well thought out. Also a word or two to say about the stewards/volunteers here, first class from the car park to inside the ground, happy to answer any query we had, even got a printed team-sheet without needing a picture of the written board!

What I wasn’t expecting when I got here was to see two very familiar faces to me, firstly Jason Bourne, the ex Tunbridge Wells player and manager, who knows my family very well and secondly Julian Leigh, a man I’ve known for the best part of 30 odd years through him playing for Otford and Sevenoaks as well, again well known to my family and nice to have a short catch up before the game began.

A game that wasn’t ever going to be for the purist with wind dominating the full 90 minutes, Bridges with three ex Worthing players in their ranks, Mason Doughty, Hayden Skerry and Brannon O’Neill were the brighter starters playing with the wind with the latter controlling the game from midfield in front of a good sized crowd of 137.

Oaks also included an ex Rebel in Joe Tennent who had a fine game at centre back alongside Thomas Ripley, but they struggled to created anything in the final third of the pitch and it was no surprise to see the visitors take the lead on 12 minutes through Alex Barbary.

The home side didn’t find any joy down the wings either and despite O’Neill probing and prompting Bridges couldn’t add to the scoreline and one of the few attacks on the visitors goal saw Oaks draw level on the stroke of half time. A corner headed back across goal landed on the head of striker Kyle Da Silva who nodded home from just a few yards out to send the sides in level at the break.

The goal certainly came at the right time for the home side who hadn’t offered much in the first 45 minutes but came out with a better game plan in the second half. Had Bridges continued to play in the same vain against the wind, there might have been a better outcome for them but it was Sevenoaks who played the better football with more joy down the flanks whilst Bridges struggled to get any joy from Tennent and Ripley.

Oaks took the lead on 71 minutes after Jason Thompson broke the offside trap, rounded the keeper and netted. Just four minutes later, Thompson added his second after great work from Tyrell Richardson-Brown down the right hand side who squared to the striker to slot home. Those two quickfire goals put the game out of Bridges’ reach and with James Bessey-Saldanha adding a fourth in stoppage time a comprehensive victory goes down in the record books before a trip to Corinthian in Tuesday’s FA Cup tie.

Manager Mickey Collins will certainly be pleased with the way his side responded in the second half but knows a stern test will await his team on Tuesday evening. For Bridges, a long way to go with this being only the first league game, the front two of Barbary and Tom Tolfrey will give a few sides problems this season and had they taken one or two of the chances that did come their way in the first half the game could have ended with a different complexion.

Tuesday night is FA Cup night again and my first look at Adam Hinshelwood’s Worthing who started the season with a good 2-1 victory at Folkestone Invicta, East Grinstead are their opponents and a new ground I’ve yet to visit, I’m certainly making the most of this season!

Are you PNLP?

Last week saw the beginning of a new venture for me, the Premier Non-League Podcast. Before the pandemic started I was looking at something like this to be my next venture, after all if you stand still things pass you by and the opportunity is gone. Of course, that plan like life itself was put on hold!

However, as one door closes another one opens and a few weeks back when the #LetFansIn campaign was at its height I was invited onto a special Rebel Yell podcast run by Worthing FC fans James Easton and Peter Vale and also joined by the voice of Bognor Regis FC’s Rocks Radio host Lee Roberts.

Subsequently, James mentioned to Lee and me about a new podcast he was putting together and asked if we were interested. Needless to say, we both accepted and along with Horsham fans Jonny Kenworthy and Iain Budgen the PNLP was born.

On first glance you might be thinking ‘well this is going to be an Isthmian League podcast’ given the teams these guys support (my allegiance is also to Worthing at this level) but not at all.

Our aim is to cover Steps 1-6 and even Step 7 if the material is there, premier to me means the best, we want to give the game the best coverage we can. We’re very keen to get clubs and fans involved, it’s your podcast what do you want to listen to?

However, we do have a structure so it’s not hours of endless rambling from the six of us, we plan on an interview from a top non-league player whose made it in the professional game depending on how forthcoming they will be, failing that between us we have enough contacts to get you a view from a different level of the game and we welcome any club chairman or manager that would like to get themselves on air.

The show will be pre-recorded and out for your ears before the end of the week on a fortnightly basis to begin with and if we can raise the listener profile quickly there is a good chance it will become a weekly feature.

We are looking for a sponsor to come forward to cover the costs of our hosting platform, these aren’t a huge amount but we’d like to get some coverage out there for someone’s business, you will appear all over our branding across social media and linked into the voiceover’s for use on the show. Please get in touch via our channels below if this is of interest.

We are looking for some help from those of you with links to the Midlands clubs, just a bit of content is all we’re asking for but a chance for someone to get themselves some exposure, again please get in touch via the channels below.

We have our own Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ThePNLP, our Twitter handle is @ThePNLP and you can email us thepnlp@hotmail.com, we want to hear from you so please get in touch. All that’s left to say is give us a listen and see what you think, comment good or bad and get us trending! #AreYouPNLP……….

Pie and a pint for your money

Sunday’s Non-League paper has pulled up a great debate via the Tony Incenzo column and one that has a lot of mileage. If you haven’t heard of Tony he has an incredible record of non-league games attended at many levels all whilst working for talkSPORT covering his beloved QPR.

His column at the weekend centred on ways to get some new fans into non-league football and keeping them there. Of course, there will always be those who have a side they go and watch or follow when their Premier League or Football League are away, I don’t think some of those are for converting.

But, there are over the next few months and possibly years many who will start to find themselves priced out of the top end of the game as personal finances get squeezed even tighter. I found that years ago although I’ve been watching non-league football since before the age of ten, that affording a day out at the top level was rising more than my wages and so sometimes you have to make a choice.

Non-league won, I was still watching football and I wasn’t burning a hole in my finances every week. This pandemic will hit the average person hard for a while and as Tony remarked it’s a good time to get people into our clubs and spending what to them would be less money, but to some clubs a small fortune per person.

At non-league level, you get remembered, respected more and in a lot of ways thought of. Most inside the grounds and clubs are volunteers, doing it for the love of the game and the club inside their community and that community is so much more important now to ensure we don’t lose any more clubs whilst we come out the other end of this tough time.

The debate comes in the form of how to market clubs to see how attractive they are to watch a game of football. A pricing structure was proposed for Step 5 and 6 of £10 based upon entry of £5 or £6 to include a drink and a pie. Now I’ve been to Step 5 games twice this side of lockdown where the admission was £8 and £7, Step 6 £6 entry for the games at that level.

So, you add in a pint £3 and a pie (best guess here) £2, possibly more and clubs at Step 6 would be losing £1 on each person who comes in for that so that would need tweaking. Step 5 would be losing £4 or £5 per person so in principle the idea is good but the logistics of the finances needs some work.

Could the admission price be reduced as part of the deal? Well, that is an option, but does the person who only wants to watch, pays his admission and then decides at half time he does want some food or a drink will they feel they are getting as good a deal?

National League at £25 is a great price for this deal, take for example last season a seat at Barnet was £24 in the Legends Stand so to get a drink and food for £25 makes a bargain for the supporter, but a loss for the club unless they source their materials at much lower prices and I feel that across the pyramid all clubs charge differently and throw in their own incentives that maybe work better for them.

What if you prefer a burger or a hotdog instead of a pie? Will that make things a bit messy trying to do changes pricewise? Is a drink classified as a soft drink or alcoholic?

I might be picking holes a bit in this, but clubs need to make a profit on it not a loss and at all levels there are huge differences. I do however think it’s an idea on the right lines but needs more work doing to make it attractive to both the supporter and the club. It might to hard to work it across all steps at the same price with different admission pricing quite evident at grounds but it’s a project to get behind and I think that once fans are allowed in at all levels of non-league football it’s something that can be put together and out to the public in double quick time, another campaign brewing?

Haven sunk by later winner

The final game for me of a busy seven days took me to Newhaven on the way home from Langney Wanderers, the first time ever being able to catch two games in one day.

I’d only ever been to the Trafalgar Road ground once before, a painful 10-0 Sussex RUR Cup defeat with just 11 fit players in my time as Wick FC Secretary, not one of the finest moments. The visitors on Saturday afternoon were Southern Counties East League side Corinthian, seven days earlier on the end of last season’s FA Vase semi-final defeat to Hebburn Town.

Both sides were in the top five of their respective divisions when things halted and neither had the chance to get promotion to the Isthmian League and you would expect these two clubs to be in the mix again this season.

On a bright sunny afternoon after witnessing a 1-1 draw and penalties to decide Langney’s fate against Harrow Borough, I expected a tough, close, battling game and possibly a similar result between these two sides. And it almost turned out to be that way.

Haven, missing regular keeper Jake Buss, started the quicker of the two sides although didn’t manage to create a clear-cut chance to worry the visiting keeper. Corinthian however then started to get a foothold in the game but it took until right on half time to get the opening goal, Jack Billings a name synonymous with the Kent outfit heading home from a few yards out to alter the team talk I suspect for both managers.

Whilst there were a few crunching committed tackles in the first half, it cranked up a notch in the second half and threatened a couple of times to boil over, referee Ffion Eade did her best to try and keep the cards in her pocket.

As per the first half Haven had some very decent spells of possession and you felt they had to make one count sooner rather than later and they did when Henry Watson rose highest to head home a corner with around 20 minutes left to play.

The feistiness continued throughout the remainder of the game with the Corinthian bench spoken to although no further action taken. The Kent side took the game to the hosts once again after the equaliser and looked the more likely to score and indeed they did, substitute Frankie Morgan arriving at the far post unmarked to steer the ball past Dane Tasker with just four minutes plus stoppage time left on the watch.

That goal did break the Haven resistance and with so little time left they failed to trouble Corinthian keeper Aiden Prall and the Kent side left with a place in Monday’s First Qualifying Round draw and some more prize money in the bank.

Two quite different games watched, and both clubs had done everything to keep guidelines in place, Langney of course following whats been put in place for the National League South. Social distancing was evident everywhere you looked at Newhaven, totally safe, markings everywhere and as per all the games I’ve been to track and trace and hand sanitising being followed and not even the full 300 people inside the ground.

A bit of a calm down coming in the next seven days, just the two games for me, East Preston vs Alfold on Tuesday evening and a few destinations up for grabs next Saturday afternoon at the moment. Games are safe, there’s more than enough room for 300 in any of these grounds, next time I must remember bring five other people……….

The FA Cup is in town

This weekend for the first time ever I went to a double header of senior games, amazing what changes in your personal circumstances can do! The early kick off was never in doubt, the Emirates FA Cup tie between Langney Wanderers and Harrow Borough.

The timing of that at 11.30 gave me scope for a second game of the afternoon and my choice was a second FA Cup tie between Newhaven and Corinthian, but more about that one in the next blog.

My last trip to Priory Lane where Wanderers share with National League South Eastbourne Borough was many years ago before the days I could drive, well that’s what I remember! Langney have managed to become a fairly stable Southern Combination Premier Division side and have plans to move back to Langney with their own ground once again, for now they enjoy a ground with enough grading should they win promotion.

They are also the first club to feature my work. Last season Steve Roberts invited me to interview a few of their players and the then first team manager Simon Colbran, all of which featured on their website increasing viewing traffic and this season that work has moved into their online matchday programme.

Before the game I caught up with Wanderers boss Alex Walsh who I spoke to during lockdown not long after he was appointed as the new manager to find out how things had gone in the first few games. I also managed to catch up with Boro’ chairman David Blackmore during the game, nice to put faces to names of people I’ve spoken to in the past few months and to hear about some the things clubs are now being asked to do in the wake of the Covid-19 issues.

The game itself was a real test for both teams, the visitors playing their first competitive game of the season while for Langney pitting themselves against a side two steps higher on the 4G surface. Borough certainly had the better of the opening exchanges with a combination of blocking from defenders and keeper Neil Di Lucia making some crucial saves stopping them from opening the scoring.

As it was Wanderers came closest to breaking the deadlock, Harry Ducatel crashing a shot off the bar on 17 minutes and Langney not looking too out of place against their higher placed opponents, a draw the fair scoreline at half-time.

Borough looked to have come out with more purpose early in the second half and certainly looked the more likely to score, sustained spells of pressure left Wanderers playing out on the counter-attack more often than not.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 68th minute, a fine finish from full back George Moore to give the Southern League side the lead. The visitors should have added a second not long after, their turn to smash a shot against the bar with Di Lucia well beaten.

With Wanderers needing to push forward in search of an equaliser Borough began to open the game up more and should have added a second and even a third to kill the game off, but being the first game in action there was a hint of pre-season rustiness shooting.

As it was that failure to put the game beyond the hosts came back to haunt them as a clumsy foul given away outside the box gave David Smart the opportunity from the free kick and he duly obliged in the 89th minute sending the ball through the wall and past the out-reached hand of keeper Matthew Hall to send the game to penalties, no extra time in any FA games this year.

Whilst both keepers saved penalties, Hall with three and Di Lucia with two, Borough went through to the First Qualifying Round winning 3-2. Wanderers to their credit matched their opponents for a good percentage of the game, Ian Lagwai looking impressive in his positioning and all-round play from right back while Tim Bennett made sure the two centre halves didn’t have an easy afternoon.

Borough can now look forward to Monday’s draw while Wanderers head up the A22 to face AFC Uckfield in the Southern Combination Premier Division on Tuesday evening looking for a first league win of the season, if they put in a similar kind of performance and add goals to it then three points won’t be too far away.

Goals galore at the Sportsfield

Friday night football. It’s not too often it comes around so the chance to squeeze in an extra game is always welcome and even better when it’s within walking distance from home.

Before null and void kicked in last season Littlehampton Town had won 20 of 22 league games and on course for promotion and well placed to lift the Southern Combination League Division One title. They were five points clear of AFC Varndeanians with two games in hand and a massive 16 points clear of local rivals Wick who occupied the final promotion spot.

Promotion never came as the season was wound up early and the Golds find themselves like many others having to do it all over again. You can imagine there is a steely resolve amongst these clubs to achieve this time around what they felt they are deserving of and it will be interesting to see which clubs can repeat themselves.

Littlehampton have been very quiet over Twitter this summer, so trying to find out if they managed to keep all of last season’s players or even sign a few further additions was very hard to see! Their first team sheet of the season last Saturday at Hailsham Town gave the first clues and in all honesty was pretty much as I expected.

Their opening two games both yielded 6-1 wins, the latest side put to the sword were Midhurst & Easebourne in midweek, but Worthing Utd having won their opening two games as well were expected to provide a bit more of a sterner test for Town.

As it was, Littlehampton went for the jugular right from the kick off. They were in front in less than two minutes, a superb first time ball from George Gaskin found Harry Russell to slot past Aaron Relf in the visitors goal. Less than a minute later Joe Benn took full advantage of a defensive mix up to make it 2-0 with under five minutes on the clock.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised with the fast start, Benn had them in front on five minutes at Hailsham whilst Dan Hegarty hit the target in midweek even earlier and in both games Town were three goals to the good by half time. Worse was to come for the visitors as Benn capitalised on some more lacklustre defending to fire past Relf for 3-0 and only 15 minutes of the game had gone.

Utd certainly looked quite shell-shocked at the way Littlehampton had approached the game and struggled to get any kind of momentum going across the pitch, Golds having a lot of joy with Lucas Pattenden’s direct running down the right flank. Benn completed a first half hat-trick on 34 minutes with the simplest of tap-ins for the hosts fourth goal before the break. The visitors had a glimmer of hope just a couple of minutes later after being awarded a penalty, but James Binfield was equal to the well struck spot-kick to keep his clean sheet intact.

To Worthing’s credit, they came out in the second half with some more purpose but still unable to force Binfield into any save of note and with a 4-0 lead Town were comfortably in control of the game. No more goals arrived until the final ten minutes of the game, Benn adding his fourth with a well executed chip over Relf and Jordan Layton the sixth from the penalty spot three minutes from time to make six goals in three games running for the home side.

Worthing know they won’t come up against sides like Littlehampton every week and for the hosts this is a side very capable of repeating last season but this time finishing the job. Both sides now take a break from league action as the Golds head to Beckenham Town in the FA Vase next weekend whilst Worthing host Greenways in the same competition.

Next up for me a Saturday double header for the first time ever and double FA Cup action, Langney Wanderers vs Harrow Borough and Newhaven vs Corinthian my destinations for what should be two great games.

Fans and Money

21st August. The date Nigel Huddleston of the DCMS Department received a letter from 41 MP’s asking when National League clubs will be allowed to admit fans in once again.

I know there is some healthy debate to this scenario with this ‘elite’ tag and some arguing that with the National League going ahead with their play-offs that they should be treated the same as the EFL clubs, but is that going to sustain these clubs going forward?

As we’ve now seen on Monday evening via the brilliant Ollie Bayliss the DCMS have said no different from fans returning to stadiums from the 1st October and applications made I presume by the FA and National League have been submitted for test pilot events. I would hope these test events are scheduled as soon as they can be in order for clubs to get themselves ready to go.

I believe that despite clubs managing to survive through the lean months with no income and this includes the lower two EFL divisions that worse is yet to come, some of that might and I stress might be avoided if capacities are used to determine the amount of fans allowed per ground rather than a ‘one size fits all’ as they for Steps 3-6, I hope I am completely wrong, but some of that money has been used to cover some of the summer months from advances, careful budgeting is going to have to be the norm.

But there is some good news which was announced in the middle of last week, the creation of the Matchday Support Fund of which financial help comes from the Premier League. If you’ve missed it, it stretches from Step 1 down to Step 6 with a maximum of £20,000 available to top clubs and £2,000 to the lowest level. When at a game this past weekend we were remarking about the game being awash with too much cash in the top-flight and none of it making its way down to help those who need just a little bit to get by.

It’s great news to read of it and it’s been welcomed by clubs in Sunday’s Non-League Paper, but it must be ensured this is available every year for all clubs regardless of what happens in the future. The full amount if every club applies for the grant is pocket change to the 20 top clubs and they can afford to do this, maybe even raise the bar and up the totals year on year, that remains to be seen.

There are stipulations as to what it can be spent on, how that is policed I have no idea unless they ask for some kind of photographic evidence? The link for any club officials reading this is www.footballfoundation.org.uk and is open until Wednesday 16th September for applications.

There are clubs who are already on the ball and it’s definitely going a small way to help out with those costs involved with making grounds Covid-19 compliant. If it is available every year then it is set apart from clubs needing to match grants for any projects they want to undertake, it must however always be ring-fenced to stop it being used just to pay someone an extra £50 a week and as time goes on I expect the system to be more robust to stop that happening.

Money makes the world go round, money makes football go round, but the hope is we’re seeing smiles and laughs at grounds before long while money is making the tills ring, the former is important to make the latter work…………

Wickers woe on opening day

Saturday football for the first time since I can’t remember when! I’m not just talking lockdown procedures but beyond that, but with personal life changes I’ve now got the opportunity to go whenever and wherever I please.

The beginning of a league season, nine months or so of arduous hard work with promotion the end goal. For most and myself much included, this season takes on a different role. It reminds us of what we couldn’t have for months since March this year, a re-evaluation if you like and a determination to not take for granted a lot a things close to us that we love and enjoy.

Needing to stay local with work beckoning in the evening, I chose to visit Wick FC in the Southern Combination League Division One, a club I spent time at until December last year. A mix of roles as Social Media Manager, Treasurer and Secretary took up a lot of time and now these days I wonder how I fitted it all in.

It’s been a summer of change at Crabtree Park, new managers in Tom Simmonds and the returning Lee Baldwin, new badge, new players, returning players and a brand new metal fencing around the pitch perimeter but the same objective as last season’s null and void effort, promotion.

With four spots up for grabs once again Wickers are keen to progress and return to Premier Division football but face stiff competition to get there. Littlehampton, Mile Oak, AFC Varndeanians, Seaford, and Arundel amongst a few could stand in their way along with Saturday’s visitors Bexhill Utd. The two clubs were siting 4th and 5th before the season came to an end with Wick seven points in front having played the same amount of games.

Both sides were looking to get their season off to a winning start having not been in FA Cup action midweek. Wickers certainly started the stronger of the two sides, wingers George Cody and Alex Kew both finding lots of space to whip balls into the front two of Scott Murfin and Dan Simmonds although neither striker could find the target.

With Wick unable to take advantage the visitors got more of a foothold in the game and took the lead on 32 mins when Evan Archibald capitalised on some hesitant defending to fire past Wickers keeper Jordan Matthews. From that point on Bexhill controlled the game and Archibald notched his and Bexhill’s second just before half time.

Despite holding a 2-0 lead, the visitors continued to press throughout the second half, and it was no surprise when the impressive Jack Mclean rounded Matthews just after the hour mark to seal the points for the visitors. Wickers did have a goal disallowed minutes before Mclean’s strike, but the Pirates took full advantage to take the win back to East Sussex.

Impressive performance from Bexhill who harried and pressed more once they were a goal in front, Mclean and Curran on the opposite wing gave the full backs no peace all afternoon and the busy Archibald made sure the centre halves had no easy rides for 90 minutes.

For Wick a disappointing afternoon, but the memory goes back to the beginning of last season when Mile Oak came away from Crabtree Park with all three points, but things then went right for Terry Dodd, will the same apply for Simmonds and Baldwin? An early chance for redemption comes on Tuesday when they head to Billingshurst whilst Bexhill are without a midweek game, watching football in the sun is a great reminder of what we have missed in months gone by, floodlit football is even better………..