Wanderers progress to take on Barnet

There appears to be a thinning out of midweek games across these two weeks before Xmas despite the fact a lot of teams are not that far in front for games and with the threat of more lockdowns in the new year you just wonder if a few more could have been slotted in.

One club I wanted to get to this season was Dorking Wanderers, for a number of reasons as there have been for most clubs I’ve tasked myself with visiting. The rise for the Surrey club has been nothing less than extremely impressive, I remember them coming to Wick on a Friday night around 10-12 years ago in the Sussex League Division Two as it was then and winning 2-0 under the club owner and manager Marc White.

Rising through the County League, Ryman League and now well ensconced in the National League South Wanderers are looking well set for another tilt at promotion to the top level. Playing now at Meadowbank, home of the Surrey FA they have a tidy very nice ground for the level with a selection of seating and standing areas for all.

Wanderers were the club who really got behind the #LetFansIn campaign which I promoted through this blog and along with others who also joined, in the end it did bear fruit in getting people back inside stadiums from Steps 3-6, but at their own level they’ve had to wait until this month to have their own supporters back inside the stadium.

As I’ve stated in the past this season I’ve wanted to go to clubs who have helped me achieve the success this blog is becoming, be it through interviews with their managers, players, or chairman. My thought with Dorking for really getting this campaign to work, I’m going to head there and put a few quid in the coffers, least I can do to help out.

And with the FA Trophy putting games into quick succession the visit of Hungerford Town was the opportunity to make it happen. With both sides residing at the same level we were in for a good game, as it transpired we got one but not quite in the way I expected.

Right from the first whistle the intent from the hosts was very impressive, zipping the ball around with an option to pass for every player who was in possession, Hungerford really struggled to get a hold of the ball with the Dorking midfield pairing of Kane Wills and Wes Fogden controlling things in the middle of the park.

The first effort went to the visitors in the opening minute, a blocked shot which resulted in a break downfield and skipper Jason Prior having a header saved by keeper Luke Cairney. Wanderers then dominated the ball throughout the first half, chances created from Nicky Wheeler and Callum Kennedy giving Prior more opportunities, but a combination of good defending and the experienced striker unable to hit the target kept the scoreline level.

It certainly wasn’t looking like Prior’s night as two further chances went begging, another good save from Cairney and a header that hit the crossbar.

The deadlock was finally broken a couple of minutes before half time by Dorking, just when it looked as if they would be going in frustrated at half time, Luke Moore controlling Wills’ pass inside the area and sliding it across for James McShane to slam home and give the home side a deserved lead.

No sooner had the teams emerged for the second half than Dorking were two goals to the good, the impressive McShane finishing off Fodgen’s touch across goal to slide in at the far post.

The goal seemed to inspire the visitors to have their best spell of the game, Slav Huk having to save from both Mike Jones and Ryan Seager in quick succession as Wanderers allowed their guard to slip slightly and it certainly would have been game on had one effort found its way into the net despite the fact Dorking should have been out of sight had the chances been put away in the first half.

Ten minutes later Jake Evans beat Huk, but the Hungerford substitute’s effort clipped the top of the bar. Chances came in the final fifteen minutes for Wanderers to extend their lead, Prior having a second effort cleared off the line having rounded the keeper, while McShane was denied by the post for a hat-trick.

One final chance arrived for Prior in the final minute but headed over the bar capping what must have been a frustrating night for the skipper who on another day could easily had four or five goals to his name.

McShane was quite rightly named man of the match, not just for the two goals but also popping up in the gaps and space all over the final third to make it harder for Hungerford to pick him up.

The visitors definitely found it hard to keep the ball against a side who moved it around superbly and Barnet will certainly find it tough this coming Saturday, especially with the Bees being bang out of form. Even I wouldn’t bet against Wanderers progressing this weekend although of course I’m firmly on the opposite side…………….

NB This article was written before the Government placed Dorking and Surrey into tier 3 from Saturday and once again unable to admit fans.

Flowers checks in at The Hive

No sooner had the ink dried on the ‘Beadle gone’ blog than the new man was in place at The Hive with chairman Tony Kleanthous wasting no time to trying to repair the mess the club once again finds itself in.

Last weekend I had heard rumours from two different sources and then a third during the week that Tim Flowers was indeed lined up after the Wealdstone game to take over from Peter Beadle. Nothing materialised and Barnet went on to record back to back defeats against Stockport and Chesterfield.

Eight days later Beadle was gone and then speculation amounted to who was the next manager to lead the charge back up to the right end of the table. I had my own preferences, some personal, some from the point of view of what or who I felt was needed.

Flowers himself was on my list of names I expected to be mentioned. A man with a decent career in the Premier League, in fact a winner of said competition at Blackburn Rovers. He did interview in the summer but subsequently not offered the job and pitched up at Macclesfield Town before they succumbed to extinction. So, why wasn’t he appointed those few months ago?

Many will point to Beadle having been the cheaper option having not managed at this level before, Flowers’ stint at Solihull Moors looked upon as a good grounding albeit with a more than a decent sized budget but his record of winning almost half of his games in charge that is the kind of thing you look very favourably at if he can replicate that for Barnet.

Whilst to an extent you can understand the cautiousness with no income and the on-going saga with the pandemic going for the cheaper option has brought on this scenario before and now as then it’s going to cost far more to rectify the situation than could have been the case with the right appointment back in late August.

If it’s to be believed, Flowers wasn’t the man in reality. During yesterday it was widely expected that Dean Brennan the current Wealdstone manager was signed, sealed, and delivered but it appears that fell through and Flowers became the go to man. How close if at all that was maybe we’ll never know but as always another fun day in the life of being a Barnet fan!

If Flowers is given the budget to build what he had at Solihull then Barnet will become hard to beat, it might not be a pretty game at times with a more direct way of playing than we’ve been used to over the past couple of years.

Whether he believes there is enough quality there remains to be seen over the coming weeks, personally I believe the squad is not good enough to be where we want to be, whether that was down to budget restrictions or a lack of intel when bringing these players in I’m not sure of.

Having listened to the first interview this afternoon, it sounded good, liked what I heard and those that don’t shape up will ship out I have no doubt, certainly going to be playing to strengths in the final third with the pace of Ephron Mason-Clark and Josh Walker when he returns, someone who knows how to unlock JJ Hooper, seems fairly keen on Wes Fonguck.

I don’t doubt he’s under any illusion of the task ahead and I’m also interested to see who forms his backroom team as well, those guys can be just as important in delivering the message through to the players.

So Bees fans there we have it, another former England goalkeeper takes the reins, following in the footsteps of the late great Ray Clemence, time for our season to turn itself around and I’m far more pleased this time that Tony’s actually read my blog and picked a name I listed………..

The wait goes on

Saturday football once again! Well live streaming has been fine coupled with FA Cup weekend’s whilst the game was served another suspension, nothing beats waking up on the first day of the weekend knowing you’re off to football.

I had plenty of local choice too, not really deterred by the lack of Step 3 and 4 games and of course those in Step 5 and 6 who are unable to play, with East Preston facing eight away games in a row after this weekend I easily decided on a trip to The Lashmar.

For those of you who read regularly I’ve been following the fortunes of the West Sussex outfit since the start of the season and over the course of the eight away games there will be a couple of updates to find out whats been happening and what’s new.

Now under the tutelage of Lee Thompson and Mike McCaffrey, the side were still searching for their first win of the season with Crawley Down Gatwick the visitors, a midweek defeat to Lancing on the season’s resumption not the start the duo wanted.

What I didn’t expect when I arrived at the ground was to see well-known Barnet FC fans Steve and Ann Percy around two hours from home for them, needless to say there was a lot of Barnet talk but not at the expense of watching the game!

Not surprisingly the pitch was pretty heavy given the amount of rain on the South Coast over the last few days but both sides certainly didn’t shirk from the challenge and the early exchanges were very even, chances at both ends but not enough to break the deadlock.

EP keeper Steve Alfrey was becoming the busier of the two custodians as the half wore on however but little was put either side of him keeping the scoreline blank. Just as we were all set for things being equal at half time the visitors popped up with a goal, striker Lewis Croal with a superb finish just on the half time mark, harsh on the hosts who had done enough for the scores to remain level going into the interval.

What happened at the beginning of the second half baffled quite a few in the ground including me. Alfrey was out early from the changing room and made his way over the to bench to the bemusement of those around us to question if he had been sent off but remaining in full kit.

Having stood close to the changing rooms as the teams walked off, Alfrey had entered into some colourful dialogue with the match officials and only once the second half had begun with Chad Milner in goal and some ten minutes elapsed did we realise he’d been sin-binned for dissent!

The sin-bin certainly hasn’t been enforced enough this season at this level compared to last year hence why I think we all forgot that referees do actually use it still!

Alfrey was back between the sticks when Crawley Down added their second on the hour mark, Guy Halding’s flicked header from a left wing cross unchallenged as it nestled inside the far post.

Just six minutes later Dave Brown made sure the points were leaving with the visitors as he smashed the ball home to put the game beyond the reach for EP. So the wait goes on for East Preston for that elusive first league win of the season and next up a trip to Little Common to try and reverse that statistic.

For the visitors two wins on the bounce keeps them inside the top ten clubs in the Premier Division and looking upwards rather than down, a very composed performance despite losing their keeper injured in the warm-up and Tony Jenner coming in to keep a clean sheet.

Another midweek coming up for more football, although destination unknown at the moment, but if I can be somewhere I will be somewhere……..

Goal fest as football returns again

Football! It’s back, how long for we don’t know with decisions made by those not understanding the non-league game at all but here we are ready to go again and of course you’ve got to make the most of every opportunity.

With the go ahead given last week but not a re-start for everyone, local games to go to where I hadn’t been so far were a little bit in short supply with no Step 3 or 4 action for around at least two weeks more so I settled on Wick vs Arundel despite having seen both in action in the first two months of the season.

I had been hopeful of heading to The Hive to finally get to see Barnet in action and not on a stream, they put paid to that before the weekend with season ticket holders only being admitted. Then they threw a spanner in the works announcing on Monday individual tickets were on sale for Tuesday night’s game.

Can’t say I wasn’t tempted, but with friends not able to make that game I stayed with my local choice and headed to Crabtree Park for the second time this season. The first was the opening Saturday of the season for the Southern Combination when Bexhill Utd recorded what was a comfortable 3-0 win, Arundel I saw go down 3-2 to Oakwood in the Sussex Senior Cup in October at Mill Road.

Both sides sat middle to lower half going into the game and this being the first action for four weeks and being a local derby too, an added couple of extras going into the game and by the time the final whistle went this one certainly didn’t disappoint.

On a fresh, cold December night, both sides were intent on playing football rather than reverting to banging the ball long to skip across the crisp surface, Wick had the better of the opening exchanges and were in front on 14 minutes, Jake Hawker heading home unmarked at the edge of the six yard box to give the home side the lead.

It wasn’t all one way traffic although the home side just had the edge and were awarded a penalty on 36 minutes, striker Dan Simmonds’ effort well saved by Mullets keeper Lewis Broughton, but he couldn’t prevent Connor Bull from firing home the rebound to put Wick 2-0 up.

Arundel brought themselves back into the game superbly just two minutes later, striker Ben Gray operating as a left back curled a free kick into the far top corner giving Wickers keeper Jordan Matthews no chance, a worldie if you like and a way back into the game for the visitors.

The game however turned on the next decision just a few moments later, Mullets John Phillips given a straight red card by referee Mark Spence reducing the visitors to ten men although no change in the scoreline as the game moved into half time, Simmonds hitting the post just before the interval.

Wick certainly made use of the extra man in the second half, Arundel a bit more tentative to push forward given the closeness of the scoreline and it was no surprise the next goal went to the home side.

A ball played in by left back Jack Bingham found Rob Hutchings, dual signed from Pitching In South Eastern side Chichester City, who controlled with one touch and unleashed a fierce shot giving Broughton no chance five minutes into the second half.

Three minutes later and Simmonds added his name to the scoresheet to put Wickers 4-1 up and in complete control with a clinical finish. Gray gave Mullets a glimmer of hope ten minutes later with another sweet strike that flew past Matthews only for Simmonds to pounce for his second just two minutes later after a defensive mix-up allowed him to score, 5-2 to the home side.

The striker then completed his hat-trick in the final 15 minutes, a miscued defensive clearance fell to Simmonds in the penalty area and he made no mistake firing past Broughton and a sixth goal for Wick.

There was time for Shane Brazil to time his run and lob the ball over the on-rushing Matthews into the net for a third consolation goal from 25 yards out, Wickers running out 6-3 winners.

Credit to both sides in what was a very entertaining affair and neither side seemed affected by tiredness or fatigue after four weeks of no games, the scoreline I felt was reflected in the decision of the red card I don’t think we would have had such a goal fest otherwise.

Attention is turned to the weekend now and the decision is between a local game or branching out into the National League, it’s great to be back once again……….

Back we come, but not for all

I’m sure I’ve said it before that a week is a long time in football and sure enough it’s proved no exception in the last seven days. Cast your mind back to this time last week and a majority of us were looking forward to coming out of lockdown and football back before our very eyes.

Fast forward to now and the picture isn’t as clear, a re-start or half a re-start is what we’re going to get between now and 16th December and possibly longer. Whilst understandably clubs in Tier 3 have declined to want to play without fans inside their grounds, full leagues in other parts of the country have decided to carry on the season’s pause and will not see any action at least until the government review on the tier levels are carried out later this month.

This weekend also sees the return of the FA Vase and Trophy before league matches start to resume next midweek and there are many opinions and rights and wrongs in the eyes of clubs, the fans, boards of directors up and down the country.

You can sympathise with those who could have played on in front of zero spectators. We know from top to bottom with no one inside the ground to bringing income into the club in the form of gate receipts nor secondary sales of alcohol and food clubs will not be able to survive, there has to be fans watching games from Step 3 downwards.

Its quite ironic that as we get fans allowed back into National League games in all three divisions that below that level it’s now deemed not safe to attend games where prior to lockdown there have been none or indeed a very limited number of outbreaks of Covid amongst supporters.

And for those that can attend games the restrictions on clubhouses and confusion created around the selling of food as well has only made clubs have to work harder to ensure they’re doing as much as they can to avoid the club disappearing altogether.

I think the fact we have just fourteen days or less until the Trident leagues review their situation that surely those clubs that do want to play could have fitted two or three fixtures in and gotten on with things as they wanted to. I have no issue with those clubs who feel it’s not safe to play games and they don’t want to be responsible for families suffering an outbreak over the Xmas period, but is the country any less safe than it was four weeks ago and if you don’t catch it there in places where it’s deemed safe, then avoid the supermarket, pubs, other shops?

The loans and grants offered by the government has to come in the form of the latter, taking a loan with no hope of recovering enough income to pay bills or players or club wages, without being able to garner every single pound coin that can come through the doors will leave a lot of clubs wondering if actually opening the doors again is worth the struggle.

And it also makes you wonder how much more is left in any grant pot to be distributed, that surely can’t go on forever and if it can’t then a way has to be found to actually help these clubs get back on their feet instead of hindering every move.

It’s so difficult not to make it a political post nor push my feelings of the entire country situation out into a blog, so I hope it comes across from a football point of view and pretty much nothing else.

I’m back to football on Tuesday evening with a likely destination of Wick vs Arundel, a local derby in itself to start off with and fingers crossed in a couple of weeks’ time more grounds I can add to the list for a potential visit, now where’s that substantial scotch egg and a pint………..

The wait for some is almost over

I’m not sure as I write this which I am more pleased about following the government’s decision on Monday to definitely release us from a second lockdown on 2nd December, coincidently my birthday, the fact I may well be able to attend a National League football match or the fact I can resume writing programme columns and even think about trying to get some more clubs on board.

No one can deny this hasn’t been the year for very much, granted this blog has been outstanding to write and to see the viewing figures and visitors on a daily, weekly, monthly basis has been the one shining light through 2020.

As most of you reading will know I backed the #LetFansIn campaign way back at the end of summertime, started by Dorking Wanderers and taken on by the many. Whilst at Steps 3-6 we saw supporters from the first game of the season in September the promise of that for the National League ‘elite’ from 1st October was dashed away just days before reality.

Now as we head into December and dependant upon what tier they decide your club’s area will fall into, some fans should be watching top level non-league football for the first time this season and about time too.

In my opinion there was no reason why a dumbed down version couldn’t have been started from that October date with pilot event numbers of around 1000 fans, whilst I appreciate cases were rising it was no different across the world and especially in Europe where they decided to allow fans into watch and across the pond in the NFL it’s been going on for weeks.

The next few days will doubt be full of speculation as to whether you will indeed be watching your National League team in person or still via a stream. Not everyone will be comfortable in attending, it should be down to personal risk and your own choice whether you decide football is safe enough for you, if not I hope clubs persist with streaming games, its vital for a lot of people’s mental health to be able to watch their team in some shape or form.

Despite allowing fans back in, some clubs are going to be under capacity for what they would normally be allowed across a standard season, this however is the start and unlike Steps 3-6 where it was a one size fits all for levels 3&4 and for 5&6 regardless of your average support, the NL has put it together on a club by club capacity basis.

I believe there should be a re-think of the levels allowed now for the rest of non-league football. There are a few clubs who hit the 600 and 300 maximum mark a few times during the opening two months. I’m not suggesting we go crazy here and make it almost a free for all, but we’re in the open air, transmission levels we know are much lower and there is space to social distance. I believe allowing an increase of 200 on those levels would be enough to allow more income into these clubs which has been sadly lacking since March.

Most clubs will not hit these figures especially if some of those who have been taking in games after not being able to watch their own team in action decide to return to those clubs.

The next question will be away fans or not? Whilst it would make things easier to police for a lot of clubs would it be detrimental to the action on the pitch? And by that I mean if the home side is not in the ascendancy and their fans start to get on the player’s backs then advantage to the away team, I’m sure it’s a big discussion point across meetings at this very moment.

I write currently for three clubs, East Preston, and Langney Wanderers in the Southern Combination League and Met Police in the Pitching In Southern League, the latter beginning literally just before lockdown. Two of the three have their own custom written column which changes every home game, no two pieces are the same.

I’m really looking forward to getting back to having deadlines during the week, a bit more normality as I had during September and October. Needless to say there will be plenty to write about as always and with this four week break in proceedings more midweek football to find and write about to keep this blog smashing the figures it keeps doing…….

December here we come!

Lockdowns can prove to be a very tough time, especially for all of us who love to get out and watch non-league football. Things were progressing nicely since 1st September, games, pints, pies, people.

And now here we are three weeks to go until we can enjoy these things once again, or should I say with fingers crossed? It does seem very strange that we can still pop to a garden centre, send our kids to school in what appear to be less covid-secure places than a football ground.

Out in the open air, socially distanced in most cases should surely mean as safe as can be, I mean all clubs went through the rigorous processes in the short close season to ensure we began in September so has something changed in the meantime?

We’ve had the #LetFansIn debate heard in Parliament, something I got involved in during August, begun by Dorking Wanderers and championed by many. Now the DCMS have three more weeks to come up with a plan, there is absolutely no reason why there shouldn’t be one in place to allow us back into stadiums at higher levels before much longer.

It’s happened in Europe and granted some have suspended that inclusion for the time being, but the point is that they are far in front of us. If and this is a big if the authorities have seen that fans in most cases have been inside non-league grounds safely, no or very minimal evidence that transmission of covid-19 has come from a football ground, then why should levels not be raised for non-league clubs as well?

This is personal risk now like every shop you go to, every person you want to see, streaming games I hope will continue for the foreseeable future for those who don’t feel comfortable to return, work needs to be done on that and I know clubs are very keen to encourage and show things are as normal as they can be and a safe environment for all to watch our beloved game.

I plan over the next three weeks to speak to managers, chairman and other people inside the non-league game to find out how these four weeks will affect them and their clubs, we all know that most just about struggled to survive through from March to the new season with no income and there is no doubt the next month will be just as challenging for most.

It’s not just the football clubs this four week break affects. The guys who produce the programmes, the supplier of food and drink to clubhouses all lose out over this period as well and some will not return either having worked so hard to get moving again after the sudden cut off in March and the late return in September.

Then there is the very important aspect of mental health and that applies to everyone in the game from the chairman to the tea lady to the staff and players and to the man, woman, or child on the terraces. Anyone can suffer from a number of withdrawal symptoms through all walks of life, missing something so close to them, be it a loved one, be it their favourite sport.

Now is the time more than ever to look out for those you know you won’t see for a few weeks, drop them a text message or give them a call, you’d be surprised how much difference it will make, already just a week or so into this time I’ve sent a few messages out to people I see struggling across Facebook and Twitter, it’s up to us as people to look after each other and get everyone out the other side into December and watching football on a cold crisp night.

One week down, three weeks to go, I can already smell the chips and burgers and taste that pint…………..

The night before lockdown

The final hurrah! Well, till December football is now suspended unless you are ‘elite’ and if you are then you can’t be watched inside a stadium! 26 games in two months and a day is not a bad return considering I normally do 20-25 in a complete season.

Being that lockdown started on Thursday, classed as a key worker delivering for Amazon won’t see much change for me apart from the likelihood of getting much busier!

I made sure however that I got games in on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week for the first time, trips to AFC Varndeanians and Three Bridges in the Sussex Senior Cup followed by the final road trip for now to AFC Porchester to watch United Services Portsmouth take on Bournemouth Poppies to conclude things before the midnight deadline.

The first choice venue was Farnborough but with the Southern League calling all games off the FA Vase took centre stage with two sides I’ve never previously watched at a ground I’d never previously been to, winners all round!

AFC Porchester is certainly a spacious ground, no trouble with getting enough people in safely to watch the final game for a few weeks. Not knowing too much about Wessex League football meant this was very much an unknown quantity to watch and sometimes they can turn out to be the best games.

What I’ve got to do is make mention of the travelling Poppies support! Around 12 of them singing and chanting the whole way through, non-league songs and adapting others, these guys were fantastic throughout the 90 minutes and much to credit to them, it was great to hear, made us chuckle, thank you!

The game itself played on a sloping pitch was certainly very possession based from both teams trying to play football and out from the back as well, Services though used the ball better when they had it whilst Poppies although playing their part struggled to play a penetrative ball when it was back with them.

However, it was Poppies who took the lead on eleven minutes, a cross from the left hand side from winger Jack Kinge-Phillips looped over the head of Services keeper Tom Price to give the visitors the lead.

That early goal was pretty much as good as it got for the Poppies, relentless attacking from the hosts ensured the night was going to be a long one. There were however one or two good chances to increase the lead but none were taken and each time the hosts pressed forward for an equaliser they threatened to score.

That goal did come in the 33rd minute through Dec Seidon, a thumping shot Jones was unable to keep out despite getting a hand on it. Worse was to come just four minutes later as Andy Todd put the hosts in front and turn the tie on its head in a matter of minutes to send Services in at the break with the lead.

Services kicking down the hill in the second half tried to put the game beyond the Poppies in the opening fifteen minutes, but Jones was in the way and when he was beaten the bar came to his rescue more than once.

Just before the hour mark Services did put the game out of reach of the visitors, James Franklyn neatly played through and he slotted past Jones for the hosts third goal, on the balance of play no more than they deserved.

Both sides traded shots over the final ten minutes but neither did enough to really trouble either keeper, Services fully deserved to progress into the next round whenever that might be played.

Overall, 184 happy souls saw a game of football, the last time for 28 days, we’re keeping everything crossed that on 2nd December we’ll all be rejoicing again that football is back for good this time and no more interruptions………

Bridges claim cup win

It was a Tuesday night before lockdown and a mad rush to get in as many football matches as possible before battening down the hatches for the second time this year.

Although to be fair, Three Bridges vs Worthing in the Sussex Senior Cup was always going to be my destination far before the realms of unpredictability rolled the dice once again, a second viewing of Bridges and a third of the Mackerel Men.

Having caught my first 0-0 of the season the previous evening in the same competition I was hopeful that was just a blip and more goals would be on offer, well that 0-0 had to have a penalty shoot-out, so not counted really is it!

One huge bonus for the visitors was the return of Alfie Young to the heart of the defence, a big player for Worthing and one needed since Aarran Racine decided to step away to concentrate on his business.

Having seen both sides in action at least once already this season, there was less of an unknown quantity about either side. As you would expect the Mackerel Men had most of the possession but Bridges were content to make the most of the play when they had the ball.

The first real chance of the game came on 16 minutes, Worthing Mo Diallo was denied by Bridges stopper Kieron Thorp after fashioning a chance himself. Bridges though came back and ex-Mackerel man Brannon O’Neil brought a fine save out of Roco Rees in the Worthing goal.

With Worthing enjoying their better spells down the flanks, the next good chance came from Dajon Golding cutting in from the right wing but blazing wildly over when looking set to open the scoring.

The game should have turned on its head in the 42nd minute, a lunging challenge from Bridges centre half Dean Lovegrove on Jasper Pattenden saw the defender receive his second red card in as many matches and leave his side with just over half a game to complete with ten men.

Worthing certainly had a little more intensity in the second half, trying to pull Bridges across the pitch and make the most of the extra man advantage but the hosts made the visitors work hard defending well against Diallo and Omar Koroma, not allowing either striker much sight of Thorp’s goal.

Koroma did get a sight of goal just before the hour mark, bursting through the Bridges defence beating Thorp but hitting the defender on the line which kept the scores level.

The hosts were increasingly creating chances on the counter-attack as Worthing pushed forward trying to break the deadlock and indeed were nearly caught out as Gayler sent the ball over Rees goal when well positioned.

The Mackerel Men made them pay for that miss as substitute Ollie Pearce was slipped in and fired emphatically past Thorp to give Worthing the lead on 82 minutes.

The lead was to last no more than a minute as Bridges replied immediately through John Lansdale. Skipping through the Worthing defence, the ball found it’s way through to Lansdale hammered the ball past Rees to give Bridges renewed hope and a way back into the tie.

Worse was to come for Worthing as minutes later Curtis Gayler finished off a fine counter-attack with a measured finish past Rees to give the home side the lead and under three minutes left to play.

Koroma thought he had levelled the scores in the last minute, a Golding cross picking him out in the six yard box but the tall striker’s header hit the bar and the loose ball cleared away to safety.

Bridges held firm in stoppage time despite a barrage of balls into the box and secured their place in the last sixteen of the cup at the expense of their higher league placed opponents.

After the game I caught up with Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood to get his views on the game:

‘Bit frustrated we didn’t take our chances, but we should have had a penalty in the first ten minutes instead of an offside decision going against us which changes the game in my opinion, but on the night we didn’t show enough quality in the final third and they fully deserved to win.’

‘We made a lot of poor choices on the ball and clinical ruthless finishing was lacking for me, we would turn down a simple pass for a more difficult one. It’s football though, it happens and we’ve already identified improvements to be made and the players like myself will be working hard to improve.’

‘Great to have Alfie (Young) back, a real big player for us and the way we want to play, but for the two goals last night I have already had a conversation with him on how he could’ve done better in both situations and potentially prevented them which he agreed with, so he will learn from it and that’s what this group of players do, they are honest, hard working and Alfie epitomises that, he is very brave to get on the ball and play it out from the back.’

‘With the lockdown coming in, its very frustrating but it is what it is we have to deal with it and then try and find the momentum we were building in the league on the return. Hopefully, a shining light will be that the pitch can be done in this time.’

‘We’ll try and do some Zoom sessions with the boys over the next four weeks and keep in touch with them as much as we are allowed to do, obviously no training for the same period of time I hope has no or little effect when we do re-start.’

Spot kick success give Wanderers the win

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.’