Time to act before time runs out

Waking up this week to see the National League clubs are still waiting for the government to give them the money they need to survive made me want to have a rant.

In the current climate it’s difficult not to turn anything into a political debate as the conversation always comes back to covid and how it’s being dealt with but football is the topic here.

I have various people I know at clubs in both the National League and National League South and they must be mystified as to why they were allowed to start the season nearly two weeks triggering players contracts into effect yet here we are still waiting to see that bail out money reach the club coffers.

What do these people think clubs are surviving on to run? Fresh air? Goodwill and fortune? Having listened to various people and reports over the last few days there are around half of League Two just above us in non-league unable to survive past Christmas and that now is not too far away, I suspect the figure in League One is slightly lower, it may not be, but how can a business be expected to survive and pay its employees without any income?

The latest set of restrictions being enforced mostly in the northern part of the country is causing confusion as to whether fans are in, fans are out, players and staff can move between tier counties etc, why can’t it just be in simple terms we can all understand?

As it was the London FA on Thursday released a statement cutting step 5 and 6 capacities from 300 people to 150 for this coming weekend only to retract it two hours later with normal service resumed.

And why are we still battling to get fans back into football when more and more indoor venues are re-opening, not insisting on mask wearing and where we know the virus likes to spread?

Of course we know covid doesn’t appear before 10pm and is in bed by 5am, knows whether you’re a Step 1 or 2 supporter, if you’re a home or away fan and only attacks you if you get up from the table in the pub to leave or visit the toilet, only it doesn’t seem to know how to spread as effectively outside where funnily enough we watch football, but it can find you in clubhouse if you forget to wear a mask while you grab a beer, but it couldn’t do that 3 weeks ago.

So why are we not allowed from top to bottom people inside grounds? Each club has completed their risk assessments in time for 1st October, they were ready. If the biggest issue is people using public transport to get there, then how do they think people get around to other places? Not everyone drives and if they actually took a look at the fact trains, tubes and buses are pretty much empty then they would actually see there is no problem.

And then instead of bailing out our clubs use it on places that really need it, like indoor venues that can’t social distance. Let them get on with starting to regain some income before they disappear for good, and lets also remember that it’s not just a club that goes under, a community loses their asset, businesses that supply the club with anything from printed programmes to food get squeezed even further.

More importantly, the mental health of this nation has been battered beyond belief over the past six months and the relief of those able to get back to watching their team on a weekend has provided no end of joy for many desperate for some sanity.

If the DCMS can’t provide any scientific evidence which they appear unable to do, then let a maximum amount into all grounds that are comfortable, do all the checks that need to be done and begin to return things slowly back before we find a complete devastation across the country, it’s starting to look like it’s not too far away………..

Wells cruise to comfortable win

It’s not too often these days a Wednesday night game comes around as every club seems to prefer a Tuesday so when Tunbridge Wells announced a fixture change to the middle of the week it would’ve been rude not to make the journey and also catch up with a couple of long time mates of mine.

A league fixture was to be my third trip to the Culverden Stadium this season with K Sports the visitors. My previous two trips saw the Wells opening game in the FA Cup, a 1-0 win over Erith Town and the top two league encounter against Welling Town at the end of last month when they came from 2-0 down to take a point at 2-2, a lucky omen coach Luke Carpenter called me before this midweek visit.

Not only that a promise of the season ticket should the unbeaten run continue that evening, we’ll see if that ends up on the door mat in the next few days! Building a network when you are a promising writer is the key to getting your work out there and getting different material from all levels of the game. I’ve promised to get around to all the guys who have been good to me this year and despite not being able to get into some grounds or even clubhouses I’m making the most of at least a quick catch up before kick-off, this one no different with Rich Styles, Dan Morrin and Carps of course.

An unbeaten start to the league season for the Wells so far has put them in amongst clubs such as Corinthian, Sheppey and Chatham Town so they know that to stay in the group of pacesetters they need to keep winning.

The game started off in similar fashion to my previous trip, Wells kicking up the slope and making all the early running and chances but not able to find the net, Euan Sahadow went closest with a rasping shot that failed to curl back towards the far post. With the Wells attacking all will down both flanks through Sahadow and Regan Corke it surely wasn’t going to be long before the hosts went in front.

It took however until the 28th minute for the home side to make the breakthrough, Miles Cornwell heading home unmarked in the six yard box for a deserved Wells lead. Nine minutes later and it was two, Sahadow looked as if he’d missed his opportunity before swivelling and planting the sweetest of shots past keeper Matt Palmer to give the Wells a half time scoreline their first half play deserved.

Whilst Sports were tidy in possession until the final third of the pitch, Wells were dominant going forward with the link up play from left full back to right wing very evident throughout the half, Corke having the beating of the wing back every time.

Whilst the encounter with Welling Town made it look like the Wells would pay for not scoring in the opening 20 minutes, there wasn’t much danger Sports would punish the home side.

Although they came out with more attacking purpose in the second half the visitors never really tested Wells keeper Aaron Lee-Wharton enough and despite the Wells being a bit sloppier in possession there were chances for Sahadow and Josh Froggatt to make the game safe for the hosts and with an out and out striker the home side probably would have hit five or six in the end.

Another three points though pushes the Wells up to 2nd in the table before the weekend games a point behind the leaders Corinthian having played a game more. With games to come against the table toppers and fellow top four side Sheppey in the next five weeks, a few unbeaten records might have to topple soon………..

Angels take cup plaudits

FA Cup football once again took over midweek action, and for me the first time ever that I’ve managed to watch a game in every round so far, however depending on how kind the draw is on Thursday for the 4th qualifying round, that might be it for me this season given the inclusion of the National League Premier clubs and still no fans allowed in at that level.

My Tuesday night game saw me take in Chichester vs Tonbridge Angels, my first ever visit to Oaklands Park despite living down here in West Sussex for fourteen years, but also a chance to catch up briefly with Angels manager Steve McKimm who was kind enough to give me a blog interview over the lockdown period and as we are unable to enter Longmead Stadium currently with the restrictions this was the next best thing.

I used to live a five minute drive from that stadium before moving here and even played on the pitch in a cup semi final for my school a long time ago and also spent some junior years watching a very good Angels team smash their way through the Winstonlead Kent League.

The FA giant-killers of last season were a team McKimm was wary of when the draw was made despite Tonbridge hailing from two levels higher, Chi having also started their season a few weeks earlier than their visitors that might have given them the edge.

The game began on a damp pitch from the afternoon rain but both sides were set on passing the ball and not resorting to long channel balls which was pleasing to see, wing backs from Chi and wingers from Tonbridge were the name of the game.

The early chances fell the way of the hosts but were unable to find the target and as the visitors began to get a foothold in the game, they took the lead. Panic in the Chi defence after allowing a ball to bounce caught the home keeper Steve Mowthorpe in no-mans-land and Joe Turner nipped in between the keeper and defender to slot home the opening goal.

The goal however didn’t knock the home side out of their stride and they were level just five minutes later, a ball from Josh Clack squared across the box to Kaleem Haitham found it’s way into the back of the net to give the capacity 400 crowd something to cheer.

The remainder of the half was a trade off of chances but neither side were able to make the breakthrough to go in front before the half time break.

The first chance of the second half came immediately for the visitors, the impressive Khale Da Costa forcing Mowthorpe to tip the ball round the post within two minutes of the re-start. Both sides certainly appeared more intent in an open game this half as play swung from end to end, and the midfield area seemed a lot more stretched.

The Angels once again took the lead on 65 minutes, Da Costa appearing to score straight from the corner with no Chi player on the front post to attack the ball. The hosts did have the ball in the net four minutes later but Scott Jones comfortably fouled the keeper at the same time.

Chi made a couple of substitutions to try and change the nature of the game, the young impressive Ethan Pritchard arrived just before the goal and was involved after trying to get his back into the game down the left wing, with Lewis Hyde replacing Matt Axell to drive the team forward.

Tonbridge had their chances on the counter attack to add a third, but seemed unable to hold onto the ball when they attacked the final third of the pitch which gave their hosts the chance to put pressure immediately back on the visitors defence and goal for the final fifteen minutes.

McKimm’s defenders dealt with everything thrown at them including stoppage time, Sonny Miles marshalling the back line alongside Rian Bray headed, kicked and put their bodies in front of everything to give the Angels victory and a place in Thursday’s draw.

Very impressed with Chi and the way they played throughout the game, will definitely be making another visit there this season, facilities look pretty good for this level.

I caught up with the Angels boss on Wednesday morning and here are his thoughts:

‘It was a tough game as I expected, a proper game of cup football. Despite all the pressure towards the end I was comfortable with my defence dealing with all the crosses coming in and with a touch more quality we could have had another goal.’

‘It was really nice to hear other voices than just the players shouting at each other, good to see a crowd watching football again.’

Dodd: People will tell you I’m the worst loser

Saturday was a break from watching league action and delving into the FA Vase for the first time this season, which tied in nicely with the two week blog update for East Preston and their boss Terry Dodd.

So far this season it’s been a tough watch for EP fans and I think Terry would agree he’s learnt more in seven weeks about managing at this level of football than he did in his spell at Wick last season where things were fairing much better.

That’s not to say he’s doing a bad job, far from it. All of you know money talks in football and even at this level and Step 6 below without even a small budget attracting players is very hard and even more so when you’re in a saturated area for clubs to choose from.

The effect covid has had on these clubs up and down the country is immense, I’ve said it lots of times I am surprised that so few have gone under and that is huge credit to the band of volunteers that keep them going week after week. The latest countrywide restrictions mean football club bars have to be closed by 10pm, which throughout the week and especially midweek match nights are once again crippling and playing with the very future of our footballing pyramid.

In his programme notes on the weekend the chairman eluded to how much the club was losing. The previous Tuesday the bar took around £300 less than usual while the Under 23 game night saw around £200 going through the till which when you consider for a lot of clubs this money is what makes the football work it’s a wonder that all of them will get through to the end of the season.

Despite the reduced prize money in the national competitions this season it still provides some more income at a time when it’s most needed and the visit of Southern Counties East Premier Division side Fisher gave the opportunity for that and a break from league football.

Fisher have had an indifferent start to their campaign and sit mid-table in the predominantly Kent based league despite hailing from South London, EP meanwhile have found the going much tougher and currently sit bottom of the Southern Combination Premier Division.

Not too surprisingly it was a fairly even start to the first half, neither side able to create many clear cut chances although the visitors started to grow into the game the longer it went on. Backed by a very good travelling support Fisher went in front on 35 minutes through Melvin Adesida, pouncing on a loose ball in the area to slot past keeper Keelan Belcher. EP thought they were level just five minutes later through Thaikay David-Day but his shot was cleared off the line while the visitors almost had a second just before the break, hitting the bar much to the relief of Belcher and his defenders.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, Fisher looking the more likely to create chances while EP lived on the counter-attack to utilise the hard running of Conor Bull and the pace of Morgan Day. A superb one handed save from Belcher on the hour mark kept the hosts in the game and you felt with only the one goal still in it a lapse in concentration was all EP needed to get back into the tie.

However, that of course can stretch a game and Fisher finally put the tie beyond their hosts in the 79th minute, Jamie Yila rounding Belcher and slotting home between the two defenders on the line.

Day was the clear outstanding performer for the home side who badly missed Tijan Sparkes and Brad Lewis in the middle of midfield, the young side unable to cope with the physical presence of the visitors.

Catching up with boss Terry Dodd on Monday morning, he’s not too despondent about things and still expects the corner to be turned shortly:

‘The loss of Tijan and Brad is huge for us, it makes it harder to compete in the middle of the park. I think we’re creating the more chances in games and on Saturday felt that we were the better team in the 2nd half but not clinical enough with our finishing.’

‘The injuries are just killing us as there’s not enough time between games to the players fit again but we have got a bit of a break in fixtures in a couple of weeks so hopefully that will give us the time we need to get some more back out on the pitch.’

‘I am working on bringing in some more bodies to add to what we’ve got here and if I can bring in the right players to compliment what we already have here and then we will start climbing up the table.’

‘I’ve got some good lads here and I enjoy every game with them, obviously not the results at the moment! Everyone will tell you I’m the worst loser but I think I am learning more about myself, the team, and the game week by week. I hope they are as well and if they keep giving their all and learning all the time then results will easily turn around.’

Mullets suffer Senior Cup exit

Tuesday evening this week took me to Arundel as they took on Oakwood in the Sussex Senior Cup 1st round. There was much debate up and down the country as to whether County FA’s would run their own senior competitions this season and it’s been pretty mixed, some are and some have postponed them until next season.

Sussex recently went for it and drew their competition a few weeks ago, only county league sides involved in this round but with the incentive of drawing the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion Under 23’s, Crawley Town, Eastbourne Borough or one of the Pitching In Isthmian League sides in the next round, money spinners for some even if big crowds are not allowed to attend.

On a crisp, but damp evening after early afternoon rain the Mill Road looked in good shape. It looked on arrival that the visitors might have had a delayed journey heading to West Sussex as they seemed to be kit changing at the far end of the pitch although these days with grounds being configured differently due to the covid restrictions that might well have been their changing area for the evening.

Both sides have made poor starts to their campaigns with neither side having registered a league win so far, not surprisingly the opening exchanges were tentative as both sides struggled to find a rhythm on a quick pitch.

It took 26 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, and with Oakwood making most of the early chances it was the visitors who went in front, Aaron Ryder scoring from a corner.

The lead only lasted four minutes, the Mullets Ben Grey equalising with a well taken penalty after that notorious handball law made the call. From that point I was expecting it to give Arundel the confidence to take hold of the game and make Oakwood work to win the game.

But it was the visitors who took the lead again on 36 minutes, a deft finish from Sam Cane past the hosts keeper Lewis Broughton was no more than they deserved and were well in control of the game at the half time interval.

The second half took a little while to come to life, neither really finding enough to test the goalkeepers and the midfield battle looking very even on the whole. The Mullets pulled themselves back into the tie as Grey with a small suspicion of offside got clear to lob the onrushing Greaves for the ball to land perfectly under the bar and level the scores once more.

Mullets had the chance five minutes later when from a corner defender Rob Madden met the ball perfectly but his header hit the outside of the post. It was left to the visitors substitute Oluwaseun Olabiyi to notch the winner ten minutes from time although Madden had a late chance to take the tie to penalties but scouped the ball over from three yards.

Impressive performance from Oakwood’s Arnold Saurombe who gave the Arundel defence problems throughout the game with his direct running and coming in off the left flank with no one sure who was tracking him. The Mullets desperately need an injection of confidence before they find themselves too far behind the top teams in the league, they do have a couple of games in hand but they need to won or mid-table might beckon this season…………

Ten wins from Wembley

For the third Saturday in a row I decided on a little road trip for my choice of game. I had two or three in mind for differing reasons, local, nostalgia and Step 3 vs Step 2. In the end I plumped for nostalgia and headed up the M23 to Chipstead.

It’s so far turned out to be a game in every round of the FA Cup for me and Chips hosting East Grinstead Town was to be the latest port of call. The reason for nostalgia, around 30 odd years ago I was involved with my late father in the Tandridge Youth League, which took in Kent, Surrey, part of South London and a bit of Sussex.

The league held a lot of the end of season cup finals at Chipstead so come the end of April and beginning of May, many a night was spent there under lights well looked after by the then chairman Keith Rivers. The club were always challengers in those days at the top of the Combined Counties league and eventually did take the plunge into what is now the Pitching In Isthmian League.

Two defeats from two in the league hasn’t seen the Chips start too well in the South Central Division with just a single goal scored, cup success of course has been slightly better. Their opponents have only played one league game so far, a resounding 4-1 win whilst knocking out Premier Division opponents Worthing on penalties in the last round to set up this tie.

Having been present at the Worthing game, I knew what to expect from the Wasps on Saturday afternoon, strong across the back four, pacey and strikers who make a nuisance of themselves, Chipstead very much an unknown quantity to me.

The early running so to speak came from the visitors, Jerry Amoo willing to take on his full back at every opportunity and with the hosts struggling to get a hold of the ball the attacking threat was limited. Indeed, Grinstead thought they were in front on 13 minutes with Chipstead just about clearing the ball off the line to keep the scores level.

It took until the 34th minute for the breakthrough to be made and came very much against the run of play for the hosts, Tom Collins sent clear, rounded the keeper before jinking back and slotting home between the two defenders on the line. Jack Beadle almost made it a second for the home side moments later but his shot deflected wide of the target.

The second half followed a pretty similar pattern, the home side content to concede possession and play on the counter while the visitors worked their way through midfield out wide to get the ball into the box. The task got harder for Grinstead on 64 minutes after Jerome Beckles picked up a yellow card from a poor challenge with it being his second of the game his afternoon was over.

Despite the numerical advantage, Chips still struggled to string some movement together and really had to defend their one goal lead resolutely, the visitors were handed a lifeline on 71 minutes, Amoo’s spot kick though well saved by Chips keeper Oliver Pain. Grinstead though almost getting themselves back on level terms with 12 minutes to go but that dogged determination kept the visitors out once again.

The hosts looked the more likely to add to their tally in the final ten minutes and George Membrilera thought he had made the game safe in the last minute, but his powerful drive was superbly tipped over by Adams in the Grinstead goal.

The Chips held out through stoppage time and were rewarded with a trip to Hayes and Yeading in the Third Qualifying Round next Tuesday evening. A couple of players stood out for me throughout the game, Amoo with his pace and direct running should have created a few chances for striker Louis Theophanous, but the extra touch taken more often than not resulted in the ball not reaching the middle of the box whilst Chris Boulter marshalled the home side’s backline to keep the clean sheet intact.

So, the first game of October in the bag, great to get back to a ground I’ve not been to for so long and whilst things looked a little different from three decades ago, it’s still a lovely little club to visit and another doing all they’ve been asked to do for fans to be inside their ground watching their team……….

Rebels made to work hard for points

The end of September and a fruitful month for football. Eleven games watched since the 1st September in total, bearing in mind I normally get to about 20-25 games in season it appears I’m on a bit of a mission!

To finish off the month I was at Lewes vs Worthing on Tuesday evening to see Adam Hinshelwood’s side for the second Tuesday in a row and hopeful of a better result than the previous week. Standing in their way were Hugo Langton’s Lewes side, looking for a first league win of the season in an East vs West Sussex derby.

Roco Rees, on loan from Premier League Brighton, was back between the sticks for the Rebels whilst Dajon Goulding started up front against his former club no doubt eager to find the back of the net.

The Dripping Pan was split between ‘FRIES’ and ‘PIES’ to keep to social distancing rules, Pies where I was situated with Rebel Yell co-commentator and fellow PNLP podcaster James Easton, took in the terrace behind the bottom goal and the sideline stand.

The Rebels made the early running, Golding having an effort cleared off the line while Jasper Pattenden was inches away from opening the scoring, curling the ball just beyond the far post. Soon after, the hosts were reduced to 10 men, Golding sent clean through, Lewes’ keeper Nathan Stroomberg handled outside the box and the referee had no alternative to send the stopper off. When it’s not going for you, it’s really not and currently for Langton and Lewes that is definitely the case.

Despite the man advantage, Lewes made Worthing work hard across the pitch and there was a struggle for the Rebels to get any fluid passing movement going although they were getting joy down both flanks with the pace of Pattenden and Reece Meekums giving the full backs the runaround.

On the half hour though Worthing made the breakthrough, Golding received the ball outside the box, jinked inside and after shifting the ball to his left let rip blasting the ball past substitute keeper Gary Noel.

The lead however was not to last long, a short back pass from Danny Barker left Rees with little opportunity but to slam it against the onrushing Jude Arthurs and the ball ending up in the back of the net for the equaliser which sent the sides in level at half time.

The second half bizarrely opened up with Lewes’s third goalkeeper of the night, Noel replaced by Nic D’Arienzo. It also came with more purpose from The Rebels to spread the play across the pitch to try and stretch the one man advantage, something they didn’t manage to do too often in the first half.

Ricky Aguiar, a first half substitute for Jesse Starkey, almost embarrassed the new keeper from the kick-off, his 50 yard lob only slightly off target. To add to the attacking firepower on the pitch, Hinshelwood sent on Tom Chalaye for Leon Moore to try and press home the advantage the extra man was starting to bring.

Just a minute after the youngster’s introduction, Worthing were back in front, Meekums dancing his way through the hosts defence and the ball was turned into his own net by Leon Redwood with Ollie Pearce waiting to pounce behind him.

Chalaye thought he had extended the lead on 67 minutes, but D’Arienzo was equal to it, pulling off a fine save but was unable to stop Golding scoring his second and Worthing’s third a couple of minutes later, a delightful finish from Pearce’s cross to put the gloss on a much improved second half performance.

There was a very good chance for Lewes to drag themselves back into the game just before the final ten minutes, but Rees was equal twice to the efforts and the points headed back up the A27 with the Rebels and three league wins out of three to start the season.

You feel there is much more to come from Hinshelwood’s side, they haven’t yet hit their stride but still unbeaten, you can’t argue with that and if there is much more to come the Rebels are definitely going to be in the mix once again this season.

Credit must go to Lewes however, they made Worthing work hard for the points across both halves and if they can get that bit of luck going their way to match the hard work shown in this match that first win surely won’t be too far away for Langton and his team.

Honours even

Another Saturday, another footballing road trip. Needing to be in Essex after the game, and a short window from leaving Sussex most games over the water were out of range so options were limited as to where I could spend my afternoon.

There are a lot of clubs I’m trying to get round to this season and quite a few I’ve already managed in the first month but I’m not adverse to getting to watch some clubs a few times with my newfound freedom. My choice of the afternoon was the early top of the table clash in the South Counties East League Premier Division between Tunbridge Wells and Welling Town at the Culverden Stadium.

My first competitive game of the new season was here back on 1st September when a 1-0 win sent the Wells through in the FA Cup. That particular journey ended on Tuesday evening at Haringey Borough, 2 steps higher in the food chain, but the early results in the league campaign have put the Wells on the front foot and this was seen as a good test of their credentials for keeping in touch at the top.

Their opponents in Welling Town came into the game as league leaders, four wins from four games. Just six years after being formed and only two years into their membership of the SECL their remarkable rise is looking like continuing this season, placed 9th before lockdown ended last season and already mixing well with clubs in excess of their budget.

Wells could and should have been in front before Town opened the scoring, chances for Euan Sahadow, Frankie Griffin and Richard Atkins unable to be converted. On the counter from one of these failed chances, Ryan Golding held off the attentions of a defender to put the visitors in front 10 minutes in.

A lack on incisive passing was also playing havoc with the Wells trying to get back into the game, Welling content to break when play broke down, Richard Jimoh a constant threat with his direct running. The remainder of the half saw Wells control a majority of the possession but unable to convert it into goals giving manager Richard Styles lots to contemplate with the visitors having the half time lead, a great close range save from Aaron_Lee Wharton kept the scoreline down to one.

Whatever Styles and his assistant Dan Morrin said at half time went out the window with three second half minutes, Jimoh beating the full back and crossing for Alex Nelson to head home from around three yards out and a 2-0 lead for the visitors.

In all honesty that looked to be it for the Wells, but this is football and sometimes it just doesn’t disappoint! Just after the hour mark the home side were back in the game, a surging run down the right hand side from substitute Regan Corke, his cross was met by fellow winger Sahadow after a deft flick on from Adkins to reduce the deficit.

Just a minute later and the scores were on parity once again, a free kick was headed into the box by Ryan Cheek and while the Town defenders failed to react Miles Cornwell sneaked in and lifted the ball over the keeper, under the bar and into the net, drama and something that didn’t look on the cards five minutes earlier.

Both sides then broke at ease trying to find a winner, Town the closest crashing one against the bar and a few half chances came the way of both sides before they had to settle for a point each, 100% records gone but still unbeaten in the early standings.

I was quite impressed with Town’s Alex Nelson, always available for the ball in midfield throughout the game whilst in all honesty the Wells never really got going despite the early chances expecting things to go their way. A draw pretty much the right result once the home side had levelled things up, the attendance watching what was an exciting game exactly on the maximum 300, all safely in, distances observed and plenty of room for all.

Just a quick mention for Wells coaching staff, great to see Richard Styles and Dan Morrin before the game for a quick catch up and standing first half  by the home dug-out was interesting just listening to coach Luke Carpenter and his insights into why things weren’t working in the first half.

The programme I bought yesterday as well, best one I’ve seen so far, granted I haven’t been able to find one at every game so far but this one looked good and might look even better if they’d like to get a column in there from me, we’ll have to see on that score………

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……………