What next for me…..

Sums it up nicely, had an idea, searched out my market, found the niche, aim for the bullseye, take the next step.

After the past two years of growth on www.footballwriting.blog it’s now time to take it to the next level. The last 24 months have been tough for freelance writers like myself who have seen websites they wrote for disappearing during the pandemic.

I lost two such sites that were paying me for my words and when you look through a Google search many haven’t had any articles uploaded for months suggesting they too have bitten the bullet.

My aim when I started this blog around three years ago was to set up a website solely for Sussex non-league football and that hasn’t changed, I’m just a year behind where I want to be but in the meantime have built a respectable brand and a growing contact book from all levels of the game.

I also have viewings consistently from all over the world and at times it really does surprise me where these words are read and I hope they continue to be a source of information and debate for everyone in lots of different countries.

With that in mind I need to make it work moneywise and from 1st March there will be a charge to read each piece I write. Now I’m not looking to make a million from this, just enough to get away from full time work again and into making football work for me.

The cost is going to be a simple 50p for each piece, you can’t even get a cup of coffee for that these days! I appreciate people might pick and choose what they read, I can’t argue with that but then that’s my job to keep the articles entertaining and with debate.

It will ask you to subscribe to read a piece but it’s set for a one time only 50p price so you aren’t tied into monthly or yearly pricing, you read what you want when you want.

As mentioned I do have a growing contacts book which I will delve into as often as I can to get some interviews out there as well to keep it fresh and different just to keep you coming back for more and then I can hit that aim of providing what I wanted when I first set out to do so.

I’m always open to ideas of topics to write about, feel free to suggest something at any time that takes your fancy, any piece can be a winner and I hope to expand my blog network to further work which might mean I am able to run a fully free and a paid for blog side by side but that’s for the future depending upon how successful this will be.

Thank you for reading and I hope you continue to do so.

TREVOR KNELL

Rebels brush aside unfortunate K’s

We’re still at the time of year when the weather likes to have a say if matches can be played or not, although we’ve been quite lucky since the latter part of last year not losing too many games to the wind and rain.

Tunbridge Wells was my original destination for the first time this season, a pitch though that doesn’t hold up to the weather very well and given the rain that came down across most of the South East during the day it was no surprises to see it called off by 4.30.

Luckily, there was a back up plan in the shape of Worthing vs Kingstonian which wasn’t a bad second choice to have, the artificial surface at the Crucial Environmental Stadium allowing play in all kinds of weather. It also meant a much quicker journey home from the game so that’s never a bad thing!

The Rebels are once again leading the way in the Pitching In Isthmian League Premier Division and despite there being more in the way of challengers this time around they are well placed to finally make it to the National League South.

Kingstonian were sure to provide a stern test on Tuesday evening with play-off aspirations themselves and on a cold, rainy night the scene was set for what was hopefully going to be a pulsating clash.

The visitors were quite content for Worthing to have possession in and around their own half whilst utilising the pace of Daniel Ajakaiye and Walter Figueira to mount any counter attacks, Worthing looking to play cross-field balls from right to left into the path of Davide Rodari and James Beresford.

At times in the first half the K’s struggled to get out of their own half as Worthing probed and pressed for a way through, and despite a flurry of attacking play they couldn’t find a breakthrough, Ollie Pearce coming the closest to finding the net but couldn’t divert his effort goal wards.

As can sometimes happen one side has all the attacking play and then all of a sudden find themselves a goal behind and chasing the game. That almost happened five minutes before half time as Kingstonian broke clear beyond the Worthing back line and were indebted to debut making keeper Tommy Reid who saved well with his legs to keep the scores level.

That scoreline stayed level for only a few seconds more as Jasper Pattenden drove into the heart of the K’s defence and while his shot was saved by Serine Sanneh, Callum Kealy was on hand to put away the rebound and give the Rebels the lead.

The marksman was at it again two minutes into stoppage time, rifling a fierce shot past Sanneh after the ball dropped to him in the box from a corner and the Rebels going from almost being 1-0 behind to 2-0 up.

It almost got worse for the visitors a minute later as a barnstorming run from Pattenden ended up with the ball slamming against the post much to the relief of the K’s players and supporters and a chance for everyone to catch their breath as the half time whistle sounded.

The pattern of the second half opening moments saw the home side seemingly sucked into the visitors play, a ten minute spell of pressure but a lack of efforts on Reid’s goal kept the scoreline at a blank for the K’s.

The game turned a little bit niggly for a short while, Kealy picking up a yellow card after tangling with former Rebel Alfie Young in which the latter appeared to kick out at the Worthing frontman but escaped further punishment after an earlier yellow card. Skirmishes broke out twice as the referee looked to lose a little control instead of dealing with the situation slightly better and issued a yellow card also to Pattenden.

The rush of yellow cards also claimed Aaron Racine and the visitors Jerry Puemo in quick succession before Pattenden settled the game on 68 minutes. A superb ball from Beresford set Kealy away down the left flank and he crossed for the winger to finish from inside the six yard box.

Puemo then gave the referee a decision to make with a foul 15 minutes from time and ended up back in the changing room giving Worthing some time to make a man advantage count.

And they almost did three minutes later but substitute Dajon Golding couldn’t latch onto a rebound and hit the target. However, fellow substitute Reece Meekums had no such trouble six minutes from time running at the K’s forlorn defence and arrowing the ball past Sanneh for the home side’s fourth of the night.

Two minutes from time Sanneh was equal to another Golding effort as the Rebels walked off with four goals and a six point lead at the top of the table with a game in hand ahead of a trip to second placed Bishops Stortford at the weekend.

A comfortable win in the end for the hosts but at times the K’s made them work for the points, the sheer power and changes from the bench the difference. And from that point when you look at the players who couldn’t make the sixteen, Pat Webber, Luke Robinson, Darren Budd and a couple more, add in Dean Cox not even coming off the bench as well, the strength in depth available to Adam Hinshelwood is exactly what will be needed over the next two and a half months and hopefully propels them finally into the National League South.

Saturday is surely a ‘not lose’ game and then carry on picking up the wins, if the game in hand yields three points the gap is nine, that’s a nice cushion but one I know Hinsh will insist they maintain.

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Golds Wembley dream a step closer

It’s not often I get to a Saturday afternoon game at the moment but I’m certainly making the most of every Tuesday night available. A change of plans however this weekend meant I had the rare opportunity to make a 3pm kick off and headed for The Sportsfield in Littlehampton to watch the home side take on Brockenhurst in the FA Vase 5th round.

Both sides are embroiled in title races in the Southern Combination Premier Division and the Wessex League so on paper it looked like a very good match up which is generally the case when you get to this stage and only three games from a Wembley final.

Town were missing two or three regulars but as I’ve seen throughout this season they can rotate as many as four within the squad and it doesn’t weaken things. There was also an added bonus for the home side with striker Joe Benn returning for his first game since the Vase exit last month and a dislocated shoulder for the 58 goal marksman.

I say Vase exit because there is a story behind that! Athletic Newham comfortably put five past the Golds and trotted into the next round to host Brockenhurst. It was subsequently discovered they had played a suspended player during the win and were subject to an FA investigation which they lost and Littlehampton were re-instated days before this game was played.

So, it was certainly a case of making second chances count on Saturday afternoon and in the bright but cold Sussex sunshine the opportunity was there to take the season onto the next stage.

There was very little between the sides in the opening moments, the biting wind behind the home side for the first forty-five and both sides testing each other out.

As both were struggling a bit to get to grips with the conditions a goal appeared out of nowhere. The ball came into Benn around five yards outside the penalty area and on the half volley sent the ball fizzing past the visiting keeper James Mayo to open the scoring.

Clear cut chances were at a premium, the visitors were controlling possession but lacked a cutting edge to trouble the Littlehampton back four whilst the home side were content to allow the ball to be played in front of them and to deal with any breaks down either flanks.

That seemed to work well until a minute before half time when Brockenhurst levelled the game, Silvano Obeng finishing well past James Binfield after some good wing play, the game by no means a classic to watch but still another half to come.

The second half really saw the game come to life as early as the opening ten minutes with both sides seemingly deciding attack was going to be the way to win the game and on the hour mark the home side were back in front.

A free kick from the Town left found its way to Zack Harris in the penalty box who drilled the ball across for new signing Aaron Capon to tap in from a few yards out. There was drama however as the assistant referee had flagged for offside only to be overruled by the referee and the goal stood.

Ten minutes later the tie looked to be won as another Town free kick wasn’t cleared and Lee Garnham on the half volley sent the Littlehampton fans into raptures with a third goal for the home side.

The visitors had other ideas that this tie was over though as Christie Ward scored with a little over 14 minutes to play and you could sense a few nerves returning to The Sportsfield crowd. Unsurprisingly the impetus was now with Brockenhurst and Town were defending a lot of needless free kicks being given away, one such foul ending with a second yellow card for midfielder Dave Herbert and an early bath one minute from time.

Just moments earlier Binfield pulled off a fantastic save to keep the home side in front, flying to his right to push the ball out for a corner from a shot destined for the top corner had he not made it.

With five added minutes the ten men Golds did their best to hold out but another needless free kick given away saw the ball bounce around in the Town box and was poked towards goal by Alex Haynes in the final minute of stoppage time with the last touch coming from Binfield to level the tie once again and with no extra time it was straight to penalties.

Just when you thought you’d seen enough drama inside 90 minutes, more was to come. Benn scored the first for the home side while Binfield then saved the first Brockenhurst penalty. Both sides converted their second penalties followed by Town scoring their third and the visitors putting their kick the wrong side of the post leaving Capon to score Gold’s fourth kick and a place in the quarter final draw as the Sportsfield erupted to a pitch invasion.

To see 1,276 supporters inside to witness all of the above was a figure I wasn’t expecting at all to see. Crowds for Littlehampton this season have been on the increase all year and are currently averaging 178 per league fixture at Step 5, cup games have been very well attended and it’s great to see the town getting involved and behind the side as they aim for promotion to the Isthmian League.

The visitors really played their part in an entertaining second half as well and the season isn’t over for them, a race for the Wessex League title awaits them for the remainder of the season. Great to see when sides play the ball on the floor and want to pass through teams rather than play over them, two players stuck out for me in Ronan Moore and Seung Woo-Yang who looked every inch calm and composed throughout.

Nice to catch up with some old friends as well, namely Terry Gaunt, Simon Ediker, Kevin Playle-Howard and Jack Croft, guys who get around to local football as well but just not as much as me! I purposely waited until the draw was made on Monday afternoon before posting this blog and what a mouth-watering tie for the Golds, favourites North Shields are the visitors to the Sportsfield on the weekend of 12th March and with only two rounds now till the Wembley date comes around you can almost taste the glory……….

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An interview with Danny Kedwell

A couple of weeks ago I sat down with former Cray Wanderers boss Danny Kedwell via instant messaging to find out how he felt his time went at the club and what plans he has for his future in the game:

TK: How did you end up taking the Cray Wanderers job?

DK: Gary Hillman the chairman of Cray approached me after someone else had put my name forward to him. The very least I was going to do was have a chat about the job but it appealed to me massively.

TK: Were there any second thoughts given you needed to completely rebuild the squad?

DK: No, I liked the idea of the challenge, a chance to put my own stamp on the job from the very beginning, something that was very exciting to me.

TK: Having had such a good career within the game as a player was it easier to persuade players to come and play for you?

DK: No, not really. I liked the conversations I was having to try and get players in during that transition period with a lot of players coming in and other shipping out, I felt I was very close to getting what we needed to be able to stay in the division.

I didn’t feel I got enough time, if it had been said to me at the beginning you need to build a full squad and you need to be right in the thick of it at the top end of the table after 19 games I wouldn’t have taken the job.

TK: You’ve played under some very good managers in your career, have you taken a little something from all of them and adapted it a bit to how you coach and manage?

DK: Yeah, I’ve taken from a couple of them but more off the pitch stuff which I found helped me when I was playing and I hope the players did benefit from it for the time I was there.

TK: How did you find fitting in the work as a Step 4 manager around the day job at Ebbsfleet Academy?

DK: It worked quite well actually as the academy work was all in the mornings so that left me free to concentrate on the job at Cray and made it easier to get away for midweek games as well.

TK: We met after the Horsham game when you won 3-0 and things looked to have turned a corner then but the change didn’t materialise. How disappointed were you that it didn’t work out at Hayes Lane with Cray Wanderers?

DK: I’d like to think it was about to happen. I found it disappointing I only got 19 games after building a brand new squad that needed time to gel and for players to be added all the time to improve things. I felt we were very close to that corner being turned, we were playing some good football as you saw in that Horsham game and we were dominating games, the results don’t show that.

TK: And now onto Chatham in the thick of a title challenge in the Southern Counties East League, was it important to you to get into a club where there was something to play for this season and to keep you mentally tuned?

DK: No, not really. It didn’t really come into my mind and wasn’t even thinking about the next steps when the call came so it was a bit of a shock. They’ve a great set-up though and it was where my football journey began so a little bit of a no-brainer to head back there.

TK: Should another offer come along to return to the dug-out before the season ends, will Danny Kedwell be back on the touchline or some time out until the summer?

DK: I’m biding my time; the next offer and club has to be right so I’m not going to rush in and take the first job that’s offered to me. But I definitely want another crack at it in the near future.

My thanks to Danny for his time and hopefully we see him back in the dug-out in the not too distant future.

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Stoppage time goals the undoing of Angels

Tuesday night saw a trip to East Sussex and down to Priory Lane, home of Eastbourne Borough as guests of the Boro’ Chairman David Blackmore, another first for Gaz but a return trip for me.

Last season though my visit was to watch the now defunct Langney Wanderers whose matchday programme I was writing for but I also managed to speak to David that afternoon for the first time instead of via Twitter and text!

A couple of weeks ago the chairman appeared on our Premier Non-League Podcast to talk about the leadership issues the club was facing and thankfully resolved within a few days, but a great insight into the way their club is run.

The visitors were Tonbridge Angels, managed by a good friend of mine in Steve McKimm, and on the back of a fine away win at the weekend ending Dorking Wanderers 10 game winning run. Borough themselves are having another very good season and are firmly in the hunt for a play-off place.

It was the Angels who got off to a fast start and were in front inside five minutes, Ibrahim Olutade timed his run perfectly onto a ball over the top before setting up Adrian Coombes to curl the ball past Lee Worgan for the game’s opening goal.

There was a frantic pace about the game with both sides keen to break quickly when in possession and there wasn’t much surprise when the equalising goal arrived soon after.

Dom Hutchinson drifted in from the left hand side and after seeming to evade a couple of tackles he managed to find a way past Jonny Henly and the ball nestled in the far corner to give us two goals before ten minutes were on the clock.

The Angels were looking the more likely to score during the rest of the half, but you knew you couldn’t rule out Borough at any stage and whilst actual chances being created were at a premium there was plenty of attacking intent to keep the crowd occupied.

Just as it appeared the sides would go in level; the home side snatched the lead in first half stoppage time. Charley Kendall, who secured a move to Lincoln City this coming summer before the January transfer window ended, was fed a lovely ball by Charlie Walker and after beating Sonny Miles Kendall slipped the ball passed Henly for a Borough half time lead and Tonbridge possibly wondering how they weren’t level at a minimum.

The visitors were very much on the front foot at the start of the second half but it was the hosts who almost went further ahead four minutes in, Henly racing out from his goal to thwart Kendall outside of the penalty area only to see Hutchinson return the ball towards the net, Harry Hudson with a headed goal-line clearance to keep the deficit at one goal.

Tonbridge were still pressing hard for a way back into the game but found the Borough defence not very giving despite a lot of probing and were cautious at the same time of the hosts breaking fast and sealing the game.

As it was Eastbourne did finally put the game to bed in stoppage time as Joel Rollinson broke clear of the Angels backline to lift the ball over Henly cool as you like to ensure the points stayed in Sussex and Tonbridge went home empty handed.

The result meant Danny Bloor’s men moved back into the top seven and as David put it on Wednesday morning, one point from safety! Different targets for different clubs of course but Borough most definitely back in the thick of a promotion race.

Steve McKimm on the other hand bemoaned getting punished for their mistakes once again despite dominating the game. Whilst Borough were clinical with the few chances they did have, Tonbridge certainly looked the more threatening going forward, attention for them though turns to a Kent derby in the FA Trophy this coming Saturday as Bromley visit Longmead.

Impressive performance from Aaron Smith-Joseph down the Angels left hand side, a real handful and fantastic delivery into the box all evening meant the Borough defence couldn’t rest for a moment whilst for the home side the sharpness of Kendall made you see why he’s earned his move, good to see Chris Whelpdale get some more minutes under his belt, a key figure in last season’s halted campaign.

One final note, David was expecting a crowd of around 500 so to see the figure at 710 was pretty good given the cold night and of course football on the box as well.

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Defeat overshadowed by off pitch events

Tuesday night and the fourth game in seven days for me, it started at the Dripping Pan and took in Lewes, Wroxham, Barnet and finally Barnet again but an away day at Southend Utd.

The original fixture planned for Tuesday following Xmas wouldn’t have seen me attending due to work so it would have been rude not to make a first trip to Roots Hall when able to.

Both sides came into the game at opposite ends of the form table, the Shrimpers beginning to find form under Kevin Maher and the Bees finding struggles of late under Dean Brennan.

Barnet were missing three key players, skipper Jamie Turley who was internally suspended as I was to find out just before kick off from revelations of the aftermath of Saturday’s defeat to Stockport, Harry Taylor was suspended and Sam Beard suffering from a bout of tonsilitis.

With the focus of the Bees players possibly elsewhere at kick off, Southend went for the kill from the off and were in front inside five minutes, Aston Oxborough pushing a shot out straight to the feet of Matthew Dennis and he made no mistake to give the home side the lead.

Barnet struggled to get to grips with the lively front man and he was only denied by a superb Jordan Thomas tackle from getting himself with a free run at Oxborough nine minutes later. The Bees did then settle down looking to get Rob Hall and Ephron Mason-Clark on the ball as much as possible to unsettle the Southend defence with their pace and direct running.

Just before the half hour mark Dennis had his and the Shrimpers second, Oxborough failing to hold onto the ball and the frontman took full advantage to extend the lead for the home side.

The two goal cushion only lasted five minutes, Mason-Clark played in Adam Marriott who fired hard into the bottom corner to reduce the deficit. The Bees could have been level two minutes later but Mason-Clark headed wide of Steve Arnold’s goal.

Five minutes before the break Barnet allowed Tom Clifford a free run up the pitch and his shot came back off Oxborough’s left hand post and away to safety, but the home side in front at the interval.

Barnet were certainly the brighter side for the first fifteen second half minutes applying a good amount of pressure but lacked the penetration to level the scores. From that point on Southend dictated the play without too much threat to Oxborough’s goal and while Barnet stayed within touching distance of the game Arnold had a relatively comfortable second half, the Shrimpers taking the points to move to seven games unbeaten leaving Brennan proud of his side’s efforts but with nothing to show for them.

The game was certainly overshadowed by events off the pitch with much talk in the away end over what had happened since the Stockport match at the weekend, a few at the end chose to vent their frustrations and a lot of anger aimed at various individuals throughout.

Hopefully by the time the Bees take to the field at Aldershot this coming weekend some things will have been resolved and we get back to concentrating on football, the form needs to improve as it’s really tailed off with no win in six league games.

Better performance from Teddy Howe standing in at left back and Jordan Thomas made a difference recalled to the right back berth, stand out player for me was Sam Woods, winning headers and tackles where he’s supposed to and Wes Fonguck had his best game for a while before running out of steam.

Seven points were really needed out of the next four games including this one, a tall order maybe but we don’t need another relegation fight.

Headline news but for all the wrong reasons

Well, where do you start with this one! It’s a sensitive topic that plagues society as well as football and something we can’t seem to deal with effectively. I am of course talking about racism which is prevalent in our game and across the footballing world, but this one strikes a lot closer to home.

A big majority of you will have read by now of an alleged incident during the Barnet vs Stockport County match on Saturday at The Hive, a game I attended with a good mate of mine Nick Patel.

The game was halted around 15 minutes in but there was uncertainty as to why. The referee held conversations with his assistant on that side of the field nearest the tunnel, both captains, a steward, the managers and also the 4th official. Play took about 5-10 minutes to re-start and I thought whatever it was had been dealt with.

Then around 10-15 minutes after the stoppage an anti-racism message was broadcasted over the tannoy and again I assumed it had been dealt with at the time and to be honest didn’t think too much of it.

Fast forward to Tuesday night and a trip to Southend. I arrived and sat down after eating to check out the team news, no Jamie Turley who I assumed picked up a knock at the weekend, no Beard or Taylor, the latter two I found out after were ill and suspended. From here is where it unravels!

I messaged Nick to say no Turley and forwarded on came a link to a Daily Mirror article about Barnet embroiled in a racism row and that if I read it I would know why Turley was not there.

Turley had indeed been suspended from the club on full pay following an incident at The Hive on Monday morning which came about from the allegations on Saturday.

Ricky Bartlett, the clubs apparent logistics manager (more on that later) and NOT a member of the coaching staff, is alleged to have made a racist comment to Stockport County defender Ryan Johnson that caused the stoppage in play.

Bartlett wasn’t suspended by the club initially despite the chairman being made aware on the Sunday of an issue whereby the players weren’t comfortable with him being around the complex at training time.

As per the statements released so far Turley clashed with Bartlett leading to the latter making his feelings known to the chairman and Turley receiving his suspension. Bartlett was eventually also suspended but it appears after the Bees captain.

Now all of this appeared on various newspaper links an hour before the game was due to kick off at Roots Hall, leaked out I assume from the club but by who that remains a mystery. That led to the club releasing a statement once they knew it was out in the open, once again poor communication that we have seen on so many occasions and the timing itself was also very poor.

Word then began to filter around the stand before, during and after the game with much speculation abound, the game itself merely a by-product almost in front of us for its duration.

The atmosphere itself wasn’t pleasant at all in the away end, disbelief, angry, confused, the best way to describe the emotions but getting behind the players on the pitch at the same time.

Once the game had finished a few took to venting their frustrations as the staff and players were leaving the pitch, two of the staff members did walk across and talk to them, I didn’t hear what was said as I was out of earshot.

Going back to the article the playing squad had backed Turley and refused to turn out on Tuesday night and didn’t train on Monday nor anything light on Tuesday morning. The reason the players did play was down to Dean Brennan solely to convince them to play for him, for Dave Anderson and for us as supporters.

There seems some uncertainty that they were told going on strike would see some contracts terminated or players fined, we do know however if they had failed to fulfil the fixture then the club would have been on the receiving end of a fine themselves.

If you’re still reading and not in a confused state of mind, then well done! I’m not convinced I’ve got things in order and this is after a re-read twice over.

Since I began to write this earlier on Wednesday the club have since issued another statement with more bullet points and information than before but it still begs a few questions need to be answered.

Reading the statement sent out on Wednesday afternoon those closest to the incident confirm nothing untoward was said out of context or that what was said wasn’t deemed to be racist in its wording.

If however nothing out of the ordinary was said then why has the County player in question reported it to the Kick It Out campaign? Because if the said wording is not racist then it’s another can of worms opening up surely?

What don’t I understand is why the club didn’t undertake a thorough investigation a day later and suspend Bartlett while they completed it? The FA would be involved in any case which they are now and potentially this could have been concluded by now.

If you or I had done this same thing in a normal workplace we’d be on suspension pending investigation and released back to work if the allegations were unfounded, why does it appear to be done differently? It’s their place of work, the same rules don’t apply?

If they had followed those parts above then Turley wouldn’t have been in the situation he’s ended up in now, there would a more calmer approach to it instead of het-up angry comments flying around everywhere.

I can understand people saying the players were wrong to strike, but like in a disagreement you back your mate, they feel their skipper was hard done by because the club hasn’t followed what you would expect when serious allegations are made and at this stage until every last morsal has been investigated that’s what they are.

I don’t understand why reference had to be made to Bartlett no longer holding the position of Logistics Manager due to a severe heart condition, surely that has no bearing on anything discussed above? And if he’s only a member of the site team should he be anywhere close to the training sessions as he now has no impact on any football related matters that he was once responsible for?

My hashtag on Twitter of #WeStandByTurley isn’t an admission of guilt on the part of Bartlett as one or two have suggested, I stand by the fact that whatever happened on Monday morning was avoidable and he’s paying the price for it as are the team without his presence on the pitch.

The whole thing has left a sour taste in the mouths of many for a situation that could have been handled far differently and we’re not here talking about football, but you have to take the rough with the smooth, that’s Barnet FC…………………

County storm to victory against struggling Barnet

I think I can probably count on two hands the amount of times I’ve watched two live games in two days. Life generally dictates otherwise which is fair enough, that can’t be helped.

Having taken in Wroxham vs Norwich Utd in El Broadico on Friday evening I was hoping for Kings Lynn to be at home on the Saturday and a catch up with Hugo Langton who is assisting Tommy Widdrington at The Walks.

But an away day for them at Boreham Wood meant I decided on a trip to The Hive for Barnet and Stockport County instead on the way back home, a nice cross country route to get there instead of endless motorways.

Having watched County cruise past Dagenham last weekend on BT Sport, there wasn’t anything to suggest Barnet would fair any better so keeping the score down and respectable was the most Bees fans were expecting.

With Dean Brennan fielding arguably his strongest side with Jordan Thomas and Kian Flanagan on the bench the only two likely to be included, there was a debut for new right back Teddy Howe.

The intention from Stockport was there right from the kick off, press high and constantly and not give the home side any time to settle, the pace of Paddy Madden and harassing of Scott Quigley forced Reiss Greenidge to concede an early free kick and picked up a booking in the process after only five minutes.

With Barnet struggling to get any momentum going forward it was looking to be a matter of time that County would take the lead, targeting the new full back Howe with balls around and over the top of him.

Both Liam Hogan and Madden put shots just wide of the post before a free kick clipped the top of the crossbar on it’s way over just past the half hour mark. The Bees were still struggling to get anything going and Aston Oxborough was called into action seven minutes before the break tipping Ryan Croasdale’s effort onto the bar, not the first time the County midfield and front line had broken through the Bees back line, this coming from a sliced Oxborough clearance which saw the young stopper redeem himself.

Just as it appeared Barnet would head into the interval on level terms, a silly freekick was given away outside the box and was headed back across goal for Will Collar to nod home unmarked from two yards out in first half stoppage time, in all honesty that should have been the second or third goal for the visitors.

A second goal did come for County nine minutes into the second half, Ryan Johnson outmuscling the Barnet defence to head home from a Ryan Rydel corner much to the delight of the travelling fans behind Oxborough’s goal.

Twelve minutes later Hogan headed home unmarked from another corner to seal the points leaving Bees fans frustrated having conceded all three goals from set plays.

Barnet’s inability to test the County backline meant they waited until the 88th minute for a shot on target, Ephron Mason-Clark’s stinging drive tipped round the post by Ben Hinchliffe.

With the Bees seemingly in the dressing room at the announcement of four added minutes, Stockport showed their ruthless side and score twice more through Connor Jennings and Johnson again to really rub salt into the wounds and cap a five star display from start to finish.

The gulf between the two sides was clearly evident before and during the match and as mentioned the intensity that County played with was far removed from anything Barnet tried.

I think we all expected an away win but not the capitulation at the end and the manner of the first three goals, re-starts, something the Bees had a massive problem with last year and it seems even with new personnel this year it’s no better.

As per almost every game we’ve played this year the lack of midfield legs is showing far too often, we don’t get close enough to the opposition to make them work harder. There is a huge lack of goalscoring threat as well, and it’s not just down to this particular game either, it’s becoming a bit baffling as to why neither Adam Marriott nor Mason Bloomfield are selected to start games when that’s their bread and butter.

The post-match interview from Brennan certainly attracted a few comments, not quite the solid debut from Howe that he alluded to, let’s hope that one was put down to nerves and there is a player in there.

Three huge games coming up in Southend and Aldershot away plus Wealdstone at home by mid-Feb and Notts County somewhere in the middle, seven points must be the minimum from these four games, that relegation zone is becoming closer than mid-table safety……..

Late drama hands Yachtsmen the points

It’s not often I get to sample Friday night football, probably once a season if I’m lucky. A lot may wonder why I headed so far from Littlehampton to Norfolk to watch a game so here it is.

As a kid all of my holidays until I was a teenager were spent in East Anglia and mostly around Wroxham. Sometimes it was a boat, sometimes on land and I got taken to watch the Yachtsmen and Great Yarmouth as well. Over the years as I do with ex Barnet players I take notice and watch what goes on.

The Yachtsmen have always been one of the better sides at Step 5 in the area and have won the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League eight times, twice winning it three years in a row in the 1990’s.

In 2011 they finally took the plunge and accepted promotion to the Isthmian League North Division and I think it’s fair to say the club didn’t have the best of times and were eventually relegated back to the Eastern Counties in 2017. My late father always wanted to see them in action in a higher league, unfortunately he didn’t get that chance, I luckily did twice before this evening.

Being located just down the road from Norwich City it’s probably no surprise there is a yellow and green connection in the Wroxham ranks and not just one for two.

The ex-Premier League striker in Grant Holt has turned out for the past two years adding vast and valuable experience to the side, Chris Sutton’s son Ollie is the Yachtsmen’s keeper and also captain whilst son of Darren Huckerby Tom is currently out injured, if memory serves me correctly Chris had a short spell at Trafford Park after his professional career ended mainly turning out for the reserve side.

 Holt started ‘El Broadico’ at centre half, replacing the injured Huckerby junior and in front of a sizeable crowd of 392 on a cold, crispy Norfolk evening the hosts saw the majority of the early ball, the visitors working hard to press as high up the pitch as they can.

The home side prior to last weekend had gone five weeks without kicking a ball due to the league calling off all games over Xmas and New Year followed by waterlogged pitches putting paid to action.

This game saw them complete their third game in seven days and understandably passes were a bit wayward and judging by the locals beside me the energy wasn’t quite there as it usually was.

Ryan Miles and Brad Spooner down both flanks looked to make things happen early on but balls into the box evaded the Wroxham forwards and nothing much of note to trouble Ryan Dickerson.

It was the visitors who were close to taking the lead on 21 minutes Alby Matthews fierce shot only just clearing Sutton’s crossbar, the striker a willing runner all evening and working hard to press Holt and Chris Skipper.

With the home side making all the running to create a goal it was a surprise that the visitors opened the scoring. Kyle Richardson put the ball in the net just after the half hour mark from a well worked move involving two or three interplays of passing.

The home side were certainly a little taken aback and a heated altercation between the home dugout and the referee resulted in a yellow card for the one of the Yachtsmen coaching staff, the man in the middle at times seemingly a little lost throughout the game with some strange decisions being made.

The home side however couldn’t find a breakthrough and Norwich Utd held the lead going into the half time interval and the Yachtsmen needing something different in the second half.

They did come out with some more intensity and certainly pushed the game forward but at the same time allowed the visitors chances to put the game out of reach, Matthews blazing wildly over and Skipper denying the same player with a superb sliding tackle, substitute Liam Jackson also should have had a second for the visitors.

Holt blazed over early on from a flicked free kick whilst Dickerson saved well from a Harley Black free kick as the home side went in search of an equaliser. The game changed on the back of two substitutions from Wroxham’s Jordan Southgate. With around seven minutes to play a corner from Black was flicked on and Callum Olpin who hadn’t been on the field long was in the right place to net the equaliser.

The Yachtsmen then found some legs to push for a winner, and it duly came in the 90th minute, a contentious penalty awarded after the assistant flagged for a foul inside the area on Ryan Curtis.

Mac Gee was sent off the visitors presumably for something he said to the referee over the award of the spot kick and after much waiting fellow substitute Matty Hayden slammed the ball past Dickerson to put the home side in the lead.

There was just enough time for the game to re-start as the Yachtsmen took the three points at the end of a gruelling week after so much time without any action. With rivals for the title Gorleston losing it capped a great night for the home side who are now just two points of the top of the table with two games in hand on those mentioned above and four games in hand on Mildenhall.

Great to meet Lee Robson the Wroxham chairman, we spoke during the first lockdown for this blog and his hospitality all evening was top drawer, nothing was too much trouble.

Good to also meet Adrian Gowling who looks after the media stuff at Trafford Park and also to get introduced to Adam Drury, another with Norwich connections and assistant manager at the club.

I also met some Kings Lynn fans in the second half ahead of their Saturday trip to Boreham Wood, shared a few National League stories and predictions between us.

So, two out of four games in seven days completed, onto Barnet vs Stockport County, from one end of the pyramid to the other.

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Rooks take points against battling Cray

Picture courtesy of Gareth Spinks

January has been great for Tuesday night football, very good when I haven’t been able to get to many Saturday games, I can’t remember the last season there were so many games to choose from early in the year, maybe it’s because I’m looking further afield and not just close to home.

Despite both Worthing and Littlehampton having top of the table clashes, the fact I’ve seen both sides a far bit this season kinda took them out of the equation, tempted also as well by the fantastic looking burger at Hampton & Richmond which I’m sure I’ll get to before the end of the season.

In the end Gaz and I settled on Lewes vs Cray Wanderers, his first visit to the Dripping Pan and my first look at the home side this season, the visitors I saw record a fine win over Horsham only a month or two back.

The ground is quite unique in the sense of beach huts for hire to watch the game from and whilst being able to watch the game from high level on one side you can’t watch at pitch level, but this kind of thing is what brings the romance if you will to grounds and to non-league.

With Lewes now managed by ex-Cray pair Tony Russell and Joe Vines I was keen to see as well if they could replicate the success and improvement they made at Wanderers and also see in action the highly rated and coveted Ollie Tanner.

On a pretty cold night in East Sussex both sides were quite tentative in their starts, the home side wary after allowing a two goal lead to slip at the weekend while the visitors conceded four but ran out 5-4 winners against Carshalton, maybe mindful they needed to be a bit more resolute in defence.

Whilst Wanderers looked the more composed going forward during the first half, it was actually the home side who looked the more likely to find the net with more efforts heading towards Bayley Vose’s net than Lewis Carey.

We thought Chris Dickson was going to open the scoring on the half hour mark but shot just over having escaped his marker for the first time, well marshalled by the Rooks defence until then. It was then chances for the hosts to take the lead, Will Salmon heading against the post and Tanner’s shot being kept out by a fine save from Vose.

Just as we thought we were heading for a 0-0 scoreline at half time the game changed a minute before the half time whistle. A corner swung in from the Lewes right hand side caused some confusion in the six yard box and Joe Taylor’s flick was pushed into the net by Vose for the opening goal with the whistle being blown straight after Wanderers kicked off.

With the wind in their sails the home side came out stronger in the second half as Cray struggled to keep possession and Lewes extended their lead nine minutes into the half, Razz Coleman De-Graft was given too much space and curled a lovely shot past Vose.

The home side then could have had another goal or two with better pass selection, but Cray held out and tried to influence the game with a couple of substitutions and while Lewes were more content to sit back on the lead Cray couldn’t break them down and were restricted to half chances from distance leaving the majority of the 517 crowd happy with a home win.

Those three points keep the pressure on at the top of the Isthmian League Premier Division although the general consensus is it’s Worthing’s title to lose, the rest can only win their games.

Russell and Vines certainly do look as if they are building something good on the South Coast and should well feature in the end of season play-off’s, this is a club who once were a National League club or Conference as it was known then.

Cray are in a transition period again after parting ways a few weeks ago with Danny Kedwell and under Grant Basey and Gary Alexander they’ve shown signs they will pull away from relegation danger over the coming weeks.

Great to catch up with Wanderers Chairman Gary Hillman during the game and find out the latest with their new stadium plans and also to see Sam Wright plus a favourite of our Premier Non-League podcast Chris Dickson, that was the first of four games in seven days for me so plenty more blogs to come!

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