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Just 50p to read how Worthing reached the Sussex Senior Cup final and the thoughts of Rebels boss Adam Hinshelwood are all inside.
Just 50p to read how Worthing reached the Sussex Senior Cup final and the thoughts of Rebels boss Adam Hinshelwood are all inside.
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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Tuesday night and another midweek game despite it being the middle of January and pretty freezing cold down on the South Coast. Part 3 of ‘El Classicoast’, Bognor vs Worthing this time in the Sussex Senior Cup Quarter Final with both sides having won in each other backyard’s during the two league fixtures.
With the hosts marooned almost in mid-table a win for them against their table topping neighbours would keep their season alive whilst a win for Worthing would keep their hunt for silverware intact.
Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood chose to give a few first team starters a breather whilst Rocks Robbie Blake fielded a decent strength side on what was crisp, cold night at Nyewood Lane.
An impeccable minute’s silence was observed by both sets of fans after the passing a few days ago of Hinshelwood’s father Paul before both sides settled down to another 90 minutes of derby football.
Reece Meekums should have given the Rebels an early lead after cutting inside the defender but blazing high and wide when well placed. Dajon Golding who was a constant thorn in the Bognor defence down the left hand side clipped the bar just after a quarter of and hour and the same player also could have given Worthing the lead but like Meekums blazed well over.
With Bognor struggling to maintain possession for long enough Worthing were trying both wings to create chances but they took the lead five minutes before half time through a midfield burst from Marvin Armstrong whose shot was followed up by Will Seager for the game’s opening goal.
Five minutes the other side of half time the hosts should have been level but Nathan Odokonyero fired wide of Harrison Male’s goal. A triple change after the hour mark from Hinshelwood saw Danny Barker, Ollie Pearce and Jessie Starkey replace Seager, Darren Budd and Dean Cox to try and force a second goal to seal the tie.
Male was called into action with 15 minutes to go, Jordy Mongoy’s effort well saved by the Rebels shot stopper and the closest the hosts came to forcing an equaliser.
Golding thought he had given Worthing a two goal cushion six minutes from time having broken beyond the Bognor back line but his effort struck the far post and away from a Rebels foot to turn the ball in.
With more attacking threat on the pitch Worthing attacked at will, breaking fast with incisive passing and got their final reward in stoppage time when Jasper Pattenden strode forward, won a challenge and motored into the penalty area and unbelievably arrowed the ball over the head of six foot plus keeper Amadou Tangara into his top right hand corner to seal the win and a place in the semi-finals for Worthing.
A crowd of 842 was on hand to witness a win that almost puts the end to Bognor’s season, currently 13 points behind 4th placed Kingstonian with a game in hand but too many draws over the course of the campaign so far leaves them needing a run of wins that look highly unlikely speaking to one or two Bognor fans on Wednesday morning.
Whilst there appears no danger of being sucked into the relegation fight, a change of personnel needs to happen if the Rocks are to challenge at the top end of the table consistently.
Attention for Worthing now turns to the title challenge they hope to sew up as soon as possible, a six point lead over nearest rivals Enfield Town with a game in hand although Folkestone Invicta with a couple of games further back than everything else can be a big threat.
Final word on the Pattenden goal, was it a shot or was it a cross? I was almost in line with it and that looked like a cross, other footage I’ve seen makes it look more like a shot, make your own mind up if you see it!
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As the season edges towards the winter months, the midweek game offerings become a bit thinner. Without cup progress for most, it’s pretty much down to playing Saturday’s only.
With a few other things going on at weekends currently my watching is restricted to Tuesday nights for a few weeks and with it this week Worthing vs Seaford Town in the Sussex Senior Cup.
It was a few weeks earlier this time last year that the Rebels played Three Bridges in the same competition and turned out that 2-1 defeat was the final competitive game they played last season.
For Seaford it was the chance to look for another scalp having knocked out Southern Combination Premier Division side Loxwood in the first round a few weeks ago.
Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood went for a youthful look to his side and bench, surrounded by one or two older heads who needed minutes and with Saturday’s FA Trophy tie against National League South Dorking Wanderers in mind.
Seaford were happy to let Worthing push the ball around the pitch but pressed hard not to make it easy for them in the opening quarter and looked very pacey when breaking on the counter attack.
Indeed it was from the visitors pressing that Will Seager scored an own goal to give Seaford the lead on 26 minutes. The lead however was very short-lived as the Mackerel Men were level just two minutes later, a corner from the right landed nicely at the feet of Tom Chalaye and he slammed it past Seaford keeper Mike Platt for the equaliser.
There were a couple of half chances for the home side but Seaford kept them at bay and the sides went into the interval level as possession wasn’t converted into goals for the Mackerel Men.
The second half was an expectation of more of the same, but it was Seaford who had the best chance after the re-start but sent the ball wide of Harrison Male’s far post.
With that scare of almost going behind Worthing stepped it up a notch and ten minutes into the half were awarded a penalty after Platt upended Dean Cox, Chalaye making no mistake from the spot with a thumping drive past the keeper to put the Mackerel Men in front.
Two minutes later and the net was bulging again, good work from Kyle O’Brien down the left found Marvin Armstrong in the box who finished for the home side’s third goal and second in three minutes.
Mo Diallo then got in on the act on the hour mark sliding the ball under Platt from Darren Budd’s pass to seemingly put the game out of reach with half an hour still to play.
Seaford though had other ideas and reduced the deficit three minutes later through Piper to bring it back to 4-2 and cast just a little shadow of doubt in the Worthing minds despite the flurry of goals just before.
Diallo removed any doubt four minutes later with his second and the home side’s fifth, slotting home calmly and adding to the second half goal fest. As the visitors understandably tired, Worthing won another penalty two minutes from time as Luca Cocoraccio was brought down in the box.
Cox looked set to take the spot kick originally despite both strikers being on a hat-trick but handed the ball to Diallo who promptly smashed it against the bar and seemingly missing out on the match ball.
But the striker did bag his third a minute later, clean through once again to add a sixth goal for the home side and in the end a comprehensive victory and a place in the next round for the Mackerel Men.
Some competitive minutes for the likes of Budd, Cox, Armstrong and Pat Webber and a chance for the younger members of the squad to catch the eye and make a claim for the first team spot.
Well taken goals for all six of the home side’s efforts, Seaford played their part too only tiring towards the end and then the three division gap started to show a little, it’s certainly not easy to get the ball off this Worthing team once they get into full flow.
Another cup game awaits this weekend and a different test coming up, as previously mentioned above Dorking Wanderers visit Woodside Road with the home side this time looking to cause a cup upset and a place in the next round of the FA Trophy.
Pre-season was wrapped up for me on Tuesday evening as Worthing took on Welling Utd. Despite the fact both these clubs still have three more Saturdays until they kick off, Steps 5 and 6 at County League level begin this coming weekend, 31st July, and attention now turns to competitive action.
This is the fourth time I’ve seen Worthing in pre-season action, not by design, more by the opposition and the first return to Woodside Road for any fans since March last year included in that.
Welling Utd were one of the sides my late father used to take me to see fairly regularly as I was growing up along with the likes of Dartford, Maidstone Utd, Gravesend and Tonbridge, so quite a nostalgic return to the past following Tonbridge gracing Woodside Road at the weekend. Watching the likes of Gary Abbott, Terry Robbins, Lee Harrison, Steve Barnes and Steve Finnan to name a few, Google the scoring records of those first two.
In two National League outfits, a good test for Adam Hinshelwood’s men as they gear up for a new season, already in explosive form across this pre-season raining goals.
And again, the Rebels were quick off the mark as has been a feature of their play so far during these friendly matches. Just two minutes into the game, the home side were in the lead, the sole trialist being given minutes by Hinshelwood was once again on the scoresheet with a superb finish and the Wings not settled into play.
Worse was to come for the visitors just three minutes later, Worthing’s blistering start continued, Ollie Pearce getting in behind the Welling back line and a shot across the keeper found it’s way inside the far post for 2-0.
Five minutes gone, Welling chasing shadows and Worthing in complete control. The game settled down after the explosive opening moments although the Wings were being repelled by Worthing’s relentless attacking with Dean Cox and Jasper Pattenden giving both full backs a torrid time and the former’s delivery into the box was of the highest quality time after time,.
Efforts from the trialist and Pattenden could have extended the lead, that eventually came two minutes before half time, Shaq Gwengwe pole-axed in the penalty area, picked himself up and slotted home the penalty for a commanding half time lead.
Credit to Welling as they started the second half, there was more purpose about them and ball retention was a lot better than the opening 45 minutes which meant Worthing had to be a little more patient in their build up and the next goal didn’t arrive until just after the hour mark but not in the fashion Welling would have wanted, a back pass from a defender was placed wide of the keeper and calmly rolled into the net at the far post to sum up their evening.
The usual raft of substitutions again didn’t alter the quality of the play across the park with those coming on pressing hard to be involved in the starting eleven come the opening day.
Welling continued to press forward showing more attacking intent and were rewarded with a goal 15 minutes from time, a good strike from Dipo Akinyemi and the visitors almost had a second a minute later but for a goal line clearance from Joel Colbran.
Reece Meekums put the icing on the cake five minutes from time with a superb solo effort, twisting and turning the visitors defence inside out from the left wing before smashing the ball home to complete a comprehensive victory once again for the Rebels and leaving home supporters purring with the football on offer over the past three weeks.
It’s hard to pick out individuals over a classic team performance but it’s got to be done. Hinsh doesn’t often go for two up front and with Pearce and Gwengwe in great form so far both deserved the start. It was interesting to watch Pearce and the trialist often inter-changing making it harder for the opposition to pick either player up to mark.
Should the Rebels be able to sign the trialist whose made quite an impression on the pitch, he can easily be the difference between winning a few more points and a title or the play-offs in my opinion. The pockets of space he finds in games between the lines makes him very hard to mark and creating that can give the side an extra dimension.
But, if he doesn’t sign then there are plenty of players within that squad who are equally capable to provide the same flashes of brilliance. The delivery from Cox was constantly spot on the money, something you would expect from a player with his class and quality and with those balls into the box week in week out defenders are going to have their work cut out.
On the other wing you have Pattenden able to deliver or cut inside and unleash the mother of all curling shots whilst Danny Barker and Marvin Armstrong make you not miss Jesse Starkey and Ricky Aguiar and they are some midfield pairing!
One more to note, Tom Chalaye. Looked very sharp when he came on, could have had a goal or two, notably the timing of his runs were on the mark and having bulked up some over the last year or so like Pattenden he’s becoming harder to knock off the ball when in possession.
510 were there to witness the goal-fest, a lot of work for Steve Lovell and Welling Utd to do over the next three weeks before their season begins, there can’t have been too many that came out of last week with much credit in the tank going forward.
This season I think I’ve watched more pre-season friendlies than the last few years put together. Maybe it’s the lure of missing the game being played on the pitch in front of me instead of the television for most of the last seven months and the quality I’ve seen so far hasn’t disappointed me.
Worthing vs Tonbridge was on my radar from the time it was announced a while ago, two managers in Adam Hinshelwood and Steve McKimm who have been very helpful to me when it comes to blogs and indeed Steve took me around the London lights back in December in his black cab, a birthday treat to myself.
Tonbridge is also around the area I originally come from as well so always a glance towards their results, I grew up watching some fantastic players go through their club, the likes of the late Ray Tumbridge, Mark Gilham, Neil and Paul Emblen, Roly Graham and many more that I’m sure readers will remind me of.
Rather than the wet weather predicted to fall all afternoon, the South Coast was bathed in beautiful sunshine before the sides took to the pitch and despite the Angels missing four or five likely starters, McKimm was still expecting a performance to match his opponents and once again named his own son 16 year old keeper Toby and Bobby Moore, 16 year old son to assistant manager Barry amongst the substitutes.
The opening exchanges were fairly even, the experience of Doug Loft and Ricky Modeste in the Angels midfield were matched by Danny Barker and the returning Marvin Armstrong in the middle of the park, almost trading sparring punches with neither side committing too much.
Worthing, renowned for their passing game from back to front, began to move the ball about a bit quicker and were rewarded with a penalty when a ball whipped into the box was handled by Harry Hudson, Ollie Pearce making no mistake from the spot putting the Rebels into the lead on 16 minutes.
Minutes later the Rebels were almost two goals in front, Reece Meekums put clean through lifting the ball over Angels keeper Jonny Henly only for Hudson to recover and clear the ball for a corner before it could end up in the net.
Worthing’s sole trialist should also have extended the lead on 37 minutes, heading over the bar when unmarked in the six yard box. As it was the home side didn’t have to wait long for their second goal.
Joel Colbran was allowed to stroll forward from the back line and unleashed a fierce drive from all of 25 yards past the hapless Henly to double the Rebels lead.
Tonbridge though were back in the game just before half time, Tommy Wood pouncing on a rare error from keeper Harrison Male to reduce the arrears and giving the visitors hope as they headed for the dressing rooms.
The good fortune lasted for all of three minutes in the second half as the home side’s trialist took advantage of the visitors hesitant defending and slotted home a third goal for Worthing.
Five minutes later, the scoreline was put beyond doubt with Pearce scoring his second and Worthing’s fourth from the spot once again after Pattenden was fouled inside the box whilst in full flight.
The next ten minutes allowed Hinshelwood to rest some of his starters and as per all the friendlies I’ve seen so far at all levels the quality of the game didn’t drop at all and although McKimm had just the four substitutes at his disposal they all made a decent contribution when they arrived on the pitch.
The Angels matched Worthing for chances in the final half hour, Ibrahim Olutade forcing Male into a point blank save and Sonny Miles heading over while Shaq Gwengwe’s overhead kick and Ty Mthunzi’s effort were both wide of the target and Worthing coming off comfortable winners.
For some reason it just didn’t happen for Tonbridge all afternoon, second best all over the park to a Worthing side who seem to have the knack of producing a performance whichever eleven players Hinshelwood selects.
What’s to be commended is the amount of young players on the pitch at the final whistle and having seen both McKimm and Moore being blooded during this pre-season for Tonbridge, neither looked out of place. McKimm dealt with all coming his way in the Angels goal whilst Moore looked tidy up against the experienced Darren Budd in midfield.
Worthing’s policy of youth getting it’s chance is well known, ‘providing the pathway’ is their motto and with two 14 year old’s getting their chance earlier this week, a chance they will get under Hinshelwood if you are good enough.
Speaking to both managers after game, neither was getting carried away with the result and both conceded there was plenty to take from the 90 minutes. Hinshelwood was happy with the performance one he felt wouldn’t have happened a few years ago:
‘I felt we looked fit and strong against a physically imposing Tonbridge team, maybe a game that we would have lost out on the battles individually across the pitch so that was pleasing to see.’
‘I’ve been quite pleased with the squad of players we have at the moment; I feel it allows us to play a variety of formations and also the emergence of some of our younger players who have come in and done well in recent weeks has been an added bonus for me.’
McKimm said before the kick-off he was expecting a good workout and despite missing a few players he did think it’s served as a little wake-up call:
‘I definitely learnt more from that game than from the good run we have been on so far this pre-season, there were a couple of positives to take from the game but also some negatives that we need to get to work on.’
‘It was excellent to see so many youngsters on the pitch to finish the game and if they’re good enough then they should be given a chance.’
Two games in two nights for me this week, although this one had to be cut a little short as the eldest daughter required picking up from her final guides meeting of the current year!
Having already seen both Littlehampton Town and Worthing in action this was a further chance to see how much difference a week or two makes in the company of former Rebels chairman Pete Stone for the first half and Simon Hull manager of East Preston for part of the second half.
With players Mitch Hand and George Gaskin jointly managing Town after Mark Bennett’s resignation a week ago, Hand sat out the game to manage from the sideline up against Adam Hinshelwood whose side the night before had beaten Baffins Milton Rovers 3-2 and once again the squad rotation was in full effect.
With so many promising young players coming through the Worthing ranks, pre-season is an ideal time to integrate them into the squad and while most are currently involved in training with the first team nothing compares to game time especially against County League sides where the games are much tougher.
And with Worthing keeping together a majority of their squad from the past two interrupted seasons there aren’t much tougher tests locally. Littlehampton have also kept together most of their squad too and will be hoping to make an impression on their return to the Premier Division of the Southern Combination.
The Rebels were out the blocks quickly with Shaq Gwengwe leading the line, looking sharp and ready to cause problems. The first chance however fell to the hosts inside five minutes, Joe Benn blazing over the bar with Worthing slightly back on their heels.
The visitors then took over the possession stakes although the Golds were very rigid in their two banks of four making it hard for Worthing to get through, patience and movement was the key for the Rebels.
That paid off after 14 minutes when the impressive Kyle O’Brien’s ball into the box wasn’t cleared and fell to Gwengwe who cheekily back-heeled the ball past James Binfield for the opening goal.
The lead however lasted just six minutes, Dion Jarvis’ ball over the top gave Benn the chance to score and slotted the ball past Harrison Male to level the scores.
O’Brien, who was finding acres of space down the left hand side, was at the heart of everything creative for the Rebels causing no end of problems. Again though it was the home side who should have scored just after the half hour mark when Benn was clean through and although his effort beat Male it also beat the far post.
As it was, the Rebels took the lead again through Aarran Racine seven minutes before the break, heading home at the far post from a Darren Budd corner to give the visitors the half time advantage.
That lead was almost increased early in the second half as Ty Mthunzi smacked a header against the bar from another Budd corner. There wasn’t long for Rebels fans to wait as Alfie Hall netted the third after Gwengwe harassed a Golds defender and Hall was left with the easiest tap in.
That was pretty much the end of my watching with said pick up occurring, Worthing added two further goals, both from Hall, to complete a comprehensive 5-1 win for the visitors.
Whilst Worthing are very slick in the way they play, it’s been honed over seasons and the Golds working as they do to protect themselves with the two banks of four defending not many sides should take them apart this season.
Very impressed with O’Brien on the left hand side, considering he looked like playing as the left back in a four, he spent more time providing the crosses as a left winger and with Joel Colbran providing width on the opposite flank Littlehampton had lots to think about for the 90 minutes.
Just over a week of pre-season left before Steps 5 and 6 begin their league campaigns whilst Step 4 have a wait of a little longer but that will arrive in no time and every hope there is no interruption this time around……..
Tuesday evening saw the return of Worthing FC to Woodside Road. You might ask well surely that’s the same for most clubs who either haven’t played since late last year or those at lower levels who managed a few games behind closed doors in April and May.
The Rebels didn’t manage to play a home game last year after extensive work to replace the playing surface after countless many months of waiting and the ‘home’ matches they did get to play were up the A24 at Horsham’s Camping World Stadium.
457 fans were there to welcome the team back on home turf and along with the much better playing surface the installation of long overdue new floodlights were also given their debut on a sun kissed evening on the South Coast.
Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood kept his players fit and together once the lockdown period subsided and almost all of last season’s squad have re-signed for new campaign. Joining them are goalkeeper Harrison Male, defenders Will Seager and Pat Webber and the statement signing of former Orient midfielder Dean Cox, some uncertainty around the season long loan for Kane Wills from Dorking Wanderers it appears.
Worthing’s last competitive game before a halt was called to the season was a Sussex Senior Cup exit at the hands of Three Bridges in early November, a game the Rebels should have won but credit to Bridges who turned the game around and deservedly progressed to the next round.
But there was to be no repeat this time around as the Rebels literally blew their opponents away with a scintillating first half performance. It took just three minutes for the home side to open their account, Jasper Pattenden’s corner headed home at the back post by Aaron Racine.
Eight minutes later Worthing went further in front, a very lean and sharp looking Ollie Pearce crossed for Pattenden to tap in for 2-0. There wasn’t very long to wait for the third Rebels goal, a miscued clearance from the visiting keeper went straight to Pearce who strode into the area and netted with some aplomb.
Less than twenty minutes were on the clock when Jesse Starkey added the fourth passing the ball into the net after neat footwork from Cox and Pearce fashioned the opportunity.
It didn’t stop there as Pearce calmly fired the ball under the keeper for his second and Worthing’s fifth with a little more than 23 minutes on the clock, Bridges not able to keep hold of the ball when they did get it and Worthing just clinical with every opportunity.
Pearce thought he had his hat-trick on the half hour mark, but his free kick around the wall was inches wide of the post and the Rebels went into the half time break with a very comfortable lead.
That lead was almost increased one minute after the re-start, substitute Shaq Gwengwe capitalising on a weak back pass, beating the keeper but the ball striking the bottom of the post and away to safety.
The best goal of the night came on the hour, when Pattenden cut in from the left hand side and unleashed a curling shot into the top right hand corner for his final touch of the night. A host of changes from the home side didn’t hamper the game with Bridges still struggling to get hold of the ball and escape from their own half.
The visitors did find the back of the net thirteen minutes from time for a consolation goal, the home side then content to play out the final throws of the game without troubling the scoreline.
I’ve found in all three pre-season games I’ve watched so far with six different sides the quality is not dipping after the substitutions are made, I’m not sure if that’s because players are so eager to play and express themselves after two years of stop start football or something else but I’m not complaining at all!
The Rebels definitely look like they have enough to be in the title race once again for promotion, some big signings made and that continuity they’ve kept within the squad looks as if it will bode well for Hinshelwood and the club.
Football. Fresh air. Fans. Tuesday night up and down the country was the moment non-league supporters had been waiting for since mid-December, a return to the stands and terraces that was long overdue.
However, most clubs have finished or didn’t even begin to play and a lot of fans will be eagerly anticipating pre-season friendlies which will begin in around four or five weeks’ time for Step 5 and 6 clubs.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything to significantly blog about other than the National League and the sorry state of Barnet’s season. So the announcement of one of my local sides, East Preston, to host a friendly against Pitching In Isthmian Premier Division Worthing was always going to get me into the ground.
It was the first time the PNLP (Premier Non-League Podcast) boys minus the northern based Chris May were out together at a game, a project I’m involved in with five other guys, 15 episodes in so far which isn’t bad considering we’ve had a real lack of football to talk about in months, available across all podcast platforms twice a month.
Regular readers will know I also write a piece for the EP programme, a different one for each home game and unique to them as I try and build a career. They were also my focus club last season when Terry Dodd became manager, an idea given to me by someone else so duly done. Terry obviously then left, Chris Horner took over only to be replaced by Under 23 duo Mike McCaffrey and Lee Thompson who were in situ when football ceased in November and took charge of the side for the recent Supplementary Shield games.
Since then McCaffrey left the club, Thompson was relieved of his duties in the past two weeks and chairman Terry Doyle installed ex Arundel boss Simon Hull as the new man in charge days after his release from the club up the river, McCaffrey has since returned to take the Under 23’s for next season.
With a new man in charge this was always going to be a bit of a scratch side for a one off as far as EP were concerned and with a side full of quality as the Rebels possess and some promising youngsters on the bench it was a good test for the home side.
It was no surprise to anyone to see Worthing dominate possession and whilst they were creating chances, the EP defence were just about equal to everything and it took an Ollie Pearce strike on 22 minutes to open the scoring.
Joel Colbran and Ricky Aguiar added further goals, the latter’s effort drilled from the edge of the box to give the visitors a commanding 3-0 half time lead.
The fourth goal arrived courtesy of Shaq Gwengue after a fine move and a smart finish, Rebels manager Adam Hinshelwood then making a raft of substitutions with most of the senior players making way.
EP’s best chance of the game came from a free kick just outside the box, the ball clipping the top of the Worthing crossbar on it’s way over and into the trees behind the goal.
As EP legs naturally tired as the game wore on Worthing added another three goals to the scoreline to give it a flattering look of 7-0 by the final whistle but a good workout for both sets of players.
On Wednesday morning I caught up with both Simon and Adam and both agreed having fans back in to watch was the biggest part of this game.
‘Fantastic to see fans back in the ground’ remarked Hull, ‘it gives everyone a lift and there was a great buzz around the Lashmar last night.’
‘Last night was an opportunity for us to have a look and learn about our youngsters. As yet we’ve been unable to have any training sessions with them but a great test against Adam’s quality outfit.’
‘That’s it for us now this season although we are planning pre-season training and that will start very early. Plenty to do but the boys are keen and the coaching staff are very willing.’
Hinshelwood was also very pleased to have supporters back, ‘it was great to play with fans in attendance again, it felt like a bit of normality for all of us.’
‘It’s been way too long to have that feeling, a simple cheer after a goal goes in, makes the game seem so much better and real.’
‘It’s been so important for us I believe to get together as a group for two reasons, firstly it would have been a long time if we had waited just for pre-season to get some match practise into the legs and I believe this would heighten the risk of injury.’
‘Secondly, for the players and everyone connected to have that engagement with the group again for mental health reasons and general well being it’s been massive for us all.’
And I think fans can identify with the mental health part, so many people I’ve spoken to over the months wanting a bit of normality, indeed seeing so many familiar faces in the crowd of 250 people shows how much it was wanted.
Great to be out with mates just enjoying the game, hopefully The Hive beckons for me for the next week to finish off the season then the hard work starts again trying to get this writing career off the ground, if any clubs are interested in what I can do for them you’ve only got to ask East Preston, Langney Wanderers or Met Police……………….
So then. The last 24 hours or so, read lots, spoken to a number of people, answered lots of messages, here we go then the National League ladies and gentlemen!
A warning this might be a long blog, there’s a lot to get through, reactions from those inside the clubs, my own thoughts and what I see as stumbling blocks going forward from today, it won’t be pretty, you might not agree, but above all it’s an opinion nothing more, it’s neither right nor wrong.
Before we get to the main points though as a Barnet fan I’m embarrassed we’ll stay up through default. On the face of it, it looks like Tony Kleanthous made the correct decision in the summer not to spend, to severely undercut the football operation and six months later he’s looking good.
We should have been doing it on the pitch for the next four months or so to get out of the mess we created for ourselves which is what I would have preferred to happen, sink or swim by your decisions, not of others. But, for all intents and purpose it is what it is and Barnet have the opportunity to put a proper club in place under Tim Flowers over the remaining months of the season, a silver lining if you must but a hollow one at that.
Onto the main meal then and once again here we are in the midst of controversy. Whatever this final outcome was to be there was never an option to please absolutely everyone and there will be ramifications to come for days and the next few weeks.
I don’t believe there was ever a doubt in outcome of the vote, heavily weighted towards the top division and with the EFL relationship at the forefront of that it won’t have come as a surprise, but it’s been more how the situation has been dealt with.
A real lack of transparency and leadership is evident which you can trace back to the play-offs last season and continued into this. Commendation maybe for ensuring we had play-offs eventually completed for all three divisions last year but a lack of foresight when attempting to get this season worked has been forgettable.
Funding of course has been the full issue in where we have gotten to now, we are all aware the National League have no minutes of the meeting with the DCMS over what was on offer for the full course of the season is at best incompetent. I’ve served on league and club committees throughout my lifetime, to not have something so simple but vital can’t suggest anything more than a cover up of mismanagement and hanging all 66 clubs out to dry, effectively what they have done.
Two days ago I was informed players and staff in the South and North divisions were told, not via official communications, that no testing was to be carried out ‘a waste of tax payers’ money’ which in effect said null and void was coming. Excuse me, what about some of the £11 million pounds of lottery money than has now been poured down the drain?
While I write this now, I see across social media fans, clubs and chairmen attacking each other because opinion is so divided on what should have happened.
My opinion, well every club of those 66 is vital, vital to someone, vital to its players, vital to its staff and mostly importantly vital to its supporters and its community. The same applies for Steps 3-6 as well and every club has quite rightly looked after its own house but should they have been left to fend for themselves while the league banner they play under seem to not want to get involved.
Last night I spoke to various people around the situation to gauge a bit of reaction:
David Blackmore, chairman of Eastbourne Borough was ‘absolutely gutted’. He said ‘We have been cut adrift by the National League. A majority across all three divisions wanted to continue, majority in the South wanted to continue, yet we don’t continue.’
David’s manager at Priory Lane Danny Bloor is frustrated the season has now ended, ‘Our club just wanted to keep playing; at the conclusion of this we sit 3rd in the league a position we’re very proud of and I hope we can regroup and replicate that again next year.’
Steve McKimm, manager at Tonbridge Angels who had to furlough their players this week in order to protect the club, was gutted at the outcome ‘I don’t think the process was fair, how can the National League have it’s members vote against each other but not in equal amounts.’
Ben Strevens, manager at Eastleigh, is unsure what the future holds for the top division ‘seven teams voted for null and void, what exactly is that going to mean after this weekend for our teams?’
Andy Hessenthaler, manager of Dover Athletic who seem most at risk of not seeing out the season, said ‘I think the mess is just going to continue because as you said nothing has changed, still no money. Seven clubs voted to null and void so will be interesting with what’s going to happen now’.
Kevin Watson who recently returned to the game at Billericay Town like most wasn’t shocked at the decision, ‘No surprise at all to be honest, just really disappointing.’
Adam Hinshelwood whose Worthing side have twice been in pole position for promotion to the National League South questioned the timing of the announcement, ‘It seems strange with the government telling us on Monday the plan for the country and for the National League to not follow suit and also not to stay in line with each other.’
‘I feel for Marc at Dorking who invested in a great team at that level and to see it null and voided again seems wrong on the face of it. It does seem likely Steps 3-6 will follow; we will be ready for whatever decisions are made for our club.’
An increase once again to the furlough scheme as the North and South clubs put their players and staff on leave once again from this morning and attention turns now to the can which is just getting kicked down the road.
Already we see legal action from clubs going in today which if they feel is the right thing to do for themselves so be it, I’m not here to judge the rights and wrongs of what each club feels is its chosen path. Whether they can get any joy or a reversal of decision remains to be seen.
Then we have the seven who voted in the top division to null and void, the next can of worms. What now if those seven, and I’m led to believe Barnet were NOT one of the seven, decide with no further funding their club would go under and quite rightly want to preserve their future? Do we play on with 16 teams expunging all results of those not playing as there is no relegation? Do those seven get asked to furlough the first team and play weakened sides in order to complete the season? Do the National League push Sport England to help these seven clubs as soon as possible? So many questions but when do we get the answers? And these are just the beginning.
To read this morning though that two clubs in the top division didn’t bother replying at all beggar’s belief! Now either they’ve got deep pockets so it makes no odds to them or purely ignorant, surely out of respect to the other clubs in your division you would have abstained?
In all likelihood Steps 3-6 will now also null and void with no chance of Step 3 promotion to the National League North and South bringing another premature end to the season for a second year in a row. The hope now will be for the FA to see sense and take the time to implement their restructure of the perfect pyramid and with it some movement for teams upwards which is deserving, the benefit to playing exactly the same teams for the third year running, not one I can see.
And for the second season running it appears as if the National League and South will run with a team less once again, granted it’s difficult to now work out who would take the missing spot in each division but a lack of contingency plans is as well not their finest hour.
Just a sidenote to this as well, the FA Trophy and Vase. One continues, one suspended and last year’s finals still be played with one of the four participants an EFL club, go figure!
The beautiful game as it’s often referred to looks about as ugly as it ever has done in non-league circles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a vote of no confidence in both the National League and the FA in the coming months, not a chance this is all going to go away easily…..