Goals galore as Worthing progress

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.

Rebels record another fine pre-season win

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.

Rebels too strong for lacklustre Angels

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.’

Rebels brush aside hard working Golds

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……..

Rebels run riot on return to Woodside

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.

Live football at last

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……………….

The beautiful game looks about as ugly as it ever has been

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…..

Managers have their say

Adam Hinshelwood (left) and Richard Styles (right)

It’s been a little while since there has been much else to blog about apart from the National League on-going saga and the trials and tribulations of Barnet FC! It makes for some reading I agree but the non-league game we know extends further than that.

And for that reason alone I’ve asked around a couple of managers this week to get some perspective on Steps 3-6 which operate underneath the National League divisions as it feels a little bit like they’ve all been pushed to the side somewhat, not that I disagree the NL gets its limelight it’s the full time for a lot of people.

The beauty of our football pyramid is the fact we go down to so many levels beyond the top divisions and there is a lot of opportunity to progress up the ladder.

Last season of course clubs at those step levels saw their season suspended in March and finished as null and void just a few weeks later. Now less than twelve months later those same clubs find themselves in the same situation despite having completed less games this time around.

Whilst we’re in territory we hoped wasn’t going to happen, there are a lot of ways in which things can help clubs still be in existence for a new season later in the year if the null and void does instead come into force over the coming weeks. Grants have been made available for clubs at this level which should enable them all to get through until the season starts again for 2021/22.

There is reason however to believe that just maybe there will be a resumption if restrictions are lifted in March to complete something in some form in some shape, as vague as that might be, everything is still up in the air and could be for a few weeks longer.

Earlier this week I caught up with Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood whose side were for the second year running leading the Pitching In Isthmian League Premier Division and Tunbridge Wells manager Richard Styles, the Wells very much in the thick of it at the top of the Southern Counties East League Premier Division. Both managers gave me their views on what might happen over the coming months and how vital funding is to keep these clubs alive.

TK: Do you feel Steps 3-6 have disappeared a bit under the radar at the moment?

AH: Yes I do. I sympathise with the leagues and the FA as we are in difficult times right now but I did feel they jumped on their decision to null and void last season a bit hastily. Maybe a two weekly update would be good just to know what they are thinking, obviously it might not work as circumstances around the country are changing so quickly at the moment.

TK: What is your gut feeling in terms of what might happen and do you think we might see a stand off for a few weeks until the National League is resolved despite it might not having a bearing on the outcome for Steps 3-6?

AH: I can’t really see fans back for some time yet unfortunately, so this would make it impossible for us to play at Step 3 level which leads itself towards another null and void season. They may wait to see what the National League decide to do in the next couple of weeks before confirming anything but as I said already I would just like to know where we stand.

TK: How welcome is it though that Step 3-6 clubs have access to funding to help them survive and be here in the future?

AH: It’s a massive bonus to all clubs, I think so many would struggle and local clubs can be the real hub of the community and a place where the whole area can meet and socialise when safe to do so. These clubs are a big part of so many people’s lives so to keep as many of them going as possible is a massive positive.

Styles is also concerned at the lack of communication coming from above and like Hinshelwood feels null and void is the likely outcome to the season:

TK: With the National League fiasco taking centre stage, do you think the rest of non-league has been pushed to the side and almost forgotten about?

RS: The National League has gotten a lot of media attention lately which is right as they are at the top of the pyramid and have a lot of full time members in the divisions. Filtering down there hasn’t been a lot of movement nor communication recently from the FA through the league’s leading to a lot of assumptions as to what is going to happen.

Like anything we’re waiting I think for the National League to sort themselves out and it will then filter down to the leagues below.

TK: Despite the difference in what happened last time around do you think if the National League continues there is a chance Steps 3-6 will do the same or do you feel null and void is set to happen again?

RS: The National League seem to have a financial complication which is causing part of their issues in continuing or not. In terms of steps 3-6 there is already a financial grant I believe we can apply for. Given the time away clubs, staff, and managers have had away from football I can’t see anything other than null and void happening at steps 3-6 to be honest.

TK: If we do go null and void once again would you hope that there are better plans put in place should the game ever find itself in this position again?

RS: It would be helpful for everyone to have a plan or protocol in place for the future should anything like this ever happen again for sure. It’s difficult for the FA to decide how to complete the season in these situations and you’ll never please everyone.

The fairest way possible is with as much communication and guidance as they can give rather than the area of the unknown.

Whilst the National League situation is descending into a farcical situation on a daily basis the FA remain quiet on where they are up to currently, we can only presume they have all the information into them now, you can just hear the silence however……………

Bridges claim cup win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebels made to work hard for points

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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