Saturday 12th March took a long time to come around. Taking you back around a month before Littlehampton Town had overcome Brockenhurst on penalties in the FA Vase 5th round, a competition they had been knocked out of but re-instated after Athletic Newham had fielded an ineligible player.
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Saturday was a break from watching league action and delving into the FA Vase for the first time this season, which tied in nicely with the two week blog update for East Preston and their boss Terry Dodd.
So far this season it’s been a tough watch for EP fans and I think Terry would agree he’s learnt more in seven weeks about managing at this level of football than he did in his spell at Wick last season where things were fairing much better.
That’s not to say he’s doing a bad job, far from it. All of you know money talks in football and even at this level and Step 6 below without even a small budget attracting players is very hard and even more so when you’re in a saturated area for clubs to choose from.
The effect covid has had on these clubs up and down the country is immense, I’ve said it lots of times I am surprised that so few have gone under and that is huge credit to the band of volunteers that keep them going week after week. The latest countrywide restrictions mean football club bars have to be closed by 10pm, which throughout the week and especially midweek match nights are once again crippling and playing with the very future of our footballing pyramid.
In his programme notes on the weekend the chairman eluded to how much the club was losing. The previous Tuesday the bar took around £300 less than usual while the Under 23 game night saw around £200 going through the till which when you consider for a lot of clubs this money is what makes the football work it’s a wonder that all of them will get through to the end of the season.
Despite the reduced prize money in the national competitions this season it still provides some more income at a time when it’s most needed and the visit of Southern Counties East Premier Division side Fisher gave the opportunity for that and a break from league football.
Fisher have had an indifferent start to their campaign and sit mid-table in the predominantly Kent based league despite hailing from South London, EP meanwhile have found the going much tougher and currently sit bottom of the Southern Combination Premier Division.
Not too surprisingly it was a fairly even start to the first half, neither side able to create many clear cut chances although the visitors started to grow into the game the longer it went on. Backed by a very good travelling support Fisher went in front on 35 minutes through Melvin Adesida, pouncing on a loose ball in the area to slot past keeper Keelan Belcher. EP thought they were level just five minutes later through Thaikay David-Day but his shot was cleared off the line while the visitors almost had a second just before the break, hitting the bar much to the relief of Belcher and his defenders.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, Fisher looking the more likely to create chances while EP lived on the counter-attack to utilise the hard running of Conor Bull and the pace of Morgan Day. A superb one handed save from Belcher on the hour mark kept the hosts in the game and you felt with only the one goal still in it a lapse in concentration was all EP needed to get back into the tie.
However, that of course can stretch a game and Fisher finally put the tie beyond their hosts in the 79th minute, Jamie Yila rounding Belcher and slotting home between the two defenders on the line.
Day was the clear outstanding performer for the home side who badly missed Tijan Sparkes and Brad Lewis in the middle of midfield, the young side unable to cope with the physical presence of the visitors.
Catching up with boss Terry Dodd on Monday morning, he’s not too despondent about things and still expects the corner to be turned shortly:
‘The loss of Tijan and Brad is huge for us, it makes it harder to compete in the middle of the park. I think we’re creating the more chances in games and on Saturday felt that we were the better team in the 2nd half but not clinical enough with our finishing.’
‘The injuries are just killing us as there’s not enough time between games to the players fit again but we have got a bit of a break in fixtures in a couple of weeks so hopefully that will give us the time we need to get some more back out on the pitch.’
‘I am working on bringing in some more bodies to add to what we’ve got here and if I can bring in the right players to compliment what we already have here and then we will start climbing up the table.’
‘I’ve got some good lads here and I enjoy every game with them, obviously not the results at the moment! Everyone will tell you I’m the worst loser but I think I am learning more about myself, the team, and the game week by week. I hope they are as well and if they keep giving their all and learning all the time then results will easily turn around.’