Glad To Be Back–Football Has Come Home

Football is back and on Wednesday night I went to watch my first competitive football match since mid March.

To be honest, it was actually the 2nd game I had seen.

Frenford 0 v 5 Coggleshall Town Pre Season Match 22 August 2020

The first was a one sided friendly game between Frenford FC and Coggleshall town FC which saw Frenford lose 5-0 to a side 2 divisions above them. That game marked the 1st game at Frenford’s redeveloped ground that admitted spectators. Even though Frenford are based in Ilford, it is the first time I have ever visited their ground. I did see them last season when they were ground sharing with Bowers & Pitsea whilst their ground was being redeveloped. Frenford have an interesting history. They started out as a boys club and now have a first team playing at step 6 of the Pyramid ( 10th Tier of English Football).

Frenford have a new 3G pitch on a ground that has apparently been turned through 90 degrees since they last played there. There are 2 seated stands there, but at present no other covered accommodation. When I went, I ended up cycling there ( not my original plan), but was allowed to take my bike into the ground and left it next to one of the stands. In the new Covid era, as well as paying, I had to give my name and phone number for contact tracing purposes. There appeared to be no refreshments in the ground, but I am not sure if you could have got them in the clubhouse. I expect this will change once the season proper starts.

As I said above, Frenford were outclassed by their visitors, but that is not surprising given their visitors are 2 levels above Frenford. There is little more to say really other than Frenford was a friendly club and one to visit again.

Ilford 1 v 3 Halstead Town FC FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round 2 September 2020

As the FA Cup is late starting this season, the FA have scrapped replays in the early rounds. This meant tonight’s tie would reach a conclusion.

After cycling to Frenford, tonight’s game was reached by pony – Shank’s Pony. Its only a mile from my home, so I walked to the game.

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For probably the first time since Ilford reformed, there was a queue to get into the ground. Indeed the attendance was well over 200 compared to their normal 50 or so.  There were several reasons for this, including quite a number of Halstead fans and people desperate for football after the lockdown. Indeed all the programmes had gone by the time I got there.

Into the main stand, and there were the usual groundhoppers there. It was good to catch up as I hadn’t seen them since February / early March time.

Tonight’s FA cup tie saw 9th tier Ilford hosting 10th tier Halstead. It was the first competitive game for both sides. Ilford started very strongly and hit the post in the 1st minute and were a goal ahead by the time 5 minutes had gone. It looked as though this was going to be a very one sided game. Unfortunately for Ilford, no one had told Halstead this.

After 34 minutes a blooper by the Ilford keeper allowed Halstead to score a simple goal. Its to be hoped no one recorded this incident to save the embarrassment of the keeper. Only 5 minutes later, Halstead were ahead. Could a cup shock be on the cards?

There were no more goals in the first half, but only 1 minute into the 2nd half, Halstead extended their lead and surely took the game out of Ilford’s reach.

There was no more scoring in the game and after a rather good cup tie, Halstead Town claimed victory and a place in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup. Ilford must be disappointed after letting victory be taken from them by lower ranked opposition.

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Redbridge FC 2 v 2 Saffron Walden Town FC Essex Senior League 5 September 2020

Today brought lots of choice in games to watch. There were pre season doule headers at Avely and at Barking and it was also the opening round of the Essex Senior League. I only decided on which game to attend as I returned from my late morning bike ride. After a quick 36 miles, it was 13:30 and therefore time was limited as to where to go. I decided to cycle over to Redbridge for their game. Mainly because it was near and I could cycle there so didn’t need to shower and change etc before going.

Redbridge play at Oakside Stadium in Barkingside and its fair to say it has been gradually deteriorating for a number of years now, but it was convenient and a competitive game was more appealing than a pre season double header with no doubt lots of substitutions etc.

Arriving at the ground I was allowed to bring my bike inside and safely chain it up to railings near the clubhouse. Thank you Redbridge FC. I had to pass a temperature test and to scan in using the EvePass system. Interestingly, this said I was at West Essex not Redbridge. West Essex had played there on Wednesday night, so wonder if it was an old barcode. I am not sure how the system works if truth be told.

Once into the ground, the first think I noticed was the massive smartening up of the ground since my last visit. A new fence around the ground, new dug outs, the removal of the dilapidated covered stand opposite the main stand, the cleaning of the seats in the Main Stand and most significantly the work that had been done to the pitch. The ground now looks a lot more welcoming and I for one am more likely to attend at games here when it looks like this.

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Saffron Walden were top of the Essex Senior League last season when the season was abandoned, so they have to be one of the favourites this season. Redbridge finished mid table last season, so it was not unreasonable to expect an away win today.

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As I wandered around the ground before the game, I had a lengthy chat with the Redbridge club secretary who approached me after noticing my UK Police Unity Tour cycling shirt. It was interesting to learn of the work the club officials have put in. Many clubs have similar hard working officials who never get the credit they deserve. I think its fair to say Redbridge know where they would like to go and deserve to succeed.

The game started, and it was easy to tell that Saffron Walden possessed the more skilfull side, but the work rate of the Redbridge side was fantastic and they made life uncomfortable for Saffron Walden. Indeed, Redbridge should have taken the lead after 29 minutes when they were awarded a penalty. Sadly it was a poorly taken one and the keeper dived to his right and saved it

https://youtu.be/0xBWyo0HOwU

Six minutes later, Saffron Walden were unlucky not to take the lead when they hit the post and the ball bounced away with the keeper well beaten. Half time came with the game still scoreless. Chances at both ends in a very enjoyable first half.

Seven minutes into the second half, and somewhat against the run of play, Redbridge took the lead with a breakaway goal. A shock on the cards?

The lead did not last long and after 59 minutes, Saffron Walden were level and it was no more than they deserved.

On 72 minutes, Redbridge had the ball in the back of the net only for it to be ruled out for offside. A correct decision in my opinion.

Three minutes later and another Redbridge goal ruled out, this time for a foul and correctly so again I think.

Two disallowed goals, a missed penalty and one that counted. Redbridge could have been 4-1 up!

On 81 minutes, Redbridge went 2-1 up and it seemed there was no way back for the visitors. That was so until the 94th minute when from an attacking set piece, Saffron Walden got an equaliser.

There was a total of 8 minutes of stoppage time played, and still time for more drama with the referee threatening to abandon the game as the ball went out of the ground and all the spare balls had been used, even the visitors warm up balls had been used. Eventually a ball was found and the last 2 minutes could be played out.

Imagine a game being abandoned in stoppage time owing to no match ball!

A very enjoyable 2-2 draw was the final result and if Redbridge keep up their battling performances, they will surprise a few people this season.

The game was fantastic value for the £5 admission fee and an afternoon I thoroughly enjoyed.

However, I can’t end this match report without a couple of negative comments.

1. The foul language used by some of the players, especially the Redbridge players make it a venue I would hesitate to suggest people bring their kids. Quite gratuitous foul language is not needed, and the referee should have dealt with it.

2. At half time the haranguing of the referee by a manager / coach again was not needed and again, the referee should have dealt with it firmly and sent the person concerned off. The referee is not there to be shouted at and abused

3. The language and behaviour of some of those from Saffron Walden sitting in the seats reserved for away officials casts a bad reflection upon Saffron Walden which is a lovely club. It is something the Saffron Walden officials need to clamp down up. Sitting in the officials seats, it suggests the persons were players from the club.

however, I am not going to let these three points ruin my afternoon and I will be back at Oakside again soon to watch Redbridge

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