Monday, 19 September 2016
It's FA Cup time again and today I am travelling west to Hereford to see Westfields take on fellow Midland Football League, Premier Division side Highgate United from Birmingham, in the 2nd Qualifying Round. Both teams performed giant killing heroics in the previous round with Westfields trouncing St.Ives Town 4-0 and Highgate beating Leamington 3-1.
This is my 100th blog post after starting it in February 2013. The time has certainly gone quickly!
Also I have had one of my photos selected as the cover for this seasons edition of the 'Non-League Club Directory, featuring one of today's team, Westfields, when they played Kidlington Athletic in the FA Cup last year.
Westfields have started this season in storming fashion, winning all their games so far and sitting in top spot in the league. It's their 50th Anniversary and their current President & Secretary, Andrew Morris, is one of the founders of the club. They have made steady progress over the years after their Sunday League beginnings.
When I get to the ground I can see that there should be a good sized crowd for the game and it's going to be played in sunny conditions. Allpay Park is one of my favourite grounds and the playing surface looks to be a good one today.
The teams come out, with Westfields in their usual claret & blue kit while Highgate are in a change strip of flourescent yellow/green looking shirts and socks with black shorts. Although Highgate are currently in a lowly league position, I think it will be a close game.
Indeed,the visitors look to be the more dangerous team in the opening exhanges and it's no surprise when their No.7 Connor Mooney goes on o good run in to the Westfields box on the left and shoots home past the Westfields keeper, Kieron Blackburn.
After 10 minutes Highgate survive a scare when their keeper, Brendon Bunn, races out to challenge for the ball, fails to collect and from the resultant cross the ball is headed clear by a defender.
Westfields find an equaliser after 31 minutes, when their No.3, Sam Plane, goes down the left to cross for the incoming No.9 Richard Greaves, to score.
Highgate go close to re-taking the lead when one of their players hits the bar with a header but one minute later Westfields No.10, Jamie Molyneux puts his side in to the lead after he is put through by Aidan Thomas.
Half time comes and this tie could go either way. Highgate are belying their low placed league position by matching their high flying hosts.
Highgate then equalise in the 57th minute, when their captain, Josh Hawker is brought down in the penalty area and then puts away the spot kick himself (as shown below).
A few minutes later and the Highgate No.16 hits a shot over the bar when the ball is headed down to him by McCauley Manning from a free kick.
Connor Mooney then sees his chipped shot bounce off the bar and with just 2 minutes left, another free kick is flicked on for the Highgate No.14 to hit first time and just past the far post. That would have been a great goal!
Those misses prove to be costly as Westfields take the lead again with a Craig Jones free kick headed in by Kane Kahaki.
There is still time for Highgate go close with a Hawker free kick only for Westfields to break away and Ben Miller to increase their lead deep in to injury time which is very hard on the visitors.
(Highgate's Connor Mooney runs in to the visitor's penalty area)
The final whistle is blown soon after and it's Westfields going in to the next round and keeping their 100% record intact. They have several new players from when I saw them last season, which is understandable after their disappointing showing in the league and have recruited well.
I am sure that Highgate will finish in the top 6 this season and they have a chance to get immediate revenge when they revisit Allpay Park in the league on Wednesday.
Match attendance: 239
Match entertainment value: 9/10
Match entrance fee: £7
Match programme: £1
Monday, 5 September 2016
Today I am looking to see some FA Cup action. The weather is not at all promising though and my first choice of the game at Westfields in Hereford looks likely to have rain all afternoon. I plump for the tie at Rushall Olympic as I know that they have shelter on all sides of their ground plus it's likelier to have less rainfall.
I have no travel problems getting to Walsall by train and then take the bus which drops me off just outside the ground.
After entering the ground I make straight for the club shop to buy a club badge to add to my burgeoning collection. Also I donate them a pile of my old programmes as I know they take them.
The rain had stopped by the time I had got to Walsall and it looks as if it will keep away for some time although the sun looks unlikely to make an appearance today.
Rushall is a former mining village and the team have have been established in the Northern Premier League for a number of years now. They have made a good start to their league campaign and lie in a useful fifth place after 6 games.
While waiting for the game to start I talk to a guy who is making his first visit to the ground for the first time in 7 years! He's a Walsall supporter who fancied going to a local game as his team are without a game today. He tells me he is a retired teacher who still does tuition and he used to be the programme editor at Tividale and the now defunct Halesowen Harriers. He is shocked at the small crowd today although I didn't think 'The Pics' have a particularly big following.
Soon the teams come on to the field with Rushall in their black and yellow kit and the visitors from Cambridgeshire in green and white striped shirts. As Rushall play at a level above Soham, I make them to be the favourites today but as it's the Cup those considerations go out of the window as it's the 'underdogs' who are pressing back their opponents.
After only 9 minutes Soham's lively No.9 debutant, Victor Adeboyejo, has rounded keeper Jose Veiga but has his shot cleared off the line by No.5 Henry Eze.
Soham have 2 more chances before their No.7, Darren Foxley, puts them in front.
Although Rushall are trying to get back in to the game, it is Soham who are causing all the problems. They are rewarded for their continued dominance when Adeboyejo flicks in a header from a free kick over the arms of Rushall keeper Jose Veiga.
Seven minutes later though, the home side reduce the deficit when after a run down the left by the dangerous Alex Reid he crosses the ball for the incoming Jordan Fitzpatrick to fire in from close range.
(Olympic's Alex Reid on his way to creating his side's 1st goal)
The hosts are back in the game but Adeboyejo reminds them of his presence when before the interval he rattles the bar with a powerful cross shot.
I'd had my doubts about venturing out today but I am being rewarded for my efforts with a blood and thunder style cup tie!
The dangerous Adeboyejo has gone off injured and Ryan Sharman replaces him for the second period and he goes close to scoring but is foiled by Veiga diving at his feet to take the ball.
Alex Reid attacks dangerously down the left after 60 minutes runs past Bogard the Soham keeper but loses control of the ball and it runs overs the line.
'The Greens' miss a good chance of a 3rd goal when their No.11, Relizani fires over at the far post from a cross played in from the left.
(Rushall's Henry Eze rises to clear a Soham attack)
After 73 minutes, Bogard saves at the feet of Fitzpatrick as the pressure from Rushall grows.
The Soham keeper is forced to hurriedly punch out the ball from another attack to the waiting substitute McKenzie but his first time shot sails over the bar.
It's another substitute, Stan Mugisha who finally scores the equaliser in the 88th minute, when following a long throw from the left he crashes in a shot which bounces over the line via the under side of the bar.
The ref says that we have 4 minutes of injury time but neither side is able to get the winning goal.
The winners will face Kettering Town at home in the next round and after collecting £3,000.
I have been impressed by Soham today especially in the first half with a display belying their lowly league place in the Isthmian League, Div 1 South. Rushall although decidedly out of sorts for the first 30 minutes have come back strongly and will not be easily beaten the second time round.
Match attendance: 161
Match entrance fee: £9
Match programme: £2
Match entertainment: 8/10