Around the Blue Square

05/03/2010

Last weekend saw the curtain come down on another thrilling season in the Blue Square Premier. And after visiting 9 grounds, watching 9 games and talking to various different people, my travels around the Blue Square came to an end.

 What a ride it has been. I have come from not knowing about the Blue Square Premier, to an avid fan. I have seen some fantastic games being played, most notably Luton’s 6-1 demolition of Ebbsfleet United. I have also met the most passionate fans like Dave and Ann, who follow Histon home and away and follow their team no matter what. It just shows you, you don’t have to support a big team to absolutely love watching the beautiful game.

 My Journey began at Priory Lane, the home of Eastbourne Borough. Here I met some fantastic people, working as volunteers, helping to prepare the ground for match day. I even saw at one point, the chairman Len Smith, drill in hand, helping with the last minute repairs. I have no higher praise than for these volunteers, who give up their time in order to help run the football club. I would like to thank Colin Hutchinson and Lee Peskett for showing me around such a fantastic club and I am glad they can look forward to another season in the top division.

 My next stop was Histon and the Glassworld stadium. Histon are only a village side and their rise up from the bottom leagues to the Blue Square Premier has been remarkable. Although I witnessed probably the dullest game of all my travels, I was able to speak to Histon captain, Matthew Langston, who has probably scored the most special goal in Histon’s history as they beat Leeds United in the FA Cup. This was also a great experience and I have to mention Graham Eales,  who works tirelessly and is well respected around the club for giving the chance to show my around the club.

At Crawley Town

 Crawley was my next destination as they played host to Cambridge United. Although Crawley boss Steve Evans has put together a strong team and were unlucky not to be challenging for promotion, I felt that the crowd did not do enough to get behind the team. I was standing in the away end and the Cambridge fans were making more noise and their team were losing!

 The next stage of my journey, took me to Chester. I was meant to go and watch the derby game between Chester City and Wrexham, but as a result of the police not being paid, the game was postponed. Consequently, this event along with the Chester City players refusing to get on the team coach on their way to play Forest Green Rovers, saw them expelled from the Blue Square Premier. To see yet another team erased from the game is sad and this has to be echoed by all football fans. But I honestly do hope Chester can rise again and make their way back to the top pyramid of non-league football and maybe even further.

 Luton Town provided me with the best atmosphere I have experienced at a Blue Square Premier game. Luton actually lost the game 2-1 against AFC Wimbledon, but the 7,000 plus crowd made the game entertaining. I was definitely impressed with such a huge crowd which would probably beat most attendances in the two bottom tiers of league football and even though they were tipped to win the Blue Square Premier this season, they finished 2nd, and I am strongly tipping them for an instant return to the league as they compete in the play-offs.

Ebbsfleet vs Barrow

 Onto Stonebridge Road, the home of Ebbsfleet United, where unfortunately for the home side, I saw them on the receiving end of two heavy defeats. The first one being a 4-1 defeat by Barrow, meanwhile the second game a 6-1 defeat by Luton Town, was the best game I have witnessed not only in the Blue Square Premier, but throughout my time following football. Luton were 1-0 down at half time and not playing very well. The funny thing was at half time, the Luton Town fans were all disappointed but I heard one of them say ‘wouldn’t it be funny if we battered them second half.’ The team must of heard him as they not only scored 6 goals, they completely outclassed the opposition.

 I then made the trip to AFC Wimbledon and even had the privilege of taking my girlfriend for her first experience of non- league football. She absolutely loved it and I think I have passed the bug onto her. Although I don’t think she was impressed with the language of the home fans, but that’s all part of football.

Action from Newport County vs Maidenhead United

 The Blue Square South was my next destination and a trip to champions Newport County. This was to be my first experience of watching Newport and after they played Maidenhead United off the park with some neat football, they thoroughly deserve to be in the Blue Square Premier next season and I wish them the best of luck.

 My last trip of the season was a Thursday night trip to Hayes & Yeading, which in truth left much to be desired. I did however for the first time, witness a female referee, officiating a game. However after dreadful performance, it will be a long time until female officials start refereeing league games.

Final Thoughts

 The Blue Square Premier has taught me that football is not only about money and winning, it’s about enjoying the game. I have seen the passion and commitment shown by not only the players, but by the fans and everyone involved with every club and it has really impressed me. The standard of football is not as good as some I have seen in the league, but you can’t beat the atmosphere at some of the grounds and being amongst proper football fans.


Hayes & Yeading 2-2 Kidderminster Harriers

04/16/2010

Thursday night and I found myself at Church Road, the home of Hayes & Yeading as they played host to Kidderminster Harriers. A very low turnout of just over 300 witnessed a game that was full of incident from the first whistle to the last. For the first time I witnessed a female referee officiating the game and personally she contributed to this game being such a turn off for the loyal spectators from both sides. It was unfair though to hear several sections of the crowd shouting some obscene abuse at her. At one point I heard one fan shout ‘head back to the kitchen’ and that was particularly out of order and left me thinking ‘I bet you couldn’t do a better job than she is at the moment.’

Woman referee Amy Fearn

Actually getting to the ground itself was challenging. From the outset, you wouldn’t have noticed the ground as it was hidden amongst a housing estate, so I had to look closely and the only thing that gave it away was a banner on a fence saying ‘Hayes and Yeading Utd.’ But getting home was a complete nightmare. First I was just sitting on the station platform wondering where my train was. Then found out that due to signalling problems trains were severely delayed. Luckily I managed to find a lady who was going to the same station as me, London Paddington and I shared a taxi costing £34! This was certainly a game to remember but for all the wrong reasons.

The Report

 Attendance: 318

 Hayes & Yeading twice let slip a lead as they drew 2-2 with Kidderminster Harriers in an incident packed game at Church Road. However the game will be remembered for the referee Amy Fearn, who sent off Hayes & Yeading’s two goal hero Scott Fitzgerald after a clash off the ball between Harriers’ Luke Prosser. Resulting in both receiving yellow cards and in the case of Fitzgerald, receiving a second bookable offence, when both players should have really been sent-off.

A packed crowd greeted the players

 Hayes & Yeading started the game brightly and applied the early pressure. They could of gone in front inside 2 minutes when a cross by Adam Green on the left missed everyone when any touch would have seen the ball fly into the net. Just a minute later and Hayes & Yeading had another good chance to go in front. A cross on the right by Danny Allen- Page was half cleared by Kidderminster and the ball fell to Adam Green but his shot was easily saved by Ross Atkins in the Harriers goal.

 The game was stopped for a short while, after 4th official Peter Georgiou received treatment for an injury but Hayes & Yeading continued to dominate the game and should have been in front just after the half hour mark. A corner on the right was taken by Adam Green and it was met by captain Tom Cadmore who’s header was cleared of the line by the Kidderminster defence.

 With 7 minutes added at the end of the first half, Hayes & Yeading finally got their reward for their dominance. Another corner was met by Tom Cadmore and although his header was cleared the ball fell to Scott Fitzgerald who made mistake to give Hayes & Yeading a one goal lead going into half time.

Hayes & Yeading (red and Black) and Kidderminster (blue) in action

 After the break, Kidderminster managed to come into the game and maybe should have had a penalty. Darryl Knights seemed to have been pulled back in the box but his appeal was turned away as referee Amy Fearn decided to award a free-kick the other way. However Kidderminster were level soon after. A cross by substitute Duane Courtney was met by Chris McPhee and although his first shot was saved by Clark Masters, he made no mistake on the rebound and slotted the ball home from two yards. Kidderminster began to dominate and could have been in front but Tom Cadmore’s last gasp challenge on Dean Bennett prevented the Harriers player being one on one with the Masters in the Hayes & Yeading goal.

 But Kidderminster didn’t make their dominance count and Hayes & Yeading went back in front. A throw-in on the left fell to Scott Fitzgerald on the edge of the box and he chested the ball down and his volley gave Ross Atkins no chance in the Harriers goal.

Referee Amy Fearn gives the Kidderminster players a talking to

 On 78 minutes though, an off the ball incident between Scott Fitzgerald and Luke Prosser saw both players receive a yellow card and in the case of Fitzgerald it was his second yellow and he was sent off.

 Kidderminster took advantage of this and within 3 minutes they were level. A corner by Darryl Knights found the head of defender Martin Riley and his header flew into the net.

 Kidderminster continued to press with the one-man advantage, looking for the winner but Hayes & Yeading held on for a deserved point.

 Teams:

Hayes & Yeading: Masters, Cadmore, Ruby, Harris, Green, Allen-Page, Cochrane (Watkins 90+3), Canham, Marwa, Fitzgerald, Wishart (Mulley 62).
Subs Not Used: Baker, Stolcers, Webb.

 Kidderminster Harriers: Atkins, Sharpe (Courtney 45), Riley, Prosser, Baker, Kerry (Matthews 77), Bennett (Byrne 71), Finnigan, McPhee, Knights, Smikle.
Subs Not Used: Singh, Lawrie.

Man of the Match- Adam Green (Hayes & Yeading)

 It was a difficult decision but I had to award Adam Green the man of the match. The left back was a threat with his runs forward and was involved in both goals scored for Hayes & Yeading. A good performance all round.

 Match verdict

 The game today left much to be desired for. The first half in particular was something to forget especially with the long stoppage and refereeing decisions that also stopped the play. The second half was more eventful with the referee sending off Scott Fitzgerald when she should have also sent of Luke Prosser. I think the referee’s performance today made the game a real turn off for the fans and this was shown through the abuse towards her. In the end both teams will be happy with a point.