Kimberley Town 2 Hatfield Main 4

Thursday 19th March 2009
Kimberley Town 2 Hatfield Main 4
Abacus Lighting Central Midlands League Buckingham Insurance Supreme Division
At: The Stag Ground
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 30 (headcount)
Weather: cold, dry, windy
Duration: first half: 46:20; second-half 46:30

Thank goodness for Thursday night football at Kimberley Town – otherwise it would have been another blank midweek.

For me, Thursday has been Skins night over the past few weeks but, unlike the first two series, I’m finding the current series with new cast a bit too extreme (and at times traumatic) for my taste. So a trip to see my seventh consecutive CML game gave me a perfect excuse to sidestep the televisual viewing on E4.

Kimberley play at The Stag Ground, off Nottingham Road – presumably named after the pub near the far corner of the ground. I approached the ground from the M1 junction 26 and approached Kimberley via the A600 and turned left into Kimberley Road. After passing the Stag Inn on the right, I went downhill for about 1/4 mile before turning right into a narrow entrance between Roots Emporium (interesting shop selling ‘wooden Buddhas, cats, and elephants and other carvings as well as stone jewellery, handmade mulberry paper and much more besides’) and the HAMA medical centre. As the Roots website says: “if you reach the mini island you have gone too far.” Parking was the end of the drive on the right, behind the north-west end of the ground.

Through into the ground from the entrance, where the programme was sold for 50p, the pitch (orientated north-west to south-east) ran lengthways to the left. All the facilities were behind the near goal, known as the Noel Street end, with changing rooms, a club house and area of covered standing. Dugouts faced each other on halfway with the home dugout on the far side, which ran parallel to the main road, and the dugout on the near touchline. Grass banking on the far touchline in front of the gardens provided a potential elevated vantage point.

Kimberley Town, nicknamed The Stags, joined the Central Midlands League in 1986, following a four-year stint in the Northern Counties East League of which they were a founder member. Over the past 23 seasons in the CML, Kimberley spent the majority in the Supreme Division and regained their position in the top flight last summer after spending the 2007/08 season in the Premier Division.

Both sides went into the game in the bottom half of the Supreme Division table. Kimberley, third from bottom with 14 points from 23 games, were no doubt buoyed by last Saturday’s victory at Clipstone in the evening Bonanza game. Twelfth-placed Hatfield, 28 points from 21 games, were looking to extend their current run of three straight wins.

I sampled the clubhouse before the game and also a welcome cup of tea as well, before opting to watch the game near the away dugout.

With the Hatfield skipper opting to turn the teams around having, presumably, won the toss, Kimberley (wearing all navy blue) got the action underway attacking the far end and took the lead in the 12th minute. Jason Russell slipped the ball forward to Aaron Russell who slotted it home.

It was clear from the shouts on the pitch and from the sidelines that both sides wanted to up the tempo of the game.

Hatfield (yellow shirts with blue sleeves, blue shorts and socks) almost scored in the 25th minute when Craig Wiggleworth’s initial shot was blocked by Kimberley keeper Mike Oxbrow. The ball looped up and Oxbrow comfortably held a follow-up header.

The visitors, however, levelled things up on the half hour. The Kimberley defence failed to deal with Darren Brown’s ball into the area and Darren Langton hammered home the equaliser.

The goal was a wake-up call for Kimberley but they fell behind five minutes later in the 35th minute. Brown was again the provider with a ball into the area from the right and Wiggleworth hooked a spectacular right-foot shot past the helpless Oxbrow.

Kimberley went agonisingly close to an equaliser before the interval. Jason Russell fed namesake Aaron who lobbed the advancing keeper only to see the ball narrowly miss the unguarded goal.

After another warm drink for me at half-time on a cold evening, there was almost a goal less than two minutes after the restart. Frazer Burns swung in a corner from the right and Ryan Saunders saw a header cleared off the Kimberley line. Wiggleworth’s follow-up shot from the loose ball ended up well wide.

Hatfield extended their lead in the 59th minute. Langton’s initial shot was blocked and Burns forced the ball home at close range. At 3-1 to the visitors, a fourth straight win looked a certainty. However, The Stags bounced back to restore the deficit back to just a single goal within 138 seconds. A free-kick delivered into a packed area wasn’t cleared and Aaron Russell hit a low shot which the diving keeper couldn’t keep out of the bottom right corner despite getting a hand on the ball.

Game back on until Hatfield scored a fourth goal in the 72nd minute. Burns’ low cross from the left was flicked in at the near post by, I think, Darren Fell.

This was a hammer blow to Kimberley who thought they denied a goal in the 84th minute. Jason Russell’s corner fell to Tom Reville who saw his shot cleared off the line. The well-positioned assistant decided the ball didn’t cross the line even though the Stags’ players felt strongly that it did. I couldn’t tell from my position on the touchline.

The home side’s pressure led to another chance. Substitute Joe Gregson fed Jason Russell who slipped the ball past the advancing Murray only to see it narrowly miss the target.

Back home, I caught the last few minutes of Skins and apparently tonight’s episode wasn’t as ‘traumatic’ as some of the earlier ones. Still, I’m pleased I went to Kimberley.

Subsequently, I read on his blog that Mr ‘On the Road’ was at the game – strange I didn’t spot him in a crowd of around 30.