Ibstock United 1 Hinckley Downes 1

Monday 31st August 2009
Ibstock United 1 Hinckley Downes 1
At: Welfare Ground, Leicester Road
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (12 Pages)
Attendance: 35
Weather: mild, mostly dry
Duration: first-half: 46:56; second-half: 48:05

It was about 2.5 miles between the grounds of Ellistown FC and Ibstock United, so I had plenty of spare time before the second leg of my Bank Holiday double got underway.

After some games were lost to FA Cup replays or switched to tomorrow, there were six East Midlands Counties League games on today and all bar this one were played this afternoon.

Ibstock’s ground was easy to find and actually on Leicester Road (on the left just before the roundabout) which links the centre of Ellistown with the northern edge of Ibstock. It was also close the A447 Coalville to Market Bosworth road: travelling south from Coalville and A511, turn left into Ashby Road (signed Ellistown 1 ½ miles), past the Jet garage to the next roundabout by the Co-op, left into Leicester Road and the entrance was 100 yards on the right. A drive led away from the road into the car park with the Welfare on the left and ground on the right.

I popped into the village centre and got my tea from the Ibstock Fish Bar. Close by I spotted an impressive clock, erected to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee in 2002, which was worth closer inspection. After parking up outside the ground, it was a trip to the nearby Co-op for a banana, chocolate and Pepsi to wash everything down!

Two ‘hoppermobiles’ arrived, a car or four and another of one – all had both been to the Coleshill v Coalville afternoon game in the Midland Alliance (which Coalville won 1-0 with former Stafford keeper Richard Williams impressing to keep a clean sheet). I pointed one car load in the direction of Ellistown so they could have a look at that ground while the other lone traveller ‘Epsom Nigel’ took some photos. The time until things opened up flew by a lot quick than I anticipated.

Through the impressive entrance, a reminder of the days of Ibstock Welfare FC, the pitch (orientated north-west–south-eat) ran widthways. I emerged near to one corner flag with all the facilities down the near side. Immediately to the left of the entrance was the refreshments building and next to that was an area of covered standing set back from the pitch which included three rows of benches on the left hand side. On halfway down the nearside was a modern building which incorporated the changing rooms. The other three sides were hardstanding with no additional cover. The pitch was mowed before kick-off with strip down the middle left uncut.

By the time the programmes became available, hot off the press with this afternoon’s results included, one traveller had decided to change plans at the last minute and hot-footed over to nearby Heather St John who also were kicking-off at 7-45 pm as well. We (I and ‘Darlington Harvey’) were both indebted to officials from both clubs for loaning their teamsheets.

Before kick-off there was, of course, time for a mug of tea (50 p)!

Ibstock began the day in 16th position in the 20-team league table with three points from five games – they were still looking for their first league win of the season having drawn three and lost two. Visitors Hinckley Downes were three places better off in 13th on the same number of points but better goal difference and having played just four games. They had won one – at home to Holbrook Miners Welfare – and lost three games.

As the norm in this league, the teams emerged in fair play fashion. Wit lights on from the start, Hinckley Downes (wearing blue shirts with blue and white striped sleeves, blue shorts and blue socks) got the game underway attacking the near Leicester Road end. Before the game I got chatting to the ‘Darlington Harvey’ and the other travellers in the car from the north-east (Graham, Ray and John – though one was up from South Wales) and were walked round to the far side for the first-half.

Ibstock (wearing red and white striped shirts, red shorts and red socks) won the first corner in the third minute and almost scored. Mark Pallett hit a right-foot volley which Hinckley’s Adam Smith cleared off the line.

Chances were scarce and Andy Tidey headed straight at Ibstock keeper Steven Fowkes from Tom Hodson’s long free-kick.

John Lovitt broke down the left, having stayed onside, and delivered a low cross from which Ben Weir saw a shot blocked by a defender.

By the time, Hinckley were awarded a free-kick in the 39th minute just outside the Ibstock area, neither keeper had been unduly troubled. And the free-kick, which Tidey sent over the five-man wall, bar and fence behind the goal didn’t either.

Just before the break, Luke Bradshaw played a delightful diagonal forward ball into the Ibstock area. Greg Richards looked set to shot until defender Rich Wileman made a vital saving tackle.

At half-time we walked back round to the refreshments building and opted to stay put to watch the second half from the patio-like area by the entrance.

The second-half was less than two minutes old when a moment of magic from Dan Stevenson gave Ibstock the lead. The referee brought play back for an infringement just outside the Hinckley area. Stevenson stepped up and hit the free-kick past the wall and into the bottom left corner past the static keeper Wayne Connolly who really had no chance of keeping the ball out.

Ibstock were certainly lively during the second half and Tom Hodson’s tackle prevented another chance for Stevenson. Hinckley also survived a scare in the 56th minute when Curtis Smith sliced an attempted clearance over his own bar.

Not long after spots of rain began to fall, Hinckley made a double change in the 72nd minute. Marc Orton and Ben Laxton replaced Adam Smith and Bradshaw. The visitors almost levelled things up from Richards’ shot but the diving Fowkes got down at the near post to save.

Ibstock replaced Lovitt with Jack Lewis in the 75th minute, and seven minutes later, Hinckley sub Orton was booked for his part in an off the ball incident right in front of the referee’s nose.

Hinckley almost equalised in the 83rd minute. Louis Hamilton whipped the ball across the face of goal and Richards couldn’t quite get on the end. Two minutes later, Hinckley made their third and final chance as Brett Marvin replaced Hamilton.

Ibstock must have thought they were heading for their first league win of the season. However, Hinckley agonizingly equalised in the 89th minute through Tidey’s deflected shot which eluded the diving Fowkes and ended up in the bottom right corner.

Both sides showed some urgency to find a winner in stoppage time, without success.

1-0 Dan Stevenson (47)
1-1 Andy Tidey (88)

Ellistown 0 Gresley FC 4

Monday 31st August 2009
Ellistown 0 Gresley FC 4
East Midlands Counties League
At: Terrace Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4 including programme
Weather: sunny spells, windy
Attendance: 202
Duration: first-half: 45:41; second-half: 45:09

Yesterday had us on a 14-hour trip to Devon for my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday celebrations. After a refreshing sleep and lie in, not to mention the obligatory trip to Asda, I was back on the road for a shortish journey to Bank Holiday double in the East Midlands Counties League. Six games were scheduled for today in the EMCL – five in the afternoon and one in the evening – and I opted to begin at an intriguing fixture involving Ellistown and Gresley FC, before moving on to see the evening game at nearby Ibstock.

On the outskirts of Coalville, I wondered if the SatNav was telling the truth when it wanted to direct me away from Ibstock. I thought I’d be approaching Ellistown from that direction so I wondered if the postcode I had correct. I rebelled against the machine and headed down the A447 before taking a turn to the delightfully named Donnington-Le-Heath, eventually picking up signs to Ellistown. The ground, on Terrace Road, was to the south through the village on the road towards Bagworth, ½ mile from St Christopher’s Church and past the last house. By the way, the post code for the ground is LE67 1GD.

The entrance to the ground was on the right between signs on the opposite sides of the drive for Battram Bowls Club and Ellistown FC. There was also a sign advertising today’s game as well for passing motorists and dog walkers. An old pit wheel had a prominent position in the car park and the turnstile was round to the right of the club building.

Through the turnstile, where I picked up a programme, the pitch (orientated north-west–south-east) ran widthways. All the facilities were down the nearside. To the right towards the corner was the clubhouse building which included the tea bar, and to the left was a small brick-built stand containing two rows of individual blue tip-up seats. On halfway over on the far side was a brick structure in need of a new roof. Beyond that was a second pitch, running parallel with the main pitch, on which the players warmed up. The main pitch was enclosed by a white post and yellow/blue rail, and behind both goals were high nets. There were no fewer than six floodlight pylons down each side.

Such was the interest amongst the Gresley fans, that programmes sold out well before kick-off and around 2-45 pm there was a queue at the turnstile.

The programme provided a history of the home side, a club steeped in mining traditions. United Collieries FC, later renamed Ellistown FC, was formed in 1993 by the merger of the teams of Ellistown and Bagworth collieries.

Ellistown went into this game occupying 14th position in the 20-team division with three points from three games (one win and two defeats). On Saturday, they were in FA Cup action at Neil Grayson’s Glapwell and from reading the report in the programme sounded unlucky not to force a replay. Ellistown’s league victory was 2-0 at home to Ibstock United and they also defeated Holwell Sports in an FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round replay.

Visitors Gresley FC were only formed in the summer following the liquidation of Gresley Rovers. They were in 7th position with four points from three games, coming from a win, draw and defeat in the league.

The Gresley Secretary, a long-serving man named Reg, kindly provided the line-ups and the Ellistown Secretary sold me a club badge (which pleased Junior ‘iwf’ when I got home). I promised to compare notes with Reg on the match stats at full-time.

Teams emerged in fair-play fashion, lined-up on the pitch in front of the changing rooms, and I took a seat in the stand, seat 66, ready for kick-off.

Ellistown must have won the toss and they decided to take advantage of the wind in the first half. Gresley, who got the action underway, attacking the southern end, or right to left in relation to my position sat in the stand.

In sunny conditions, some of the Gresley fans behind the goal their team was attacking soon made their voices heard. I counted 35 fans behind the goal and there must have been at least 150 Gresley fans in total – ensuring a profitable day, no doubt, for Ellistown off the field.

Gresley (white shirts, red shorts and white socks) took the lead in the 8th minute. Tom Betteridge raced down the left and crossed into the area. Rob Spencer fed Brian Woodall who had a simple chance to slot home from 10 yards out at the far post.

With Ellistown urged to ‘get your heads up’, the visitors continued to threaten. Spencer saw a close-range shot blocked in front of goal and Matthew Hill drove the rebound over the bar.

There was a minor scare for the Gresley keeper Simon Baldwin just after the quarter hour mark. Rob Johnson delivered a cross-cum-shot from out on the right which Baldwin pushed over the bar at the expense of a corner.

Gresley were certainly impressing with the passing football, though a penalty appeal for handball didn’t impress the referee at all. However, the ‘man in black’ did point to the spot in the 23rd minute when Ellistown keeper Ben Muskin tripped Spencer inside the area. Muskin emerged a hero by blocking Carl Spencer’s poor spot kick with his legs.

Just after the half-hour mark, around 30 noisy geese flew over the ground. Micky Lyons worked his way through the Ellistown defence to set up a decent chance for Spencer who fired straight at Muskin.

With just a one-goal deficit, Ellistown (wearing yellow shirts, blue shorts and yellow socks) began to threaten before the interval. They were awarded a free-kick 35 yards out from which Martin Fox sent a left footer just wide of the right-hand post but Baldwin looked to have it covered. Don Parkin fired straight at Baldwin as the home side created another half-chance. Parkin was then unable to take advantage when the keeper’s clearance hit one of his own defenders.

At half-time, I got myself another drink and returned to seat 66 to contemplate the first-half action and which might follow after the break. I wrote: ‘Ellistown were still in with a chance especially with the opportunities they had at the end of the half. Would they make Gresley pay for not turning their possession into more first-half goals?’

The home side made a substitution for the start of the second half with Richard Lewis replacing Parkin. Gresley defender Jack Coulson was booked in the 50th minute after bringing down Lewis 30 yards out. Once again the man with the white boots, Fox, took the free-kick and this time the ball flew over the bar.

Ellistown created another chance from Johnson’s diagonal throughball. It hit Coulson and Smith sent the loose ball wide of the target. The home side then made a second chance with Steve Sadler replacing central defender Jamie Hunt in a straight swap.

Gresley finally doubled their lead in the 60th minute, shortly after Lyons fired straight at Muskin from 25 yards out. The goal was created by Woodall out of the right who crossed into the area for unmarked Spencer to head home at the near post. The travelling fans behind the goal was pleased: “We love you Gresley, we do …”

Spencer should have made it three in the 71st minute. Tom Betteridge got down the left at pace before squaring the ball to Spencer in front of goal. The forward looked certain to score but miskicked to send the ball wide.

Ellistown sub Lewis tangled with Tom Betteridge two minutes and received a yellow card.

The home side thought they’d pulled a goal back in the 76th minute when Johnson hammered a low shot into the bottom left corner. The referee didn’t spot a raised flag for offside which went up during the build-up and initially signalled a goal. After consulting the flag-raising assistant referee, a free-kick was the eventual outcome.

Gresley made their first change a minute later with Oliver Hancock replacing Spencer.

To compound Ellistown’s frustration over the goal that wasn’t, Gresley netted a third goal in the 79th minute. Tom Betteridge on the left inside the area flicked the ball past the advancing Muskin for Woodall to slot home his second of the game into an unguarded net.

The visitors made a second change in the 80th minute as Jamie Burnett went off and Callum Keenan came on for the last ten minutes. Ellistown replaced James Rigby with Mark Roberts in the 84th minute. Substitutions continued two minutes later with Gresley swapping two-goal Woodall for Chris Burnham. Slater was then booked in the 88th minute for a foul on Fox.

Ellistown almost pulled a goal back. Johnson played the ball out to Damian Heskey on the left who crossed deep into the area for Carl Timms to head wide at the far post.

A delightful strike from Hancock, 45 seconds from the end of normal time, wrapped up both the scoring and afternoon’s action. The substitute fired straight into the left side of the net from the edge of the area, with Muskin able only to watch the ball fly past.

At the end of the game, I compared times and stats with the Gresley Secretary as promised, and we had a chat about future ambitions for the newly-formed club. While doing so, I got a call from ‘Walsall Neil’ to say he and ‘Boro Mike’ were heading for Oldbury Athletic (groundsharers at Halesowen Town) instead of Ibstock. They had just seen Coton Green beat Burntwood.

I wondered if the 202 crowd was a record home gate for Ellistown in the East Midlands Counties League. It certainly was, smashing the previous record of 80 for the home game with 2008/09 Champions Kirby Muxloe back in March.

0-1 Brian Woodall (8)
0-2 Rob Spencer (60)
0-3 Brian Woodall (79)
0-4 Oliver Hancock (90)

Borrowash Victoria 0 Quorn 0

Saturday 29th August 2009
Borrowash Victoria 0 Quorn 0
FA Cup sponsored by E.ON Preliminary Round
At: Watkinson Construction Bowl
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (20 pages)
Attendance: 58
Weather: sunny spells
Duration: first-half: 46:16; second-half: 48:58

Borrowash bridged a three-division gap as they held higher-ranked Quorn to a goalless draw and the teams will meet again in a replay on Tuesday.

After returning late from holiday yesterday and an early start to look forward to tomorrow, I’d didn’t fancy travelling too far today. A quick look at the FA Cup fixtures within an hour radius of home threw up this interesting tie at the Watkinson Construction Bowl.

Home side Borrowash, of the East Midland Counties League had made a reasonable start to the season and had already won one FA Cup tie, in contrast to Quorn had gained just one point from their first four league games.

I knew my way to the ground as it was the same route taken to neighbours Graham Street Prims back in May. Travelling away from Derby on the A6005 towards Long Eaton, Borrowash Road was on the left opposite a new housing development just past a Skoda dealer. The entrance was to the right off Borrowash Road and the Watkinson Construction Bowl was past Prims and the derelict Asterdale Club.

Through the turnstile the pitch (orientated south-west–north-east) ran lengthways and I my eye was drawn to the large stand down the left-hand side. It was also easy to see where the ‘bowl’ was derived as there was banking behind the stand and also at the far end. The stand had four rows of bucket seats, coloured sea green. Behind the near goal was another stand, predominately terrace with a couple of small groups on individual black tip-up seats. Down the right-hand side were the dugouts on halfway with changing rooms behind. All in all, it was an impressive venue and much bigger in size than I imagined.

When I looked at the teams in the centre of the programme, a couple of names in the Quorn squad leapt out at me. Was ‘Julian Joachim’ the former Premier League player? Was ‘Tom Ingram’ the former Stafford Rangers midfielder? It turned out the answer to both questions was ‘yes’.

I got a cup of tea and was pointed in the direction of ‘Chunky’ who turned out to be long-serving Secretary Ian Collins. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any club badges but I was able to note down the line-ups – much appreciated. Joachim was in the starting line-up with Ingram on the bench. Teams were also announced on the tannoy just before kick-off.

Borrowash (with three points from three games) went into the tie occupying seventh position in the early league table. They opened with a defeat at St Andrews, then a win at Holwell Sports and draw at Greenwood Meadows. They also beat Greenwood two weeks ago in the Extra Preliminary Round to set up today’s FA Cup tie with Quorn.

Visitors Quorn, second from bottom in the Unibond League Division 1 South table with one point from four games, began with a home 1-1 draw with Kidsgrove Athletic and then lost three league games in a row against Carlton Town, Chasetown and most recently Willenhall Town. The Preliminary Round was their first FA Cup hurdle this season.

A seat in the stand seemed like a good idea – number 167 to be precise on the back of the four rows. Borrowash got the game underway defending the entrance end (right to left from my vantage point).

Borrowash created the only serious chance during the opening quarter hour. Karl Payne battled between two defenders on the edge of the area and poked a shot straight at Quorn keeper Craig Jones.

Defences were very much on top and neither keeper was unduly troubled. The game started to show signs of coming to life when Phil Summerfield found some space and fired straight at Jones.

Raffle tickets came round and I opted for a strip. Would 636–640 be lucky?

Chances seemed to stem from free-kicks. Just when I thought that Quorn were starting to show why they were three divisions higher, Borrowash almost took a 41st minute lead. From near the right corner of the area Rory Maxwell fired got a shot in on target which hit the chest of Jones. The ball rebounded to the following-up Sutton who fired just wide of the right-hand post from 10 yards out. It was the closest either side had come to taking the lead.

At the interval, it was a case of “well played” as far as Borrowash were concerned.

One thing I was impressed with was the tea bar menu and veggie items indicated with a (v). I don’t think I’ve spotted such a thing at a ground before so had to indulge in a delicious cheese and onion slice at half-time as well as another tea!

I returned to seat 167 ready for the second half.

Quorn got the action underway in the second half looking to step up their performance and created a few chances. The best during the opening 15 minutes of the second half came when Marriott chipped the ball into the area and Turner sent a free header wide of the target.

Having not made the desired breakthrough, Quorn made a change in the 63rd minute, with ex-Stafford man Tom Ingram replacing Michael Papperozzi.

The winning raffle numbers were announced over the tannoy – 650 and 520 – and surprise surprise, I was out of luck again, though 650 was only two strips away from mine.

Quorn continued to threaten without troubling Vics keeper Smith.

In the 76th minute, I decided that a change in viewing position might bring a goal. So I vacated seat 167 for a place next the pitch on the same touchline towards the goal that Quorn were attacking. Would it do the trick?

“C’mon Borrowash, one big last effort,” cried one fan stood near men and his side almost responded. Phil Summerfield found Lee Sutton in space who saw his shot hit defender Kris Matthews and rebound out for a corner.

Replay at Quorn on Tuesday.

Borrowash Victoria (red and white stripes / black / black): 1. Steve Smith, 2. Robert Fox, 3. Daniel Cox, 4. Tom Land, 5. James De Reus, 6. Anthony Tansley, 7. Phil Summerfield (capt), 8. Martin Gadsby, 9. Lee Sutton, 10. Rory Maxwell, 11. Karl Payne. Subs: 12. David Leigh (for Payne, 84), 14. Graham O’Reilly (not used), 15. Josh Watts (not used), 16. Andrew Mottershead (for Maxwell, 65), GK. Jonathan Ball (not used).

Quorn (yellow/blue/white): 1. Craig Jones, 2. Anthony Marriott, 3. Russell Peel, 4. Kris Matthews (capt), 5. Phil Gilchrist, 6. Cameron Keast, 7. Joe Jonas, 8. Ash Robinson, 9. Liam Turner, 10. Julian Joachim, 11. Michael Papperozzi. Subs: 12. Ash White (not used), 14. Tom Ingram (for Papperozzi, 63), 15. Nick Goold (for Jonas, 90+4), 16. Phil Miller (for Turner, 84), GK. Ian Pledger (not used).

Referee: S Ledger (Barnsley).
Assistants: S Roysten and R Treher.


Borrowash: none
Quorn: none

Tuesday 25th August 2009

Milnthorpe Corinthians 0 Thornton Cleveleys 3
Sports 360 West Lancashire League Division 1
At: Strands Lane
Kick-off: 7-30 pm
Admission: none; Programme: £1 (8 pages)
Attendance: 40 (headcount)
Weather: sunny
Duration: first-half: 45:27; second-half: 45:42

Saturday 22nd August 2009

Cranfield United 0 Hadley 3
Molten Spartan South Midlands League Division 1
At: Crawley Road
Kick-off 3-00 pm
Admission: £3 including 32-page programme
Attendance: 21
Weather: sunny spells
Duration: first-half: 45:00; second-half: 46:28

In trying to work our destination for today’s trip, the idea of Milton Keynes came to mind. I knew that MK Dons were at home to Colchester at stadiummk, which I’d not previously visited, but my thoughts were diverted to the non-league clubs in the vicinity. The Spartan South Midlands League has its northern-most clubs in and around the town and I plumped for the Division 1 game at Cranfield United, around eight or so miles away on the eastern side of the M1.

The journey down got off to a bad start – delayed by five minutes when the deliverer van of a well-known supermarket dropping shopping off at the neighbour partially blocked our drive – and momentarily got a whole lot worse with queues as soon as we joined the southbound M6. Wolves coaches on the way to Manchester City were in the thick of queues going north. Soon, thankfully we were on the move and a ‘detour’ around the M6 Toll made up some lost time. On the way down I was able to spot a couple of club coaches – Cambridge United heading for Tamworth and Rothwell Town on the way to Romulus.

We made good time to MK and after dropping off Mrs and Junior ‘iwf’ for their afternoon of shopping, I plugged in the SatNav to give me directions and was parked up in Cranfield’s car park by 2-20 pm.

Cranfield is a place I’m not aware of even passing through before and I was interested to find signs to Cranfield Airport and the entrance to the Cranfield University campus. The village was larger than I though and the ground was located right on the outskirts on Crawley Road, the road leading to North Crawley and Newport Pagnall.

Programmes, a 28 pager, were available at the game and included in the admission charge.

I parked up at pitchside on the car park and the pitch (orientated south-east–north-west) ran lengthways with three floodlight pylons down each side. A white post and rail went all the way round Behind the near goal were the clubhouse, changing rooms and tea bar. On halfway down the left-hand touchline was a brick stand, behind the dugouts, with a row on bench seating in the front and standing behind.

My eyes were drawn to a plaque on the side of the clubhouse, in memory of Michael James Johnson, a man who ‘will always be part of Cranfield United’.

According to a display in the clubhouse, Cranfield were formed in 1903 during a meeting at the Crow Inn. They originally joined the South Midlands League in 1949, winning Division 2(B) in 1949/50 with a 100% record over 22 games. Since 1960, Cranfield have had spells in both the South Midlands League and Bedford & District League before returning to the Spartan South Midlands League in 2001. They initially played in Division 2 and gained promotion to Division 1 in 2004, where they have remained.

From what I read in the programme, the season for Cranfield (16th position out of 21 teams with two points from three games) hasn’t got off to the expected start. ‘The club was hopeful of challenging for one of the top 4 positions in the table,’ was the comment. Hopes took a knock with draws from their opening two games and this was followed by defeat in the FA Cup last Sunday and also against Bedford FC on Tuesday. Manager Craig Connell and his assistant Mick Lemon resigned after that 3-1 defeat at home to Bedford FC so caretaker managers Pat Booden and Mark Hardie were in charge today.

Visitors Hadley took the Spartan South Midlands League by storm as a rookie club last season and finished second in Division 2 to gain promotion at the first attempt. They current season has began well and they went into this fixture in fourth position behind early leaders New Bradwell St Peter with nine points from four games.

The programme admitted that Cranfield would ‘once again go into action with a depleted squad’ due to injuries and a recent retirement.

In need of a tea, I popped along to the tea bar incorporated into the clubhouse and sat a bench dedicated in memory of Brian Griffiths. I spotted a Hadley official carrying coloured pieces of paper who kindly let me note down the line-ups – much appreciated. Later on at half-time I noticed a team sheet was displayed on a clubhouse door.

Players came out in fair-play fashion and lined up on the edge of the nearest 18-yard box and exchanged those increasingly familiar handshakes, before the Cranfield players broke to the far end.

“Captains please,” shouted the referee after a shrill blast of his whistle and soon Hadley got the game under way attacking the far end. I opted for a place on a bench in the stand which turned out to be near the home dugout.

“From the start, Cranfield,” was the instruction from the bench and they did so during the opening minutes as a new era got underway.

The home side (wearing all red) survived a scare in the 7th minute. Mark Betts got the better of full-back Hugo McGlue on the right bye-line and squared a pass to Matt Smithurst in front of goal. The striker fired against the right-hand post and the ball rebounded to the grateful keeper James Egerton.

Cranfield should have taken the lead four minutes later. Stuart Reynolds crossed from the right to Ashley Deverell positioned on the penalty spot. The striker hit a ferocious first time shot that flew over the bar instead of breaking the back of the net.

Despite 20 minutes of pressure, without seriously troubling the Hadley keeper, Cranfield fell behind in the 21st minute. Neil Mangan tripped Neil Robinson inside the area and Danny Gruar sent Egerton the wrong way with the resulting penalty. The Cranfield fans/officials set next to me were disappointed to concede against the run of play.

During the first half, planes frequently swooped in to land behind the far goal including a white one just after the penalty went in.

A more confident Hadley side (wearing sky blue shirts, black shorts and socks) won three corners and then extended their lead in the 32nd minute. A misdirected header around halfway allowed Mark Betts to break down the left and accelerate away from the chasing defender Tom Barnett. He cut into the area and squared the ball low for Gruar to smash past Egerton from 15 yards out.

I decided to sample the view from the other side so commenced and completed a walk round the pitch perimeter.

It could have got a whole lot worse for Cranfield three minutes later. Smithhurst, unmarked inside the area should have slotted home but Egerton left his line to block the resulting shot.

Just before the interval, Cranfield won a corner on the right which Stuart Reynolds delivered into the area. It wasn’t cleared and Jamie Doyle hit a rising shot just over the bar. Hadley went in at the interval with a 2-0 lead.

At half-time, I returned to the tea bar for another tea as well as chips before resuming a seat in the stand. The Cranfield players were out several minutes before the visitors and got the second half underway now attacking the far end. They made a good start and within a minute Mangan got down the right to deliver a hanging cross which Russell Garland held.

Hadley quickly got forward. Gruar was allowed to create a chance inside the area which was blocked by defender Paul Stokes and the flag went up for offside when Smithurst went for the loose ball.

Cranfield made a first change in the 51st with Michael Owens – the player with almost a famous name – replacing Mangan.

“It’s all about concentration,” shouted the Hadley bench the defence and I felt that the next goal, whichever team scored it, could turn out to be crucial.

The visitors, however, continued to create chances and almost netted a third just before the hour mark. James Leaver exchanged a pass with Gruar in a move down the right and crossed low into the area. Smithurst got in a shot that Egerton somehow blocked on the lead. The keeper certainly saved a certain goal.

After Hadley replaced Mark Betts with Nick Uxaas in the 60th minute, they went close again. Smithurst and Tony Sabag were involved in the build-up before the substitute hit a left foot shot deflected out. The resulting corner was played to Gruar who forced another fine save out of Egerton.

With Cranfield still not seriously troubling the Hadley keeper, they made another substitution in the 66th minute with Gray Hutchinson on for Tom Resch.

The home side were awarded a free-kick out on the left near the corner flag from which skipper Stokes powered a header just over the bar.

The referee, who I felt had an excellent game, suggested an opportunity for a drink while Leaver received treatment. The midfielder was unable to continue and replaced in the 72nd minute by Ian Kirkwood. At the same time, Cranfield took their last throw of the dice in terms of substitutions, replacing McGlue with Michael Kalugin.

To agree with my earlier thought, one of the Cranfield players encouraged his teammates: “Next goal is massive, make sure we get it.” But I felt that Hadley were comfortable at the back.

Something that interested me during the game was the ball – an orange one and there was not a hint of snow at all. Molten had their name on the ball and an advert in the programme told me that the League sponsor is a supply of balls for a variety of sports. The orange ball certainly drew my attention to the name Molten – would a white ball have had the same effect?

The next goal did indeed prove massive and came in the 82nd minute. Owens was booked for pulling back Kirkwood as the Hadley substitute cut in along the left bye-line. Gruar curled a right foot free-kick low towards goal and it went straight in at the near post to complete a hat-trick for the striker.

At 3-0 there was no way back for Cranfield and Hadley made a final chance in the 84th minute when Aaron Baker came on for Smithurst.

Egerton again excelled to prevent a further goal. Gruar robbed Stokes 25 yards out and despite being challenged by Doyle managed to get in a shot which the keeper smartly turned round.

Cranfield created a couple of late chances to get on the scoresheet and in stoppage time Garland produced a diving save on the line to hold a header from Ellis Spence.

0-1 Danny Gruar (21)
0-2 Danny Gruar (32)
0-3 Danny Gruar (84)