Burntwood Town 5 Newhall United 3

Tuesday 18th August 2009
Burntwood Town 5 Newhall United 3
Midland Combination Division 1
At: Memorial Ground, Rugeley Road
Kick-off: 6-15 pm
(delayed until 6-35 pm)
Admission: £2; No programme
Attendance: 12 (headcount)
Weather: sunny
Duration: first-half: 47:23; second-half: 47:24

I thought I’d be pushing my luck in suggesting a second consecutive evening of football following yesterday’s trip to Biggin and I was initially right. However, a bit of negotiating with Mrs ‘iwf’ and I opted for a relatively short trip to Burntwood Town, a ground I’d not previously visited.

I’ve delved into the Midland Combination Division 1 on quite a few occasions in the past through most of the home clubs visited are no longer in the division. Teams like Becketts Sporting, Old Hill Town and Wilnecote Mens Club have since folded while teams like Cadbury Athletic and Southam have moved up into the Premier Division.

Prior to tonight, of the eight clubs currently in the division I’d previously visited, only three of these visits were for Division 1 games – Stockingford AA (in 2007, Earlswood Town and Droitwich Spa (both earlier this year).

Burntwood’s ground, known as the Memorial Ground, was on Rugeley Road behind the Burntwood Memorial Community Association building and, being in a leafy housing estate, it had quite a rural feel. Travelling from Heath Hayes eastwards in the direction of Lichfield on the A5190, turn left at the mini roundabout adjacent to Somerfield and the White Swan pub into Rugeley Road. The ground entrance was 200 yards on the left after passing the turn to Poole’s Way and just before the right turn for Church Road. The pitch entrance was through the first tarmac car park and the open gates to the left of the building.

From the car park, a short set of railway sleeper steps led up a bank to the pitch emerging at a point just about on the halfway line. The pitch (orientated north-south) ran widthways and was fully railed off on three sides. The area behind the left-hand goal was roped off and it was possible to walk all the way round. On the near side by the right corner was a hospitality building which housed the tea bar. The dugouts were on the opposite touchline either side of the half-way line with an area of cover running to the right of the home dugout to the right corner flag.

I was most grateful to the Burntwood secretary and Newhall programme editor for supplying me with the team line-ups – much appreciated. There were no programmes though the Chairman told me that they plan to start doing so shortly.

The two sides in opposition this evening occupied the bottom two places in the Divison 1 table last season. Burntwood were bottom with just four points and one win. Their points tally gained from a win and four draws was reduced by a three-point deduction. Newhall finished second from bottom on 16 points.

One to this start of the current 2009/10 season and for Burntwood (third from bottom in 15th position with no points), this was their third league game and followed defeats in their opening two fixtures – 5-1 at Brereton Social last Tuesday and 3-0 at home to early leaders Stockingford on Saturday. Most teams have played three games but Burntwood have only managed two as they were inactive on the opening day as a consequence of Division 1 having an odd number of clubs.

By my calculation, Burntwood hasn’t won a league game for 25 games since a 2-0 home victory over Alveston on Saturday 30th August last year. Would that run come to an end tonight?

Newhall United (in 12th position with 3 points from 3 games) have won one of their opening three games (3-0 at home to Coton Green a week ago) and suffered heavy defeats (6-0 at Earlswood Town on the opening day and 8-1 at home to Northfield Town on Saturday.

The game got underway in pleasant sunshine and the greenery both inside and outside the ground stood out. I really thought was a nice place to spend an August evening watching a game.

Burntwood (wearing claret and blue striped shirts, blue shorts and sock) kicked off attaching the far end in the first half – or left to right from my vantage post under the cover close to the half-way line.

The home side got forward to create the game’s first chance which Darren James volleyed over from the edge of the area.

Good work by Newhall’s Scott Curry set up a decent opportunity for Greg Smith to low past the left-hand post.

Both sides continued to create chances and Newhall keeper Brad Clarke did well to stop a rising shot from Zac Lewis who had got on the end of a pull back from James.

Burntwood took the lead in the 14th minute with a neat goal. A diagonal ball was played forward from the left to the far post where Richard Young was well positioned to fire across the face of goal from a narrow angle into the bottom left corner of the net.

Newhall (wearing red shirts with a black chest hoop, red shorts and socks) looked to bounce back and also levelled things up within three minutes. Greg Smith threaded a pass through the home defence from which David Williams got in a shot on target, only to see defender Tom Hiatt get back to clear from in front of goal.

The visitors did get back on level terms in the 22nd minute. Jonathan Jenkinson stayed onside on a run down the right to latch on to a diagonal forward ball and sent a low drive into the opposite bottom-left corner of the net.

Chances continued to be created in an entertaining contest. Young did all the hard work on the left to deliver a low inch perfect cross into the six-yard box where unchallenged Danny Holmes fired over from just a few yards out. It should have been 2-1!

Newhall went close to taking the lead in first-half stoppage time. Greg Smith delivered a free-kick into a populated area from near the right corner flag. The ball fell to Paul Grosse on the far side who miss-kicked when in a good position.

At the interval, I opted for a tea and McCoys from the tea bar and took up a position on the near touchline nearest to the car park for the second half.

Burtnwood defender Luke Hitchman was booked in the 50th minute for a hefty foul on Williams.

The home side won a corner which was delivered into the area by Young. Clarke attempted to punch the ball clear which ended up back with Young who crossed again for Holmes to head over.

Holmes had more luck in the 54th minute. Young on the left found Holmes unmarked inside the area and the striker fired Burntwood into a 2-1 lead via the inside of the right-hand post.

Newhall made a change in the 56th minute – Chris Smith replaced Curry – and another one six minutes later when Richard Draycott came on for Lee Stone. At the same time, Burntwood made their first substitution with Simon Parsons replacing Aaron Wong.

Clarke made a fine save to prevent the home side scoring again when he turned Young’s 30-yard free-kick around the left-hand post at the expense of a corner.

The game turned dramatically in favour of Burntwood in the 66th minute. Clarke pulled back James inside the area and was sent off for denying a goalscoring opportunity. For Clarke it was his second dismissal of the season and just as he did against Northfield Greg Smith took over in goal again. The stand-in keeper got his hands to Young penalty but couldn’t prevent it going into the net. The goal was timed in the 68th minute.

After a further substitution each – Ricky Abbott replaced Shane Potter for Newhall in the 70th minute and Eddie Peart replaced Holmes two minutes later – the visitors almost pulled a goal back. Chris Smith got on the end of David Harper’s free-kick and headed straight at keeper Dillon Weller, wearing a bright yellow top.

Facing an uphill task with ten men, it got worse for Newhall when they conceded a fourth goal in the 75th minute. Peart played a short pass to James who lifted the ball over the tall stand-in keeper from 15 yards out.

Burntwood rubbed salt in Newhall’s wounds by scoring again three minutes later as two substitutes combined. Peart delivered a superb left-wing cross for Parsons at the far post to head across the keeper into the opposite bottom corner of the net.

Before the restart, Burntwood made their final change with Andrew Webb replacing skipper Brad Tonks.

The result, with Burntwood leading 5-1, may have been beyond doubt but Newhall rallied in the closing stages. They pulled a goal back in the 80th minute through Ian Mansfield. Chris Smith’s right-wing cross was flicked on for unmarked Mansfield to slot home at close range.

After Harper was booked for dissent, an unlikely comeback by the visitors gained momentum. Draycott fired over from Williams’ corner before Newhall scored again in the 85th minute. Abbott initial shot fell for Draycott to fire home via the left-hand post.

“How long to go,” enquired the Newhall players to which the referee indicated seven minutes.

The visitors won another corner which ended up straight into Weller’s arms. Then Chris Smith fed Jenkinson only for Webb to get back and concede the first of two successive corners which both came to nothing. Newhall’s comeback ran out of time and Burntwood gained their first win (and points) of the season at the third time of asking.

Before the game, I heard the Burntwood Chairman tell a group of players that he wanted “to see three points on the board tonight”. Well, the team did just what the Chairman ordered!

1-0 Richard Young (14)
1-1 Jonathan Jenkinson (22)
2-1 Danny Holmes (54)
3-1 Richard Young (68)
4-1 Darren James (75)
5-1 Simon Parsons (78)
5-2 Ian Mansfield (80)
5-3 Richard Draycott (85)