Huntingdon Town 2 Bugbrooke St Michaels 1

Saturday 31th December 2011
Huntingdon Town 2 Bugbrooke St Michaels 1
ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Division 1
At: Jubilee Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (32 pages)
Weather: sunny spells, cloudy, dry
Attendance: 95 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 49:33; second-half: 50:47

On the last day of the year, third-placed Huntingdon Town and second-placed Bugbrooke St Michaels served up a thrilling game worthy of being a top-of-the-table clash. Huntingdon took an early lead direct from a free-kick, awarded for a rarely-spotted offence by Bugbrooke’s goalkeeper. The home side extended their lead soon after the restart before both sides were reduced to ten men following an off-the-ball incident spotted by the close-by assistant referee. I didn’t see the incident. Bugbrooke soon halved the deficit just before the hour mark and had another player sent-off as Huntingdon held on to claim a vital victory.

I could say that this trip to Huntingdon was an unplanned bonus. My initial plan for today was to watch a ‘double’ with games at both Brocton and Stafford Town (my two nearest grounds) until that idea was scuppered on Thursday by the postponement of Town’s game. My thoughts then changed slightly further afield to a West Midlands ‘double’ starting at either Tividale or Castle Vale but both these 11am kick-offs fell victim to waterlogging. So with prospects not looking good close to home, I headed east towards the United Counties League with a specific game in mind though not knowing which of four shortlisted matches I’d be seeing. Thankfully I arrived at Jubilee Park, my preferred choice, to find a perfectly-playable pitch and another very welcoming club that was a pleasure to visit!

Huntingdon Town moved to Jubilee Park in 2003 around the time they gained promotion to the United Counties League Division 1. Easily found and signed off the A141 on Kings Ripton Road, the ground was fully railed off with an area of covered standing by the dugouts down the left-hand touchline. Plans are afoot to install a seated stand needed for promotion to the Premier Division. The whole complex boasts an impressive pavilion opened in 2009 and caters for other teams as well as archery.

I saw Bugbrooke (2nd position with 34 points from 13 games) defeat Buckingham Town on Boxing Day afternoon and their starting line-up showed two changes. Huntingdon (3rd with 31 points from 15 games) also made two changes to the side that defeated Bourne Town on Boxing Day. A win was vital for both sides, and particularly Huntingdon, as leaders Harborough Town (top with 39 points from 16 games) extended their advantage at the top with a 4-0 win over Olney Town last night.

Bugbrooke (in yellow shirts, blue shorts and yellow socks) got the game underway defending the pavilion end in the first half. However, hungry Huntingdon (in red shirts, red shorts and red and black hopped socks) quickly got on top and took the lead in the 16th minute. Bugbrooke keeper Antonio Aguilar-Rohan was adjudged to have carried the ball out of his area when making a clearance, an offence spotted by the assistant referee. Dan Moyes stepped up and sent the resulting 20-yard free-kick past the four-man wall and straight into the net.

Midway through the half, Aguilar-Rohan was well positioned to hold a deflected shot by Niks Salavankis after Declan Rogers’ initial effort was blocked inside the area.

With the home side on top, Bugbrooke’s Nick Worley took the ball forward to the edge of the Huntingdon area. Reds shirts, however, got back in numbers to defend by Worley laid the ball back for Ben Foster to fire over from 30 yards out.

In first-half stoppage time, Aguilar-Rohan dived to his right to produce a superb one-handed save to keep out a 30-yard shot from Rogers.

Bugbrooke were forced to make a change at the interval with Foster replaced by Chris Dickens and Ryan Dufty took over the captain’s armband. The visitors bench was encouraged soon after the restart by Michael Parkes’ tackle on Joe Jordan right in from of the away dugout.

However, Huntingdon doubled their lead in the 50th minute. Nick Ling impeded Jordan inside the area and Rogers converted the resulting penalty.

Both sides were reduced to ten men two minutes later for an off-the-ball incident near the home dugout which I didn’t see. The near-by assistant immediately flagged and after a lengthy chat, referee Mr Moore showed a straight red card to Huntingdon’s Ryan Spencer and Bugbrooke’s Chris Davies. The game was restarted with a Bugbrooke free-kick, delivered forward into the area and headed wide by Ling.

Huntingdon almost scored a third when Drane intercepted Dufty’s backpass and fired across the face of goal before Bugbrooke got back into contention with a goal scored just before the hour mark. Leading scorer Worley got clear and his initial shot was blocked by Dave Beeny. The ball spun in the area and fell kindly for Worley to slot home despite the efforts of a defender attempting a goal-line clearance.

With their tails up, Worley looked to get clear with no offside flag but defenders got back to prevent a shot. The visitors still had time to grab an equaliser – “got 20 minutes, a long time” the team were told.

During the second half, I stood next to a Slough Town supporter, along with two friends who followed St Ives, and he was pleased to read on Twitter that his side had taken the lead against Fleet Town. I briefly remembered to myself many a trip to Slough’s old Wexham Park ground when I lived in Bracknell.

Back to the action and into the last 10 minutes plus stoppage time with a decent chance for the visitors. Damon Herbert crossed from the left and substitute Michael Parsons hit a close-range volley which Beeny parried.

Aguilar-Rohan, not to be outdone, also produced a really good save two minutes later. Josh Crick found Stuart Eason who saw a close-range shot tipped onto the bar and over for a corner by the keeper. But before the corner could be taken, Ling said something out of turn and picked up a second yellow card. So Bugbrooke were down to nine men in the 84th minute.

Huntingdon almost added a third in stoppage time which, had a goal been scored, would have been controversial to say the least. The flag went up for offside but the player flagged didn’t make contact with the ball. Instead Eason latched onto a throughball from an onside position but fired a low shot wide of the target.

With the win, Huntingdon moved up over Bugbrooke into second place on goal difference, five points behind leaders Harborough having played the same number of games. Bugbrooke dropped to third with two games in hand on the top two.

Games are coming thick and fast with eight Division 1 games scheduled for Monday. Bugbrooke face fourth-placed Rushden & Higham United in an early 11 am kick-off which I’m tempted to see followed by a look at leaders Harborough who travel to lowly Northampton ON Chenecks (2 pm). Huntingdon are also away at Wootton Blue Cross.

Huntingdon Town (red / red / red and black hoops): 1. Dave Beeny, 2. Ashley Yeomans, 3. Ryan Spencer, 4. Declan Rogers, 5. Josh Crick, 6. Ricky Dear, 7. Dan Moyes, 8. Charlie Bowen, 9. Niks Salavankis, 10. Dan Drane, 11. Joe Jordan. Subs: 12. Stuart Eason (for Drane, 72), 14. Ben Colmer (not used), 15. Jack Warwick (for Jordan, 90+5), 16. Jake Waterworth (for Salavankis, 60), 17. Mark Peacock (not used). Manager: Ricky Marheineke.

Bugbrooke St Michaels (yellow/blue/yellow): 1. Antonio Aguilar-Rohan, 2. Daniel Barnes, 3. Damon Herbert, 4. Michael Parkes, 5. Ryan Dufty (capt 2nd half), 6. Nick Ling, 7. Ben Foster (capt 1st half), 8. Chris Davies, 9. Adey Redmond, 10. Nick Worley, 11. Adam Balme. Subs: 12. Chris Dickens (for Foster, ht), 15. Michael Parsons (for Barnes, 72), 16. Lee Herbert (not used). Manager: Lee Herbert.

Referee: P. Moore.
Assistants: K. Davis and A. Woollard.

1-0 Dan Moyes (16)
2-0 Declan Rogers (50 pen)
2-1 Nick Worley (59)

Huntingdon: Ryan Spencer (RC, 52)
Bugbrooke: Chris Davies (RC, 52), Nick Ling (YC/RC, 84)