Blaby & Whetstone Athletic 3 Radford 1

Saturday 18th August 2012
Blaby & Whetstone Athletic 3 Radford 1
East Midlands Counties League
At: Warwick Road, Whetstone
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (20 pages)
Weather: dry, lengthy sunny spells
Attendance: 36
Duration: first-half: 45:53; second-half: 48:48

You may wonder if I’m on a mission to complete the ’19 club’ by visiting every current ground the East Midlands Counties League (see end of report). After ‘ticking’ Aylestone Park last Saturday, it was the turn of their near neighbours Blaby & Whetstone Athletic to have the ‘pleasure of my company’ this afternoon. In what was an absorbing contest, Radford looked to put their troubled summer behind them and held a half-time lead through Tristan Whitman’s opener. However, Blaby & Whetstone capped a strong second-half performance with three unanswered goals from Lee Barrett, Liam Reed and Danny Wheeler to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

With no thanks at all to the V-Festival congestion around Stafford Station which caused me to miss the 11.21 train and a subsequent full car park at Rugeley Station which stopped me catching a later train, the 'ailing' car was forced to made it all the way in 20°C+ temperatures, including the last 1.1 miles from Narborough Station to ground which I’d planned to walk. Tuesday’s service and MOT can’t come quickly enough!

At the ground I was warmly greeted by the club official manning the paybox and, later, kindly took the trouble to reunite me with the newly-purchased BWAFC badge I’d dropped on the way to the tea bar. Thanks. I also got chatting to Radford’s Secretary who writes the ‘Day Trip to Paradise’ blog – thanks for the letting me note down the lineups.

Through the paybox into the ground, the fully railed off first team pitch occupied the left-hand side of a larger playing field. Down the left-hand side was a small stand containing three rows of benches and opposite an interesting structure which provides covered standing for both the main and second pitch. Due to ongoing ground improvements there was no access behind the far goal.

Blaby & Whetstone Athletic is the name of the men’s first team, which is part of a much larger club called Blaby & Whetstone Boys Club which boasts numerous junior sides from age 7 to 18 as wells as a youth centre and social club.

Blaby & Whetstone (10th with 1 point from 1 game) have made a great start to their second season in the East Midlands Counties League. After drawing their opening fixture two weeks ago at Borrowash, last Saturday they marked their FA Cup debut with a fine 2-1 win away at Spalding United.

As I learnt, Radford (15th with 0 points from 0 games) had a troubled summer with the manager and backroom staff moving to Arnold Town. New joint managers Iain McCulloch and Alf Staley were appointed a month ago and have assembled a completely new playing squad. The new side played their first league game this afternoon.

Blaby & Whetstone (in navy blue shirts with white V, navy blue shorts and white socks) got the game underway defending the clubhouse end in the first half and immediately started to create chances.

As early as the third minute, Radford’s Latvian-born goalkeeper Martins Apenitis pushed over a close-range header from Tom Orton. Apentis soon denied Orton again with a diving save at the expense of a corner. Adam Blanchard fired over the bar while the diving Apenitis kept out another shot this time hit by Ryan Hawker.

However, Radford started to grow in confidence and took the lead just after the half-hour mark. Reece Campbell, on the right inside the area, received a pass from Ndricim Krasniqi but couldn’t get in a shot. Instead he found Tristan Whitman who fired home via the inside of the right-hand post. A case of Blaby & Whetstone being punished for missed chances, perhaps, and/or Radford being rewarded for Apenitis’s saves.

The home side were stunned: “a long way to go, put the effort in”, put the 110% in”, a bit more urgency getting the ball, a bit more urgency on the ball”.

Just before the interval, a mice move by Radford almost led to a second goal. Kyle Crofts played the ball down the left to Campbell who held it up and found Whitman who fired over the bar.

Blaby & Whetstone made two changes at half-time and both substitutes made an impact during the second half. But Radford created the half’s first chance which Whitman fired across the face of goal.

After Lee Barrett and Jordan Wakeling went close, it was Barrett who levelled things up in the 53rd minute. Apenitis could only get a hand to a right-wing corner and Barrett smashed home the loose ball at close range.

Buoyed by the equaliser, Blaby continued to threaten. Barrett headed over, Gordon fired over and Chris Anastarsi curled a free-kick just wide. The Radford defence were made to work hard with the tall central defender Richard Dean a massive presence at the back.

Radford resistant was eventually broken in the 80th minute when Blaby& Whetsone took the lead. Barrett delivered a free-kick from near the right corner of the area and Liam Reed headed home.

Apenitis produced another fine save to push over Anastarsi’s dipping 25-yard shot but couldn’t stop Blaby & Whetstone scoring a decisive third goal in the 86th minute. Substitute Danny Wheeler headed home from a right-wing corner via the keeper’s hands (photo right).

At full-time, I thought about Radford’s contribution to the game, bearing in mind their troubled summer. They certainly had plenty to be encouraged about in defeat to a Blaby & Whetstone side that is likely to spend the season in the upper reaches of the table, if not challenging for the title. Bettering last season’s third from bottom could well be achieved by the new Radford management team.

Blaby & Whetstone Athletic (navy blue with white V / navy blue / white): 1. Luke Hall, 2. Jamie March, 3. Matthew Howarth, 4. Clive Jacobs, 5. Jordan Wakeling, 6. Ryan Hawker, 7. Tom Orton, 8. Lee Barrett, 9. Adam Blanchard, 10. Liam Reed, 11. Jermain Gordon (capt). Subs: 12. Thomas Hodgson (not used), 14. Chris Anastarsi (for Blanchard, ht), 15. Leon Doughty??? (for Jacobs, ht), 16. Andrew Morris (not used), 17. Danny Wheeler (for Hawker, 73).

Radford (claret with sky blue side / claret / claret and mauve hoops): 1. Martins Apenitis, 2. Roberto Labbate, 3. Kyle Crofts, 4. Adam Mahl, 5. Richard Dean (capt), 6. Conor Naylor, 7. Callum Gilmartin, 8. Ndricim Krasniqi, 9. Tristan Whitman, 10. Jarrod Russell, 11. Reece Campbell. Subs: 12. Stuart Marshall (for Gilmartin, 87), 14. Richard Derby (for Krasniqi, 87), 15. Kevin Lusamba (for Campbell, 67)

Referee: M. Scriven.
Assistants: C. Banks and K. Allan.

0-1 Tristan Whitman (31)
1-1 Lee Barrett (53)
2-1 Liam Reed (80)
3-1 Danny Wheeler (86)

Blaby & Whetstone: Jermain Gordon (YC, 25)
Radford: none

Today’s East Midlands Counties League results: Aylestone Park 7 St Andrews 1; Basford United 8 Ibstock United 0; Blaby & Whetstone Athletic 3 Radford 1; Borrowash Victoria 2 Lutterworth Athletic 1; Gedling Miners Welfare 3 Ellistown 1; Graham Street Prims 6 Bardon Hill 2; Holwell Sports 7 Anstey Nomads 2; Radcliffe Olympic 3 Holbrook Sports 7; Thurnby Nirvana 0 Barrow Town 1.

EMCL ’19 Club’
Anstey Nomads: 19/8/91 v Barwell Athletic (Tebbutt Brown Cup)
Aylestone Park: 11/8/12 v Graham Street Prims (EMCL)
Bardon Hill: 12/9/09 v Barton Town OB (FA Cup)
Barrow Town: 16/1/10 v Heanor Town (EMCL)
Basford United: To be visited
Blaby & Whetstone Athletic: 18/8/12 v Radford (EMCL)
Borrowash Victoria: 29/8/09 v Ouorn (FA Cup)
Ellistown: 31/8/09 v Gresey FC (EMCL)
Gedling Miners Welfare: 15/8/09 v Blackstones (FA Cup)
Graham Street Prims: 2/5/09 v Kirby Muxloe (EMCL)
Greenwood Meadows: 31/10/09 v Heanor Town (EMCL)
Holbrook Sports: 3/9/11 v Louth Town (FA Cup)
Holwell Sports: 17/8/10 v Gedling MW (FA Cup)
Ibstock United: 31/8/09 v Hinckley Downes (EMCL)
Lutterworth Athletic (old): 25/4/11 v Aylestone Park (Leicestershire Senior League)
Lutterworth Athletic (new): To be visited
Radcliffe Olympic: 7/3/09 v Calverton MW (Central Midlands League)
Radford: 30/8/08 v Ibstock United (EMCL)
St Andrews: To be visited
Thurnby Nirvana: 17/9/11 v Barrow Town (FA Cup)