Riverway FC 4 Ettingshall Park Farm 1

Saturday 22nd December 2012
Riverway FC 4 Ettingshall Park Farm 1
West Midlands (Regional) League Division Two
At: Rowley Park, Stafford
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: £1 (12 pages)
Weather: occasional drizzle
Attendance: 45 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 47:10; second-half: 45:02

The Saturday before Christmas has posed problems in the past in terms of finding a game on amid hundreds of postponements. Two years ago it was snow and freezing temperatures (http://pitch-side-stories.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/saturday-18th-december-2010.html), today it was rain (and lots of it). Fortunately, the West Midlands (Regional) League ‘fixture computer’ played a blinder by giving Riverway a home fixture on a day that the only other games to survive for miles around were at Walsall, Bilston and Kidderminster. Perfect opportunity to see one of my local sides for the first time this season at a venue – Rowley Park –which has been transformed this year to include a floodlight 3G pitch inside the eight-lane athletics track.The game, which attracted plenty of groundhoppers, saw home side Riverway win 4-1 thanks to doubles from both Jonathan Arnold and Earl Grant despite visitors Ettinghall Park Farm taking the lead.

Before going any further I must acknowledge some of those working behind the scenes. The ladies manning the tea bar kept the larger-than-normal crowd ‘fed and watered’ and another lady showed great patience in producing a much-appreciated 12-page programme as the game progressed.

I know I bang on about my new-found love of Twitter but once again it proved invaluable in making sure there were no last-minute hitches at Rowley Park that could threaten this game. I say ‘hitches’ because Romulus’ game on the Coles Lane 3G pitch was postponed. Thankfully there were none here.

Looking at the league table, both Riverway (12th with 16 points from 15 games) and Ettingshall Park Farm (15th with 9 points from 14 games) occupied positions in the lower reaches of the 17-team division. Leaders Newport Town held a five-point lead over second placed Ledbury Town.

Riverway (in sky and navy blue) got the game underway attacking from left to right in relation to the pavilion and, to be honest, the opening 18 minutes were largely uneventful. Then Earl Grant fired into the near side netting from the right inside the Ettingshall area and leading scorer Tom Duffy fired across the face of goal from a similar position.

Eventually the deadlock was broken in the 41st minute by the visitors. A ball into the area posed problems for Riverway goalkeeper Steve McCabe and when it wasn’t cleared, Adam Hill sent a low shot into the far bottom left corner from 15 yards out.

It was perhaps appropriate that an even first half should finish level as Riverway equalised in stoppage time. Grant got on the end of a right-wing cross and headed home with the aid of a deflection.

As before the game, the tea bar inside the clubroom proved popular. I felt appreciative of the lady busily and patiently printing an in-demand 12-page programme.

A slip on the Riverway left by the bandaged Ben Roberts let in George Nock who fired over the bar.

Having survived the scare, the home side took the lead in the 57th minute and never looked back. Jonathan Arnold, out on the right, went for goal and sent a well-struck left-foot shot across the face of goal into the far corner of the net. Some wondered if a defender got a touch to score an own goal but there was no taking away the goal from Arnold.

Arnold doubled Riverway’s lead two minutes later. Charlie Marshall crossed low from the right and Arnold clinically thumped the ball past Aaron Morris from a few yards out.

Now well on top, Riverway sensed more goals and Morris did well to beat away a well-struck shot from Martyn Wheeler. Morris also produced decent saves to deny both Duffy and Arnold.

Riverway wrapped up the win with a fourth goal in the 82nd minute when Grant powered a 30-yard shot past the helpless Morris. Final score: Riverway 4 Ettingshall Park Farm 1.

For the record, this was my third visit for football to Rowley Park as I can't remember refereeing or running the line on the old grass pitch inside the athletics track: 28/12/1991 Stafford MSHD v Stafford Rangers Reserves (http://pitch-side-stories.blogspot.co.uk/1991/12/saturday-28th-december-1991.html); 24/4/2000 Brocton v Hanford (http://pitch-side-stories.blogspot.co.uk/2000/04/monday-24th-april-2000-6-30-pm.html).

Riverway (sky blue and navy blue stripes / sky blue / navy blue): 1. Steve McCabe, 2. Charlie Marshall, 3. Simon Dawson, 4. Matt Bickley, 5. Chris Hall, 6. Ben Roberts, 7. Matty Rhodes, 8. Jonathan Arnold, 9. Tom Duffy (capt), 10. Earl Grant, 11. Martyn Wheeler. Subs: 12. Alex Peatfield (not used), 15. Gary Todd (for Roberts, 82), 16. Dave Wilcock (for Dawson, ht), 17. Tom Lane (for Arnold, 76), x. Jake Robinson (not used). Manager: Jake Robinson.

Ettingshall Park Farm (red/red/red): 1. Aaron Morris (capt), 2. Tim Lake, 3. Chris Lake, 4. Adam Walton, 5. Rich Lewis, 6. Scott Parker, 7. Adam Hill, 8. Steve Hill, 9. Lee Hayward, 10. Chris Clarke, 12. George Nock. Subs: 14. Luke Abley (for Chris Lake, 72), 15. Lee Brown (for Clarke, 60). Manager: Phil Brown.

Referee: B. Priest.

0-1 Adam Hill (41)
1-1 Earl Grant (45+2)
2-1 Jonathan Arnold (57)
3-1 Jonathan Arnold (59)
4-1 Earl Grant (82)

Cards: none