Enfield Town 0 Bognor Regis Town 1

Saturday 26th January 2013
Enfield Town 0 Bognor Regis Town 1
Ryman League Premier Division
At: Queen Elizabeth II Stadium
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £9 + £1 (main stand transfer); Programme: £2 (40 pages)
Weather: cold, dry, occasional sunshine
Attendance: 434
Duration: first-half: 47:56; second-half: 49:25

A first trip south to the capital for three months and one which only happened due to the staff and volunteers of Enfield Town who worked tirelessly to get the pitch playable for today’s game. Visitors Bognor Regis Town, however, won this Ryman League Premier Division clash with a single goal scored in the 35th minute by James Crane.

Twitter once again proved invaluable as I read yesterday about all of the efforts being put in by Enfield Town to clear tons of snow were cleared from the playing surface to prevent post-thaw waterlogging. The pitch passed a morning inspection and the club were rewarded with their biggest home league attendance of the season. However, there wasn’t the added bonus of a point or three which you could argue the hard work deserved.

In my area, as expected, the three FA Vase ties were postponed as were all of the scheduled fixtures in the Midland Alliance, Midland Combination and West Midlands League as well all but one in the Evo-Stik League Northern Premier (the game between Lancaster City and Prescot Cables surviving the weather). Stoke City’s lunchtime FA Cup Fourth Round tie with Manchester City was an option, as was the League One game between Shrewsbury Town and Bury (which finished 0-0) – the Britannia and Greenwood Meadows can wait for another time. I fancied hopping on a train instead, like I'd done that last two Saturdays.

Enfield ended up luring me to London as the positive news tweeted this morning by Enfield fan @JackLucas encouraged me to head south and on the way I picked up, again from Twitter (@ETFCOfficial), that it was: ‘Game on! We play Bognor Regis in a 3pm kick off. Massively well done to everyone who cleared the snow! See you there, bring a friend!’

Journeys from Staffordshire to Euston with London Midland got faster in the new timetable which came into force last month. My train still stopped at every station along the Trent Valley line apart from Polesworth and headed straight to the capital after Rugby, calling at Milton Keynes Central only, as the Northampton loop is now avoided.

On my football trips this year, I want to seek out something other than the match, such as an unusual tourist site, a walk around a previously unvisited location, a pub or just simply something out of the ordinary. Today, I took a short walk from Euston Station to the Bree Louise pub on the corner of Cobourg Street and Euston Street. Named as CAMRA’s North London Branch Pub of the Year in 2009/10, it boasts an impressive selection of real ales and ciders which regularly change. A half of Marlow’s Sticky Wicket sent me on the way. Sadly, this smashing little pub faces demolition when Euston Station is redeveloped to accommodate extra platforms for HS2. Hopefully the Bree Louise will continue to serve pints for many years to come!

The nearest station to the QEII Stadium on foot is Enfield Town (one mile, 15 minutes walk) – Victoria Line from Euston to Seven Sisters (journey time 10 minutes) then a Greater Anglia trains to Enfield Town (journey time 16 minutes). Turning right out of the station, I walked along Southbury Road, negotiating the traffic lights by Tesco and noticing the road-side stream, before turning left into Ladysmith Road. A path on the right between no. 215 and no. 217 leads to the stadium. Two trains per hour also serve nearby Southbury station from Seven Sisters, which like Enfield Town is within walking distance.

‘Southbury Road’. That name brought back memories of some epic games between Stafford Rangers and Enfield FC during the 1980s, including one game at Enfield when Rangers won 1-0 in 1986 to lift the Jim Thompson Shield. Of the top of my head, Enfield back then had Andy Pape in goal and David Howell in defence.

Enfield FC no longer exists and the Southbury Road ground has been redeveloped. Today’s home side Enfield Town, formed in 2001, are one of two ‘phoenix’ clubs to emerge during and after the old club’s problems. Last season, 2011/12, proved to be a monumental one for Town. They gained promotion from Ryman League Division One North to the Premier Division and also played their first game at the refurbished and improved QE II Stadium in November 2011.

Before going any further, I must mention the QE II Stadium which I think is just about the best conversion of an athletics stadium to non-league football use I think I’ve seen. Fans can stand inside the running track in two stands immediately behind the goal and along the pitch barrier. Over on the far side is another stand on the outside of the six-lane track containing around containing around 120 seats (each sponsored) – similar to the one at Brocton except that Town’s has blue rather than green seats. However, the stand-out feature has to be the impressive art-deco building which houses the changing rooms, upstairs Butler’s Bar and seats in the ‘main stand’.

Looking at the mounds of snow, I certainly felt very thankful to groundsman Jack Lucas and the volunteers who cleared the pitch. Well done everyone!

Programmes were on sale at the Club Shop, as were badges and 50/50 tickets. A teamsheet was displayed next to the shop hatch and some loose copies were also available. Lineups were announced over that PA just before-kick-off. Up in Butler’s Bar, I bought a golden goal ticket and generally found a really positive atmosphere around the whole stadium with a fair number of Bognor fans also in attendance.

Enfield (17th position in the table with 21 points from 22 games) haven’t found this easy this season though they did defeat FA Cup heroes Hastings Town 1-0 in their last home game. Visitors Bognor Regis Town (4th with 35 points from 22 games) also gained promotion to the Premier Division at the end of last season and are very much in contention for a return to Blue Square South from which they were relegated in 2009.

I paid an extra £1 to sit in the main stand and saw Enfield (in white and blue) get the action underway attacking from left to right, defending The David Wilkinson Stand end. Bognor enjoyed plenty of early possession of the yellow ball. A 25-yard drive from Ashley Robinson which flew past the left-hand post got the Bognor fans chanting “come on you Rocks”.

If the result of last Saturday’s 50/50 draw at Greenock Morton was agonising for being 30 tickets away from the winning number, today was even more agonising. “Winner of the 50/50, 12386, one two three eight six”. Sounds familiar, I thought. It was, as I had 12395 and 12396.

A couple of Enfield free-kicks delivered into the Bognor area by Jay Siva caused problems without leading to a clear cut shooting chance. "Good delivery," said a couple of Town fans sat in the stand. Then, Dan Beck missed a great chance to put Bognor in front, volleying wide when unchallenged at the far post from a deep right-wing cross.

It was no surprise when Bognor, in the thick promotion race, took the lead in the 35th minute. The Enfield defence failed to deal with a deep left-wing cross from Robinson which was played back low for Lewis Stockford to stab towards goal where James Crane sidefooted home from barely a yard out. Enfield appealed for offside but the goal stood after the referee consulted his assistant. No joy with my golden goal ticket which had '57' printed.

I’m sure that Enfield fans would agree that their team was second best during the first half. Could they bounce back after the interval? They certainly tried at the start of the second half by applying pressure which led to four corners in six minutes. These got the Enfield fans under the David Wilkinson Stand making some noise.

Bognor survived and continued to create chances with Noel Imber keeping out shot from Crane just before the hour mark.

Enfield were denied a goal in the 63rd minute by a fantastic flying one-handed save by Bognor’s Nick Jordan on his debut. The on-loan goalkeeper dived to his left to keep out what looked like a perfect header from Scott McGleish that looked destined for the far side of the net. McGleish recently joined Enfield with previous experience of over 500 League games.

Thumbing through the glossy full-colour programme during the interval, I noticed a mention for good friend Laurence, the ‘groundhopper’ who watched Enfield behind closed doors friendly last Saturday, and also the article by fellow blogger The Cold End.

Imber kept his side in contention with saves from Robinson and Stuart Axten in an impressive performance that would see the goalkeeper named ‘Man of the Match’.

Bognor had the ball in the back of the Enfield net in the 83rd minute. Axten powered home a header from Kane Wills’ corner only for the referee to spot some pushing.

Steve Newing made a third and final change in a bid to grab an equaliser but Bognor held on for the win, forcing more saves out of Imber from Harvey Whtye and Dan Thompson.

I made my way back to Enfield Town station and returned to Euston, thinking that Enfield Town would be a club I’d add to my list of regular destination if I lived in the area.

Back at Euston, with 50 minutes to occupy before my train home, I headed for nearby Drummond Street and specifically one of three Indian restaurants – alas the buffets at Chutneys, Ravi Shanker and Diwana finished at 5pm and I didn’t have time to eat a cooked curry.

Back home, the drive home from the station was a real contrast to the one from home eleven hours earlier. Gone were the snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures to be replaced by torrential rain and a mild 5°C.

Enfield Town (white/blue/white): 1. Noel Imber, 2. Lee Allen, 3. Jay Siva, 4. Lee White, 5. Mark Kirby (capt), 6. Mark Henry, 7. Tyler Campbell, 8. Joe O’Brien, 9. Scott McGleigh, 10. Liam Hope, 11. Adam Wallace. Subs: 12. Joe O’Cearuill (not used), 14. David Kendall (not used), 15. Neil Johnston (for Henry, 71), 16. Michael Bardle (for Campbell, 79), 17. Walid Matata (for Hope, 86). Manager: Steve Newing.

Bognor Regis Town (navy blue / yellow / yellow): 1. Nick Jordan, 2. Louis John, 3. Lewis Stockford, 4. James Crane, 5. Stuart Axten, 6. Ben Andrews, 7. Dan Beck, 8. Kane Wills (capt), 9. Dan Thompson, 10. Ashley Robinson, 11. Harvey Whyte. Subs: 12. Jordan Clarke (for Robinson, 55), 14. Doug Tuck (not used), 15. Daryl Wollers (not used), 16. Jon Marzetti (for John, 40), 17. Tom Boyle (not used). Manager: Jamie Howell.

Referee: Andy Aylott.
Assistants: Jeffrey Aldous and Lee Jessup.

0-1 James Crane (35)

Enfield: none
Bognor: Dan Beck (YC, 66)