Banks-like save earns Fairfield a point

Saturday 7th September 2013
Fairfield Villa 1 Sutton United 1
St Mary’s Hospice Midland Combination Division One
At: Fairfield Recreation Ground, Stourbridge Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: none
Weather: mix of sunny spells and dark clouds

I walked away from the Fairfield Recreation Ground thinking what a good advert for non-league football I’d just witnessed. Appropriately for the fourth annual Non-League Day, long-established Division One side Fairfield Villa and newly-promoted Sutton United served up an absorbing contest, the outcome of which was always in doubt until the referee’s final whistle bought a 1-1 to a conclusion. Villa’s early first-half goal scored by Nathan Davies was cancelled out when Steve Radzynski sidefooted home an equaliser for United just before the hour mark. But the highlight of the game had to be a wonder save by Fairfield's James Burrows which brought back memories of Banks against Brazil in the World Cup at Guadalajara all those years ago.

Unlike Tuesday at Wythenshawe, I arrived in plenty of time to obtain the lineups and explore this tree-enclosed and leafy venue which boasts a feature I don’t think I’ve ever seen at a football ground before. Easily spotted behind the goal closest to the clubhouse, a large two metre high ornamental sundial, perfectly aligned for GMT, neatly positioned amongst some benches and shrubbery. The dial itself is decorated with images that describe the village’s history. Nice feature. Another football-related feature that stands out (pardon the pun) is the area of covered standing near the two dugouts with a distinctive tall roof.

One fact being put right this afternoon was the one that said I’d never seen Fairfield Villa play before, home or away despite them being continuous members of the Combination since 1985. I’d seen Sutton towards the end of last season at home in Sutton Coldfield and they ended the 2013/14 as Division Two runners-up to gain promotion.

The current 2013/14 has been a good one so far for both Fairfield (8th out of 15 with eight points from five games) and Sutton (4th with 12 points from six games). Draw specialists Fairfield had suffered just one defeat and won both their home league games while Sutton won their first six league and cup games before losing at Hampton last Saturday.

Pre-match drama centred about one of the assistants failing to arrive so, much to my relief though I would have offered my services, a home club official ran the line.

Sutton (in dark green and black) got the game underway attacking what I’ll call the Sundial End and they certainly made an impressive start.

However, it was Fairfield who edged in front during the 13th minute. Adam Guest’s delicious diagonal ball forward from the left to the far post was met by the outstretched leg of Nathan Davies who deflected the ball past goalkeeper Matt Gough into the bottom right corner of the net.

During the interval, refreshments were served in the clubhouse and I had some time to read the dedication next to a red Manchester United shirt bearing ‘DAVIS 36’. It is displayed in tribute to Jimmy Davis, ‘a popular and talented young footballer who was tragically killed in a car accident in August 2003’. He played for both Feckenham and Knowle as a youngster before joining United at the age of 14.

Perhaps responding to some strong words during the interval, Sutton got back on level terms as the hour-mark approached. Phil Taylor, on the right, hit the bullseye with a perfect low cross into the area which Steve Radzynski swept home into the far left-corner of the net.

A wonderful save in the 73rd minute kept Villa on level terms, similar to the one by Gordon Banks during the 1970 World Cup. Radzynski got on the end of a low right-wing cross and hit a seemingly goalbound shot. However, similar to Banks at Guadalajara, Jamie Burrows got across to dive to his right and deflect the ball over the bar. ‘Wonderful save’ is probably understating the brilliance of the goalkeeper.

The Fairfield defence was forced to resolutely keep the Sutton attack at bay with all hands to the pump. Adam Watson, however, failed to convert an easy chance for the visitors during the final ten minutes. “That should have been the winner,” said someone within earshot as should a later chance which totally unchallenged Sam Simmonds fired wide.

Before making my way back up the M5 and home for the Strictly Come Dancing launch show, there was time to admire St Mark’s Church and locate the Nailers Arms in nearby Bournheath. Amongst the ales on offer at this the Cask Marque accredited pub was a new one for me in Bateman’s Yella Belly Gold.

There is certainly a lot to like about Fairfield Villa. Why did I leave it so long to pay them a visit?

Fairfield Villa (yellow/blue/blue): 1. James Burrows, 2. Jamie Hatfield, 3. James Cund, 4. Adam Guest, 5. Steve Frost (capt), 6. Chris Glover, 7. Ben Pearsall, 8. James Ashton, 9. Peter Jenney, 10. Nathan Davies, 11. Nic Briggs. Subs: 12. Gabor Yengel (for Cund, 70), 14. Oscar Collins (for Ashton, 76), 15. Kieran Evans (for Davies, 32).

Sutton United (dark green / black / black): 17. Matt Gough, 2. Phil Taylor (capt), 3. Matt Lewis, 4. Sam Simmonds, 5. Aaron Long, 6. Jamie Hunter, 7. Nick Bell, 8. Tom Hicks, 9. Steve Radzynski, 10. Ryan Simmonds, 11. Adam Watson. Subs: 12. Pete Bromley (for Taylor, 81), 14. Josh Duggan (for Bell, 76), 15. Lee Hooper (for Long, 23).

Referee: Jeff Widdett
Assistants: David Simons and club linesman

Attendance: 19 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 47:15; second-half: 47:07

1-0 Nathan Davies (13)
1-1 Steve Radzynski (58)

Cards: none