Sunday, 28 April 2013
Polegate Town 3 v 1 Montpelier Villa
Saturday 27th April 2013
Mid Sussex League Championship
War Memorial Recreation Ground, Polegate
Although it was the final day for many leagues today, and I could have gone to a game with something major riding on it, I ultimately decided to go to a fairly local game on the outskirts of Eastbourne, attracted by the very unusual issuing of programmes at a club who play two tiers below County League level.
The War Memorial Sports Ground is located about a 5 minute walk from Polegate train station and town centre. Most grounds in the Mid Sussex League are nothing more than recreation grounds with barely any facilities, however Polegate Town’s ground has a remarkably smart and organised feel to it right from the entrance, which has a welcome banner. Both lengths are roped off, with signs advising spectators to stay off the pitch. To the right of the entrance, a noticeboard on the clubhouse wall shows the club’s fixtures and up to date league table. One can then walk along the front of the changing rooms, with individual seats placed for spectators to watch the game and a team line-ups board posted on the wall, until one reaches the tea bar. From here, one can acquire a programme for a voluntary donation, and back issues are available to take from a display rack. From this length of the pitch, there is a lovely view of the south downs behind the goal to the right, whilst behind the opposite length is another pitch and then mainly housing behind a hedge but a windmill makes a nice a nice feature. The remaining byline is closely wrapped with a hedge. As for the 8 page programme, printed on bright orange paper to match club colours, it is one that is comparable and in some cases far superior to County League publications, with club history, league tables, recent results and fixtures for both 1st and 2nd teams, likely line-up for the home team and a recent match report. An excellent effort at this level, particularly for no set charge.
Coming into this game, Polegate Town have little left to play for this season, in sixth place in the eleven team league and fourteen points adrift of third place, currently occupied by today’s opponents, Brighton based Montpelier Villa, although Polegate have three games in hand. Montpelier Villa were favoruites for a third placed finish, a point ahead of fourth place with a game in hand. Polegate have been in great form recently, winning four of their last five games, scoring 26 goals in the process and conceding just four. Montpelier Villa have been even better form, winning five of their last six games.
On a sunny but deceptively chilly afternoon, Polegate looked the better and more threatening side from kick-off, as Montpelier Villa looked incredibly sluggish and sloppy, being easily dispossessed of the ball on several occasions and never threatening anything incisive. On 17 minutes, the home side took a deserved lead direct from a free kick just outside the box, scored by Ashley Crocombe. Presumably the keeper was unsighted as the shot was not struck particularly powerfully and was certainly not placed in the corner as the keeper didn’t move. Further stand-out chances for Polegate in the first half were hitting the bar from a corner on 27 minutes, and on 31 minutes a Polegate player broke clear of the defence but eventually blazed the ball over the bar when one-on-one with the keeper. At half time, Polegate held a one goal lead, but their lead should have been much more comfortable.
Within four minutes of the restart, Polegate were to rue dominating play and missing chances, as Montpelier Villa scored an equaliser when a corner was headed in by Nicholas Eadie. For the next half hour, the game could have swung either way as it was much more even, but on 78 minutes, Polegate retook the lead when Grant Young broke clear of the defence and his initial shot was saved but the ball was parried back to Young, who headed the ball over the keeper and into the net. A minute later, and Polegate opened up a two goal lead when a low cross into the box wasn’t controlled initially but at the second attempt was fired into the net from 10 yards by Louis Dixon. That was pretty much game over, and indeed, Polegate looked the likelier to score, notably a minute before the end when a lovely curling shot from an angle hit the bar. And so it was Polegate who claimed the three points to raise to fifth place in the league.
Today’s visit turned out to be a fantastic surprise, where I was left with thoroughly positive impressions. A very well organised club and ground, with people who are prepared to put much time and commitment into the club, a friendly welcome from club officials and the tea lady, the players played in the right spirit – it’s a setup that is quite remarkable for a club so low in status and would put many County League clubs to shame, and hopefully the club’s fortunes on the pitch can soon match the efforts of those off of it – the club would clearly be a great asset to senior football.