Mid Sussex League Premier Division
Recreation Ground, Rotherfield
Admission and Programme: None
Attendance: 18 (head count)
Match Rating: 4
This evening would be one of the landmarks of the football season I always very much look forward to - my first game of this year's groundhopping 'silly season' saw me head to the outskirts of Crowborough for a 6pm kick-off in the Mid Sussex Football League. Although this would be a revisit for me, the Rotherfield Recreation Ground stood out as one of the more pleasant I had visited, with this evening's game having plenty riding on it - not always the case at this stage of the season.
A description of the ground can be found from my previous visit, with no alterations having taken place since, apart from a club banner placed by the half way line which was a nice touch. It is a lovely ground with that quintessential rural village feel to it in sunny weather. Unfortunately this evening's weather was anything but, with today's chilly, damp and slightly misty conditions obscuring the pleasant view across the valley to Crowborough.
This was certainly a game Rotherfield needed to win, sitting in a perilous position of fourth bottom but on the same number of points as all three teams below them and having played more games than two clubs below them. Strangely, their three wins this season came from their first three games of the season, meaning they haven't won in their last 15 league games. This evening's visitors East Grinstead United were sitting in a more comfortable eighth place in the thirteen team division, eight points clear of the bottom four teams. When the two teams met back in October, East Grinstead United won 3-2.
The match was a competitive, even affair in the first half but with very few goalscoring chances, although East Grinstead did hit the post on 39 minutes. On the stroke of half time, an East Grinstead defender made an ill-judged lunge seemingly on the line of the penalty area. Initially the referee seemed to give a free kick, however after inspecting where the tackle took place, he then awarded a penalty. Minimal protests from East Grinstead United suggested it was a fair award, and Paul Barnes sent the keeper the wrong way to give the home side the lead.
After a five minute interval, the drizzle was turning to rain of increasing intensity, but the game still looked like it could go either way. However on 62 minutes, Rotherfield gave themselves some breathing space when they scored a second after an East Grinstead player missed the ball allowing a Rotherfield attacker to run down the wing and cross into the box, and a completely unmarked Richard Clibbens easily turned the ball into the net. Rotherfield now looked in control of the match as they did most of the attacking and on 82 minutes, they put the game to bed when they scored a third goal. James Miles drilled the ball home from 8 yards following a corner. As conditions became gloomy in the, by now, heavy rain, Rotherfield could and should have scored at least one more, but they will be happy enough to claim their first league win in seven months, as well as their first clean sheet of the season, to put some daylight between them and the relegation places.