Monday, 4 November 2013

Iden 3 v 2 Robertsbridge United

Saturday 2nd November 2013
East Sussex League Premier Division
Iden Recreation Ground, Iden
Admission and programme: Nil
Attendance: 28 (head count)
Match Rating: 4

Having planned to go to Battle Bonfire Night this evening, I decided to take in a local game at a venue I had not previously visited. And so - after some nervous checking of Twitter and the league website to ensure the game would take place following heavy rain during the week - I headed to the outskirts of Rye for a game in the intermediate level of the East Sussex League.

The Iden Recreation Ground is located just to the north of Iden village, which is a couple of miles north of Rye. As customary in the East Sussex League, facilities are very basic, although there are two improvised dugout shelters consisting of plastic sheeting, and a couple of advertising banners behind the shelters. There are no spectator facilities, however this is a scenic, very peaceful ground with a lovely feeling of quaint village football character. The undulating pitch is at the bottom of a slope from the car park and is part of a fairly large recreation ground incorporating a children's play area and cricket field. The pitch is closely lined by trees along three sides, giving it a very pleasant naturally enclosed feel. Behind the other length, the village church is visible above the slope of the recreation ground, with a cricket pavilion also used by the footballers situated to the right of the recreation ground a little way up the slope.

According to the current league table, this game would be between two of the stronger teams in the East Sussex League, with second placed Iden hosting third placed Robertsbridge United. Iden have won four and drawn two of their seven games, two points behind the perennial dominant force in the East Sussex League, Hollington United - quite an impressive performance after having to resign from the division last year due to ongoing struggles to put together a team. Robertsbridge are a point behind Iden, with four wins and a draw. Today's teams have already met in the league this season, with the match ending in a 2-2 draw.

On a very overcast and gusty afternoon, Iden made the early running and had several half chances to score, so it was against the run of play when Robertsbridge took the lead on 8 minutes. A low ball was played forward and a defender couldn't quite cut the ball out. Dominic Whittaker latched onto the ball and poked it goalwards past the onrushing keeper from just inside the area and despite the best efforts of a covering defender, trickled into the net. Within a minute, Iden almost equalised when a header from a corner was acrobatically saved. On 17 minutes, Iden did get a deserved equaliser. A free kick from a deep central position was flicked on and the ball fell to Rob Levett who tapped the ball home from a slight angle close range. On 21 minutes, Iden forced another point blank save, and the feature of play throughout the first half was of Iden playing the better football and posing a strong attacking threat, although Robertsbridge always looked dangerous with long balls pumped forward. 1-1 was how it remained at half time though.

Into the second half and conditions became very gloomy, giving way to a spell of heavy driving rain. On 61 minutes, Iden took the lead, Levett tapping home after the keeper fumbled a straightforward cross at a good height for him. Two minutes later and it was Robertsbridge's turn to profit from a poor fumble from the keeper, Guy Ballard tapping home from close range when the keeper dropped a cross that appeared simple enough to gather. The game remained entertaining for the remainder of the game, with both teams creating good chances to score, with by now Robertsbridge looking the more likely to score. However a couple of minutes from full-time, it was Iden who scored what turned out to be the winning goal, when a low shot from a slight angle took a deflection and the ball fell to Richard Weller who struck the ball home. In the end, the result was harsh on Robertsbridge, although a game that was well contested and frequently end to end was always likely to have a grandstand finish.

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