Sunday, 24 November 2013

London APSA 0 v 2 FC Romania

Saturday 23rd November 2013
Essex Senior League Premier Division
Terence McMillan Stadium, Plaistow
Admission: £6.00
Programme: £1.50
Attendance: 24
Match Rating: 3

Fancying a trip into London, I eventually chose to take in my first Essex Senior League game for several years, and a game that would have something of a twist, being two clubs made up, predominantly, of players from various ethnic minorities.

The Terence McMillan Stadium is located about a 15 minute walk north from Prince Regent Docklands Light Railway station, which itself is immediately adjacent to the ExCel exhibition centre. The ground is a completely sterile venue, is certainly not spectator friendly, inside or out, and has the feeling one is just in a random sports facility. There are no signs to guide people to the football stadium, until one reaches the front of the Newham Leisure Centre - which directs people to a locked gate. It turns out that spectators enter the stadium via the leisure centre, through a turnstile that the receptionist opens. Eventually, following one's nose through a corridor and opening an fire door, still with no signage as to where to go, one enters the ground in one corner, with admission taken at a table, with no club signage whatsoever or admission prices advertised. Close to the entrance along the length is a very rudimentary toilet and tea bar portakabin, and backing onto a sports hall quite attractively designed in green and white colour is overhang covering three rows of seating straddling the halfway line. With an athletics track surrounding the pitch, views are quite distant and the seating area doesn't provide much of an elevated view. Although there is hard standing around the rest of the ground, strangely spectators are seemingly not intended to go there, although grass banking and trees around this area do provide a fairly pleasant backdrop. The 24 page programme was rather basic in presentation, printed in black and white with a paper cover and the pages seemed a little jumbled, but in terms of content, it was one of the better ones at this level with plenty to read.

London All People's Sports Association, to give the club its full name, are having another season in the lower reaches of the division so far this season, in 15th place in the 20 team division, although they have played less games that most other teams and have only lost three of their twelve games so far. FC Romania have had a very encouraging start in senior football this season, having been promoted from the intermediate Middlesex County Football League last season. They were in fourth place going into today's game, having gained 27 points from their 15 games. Today's teams met in the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy last month, with London APSA winning 0-1 away.

On a bright, sunny but cold afternoon, FC Romania started the stronger, although good, skilful football always seemed to fizzle out in the final third, and the home team looked quite dangerous on their occasional forays forward. On 14 minutes, the visitors saw a low volley from Ilie Vasile come back off the post with the keeper a passenger, whilst on 22 minutes, the home side had a goal ruled out for offside when the ball was hit home by Fahad Nyanja at the far post. Right on the stroke of half time, FC Romania took a deserved lead when a clearing header upfield was flicked on into the path of Florin Pelecaci who took the ball forward before slotting it low past the keeper and into the net.

It was a deserved lead at the interval, but London APSA came out a more determined team in the second half and looked much more threatening than in the first half. They did seem to run out of puff as the half wore on though, and FC Romania made certain of the three points five minutes from time. A free kick was floated in from the right and the first player the ball dropped to couldn't get it under control, but eventually it fell at the feet of Andrei Simion at the far post, and he drove the ball emphatically into the net. The home side battled gamely to get a goal back, but FC Romania held on fairly comfortably for a deserved win. On a fairly drab occasion, proceedings were certainly livened up by a supporter of FC Romania, an Englishman who follows the club at every home and away game. All through the first half he constantly shouted support and advice to the players, who often did respond to the man's calls. Rather entertaining to listen to and a source of amusement to the Romanian nationals supporting the team, he became surprisingly as quiet as a mouse in the second half, but eccentric characters like him certainly make non league football.

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