Friday, 27 December 2013

East Grinstead Town 1 v 0 Lingfield

Thursday 26th December 2013
Sussex County League Division One
East Court, East Grinstead
Admission: £5.00
Programme: Free
Attendance: 102
Match rating: 4

After enduring a rare Saturday with no football, thanks to persistent torrential rain, with further heavy rain and stormy conditions continuing through to Christmas Day, it came as a huge relief when this match was confirmed as "on" following an early morning pitch inspection. And so, with a "double" lined up with a later match at nearby Crawley Down Gatwick, I headed into West Sussex for a midday kick off and a local derby which always seems to arouse plenty of passion.

I had previously visited East Court as recently as March, and there have been no obvious improvements since then - not that any are needed, as it remains a very impressive venue for this level of football, immacutately maintained and with the clubhouse and stands attractively painted in yellow and black colours. The ground has suffered a little damage though from the storms of the last few days, with some fencing panels around the ground being blown over, however that should be remedied shortly. Although no programmes were produced for today's match, the edition produced for Saturday's encounter was given away free of charge, which was reasonable and it was not that much out of date, considering that all but one game in the Sussex League succumbed to waterlogged pitches on Saturday with no games since. And the programme remained a very good effort for this level, with a six page advertising shell with an attractive front cover and eight pages of articles and stats.

Coming into this match, East Grinstead were in fifth place and in great form, losing just once (to runaway leaders East Preston) and drawing once in their last ten league games. Lingfield were two places and three points behind East Grinstead, and have also been in fairly good form, picking up seven points from their last three leagues games, after losing their previous three games.

Given the recent extraordinarily wet weather conditions, the pitch looked in remarkably good condition at kick off and although it was heavy, did not deteriorate too much during the game. Happily conditions today were blue skies and bright sunshine, although with a chilly feel. As expected, the match started off competitively, and it was the visitors who came closest to scoring first, when a lovely flighted shot from well outside the area sailed over the keeper, who was off his line, but the ball came back off the crossbar. Five minutes later and the hosts came close to scoring, when the Lingfield keeper came out to claim the ball on the ground towards the edge of the area, and although the East Grinstead forward claimed the ball, he couldn't get the ball under control quickly enough to fire into an empty net. They did take the lead on on 33 minutes though when a low ball was fizzed in from the left and Sam Schaaf deflected the ball into the net. The scoreline was a little harsh on Lingfield, who probably had more of possession, and on 38 minutes they again saw a long range chip hit the bar, although this time the keeper was on his line and probably had it covered. On 42 minutes, it was East Grinstead's turn to hit the woodwork when an almost identical move to the one that saw them take the lead came back off the post.

Into the second half, and although clear goalscoring chances were thin on the ground as players seemed to tire on a heavy pitch, the game continued to be played at a fairly high tempo, with both sides looking capable of carving out chances, and Lingfield looked very capable of getting back on level terms. It was East Grinstead who had the clearest chance to score though, in added on time at the end of the game, when a low cross into the box found a striker eight yards out and under no pressure, but he ballooned his shot over the bar. It didn't matter though as the final whistle blew shortly afterwards, and East Grinstead rose to fourth place, just a point behind second placed Littlehampton Town, whilst Lingfield dropped two places to ninth.

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