Saturday, 22 March 2014

Worcester Park 2 v 1 South Kilburn

Saturday 22nd March 2014
Combined Counties League Division One
Skinners Field, Worcester Park
Admission: £3.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 42
Match Rating: 3

Today I decided to visit a ground that I had always kept in reserve for a possible Bank Holiday double, however, mindful that the ground may not host senior football much longer, I decided to pay visit on a regular Saturday afternoon.

Skinners Field is literally adjacent to Worcester Park train station - in fact, an excellent view of the pitch can be had from the station platform - although the entrance is about a 5 minute walk to the opposite end. The ground is surely living on borrowed time as a senior football venue, so basic are the facilities. A large clubhouse with adjoining teabar is neatly positioned in one corner where one enters the ground, whilst there is hard standing behind railing up to a small stand covering three terrace steps straddling the half way line. Beyond the stand to the other corner is a narrow paved path with the pitch roped off, as it is around the rest of the pitch but with no hard standing due to the facilities being shared with the local cricket club. There is quite a pronounced slope from the railway end to the clubhouse end, with a wall and flood gates in place protecting the clubhouse. No floodlights are present, nor are they ever likely to be. The 24 page programme was reasonable considering the level, colourful with plenty of stats but it was certainly not worth £2. An admission fee of £5 including a programme would have seemed fairer.

This clash would be between two mid-table teams, both having little left to play for. Worcester Park are in eighth place in the 16 team division, nine points adrift of seventh placed Epsom Athletic and nine points clear of twelfth placed Banstead Athletic. They have drawn their last three league games, but have only lost once in their last nine league games stretching back to November. South Kilburn were in 13th place, just four points above bottom placed CB Hounslow. They have been in similar most recent form to Worcester Park, drawing their last two games, but before being unbeaten in their last three games, they lost their previous seven games. When the two teams met in October, South Kilburn triumphed 3-1.

The game kicked off under bright sunshine although with a chilly gusty wind. The game started evenly, but on 23 minutes the visitors took the lead in slightly bizarre circumstances. A free kick struck by Curtis Roberts from close to the sideline swirled in the gust of wind over the keeper and directly into the net. On the half hour, the home side were given the opportunity of equalising when they were awarded a penalty for a trip in the box. However, the keeper made a great save low to his right from the spot kick, and 0-1 to the visitors was how it remained at half time, slightly against the run of play as Worcester Park squandered some good chances to score.

Into the second half and the home took advantage if kicking down the slope, and it seemed only a matter of time before they would get back on level terms as the skies darkened, literally as well as metaphorically for South Kilburn. On 58 minutes, there was almost a carbon copy of South Kilburn's goal, although this time the visiting keeper just about got enough on the ball to divert it onto the woodwork and away. On 62 minutes Worcester Park had two shots headed off the line in quick succession, and then on 69 minutes a header from a corner hit the bar and although a follow up shot seemed to be cradled by the keeper well over the line, the linesman was insistent the ball had not crossed the line and so no goal was given. Finally on 72 minutes the home side did get back on level terms. After an initial shot was blocked by a defender's sliding tackle, Joe Cheeseman smashed the loose ball high into the net. Five minutes from time, Worcester Park were awarded their second penalty of the match, again for a trip, and this time Gary Knowelden drove the ball down the middle to give the home side the lead which they never looked like surrendering, to seal a thoroughly deserved three points. Whilst Skinners Field itself wasn't particularly endearing, it was refreshing to visit a ground that is living borrowed time that harks back to the times when quality on the pitch counted more than quality off of it.

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