Saturday 29nd March 2014
East Sussex League Premier Division
Ninfield Recreation Ground, Ninfield
Admission and programme: None
Attendance: 31 (head count)
Match Rating: 4
At the conclusion of my earlier game at Hollington, I drove the quarter of an hour journey to Ninfield, arriving approximately five minutes after kick off.
The Ninfield Recreation Ground is a fairly typical venue in the East Sussex League, a village recreation which has no spectator facilities, but has plenty of rural charm about the place, with neat hedges and trees lining the venue, and an attractive clubhouse building located in one corner of the pitch. A cricket square is roped off adjacent to the football pitch, with play areas and a primary school present around the perimeter of the recreation ground.
Ninfield went into this game in seventh place in the nine team division, with thirteen points from their thirteen games, level on points with second bottom St Leonards Social but with two games in hand. Robertsbridge were in third place, with 20 points from their twelve games, and third place is probably the best they can hope for, being nine points behind leaders Iden but with two games in hand. When the two teams met in September, Robertsbridge won 2-1, and they also won 3-2 in December when they met in the Hastings Intermediate Cup.
With the wind largely having died down since my earlier game at Hollington, leaving a warm, sunny afternoon, Robertsbridge were awarded a penalty on 11 minutes for a push, and the ball was thumped down the middle by Guy Ballard to give the visitors the lead. Their lead was to last just five minutes though when a high diagonal ball found a Mark Freeman, whose shot across the keeper hit the far post and rolled into the net. On 37 minutes, the visitors went back into the lead. After an initial shot was blocked, the follow up shot was placed easily into the net by Adam Hardy, but again Ninfield were quickly back on level terms, this time within two minutes, as a long punt upfield was misjudged by the keeper as he indecisively came out of his area to claim the ball, but Ash Elphick got his head onto the ball first to nod it over the keeper and into the net.
2-2 was how it remained at half time, a fair reflection on a competitive and even half of football, as it continued after the break. On the hour mark, the home side went into the lead for the first time. The Robertsbridge keeper made a poor clearance from outside his area which fell to Elphick, who lofted the ball into the empty net from about 35 yards. It increasingly seemed that that would be sufficient for Ninfield to claim three crucial points in the battle against relegation as Robertsbridge didn't really threaten for the remainder of the game, apart from when, on 76 minutes, a curling shot from outside the area took a deflection off a defender and the ball came back off the post. However, in the last minute, the Robertsbridge keeper partially redeemed himself when he sent a free kick precisely into the penalty area and the ball was headed across goal by Dominic Whittaker and although a defender tried to acrobatically clear the ball off the line, it nestled inside the far post. Shortly afterwards the final whistle blew on a very entertaining game of football, with a point apiece probably being a fair result.