Thursday, 8 May 2014
Ninfield United 2 v 1 Rock-a-Nore
Ninfield United 2 v 1 Rock-a-Nore
Wednesday 7th May 2014
Robertsbridge Charity Intermediate Cup Final
The Clappers, Robertsbridge United
Admission and programme: £2.00
Attendance: 76 (head count)
My silly season continued this evening with another cup final, with tonight’s game a local charity cup competition at intermediate level between two clubs from the East Sussex League Premier Division.
The Clappers has not noticeably changed since my last visit three seasons ago. It remains a very basic ground, but is very picturesque, rural and peaceful, with a typical village feel to the place. It is surrounded by trees, is adjacent to a cricket field – which one walks past to get from the entrance and car park to the football pitch - with an attractive pavilion, and countryside views are visible in the distance. One thing that has changed here is that the pitch has now been rotated 90 degrees. A basic 4 page programme was produced for this evening’s game, but was perfectly adequate given the fixture, providing a welcome message, team line-ups, league table and the “road to the final”.
This evening’s game promised to be a close encounter between two evenly matched teams, separated by one position and one place in the league. Rock-a-Nore finished in sixth place in the ten team league with 18 points from 16 games, whilst Ninfield finished in seventh, with 17 points. When the two teams met in the league this season, the match at Ninfield ended 1-1, whilst Rock-a-Nore triumphed 4-1 at home. To reach this evening’s final, Rock-a-Nore defeated Bexhill United II 1-3 away, St Leonards Social 2-1 at home, and Herstmonceux on penalties after a goalless draw in the semi-finals. Ninfield conquered Westfield II at home on penalties after a 1-1 draw, before a comprehensive 5-1 home win against Robertsbridge United in the semi-finals.
On a chilly, overcast evening with occasional sunny spells, Rock-a-Nore dominated the early stages of the game, having a great chance to open the scoring in the second minute, when their forward skewed a shot wide from a good position in front of goal, but they did take the lead on 7 minutes. A free kick from deep on the left seemed to be an easy take for the goalkeeper, but inexplicably he lost control of the ball and fumbled it into his own net. They almost doubled their lead within a minute, with a curling shot that went just wide of the post. A rare attack from Ninfield on 22 minutes saw a good chance go begging, the ball was looped into the box, the defender missed the ball and the striker behind him could only skew his shot high and wide. Indeed, Ninfield did come back into the game much more as the interval approached, but Rock-a-Nore retained their slender advantage.
That advantage was to last just a couple of minutes into the second half, with a quite sensational goal. A corner was headed out towards a Ninfield player at the edge of the area, and he sent in a wonderful shot high on the turn which fizzed into the top far corner. On 52 minutes, it appeared that Ninfield had got their noses in front. A free kick from close to the half way line was played into the box, and was headed across the keeper and into the net, however the goal was ruled out for offside. On 68 minutes, Ninfield were awarded a penalty, when the keeper came out to flatten the forward chasing a long high ball forward to the edge of the area. Perhaps rather fortunately, the keeper escaped with a yellow card, however justice was done when the penalty kick was converted just inside the right hand post despite the keeper going the right way. Ninfield always looked likely to at least hold onto their lead for the rest of the game, as Rock-a-Nore never threatened to repeat their strong opening spell to the game, although they did have a couple of chances to force extra time right at the death, most noticeably when the Ninfield keeper made another hash of collecting a high ball into the box, which was cleared off the line by a covering defender. But it was Ninfield who, on the whole, deservedly lifted the cup pitchside after the final whistle for the first time, although it was disappointing that some of the Rock-a-Nore players walked off before the presentation, showing a distinct lack of class, one of them muttering “not really in the mood to be honest”.