Sunday, 13 July 2014

Cheshunt 2 v 3 Wycombe Wanderers

Saturday 12th July 2014
Pre-season Friendly
Theobalds Lane, Cheshunt
Admission: £5.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 295
Match Rating: 3

For my second game of this pre-season, and first in England, I travelled to north east London today for an attractive looking friendly, with the first team squad of a Football League club visiting a club in the Isthmian League Division One North.

Theobalds Lane is about a ten minute walk from Theobalds Grove train station and as it currently stands, it is not a particularly pleasant football venue, more resembling a scruffy building site. Which isn't actually far off the mark of what it is, as work has begun on significant ground improvements in and around the ground, which will include a new stand and some impressive new training facilities on the 16 acres of neighbouring land. It was slightly amusing to read the chairman state in his programme notes that Cheshunt is a sleeping giant, an interesting statement for a club that only attracts just over 100 fans to their home games. Absolutely nothing wrong with sensible ambition, though. At the moment, after entering through the turnstiles the main stand is to the left, covering wooden and old fashioned plastic seating and a small area for wheelchair users. To the right of the entrance is a very impressive modern bar, whilst outside of that is a few covered terrace steps. Straddling the half way line on the other side is a small stand, seemingly originally terrace steps but now have seats bolted onto the top few rows. All three stands are situated quite some way behind the touchline, but one can stand much closer. Around the rest of the ground is just hard standing and rather ugly white metal pitch and ground border fencing. The trees behind one of the goals provides the only vaguely attractive feature of this ground, although behind the other is a construction sites. A programme was produced for this game, a glossy, full colour publication which I presume is similar to what is produced for competitive matches, although understandably today it was a little light on content. Team sheets were also available on request, particularly useful and welcome for friendly matches.

Today's match was arranged as part of a deal which saw Tommy Fletcher move from Cheshunt to Wycombe last season, and he would play in the second half today. Wycombe only just retained their football league status on the final day of last season, surviving on goal difference by three goals when they won on the final day of the season whilst Bristol Rovers lost. Cheshunt had a very comfortable season, finishing in 15th place in the 24 team Isthmian League Division One North. Interestingly, a reminder of Wycombe's non-league history before the Martin O'Neill era was that the last time today's clubs had met in Cheshunt, it was for an Isthmian League Cup game back in 1981.

On a very warm and sunny afternoon, Cheshunt looked a match for their opponents in the opening quarter of an hour as each side traded clear sights of goal. However, Wycombe took the lead on 20 minutes. The ball was crossed from the right by Nathan Evans and Matt McClure glanced a header across the keeper and just inside the far post. They doubled their lead on 22 minutes. A wonderful mazy run from the half way line, a one-two was played at the edge of the area, and eventually the ball was played across goal by Josh Scowen and tucked in by McClure from close range. Wycombe went on to completely dominate the rest of the half, and Cheshunt did well to keep the deficit to only two at half time.

As planned, Wycombe fielded a completely new team in the second half, and the balance of play was much more even. On the hour mark, Cheshunt pulled a goal back. The ball was dribbled in along the byline and once it was crossed into the danger area, after a couple of failed efforts to force the ball home, Tunde Adewunmi did manage to. On 62 minutes, Cheshunt were level with a really poor goal from Wycombe's point of view. The ball was lobbed forward over the defence, and with the keeper looking a little uncertain as to whether to come and meet the ball, Adewunmi lobbed the ball over him and into the net. The match could have gone either way now, both sides having good chances as Cheshunt impressed with their attacking moves. So it was quite sad how they lost the game four minutes from time. A lovely ball was curled along the line upfield, and when the ball was crossed low into the box by Cowan-Hall, defender Nic Barratt tapped the ball into his own net at the far post under no pressure. Even though results count for little in friendlies, particularly this early in person-season, it was a cruel way for the underdogs to be beaten, but they should take great heart from a very strong second half performance where they matched their professional opponents, whilst Gareth Ainsworth will presumably have been less than impressed by a very average second half display by the young team.

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