Sunday, 18 October 2015

West Wickham 4 v 2 Croydon

Saturday 17rd October 2015
Corkscrew Hill, West Wickham
Kent Senior Trophy Round One
Admission: Free
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 57
Match Rating: 4

Today I decided to watch an interesting looking cup tie. Interesting, as it would be a rare opportunity to watch a team from outside of the football pyramid system, from a world that is strictly amateur and where players pay to play, against one within the pyramid, and also as the game would be a local derby, with just three miles separating the grounds.

The West Wickham Playing Fields, off of Corkscrew Hill, is about a five minute walk from West Wickham high street and is a fairly large sporting complex, with three football pitches located adjacent to each other towards the back of the complex. The main pitch, on which today’s game was played, is in the middle, and is located immediately in front of the clubhouse, which was comfortable and welcoming. Unlike the other pitches, this pitch is railed around three sides, and roped off along the remaining length. There is no hard standing, apart from on a driveway running in front of the clubhouse. There is no cover available, and the only seating available is a couple of benches in front of the clubhouse. The setting is typically leafy suburban, with some colourful trees in the background and a couple of oak trees along one length of the main pitch. A programme was produced today, 12 pages and quite basic in content, but it had some interesting reading and it was quite refreshing in that endless stats were not simply copied and pasted into it.

West Wickham play in the Southern Amateur League Division One, and are in fourth place in the 11 team division, having won two and drawn one of their opening five games, but their two losses came in their last two games, both heavy defeats, 5-1 away and 1-6 at home. They do have a reasonable record against Southern Counties East (or, formerly, Kent League) outfits over the years though, reaching the semi-final in 2007 and they might well have fancied their chances of winning today, as Croydon are currently bottom of the Southern Counties East, with just six points from their opening nine games.

On a chilly, overcast afternoon, this game certainly had an explosive start, and anyone arriving a couple of minutes late would have missed the opening two goals of the game. First, the home team took the lead when an innocuous looking shot took a deflection off  the Croydon defender, Jamie Lynden, to guide the ball past his own keeper and into the net, and then Croydon almost immediately got back on level terms with a fabulous strike from the edge of the area into the top left corner by Karl Douglin. West Wickham retook the lead with just seven minutes on the clock when the keeper grabbed at thin air as the ball was crossed high over the six yard box, and the unlucky Lynden deflected the ball high and dropped agonisingly into his own net for his second own goal of the game. They extended their lead to 3-1 when a lovely ball played forward found Joe Walby through on goal, and he confidently struck the ball to the side of the keeper and into the net. On 23 minutes, the visitors saw a glancing header from a free kick hit the post, but they did score their second on 39 minutes when a cross across the penalty area fell at the feet of Michael Craveiro, who took a touch to sidestep a defender before shooting low into the net, despite the keeper getting a touch on the ball on its way through.

So, a thoroughly entertaining first half containing five goals and with the outcome very much up for grabs. As can often happen, the second half was a much tighter affair, competitive but if anything the home side looked the more likely to score until the final quarter of an hour, when Croydon started to look threatening again. But after the home keeper was forced into two very good saves, West Wickham all but sealed the win with a good breakaway goal on 90 minutes. Charlie McGeary latched onto a ball through the middle and placed a lovely curved shot around the keeper and into the net. To Croydon’s credit, they didn't let their heads drop and two minutes into added on time, they were awarded a penalty for a foul towards the left edge of the box. The ball was struck low to the right by Douglin, but the keeper guessed right and pulled off a good save. Had that have gone in, Croydon would still have had time to try to score an unlikely equaliser, and they still kept on attacking, but it was West Wickham who would progress to the next round.

It was a victory they deserved, and this was a most enjoyable afternoon – a good, enjoyable game of football with plenty of attacking intent and not so much of the cynical aspects, and with a friendly, welcoming atmosphere around the ground and clubhouse.

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