Memorial Playing Field, Upper Beeding
Southern Combination League Division Two
Match Rating: 3
The Memorial Playing Field is situated just off the high street in the centre of the village of Upper Beeding. One enters the ground behind one corner, and finds predictably basic facilities, consisting of a railed off pitch along three sides, the remaining length is roped off, although the area around the half way line is blocked off to protect the cricket square. There is hardly any hard standing, and no cover. The football pitch is situated within a sporting complex, with a play area behind one of the goals, and further sports fields and a primary school behind one length. Behind the remaining goal there are allotments, whilst behind the remaining length is the cricket field, with a fairly attractive two storey dark wooden building in one corner, refreshments being served from its top floor. Tea, coffee and KitKats were offered free of charge to spectators, which was a very nice touch. Between this and the main entrance are two small brick huts housing the changing rooms. The ground has an attractive setting, with plenty of trees all around, and the South Downs rising aroundthe ground in the distance. An 8 page programme was produced and available free of charge - it is also downloadable from the club website. It was very basic, apparently lacking some of its usual features, but any programme is welcome at this level and I have encountered far worse.
Upper Beeding, in their first season back at this level having been promoted from the West Sussex League, came into this match in third place, one point behind the top teams in the division but having played 3 games more than leaders Roffey and 2 games more than second placed Billingshurst. They have won eight and drawn six of their 17 games so far. Hurstpierpoint have struggled this season, and came into this match second bottom of the 16 team division, having won just once and drawn two of their 14 games.
On a bright, sunny and mild morning, there was little indication in the early stages of the apparent gulf between the two teams, and indeed the visitors had the first real chance, when a sliding clearance prevented a back flick finding the back of the net. However Upper Beeding took the lead on 27 minutes. Sam Witherden raced onto a through ball to race clear of the defence, and after the keeper parried the initial shot, Witherden's follow up shot took a deflection high into the air and the ball dropped into the net despite a desperate attempt by a defender to block. The home side went on to dominate the rest of the half, creating plenty of chances, the best of which being when two players just failed to connect with a low ball drilled across the 6 yard box, and when the ball was blasted just over when the striker had plenty of time and space to pick his spot.
Into the second half and Upper Beeding continued to dominate, and they spurned glorious chance after glorious chance through a combination of poor finishing and not getting a strike on goal quickly enough, and one started to wonder if they would be made to pay for missing their chances to double their lead. But finally they did double their lead on 70 minutes. The ball was headed towards the centre of the penalty area and Ben Whales headed in from close range. That really put the game beyond doubt, and Upper Beeding added some gloss to the scoreline with a third goal on 88 minutes. The keeper blocked a close range shot with his legs, but the ball cannoned off Witherden and went into the net.
This was a strange game in that Upper Beeding could and probably should have at least doubled their goal tally, yet Hurstpierpoint actually played quite well, much better than their league position suggested they would. But this victory meant that Upper Beeding climbed to the top of the table, whilst Hurstpierpoint remain second bottom. Promotion and relegation will almost certainly not be a factor for either club though due to ground grading.