Sunday, 21 February 2016

Hoddesdon Town 3 v 0 Leverstock Green

Saturday 20th February 2016
Lowfield Sports Ground, Hoddesdon
Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division
Admission: £6.00
Programme: £1.50
Attendance: 138
Match Rating: 4

After my planned games at Waltham Abbey and then Takeley were postponed during the morning due to waterlogged pitches, I was left with a search on my phone on the train for a game in that part of the world to take in. Hoddesdon Town fitted the bill perfectly. An unexpected visit, but this turned out to be to my good fortune, as I was left with a thoroughly positive experience today, despite enduring poor weather.

The Lowfield Sports Ground is about a twenty minute walk from Broxbourne train station, and as spectators enter the ground, there is a cricket field to the right with the football ground to the left. In between the two, behind the far corner from the entrance, is the clubhouse, with a small but very smart and welcoming bar contained within. Straddling the half way line on the clubhouse side is an all-seater stand, which is comfortable and smart looking and contains seats from Bolton Wanderers' old ground Burnden Park. On the opposite side there is a wooden structure covering two steps, whilst between this structure and the entrance, foundations have been laid for another stand. Around the rest of the ground is just hard standing. Tall trees tightly line both lengths and behind one goal, and with the cricket field behind the other, the setting is green, relaxed and easy on the eye. The programme produced is astonishingly good for this level of football, a real labour of love, with 52 pages of reading material with all the stats, facts and background information that one could possibly want on the two teams and the league in general. It even had a comprehensive index to help readers navigate their way through the bulky programme to find relevant material.

Hoddesdon Town came into this game top of the division, with 19 wins and three draws from their 27 games, although the two teams immediately below them would move ahead of Hoddesdon if they win their games in hand. Leverstock Green have work to do to avoid relegation, in 17th place in the 22 team division. So it was quite a shock that in the reverse fixture of today’s game, which was played just four days ago, Leverstock Green won 3-0, which was Hoddesdon’s first league defeat since mid December.

With steady drizzle continuing to fall on a muddy pitch, conditions would prove to be increasingly tricky for players as they struggled to keep their footing at times. Hoddesdon took the lead with just two minutes on the clock with a slightly controversial goal. A Leverstock defender tried to marshall the ball out of play, and he seemed to have done just that but not according to the linesman, and the Hoddesdon player took the ball to the byline, dribbled along it before cutting the ball back to Ricky Light, who fired home from a central position. The game was even though, and the visitors looked well capable of drawing level, before Hoddesdon doubled their lead on 26 minutes. Brent O'Connor bent a lovely ball forward towards the right hand side of the penalty area and Light curled the ball past the keeper and into the far corner of the net. It took a wonderful save from the home keeper to stop Leverstock pulling a goal back on 28 minutes, when a powerful header from a cross looked certain to find the back of the net. After a controversial and a well worked goal came a pure fluke on 38 minutes to virtually win the game for Hoddesdon. A Leverstock defender took his time before going to hoof the ball downfield from the edge of his penalty area, but his clearance hit Light on the back as he went to block, and the ball rebounded over the keeper and into the net for a most unusual hat-trick. 3-0 was how it remained at half time, which was quite harsh on the visitors and did not really reflect a fairly even first half.

During the half time interval, there were real concerns (or hopes, in the case of the visitors) as to whether this game would make it through to the end, with rain continuing to fall, puddles developing and the ball not rolling in a few areas, as the pitch was forked by volunteers. Happily, the pitch never became dangerous and the rain relented for the final quarter of an hour. There were no further goals in what was an entertaining second half, but that was mainly down to some inspired goalkeeping at both ends, with some terrific saves being forced. Although the final scoreline looks convincing, one wonders if the result might have been quite different had the home keeper not pulled off some terrific saves. Whilst Hoddesdon probably did have a little bit more quality to deserve to collect the three points, a closer scoreline would have been fairer on the visitors. Credit also to both teams for dealing as well as they could in very poor conditions today, as well as to the home club for ensuring the game  went ahead and could be completed today.

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