Combined Counties League Division One
Recreation Ground, Sheerwater
Attendance: 20 (estimate)
Match Rating 3
In the middle of two quite expensive day outs over the Easter period, I chose a cheap option today, to tick off another ground in the Combined Counties League, and one that is living on borrowed time as the club looks forward to moving to a new ground compliant with step six senior football requirements within the next couple of years.
The Sheerwater Recreation Ground is about a half hour walk from Woking train station, with the option of walking most of the way along the Basingstoke canal. Once at the recreation ground complex, one passes by the railed off football pitch that the Sheerwater first team used to use from time to time, before passing through the entrance which was unmanned, with admission being taken once the game started as a club official made his way around the spectators. This was an interesting ground, something of a throwback to times when ground grading rules were much less stringent. These days, it falls below what is required of a senior football venue in several respects. There are no floodlights here, and after passing the clubhouse - with spectators using the same entrance as the players use to access their changing rooms – there is a fairly tall but narrow stand with three rows of seating straddling the half way line. There is also some uncovered seating to the other side of the entrance. The only hard standing available is in front of these seating areas, with just grass around the rest of the pitch, and the path is rather tricky to negotiate behind one of the goals. It is a neat and tidy venue though, with plenty of tall trees all around to give a pleasantly rural setting, as well as having a friendly feel about the place. An athletics track around the football pitch means that spectators are quite distant from the action. The ground will still be allowed to host senior football here next season, after some minor improvements have been made, such as lengthening the hard standing area, in advance of a new ground expected to be ready in 2018. The programme was really very good for this level, with some interesting articles about the club's and the league's futures, as well as all of the important stats. It contrasted very favourably with the appalling one I picked up from Bemerton Heath Harlequins, a step above Sheerwater, last Saturday.
Both teams are heading for a mid table finish, and indeed this looked likely to be a clash between two closely matched teams, with Sheerwater in 13th place in the 17 team division, with six wins and three draws from their 26 League games, one position and four points better off than today’s visitors, who had won four and drawn five of their 22 league games. It speaks volumes for the rapid development of Dorking Wanderers Football Club that the last time I watched their first team was in intermediate football, in the Sussex County League Division Three, in 2009. It has recently been announced that Dorking Wanderers will no longer field a team in the Combined Counties League after this season. When the two teams met in September, Dorking Wanderers Reserves won 3-0.
On a blustery afternoon, always overcast with intermittent heavy drizzle making for difficult playing conditions, Sheerwater were always in the ascendency, although there were few attacks on goal in the opening half hour, until the home side were awarded a penalty for a trip putting an end to some fancy footwork in the penalty area. Shane Rideout fired the ball into the bottom left corner. Within a minute, they almost doubled their advantage when a lucky deflection set a Sheerwater player through on goal, but the keeper parried the shot.
1-0 was how it remained at half time, but with a minute of the restart, Sheerwater scored their second. The ball was played low past a defender and Rideout just managed to tap the ball to the side of the keeper before slotting it into the net. Sheerwater really dominated the second half, eventually scoring the third goal they deserved on 72 minutes, with Rideout completing his hat-trick with a smart shot on the turn deep inside the area. Dorking came closest to scoring in the 82nd minute when the ball was whipped in low from the right wing but the ball was stabbed just wide. But Sheerwater kept the clean sheet with a convincing win which their play certainly merited.