Spartan South Midland League Premier Division
Recreation Ground, Stanstead St Margaret
Admission including Programme: £7.00
Match Rating: 2
Being completely undecided about where to go today, and with sunny conditions prevailing, I searched for a rural, attractive looking ground that I had not visited before, and the Recreation Ground seemed like a good option today without following my recently well trodden path across Surrey.
The Recreation Ground is about a ten minute walk from St Margaret’s train station, and is certainly a venue to enjoy on a warm, sunny day. Spectators pass by the clubhouse, which overlooks a cricket field and offers a tranquil location to enjoy a drink outside, before heading to the entrance turnstile. One enters the ground along a grass bank, and along this from the entrance is a the tea bar painted in club colour stripes, and then a stand, with half offering seats and the other a few steps of terrace. Apart from having a floodlight pylon in from of the stand, this elevated area makes a very good place to watch the action from. Around the rest of the pitch is just hard standing. Plenty of trees give a nice background behind one goal and a length, as does the cricket field behind the other goal, and all in all there is a peaceful, rural feel to the place, that would probably be a lovely venue in late summer when the trees are laden with leaves. The 24 page programme is professionally produced, with an attractive layout and printed in black and white inside a full colour cover, and although is a little light on content, with half of the pages advertising, it covers the basics and a couple of interesting articles.
This game would be an important one for both sides as they battle to stay clear of the one relegation spot. Both teams are level on points, although Oxhey Jets have played a game less, and they are three points above bottom placed Harefield United. St Margaretsbury have won six and drawn seven of their 35 games, whilst Oxhey Jets have won eight and drawn one of their 34 games. Today's match would also pitch together two teams in terrible form - St Margaretsbury having picked up just one point from their last six league games, all at home, and they have not won in ten games. Oxhey Jets have also picked up just one point from their last five games. In the reverse league fixture back in August, St Margaretsbury won 2-4 away, whilst in the Herts Senior Cup in November, Oxhey Jets triumphed 1-4 at St Margaretsbury.
On a lovely warm, sunny afternoon, one might not have expected a great game of football considering both clubs are struggling and the pitch being hard and bobbly having recovered from waterlogging just a few days ago. And so it proved, with very little quality of display. The visitors looked slightly the better without really looking like scoring, and it was the home side who really should have opened the scoring a couple of minutes before half time. The ball was crossed low to a striker on the six yard box and all he had to do with tap it first time into the net - but he miscontrolled the ball and the defence and goalkeeper was able to smother the ball.
Into the second half and the match continued in the same vein, and it really seemed that we were heading towards a goalless draw, such was the lack of quality up front for both sides. But then, on 61 minutes, a moment of quality did suddenly arrive, when the ball was slipped through to Chris Blunden, and he smashed the ball in off the underside of the bar from the edge of the area, to spark wild celebrations by the Oxhey players. St Margaretsbury then pushed forward and started to look more threatening, and eventually they did get the all-important equaliser on 82 minutes. A free kick was floated to the edge of the box, and a header came back off the crossbar, and the ball fell to the feet of Simon Grove-White, who controlled the ball before driving the ball into the far side netting. They had the initiative by now, but Oxhey Jets held on quite comfortably to claim a share of the points which they will probably be the happier with, despite letting their lead slip. With the bottom two both losing and the team immediately below them drawing, this will probably prove a very important point for both teams.