Monday, 23 May 2016

Sporting Hackney 1 v 2 FC Assyria

Saturday 21st May 2016
Middlesex County League Premier Division
Hackney Marshes Show Pitch, Hackney
Admission: Free
Programme: Free
Attendance: 16 (head count)
Match Rating: 3

With only literally a handful of games in the south-east to choose from now, and even those at risk from last minute call-off's due to player availability issues, or matches being played on back pitches, I decided to head for one of the most iconic grass-roots footballing venues of all.

Although not the closest train or tube station, I decided to walk from Stratford station today, which allowed me to walk through the length of the Olympic Park, with Hackney Marshes just to the north west of the park. On arriving at the complex, visitors enter the Hackney Marshes Centre, a large red building housing many changing rooms and other sporting facilities, and a bar on the upper level. Sporting Hackney play their games on the Show Pitch, which is immediately outside the centre. The pitch is taped off, but no hard standing or other spectator facilities are available. The centre, a large stone wall stretching back to the main road, and some colourful trees behind, make for an attractive background to the pitch along one length, while behind the rest of the pitch are some of the other more basic 80+ sports pitches stretching into the distance behind one of the goals. Whilst ambition is there for Sporting Hackney to progress into senior football, they will have to move homes in order to do that, with no possibility of upgrading the Hackney Marshes show pitch due to it being common land which cannot be developed. With it being a remote possibility indeed finding a suitable, affordable location to construct a football ground within the borough. Very much a bonus at this level was that a programme was produced today, with a handful left on the Centre’s reception desk for people to help themselves to. It consisted of four pages produced on a colour printer, with introductions to both clubs, up to date league table, and predicted line-ups.

On this, the final day of the league season, there was absolutely nothing riding on this game. Sport Hackney are certain to finish in 14th place in the 18 team division, having won seven and drawn six of their 33 games. FC Assyria are certain to finish in ninth place, having won 16 and drawn two of their 33 games. The reverse fixture of this match was played on the first day of the season, back in early August, with FC Assyria triumphing 4-0.

On a mostly overcast afternoon with a gusty breeze, the visitors dominated this game for long periods, showing some great trickery and inventive passing which cut open the home defence frequently. They took the lead on 7 minutes, when their forward received the ball on the left wing, dribbled towards goal, evading a defender, and although he could have a shot on goal from a slight angle, he passed to his team mate Andrew Isaac in a more central position, who fired the ball home. They came close a couple of times to doubling their lead before half time, seeing a shot hit the post on 34 minutes, while the ball was hacked away from a couple of yards out on 38 minutes. But they retained their slender lead at half time, giving Hackney hope they could get something out of this game if they could raise their game a little after the break.

However, within 3 minutes of the restart, FC Assyria did double their lead with another well worked goal. A lovely pass down the wing sprang the offside trap, and George Hedley ran towards goal, wrong footed the keeper before passing into an empty net. The game seemed as good as won now, and they looked much the likelier to score again, but too often seemed to want to take too many touches or pass the ball instead of shooting at goal. Hackney did gradually come back into the game in the last quarter, but it wasn’t until five minutes from time when they pulled a goal back, Yas Ibrahim eventually managing to find the back of the net despite the ball hitting the keeper on the way through. Suddenly, an equaliser did not look out of the question, but FC Assyria saw the game out for a win they certainly deserved.

In many ways, today was everything I enjoyed about groundhopping after the regular season has finished for senior clubs. It is a time to visit places I would not normally consider, yet I am always pleasantly surprised with an enjoyable, relaxed day out at friendly venues who are very welcoming and glad to see new faces in their usually sparse crowds.

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