Sunday, 27 November 2016

Southall 0 v 2 Harefield United

Saturday 26th November 2016
Spartan South Midlands League Division One
Reynolds Field, Perivale
Admission including programme: £5.00
Attendance: 40
Match Rating: 3

Today was another day when nothing greatly appealed to me, but ultimately I decided to head to west London, to visit a ground that hosts Southern League football, as well as the Spartan South Midlands league football that I would be witnessing today. It would also be something of a local derby, with 10 miles separating the two clubs in western Greater London.

Reynolds Field is about a ten minute walk from Perivale tube station, immediately beyond the busy A40 dual carriageway, and considering that Southall have been sharing Hanwell Town's home ground for a few seasons now, it is surprising that there is absolutely no Southall Football club signage anywhere outside or inside the ground, just of Hanwell Town. After passing through a narrow car park, spectators enter the ground through a turnstile block in one corner of the ground. Immediately to the right of the entrance, and going along the length, there is quite an attractive looking white clubhouse, which is quite long with a central taller section, one side of which houses a rather basic clubhouse and the other the changing rooms. It is an unusual football building, all the more so as it houses a children's nursery during the week. As well as having a balcony outside, a raised standing area on scaffolding is provided immediately outside, offering an elevated view of the action from one corner and from where spectators can drink alcohol. To the right of the clubhouse but pitchside is a long metallic modern all-seater stand, usually the scourge of modern football grounds but it actually fits in really well here, underneath some trees and neatly situated below the clubhouse building. Behind the goal closest to the entrance there is cover stretching between the corner flags, and along the remaining length and goal line there is just hard standing, apart from a small brick built covered area about the size of a bus shelter a third of the way along the length. A very large electronic screen is situated on the half way line opposite the main stand, but was not in use today - presumably it is for Hanwell Town's home matches. All in all, it's a very neat and comfortable ground which has some nice character about it. The 24 page programme was very well produced, on good quality paper and attractively laid out. It contained all the necessary stats and facts and was certainly above average for this level of football, although some welcome message from club officials would have been nice.

On paper, this looked a game between two evenly matched teams, sitting comfortably in mid table. Southall came into this game in ninth place in the league, following nine wins and a draw from their 15 league games. They were a point behind today's visitors, who have won nine and drawn two of their league games, but have played three games more than Southall. The two teams have already met in the league this season, with Southall winning 1-3 away back in late August. Southall have had an impressive run in the FA Vase, reaching the 3rd Round, which they will contest away at Knaphill next Saturday.

On a cool but mostly pleasant sunny afternoon, the first half was a rather dreary affair, with good football at a premium and few goalscoring chances being created. On 35 minutes, the visitors took the lead following a poor attempted clearance from a defender along the ground went to a Harefield attacker inside the area, and he passed the ball to Luke Baldwin in a more central position, who struck the ball home. They almost doubled their lead on 43 minutes, when a low first time shot went through a crowd of players and forced a good save from the keeper to his bottom right. 0-1 was how it remained at the break, and Harefield deserved their slender half time lead, showing a little more invention.

The second half began in a similar vein, with Harefield looking the livelier and more inventive, and on 56 minutes they were awarded a penalty, following an excellent jinking run to go past defenders and although as he approached the keeper, he seemed to knock the ball too far but he went over the keeper's trailing leg to win his side a penalty. Aaron McLeish fired the spot kick down the middle to give his side a comfortable lead. That, finally, really opened the game up, as both teams started to show a lot more attacking intent than previously, with both teams having efforts well saved, go just wide of the post, and also both teams saw headers following corners hit the bar within a minute of each other around the 80 minute mark. Although Southall had slightly more of the chances, it was not to be their day, and they might rue not coming alive as a team well before the went two goals in arrears. On this evidence, they will do well to extend their FA Vase odyssey beyond next weekend's tough tie at Knaphill.

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