FA Vase 4th Round
Sun Sports and Social Club, Watford
Match Rating: 3
For my last Saturday game in the south-east for a month, with plans for long distance trips in place for the next four weekends, I chose this match in the last 32 of the FA Vase today, mainly due to the likelihood of a good atmosphere being generated, as the visitors indicated that they would be bringing a large number of supporters with them.
The Sun Sports and Social Club is about a half hour walk from Watford Junction train station, and spectators enter the ground behind one goal, after paying admission at a wooden hut. A path then leads to a patio area, upon which gazebos and barbecues were placed today to cater for the much bigger than usual crowd, and behind the patio is the very comfortable clubhouse and also a building housing a large function room. The patio area has some attractive short wooden fencing lining it, looking towards the pitch which is some distance away from one corner. The ground itself is basic and open, with a surprising lack of club signage around, although the appearance of the ground is enhanced with pitchside railings painted in club colours of sky blue and yellow. Straddling the half way line on one side is a fairly small stand mainly covering seats but with some standing as well, whilst on the opposite side is a narrow wooden stand covering three terrace steps, but which probably would not offer much shelter on a wet and windy day. There is just hard standing available around the rest of the ground, and behind the goal opposite to the entrance there are further sports fields. With its rural location, it is probably one that has a much nicer appearance and feel to it on a warm, late summer’s day rather than a dank day like today. The programme was a really poor effort, particularly considering what a big day it was for the club, with no comment about the day or the game, just potted histories of the two clubs, likely line-ups and the league tables of the home club’s teams.
Sun Sports went into this match in 13th place on the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division, following six wins and six draws from their 19 league games. To reach this stage, they had beaten Bedfont & Feltham 2-4 away, Peterborough Northern Star 1-3 away, Biggleswade United on penalties at home after two 1-1 draws, and Hoddesdon Town 3-1 at home. Sun Sports play a step above the visitors, who play in the Midland Football League Division One, however Bromsgrove Sporting are unbeaten so far in the league and lead the division by three points, and are perhaps on course for deserved promotion as champions after two seasons finishing as runners-up in a division that only promotes one team. To reach this stage of the FA Vase, they had beaten Ellistown & Ibstock United 13-0 at home, Tipton Town 0-1 away, Cadbury Athletic 5-3 at home, Lichfield City 3-1 at home and Nuneaton Griff 0-2 away.
On a very overcast afternoon, this turned out to be a very straightforward game for the visitors, indeed supported by an impressively large and noisy contingent – indeed, one certainly would have thought they were the home and higher ranked side. Bromsgrove took the lead with just four minutes on the clock, Reece Hewitt heading in at the far post following a free kick, despite the keeper getting a hand to the ball. Despite being in almost complete control throughout the first half, the scoreline remained 0-1 at the break, and as the home side did mount the occasional attack, the outcome was still in the balance.
That feeling would only last for five minutes into the second half though, as the visitors doubled their lead on 50 minutes, when Jason Cowley drilled a loose ball home low from the edge of the area. The outcome was realistically put beyond all doubt on 56 minutes when a fast passing moving from the wing into the penalty area culminated in Ahmed Ali shooting past the keeper and into the net. Reece Hewitt added some gloss to the scoreline with a wonderful goal, following a jinking run from deep, evading several defemderd, eventually striking the ball low past the keeper. One wondered how many the visitors would rack up at this stage, but in the end they didn’t add to their tally, as they comfortably progressed to the last 16, with a trip to Wembley a reasonable prospect.
Enormous credit should go to the excellent travelling support, as well as to the home club for ensuring that they were sufficiently organised to cater for the much larger than usual crowd, and will have been rewarded with bumper takings to slightly soften the blow of their run in this season's FA Vase competition coming to an end.