Sunday, 12 February 2017

Hatfield Town 0 v 2 Hillingdon Borough

Saturday 11th February 2017
Spartan South Midlands League Division One
Gosling Stadium, Welwyn Garden City
Admission including Programme: £5.00
Attendance: 22
Match Rating: 3

Waking up to a sprinkling of snow, which continued falling through the morning, this was quite a nervous Saturday as I made my final decision where to head for. I decided to take my chance on heading to Welwyn Garden City, as both clubs playing in the town were at home today. En route, both clubs tweeted that their pitches had passed their inspections and I chose the one that was a little more of an unusual venue, but would probably not benefit on waiting for a warmer, sunnier day to visit.

Hatfield Town play their home games a couple of miles north from their town, with the Gosling Stadium about a 15 minute walk southwards from Welwyn Garden City train station. The football ground is part of a large sports complex, with an impressive array of indoor and outdoor activities on offer, and spectators enter the football ground via an open gate by the half way line. The pitch is surrounded by not only a running track, but a velodrome track as well, however the banked nature of the velodrome track ensures a decent elevated, if distant, view of the action. Covered seating is available next to the entrance, from a decent height but it does have a few wide supporting pillars to block one’s view, and the seats themselves has certainly seen better days, with many seats broken and rubbish strewn around. It is possible to watch the game from the balcony above the stand, although I did not venture there today. The building is dreary in appearance and harsh on the eye, and looks something right out of the Communist Soviet design manual, and the ground is certainly not one of aesthetic beauty. Although club officials are friendly and welcoming, the vast arena has the completely soulless feel that is often encountered at a ground that is being rented on matchday by the club, with no personalisation at all. There are a few rows of terracing immediately to the front of the stand, as there is to one side of the stand, which is uncovered. Hard standing is available along this length and towards one corner, but around the rest of the ground is just grass to stand on. Tall, steep grass banks encircle the ground the whole ground, and although much of the banking is overgrown, a good view can be had along the top. The most positive things that can be said of the programme are an attractive cover and that it was included in the admission fee. In truth, it was pretty dire, the welcome message being penned at the start of the season, the fixtures and results page has not been updated since October, and the away team were referred to as Hillingborough.

Hatfield Town came into this game in 17th place in the 21 team division, having won seven and drawn one of their 26 league games so far. Hillingdon Borough were in 12th place, following 11 wins and three draws from their 23 league games, however it is great to see them still playing, after they suddenly resigned with immediate effect from the league last month, but thanks to some help from Premiership footballer Yannick Bolasie, they happily quickly rescinded their resignation. When today's teams met in the reverse fixture back in October, Hillingdon won 4-3.

On a bitterly cold, dull afternoon with snow falling in the last 15 minutes or so of the match, the visitors dominated this game for long periods, particularly during the first half. They took the lead with just two minutes on the clock when a powerful low strike towards the back post was turned in high into the net by Matt Lee. Hatfield did have a couple of good chances to equalise, seeing a shot hit the post and a follow up shot blocked on 8 minutes, and saw another goalbound shot blocked by a defender on 31 minutes. Hillingdon saw a free kick saved at full stretch on 39 minutes, but on the balance of play at least, they deserved their half time lead.

The visitors really should have doubled their lead early in the second half, seeing a shot come back off the bar on 46 minutes, a close range header forcing a superb reflex save on 48 minutes, while on 50 minutes, a low shot from the edge of the area took a deflection and hit the crossbar. The home side had a really good spell around the 70 minute mark, their best chance coming when a low show across the keeper hit the inside of the far post but stayed out of the goal, and shortly afterwards another shot went just wide of the post with the keeper beaten. Soon after, the visitors also had a couple of great chances when a low shot was just parried wide, and from the resultant corner, the ball was headed just over the bar. But on 84 minutes Hillingdon did score their second to seal the points. Danny Block touched the ball past the last defender, ran towards goal before slotting the ball low past the keeper. They held on quite comfortably for the three points, which they deserved as they looked the better and more threatening team throughout, although Hatfield certainly had some great chances to at least get on the scoresheet.

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