Sunday, 30 July 2017

Holbeach United 6 v 0 Sleaford Town

Saturday 29th July 2017
United Counties League Premier Division
Carter's Park, Holbeach
Admission: £6.00
Programme: £1.50
Attendance: 333
Match Rating: 3

I decided to kick off my competitive action for the season with a bang today, taking advantage of the United Counties League groundhopping event, which provided morning and evening fixtures around an afternoon game(s) elsewhere. And so I set off from home at 6.45am for the long car journey north to Lincolnshire, for the unusual kick-off time of 10.45am.

Carter's Park is located just to the north of Holbeach town centre, and with extremely limited parking available within the ground, the club helpfully organised parking spaces for today's anticipated bumper attendance in the adjacent college. The main entrance is very close to the passing main road, with a fixture board and a blackboard with details of today's event written in chalk alongside. After paying admission at a wooden hut, spectators enter along one length of the pitch. The main all-seater stand is located to the right, and although not particularly aesthetically pleasing, it offers good views. Beyond the player's tunnel, there is a small covered standing area, beyond and behind which there is a modern clubhouse featuring two bars, varying in styles but both attractively and comfortably laid out. To the other side of the entrance, various club and groundhopping merchandise was sold from tables, and a couple of burger vans were present. Immediately behind both goals there are small covered areas, with just hard standing around the rest of the ground. It is a really smart ground, very well maintained and with plenty of attractive touches with club signage even extending to the dustbins. Colourful trees all around the ground, and a church spire visible behind one goal, all make this is a very pleasant venue to watch football at. The 44 page programme was a decent read, if understandably lacking somewhat in information given that this is the first game of the season, and was a little heavy in advertising (about half of the content) for a price that was slightly on the expensive side at this level.

Holbeach United finished in 7th place in the United Counties League Premier Division last season, and have strengthened their squad with a host of new signings over the summer, including a new forward line. Sleaford Town finished in 14th place, but by all accounts the summer has been quite turbulent for them, having to rebuild their squad.

On a mainly sunny morning, this was a match that was completely dominated by the home side from start to finish, and the only surprise was that they only racked up six goals. They opened the scoring on 15 minutes when a ball through the defence found Lewis Leckie, and although the keeper got a faint touch to the eventual low shot, the ball spilled to Will Bird who tapped into an empty net. Two minutes later and Bird showed good pace to accelerate in from the wing, and his eventual shot from a tight angle came back off the near post. But a minute later and it was 2-0. Bird ran down the left before crossing the ball low into the middle for an unmarked Leckie to tap into the net. Chances continued to come and go for Holbeach, but the scoreline remained 2-0 at the break, which gave Sleaford a little bit of hope if they could emerge a transformed team after the interval.

That was never likely, and Holbeach proceeded to deliver something of a trouncing. On 52 minutes, they made it 3-0 when, following a corner played short, the ball was crossed into the box for Bird to plant it firmly past the keeper and into the net. Three minutes later and captain Nick Jackson made it 4-0 with a far post, close range header from a corner. The game then lost its intensity for a while, until the home side were awarded a penalty on 81 minutes when Charley Saunders was dragged to the floor close to the byline and the edge of the area. Saunders himself drilled the ball into the bottom left hand corner to make it 5-0. And five minutes from time, a drilled shot which was heading wide was deflected into his own net by a Sleaford defender.

So a dominant performance from Holbeach, and their forward line looked lively and exciting throughout and should score plenty of goals this season. Sleaford will hope that today was just a slow, cold start for them, otherwise they have a long and difficult season ahead of them. Well done to Holbeach United off of the pitch too today, who handled the much larger than usual crowd very well, with a friendly welcome from club officials. It was good to see them rewarded with undoubtedly bumper takings.

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