Wednesday, 11 December 2013

St Ives Town - Westwood Road

St Ives Town FC
Westwood Road
St Ives
PE27 6DT

Ground Number: 320
Tuesday 10th December 2013
St Ives Town 0-1 North Greenford United
Southern League D1 Central

Last season I completed this league, but due to changes three new teams came in that I had not been to. The first of which, Potters Bar I went to a fortnight ago, and after tonight I would only have Kettering's 'new' ground at Burton Park to do. Me and Anwar decided this one last week whilst we were at the AFC Rushden and Diamonds game. We were hoping we would be able to do these teams against Anwar's local team Aylesbury but the fixtures didn't fall right.

St Ives had been promoted from the United Counties League last season despite finishing 2nd. Holbeach United won the league but did not apply for promotion, leaving the door open for St Ives to step in. They only finished 2nd by virtue of this years runaway leaders Spalding Town fielding an ineligible player, an offence that also saw Spalding kicked out of the FA Vase last week. Someone really should shapen up on their paperwork! This hadn't stopped St Ives having a good season so far, sitting comfortably in mid table with 28 points. I had seen them once already this season, as they went down 4-3 in an entertaining FA Cup game at Concord Rangers. I was hoping for a similar game tonight.

North Greenford United had found the going tough last season and were third bottom at the start of play. They were managed by ex Crystal Palace and Southampton striker Neil Shipperley, who by the looks of some photos I had seen, had put on a fair bit of timber since retiring from playing. He had a great career with Southampton, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and Wimbledon amongst others and was a good Premier League striker, scoring 119 goals in his career. He was back for a second spell as manager and had done pretty well considering the fairly small stature of the club.  North Greenford even had Dave Beasant play one game for them earlier this season at the grand age of 54. They had been at this level since their promotion from the Combined Counties League in 2010. I had seen them play a game in that league against AFC Wimbledon in 2004, which the Dons won 3-1. I remember it absolutely tipping it down and was grateful to find a space in the only stand that was at the ground at the time.

I had actually been up this way recently on my trip to Kings Lynn but I purposely missed out St Ives despite visiting nearby Huntingdon and Godmanchester Rovers. I was certain I would be coming back and didn't want to spoil the surprise of what the ground would be like when I went for the game. Leading up to the game, the night before my crown came out for the second time in a month and this time I swallowed the damn thing. I'd have to wait over a week to even see the dentist and another tooth was a bit sensitive too. I had a productive day on my day off though - getting my haircut, getting my car washed and getting a few things to take to footy. I left at 4.15 with the intention of meeting Anwar in Aylesbury at 4.45.

I got there more or less on time and after around 20 minutes delay, we got there around 6.45. We parked in the nearby leisure centre and as we were both hungry decided to take the 10 minute walk into town. It turned out to be worth it, as we found a decent place called 'Hot and Spicy' in the town. I got a Mexican Burger with chips for £3.30. The portion sizes were great and they even threw in a free drink, a good un too, one of those Rubicon Mango ones. Best of all the food was delicious and I would certainly recommend eating there. I may even come back on the way to another game if it is near, as it was good value. We got a bit lost on the way back to the ground, going down 1 turning sooner than we should have but we still got back with 10 minutes to spare till kick off.

We paid to get in and each got a programme for £1. For the price it was a very decent effort, well presented and on good quality paper> There were a few typos, but it had plenty to read for someone who had not bought it before, with histories of both clubs and a few other articles. I'd say it's one of the better ones I have seen this season. I saved it till I got home and went and had q quick look in their bar to use the toilet. The game was a decent one, with North Greenford deserving the win after having the better of the game. They got a last minute penalty and despite St Ives keeper Nick Bennion initially saving it, the rebound was put in for the only goal of the game. I have cut and pasted the report from the St Ives website for a more accurate view and will also upload a video of the goal.

In a much fancied game for the Saints, as North Greenford are placed in the bottom three of the Division One Central, it was the Middlesex side who came to ProEdge Westwood Road and stunned the home side with a gritty performance but stealing all three points with a goal in the dying minutes.
In a first half of very few chances for the Saints, it was United who brought out the best of loanee Barney McLaughlin. On 11 minutes, Carlton Stewart’s header was heading goalwards until McLaughlin pulled off an excellent stop. On 40 minutes, fellow centre half; Louis Stead’s long range effort was well gathered by the 18 year old Histon stopper.
44 minutes into the game and North Greenford’s best opportunity fell to Daryl Brown as he had time to bring the ball down, turn, and with a clear strike a goal he blasted his effort over the bar from 12 yards.
The Saints best effort fell to Jon Stead, moments before the half time whistle, when a good move in midfield saw Tom Meechan flick the ball on to Stead who had time to compose himself but saw his effort drag wide of Lee Pearce’s goal.
The second half was more promising for the Saints and the feeling was that a goal could easily turn into two or three but resilient defending by the visitors limited the Saints forward line with chances.  Karl Gibbs saw his effort saved on 55 minutes by Pearce and David Cobb’s long range effort was well gathered. Against the run of play, North Greenford found themselves in a 3 v 1 situation and when Wayne Jackson shaped himself up to finish, Jason King flung himself into the challenge to block his effort, surely denying the opening goal.
On 85 minutes, United defender; Carlton Stewart (who had previously been cautioned) found himself seeing red for kicking the ball away. With the away side reshuffling their pack, the Saints took the opportunity and from the resulting throw in and subsequent cross, Karl Gibbs’ close range effort hit the post and when the rebound fell to substitute; Avelino Vieira he found himself with his back to goal and unable to convert the rebound.
It was in the 92nd minute of the game that gave United the opportunity to steal the three points. Dan Newman brought down Daryl Brown in what appeared by many to be outside the penalty area. The referee pointed to the spot and Liam Hind stepped up and saw his excellent strike well saved by McLaughlin in the Saints goal. However, the rebound fell straight back to Hind who drove the ball in from 6 yards.
The Saints will feel disappointed in their performance tonight and looking to get things back on track this weekend when they travel to Aylesbury.
So while St Ives looked poor in comparison to when I saw them in the FA Cup at Concord, and especially considering their league position, North Greenford looked like a side that should come away from the bottom places with ease. It had been very close to being a 0-0 draw, which wouldn't have really reflected a half decent game, a complete contrast to the last 0-0 I saw - a boring game between Enfield 1893 and London Tigers in August.

The journey home was a lot better, the only problem we encountered was the A418 being closed between Wing and Bedgrove, with no diversion signed. Luckily I just went down a road that seemed in roughly the same direction and eventually we found ourselves back in the main road. It was only a short delay and I was back at Anwar's house in Aylesbury by 11.10 and back at mine by 11.35. As usual I didn't want to go to sleep when I got in and ended up getting just a couple of hours sleep. Luckily I am used to that on a Wednesday morning and the tiredness does not affect me much now.

WESTWOOD ROAD is like Potters Bar in the respect that it was a traditional step 5 ground, and hasn't seen too much improvement to make the step up as it already met regulations. Although it is one of the more basic ones at this step, it has plenty of character with both stands being fairly old. On the side where you come in, there is a stand that has a mixture of standing and seating and this side also houses all the facilities like bar and dressing room. The other side is a slightly newer stand, all seated, though some seats are out of action, while they are being replaced. Other than that, it is all open, I'd say there was cover for around 500, which is all you need for this level.

The bar is your typical clubhouse with Sky Sports on, for cider fans it is Aspalls on draught which makes a nice change. You can also order a small range of items merchandise wise, either online or in the bar. I didn't use the tea bar as I had already eaten, but prices seemed reasonable and the chips looked nice.

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