Saturday, September 7, 2013

The New Defence

While most Charlton eyes spent the week fixed on the 'enthralling' transfer window deadline day, mine were wandering towards the weekend and Non League Day. One Charlton supporter was guaranteed in seeing the New Defence.

Movement wise in SE7 we witnessed the short term arrival of winger and sometimes striker Cameron Stewart from Hull City, a direct replacement for Danny Green who himself was rewarded with a short term loan deal, unfortunately in no man's land at MK Franchise. A much needed goalkeeper, Ben Alnwick, a free agent, has also joined on a one year contract. All of these deals were overshadowed somewhat by the announcement of Chris Solly putting pen to paper on a new four year deal. The cynical amongst us will no doubt notice how much more of an appealing acquisition a football club is when it's best/most valuable players have long term deals.

For those that thrive on all things Charlton Athletic, that was your lot and with no game this weekend due to the international break, a website run August goal of the month competition was not just the pick but all of the excitement on offer. Far better use of everybody's time was the opportunity to watch some grass roots football and make the most of non league day. Football at a personal level and a movement which has gained a new level of popularity and momentum every year since it's inception in 2010.

As a big supporter of non league football, and in particular Sutton United, I was always going to find a match. The U's were playing at Tonbridge Angels in a Skrill South league fixture, I had a cunning plan. My wife's grandparents live in Tunbridge Wells, the idea was to travel there first leave Heidi with her Nan to talk cake recipes, flowers and other female only topics whilst I took her Grandad to the match. On paper it was a winner all round, in reality it was foiled by their itchy feet and their love of a foreign holiday. Drat, thwarted before I began.

Whyteleafe were at home to Greenwich Borough, I watched the Leafe only two weeks ago in their FA Cup victory over Epsom & Ewell and know one or two staunch supporters. This was of course very tempting, if only for the half time beer and catch up, but deep down I knew there was only one game I could really commit to, a ground I'd put off visiting for far too long.

I've lived in Horley for five years, worked here for twice that but never once watched the town's football club. It's not as if they play in a park on a Sunday morning either, the Combined Counties league is of a standard many of us could never have dreamed of achieving ourselves. I nearly made it last year as they hosted Guernsey for a league fixture during the Channel Islanders successful promotion campaign, but the kick off time was altered, I presume to give the away side time to fly home, more irritatingly though to hamper any plans I had of attending.

Today there was no such excuse, I was going to The New Defence, home of Horley Town to watch their FA Vase 1st qualifying round tie with Newhaven.

The good old days of one to eleven

It's ten years since Horley moved to this new ground, and like Millwall it's named after the old one. The Defence I believe is now a housing estate, as are so many football pitches of old, and that original ground was named in honour of people from the town who had died in defence of their country. A worthwhile continuation if ever there was one. The clubhouse is on two levels while adjacent to the football pitch Horley Rugby Club have their own pitch complete with strange shaped goals, the two sports share the amenities. Both were at home today, the rugby finished first and big burly prop forwards watched the final moments of the association game swelling the crowd immensely, I would estimate that we were close to three figures.

I had once been to the clubhouse, four or five years back for a wedding reception. Funnily enough there was one there today too, and with big plate glass windows along one side of the building the guests could watch the match during their meal giving the best man stern competition for people's attention during his speech! A half time beer was very surreal as I looked through the glass door and saw wedding guests sipping champagne.

On the subject of beer, this is my one disappointment of the day. Sutton United keep a great pint of Tribute, Chipstead (who's ground Epsom & Ewell share) a couple of weeks ago kept Youngs perfectly, Horley however cater for lager drinkers as a priority it would appear. I was with my father-in-law, we both enjoy a real ale but were reduced to bottled beer as there wasn't a single hand pump in operation. A small dampener but still far more preferable to a pint of awful fosters in a plastic glass at The Valley!

Shaking hands before the off

The pitch didn't look too bad, fairly even with a nice surface considering the level we were watching and the rain that had fallen during the morning which had stopped prior to kick off allowing us moments of glorious sunshine. A good cup tie was on the cards. Twice Horley took the lead, only to be pegged back quickly. The home side looked very threatening whenever they had a set piece, a very tall centre half caused the Newhaven defence problem after problem and the blue shirted number ten chased absolutely everything. Newhaven though were good on the break, their number seven had both pace and ball control in equal quantities. The two captains, both wearing the number four shirt stood out too, Horley's looked tough and the sort of player to scare the life out of centre forwards whilst Newhaven's was a short lad in the heart of their midfield that looked confident on the ball and always at the centre of their build up play.

Unfortunately the other player to leave a lasting impression was the home side's goalkeeper, it's fair to say he had a mare. At fault for at least two of Newhaven's goals he seemed to flap with not only every cross but every ball played into his area. I need to go back if only to witness that it was just an off day for the lad, I'm sure for next Saturday's FA Cup tie he'll be back to his confident self. There is a photo of him hereabouts shaking hands with the assistant referee before the match started, proof he does have 'Action Man' style gripping hands after all.

Quote of the day went to one of the Newhaven supporters, a father to one of their players I believe although in all honesty they did appear to have a larger contingent of the crowd than the home side did. The Horley number two was stood just in front of us waiting to take a throw in, a teammate of his was on the ground being sponged down by the club physio, a rather attractive looking lady. Needless to say the older gentleman in attendance found this particularly amusing and shouted their wishes for the lady in question to swap sides and return to the coast with them that evening. The full back didn't seem to share their jollity at the situation, one fella shouted an apology to him, "sorry lad, is that your Mum?"

The game finished 6-2 to Newhaven, their Wembley dream is still alive. Through to the next round they may be but it wasn't without controversy, their fourth goal was a belter from twenty five yards out, it hit the woodwork, bounced down and out akin to Lampard's World Cup 'goal'. The linesman gave it although I doubt very much from his position he could have really seen it. A very similar thing happened again a short time later, lightening was never going to strike twice.

After that the Horley defence struggled, they changed their left back for a young lad with impeccable hair, I seriously wondered if he'd head the ball but fair play to him for getting stuck in. All credit to them though, even with the game lost they still never gave up going forward but if truth be told the best side on the day deservedly won.

The only thing the keeper didn't drop all afternoon

It's taken me a long long time to visit my most local of football clubs, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and at seventy five pence a goal exceptional value for money. Non league day has worked it's magic once again, for it has certainly enticed me to go back and visit again. Charlton and Sutton will always hold special places in my heart but one things for sure, I'm going to support my local team as well.

1 comment:

  1. It transpires I may have been a little out with my estimate of the attendance. Horley Town have confirmed the official figure was 40.