Following a near three month break from Blogging, I am delighted to be writing to say that PINT OF FOOTBALL IS BACK, LADS! Yes, the rumours of my demise have been spreading lately and with some believing that I had died from over-Blogging during the CONIFA World Cup in London back in June, others have been suggesting that since taking on a role as Club Secretary with North West Counties League side Stone Dominoes, I have forsaken the Blog in order to follow the Dominoes home and away in their debut season. In all honesty, neither are false!
|I have still been visiting new grounds, I promise|
However, I have taken the Bank Holiday weekend off to visit family in Essex and with a trip down to Southend on the opening weekend of FA Cup preliminary qualifiers, I'd be a fool not to get to a couple of games and with Coggeshall Town's first ever match looming in the World's oldest cup competition, my Sat Nav was set for the sleepy town in between Braintree and Colchester for this local derby as Witham Town would be the visitors to West Street. With everybody from Olly Murs to Peter Shilton apparently being a fan of the hosts, nicknamed the Seed Growers, I was very much looking forward to another trip to rural Essex which has seen me dig out some great grounds so far such as Lower Road, home of Hullbridge Sports, and more recently Parkside in Aveley. How would this one compare, let's find out.
|Plenty of early-birds here for the magic of the cup|
|COME ON YOU SEED GROWERS!!!|
|Before the rain...|
|... and during|
On the field it was a pretty tame match in the opening 30 minutes, with Witham seeming to look happy to absorb the early Coggeshall pressure in the hope of seeing them tire into the second-half. The humorously named Aaron Condon went close for the Seed Growers despite some Town pressure just before the half-hour mark, but ultimately the match would look destined to go into the break all-square. The stand out player for me so far had been Sam Ashford for Town, not for his left-wing play necessarily but for his aggression and hefty challenges out wide. The number 11 was well up for it and certainly adopted the philosophy of defending from the front as his side held off the home side's advances. During the break I found the one major flaw in West Street's design- the fact that there was only one set of Gents toilets in the whole ground! The queue was pretty monstrous each time I approached it and as a result I found myself sat down chatting to a couple of groundhoppers with my legs crossed, whilst looking over their shoulder to see an opportunity to try and pee!
The second-half would have been a bit more pleasing for the home side's supporters, with them seeing their side hit the woodwork twice in the opening ten minute. After Luca Colins had tipped a shot on to the post with a magnificent early dive, Condon then went in on goal and struck the bar in what would be the start of a dominant half for the side in red and black. The away fans didn't have too much to shout about, but to their credit they did try and create a bit of atmosphere with some songs from behind the goal and we were even treated to some smoke seeping on to the pitch- although this was not from rebel smoke bombs, but from the deliciously scented BBQ. The only other thing to point out from this encounter was the frustration witnessed whilst watching the Witham number 9. L'Heureux Menga, great name by the way, was a mammoth of a striker up top for the visitors and I'd looked forward to seeing the Angolan striker terrorising the Seed Growers back four, but I instead had to make do with watching the big man fall to the ground like a sack of spuds on each occasion the ball came within his orbit- easily the weakest seventeen stone man I've ever seen.
Witham made a last minute change, bringing Mo Salah lookalike Nathan Cook into the action, and it was the attacking midfielder who almost provided the winner as he volleyed a follow-up strike in the aftermath of a corner, but the Egyptian wannabee saw his 25-yard strike go just past the post. Menga ended his evening in the Ref's book for a late foul and surely enough the game ended, meaning a replay to be played at Witham some time in the next couple of weeks. Most fans left fairly promptly after the game and they'll go home at least satisfied that they are both in the hat for the next round, but also with the knowledge that they would have to do it all again on Monday as the Bank Holiday drama comes thick and fast as the two sides meet again here at West Street in just under three days time. I also left pretty much straight after the match, with a 40 minute drive back to Southend ahead of me and another outing to come on Saturday afternoon- this time at Great Wakering Rovers for another FA Cup battle. Ground number 127 ticked off and I must say it's good to be back! Cheers to the Seed Growers for providing me with another gem of the south-east, a very good ground worthy of a side constantly looking to thrive and grow.
|Back out for the second-half, eventually|
|This guy would've made a better target man|