Sunday, 26 August 2018

25/08/18 Review: Great Wakering Rovers vs Leyton Athletic

Great Wakering Rovers 4-1 Leyton Athletic (FA Cup Qualifying Preliminary Round)
Burroughs Park

With Bank Holiday weekend in full flow by now, Saturday afternoon saw me heading into the south-east wilderness of Great Wakering for a second dose of FA Cup Qualifying action and this time Burroughs Lane was the place to be for me. As I was visiting family, I tried to keep it as local as possible and despite the fact that I was itching to tick off the likes of Victory Road in Dagenham, East Thurrock United's Rookery Hill and a few others in East London, I contained my urge and decided to make the twenty minute ride from Leigh-on-Sea along to the little Essex village instead.
Ground number 127, Burroughs Park
I'm a man of simple pleasures and when it comes to groundhopping all that is you give me a good ground or an entertaining match. Last night I was at West Street in Coggeshall and although the facility was head and shoulders above today's, the 0-0 game between the Seed Growers and their neighbours Witham Town was far from a classic, so my main hope for the game here would be to see two sides trying to gain some early form with an end to end match here. I'd predicted 3-1 to the hosts on this occasion, which wasn't a bad old guess in hindsight. Leyton Athletic, a side I'd seen under their old name of Wadham Lodge at the back end of the 2016-17 season, were currently in their first season under the new handle and with no league wins yet in the Essex Senior League, the only taste of victory they'd had was in the FA Cup as they saw off Barkingside on a replay. Rovers had themselves won the Essex Senior League last season and despite beginning their new campaign in the Isthmian Northern division with a 0-3 pasting, they had recovered well last weekend with a 2-0 win at home to Felixstowe & Walton United which would make them firm favourites for this match- but, this is the FA Cup after all, so anything could happen.

The magic of the cup
I got myself into the ground with fifteen minutes to spare, meaning just enough time to search around the ground for a Saturday afternoon slurp at the bar- which was back outside the actual ground, in the main clubhouse. The spacious venue was in decent albeit unspectacular nick and had plenty of Wakering locals sat awaiting kick-off. As this was an FA Cup game, the Rovers officials had decided to be one of the few clubs that observe the "no alcohol at pitch-side" rule and as a result I had to neck a swift half before the game began. Well, you can't go in completely sober, can you?
It'd be classed as rude in some parts
Outside, the actual ground was fairly simple. Two stands, one at either side, with a few decent seating areas and a tea hatch near one corner flag, located in "Nobby's End" alongside the toilets, changing rooms and other facilities inside of Burroughs Park. It seemed that there were roughly 80 to 100 fans around the sides as the teams came out, with most housing themselves in either stand, whilst the remainder would lean on the outer white border fencing. Quite often when I visit a ground like this, so far out in the sticks and with the most basic of facilities, I do hope and wish that they can make it through the eight rounds that they need to win to make it to Round Three, where they could hopefully get a home tie with Klopp's Liverpool or one of the big London sides in what would not only be a glamour tie for the hosts, but also no doubt a massive culture shock for lads like Eden Hazard or Mo Salah. In the meantime, Rovers had to get past Leyton Athletic and with a strong start, the hosts looked eager to bag an early goal.

Those clouds!!!
The first chance of the match fell to Simon Thomas, with the number 9 heading just past the post, but it wouldn't be long before the opening goal and after Danny Hurford put Billy Harris on his way into the box, the Leyton defender felt the need to gamble and a rash tackle knocked his opponent to the ground for a penalty. Stephen Butterworth stepped up with infinite confidence and sent the keeper the wrong way with a perfect penalty. Rovers 1-0 Leyton Ath. An early goal was just what I'd hoped for and it helped to get a good flow going, with Wakering proceeding to dominate the play after the goal. It seemed likely that more goals were on their way sooner rather than later and although they had chances, Leyton rode the wave into the 20th minute before going on an attack of their own. In what was essentially a one man effort, Dwade James picked up the ball on the counter, had a bit of luck to beat the Wakering defence and then he applied a tidy finish to level things up. Rovers 1-1 Leyton Ath.

Is there a shock on the cards?
Although Leyton seemed much more settled after the equaliser, Rovers continued to look the more likely side. Butterworth forced a save from James Scammell with a curled free-kick, but the visiting keeper made his best save moments later as Thomas was denied from point blank range. James continued to keep the home defence on its toes but ultimately the game would be level at the break. I made my way back into the bar for a pint and awaited the restart. So far the game had been very end to end and even though the quality was sometimes lacking, the creativity certainly wasn't and I had been impressed so far. I still fancied the hosts to grab the win, but Athletic would have no doubt been happy with the display they'd given. Not that it would be of note to either side on the day, but I couldn't help but look back at last season's league table and see that the away side had finished a whole 54 points worse off than the rampant Rovers on the way to only just avoiding relegation. Back outside the sun somehow was still shining through the stormy clouds and although I heard a loud ripple of thunder at the top of the half, thankfully the rain held off.
The only electrifying performance would come from the hosts in the second half
In the first-half the hosts made a lot of headway down the left-wing as they looked to exploit the slightly rotund Nico James, and although the big number two nearly scored within a couple of minutes the restart, Rovers had clearly made a note of where the gaps would appear and as the remainder of the match unfolded we'd see umpteen chances created from here. Before that though, Leyton almost netted a second as Brian Simpson took a long-range snapshot that landed on the roof before the home side won another spot kick. Butterworth was the man to step up again and although he hit his shot the other way this time it was the same result. Goal for the green and white stripes! Rovers 2-1 Leyton Ath. Straight from the kick-off Leyton's lone forward rattled the home bar but ultimately that would be as good as it got for the visitors. Just after an hour of play, Rovers won a free-kick on the left-hand side and when Butterworth put in a delightfully teasing ball into the six-yard area, all that Thomas needed to do was let the ball ricochet off him and into the net once again. Rovers 3-1 Leyton Ath. The goldmine also known as the Wakering left-wing continued to see plenty of action and as Thomas went close on a couple more occasions there was almost enough space to set up a picnic as big Nico was clearly tiring at right-back. With five minutes to go, we witnessed goal of the day as a switched ball from the left fell to the on-rushing Jason Ring. The right-back controlled it well, turned his opposing defender and then unleashed a left-footed strike which rippled into the goal the final time on a day with plenty of goals. Rovers 4-1 Leyton Ath. There was to be one final chance for Leyton and in injury time they went into the box with three attackers, but unfortunately in an opportunity that looked impossible to miss, an Athletic striker walloped the bar underside of the bar and was then cleared by the backtracking Wakering defence. The Ref had seen enough and shortly afterwards he put the visitors out of their misery. Great Wakering Rovers were the deserved winners here and although Leyton Athletic gave it a go, the result was more than fair and I hope to see Rovers continue in the Cup into the latter stages of the Qualifiers... and hopefully beyond!

Rover would be dreaming of facing another Rovers side later in the competition, even Forest Green!

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