Sunday, 17 February 2019

16/02/19 Review: Tividale vs Malvern Town

Tividale 1-1 Malvern Town (West Midlands (Regional) League)
The Beeches

Mid-February football is undoubtedly one of the greatest things around and it is safe to say that if a match at this level is on, it is bound to be a feisty one which is attended by only the bravest and the boldest fans of their respective clubs. Yesterday's outing to The Beeches in Tividale, wedged in between Wolverhampton and Birmingham, ticked all of the boxes for me and was therefore a dead cert for this weekend's antics. Astonishingly, this trip would be my first to a West Midlands (Regional) League match and this step six fixture would see me take in my second ground from this division- my only other was Wolverhampton Casuals' Brinsford Stadium for a Walsall Senior Cup match. One of the joys of groundhopping is that even 146 grounds in there's still whole leagues locally that I am yet to explore and after this afternoon's experience I certainly won't be hesitating to go along to a few of the more local ones to me in this league- Coppice Green Lane in Shifnal, Wednesfield's Amos Lane and Queen Street of Bilston Town. As the name suggests, this league covers clubs in the West Midlands, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and even South Staffs, with the North West Counties League First Division South also crossing into parts of Staffordshire and Shropshire. One club, Stone Old Alleynians, actually competed in the WMRL league last season and was transferred over to NWCFL for 2018/19 due to the recent restructures of the non-league pyramid.

This, my friends, is what a proper football ground looks like
Although yesterday was my first trip to Tividale's ground, it was not the first time I'd seen the Dale in action and I'm sure they will forgive me for reliving the last time I watched them as an Evo-Stik First Division outfit away at one of my favourite local grounds- The Novus Stadium, home to Kidsgrove Athletic. On the night of only my 13th ground, the Grove ran out as comprehensive 4-0 winners over Tividale and gave them a taste of what was to come. The Dale finished that season bottom of the table, nine points adrift.

These days the lads sit top of the league
Yes, this clash was a big one for both sides as the table-topping hosts welcomed Worcester-based chasers Malvern Town. The game was 1st versus 4th and although seventeen points separated the sides the visitors would undoubtedly wish to give the Dale their fifth defeat of the season and in the process close the gap as they look to try and at least reach potential promotion as the second place side. This position is currently held by Haughmond of Shrewsbury and is being tightly contested by third place Wolverhampton Casuals. With the scene set, I wandered into The Beeches, made a pit-stop at the bar and then headed pitchside ready for kickoff. The players emerged on cue and looked well up for the game, as you'd expect, meaning that this would be a tough one to call. My prediction was a tight 2-1 victory for Tividale. In the early exchanges, the yellow and blue dressed home team had the best chance as a strong attack down the left eventually led to Malvern having to clear one desperately off the line. This would not be the first time we'd see this in the match and as we approached the halfway point of the opening 45, a big triple chance came to the hosts. Following a set-piece, a strike was walloped off of a defender and onto the bar, before being whipped back in only for a header to be denied on the line. With the pressure still on, a third strike was directed towards the Malvern goal and again it was deflected away from off the line. I'm not sure if all three deflections were from the same guy, but either way it was heroic defending from Town as they looked to absorb the early pressure from the top side in the league.

Next up it was the Hillsiders turn to attack
With the game level still in terms of scoreline, the tensions were starting to rise for the home side and it was all getting a bit much for some of the players. Louis Loader, captaining the visitors today, had a great war of words going on with Curtis Cocking for Tividale and after a vast amount of off the ball nudges the referee eventually halted the match mid-play to have a few words. Both sets of fans were laying into the Ref by this point as he failed to give decisions to their beloved side, but on the whole the game was being played with a very stop-start feel as many free-kicks were awarded by Mr Fennelly. From these resulting half-chances Malvern got the feel of Ryan Cheshire's inconsistency to hold on to the ball in the Dale goal and in the 30th minute Harry Clark pounced on the latest spillage to prod home the goal's opening goal. Tividale 0-1 Malvern. The hosts would at this point argue that they'd been on top but to quote that old saying "goals change games" and this was certainly the case here. From the confidence of this strike, the Hillsiders grew in their attacking credentials and the hosts looked shell-shocked at a crucial stage in the match.
The neighbouring Tividale Treehouse Club couldn't bear to watch
Occasionally when a side is top of the league they have spells of not playing well but still manage to do the important thing in nicking a goal- and this would be exactly what we'd witness just before the break. Both of the Tividale forwards looked pretty handy to be despite having limited opportunity as of yet, but Darragh Bustin showed rapid pace on the ascendancy and as he went through on goal in the 40th minute he needed just one chance to equalise. He looked up, saw the rushing Malvern keeper and lofted his firm finish over him and into the net. Tividale 1-1 Malvern. Shortly after this the half-time whistle was blown and it was time for me to have a top up in the clubhouse. I made my way over to the newer of the two clubhouse areas this time and joined the queue of people paying £3.72 for a beer. Yup, peculiar pricing choice if you ask me.

Decent clubhouse though. I wonder if the additional 2p's from the Carling built it?
I've not really spoken much about the ground today and to be honest there wasn't that much to make note of. The only built-up stand was one of the classic old roofed structures which stretched along the length of the pitch at one side, with a few benches housed inside and a small amount of yellow "luxury" seats for the directors of both clubs. The humorous thing was that neither sets of club officials were sat in these seats and as I took a quick perch I soon found out why- you couldn't see the pitch from these seats as they were eye level with the advertising boards around the stand.
If you look very closely, you can just about see a Tividale player through the gap
Opting to instead stand near a couple of locals, the second-half soon got underway at The Beeches and although we would inevitably end all-square, it wasn't for the lack of trying by both sets of strikers. As the hosts kept on top of possession in the Hillsiders half, Demetri Brown was my favourite to grab the winner as he kept on forcing the Malvern defence into rushed clearances with his constant pressure from high up the field. At the other end, Malvern went close on a couple of occasions themselves and you would probably argue that they carved the more clear cut chances of the two sides. Dave Reynolds fought off three home defenders and then forced a long-range strike towards goal, whilst a later strike from midfield would also have to be palmed over by a resurgent Cheshire. Off the field, the fans to my right were giving the linesman a bit of stick over a few calls he'd made. We've all been to games in which the crowd begins to shout out things like "you wanna get yourself to Specsavers, lino!" and the such, however in this instance I was watching my first match ever in which the man running the side had already taken this advice. Yes, the assistant for the day was actually wearing glasses as he plodded up and down the wing.

Talk about leaving yourself open to crowd abuse!
As we entered the last few minutes there was to be a few "almost" moments for the home side, with substitute striker Alex Cameron providing yet another dimension for the Hillsiders defence to compete with. In the end the game ended in a 1-1 draw and I'm sure both sets of fans will suggest they could have gathered up the win, which to me is the ultimate proof that a draw was fair on this occasion. I was soon on my way back home to Stoke and with no groundhops planned in the next few weeks, I suppose it's time for me to go back to the drawing board and look out for some more matches to get myself down to! Until then, thanks for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment