Posted by: musinganorak | September 17, 2010

Smash And Grab

My destination this evening is the town of Stotfold situated on the Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire border and very pleasant it is too. This impression is no doubt helped by the fact that it is a glorious late summer evening, I may not have felt the same on a cold Tuesday in January. I’m here to watch Stotfold against Oxhey Jets in the Spartan South Midlands League. Stotfold are new arrivals in the Premier division having transferred across from the United Counties League during the close season. They have an indifferent start to life in their new league managing only 1 win so far. That is 1 more than visitors Oxhey who have yet to register a point.

The ground is bathed in early evening sunlight and has great views of the surrounding countryside. You can also see the nearby A1, just, and hear it, incessantly. The pitch is in excellent condition, as are most pitches this early in the season, again a visit in January may reveal a different picture.

The game is only 10 minutes old when the visitors pounce on a defensive mistake to take an early lead, a poor pass is intercepted allowing the forward a clear run on goal. Amazingly, given their current form, Oxhey double their lead on 25 minutes when a tackle is eventually adjudged to have been inside the penalty area. The home side pull one back shortly before half time following a superb through ball that the forward slots away calmly. At half time it is the winless visitors who lead what has been a very even contest.

The second half is far from even. Words have obviously been said in the Stotfold dressing room during the break. They start make a determined start to the second half and proceed to dominate completely. Numerous chances are wasted and Oxhey only manage to get out of their own half on a handful of occasions. Eventually the pressure pays off when Stotfold are awarded a penalty in the 80th minute which allows them to level the scores. It would appear that the visitor’s dogged resistance has been broken and you feel that it is only a matter of time before they concede again. Even more chances are wasted as the home side seek to make the most of their domination. Incredibly the Jets hold out and as the match enters the second minute of stoppage time they break up field and win a corner. With the watch now showing 93 minutes played the corner is swung in, Stotfold fail to clear properly and the ball falls at the feet of an Oxhey player at the far post. He smashes the ball in to the roof of the net to seal, and steal, their first league victory of the season. Unsurprisingly they are very happy. Stotfold aren’t.

It is knowing that you might witness an encounter like this that keeps me heading to game after game.

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