Probably one of the longer fixture titles this weekend was in Division 2 of the Spartan League as New Bradwell St Peter hosted Pitstone & Ivinghoe United.
Both teams have been at step 7 of the pyramid for some time, though in the early 90s they played each other in the Premier Division of the South Midlands League, and Pitstone won the league itself in 1990.
New Bradwell was probably the most COVID-aware ground I’ve been to so far this season. The bar was table service only, and the changing rooms were being sprayed down with disinfectant regularly. There was even a couple of buckets of disinfectant for the balls, though it didn’t look like either were used. The club’s nominated COVID officer (identified by a fetching hi-vis vest) was one of the busiest people all afternoon.
Attendance fluctuated between about 10 and 40, with people coming and going after the Brighton – Man United game and retreating for shelter once they realised how cold it was.
The ground is shared with Bradwell Cricket Club, and with stand-alone changing rooms and a serviceable stand and floodlights, it’s more than enough for this level. There was something unsettling about the goalposts though… were they too wide? Too round, perhaps.
The referee was not exactly a stickler for time. He didn’t emerge from the changing rooms until ten to three, and we didn’t kick off until five past.
Both teams tried to keep the ball on the deck, and despite New Bradwell opening brightly, Pitstone took the lead after a defender made a hash of trying to volley a clearance away. Sometimes I feel like teams at this level do themselves more harm than good by ‘trying play the right way’.
After an almost 25 minute half time break, goalmouth action became a bit more common, and New Bradwell missed a hatful of chances, including hitting the bar from about a yard out. It looked like their moment had gone, but another defensive mistake, this time a result of over-playing at the back, put their winger through on goal, and he slotted home. Rather than spur them on to go ahead, New Bradwell began to retreat, and Pitstone headed in a not undeserved winner.
The last 20 minutes was almost a procession. This is the first game I’ve seen in this league, but if it game was anything to go by, a team with anything approaching fitness training would challenge for the title.
There was a pleasing amount of Copa Mundials being worn; at least five pairs between the two teams.
At five past five, the referee finally allowed everyone to get out of the cold drizzle and into the warm. It was the first game I got the Big Coat out for, and I’m glad Bradwell Windmill wasn’t operational. If it was, I think it might have taken off.
I think taking the goals down after a defeat must be one of the worst feelings in football.