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When Walthamstow opted out of the Essex Senior League’s supplementary cup competition, I had visions of visiting some of the country’s most unique grounds, bathed in sunshine.
The grounds have held up their part of the bargain so far, but the weather has not. Last weekend there was snow, and this time at Rottingdean in East Sussex, a brutal wind rolled down off the hills and across the pitch. If it was this cold in April, I dread to think what it’s like in December; maybe a switch to summer football may not be such a bad thing.
It looked like it could have been even worse, as for 90 minutes before kick-off, the was rain was sidewards, and if Rottingdean Cricket Club next door had a game planned, they would have certainly questioned walking out to the square.
The footballers of Rottingdean were far more hardy, though, and went out for their warm-ups at 2pm, for a 3pm kick-off. This enthusiasm quickly caught up with both sides, and by 25 to 3, both were standing around, pretty much ready to start the game. A compromise was reached, with the game starting at 2.50pm, catching more than one attendee out.
Rottingdean made the most of being the home side and went back into the warm for their team talk, leaving Littlehampton to stand around for 15 minutes and then have to warm up all over again.
It was a bit of a surprise then, that Littlehampton came out the quicker of the two sides, clearly heeding their manager’s advice that “if you yo out flat, you go out to lose. This is matchday, I want some noise”.
The visitors forced a few corners, bit the wind was playing havoc, with each of them over or under hit, depending on the side. Once Rottingdean did finally get out of their half, they got a corner of their own, which was shanked right into the near post – and that was with the wind. Fortunately, the rebound fell to Rottingdean’s right back who lashed it home.
This is the first time I’ve watched a lot of football at this level, and when a team scores, there seems to be a feeling of relief rather than celebration. That shouldn’t be the case, though, as there have been some fine finishes on display, none more so than Rottingdean’s second, the winger showing great composure to slot home a one-on-one.
The wind in the second half made the game almost unplayable, but when the home side were able to keep the ball on the ground, they created a good number of chances and were it for some heroic defending and some wayward finishing, they could have been out of sight.
Rottingdean had won only once in the league before it was curtailed – and that was on their last game before lockdown in December. Before then, they’d lost 8-0, 7-0 (twice) and 6-1. It looks like they turned a corner, though, and by the end of the game, were enjoying themselves.
This was cut short with almost the last kick of the game when Littlehampton nabbed a consolation goal with a deflected free-kick. For the Rottingdean players, it felt like a defeat, but after a difficult start to the season, they’ve made an unbeaten start to the Division 2 Supplementary Shield.
The farmer’s fields around two sides and the windmill in the distance made Rottingdean a lovely little ground; hopefully, the locals get a proper summer to enjoy it.