Sunday, 27 March 2011

My Eats, Meets West Moment at Tilbury

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 26 March 2011 at Chadfields, noon ko
Tilbury 2  Waltham Abbey 1
Isthmian League D1 North (Step 4)
Team Colours
Tilbury in black & white
The England-Wales game led some clubs to move ko times allowing the chance of an Essex double-header hop today
This match in one sentence
A very late stoppage-time winner secured the points for Tilbury after two penalties for handball had cancelled each other out.
So what?
Only one will go down from this division at the end of the season after the demise of Leyton, and Tilbury should be safe now, with Waltham Forest looking adrift.  Waltham Abbey are mid-table and probably need to give up any lingering play-off hopes after this result.  Tilbury’s Ben Bradbury has scored three penalties in a week after two very late ones secured a 3-3 draw against Romford in midweek.
Something random
Before kickoff, I bumped into a thoroughly nice gent – we were both checking out the opening of the tea bar and relieved when the hatch showed signs of movement.  In conversation I explained that I was a groundhopper but an underlying West Brom supporter when he dropped the bombshell, “West Brom?  I used to play for them!”, and introduced himself as none other than Colin West.  My instant reaction of, “The last time I saw you, you got sent off!” was, on reflection, not one of my finer moments.  (He had come back with Swansea for a playoff second leg, the last time I stood on the Brummie Road terracing.  Albion won, and went on to beat Port Vale in the playoff final at Wembley in Ossie Ardiles’ last game as manager.)
Colin West does what any groundhopper would do
Colin had a laugh with the tea lady along the lines of, “Isn’t that typical, you just get remembered for the one bad reason instead of all the good ones”, and he has a point.  We chatted for a few minutes about football (his world) and education (mine).  He played at West Brom for a few seasons under Brian Talbot and said he enjoyed his time there, playing alongside players such as Don Goodman.  Like many players of that era, he wishes the current players all the best in earning as much as they can from their trade.  He was at Chadfields today in a paternal role, as sons Sam (#5) and Jack (#9) lined up in the black and white of Tilbury.  Colin is still involved in the game in various ways, including some media work covering another one of his former clubs, Watford, and I will make a point of looking out for him in future.  His lads did well today as part of this very decent win for the home side.  Great to meet you, Colin, and thanks for your good humour and giving me a few minutes of your time.

I just love it when random things happen.
Sam West (5) in central defence for Tilbury ...

... and Jack West (9) up front.
For the record, Colin West made his league debut at The Hawthorns for Sunderland against WBA.  He played just over 100 games for them before his £100,000+ move to Watford, where he had an impressive 20-goal season in 85-6 and moved for an even higher fee to Glasgow Rangers.  The stay in Scotland was relatively short, and he was signed for West Brom by way of Sheffield Wednesday in the meantime.  His West Brom scoring record of 22 league goals in 73 appearances (64 starts) looks pretty good compared with several more recent custodians of the striker's role, but he will probably remember the West Brom supporters in his four seasons with us (from 88-89 to 91-92) as pretty grumpy as we struggled to get out of the third tier. After the season at Swansea, he had five seasons at Orient where he kept up the goals to games ratio (42 in 142) and his final tally comes up as 137 goals in 467 games at various levels.  Since then he has been assistant manager to Chris Turner at both Hartlepool and Sheffield Wednesday and had a number of coaching positions, most recently at Hartlepool where his contract as reserve team manager came to an end in May last year.
The drama unfolds
Here’s some of the early exchanges and a look at the ground.

The first real chance of the game came in the 7th minute but Tyler Campbell’s shot went wide for the visitors.  Tilbury’s Ben Boyce berated the lino for allegedly not keeping up, but the official told him to smile.  He didn’t.  Then in the 22nd minute, this happened.  You are the ref.

Ben Bradbury scored from the spot as you can see.  1-0.  The rest of the half passed without too much incident.  Jack West won a fair few balls in the air and made some intelligent flicks, but also got caught offside more than once.  Waltham Abbey had one good chance to equalise from a curling crossed freekick on the half-hour mark, but the header went wide to the hiss of a collective intake of breath from the noisier home supporters.  Tilbury generally coped better with the bouncing ball and looked good value for their lead.  1-0 at half-time.

Tilbury started the second half in much the same way.  They came close again and forced a series of corners.  Blue-booted Aaron Matthews was wearing number 3 but was very often in advanced positions.  One mazy run into the box led to some “watching Brazil” chants from the home supporters, who had clearly given the bar an early injection of cash at the interval.

Some of my other second-half clips are, shall we say, unbroadcastable without a new soundtrack and might upset sensitive people in Grays, for example.  The other lino came in for some stick after one moment of crossed wires between him and the ref.

Then, well, you are the ref again.

It was disallowed, and Waltham Abbey clawed themselves back into the game.  There was a long stoppage for an injury to Tilbury’s Conor Mead.  Players looked concerned, officials ran back to the changing room for a stretcher, and an ambulance was called from the pitch by mobile phone.  Then, a handball decision again, and Abbey substitute Kieron Ogunkoya had this penalty chance with 15 minutes to go.

So, 1-1 and looking like a draw.  However, fair play to Tilbury for determination and keeping heads up.  They hit the woodwork.  Then, the aforementioned Aaron Matthews burst forward once more in stoppage time and kept his composure for a good points-winning finish.  The whistle went almost immediately, to cue beery chants of, “We are staying up!”  Final score 2-1.
Alternative activity of equal excitement for tourists in Tilbury
Put on full Tudor costume, go down to Tilbury Fort, knock on the door and say, “Sorry, I’m late, but prithee may I join the Good Queen Elizabeth’s navy to fight against the Spanish fleet?” and see if you can avoid arrest for 90 minutes.
A snippet from the programme
I have mentioned Travellers Tales with Brian Buck before.  By Saturday 12 March he had reached 9986 matches at 2991 venues and this is a snippet from his report on Okeford United v Sherborne Town Reserves in the semi-final of the Dorset Senior Trophy.

“Today for me was an example of what football is or should be all about.  This village side, who play a few miles south of Shaftesbury, were having their big day.  Soon the programmes arrived.  They don’t normally issue and this was our real reason for being here.  Having got the Holy Grail we then shot off to knock off a few pubs before kickoff.  We saw people actually walking to the ground from the village and it seemed that they had all come to watch.  The pitch was one of those which sloped up and down and from side to side.  The ref was the son of ex-Football League red (sic) Paul Durkin and he was fine, which was fortunate for him as he was being assessed.”
What I learned today
The Academy, in the distance, dominates its surroundings
On the way to the ground I passed the Gateway Academy, one of the distinctive new buildings that has been created in the secondary education sector.  I immediately wondered what had become of St Chad’s School, which I remember as fighting against the socioeconomic odds in the early 90s when I was a deputy headteacher in Chelmsford and “league tables” were invented for schools.  Research today shows that it was indeed closed as part of the changes, and in fact the building burned down in 2009.  Those people who know me outside groundhopping circles will understand why I notice these things.  I wonder how parents are coping with all this – even “academy status” now means something fundamentally different compared with two years ago.
What Next?
A short drive along the A13 to Bowers & Pitsea v Takeley for a 3pm ko in the Essex Senior League.


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