Tuesday, 16 January 2007

16/01/2007 Barkingside FC 2 Redbridge FC 2

I THOUGHT this was the fourth time that this fixture had been scheduled after a string of postponements due to a waterlogged pitch but the programme insert stated that this was actually the fifth time the match had been scheduled... it was worth the wait.

The trip was easy enough from South Woodford to Barkingside, fifteen minutes tops and I arrived at the Oakside Stadium about an hour before kick-off so went into the bar for a pint of Guinness and to read the programme.

After that, both teams were warming up so I went outside to watch them and to survey the ground.

The Oakside is what I would describe as a mature stadium with the signs of wear and tear beginning to show. You enter at one corner of the side which runs alongside the train line, indeed the sound of the underground trains rumbling past was a constant throughout the evening.

The changing rooms/bar and snack bar are all located on this corner, and the ground develops out from this focal point.
The main grandstand is a low, wooden affair along one side while opposite is a real concrete and wooden chicken run, all dark and tunnel-like.

A raised area at the end nearest the bar provided an excellent vantage point for the climax of the evening, but after the kick-off I walked around from the far end to the home straight and stood behind the away (Redbridge) dugout.

Redbridge FC were in the away dugout at their home pitch because for this Essex Thameside Trophy match they were playing away to their tenants Barkingside FC.

So it was Essex Senior League V Ryman Division One North and naturally the home team in red were the underdogs.

Imagine my delight (as a neutral) then when they went one-nil up following a Lee Forbes goal, converted from a free kick which bobbled around in the Redbridge box until the tall defender lashed it home.

The effing and blinding of Redbridge Manager Alan Fenn cranked up a notch after that and the match threatened to overboil as the superior skill and touch of the stung 'visitors' were discarded for a few open studs and sharp elbows.

I had stood behind the Redbridge dugout because I'd wanted to watch Fenn in action after a comical warm-up in which he had played the part of an amicable foul-mouthed bully to his players, picking on each in turn. He didn't disappoint, and at one point hurled some verbal into the ground at a couple of old boys who had voiced disapproval at his language.

Anyway, that aside, the visitors equalised just before half time through a similar sort of goal to that the home team had managed, goal-mouth bobble falling to the right person, in this case Gary Skerrit.

Half time was delayed by a five minute stoppage after an ambulance had to be called for one Barkingside player injured in I think a clash of heads.

Redbridge scored again shortly after the break through a well-worked shot from Mitch Hahn, who amusingly would have been subbed if there been a break in play prior to him getting the ball. You pick up great snippets standing by a dugout.

From that point on Redbridge took their foot off the pedal and while they never looked like conceding due to the difference in class between the teams, they certainly didn't break a sweat in trying to finish off their tenant hosts.

And naturally they paid for it.

Barkingside had brought on star striker Warren Bennett who has notched 15 already this season and scored 40 for Harold Wood Athletic last season, and was clearly the best talent that 'Side had on show.

His touch leading the front line allowed Barkingside to carve out a couple of touches and he produced a marvellous defence-splitter to let in the left winger who crossed for Brad Foley to convert the equaliser. Totally deserved.

Into extra time and Redbridge just weren't able to move up through the gears, limbs presumably getting weary and while the visitors had the possession, the home side had the better chances.

Penalties were the only option and the crowd decamped from the stands to the raised area behind the goal at the top of the pitch to watch the drama.

By that time I was totally on the side of the underdogs and thought that would be their kiss of death, but they delivered five exemplary spot kicks while Redbridge could only convert four of their five - Chris Sloane the villain and goalkeeper Chris Clark the hero.

Great entertainment and a double tick.

Barkingside FC
Redbridge FC