Stansted 0 Dunston UTS 2
A bit of a no brainer in choosing the game for this round. I’m not a great lover of the Essex league and therefore tend not to visit grounds as often as I should. But this North v South encounter at a ground in a league that I hadn’t visited this season ticked all the right boxes.
I always seem to moan about the rail service in this blog but yet again it was weekend carnage. This time, Finsbury Park was shut. All the trains into London were calling at all stops & because of the closure, I had to go into London and back out again. Fortunately, I was not affected by the replacement bus service further up the line from me but there were an awful lot of extremely disgruntled rugby fans having a tiresome journey travelling to Twikenham. One last train question. Why, wherever I sit, do I end up with someone sitting behind me bellowing into a mobile phone?
I examined the Good pub guide but there is no entry in Stansted Mountfitchet. But just one step up the line was ‘The Crown’ at Elsenham. This was only a 2 mile walk from Stansted so I headed off to get there early and would walk off my lunch afterwards. A nice little pub, not overcrowded but with a friendly atmosphere. There is a little restaurant area that is the life-blood of so many pubs these days. I was tempted by the blackboard offering homemade pizza. I asked how long that would take to arrive and was put off by the 30 minute wait until I heard that the dough for the base was all made by hand. 30 minutes it was, but my pepperoni pizza when it arrived was absolutely stunning & was washed down by a pint of London pride.
The walk to Stansted was a pleasure on a no over-busy B road on the most gorgeous of afternoons, a real touch of spring in the air. A mate of mine used to live in Stansted when I was a teenager & I enjoyed walking trough the high street, remembering haunts we used to frequent – Happy days!
The ground was very easy to find. A souvenir programme was produced in good numbers & all the volunteers had made a real effort to organise their big day, a credit to the club!
There is a covered, seating area on the near side & a huge mobile phone mast behind the near goal. The pitch encroaches onto the towns, summer cricket pitch but was fully railed off for this match. One small pet hate of mine is when you cannot walk round the whole pitch and this was the case here with the far corner impassable. All the hard standing was quite narrow and it got a bit congested, especially near the tea hut. There was a bar just outside the ground entrance which I didn’t visit as I didn’t spot it until I was inside.
The pitch was very bumpy and it seemed to affect the passing and shooting of all the players with balls constantly scuffed and otherwise mis-directed.
Stansted started the game quite brightly and brought a few useful early saves from the Dunston keeper.But there is a big, dark cloud with the same Vase itinerary as me & it spread over the ground midway through the half. The gloom seemed to descend on to the Stansted players as their energy and confidence sagged. As the half wore on, Dunston were the side on top although their opening goal came out of nothing. A ball was played into the area, the keeper and defender tripped over each other and the ball spat out to the right touchline. An early cross in caught the keeper in no mans land, I’m not sure if he thought it was going over or just couldn’t reach it, but he stood and watched it drop into an empty net. Dunston were the better second half team by a mile, playing with tenacity and enthusiasm. The second goal on 58 mins was also unusual. A ball through saw a defender just ahead of the attacker. He swung wildly at the ball and missed it completely, letting the striker in. This allowed the striker through and the defender pulled him back. This would have been a certain red card if the referee had not played a good advantage. The striker toed a shot at goal, the keeper made a fine save but it trickled over he line. Dunston saw the game out to win a surprisingly one-sided affair.
I enjoyed chatting with a couple of hoppers from Sussex & Worcestershire. One of them even knew of & reads this blog. This made me a happy man and certainly put the gloss on an enjoyable afternoon.