What more could I ask for… I made it through a long working week, to the weekend and had a Friday night Southern Counties East Football League (Premier Division) fixture between Punjab United and Stansfeld, to enjoy. The first ever SCEFL Groundhop had delivered a huge range of potentially entertaining fixtures for the weekend, and although I couldn’t make them all, I was delighted to be at this one. It was also really great to finally meet the non league legends, that are Charlie, Peter and Jack, from the Non-League Chronicles team, in the flesh.
The first game, of a long weekend of fixtures, took me to the Steve Cook Stadium. Punjab United always provide a warm welcome and as on my previous visit, I was blown away by the atmosphere and the food available at the ground. The large crowd of 347, was testimony to a combination of groundhop and Friday evening football.
Punjab United will be disappointed with a quarter of the season gone, to find themselves in the relegation zone with seven points from nine games. Manager and local celebrity, Jugjit “Chipie” Sian will know that he expected more from his team this season, however with the quality in the squad, will believe going into tonight’s game, that the current situation can be turned around.
Chipie will also be pleased with the goal scoring, thus far, from Lea Dawson (4 goals) and William Johnson-Cole (3 goals) but after four straight defeats, will know his team needed to deliver tonight and that this will mean sharpening up at the back.
Stansfeld in contrast, must be delighted that in their first season in the Premier Division, after promotion from the SCEFL Division 1 last season, they are sitting in third place, with 20 points from eleven games. Joint managers, Billy Hamlin and Jamie Phipps, have seen their side outperform Glebe, landlords of their Foxbury Avenue ground, and much more fancied for success, than Stansfeld, at the start of the season. Goals have flowed this season, like wine, for the Stansfeld forwards, with Tommy Whitnell top scoring with four goals, to date and Rob Hughes chalking up three.
The game opened with the big crowd sheltering, as heavy rain plagued the first 15 minutes. Once the rain subsided both sides found it hard to control the ball on a skiddy surface. Chances were few and far between.
Just on the stroke of half time, Ollie Milton broke free and had a chance to square for Stansfeld to score and put the away side ahead. Sam Mott, capping a fine first half in the Punjab United goal, blocked well, to ensure the teams went in with the scores goalless.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first. On 60 minutes tempers erupted, after a couple of bad tackles and the referee did well to calm the situation.
From this point, both teams threw everything into attack. In the 72nd minute Lee Friend broke away and scored with a fine left footed finish, to put Stansfeld 0-1 ahead.
A spectacular volley just two minutes later, in the 70th minute, by Paul Vines levelled the scores at 1-1. Sadly it caught me unawares, coming so close to the previous goal, so I missed the footage! For anyone who wants to see how good the goal was then click this link to see Ashley Hanson’s YouTube footage of the goals.
Both sides threw caution to the wind as they tried to score the winner, however when the whistle blew, both teams deservedly walked away with a point.
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It’s a great club to visit!!