Wednesday 23rd October 2013 ko 19.30
Western League Premier Division
SHERBORNE TOWN 3 (Day 15 28 Plant 75p)
LARKHALL ATHLETIC 4 (Casey 13 Auckland 56p 90p Hobbs 63 )
It did seem strange seeing a Western League game in the historical capital of Wessex although the location does lend itself better to the club’s current league!
The town is best known for the castle built by Walter Raleigh in the 16th century, and Sherborne School, one of the top independent schools in Britain, boasting alumni, including Alan Turing, Jeremy Irons, Chris Martin (of Coldplay fame) and John le Carré.
The town’s football ground Raleigh Grove is a nod to the famous former resident. It lies just out of town, on the south side, as part of a larger complex, Terrace Fields which includes two cricket pitches. As I arrived a group of horse boxes were leaving, and at first glance I wondered whether I’d arrived at a late postponement. The club admitted that earlier in the day a postponement looked inevitable, heavy rain had left the pitch underwater. The formality of a pitch inspection was organised for 3pm, but there was warm sun, and strong wind and the pitch wasn’t just fit for play, it played perfectly.
If ever the maxim that “Stadia do not make clubs, people do,” was the case this was the prime example. I had a chat with both clubs’ officials before kick off and each and every one was a joy to deal with, a real credit to their respective clubs, the Western League and football in general. I found time to try the club’s delicacy (!) the Sherborne Whopper, two burgers, cheese, and bacon in a roll. It must annoy countless religions but it was delicious. However, it all proved to be mere hors d’oeuvres for the main event; the game was cracker.
Sherborne raced out of the blocks, and Matt Day seemed able to beat the Larkhall offside-trap at will. He scored twice, and should have scored two more before Larkhall changed shape by bringing on Daniel Jones for James Moon, with the score at 2-1. Larkhall’s opener was that rarety, a headed goal scored direct from a corner.
From that point the pace didn’t drop, it was once of those games that you wondered if the referee hadn’t blown for half-time, the players would have kept the breakneck speed up for 90 minutes straight. The tackles flew in, and on occasion the fists did too, you’ll see more skilful games, but the commitment was total. 10 were booked, but a Nat Auckland penalty and Robert Hobbs tap-in fired the visitors into the lead with an hour gone.
Sherborne found the resolve to find an equaliser though, with Raith Plant’s penalty blasted past Chris Snoddy in the Larkhall goal. Plant is, by the way Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant’s son, so I trust you’ll forgive me the Led Zep reference above!
I have a feeling that even now, a day afterwards both clubs would admit a draw would have been a fair result, particularly as there was real controversy about Larkhall’s winner. The visitors had a corner, but as the ball was whipped in, the linesman’s flag was quickly raised and he kept the flag up. Sadly referee Daniel Jacecko didn’t notice, and when a shot was fired in Sam Farthing handled on the line. Jacecko saw the infringement, but amidst a melee he finally consulted his lineman, to discover the ball had been outside the painted quadrant when the corner was taken.
He ignored that information, sent Farthing off and Nat Auckland dispatched the spot kick. Justice it wasn’t, but it was easily the most exciting of the 61 games I’ve seen this season. It goes without saying that a trip to Sherborne goes with my highest recommendation, but do pay Larkhall’s intriguingly named Plain Ham ground a visit too. The pretty ground, on the outskirts of Bath is a real gem too.