Thursday 20th March 2014 ko 19.45
Essex Senior League
HULLBRIDGE SPORTS 1 (Nash 23)
BASILDON UNITED 2 (Murphy 53 Pinto 70)
Bacon Sarnie £2
It’s not often I risk turning up at the wrong ground, but this fixture could easily have ended up being one of a small group. A few weeks ago, with Hullbridge’s Lower Road ground waterlogged the clubs made the sensible move to swap their games against each other around as Basildon’s Gardiners Close was playable. The trouble is a few of the fixture websites didn’t keep up! That’s why a Twitter account can be a groundhopper’s best friend!
The Essex village of Hullbridge is around 8 miles north-west of Southend, and the first bridge that gave the village its suffix is reckoned to have been destroyed by Danish invaders retreating in 1016. Clearly the bridge was of some strategic importance as a replacement was destroyed by Cromwell’s Roundheads during the English Civil War!
I had no such difficulties, the village is simple enough to find and the Lower Road ground is so clearly a hub for the area, with a darts team warming up at the bar, and a social club with a thriving entertainment diary. Was it completely inevitable that Essex legends Dr Feelgood are due to appear?
The ground is one of those places where you can see how the club has adapted as its grown. The main pitch is one of four, and to get Step 5 grading the pitch has been enclosed and the two enclosures have been supplemented by two prefabricated stands presumably to get the requisite number of seats. They were used by little more than the W.A.G.s until the rain started falling during the second half.
The tea bar, lit by its own neon “Open” sign, did a roaring trade, and the bacon sandwich felt like a local staple. I ignored the two chaps loudly discussing their sons’ linguistic requirements at their schools, knowledge after all is always of value. Perhaps they didn’t realise they were reinforcing a rather nasty cliché.
To many hoppers the Essex Senior League is mixed bag. It suffers from having no Step 6 League below it, the Essex Olympian operating at Step 7. There are vacancies too, so there is no automatic relegation and there are clubs in the league who clearly are not at Step 5 playing standard and would benefit from a Step 6 league that would be more fitting to their level. That was more than evident when I paid Great Wakering a visit a few weeks ago. They looked ready for a return to the Isthmian but the game was anything but competitive more here.
This fixture was not in that category thankfully, just two good honest teams playing a fixture that always kept the attention. It was a genuine game of two halves, Hullbridge were the better team in the first half, their goal was rather fortunate, even if the scoreline did reflected the balance of play. Liam Nash’s long-range effort caught the wind, wrong-footing George Walsh in the Basildon goal He could only get a weak hand to the effort, then watch as the ball still went into the net.
Everything changed in the second half, perhaps the wind was the determining factor and Basildon won the tie with 2 blockbuster goals. The first was a 20 yard blaster of a free kick from Vinny Murphy, the second a delicious curling effort by Alberto Pinto from the left wing. It was slightly unfortunate on Hullbridge, a draw would possibly been a fairer result, but as is always the case in football, you will pay for it if you don’t take your chances.
It was a good evening’s entertainment by any standards, now to have a more successful go at getting Basildon ticked off!