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Tuesday 3rd November 2015 ko 19.45 (delayed to 20.05)

Essex Senior League Gordon Brasted Trophy 2nd Round

SOUTHEND MANOR 3 (Fatt 32secs 53 Nolan 51) Warner sent off 45 (foul & abusive language)

SPORTING BENGAL UNITED 3 (Adewunmi 43 56 Rivera 89)

No Extra Time Sporting Bengal won 4-3 on penalties

Official Attendance 90 (this has to be a typo- I counted 18!)

Entry £6

Programme £2

Southchurch Park is the kind of place that the casual visitor could call in at, watch a game and entirely fail to pick up its secrets. It doesn’t help if you visit for a night game, as the cricket pitch next door to the Arena Stadium isn’t visible. For that’s the start of the area’s appeal.

The cricket ground used to be a home to Essex’s 2nd XI but unquestionably its finest hour was in 1948 when the Australian cricket team scored a quite unbelievable 721 against Essex IN A DAY! Don Bradman scored 187, and was one of 4 century makers that day.

The Arena stadium used to be a multi-sports facilty including athletics, but nowadays the only clue is the distance from rail to pitch, and stand to rail. It all could be shuffled in closer, but the sadness for the football ground enthusiast is what the “Arena” stands have replaced. My thanks to Groundtastic editor Vince Taylor for the use of his picture.

After the usual stop-start journey along the Southend arterial round it came as no surprise that Sporting Bengal’s minibus had been delayed; it allowed me more time to soak up what the club had to offer. The staff were friendly, the lady in the tea bar was the kind of person non-league should clone, in fact only chairman Steven Robinson seemed distracted, perhaps the low attendance had something to with it?

Those who chose the televised football missed a real treat. Bengal, managed by former West Ham and Dagenham & Redbridge defender Anwar Uddin (has he managed to live down dating Page 3 girl Leilani Dowding?) looked unsurprisingly sluggish and conceded in the first minute, Rhys Fatt slotting home from the right. Manor have a real gem in the young winger, and I can imagine few defences that would be able to cope with his pace.

The visitors gradually worked their way back into the game, and after having a goal disallowed for offside, equalised through the prolific Tunde Adewunmi, but the goal was both controversial in its creation and its aftermath. Manor claimed there was a foul in the build-up, and referee Kirk Edwards had lengthy discussions with the home players after giving the goal. But as the game was about to restart defender Jason Warner could clearly be heard aiming an expletive.

He claimed it was a aimed at team mate Brennan Nolan, who had told him to shut up, but Edwards thought it was to him, so sent him off. It got worse for Manor as goalkeeper Joseph Phillips was concussed in a collision with Bengal forward Antoine Roberts, and had to be replaced at half time.

Manor showed great character to belie their numerical disadvantage to take a two goal lead, but eventually ran out of steam, allowing Bengal captain Javier Rivera to equalise with just two minutes left. Thankfully given the previous delays there was no extra time, and Bengal prevailed in the 6th round of spot kicks.

It was unfortunate for Manor, and the truth of the match was that neither side deserved to lose such a exciting match. It was just a shame so few were there to watch it.