RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION
PURFLEET – 1 [Etherington 68]
SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Akuamouah 27]
Essex. Flippin’ Essex.
Nowadays, it seems like every other week we’re heading round the M25 and through the Dartford Tunnel for a game in Essex. In fact there’s so many bloody teams from the county now in the Ryman Premier, I’m surprised Mr Turvey at Isthmian HQ hasn’t decided to drop the name ‘Essex’ somewhere into the name of the league. Something subtle. With brackets. (You’ve got to watch out for sneaky stuff in brackets these days. Trust me.) Something like ‘The Ryman Premier Division (Essex)’
We’d never even know. It’s probably already been done.
But back to Purfleet. Now most trips out this way are just about manageable by public transport, but Purfleet is a definate no-no on this front. The walk from the station is bloody miles and there’s absolutely fuck all between it and Ship Lane. Except for a couple of roundabouts. It’s quicker to walk to the south pole from Purfleet station than it is to the ground……………and I’m not over-exaggerating in the slightest. Nope, definately not. No I haven’t measured it. Look, just bloody leave it will you!
Who’s writing this nonsense anyway??
Right, where was I? Ah yes…
Thankfully, Chalmers came to our rescue and offered to drive once more. This is a godsend. If he hadn’t offered, my missus’ late decision to join us would have meant a bloody painful journey by train and a sodding great hike. Oh and it’s pissing down. End result? Taz would suddenly find himself single.
Another drawback of this desolate little bit of Essex is that there are no pubs. Not one. Not a bloody sausage. How the hell do the locals survive without beer? Oh, hang on. There aren’t any locals are there? Ooops.
We leave the M25 going on for 2pm and gagging for a beer, decide that our only hope is to head for another favourite part of this pleasant area. Grays.
Grays Athletic FC to be precise. Yes yes, I know we seriously dislike going there but a situation like this demands drastic action. And it’s only about 5 minutes up the road. And, as I’ve mentioned before, Grays serve up cracking beer if not an outstanding footballing experience.
The missus is overjoyed to be able to visit not one, but TWO non-league grounds this not-so-fine day. No no, really she is! A decent pint and a game of pool later and we motor off back to Purfleet.
We wander into Ship Lane in time for the team announcements. The U’s turn out much the same as usual, with Timothy and Corbett missing again. The two blokes who apparently had ‘knocks’ about a month ago and have since each missed 5 out of the last games. Some knock.
What did they do? Tackle a Ford Transit van??
The game starts boringly and we queue for burgers (15 bloody minutes! Fast food my arse….). During this time the home side miss a couple of chances that are commonly know in the footballing world as ‘Sitters’. First a ball over our back four picks out a forward and his header is beaten out by Martini, the ball drops to another Purfleet striker who somehow blazes his shot over the bar and onto the nearby M25 from less than 6 yards out. Soon after, another ball over the top finds a striker racing clear, but his attempt to lash a shot past Martini ends up as an embarassingly weak toe prod.
The U’s finally get things together and manage a bit of pressure themselves. With most of the Sutton action coming down the right flank. Sutton carve out a couple of decent openings first from a Palmer ball in from the right, Haworth connects and the ‘keeper has to tip the ball over. Then a Jon Palmer cross from the left finds Chris Boothe in the box but he’s unable to get any real purchase on his effort and puts the ball into the ‘keepers arms.
With Sutton now controlling matters, they take the lead almost 30 minutes in. Pressurised on the edge of his box, a defender plays the ball back to his ‘keeper almost on the byeline. Rob Haworth seizes on his slight hesitancy and dives in to block the clearance. The ball cannons off the U’s forward and spins across the face of the now unguarded net. Eddie Akuamouah reacts first, sprinting in from the edge of the box to fire into the empty goal from no more than 2 yards out.
Sutton keep pressing, but despite a slightly wobbly Purfleet rearguard, they fail to make any serious impact on the home sides goal and go in 1 up at the break.
The second half produces even less incident than the first and is to be honest, incredibly boring. The U’s manage one effort on target when Jon Palmer finally finds some room down the left and puts a cross onto Sam Keevill’s head but again the ‘keeper reacts to tip his looping effort over the bar.
Mison heads the resulting corner just over. What is apparent is that the home side have had a right rollocking at half time and are pressing hard for an equaliser. One ball over the Sutton defence results in a shot that Martini can only parry and a Mison/Arkwright combination somehow clears the danger when a goal seems certain.
The equaliser does finally come with around 20 minutes to play. Ryan Palmer gives away a silly free-kick out on the right. The set-piece comes to nothing, but the U’s fail to clear their lines and the ball falls to Etherington a good 25-30 yards out. He unleashes a blockbuster of a shot which zips along the wet surface and slams into the bottom right hand corner of Chuck Martini’s net.
The game then dies away a bit with only Purfleet looking likely of nabbing a winner. Although Sutton do rally briefly in the dying minutes and produce 2 or 3 opportunities, any of which could have snatched all 3 points. A corner drops Akuamouah in the box but his shot hits a grounded Arkwright, another corner, swung in by Jon Palmer almost goes straight in at the far post, flying inches wide and the same Palmer whips a teasing ball into the box at the death, but no-one attacks it and the chance is gone.
So, 1-1. Probably the right result, but my god was it dull.
As we wander back to the car after catching the final scores in the bar, Sarah gives her verdict. “Sometimes they’re really good, but other times they’re just awful”
Trust me. It’s a compliment.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Rob Haworth. Ran himself silly yet again.
ENTERTAINMENT : 4. Dour and distinctly uninteresting.
TEAM : Martini, Arkwright, R Palmer, Mison, Berry, J Palmer, Honey, Boothe, Keevill, Haworth, Akuamoah. SUBS : Murray, Taylor