Peterborough Sports 4-2 Bishop’s Stortford (National League North)
What a way to end the year. Match number 82 of 2023 and it took me back, almost, to where it all started when in the second game of the last twelve months, way back in January, I travelled to Peterborough Sports ‘Bee Arena’ to watch the home side win against Southport.
This time it’s Bishop’s Stortford who are opponents for the day. A side I’ve never seen but one with a cricketing connection, Ronnie Irani is president whilst past players include Dwight Gayle, Leo Fortune-West, Jamie Cureton and my personal favourite ever Ceefax capture, Roy Essandoh, who once famously helped Wycombe to a cup win at Leicester after responding to an advert on teletext.
Past successes for Bishop’s include the FA Amateur Cup in 1974 and the FA Trophy in 1981 but this season they are at the foot of the National League North, probably because the location of the clubs Woodside Park ground is actually in the south and getting local players to travel as high as even Watford Gap and beyond is a struggle for them? The Hertfordshire town is on the border of Essex and this is their ‘local derby’ in the division at just 140 miles round commute. God help them when they travel to the likes of Blyth and South Shields.
Whilst Bishop’s won promotion from the Isthmian League last season, Peterborough are in their second season at this level but have gone from blue to orange in the past year. I’ve seen a few notable changes at the ground too which has been rebranded ‘Pims Park’ as they have invested in new structure to keep the ‘National League rule regulators’ happy. The place has significantly improved over the last twelve months with a new terraced stand behind one end and to the left of that a similarly impressive structure covered with standing room only. Today they have Turbine the Tiger debuting as mascot and rumour is there’s a player inside… Dan Jarvis is out injured and his charge for the day is to walk around the perimeter of the pitch in fancy dress. Perhaps a good idea by the club to ensure injuries and suspensions are reduced to minimal or suffer the consequences of perhaps playing Tiger as punishment?
It’s a slow start but the home side have more of the ball without really penetrating the visiting team’s backline. Hayden Cann is looking for that ball over the top to set the pacey Dion Sembie-Ferris away down the left but it often goes too long, too straight, too predictable, and the visitors in white, start to feel confident, Alemanji trying his luck from forty yards, wind dipping a looping swerving effort onto the top of the crossbar as Peter Crook stands still. What a goal that would have been.
Buoyed by this, the visiting fans are singing ‘allez les blues’ and suddenly Alemanji strikes an opener from low, outside the box, finishing a lovely move, the better team ahead going into half time.
I’ve been really impressed with Emmanuel Oke at centre half who’s massive, he’s tried badly to instantly chop Sembie-Ferris on half way though and completely missed him, the wingers speedy attacking play eventually leading to a free kick on the edge of the box. The tubby looking right back Matt Tootle places the ball down, curls it into the top corner and celebrates by doing the worm.
Bishop’s deservedly restore their lead early in the second half when a shot through a crowd creeps in at the far post from Foxley, minutes later however Haines is sent off for chopping down a Sports attack on the edge of the area, the home team in the ascendancy have more possession, more attempts, more confidence, and eventually it proves too much for the ten men as Cann heads home a leveller.
Despite being a man light it seems to be going to plan though, Bishop’s holding on for an important point as they fend off what looks to be another predictable attack by Sports, but as the 90 minute mark touches another ball into the box is this time headed home, Mark Jones with a late winner from a corner, but is it a late winner? No quicker have the home team players and fans finished their celebrations do Bishop’s attack and a penalty is awarded for a clumsy challenge inside the box. This time Alemanji fails under pressure as his slow stumbling run up cannot psyche out the goalkeeper, Crook diving to his right to keep out the low driven effort.
That guilt edge miss has Stortford at sixes and sevens and in the six plus minutes of stoppage time Sports break again with a three on two and wrap things up, Jordan Nicholson off the bench to smash home with time and space as the away team trudge back long in the distance.
Despite his spot kick miss, Alemanji looked a fine centre forward for Bishop's and they had one or two more who can certainly hold their own at the level despite their position at the foot of the table. I did like their huge young centre half Emmanuel Oke who is raw but thick set, powerful, pacey and is better on the ball, unusually for a defender, than he is off it.
Right sided wing-back David Olufemi was a competent competitor with league experience and another huge man in presence was Serigne Osman Petter Sow, formerly of Heart of Midlothian the Swede has played in Scotland, China, Moldova, Thailand, UAE and Milton Keynes as well as his homeland, although I felt more impressed with his size and stature than his performance.
For Peterborough, Dion Sembie-Ferris didn't have his best day and missed a couple of chances when sent racing through but he's their main man and since being back from a time away in Scunthorpe he's enjoyed being home and you can tell it's lifted him to more responsibility, a better player from his time at Glanford Park? I think he's better being a big fish in a small pond in Peterborough than he is competing with the likes of Callum Roberts and co as another winger in a lake of talented wide men on the banks of the Humber.
Other impressing performances from Turbines included the no-nonsense Hayden Camm and Dan Lawlor at the back whilst Josh McCammon did what Josh McCammon usually does and stroked it around the park nicely, at his own relaxed pace.
That win pushes Peterborough away from the danger zone and as I said to the local radio commentator before the match, “I think they’ll be ok”. Despite the win however I don’t think they were at their best. Bishop’s better for long periods until they were reduced to ten, even after they should have dealt with Sports aerial threat, and they should have levelled with a late pen.
Destiny for Stortford is certainly relegation but no shame in that if they can keep performances competitive, they'll be back next season as they have a great following, a noisy support of fans and some very good young players who might just kick on to one day better things.
Peterborough Sports: Peter Crook, Matt Tootle (Kane Felix 69), Hayden Cann, Dan Lawlor, Hugh Alban Jones (Oisin Gallagher 85), Josh McCammon, Ashton Fox, Mark Jones, Michael Gash, Ben Fowkes (Jordan Nicholson 78), Dion Sembie-Ferris.
Bishop's Stortford: Jack Giddens, Mark Haines, Riccardo Ditrolio, Amadou Kassarate, Kane Crichlow (Jack Thomas 88), Mbunya Alemanji, Darren Foxley, David Olufemi, Emmanuel Oke, Serigne Sow (Gio McGregor 56), Ryan Charles.
3:00pm Kick Off. Saturday 30th December 2023, Lincoln Road, Peterborough (att 459).