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Cricket Writer

Bishop’s Stortford 0-1 Spennymoor Town (National League)

I always wanted to be a cricket writer, but they tell me you need ‘big words’ and my vocabulary isn’t up to scratch when it comes to competing with old intellects and University graduates with bachelor degrees. So without my agglomeration of sesquipedalian content I’m left in the summer months, scoring cricket matches for the ECB and Bet Markets sitting aside writers from the Times, Wisden & BBC, listening in to their stories from the Press Box, whilst in the winter, writing my blogs on the games I go to in football, a much simpler sport for simple people, the working class game for those who can hardly understand (or care for) a googly, yorker or a jaffa.

Tonight I’m on the road to Bishop’s Stortford. I’ve been here before, once, and the commute (bar the last junction of M11 traffic) wasn’t that bad on memory, 2 hours door to door it’s pretty much Nottingham to Stansted, as I head not down the A52 and A1, but through the idyllic countryside of Melton Mowbray and Rutland, the A606 to Stamford as I’ve time on my hands.

Bishop’s have Spennymoor tonight in what is one of the longest journeys in the National League North. The home side haven’t played on their patch for a month following several wet weather postponements and the away team are taking a 4 hour plus drive south to Hertforshire in what is over a 500 mile round trip for them.

I’m well into my commute as the gleam reflects of Rutland Water against the darkening sky it reminds me of the time I took the wife to Hambleton Hall and a restaurant/hotel which has the oldest Michelin star in the country.

Not one to pay a fortune for food I’ve already stopped off at an M&S in Oakham where I filled up at a BP Garage and purchased a Hoisin Duck Wrap and a packet of cheesy puffs to eat on the go.

Finally onto the A1 I’m heading South-East on the A14 towards Cambridge before that road turns into the M11 and before you know it I’m at Birchanger Green Services at 6pm as planes hover over head whilst I nip for a quick wee and a Starbucks.

The Venue

Like I did last time, I’ve missed the turning onto Dunmow Road, not helped by the roadworks and several hundred red and white cones that don’t allow me to U-turn. I’m driving down the A120 before circling back to where I started, eventually pulling up on Woodside, outside the gates of Bishop’s Stortford Football Club which lies behind a number of industrial units.

I’m walking towards a side door which I went through last time only to find it’s locked. The players entrance is my only alternative as I ask a steward ‘why’ the door is not open. He says “this is the door” to use before taking my name down and offering me a free cup of tea in the Directors Suite.

Quickly fuelled I’m out the way of the honchos and up through the players tunnel turning right to get up to my seat, back row of the stand where on a couple of occasions I’m asked to move by a girl playing music over the tannoy from her i-phone and the camera man who parks his kit right next to me.

The view up here is ok, unrestricted (unlike many grounds at this level) it’s nicely elevated, dead on half way and looks across at a small seated stand far side, two small roofed terraces each end, a lot of wooden fencing in between, but the biggest thing I notice is the pitch, sand everywhere it looks like Blackpool Beach minus the (debatable) donkeys! I know the clubs had trouble in recent weeks to get games on so I turn a blind eye and commend the groundstaff for giving us something playable, as I notice the Referee at the end of his warm up ponder about, lacking only a bucket and spade, I’m hoping he doesn’t get the hump and start critiquing.

The Game

The girl in front is chuffed to bits as she fades out Fatboy Slim to allow the tannoy man to tell us the teams, the two sets walking out to light applause, it’s far from busy, a couple of hundred here as the blue of Bishop’s Stortford start well against the black and white striped Spennymoor.

It’s open with both teams willing to attack, but not much creativity, the best opportunity early on as Will Harris scuffs an effort which is fumbled by the goalkeeper, neither team are particularly great in attacking areas but there’s plenty of guts and graft, the first half ending nil nil and seemingly going by incident free.

The Score

At half time there’s a raffle. Some guy in front of me has a plastic bucket with what looks like a load of scrabble letters as he somehow gives the verdict over 50/50. A good £70 plus for the winner.

As he scrapes the plastic pieces back into a tupperware container the two teams trot out for the second forty five minutes, I’m hoping for slightly better than the flat first half we had, the pitch not helping as the ball bounces with a thud, some of the players finding things tricky out there to sprinkle some magic on the sandy dust.

If anything, it’s a mistake that’ll win it, and when Bishop’s centre half Beadle gets caught out Rob Ramshaw runs through and is chopped down 40 yards from goal by last man, keeper Jack Giddens. Surprisingly he’s only shown a yellow which angers the Spennymoor boss Graeme Lee. Referee Eugene Robinson had a cracking first half, but his second leaves a lot to be desired.

Robinson then turns away a penalty for Stortford ahead of shaking his head when a Moors attacker goes down inside the box, he’s not giving anything today as tension boils over not just in the away team dugout but in the Directors seating too.

But as I count back the years to my last live nil nil (thinking back 100 plus matches to the 2022 FA Cup Final between Liverpool and Chelsea), a last minute corner swung in by Danny Greenfield is dropped by goalkeeper Giddens and prodded home by Ramshaw, justice for the away team, although they’ve hardly deserved the win, a nil nil if ever there was one, snatched simply because poor old Bishop’s are having a season to forget, where nothing seems to go right for them at all.

The Stars

Bishop’s are bottom of the division by some distance but they weren’t second best by a long way as they attacked in a positive manner, left sider Ryan Charles was quick and right winger Aaron Greene tricky, whilst the likes of Darren Foxley and Zain Walker put in good performances from midfield, Harry Beadle at the back with Sam Robbins were unlucky to be on the losing side, they deserved a clean sheet, despite making one or two defensive errors.

Spennymoor themselves defended brilliantly with Brad James’ goal left pretty much untouched, Lebrun Mbeka is one of my favourite defenders at the level, strong, solid, silky smooth, he led the back line comfortably as the best player barking orders, heading and kicking away, he even dropped a couple of shoulders and purred like a Bentley facing a toothless attack or Citreon Saxo’s.

I liked Finley Shrimpton in midfield until he was replaced by an even better looking baller in Isaac Fletcher, recently signed from Middlesbrough and with size, guile and style. Rob Ramshaw the match winner, hard working and getting on the end of things, as was Danny Greenfireld from out on the right wing.

The Verdict

Bishop’s are all but down and simply playing out their minutes to return back to some southern regional stuff that will suit them more than their National League North nightmare since promotion in the summer. 17 points from 33 games they have 13 left and are twenty adrift of safety, they know this season has been a learning curve but officials are still angered to ‘why’ their side is in the ‘north’ when teams like Spennymoor, seem so far away.

The Moors up to fifteenth will no doubt be here for another season yet. Might be a while though, before these sides play against each other in the league again.

The Teams

Bishop's Stortford: Jack Giddens, Lordon Akolbire, Jack Thomas (Gio McGregor 84), Amadou Kassarate, Sam Robbins, Harry Beadle, Darren Foxley, Tosin Olufemi, Ryan Charles, Zain Walker (Kane Crichlow 76), Aaron Greene (Andre Godfrinne 72).

Spennymoor Town: Brad James, John Lufudu, Reece Staunton (Scott Pollock 17), Lebrun Mbeka, Will Harris, Rob Ramshaw, Danny Greenfield, Michael Ledger, Corey McKeown (Donald Chimalilo 82), Matty Dolan, Finlay Shrimpton (Isaac Fletcher 60).

7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 27th February 2024, Woodside Park, Bishop's Stortford (att 235).

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