Basford United 1-3 Radcliffe (Northern Premier League)
I’ve been cricket scoring for the bet markets today, sat in my pyjamas until lunchtime watching Perth Scorchers and Sydney Sixes on Sky Sports in the Big Bash down under, an incredible game that went to the wire with Sydney winning off the last ball of the match.
Because of that I hardly noticed the cold until I took the dog out for a late teatime walk, bloody Baltic as I trawl through Twitter (X) and notice one or two weather scalps. Not at Basford though, one thing these 3 and 4g pitches do is guarantee games, no doubt about tonight’s match, it’s most definitely on.
Radcliffe are flying high. Top of the tree under former Salford City duo Bernard Morley and Anthony Johnson, they have a cracking side and have been playing brilliant football I’m told. My first viewing of them myself, against a team I know quite a bit about. James Jepson’s United have climbed out of the relegation zone in recent weeks, the young new manager knows a thing or two about the level and has played a blinder thus far since taking the hot seat at Greenwich Avenue, earlier this season.
I’m off after the wife hands me a plate of Gusto Risotto, 6:30pm out the door and down the Nottingham Ring Road to Basford, it’s quiet and I arrive within 15 minutes where I park outside the gates, allowing myself a quick getaway.
I’m walking through the car park saying hello to a couple of stewards before reaching for the turnstile behind the goal, a young girl notices my Green Bay Packers hat, I tell her “it’s colder here than it is in Green Bay tonight”.
My intention is to sit with the media team as I know a couple of lads at Basford but as I walk past the players changing room I notice a small table with three people already sitting down, not a great view, not a great choice? I’m pondering sitting in the only seated stand on offer, around thirty seats four rows high down one side of the pitch, before finding a wooden beer garden table and bench to sit on and fill out the teams.
There’s a good half hour until kick off, players out doing their warm ups on the synthetic surface as I sip a flask of tea and eat a time out, lowly lit lights under cold dark skies, hardly a soul inside the ground, the one stand to my left has seats mainly for directors, to my right nothing bar netting stopping balls going into the River Leen, opposite nothing apart from the dugouts and a small covered terrace top left, behind the goal to the left does have a bit of cover but if you don’t like a touchline view it’s not a great ground to tick off on your list. I’ve been here twice on cold Tuesday nights recently and have not enjoyed either visit particularly much.
I’ve moved over to the side of the away team dugout as the two teams come out and I’m again called out on my Green Bay Packers hat, they beat Dallas Cowboys last night in the NFL Playoffs and it seems everyone is talking about them, there’s a fair few around me now, all on the touchline, the right flank invisible due to the traffic in the technical area, the freeze working its way down to my toes as I dance around to get some blood circling.
Basford start well, they look half decent, certainly better than Radcliffe who I expected more from. The away side look good in their retro Wimbledon 88 blue kit with yellow trim but they don’t look up for being here, they left Manchester where it was thick with snow, I feel the last thing they want is ‘a battle’ tonight as their Manager Morley shouts ‘you’re in one’ telling his troops to ‘work harder’.
What I like about Basford is they are first to everything, putting their foot in early and hoofing it long where they have three relatively quick lads on the break, it’s simple football but for long parts works as Radcliffe try and play out from the back before lacking ideas in the final third.
On 27 minutes United get a deserved goal, a loose pass by Brockbank is latched on to by the pacey Nathan Tyson, the ball falls to Jack Lewis and comes loose to Remaye Cambpell who curls a beauty right footed into the top corner, a belting goal by a player who’s proved on many occasion he’s more than capable.
Moments later Campbell goes up for a header aggressively against Rick Smith, a good old fashioned challenge, pumped up after his goal, Smith has come off worse off whilst Morley on the touchline shouts ‘foul’. “If you do that again” he calls to Campbell “you’ll get your teeth knocked out.”
I doubt the big number nine is particularly scared? Campbell looks a player very much from the streets, rough edged and rugged I doubt he's concerned by a middle aged bald man calling him out.
I’m expecting one way traffic in the second half but the traffic is mostly at the far end as Basford search for another goal, they have a couple of sniffs and near misses, some oohs and aahs from the 274 in attendance but they can’t get a second goal which will be a killer blow to Radcliffe’s title credentials, it would also be a major scalp in the search for survival which Manager Jepson is looking for.
Radcliffe make three subs though which gives them an injection of pace, more direct down the flanks they win a couple of corners, most are dealt well but one particular right wing centre on 80 is only half cleared, Jude Oyibo on the edge of the box has time to pick his corner and drills back low and hard, a get out of jail card for Radcliffe who’ve hardly deserved their leveller.
Late on, the board goes up for five minutes extra as Basford retreat worryingly deep, they allow the away side some concealed pressure and can’t get out of their box, a clumsy challenge inside the area on Oyibo has his fellow substitute Hancock the chance to convert from the spot, his low driven penalty has goalkeeper Preston palm it into the side of the net and Radcliffe go crazy, their dugout all run to the corner to celebrate an unlikely and underserved win, but that’s what champions elect are perhaps made of?
There’s time for one more, as Basford go searching aimlessly Oyibo breaks again, he’s been the star since coming on for the last 25 minutes and he crosses low to the third sub Ewan Bange to also get on the scoresheet, if ever football was a squad game, tonight would be it.
It was hard to be impressed by anyone from Radcliffe, a team with a good reputation and some good players who are used to higher levels of football, solid and workmanlike, staying in the game was as good as they offered, before the quick and direct Oyibo was unleashed off the bench.
Jordan Hulme their star striker was kept relatively quiet, as was the skilful Luca Navarro, Willem Tomlinson in midfield along with their goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt, the best of an average bunch, until Oyibo, Hancock and Bange came on.
For Basford, they deserved so much more, and they have a team that now looks like it’s a middle table team, as opposed to the relegation fodder they had at the start of the campaign. Defensively they were excellent, Dom Roma solid at right back, Fenton and Frizelle heading and clearing (almost) everything at centre half, the big and small midfield duo of Jack Thomas and Jack Lewis, providing plenty of fight, whilst in Wafula, Tyson and Campbell they provided an awkward trio in attack, squad depth might be the key ingredient missing should one or two of their assets get injured.
I no doubt feel Basford have enough to stay up on that showing, do I wonder if Radcliffe have enough to win the league? Probably not? I consider tonight an off night for them, an off night which they came through with three points, and if they can win whilst playing badly, that’s usually a very good sign for champions elect.
Basford United: Kieran Preston, Dom Roma, Henri Wilder, Jack Lewis, Mason Frizelle, Kieran Fenton, Josh Barnes, Jack Thomas, Remaye Campbell, Jonathan Wafula, Nathan Tyson (Owen Betts 81).
Radcliffe: Mateusz Hewelt, Brad Jackson, Scott Duxbury, Willem Tomlinson, Olly Thornley, Rick Smith, Harry Brockbank (Jude Oyibo 67), Nick Adams, Jordan Hulme, Anthony Dudley (Ewan Bange 75), Luca Navarro (Josh Hancock 67).
7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 16th January 2024, Greenwich Avenue, Nottingham (att 274).