Long Eaton United 0-1 Bromsgrove Sporting (Southern League Central Division)
Interesting fact… For the last seven years my name has been listed on the iconic Football Manager video game as a coach at Long Eaton United… But despite once being very close to moving to Grange Park from Loughborough Dynamo back in 2016… I never actually jumped ship… Unlike the clubs current Managers Brad Munn and Lewis McGugan who themselves were at Loughborough last season, they have recently taken charge of a struggling side, bottom of the league who at least won their first game of the campaign on Saturday.
That 1-0 win at Bekhamsted wasn’t helped by second bottom Kettering Town beating fifteenth spot Bromsgrove Sporting 2-1. Tonight, Bromsgrove travel to the Derbyshire town of Long Eaton, a big game for both clubs as they both look to climb the table of the Southern League Central Division.
It’s been a while. Last week I was in Scarborough covering Yorkshire v Derbyshire over four days in the County Championship before heading to Durham on Saturday where England women beat Sri Lanka, no cricket this week so I’ve time to cram a much-needed footy game into my hectic schedule… Long Eaton is around twenty minutes’ drive from my house so I won’t be putting in huge mileage claims for this one. The rain all day my only concern as I check Twitter, sorry X, for postponements.
I’m in luck, no news is good news so head out the door at 6:15pm and head down the ring road before passing Nottingham Tennis Centre on the University Boulevard and into Beeston, Chilwell, Toton, crossing the Derbyshire border and onto Station Road turning left down a long single track as I see floodlights in the distance.
The track takes me past Erewash Indoor Bowls Club and a couple of five a side pitches before pulling up on a grass verge to park my car. Drizzle in the air with a miserable tone of orange and grey sky, I’m walking down the back of the venue as I notice a coach behind me. There’s only an hour til’ kick off and Bromsgrove are just pulling in.
As the players (and fans) get off the bus I’m walking through the turnstile where I’m asked to pay £11 which I do so on my card. “Do you want a programme” I’m asked… “Errrm, no thanks” I reply.
There’s a refreshment window in a hatch as soon as you walk in with some old bird flipping burgers, a couple of home team players are queuing for a cuppa so I walk around the pitch, rain hitting me hard on my windbreaker, hood up as I take some photos from all four corners of the ground.
The Long Eaton keepers are out as I walk behind the goal which is open ended, to my right the main stand, the Big Jim Stand, hogs half way with ten rows of blue covered seats, to my left a roofed terrace no more than three steps high with posts in view, the opposite end also open backed, the pitch in cracking condition, wide, green, bouncy, there’s plenty of room around the perimeter.
As I walk back past a newly built directors lounge in some modern looking portacabins I say hello to a man in a tie who's on the doorstep “bit wet" I blurt, before walking back to the hatch near the turnstile for a cup of tea and a twix.
I’ve taken a seat at the very top of the Big Jim Stand and am joined shortly before kick-off by a scout from Mickleover. A delightful Derby accent he’s an old boy looking at Bromsgrove who they play in a couple of weeks, I tell him to “watch out for number 10 Conor Tee who was at Rushden & Diamonds last season, he's a former Leicester Academy player, is very good technically and I think, can play a level or two higher.”
I’m told the son of Rory Delap is on loan at Mickleover and going well before asking how Andy Dales is doing at the club. “he’s an academy coach these days” as I swear, he’s in his late thirties… He seems to have been around forever, playing for Scunthorpe and in Scotland for Dundee and Hamilton either side of long stints at the Dom Arnott Arena, “he’s only 28” I find out… He’s certainly not Finnish.
I’m still chatting away as the two teams come out from the tunnel beneath, young fans packing the stand after their training sessions on those five a side pitches adjacent behind the goal to my right, screaming high pitched and running between seat to seat as one supporter in a woolly hat tells them to calm down.
Long Eaton all blue, Bromsgove in green and white stripes, the lighting isn’t great, the drizzle slowly dwindling, the venue less than 200 full.
As the game starts it’s clear it won’t be one for the feint hearted, both teams battle for the ball in frantic old fashioned non-league style, front to back is quick, but back to the opposition is quicker, the ball doesn’t stay long in possession with one team for anything more than three passes.
Despite this, the one true quality player in the Bromsgrove attack is as suggested Conor Tee, he has guile, pulls off the front man and finds pockets from left to centre as he looks to get on the ball to make things happen.
On the opposite team's attack I’m impressed with the early stages of Joe Nyawhema’s performance… A young right winger with number nine on his back he’s quick with extremely good feet and technical close control, but in fairness left back Billy Shaw is keeping him quiet.
Chances are few and far between but each side blaze over from inside the area before Conor Tee picks up the ball near the centre circle and drives forward just five minutes before the break. He takes a couple of touches before curling a beauty into the bottom corner to give Bromsgrove a deserved lead at half time.
“They’ve been the better side” I say at the interval as the scout agrees “I like their number ten”.
With only one goal in the game though, Long Eaton are well involved, and the second half starts with the away team more comfortable in possession, but the home side looking dangerous on the break.
On 65 a free kick is awarded to Bromsgrove on the edge of the area and Tee curls a magnificent right footed effort which crashes down off the crossbar and is blasted wide on the rebound by Henry, two minutes later Rogers at the other end breaks and drills wide as he races clear one on one, it should have been 0-2 but could so easily have been 1-1.
That chance missed was the best Long Eaton could offer, they pump balls into the box to no avail late on, Bromsgrove head for the corners as the Mickleover scout heads for the exit, he’s long gone by the time the final whistle is blown, a win for the away side, the better team on the night, for Long Eaton I feel it might be a long hard season unless they make some signings soon.
Whilst Conor Tee shone a light on a dim and dull wet night he was backed up by some decent performances from his teammates, Kieron Berry worked tirelessly up top and carried the ball at times to gain some much-needed yardage thus taking the pressure off his defence, Miro Pais down the left flank looked direct and busy, the Portuguese winger worked hard and shown glimpses of straight line pace, he linked up with left back Billy Shaw who certainly took a chance and got forward well. Midfielders Luke Rowe and Jack Newell were combative whilst a special mention for player-manager Michael McGrath at centre half, at 38 he looks like he has plenty of legs left in him and is certainly picking himself on merit.
For Long Eaton, I was excited to see striker Micah Jebbison in action but frustrated he didn’t get the service he needed, a fans favourite you could hear the cries of the kids in the crowd everytime he got the ball “go on Jebbo” they shout, but it wasn’t often enough to encourage anything special.
For his first half quality I was disappointed that the game of Joe Nyahwema fizzled during a struggling second half for him personally, I certainly think there’s a player inside there, somewhere, I question is he one who’s technique is more than his courage? He’s still young and has time to evolve as a footballer at the level, if he can stay in the game he’ll only get better... But will he stay in the game? He was subbed three minutes short of ninety with cramp.
As the impressive smell of onions often fizzled around the ground I also felt impressed sporadically with the workrate of James Spruce who came on down the left at half time and looked positively to make things happen, he put a good shift in, as did centre half Ed Cook who hardly put a foot wrong. Cook next to the experienced Riece Bertram a proper non-league centre back, rounded, well built, balding, bearded, tackle, head, kick it long.
Another player who I had my intrinsic eye on from the start, left back Lucien Mahove on loan from Notts County, the two games I’ve seen him play for the Magpies (one against Coalville the other against Stoke) I’ve felt he’s been out his depth. He struggled initially during the early stages against Bromsgrove and his decision making is sometimes frustratingly slow, but the more the game grew and the more he got on the ball the more I liked, a little bit of the Trent Alexander Arnold’s… Perhaps they can make a decent midfielder out of him? A lovely whipping left foot... If not particularly a great defender.
Bromsgrove will be one of those teams in the middle of the pack, or higher, that will probably take points off some of the best in the division, they might slip up along the way but they’re a competent bunch, hardworking, not much frills on show, but they have a good organised back line, a solid thick set midfield and an attack which has goals and creativity in it.
For Long Eaton, things might be that bit harder this season. For their Management duo of Brad Munn and Lewis McGugan it’s the first time at this level, Munn especially a player that flourished in the league below, McGugan one who flourished much higher… If they can up their pool of players to pick from, one or two savvy additions could save their jobs.
Long Eaton United: Ben Whiting, Callum Cocks, Lucien Mahove, Morgan Worsford-Gregg, Riece Bertram, Ed Cook, Micah Jebbison (Alans Voskresenkis 83), George Atwal, Joe Nyahwema (Casey Johnson 87), Jack Rogers, Adam Clark (James Spruce 46).
Bromsgrove Sporting: Ollie Taylor, Aksum White, Billy Shaw, Jack Newell, Aaron Roberts, Michael McGrath, Callum King-Harmes, Luke Rowe, Kieron Berry, Conor Tee, Miro Pais (Prince Henry 60).
7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 12th September 2023, Grange Park, Long Eaton (att 168).