As I approached the entrance gate, manned by two local gents, there was a young woman speaking to the gatekeepers. It appeared that she was surprised at having to pay to enter the ground and was searching through her purse. Upon declaring that she didn't have enough cash on her one of the gentlemen suggested that she went in and paid him later. Still holding my £20 note in my hand, I too suggested that I didn't have enough money on me. I'm not sure if it was my Black Country accent or if he didn't actually hear me but my 'hilarious' joke drew no response, so I handed over my £4 (plus a £1 for a programme) with a muttered "Well, you have to try don't you?". Luckily, the second gatekeeper, who obviosuly spoke fluent Dudleyish, laughed along and agreed with me.
The Gate is quite a typical ground for this level of the pyramid. As you enter the ground you pass a clubhouse and changing facility block. There is a small seated, covered stand on the same side of the pitch. The dugouts, as is the non-league norm, are on the opposite side to the main spectator area and there is hard-standing around the rest of the playing area.
A glance at the programme showed me that the visitors today, Amersham Town, were rooted to the bottom of the table, 9 points off second bottom Arlesey Reserves and 22 points behind Winslow up in 14th place. Amersham had only won 3 games all season, with their last victory being in October, but they did beat Winslow 2-1 earlier in the season. Winslow, although safe just below mid-table, have not had a brilliant season themselves although two very good deby wins in the past week, 3-2 at Buckingham and 2-1 at Stony Stratford, had increased the late season feel-good factor.
When the game kicked off Winslow's recent wins immediately showed through in the way that they stroked the ball around with confidence. In truth, they were helped in this aspect by an Amersham side that were clearly set up to restrict the flow of goals conceded recently. With just one player up front, The Magpies lined kept their remaining 9 outfield players firmly in their own half. It almost seemed that they were not allowed to stray past the halfway line. Winslow, to give them credit, clearly wanted to get the ball down and play a passing game but, certainly initially, they couldn't find the final ball to their forward line. This changed on 6 minutes though when a ball was slipped inside the left back for Winslow's lively right-winger, Daniel Jones, to finish neatly under the keeper.
Despite going a goal down, Amersham made no noticeable attempt to push players further forward. Their lone striker continued to look completely isolated up front and they made little in-roads into the the Winslow half. Having said that, there were two occasions when Amersham managed to get a couple of players forward and on both they created half chances, neither of which brought the home keeper into action.
The home side continued to try to pass the ball around, switching the play frequently and not looking like a team below halfway in the league. That said, they still could not find the final pass to break down the massed ranks of Amersham defenders. That is until the 38th minute when a nice move was finally finished with a cutting pass through for another tidy finish this time from Jason Costello.
It was at this point that the power of social media combined with people's genuine interest in non-league football became apparent. Whilst tweeting updates during the first half I had been conversing with Ayden Callaghan, who obviously had an interest in the game and Winslow in particular. It was during the break that I realised that the Ayden Callaghan in question was the Hollyoaks (other soaps are available) actor and Wolves supporter. So, you had a situation where a Wolves supporter (and I believe former Winslow player) was getting updates about a rural Buckinghamshire Step 6 side from a West Brom supporter. So Ayden, if you read this, as a Baggie, I would like to see Wolves back in the Premier and would gladly swap them for that horrible lot in claret and blue.
On to the second half and, to be frank, it was much of the same. Amersham did make a change or two and made an attempt to push more players forward but did not make too much impression to start with. Just five minutes into the second half the game was well and truly put to bed when a clearance was returned into the Amersham half McCormick to run onto and effortlessly lob the onrushing keeper. At 2-0 the game was probably beyond Amersham, at 3-0 it was well and truly gone.
Amersham did finally call the home keeper into action a few minutes after going 3 down when a low shot stung his hands at the near post.
Surprisingly, it was more than another 15 minutes before number 4 arrived but, when it did, it was the end product of possibly the best move of the match. Winslow strung together a few passes down their left flank before the ball was pulled back to the left-back who swung over a pinpoint cross for Karwacinski to head powerfully past the keeper. 4-0 and, at this point I really thought that Winslow would get a few more before the end. They almost proved me right when the Amersham keeper spilled a shot to the feet of the on-rushing Butler who somehow managed not to make it 5.
Amersham finally started to throw a few bodies past the halfway line and, combined with Winslow maybe taking their foot off a little, they managed to get a goal back. It took a mistake from the Winslow keeper, who let a ball bobble loose straight to the feet Odiaka, but nevertheless it was a goal back. 4-1 and, suddenly, Amersham players were showing some interest. With only 15 minutes remaining, they were never going to retrieve a game that they lost in the first 50 minutes and Winslow saw out the remainder of their last home game relatively comfortably.
Winslow United - @winslowutdfc
Amersham Town - @amershamtownfc