Although this was my first view of the Easter Counties League it was not my first encounter with Godmanchester Rovers. In October I had seem them progress in the Hinchinbrooke Cup by beating Potton United 2-1 in Bedfordshire. Since that evening I had been pencilling in a trip to Godmanchester, so this was a good a chance as any.
Godmanchester's stadium since 2002, The David Wilson Homes Ground, is situated just outside the town and is sandwiched between two farms, Bearcroft Farm and Dexters Farm. Access to the ground is via a small lane, Bearcroft Lane, which is very easy to miss especially on a spring evening when it is starting to get dark but there are no floodlights on to guide you. There is a reasonable sized car park adjacent to the ground with plenty of stewards around to guide you to a spot.
Access into the stadium is through a single entrance gate which brings you into the ground next to one of the corner flags. The facilities are all along the Bearcroft Lane side of the ground. They include a clubhouse, snack bar, toilet facilities and, of course, the players and officials areas. The actual pitch is raised slightly above the level of the clubhouse and is accessed via a few steps. There are three covered areas around the ground. Two seating areas and the Bearcroft Lane side and a covered standing area to the right of the goal (as you look at it) at the car park end of the ground. The dugouts are situated on the far side of the ground, opposite the main stand.
It was Rovers who started the brighter and should have taken the lead inside the first 5 minutes when Parr somehow managed to let the visitors off the hook with a close range, unmarked header. Seven minutes later the home side were rueing their missed chance when they went behind to a very nicely taken goal. The ball was played to Felixstowe number 10, Jordan Matthews, who turned his man sharply, drove on and hit a crisp, low shot which beat the home keeper at his near post.
The goal seemed to spur on the home side and they immediately set about getting back into the game. Just past the twenty minute mark the Felixstowe keeper was called into action and did very well to push a stinging drive over the bar. The respite, however, was short-lived. From the resulting corner a header crashed against the foot of the post and Luke Brown absolutely hammered the rebound into the net. It was all Rovers at this point and, possibly due to a forced reshuffle at the back, Felixstowe were really struggling to cope with the crosses and set plays of the home side.
On 38 minutes another cross, this time from the right, was met at the far post and headed back into the mix. This caused more chaos in the away defence and Parr, making up for his earlier miss, rifled the ball into the roof of the net to put Gdmanchester 2-1 up. Two absolutely ruthless finishes from the home side.
The score remained the same up until half-time and, on the balance of play, it was a deserved lead for Rovers. However, you still had the feeling that the match could go either way and so it was to prove quite early in the second period.
The Seasiders came out for the second half, after clearly getting a rocket at half-time, searching for an equaliser. They didn't have to wait too long. Ten minutes in a long ball down the left flank was chased down by the visiting number 9 who did exceptionally well to work his way into the box and lay the ball back for Matthews to finish the move off with his, and Felixstowe's, second of the night.
Hyem, though, was to have the last word in this battle. It was his lung-bursting run onto a slide rule Luke Brown pass which saw the midfielder hauled down as he tried to round the keeper. Brown stepped up and, in the style of Igor Balis at Bradford a few years back, hammered the ball low to the keepers right for what turned out to be the winner.
With 8 minutes plus injury time left, Felixstowe were certainly not giving up and, to give them their dues, they pushed Rovers back deeper and deeper for the remainder of the game. However, the home goal was not severely threatened in this time and the referee called an end to proceeding with the score still 3-2.
As I said at the start of this blog, this was my first venture into the Eastern Counties League. If these two teams are anything to go by, it certainly won't be my last though. Two very good sides who both tried to win the game. It was a thoroughly entertaining evening and, as I tweeted at full-time, worth £6 of anyone's money.
Good luck to both sides in the future.
Godmanchester Rovers - @goddyroversfc
Felixstowe & Walton United - @felixseasiders