An unexpected opportunity to take in a Saturday game presented itself this morning. So, the question was, which game should I go to?. Actually, the first question was, which games are on? I had already seen a number of games fall foul of the weather, so I scanned Twitter and various websites in search of a match within reach. My wife and daughter decided that they wanted to take a look at the sales, so they offered to drop me and pick me up from a game. That helped me to make a decision, narrowing the choice down to somewhere near a shopping centre. Milton Keynes looked the best option and, as luck would have it, there was an opportunity to take in a new ground as well as venture into Step 7, something I can only really do at weekends because most Step 7 sides don't have floodlights.
So, Loughton Manor it was then. They were due to entertain second-placed title-chasers, Amersham Town and, thankfully, had already confirmed that the match had survived the recent downpours.
Having already tweeted my intention to go to the game, I was halfway to the ground when I received a DM from none other than @footballmk, who I have had many interactions with in the past but never met in person. @footballmk is the 'go to' Twitter account for anything football related in Milton Keynes and North Buckinghamshire. f you don't already follow the account, stop reading this, get onto Twitter and get following - then come back to this match blog, of course.
A little about Loughton Manor's ground, The Pavilion, but to be honest, there isn't too much to say. Situated a short distance from the centre of Milton Keynes (luckily for my wife's shopping trip), it is part of the Loughton Sports & Social Club, incorporating football and cricket. The clubhouse building houses the bar, players and officials areas and the obligatory (and much needed) Snack bar, in this case called Macca's Shak. There are no covered areas around the ground, but there is a patio outside the club with benches and tables. Dugouts are just to the side of the clubhouse patio and that, as they say, is it as far as ground features go. The pitch itself slopes from right to left as you look at it from the club house. The pitch was certainly playable but, with all of the recent rain, was very much on the heavy side.
With 16 minutes on the clock, The Magpies got the breakthrough. Leonardo Pedro was sent clear on the left, he drove towards the box, cut inside and fired in a low drive past Radford into the far corner. 0-1.
Anyone expecting Amersham to push on from this point would have been sorely disappointed. In fact their lead lasted barely four minutes before centre-half Jim Palmer was first to react when the ball ran loose in the Amersham box. He gleefully drove the ball past Turner and we were all level at 1-1.
The rest of the half continued in the same vein. Amersham certainly tried to react to the equaliser and, in fairness, they did make the better chances but Radford was equal to their efforts and, when he was beaten towards the end of the half, there was a defender around to scramble the ball clear.
HT Loughton Manor 1 Amersham Town 1. A fair reflection of the first-half action. Neither side managed to take control of the game but, as a neutral, it was entertaining enough given the conditions.
Loughton captain Jacob Hack then forced Turner into a fingertip save to push over his fierce long-range effort. This was a warning of what was to come for Amersham and not long afterwards, in the 81st minute, they found themselves behind. A corner from the left was lofted to the far post where Jim Davey rose highest to place his header into the net. 2-1
Once more an Amersham onslaught was expected but, if anything, it was Loughton Manor who looked the more likely to score again. Amerhsam did manage one last effort on target but Radford was, again, equal to it and shortly afterwards the referee blew for full-time.
FT Loughton Manor 2 Amersham Town 1. A good result for Manor, edging the game with a battling performance. A setback for Amersham in their pursuit of Park View. It will seem like an even bigger chance missed given that Park View were held to a 1-1 draw by bottom side Clean Slate.
Given the conditions and what looked like a very sapping pitch, both sides gave the assembled supporters a good afternoon of football. Certainly, from a neutral perspective, it was an enjoyable game. It was also great to finally catch up with @footballmk and spend and afternoon chatting about all things football. I am sure our paths will cross again, which is just as well since I am indebted to the tune of one cup of tea.
Loughton Manor: Radford, Smith, Proctor, Collins, Palmer, Greenhargh, Bailey, Hack (c), Davey, Wigg-Booden, Sofroni. Sub(s): Whitcomb
Amersham Town: Turner, Wallis. Mongston, Koomson, Laville, Ajayi, Aldred, Squires-Adams, Pedro, Washington, Asare. Subs: Zeroual, Henry, Debayo, Lamboh.
Ground Number: 146
Programme: Non Available