The setup at Willen Road is quite interesting. After parking up you have to walk past the clubhouse and bar to get to the ground entrance. Upon paying and entering, if you want to get a refreshment or use the conveniences, you need to exit the ground and return to the clubhouse. This must make life difficult for the poor people taking the money. Keeping track of who has paid and who hasn't can't be an easy job. This evening the attendance was less than 100 but I should imagine the visit of Rushden & Diamonds would cause havoc. On either side of the ground there are small covered seating areas. The remainder of the playing area is surrounded by hard standing. As there is a seated area on both sides of the pitch it is impossible for the dugouts to be separated from the bulk of supporters.
Only 12 miles separates the two clubs, so this is a local derby of sorts. When the match kicked off, it did have the feel of a derby game. No quarter was being asked or taken. The home midfield, in particular, were making their mark on the game. Having said that, the first 5 minutes were pretty much dominated by Cogenhoe.
Gradually, Newport Pagnell began to gain a foothold on the game and started to make a couple of chances themselves. They were, however, continuing to fly into tackles. In some cases with a little more vigour than was necessary. On player in particular, Ieuan Riley (don't quote me on that and apologies if I have the wrong player) committed several fouls in the space of a few minutes. The last one, a very late lunge, looked like it deserved a yellow at the very least. The Cogenhoe bench certainly thought so. The referee, however, didn't seem to brandish any cards which was one of may odd decisions that he made during the game (more of that shortly). A few minutes later the payer was substituted which would seem to suggest that his own manager also thought he had been lucky not to get a card.
As I said, the referee had already made a number of baffling decisions. He had let a number of hefty challenges go unpunished but was very pernickety about free-kicks being taken exactly the right spot. He also seemed to lack some consistency, blowing up for an offence one minute but letting an identical offence go a minute later.
Now, I don't like being critical of officials. It's an extremely difficult job that most of us would not want to do. They get abused by both sides and by the supporters, all for a few quid. However, when there is a complete lack of consistency to their decisions, as was the case on Tuesday, the players quickly lose respect for the referee and he/she loses control of the situation quite quickly.
Nevertheless, both sides continued to slug it out throughout the first-half. Neither side made many clear-cut opportunities but there was certainly no lack of effort. At half-time the score was still 0-0, which really reflected the play. A very even game so far.
In the second half I found a vantage point closer to the home bench to see if I got a different perspective of the refereeing decisions.
Seven minutes in and the away side took the lead through a neatly taken Luke Emery effort. This sparked a renewed effort from the home side and, to their credit, they spent the vast majority of the remainder of the game on the front foot. Despite that, however, they never really looked like they would get an equaliser. Their cause was not helped by even more odd decisions from the man in the middle which were beginning to provoke plenty of comment from the home bench. Unfortunately, the more comments that came from the dugout, the more the referee seemed to lean towards the away side. Don't get me wrong here, I am not for one minute suggesting any wrong-doing or bias, but I do think that the referee let the comments from the home side sway his decsison making