Walton's ground is part of a large sports complex which offers a gym, sports hall, swimming, squash, indoor climbing, athletics and more, as well as they state of the art football stadium and 3G pitch. There is ample free parking available adjacent to the ground which is accessed through a turnstile in the corner of the stadium. There is, I believe at least one more entrance turnstile for busier times. All of the facilities are on the athletics track side of the ground, to your left as you enter. There is a fairly large stand which also incorporates the clubhouse and bar (on the top floor). There is also a separate snack bar at ground level, next to the turnstile block. The rest of the ground is given to wide hard-standing. Dugouts are on the far side, opposite the main stand. It's a very tidy and clean stadium, as you would expect for a comparatively new facility.
As with all new stadia, especially ones that have artificial surfaces, it does lack some character at the moment, but maybe this will come as the ground ages.
Before kick-off the teams were sitting next to each other in the Southern League Premier South table. Casuals occupied 11th spot, a point and a place above Hayes & Yeading but having played 5 games more than their visitors. Casuals came into the game having won 3 and drawn three of their last 10 games, a significant improvement on the start to the season where they had lost their opening 5 games. Their current mid-table spot had seemed a long way off in September.
Hayes & Yeading were promoted as Champions of the Isthmian Division One last season but also transferred into the Southern League at the same time. Therefore, there was no game between these sides last season. Recent form for United was pretty good, having won 6 of their last 10 outings in the league.
Both sides started the game very well, knocking the ball around fluidly on the perfect artificial surface. I've said before that I am not the biggest fan of 3G pitches but I can certainly see their advantage, especially to non-league clubs who need to make full use of their facilities and for getting games played when grass pitches were being deemed unfit all across the country.
Casuals were forced to make an early substitution after David Fitzpatrick picked up a knock and, despite trying to continue, was taken off after 20 minutes. He was replaced by Cheyce Grant.
The lead was not to last long though as United responded brilliantly, hitting back within three minutes of going behind. A move down the left ending with the ball being squared across the six yard box to give James Clark the simplest of tap-ins to equalise. 1-1
Maybe the quick response was just what United needed and knocked a bit of the stuffing out of Casuals because, as the half drew to a close, it was the away side who seemed to finishing the stronger of the two.
HT Walton Casuals 1 Hayes & Yeading United 1. The half was as tight as the scoreline suggests with very little choose between the sides at the break, although United did seem to be growing stronger as the half progressed.
To their credit, United scented blood and were immediately back in possession from kick-off almost snatching a third goal two minutes after going in front. Casuals were wobbling at the back and 10 minutes into the second-half, following some more lax defending that allowed Rowe to win the ball back inside The Stags 18 yard area, they found themselves two goals behind. Rowe's effort in winning the ball set up Scott Donnelly who shaped a delightfully calm finish past Tokarczyk and into the lower far corner of the net. 1-3
Hayes & Yeading were in full flow now and it is to the credit of Walton that they managed to steady the ship somewhat despite being pushed back time and time again, they at lest managed to stem the flow of goals. However, they weren't making any real inroads up front. Substitute James Ewington saw an effort skim Smith's right-hand post but that was as close as they came. That was until the 82nd minute when, inexplicably, there was all manner of miss-kicks and miscues from both sides inside the United box. Eventually the ball fell to another substitute, Charlie Fox, who was left with the simple task of rolling the ball into an unguarded net. 2-3 and still maybe enough time for an onslaught on the United goal? Unfortunately for the home side that never transpired and their task was made even harder when they lost Wayne Brown to injury after already using all three subs. Down to 10 men and still chasing the game, they inevitably left some gaps which United tried to exploit. They came very close in the closing minutes when Sheppard's dipping shot beat Tokarczyk but came crashing back off the bar.
FT Walton Casuals 2 Hayes & Yeading United 3. A decent game of football for the neutral. United just about deserved the points on the basis of their very strong showing for the first 30 minutes of the second half.
Walton Casuals: Tokarczyk(c), Atkinson, Mason, Pearce, Gasson, Brown, Skinner, Gogonas, Howe, Fitzpatrick, Gordon. Subs: Ewington, Grant, Gyebi, Fox
Hayes & Yeading United: Smith, Renee, Little, Robinson, McDevitt(c), McCreadie, Donnelly, Sheppard, Clark, Rowe, Williams. Subs: Obi, Toomey, Piorkowski, Hanlon, Weight
Ground Number: 222