Somersham, The Westenders, unsurprisingly play their home games at The West End Ground on the Western extremities of the village. The ground sits just off the High Street behind West End Garage and has been home to the club since they purchased the land in 1960. There is a good sized car park at the ground, although locals tend to avoid parking too close behind the clubhouse end goal for obvious reasons. The clubhouse itself looks straight down the ground which features two covered spectator areas. On the West End side, to the left of the club house, there is a small covered standing area. Opposite this there is another covered stand which also incorporates the dugouts. The pitch looked to be pretty flat, if not quite dry following the recent hot spell. It also appears that there is a thriving mole population locally. Largely bounded by trees and greenery, there is very much a rural feel to the ground. Not too surprising given it's location.
Last season these two sides were two divisions apart. Somersham, formed in 1893, dropped into Senior A after finishing second from bottom in the Premier League last season. The club played at Step 6, Eastern Counties Division One, between 1988 and 2004 before joining the Cambridgeshire League.
AFC Emneth, only formed in 2017 and originally playing in the North West Norfolk structure under the name AFC Warpole, came up from Senior B last season, winning the league at a canter. They finished 12 points ahead of second-placed Cambridge University Press Reserves and only lost twice in the league, including a 100% home record. This seems to have been their third consecutive promotion, rising from League 2B, through 1B and the Senior B last season.
My research also found a couple of interesting facts about Emneth. Firstly, Farmer Tony Martin, who was famously convicted for the murder of a burglar at his farm in 1999, lived in Emneth Hungate. Secondly, The Reverend Wilbert Awdry, creator of Thomas the Tank Engine wrote many of his books whilst living in the old vicarage in Emneth. This was of particular interest to me because my daughter went through a phase of reading every Thomas book some years back. We still have a cupboard full of them.
The visitors, resplendent in Palermo-esque pink shirts, had clearly come with a game plan and were quick to establish their own style of play. A sharp passing game when in possession complemented with a high press when out of possession. It became obvious early on that they were very well drilled with every player knowing exactly what their responsibilities were in all phases of play. The hosts in their all blue kit (were both sides playing in change kits?), struggled to find a rhythm and were not allowed to settle at all by their visitors.
As Emneth started to get their range Toby Allen gave us a brief glimpse of what was to come when he stung the hands of Ryan Wilson with a rasping drive on 13 minutes. Not to be outdone though, Somersham came close three minutes later when Robert Read's looping effort landed on the roof of the Emneth net. It was to be the closest they came for some time as The Honey Badgers began to take control of the game.
With 17 minutes gone a flowing Emneth move was partially halted by the home defence but, when the ball was fed back to Luke Cable his curling, deep cross eluded both defenders and goalkeeper to find Jake Miller lurking at the back post. 0-1.
The visitors were now well into their stride, stroking the ball around and looking dangerous. However, to be fair to Somersham, they stood firm at the back. That was until just before the clock ticked over the half-hour mark when Niall Burton got hold of the ball around halfway. He drove forward before lofting a ball in behind the defence for Brendan Burton to run onto. He used his pace to beat his defender before sliding the ball past Wilson. 0-2
Emneth were rampant now. Another fast paced attack saw Burton unleash a drive from the edge of the area which took a slight deflection off a defender before hitting the far post and going for a corner. Somersham cleared the resulting corner but their relief was short-lived when on 33 minutes Emneth grabbed a third goal with almost a carbon copy of their first. Once again Cable was given way too long to measure a deep cross. The only difference was that this time it was the head of Toby Allen that guided the ball into the net. 0-3
Shell-shocked Somersham managed to re-group and in the 42nd minute Read, who had created their best chance so far, was played in on left but although his low drive beat Groves, it also beat the far post. A little hope for the hosts though. It showed they could cause Emneth some problems.
However, if going in three down at the break wasn't bad enough, Emneth were not quite finished and, once again the danger came from the right. This time it was a long throw into the box, nodded on and finished by a brave diving header from Luke Ablett. 0-4
HT Somersham Town 0 AFC Emneth 4. A superb display of attacking prowess from the visitors. Quick, accurate passing and clinical finishing. Somersham never got going and didn't help themselves by giving the ball away cheaply and not closing down the Emneth players quickly enough. A bit of a nightmare for the hosts but, as a neutral, the Emneth performance was a joy to watch.
It was clear from comments overheard from their players in the first half that Somersham had identified some of their problems early on, one of which was giving the ball back to Emneth too cheaply. However, if they had planned to correct this, the plan fell apart as early as the ninth minute of the second period when, attempting to play out from the back, the Ementh high press once again forced them into turning over possession. Brendan Burton won the ball back, fed it inside to Toby Allen and he duly obliged by sweeping the ball home. 0-5
A minute later it was almost a sixth and this time it was all the making of the visitors, or more specifically substitute Joel Mattless. He was teed up by a cut back from Allen before unleashing a thunderous drive which crashed off the Somersham bar. It was some strike met with a comment of "Thank god that never went in" from the Emneth Twitter feed who were clearly enjoying themselves now.
The reprieve didn't last too long though. The Somersham bar had only just stopped rattling when 8 minutes later Emneth did make it six. It was another substitute, Jamie Leet, who applied the finishing touch after being fed the chance by Allen. 0-6. The visitor's second-half display was not as dominant as the first, although their levels of effort didn't seem to drop. Somersham, however, are made of strong stuff and, despite the score line their heads didn't seem to drop. They plugged away and made one or two more chances in the second half, almost thwarted by the well organised Honey Badgers defence. As a neutral I wanted Town to at least get a consolation for their efforts and it was, in fact, a Somersham player who got the final goal of the night. Unfortunately, on an evening when nothing went their way, it was scored at the wrong end. An Emneth corner was delivered into the mix from the right where it clipped the head of a Town defender on it's way into the net. 0-7 OG.
FT Somersham Town 0 AFC Emneth 7. Most of the damage was done in the first half when Emneth were irresistible at times. If they can keep this level of energy up in all of their games, they are going to take some stopping this season. Both sides are back in action on Saturday. Emneth travel to Soham Town Rangers Reserves whilst Somersham have the chance to restart their season as they welcome Cherry Hinton Reserves to the West End.
Somersham Town: Wilson, Hisher, L.Sterna, Harris, Bellchamber(c), Neal, D.Sterna, Whitfield, Hodson, Read, Wiggins-Browne. Subs: Morris, Asby, Meads, Browne
AFC Emneth: Groves, Cable, Ablett, Hall, Ogden(c), Reed, Hinton, Miller, B.Burton, N.Burton, Allen. Subs: Whyatt, Hopkisson, Leet, Mattless, Wright
Ground Number: 321