So, after dropping my dog off at my Mum's, I set off for the village of Morda, just to the South of Oswestry. This was a new ground and two new teams for me, although I have seen Drayton's first team play previously, a 2-0 victory at Bridgnorth just over a year ago (Early Strikes Raise Market Value).
Morda play at Weston Pools Park on the Eastern edge of the village of Morda, just South of Oswestry. The ground is accessed via service road off Weston Road, whcih runs along the length of the pitch. There's a fair sized car park, on the grass between the stand and the changing rooms, and some parking available on the service road, behind one of the goals and in front of the children's play area. The dugouts are sandwiched between the pitch and Weston Road. Directly opposite the dugouts is the main stand, straddling the halfway line. This is quite a large blue structure with a green corrugated roof featuring large wooden steps that can be used for seating. It very much reminded me, in shape, of the spectator stand that you used to be able to get for Subbuteo sets. A sign in club colours on the roof announces this as Weston Pools Park.
Morda has had a football team on and off since the late 19th century. Their biggest honour to date was when they won the Mid Wales League in 1991. However, that team folded to be reformed adn join the Shropshire COunty League in 2020.
Morda had begun the season in fine fashion, winning their first three games. However, following Dawley Town's Friday night victory over Shrewsbury Up & Comers, they went into this game in second place, albeit on goal difference. Drayton Town, a new team for this season, had begun with one of each result, a draw, a defeat and, most recently, a victory after beating Ellesmere Rangers 2-1 in midweek.
One of the downsides to blogging about games further down the pyramid is that it is sometimes difficult to get team information before or even after the game. I'm not one for pestering coaches or referees in the lead up to kick-off, as a former coach myself I know that there are much more important things to do than pander to the needs of annoying blogger. Often you can spot a club official wandering around with the forms, usually in the bar area. However, if you are at a club with no bar, this becomes more difficult. Today was one of those occasions. It's also possible to do a bit of detective work during the game and, of course, goal scorers will also usually be in Full-Time by the time I come to write the blog up. Other players are not so easy to match names to shirt numbers. Obviously, if I do get any more information, I will update the blog accordingly.
As you would expect of a team with a 100% record, Morda started the game in confident style. Following a few minutes of sparring, they began to put their foot on the pedal and take some form of control over the game. As early as six minutes in, new signing Karl Bailey (one of the names I did manage to get), hit a low drive that was wide of the mark. A few minutes later Morda's number 7 lost the ball on the edge of the Drayton box but, showing the kind of tenacity that was to typify Morda's first half display, got up to win it back before driving forward and shooting over the top. If Drayton hadn't already worked it out, this was notice that they were not going to get much time on the ball.
The game had a good tempo to it and whilst Morda were on top in terms of possession and looked physically stronger (I lost count of the number of times Drayton players were fairly shrugged off the ball), the visitors were by no means only here to make up the numbers. When they did get on the ball, they showed they had some guile on the break, especially down their right side.
Halfway through the first period the home right-back took a free-kick from a central point just inside the Drayton half. He lofted the ball towards the penalty area but, after being caught by the wind, the ball sailed over everyone, including the visitor's keeper Owen Skelton, before clipping the top of the bar and going out for a goal kick. A few minute later Morda again demonstrated that they were more than happy to have a go from anywhere when their number 4 rifled one goalward from way out. It didn't trouble the keeper but it was a warning that Drayton could not afford to back off. Then on the half hour mark a long throw from the left caused havoc in the Drayton six-yard box before being hacked clear. The home side were getting closer.
Sure enough, a minute later, Morda took the lead from a through ball that was chased down by debutant Karl Bailey. He beat Skelton to the ball, rode his challenge (which probably saved the keeper from a red card) and calmly slotted the ball into the empty net. 1-0. A great way to announce yourself at your new club.
Despite the fact that the major incidents in the game had all come in the Drayton end, it was not a completely one-sided game. Drayton had showed on a number of occasions that they were lively on the break. However, they did not have the physical presence up front to counteract the strength of Morda defensive line, and lacked the quality of final ball to make a big impact.
HT Morda United 1 Drayton Town 0. Morda happy to be in front but that happiness was no doubt tempered with some disappointment that they are only one goal ahead. That can only give some hope to Drayton, who spent a large proportion of the first period on the defensive.
Drayton had made a tactical change by this time. Their right-back (Number 2) who had caused a few problems with his running in the first half, was pushed further forward and it almost paid dividends in the 72nd minute when he weaved his way towards the home penalty area before seeing his deflected shot well saved by the Morda keeper. Morda responded with a shot of their own, Number 10 on target but couldn't beat the keeper. Attempts were few and far between compared to the first period and it was the visitors who were beginning to look the more likely to score. On 82 minutes Town's number 4 got his head to a free-kick played into the box but once again the home keeper was equals to the effort. Then a minute later, Drayton shot themselves in the foot. I glanced down at my phone with the ball in midfield only to look back up as handbags were being drawn on the pitch. I'm not too sure what had happened but it was obviously not good challenge from Drayton's number 6, which had seriously incensed the home players and bench. Whatever the crime, Numebr 6 knew what was coming and was already making his way towards the bench when the referee produced the red card. Terrible timing for the visitors, who had really started to look as if they may grab an equaliser.
Going down to 10 players certainly took some wind out of their sails. They continued to try to push for a goal but it was now a lost cause.
FT Morda United 1 Drayton Town 0. A very hard fought three points for Morda who maintain their 100% start to the season and go back to the top of the table. However, Drayton pushed them al lth way, especially in the second half when the visitors were arguably the better team.
Should you want to catch either of these teams in action in the coming days, Morda are back at Weston Pools Park on Wednesday evening as they welcome fourth placed Gobowen Celtic. Before that, however, Drayton are back at home on Tuesday as they take on Newport Town, who were beaten 11-0 at home by Church Stretton on Saturday. Then on Saturday Morda make the trip to Wrockwardine Wood Juniors whilst Drayton travel to Wellington as they visit AMS FC.
Local professional photographer Andrew Donnison (@F28online) was also at the game to capture some great shots which you can view by clicking on his name.
Morda United (alphabetical): Bailey, Bowen, Brayne, Gale, Harris, Hall, Hughes, O'Reilly, Richards, Wood, Oliver. Subs: Clarke, Evans, Hayward, Pritchard, Webb
Drayton Town AFC: 1.Skelton, 2. ?, 3.Asterley, 4.Heath, 5.Claydon, 6.?, 7.Downward, 8.?, 9.Cooper, 10.Brown, 16.Hislop
Ground Number: 372