Romulus are now into their second season back at Castle Vale Stadium. The ground is situated just to the East of Birmingham almost alongside the M6. There is plenty of parking adjacent to the stadium which was particularly welcome on such a cold and blustery day. The ground is very typical of the newer style of football stadium, with a 3G surface surrounded by green mesh fencing and tarmac walkways. There is a single 300-seater stand which also incorporates the club house on the top floor with commanding views over the pitch. Tea and snacks are provided by a portable kiosk also on the car park side of the stadium. Although I couldn't see anywhere that team sheets had been displayed, the club did tweet out both team sheets well in advance of kick-off, something I am sure all neutrals and visitors find most welcome.
One of the reasons that I chose this game, apart from the Vase game at Atherstone being postponed, was that both sides were having a good season and were close together in the league. A recipe for a closely contested and entertaining game. Well, I got one but the conditions rather scuppered the other. Before kick-off Flowserve were holding sway as far as league position went. The Highwaymen, who two seasons ago were in the Central Midlands League, sat in third position with 51 points from their 27 games. Two places and two points below them were Romulus, having played the same number of games. One pointer towards predicting a result for this game was that Romulus had won the reverse fixture 2-0 up in Nottinghamshire in October.
As is normal for me, I headed to the furthest point of the ground to watch the first half. The problem with this plan was that it took me away from the shelter of the stand and the assorted offices and storage sheds on the car park side and over to the open, windswept side of the ground. Despite the clear blue skies earlier in the day, Storm Jorge was beginning to make its mark. The wind was definitely getting up and it had a biting edge to it. We were also treated to a very brief shower of hail. Frankly, it was bloody freezing.
From a scrappy start it was Newark who were the first to show and came mightily close to taking the lead as early as the 9th minute when a short corner routine gave Lewis Brownhill a sight of goal from just inside the corner of the penalty area. His shot beat Fenney but crashed off the bar and flew to safety. Little did we know that this would be the only effort on goal in the first half.
The remainder of the half became more of a battle against the elements rather then the teams. Both battled in vain to get some momentum going but on every occasion the wind won the day. They were, however, very clearly quite evenly matched sides who given better conditions would have provided an entertaining clash.
HT Romulus 0 Newark Flowserve 0. Aside from Brownhill's early effort that struck the bar neither keeper had a save to make.
Ten minutes into the half Romulus should really have gone in front after a move up the right provided Kieran Donnelly with a gilt-edged chance some 8 yards out. However, his effort lacked power and easily held by Smith-Eccles in the Flowserve goal.
The next real piece of action, certainly from my perspective was in the 77th minute. Seven months and 31 games into the season and I finally got to see my first sin-bin offence when home captain Alex Tomlinson was ordered off by the referee for what I can only imagine was a second case of dissent. Anyone who thought this may give the advantage to Newark would have been wrong though as the home side appeared to be galvanised by the loss of their number 10. They pushed forward and four minutes later forced a corner on the right. The ball was swung in with the wind towards the back post where Callum Rudd rose highest to power a header back towards the goal. The ball was hacked clear by a defender but the assistant's flag was up immediately to say that the ball had crossed the line. No VAR here, so it was 1-0 to the home side.
There was still time for me to see my second sin bin of the season when Newark also had a player ordered off after 86 minutes, this time for comments made to the assistant referee.
FT Romulus 1 Newark Flowserve 0. Two fairly evenly matched sides both defeated by Storm Jorge. The wind ruined the game but Romulus won't really care after lifting themselves into fourth spot in the table. I need to find time to watch both of these sides again on a day when they are not hampered by the conditions. I have a feeling that both are capable of much more than they showed this weekend.
Romulus: Fenney, Llonga, Haynes, Weale, Rudd, Clarke, Donnelly, O'Callaghan, Willis, Tomkinson(c), Archer. Subs: Spink, Rowe, Devgill-Cross, O'Neill, Nadat
Newark Flowserve: Smith-Eccles, White, Potts(c), Gorman, Greenwood, Hollis, Meadows, Dixon, Hutchinson, Brownhill, Goodson. Subs: McDonald, Barrow, Phillip, Robinson, Cotton
Ground Number: 230
Programme: £1.00 (normally £2.00 but this week black & white edition only)