Colney Heath is a village just to the South-East of St Albans and South West of Hatfield. The football club plays its home games at the Colney Heath Recreation Ground just off the village High Street, accessed via a long service road which, at the end closest to the ground also provides parking spaces for supporters. There is parking within the ground itself, but this is limited to players and officials. Access is via a single gate in the Southern corner of the ground. Directly in front as you enter is the clubhouse which incorporates the bar, snack bar and changing areas. Running along the front of the clubhouse, separated by a narrow walkway, there is a covered seating area. Just past the clubhouse are the dugouts. There are no further covered areas. The pitch slopes from the car park end downwards. However, depending on where you stand, the slope doesn't appear to be too bad. It looks worse from the higher end for some reason. One little quirk I noticed about Colney's ground is that the home dugout is substantially larger than the away one. Is this a little bit of Wimbledon style psyching out of the opposition?
Last season, when the football season was prematurely cut short, Colney Heath were sitting proudly on top of the Spartan South Midlands Premier. Consequently, they began this season as one of the favourites to gain promotion. The season had begun well too. Prior to this Tuesday night game, Heath sat in third spot but only a point shy of the leaders Eynesbury Rovers and second placed Biggleswade United. With Rovers not playing a Heath win combined Biggleswade failing to beat Harpenden, would see The Magpies go top of the league again. However, first of all they had to overcome this evening's visitors from up the M1. Newport Pagnell were in fourth when last season ended, they played Heath once last season, a 1-1 draw at Willen Road. This season the Swans had had a reasonable start, sitting ninth but only six points adrift of Heath in third.
Many thanks to the Colney Heath committee member, scratchcard salesman, and stadium announcer who allowed me to take photos of the team sheets prior to the game.
Kicking down the slope, it was the home side who quickly established some dominance in terms of possession. Strike pair, George Device and Jack Woods looked very lively but the Swans defence, marshalled by Adam Pryke was very well drilled and looked capable of dealing with everything being thrown at them.
It wasn't all Colney Heath though, Newport Pagnall did have some threat going forward, especially on the right hand side where Ogawale was seeing quite a lot of the ball. However, as with the visitors defence, the home back-line was also very capable of dealing with everything they were dealt. The consequence of this was that neither goalkeeper was unduly stretched in the opening 40 minutes of the game. However, both goalkeepers had some involvement in the opening goal. A long clearance from home stopper Connor Samson cleared the Swans backline but their keeper, Thomas Wyant, was quick off his line to clear the ball before George Devine could latch on to it. His clearance did not get too far and fell to Jack Woods on the right flank. He must have been tempted to go for goal with the keeper out of position but he cleverly squared for strike partner Devine who steadied himself and finished well past the keeper and a defender on the line. 1-0
HT Colney Heath 1 Newport Pagnell Town 0. Both defences had been dominating the game. Just the one slip-up from the away side and they find themselves a goal down at the break.
That proved to be something of a turning point in the game. Newport Pagnell started to get the ball down and play more, forcing the home side back. Colney were forced into playing more and more long balls and, whilst Devine and Woods were willing runners, Pryke and his defensive mates were finding it relatively easy to repel their advances and start more waves of green attacks.
Unlike in the first half, some raids were starting to break through the Magpies defence and Sansom was called upon a few times to save the day but as the game approached the closing stages it was looking as if the home ide may just hang on.
That was until the 84th minute when Newport Pagnell won a free-kick just outside the right-hand edge of the penalty area. Up stepped Ben Shepherd to place a superb effort over the wall and into Sansom's top right corner. 1-1. A splendid strike and no more than The Swans deserved for their efforts.
FT Colney Heath 1 Newport Pagnell Town 1. In all honesty, a game short of finesse, but not lacking in effort from either side. Both defences were in control for the majority of the game and neither side seemed to be able to find the creativity to break them down. Shepherd's free-kick was the one moment of real quality in the game.
As for the blog title, yes I know Devine is not quite the correct spelling but, seriously, this close to Christmas the scorer's names were just too good to miss the opportunity. Everyone loves a tabloid style headline, don't they?
Colney Heath: Sansom, Knaggs, Clifton, Lovell, Boodhoo, Standan, Griffin, Clarke-Mardel(c), Woods, O'Connor, Devine. Subs: Jewell, Jessop, Mealing, Fitzgerald, Shepherd
Newport Pagnell Town: Wyant, Smith, Sage, Smail, Pryke, Shepherd, Ogawale, Ford, Burnside, Lyon(c), Stronge. Subs: Idiakhoa, Lynch, Wilett
Ground Number: 255