To say that Sixways has changed since the 70s is an understatement. The site bears no resemblance to the old rugby ground that I remember. For a start, there is a now a large, four-sided, stadium in place of the old 3rd team rugby pitch. There is a very large car park (partially taken up with a Christmas fairground at the moment) and a David Lloyd gym opposite the main stand. The stadium was originally reconstructed for the Worcester Warriors Rugby Club which plays in the top flight of English club rugby. As such it has close to a 12,000 capacity, electronic scoreboards, restaurants, bars, fan zones and an indoor training centre. Raiders moved into the stadium last year after Warriors' co-owners became majority owners of the football club. Previously they were ground-sharing with Worcester City at Claines Lane.
For the purpose of football it seems that only the largest stand, the East Stand, is open to the paying public. Entry to the ground is only through ticket, which needs to be purchased at the ticket office window under the East Stand. There is a bar at the top of the stand, open on match days.
It's quite an impressive stadium, very impressive for a Step 6 football team. The floodlights, which are in the shape of a W, can be controlled to create a sort of light show, used to good effect when the teams emerge and when Raiders score. The South Stand has the letters WRFC outlined by the seat colours. Presumably this was originally for Worcester Rugby Football Club but works equally as well for Worcester Raiders Football Club.
Being 3G the pitch is, of course, perfectly flat. Interestingly, there are no dugouts as such. Some chairs had been provided for the visitors with the Raiders substitutes and staff sitting in the seats behind the coaches technical area. I couldn't find fault with Sixways as a stadium. It's modern and clean, has easy access and plenty of parking. However, as the blog title suggests, it takes a little getting used to at this level. I actually enjoy standing at the side of a muddy pitch watching football. This felt a little too clan and today for my particular taste. having said that, you have to admire what they are doing at Sixways and, with the team currently top of the league, who knows where it will take them? After all, the rugby club were playing in the sixth tier 30 years ago.
This is the first season that these two teams have been in the same division and, with no evidence that they have met in any FA competitions, the meeting between them on the opening day appears to be the only other time they have faced each other. That game saw Raiders win 3-1 at Wildsmith Meadow, despite having Jaber Ahmed sent off.
The game set the tome for both team's seasons to a certain extent. Raiders have gone from strength to strength losing just four out of eighteen before this game and sitting atop the Hellenic Division One table. Newent came into the game with four wins from their nineteen games but had won two and drawn one of their last four league outings, including a 4-1 demolition of high-flying FC Stratford who were, at that time, top of the league. They also recently progressed in the Gloucestershire FA Trophy with a 3-0 defeat of Western League rivals Tytherington Rocks, a game that BotP watched last week (Cooper Has Rocks Over A Barrel)
In a very lively opening few minutes it was the visitors who created the first real chance of the game when after just 2 minutes, star striker Jordan Cooper was set free on the left of the box. His cross-shot beat Young but went wide of the far post. Very much a warning shot across the boughs of Raiders. They responded accordingly and, two minutes later, came close themselves when Richard Smith put a header narrowly over Goode's bar. Two minutes after that the home side came even closer when, following a left-wing corner, all sorts of chaos ensued in the Newent six-yard box, with the ball seemingly scrambled off the line a couple of times before The Daffs finally managed to clear completely. The melee left home striker Connor Deards in a heap behind the goal and, after some treatment, he was replaced.
The relief for Newent was short-lived however. Just before the 10 minute mark the home side took the lead with a very well crafted goal. Captain Logan Stoddart, who was to have a very mixed evening, produced a superb, raking cross-field pass from just about the halfway line, finding Kai Mahon. The former Cheltenham Saracens player chested the ball down, cut inside and fired past Goode to make it 1-0. On the face of it a simple goal, one long ball, two more touches and a shot. However, there was a great deal of skill in both the pass from Stoddart and the initial take and control from Mahon.
Raiders were now on top. Their combination play, mixing some short passing moves with the occasional long ball down either flank, was making life difficult for Newent. After 20 minutes the home side's efforts paid off again and it was more individual skill that created the goal. Isaac Cooper somehow managed to twist and turn his way free in the centre of the penalty area before rounding Goode and sliding the ball into the net. 2-0.
In all honesty there were few Newent chances in the first half although they did manage to stretch Ryan Young just past the half-hour mark. Once again it was Jordan Cooper with the effort, turning sharply on the edge of the box and firing in a good shot that Young had to dive to his right in order to palm away.
HT Worcester Raiders 2 Newent Town 0. A good half from the home side who took control for most of the 45 minutes. Their pressing from the front, attacking play and range of passing has caused a lot of problems for The Daffs.
Despite the man advantage and, not surprisingly, having a lot more possession than in the first half, Newent still struggled to create clear opportunities. Their best efforts seemed to come down the right flank where they managed to whip in a few crosses. One of these was met by a glancing Jordan Cooper header but the ball drifted wide of the far post without Young having to make a stop.
Raiders reorganised their ranks well at the back and seemed quite happy to protect their two goal lead whilst launching the occasional raid forward. When they did break, they looked dangerous. Goode had to still be on his guard and was called into action when stand-in skipper Joe Billingham tested him from range.
Raiders are a good footballing side but also have an edge to them. Mahan, who got the first goal, picked up a yellow in the second half and could count himself lucky that he hadn't already had one for an offence in the first half. That said, the way that Raiders set themselves up after going down to 10 was admirable. In fact, towards the end of the game, it was Raiders who looked the more likely to add to their tally with both Smith and Simmonds calling Goode into action. The Newent keeper, however, was in no mood to have his goal breached again, producing two very good blocks.
FT Worcester Raiders 2 Newent Town 0. Raiders did the damage in the first half and, despite being down to 10 men for the majority of the second, managed the game effectively to gain the three points. No game for Raiders on Saturday but they host Moreton Rangers at Sixways next Wednesday evening. Newent, meanwhile, host Clanfield 85 on Saturday, their last game of 2021.
Worcester Raiders: Young, L.Stoddart(c), White, Carey, J.Stoddart, Stratford, Cooper, Billingham, Smith, Deards, Mahan. Subs: Thompson, Ahmed, Yates, Simmonds, Mountjoy
Newent Town: Goode(c), Guinane, Griffiths, Brown, Barry, Woodward, Nutting, Davies, Cooper, Weir, Bevan. Subs: Coakley, Pemberton, Evans
Ground Number: 295