This was not a new ground for me. I previously visited The Redhouse Club back in May 2019 when I saw an end of season clash between Purton and Kintbury Rangers (Purt Symmetry). The ground has not changed in the two years since I visited. It's a nice part of the world and certainly worth a visit for any groundhopper who has not yet been there.
With all four teams in the group having one game left to play, Redhouse topped the table with two wins from two games. Swindon, who I saw at Nalgo last week (Only Ref in Swindon), propped up the group after two defeats. Nalgo and Purton, both on 3 points, have a second place shoot-out next week.
Both sides play in the Swindon & District League, Redhouse in the Premier and Swindon in Division One. When the league was curtailed for last season, both had unbeaten records. Redhouse were fourth, two points shy of leaders The Globe. Swindon, with nine wins and a draw from their ten games, were 7 points clear at the top of their division. The two sides were league-mates in Division 2 during the 2018-19 season, Redhouse doing the double over The Maroons on their way to the league title. The league was reorganised the following season with Division 2 being scrapped. So, Redhouse went straight to the Premier and Swindon became members of Division One.
For the first time in quite a while I watched an evening game kick off without a jacket on. It was a lovely Spring evening in Wiltshire, blue skies (well mostly blue) and some late evening sunshine. Whilst Swindon could not qualify for the Cup knockout phase, they started the game with a considerable verve. This, however, was soon dampened when, on 9 minutes, the home side took the lead. Daniel Axford received the ball inside the Swindon box with his back to goal. He turned sharply and fired a low effort under Miller to make it 1-0
Any thought that Swindon may crumble after going behind early on were soon dispelled. Three minutes after conceding they were level. The ball was played to Jake Good who beat his defender with a deft flick (think Gazza v Scotland in 1996), or was it just a very bad first touch which deceived the defender? We will never know, but let's just call it a sublime piece of skill. Whatever the case, there was no doubt what happened next as Good unleased a low, fizzing drive that beat Mingard to make it 1-1.
Redhouse pushed to get their noses in front again but despite having more of the ball, they could not fin a way past a resolute Swindon defence. They did have what looked to be a strong claim for a penalty after 18 minutes when Valters looked to be the meat in a Swindon defender sandwich, but referee Andrew Lincoln (yes, him again. If he turns up in many more blogs I'm going to haveto pay him royalties) waved away the shouts. Miller was also called on again to deny Duffy from close range a few minutes later.
HT Redhouse 1 Swindon AFC 1. The flurry of goalmouth activity inside the 10-15 minutes around the goals aside, there weren't too many other clear chances. Swindon defied the one division difference between the teams and more than held their own.
With less that 20 minutes remaining Redgouse broke down a Swindon attack and broke with great speed, culminating with Cullen being sent in one on one with Miller. The Swindon stopper, on this occasion, came out on top, pulling off a superb one-hand block. Howevr, 5 minutes later, after great work from Howcut out on the right wing, his inch-perfect cross was headed past Miller into the corner of the net. 2-1
Then, in the 82nd minute, to complete the trumverate of substitute influence, Curtis saw his shot spilled by Miller only for Duffy to pounce and slot home to make it 3-1.
It had taken over 80 minutes, but Redhouse had finally managed to get on top of Swindon. Duffy was definitely up for getting his hat-trick but never really got another clear opportunity and, to be fair, Swindon never gave up the game either.
FT Redhouse 3 Swindon AFC 1. Redhouse finish the group with a 100% record and earn the chance to take on Hatherop in the knockout phase. Swindon, the lowest ranked team in the group, finish in bottom spot. However, that does not tell the whole tale. I have had the pleasure of seeing them play twice now and, in both games, they have looked like a good side with a lot of fight in them. At Nalgo they almost recovered from 4-1 down to get something from the game. Last night they made a very good Redhouse side work extremely hard for the points and at no time in the game coudl you tell they were a divison below their opponents.
I wish both teams the best of luck in the remainder of the tournament and next season. I have feeling I may be seeing more SDFL games in the future.
Redhouse: Mingard, Ricketts, Thackary, Watson, Inount, Valters, Cutler, Khan, R.Curtis, Duffy, Axford. Subs: K.Curtis, Cullen, Howcut
Swindon AFC: Miller, Buckingham, Reece Cass, J.Sawyer, Fisher, Goodd, Diyalou, R.wyer, Carter, Whitham, Street. Subs: Regan Cass, Wells, Bradfield