Belstone's Medburn Ground is situated just outside the village of Radlett, One time home of the likes of George Michael, Simon Cowell, Alison Moyet and a number of Premier League players. The ground lies alongside of the most famous street names in the country, Watling Street and is accessed directly off this road. Payment is at the gate as you enter the large car park (there's also an overflow area). In the corner of the car park is the main facility block which houses the clubhouse, player and officials areas. It also has a patio area which sits slightly raised above pitch level, giving a good view of the match. The pitch is lengthways on from the car park. There's a small corrugated iron stand, called The Stand, on the right hand side as you look from the club. This is the only spectator cover apart from the lee of the clubhouse on the patio. The dugouts are situated opposite The Stand. The pitch looked in very good condition and, it should be noted that this applied to the small sided pitches, of which there were many, situated alongside the main pitch. All looked to be very well tended. Great to see a club providing good facilities for the junior teams too.
The programme is an eight page, full colour, glossy magazine which is included in the price of admission. Sensibly handed out in the clubhouse on a day when it was about to hammer down. It contains the usual squad lists, plus notes from manager Aaron Lincoln, a club history page, honours page and a player profile. A very well produced and professional looking effort.
This season is Belstone's 12th in the top flight of the Herts Senior County League, after gaining promotion by means of a second place finish in their 2011-12 Division One campaign. Since then they have won the league twice, 2014-15 and 2021-22, as well as taking the runners-up spot on three occasions, most latterly last season. Oracle Components are only playing their second season in the top flight. They two gained promotion from a second place finish and followed that up with twelfth spot last season.
The two meetings last season were as contrasting as the league positions this term. The first game of the season at the Medburn ended in a 1-0 away with for Oracle. A Martin Waters goal being the difference. However, by the time they met again, in April, the teams were at opposite ends of the table. Belstone stormed to a 9-0 win at Allenburys Sports Ground with Joel Bell hitting four goals.
The teams were coming into this game with very contrasting 100% records. Whilst Oracle sat third from bottom after losing their first three games, Belstone were in second spot after five straight wins. They were only kept off top spot by means of a point gained by Chipperfield Corinthians in their game extra.
Kick off at the Medburn was accompanied by a lightning display and loud claps over thunder directly overhead. The viewing public were thankful for The Stand and the cover provided by the clubhouse and patio umbrellas. Some even stood with their own umbrellas. Brave in that weather (I once saw lighting arc off a tree and hit an umbrella, throwing the person holding it a good ten feet. He was fine, I hasten to add).
The weather may have been dull but not the home side, who looked bright from the very first kick. They set about Oracle with the vigour and confidence you would expect from a team second in the league. Five minutes in a Kaci Henry free-kick was deflected wide by a defender and, from the resulting corner, the ball had to be headed off the goal line by another Oracle defender. With less than ten on the clock it was Fawaz Babalola's turn to have a go, bringing a good save (the first of many) from Oracle keeper Colby Butler. Even at this early stage it was apparent that this was going to be a long afternoon for Oracle and a busy one for their goalkeeper. That point was further emphasised on 14 minutes when Remel Larwood's deflected effort had to be well saved by Butler, who could easily have been wrong-footed by the sudden change of ball direction.
Just past the quarter hour though, Oracle did give the home side a little reminder that they weren't going to have everything their way, winning a free kick on the edge of the box. Captain Iain Green hit the target but straight at Connor Freeman, who made a comfortable save. The visitors came even closer two minutes later when Sam Elliot got a glancing header onto a free-kick, only to see it go narrowly wide, apparently getting a slight deflection on the way. The referee's decision of corner caused some consternation with the locals but it came to nothing in the end.
After those slight scares, Belstone regained control and produced a lovely flowing move on 19 minutes which culminated in John Gyabaah's volley not having enough power to beat Butler. Two minutes later wing-back Brandon Bernhauser produced a delightful cross from the left which was met by the head of marauding right-back Harvie Gardiner. Once again Butler was equal to the challenge but the feeling of an imminent home goal was building. Bernhauser was next to be frustrated by Butler when his speculative effort took a nasty hop in front of the keeper, but he still managed to scoop it away.
However, Butler's efforts could only keep the home side out for so long and on the half-hour mark the time came. Although it took an equal piece of brilliance from a home player to finally beat him. A short corner move on the right saw the ball rolled to Kaci Henry who cut the ball onto his left foot before curling an unstoppable effort into the opposite top corner. 1-0.
Once this goal had gone in I, and many of the locals, probably thought the floodgates would open. However, despite their territorial advantage, Belstone could not muster another goal before the break.
HT Belstone 1 Oracle Components 0. The home side well on top but with only one goal in it, Oracle won't feel out of the game. Belstone will be disappointed not to further ahead but that is mainly down to the visitor's keeper.
We then had quite a delay after a clash of heads between Gardiner and Oracle's Paul Stevens. It was Stevens who came off the worse for wear, eventually getting to his feet but having to be substituted.
On 71 minutes Oracle suddenly sprang to life, forcing their first corner of the second half and giving the home defence something to think about. Although the corner was cleared, Oracle bounced straight back with a ball into the box which Daniel Westall threw himself at with a diving header. The effort was countered by a full stretch save from Belstone's Connor Freeman. Good signs from Oracle though. Maybe they could find a way back?
Butler was pleased to see a header from a Belstone substitute go narrowly over his bar but, with the game now a little more stretched, Oracle went back up the other end and gave Freeman another test. Once again it was Westall with the strike which the keeper had to get down well to save. Oracle had suddenly mustered more shots on target in 5 minutes than they had managed in the previous 75.
Belstone weren't finished though, and neither was Butler. At the death the stopper was again at his best, pushing a goal bound Henry effort onto the post, denying the Belstone player a hat-trick. However, three minutes into injury time, some pinball in the box ended with the ball dropping to Paul Marks inside the 6 yard box and this time Butler could do nothing to prevent the goal. 3-0
After going three down and being well beaten Oracle did, however, almost have the last say when captain Iain Green unleashed a dipping drive that Freeman did really well to get a fingertip to, diverting it against the bar and away form danger.
FT Belstone 3 Oracle Components 0. A comfortable three points on an afternoon when Belstone never looked like getting anything less than a victory. In fact, without the numerous interventions from the visitor's keeper Colby Butler, it could easily have been a much higher margin of victory. You can't fault Oracle's application but they were chasing shadows for much of the game. Despite the win, Belstone remain second after Chipperfield Corinthians also maintained their unbeaten start. However, Belstone are only a point behind with a game in hand. Oracle remain in the drop zone but are only three points adrift with games in hand on all above them.
Next up for Belstone is the visit of mid-table Everett Rovers. Oracle, meanwhile, face a trip to fifth placed London Lions Development.
Check out the @belstonefcfirst Twitter feed for some excellent match action photos from @RussEvans18.
Oh, as an aside. Crowland 4 Netherton3. Home side came from 3-0 down. 3 red cards, 6 yellows and 3 sin bins. Glad I didn't go. that would have been a nightmare to write up :-)
Belstone: 1.Freeman, 3.Gardiner, 24.Akinbulumo(c), 5.Wilson-Braithwaite, 11.Bernhauser, 4.Marks, 16.Gyabaah, 7.Henry, 18.Larwood, 19. Babalola, 25.Seodi. Subs: 17.Asante, 27.Costin,
Oracle Components: 1.Butler, 3.Harvey, 5.Elliot, 6.Hattersley, 8.Stevens, 11.Westall, 14.Reynolds, 15.Goldthorpe, 16.Clemo, 17.Green(c), 22.Williams. Subs: 2.Cowe, 4.Aldrich, 10.Conner, 12. A.Green, 25.Edwards
Ground Number: 375
Programme: Included in admission