Monday, 8 December 2008

Game 6: Arundel 1, Cogenhoe United 4

Third Round Proper ~ Saturday 6th December 2008
Venue: Mill Road, Arundel, Sussex
Attendance: 126

Distance travelled: 103 miles

An impressive first half hat-trick from Cogenhoe United's young forward Darren Frost ultimately finished off Arundel's FA Vase campaign for this season. In a game where the visitors had only a handful of chances, and Arundel spurned many, it was Frost's assured finishing that separated the teams. A rather flattering 4-1 scoreline propelled the Northamptonshire outfit into the Fourth Round Proper.

My journey to Sussex started when I collected my travelling companion PB; it was to be just the two of us for this game, as Mackem had locked herself away with a box of Kleenex after Keano had packed his bags and waved goodbye to Wearside; and POSH Mate had made up some excuse about muck spreading (its a long story). Our journey south did not pass without incident. Just outside Fittleworth I struck a pheasant. Technically, as the bird was in mid-flight, it struck me; well, my car to be precise. I would be surprised if the bird survived the impact. I couldn't help noticing, with its contorted face pressed firmly against the windscreen, its tongue hanging limply from beneath its skewed beak, its legs splayed in an agonisingly unnatural position and its right wing coiled around a wiper blade, that it didn't look too healthy.

Once at Mill Road, we had the pleasure of meeting Cris Jackson and his young son. Cris, it transpired, had also set off last September with a plan to follow the FA Vase all the way to Wembley next May. He had started in the First Round Qualifying in Sussex at the Hassocks v Three Bridges tie, which finished 4-3 to the home side. Cris then went to the Hassocks and Chertsey Town game in the following round, where our paths joined. It also transpired that, at that Chertsey game, both our sons had met when they had played football together, with the turnstiles as goalposts; they both remembered each other. The phrase 'it's a small world' is a bit clich├ęd, so I won't use it. It was great to meet a kindred spirit (so to speak) and I look forward to meeting Cris again and share this journey with him throughout the next few months.

It certainly turned out to be a day for meeting people. Bob Marchant, the Arundel chairman, once again came over to say "hello" on what was a big day for him and his club. We also met Phil Wright from Cogenhoe United, another fine example of the type of person upon whom clubs at this level rely; Phil is the Programme Editor at Cogenhoe and puts his hand to a whole raft of other voluntary work at the club. His father is the Chairman and his brother coaches the U18 side. A real family affair. At half-time, I also got to meet photographer Terry Buckman who was taking shots at the game. Terry, along with my book publisher David Bauckham, last season published the excellent football-photography book 'A Season of Sussex Soccer', which I commend you all to buy. And before you ask, no, I am not on commission! There is a link to Terry's photos from Saturday's tie at the end of this post.

In amongst all this socialising, there was another good FA Vase game to report on. The outcome hinged on which of the two teams managed to take their chances. Cogenhoe United devoured theirs in splendid fashion, with some quality finishing. By half-time, the visitors were 3-0 up and Darren Frost had chilled the home fans with a wonderful hat-trick.

Frost took only ten minutes to make his mark. Playing as the lone striker, Cogenhoe's plan to hit Frost with the long ball paid dividends. Arundel had won a corner, which was played short and fizzled out to nothing. The resulting long ball up field was expertly brought under control by Frost; he dropped a shoulder and with his second touch pushed the ball a few yards off his marker and curled a delightful shot around and over Alex Bryant into the top right hand corner of the Arundel goal.

If his first goal was good, Frost's second goal was even better. Another long ball found Frost on the edge of the Mullets penalty area; with an exquisite first touch he took possession in his stride and ghosted past a static defender and fired in an excellent low shot across the keeper. 2-0 to Cogenhoe United with only fifteen minutes played.

Cogenhoe had left Northamptonshire at 10 o'clock in the morning, but their long journey seemed to have little impact on the players. It was Arundel who were rather sluggish in the early exchanges, and squandered possession far too easily in an almost panicky response to Cogenhoe's electrifying burst out of the blocks. Arundel's first real chance arrived a couple of minutes after the second goal when they had a shot deflected just wide, with the Cogenhoe goalkeeper, Darren Watts, rooted to the spot. The Arundel bench were suddenly extremely vociferous, and from the opposite side of the pitch there were clearly audible cries of "keep hold of the ball!" and "where's the movement?"

Arundel slowly joined the game. Cogenhoe United were already content to defend deep and in numbers, and this they did very well. A few long shots tested Watts in the visitor's goal, but he showed a safe pair of hands more than once. In an amusing moment, a Cogenhoe player won a clean tackle and in the process sent the referee flying; the refs' fall was theatrically broken by turf as his face made contact with it. I didn't laugh. Not much.

Cogenhoe had a chance to increase their lead on 26 minutes when Tom McGowan had a free and totally unmarked header only yards out, but contrived to direct the ball over the bar. This spurred Arundel on, and almost immediately had what was probably their best chance of the game. Mike Huckett broke clear of the Cooks defence, rounded the keeper and looked certain to score. His shot however was rather rushed, and the feeble effort was cleared off the line by a grateful Lee Gotch. As half-time approached, the home team continued to create chances as they finally kept hold of the ball. Matt Axel dragged a shot wide and then Gary Norgate was slipped in by Howard Neighbour only to see his shot blaze the wrong side of the post, when it seemed easier to hit the target. The home support were already beginning to sense this was not going to be Arundel's day.

As if to prove the point, Cogenhoe scored their third five minutes before the interval and it was fair to say it came against the run of play. Another long ball arrowed up front, found Darren Frost over towards the corner flag with the ball at his feet. Frost stood nonchalantly motionless for a few seconds. As Jason Wimbleton approached, Frost cleverly flicked the ball beyond the Arundel defender with a sudden burst of pace. Wimbleton lunged at Frost's rapidly disappearing ankles and gave away a clear penalty. Wimbleton's club nickname is the 'Silver Fox' but it was Frost who had proved the more cunning. Frost dispatched the resultant spot-kick expertly to claim the match ball.

Half-time: Arundel 0, Darren Frost 3.

This was a game of two halves and in the second period Arundel threw the kitchen sink at Cogenhoe. I actually lost count of the chances the home team had to score, many of which were good chances to say the least. Their passing was far more assured and they controlled the game. On 57 minutes, Arundel won a free kick on the left and from Matt Axell's cross Gary Norgate got his head to the ball to reduce the deficit.

But for the home team, that's as good as it got. Five minutes after Norgate's goal, Josh Biggs produced a fine run down the left, only to shoot over once inside the area. Three minutes on from that, Mike Huckett headed over from a matter of yards. With 68 minutes on the clock, Gary Norgate should have doubled his tally when he was put through, only to force a fine save from Watts. Arundel continued to press, and Cogenhoe were now on the back foot. As the clock ticked down, more chances came and went, the most notable on 80 minutes when Watts in the Cogenhoe goal pulled off another fine save, this time from Richard Ghent.

The sucker-punch for Arundel arrived on 87 minutes when Cogenhoe broke and their substitute Dan Holman - who looked about twelve years old - floated in a shot from outside the area over a rather exposed Alex Bryant: 4-1 to the visitors, and it was all over for Arundel.

This match was another good advert for non League football. It is now time for me to say "goodbye" to Arundel as Cogenhoe United take up the FA Vase baton. As the game on Saturday drew to a conclusion, Arundel castle stood majestically silhouetted in the half-moon light of a freezing cold Sussex evening. I and my friends have received warm welcomes on both our visits to the wonderful setting of Arundel Football Club, and I wish them well for the remainder of the season. Hopefully, that will not be the last time I get to see Arundel play.

Based on Saturday's performance, I doubt this is the last we will hear of Darren Frost. Remember the name.

Terry Buckman's photos
More of my, rather inferior, photos

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