Monday 27th December 2021 – Combined Counties Premier League South – The New Defence, Horley
The traditional Boxing Day games at Steps 3 and below had been shifted back 24 hours this year which unfortunately didn’t do many clubs any favours with heavy overnight rain leading to a significant number of postponements. Not that stopped the Non-League experts coming out on social media to give their opinions as to why clubs were cancelling games.
“Bottle jobs”, “too scared to play us”, “it isn’t even raining anymore”, “tinpot club”
Just some of the comments accompanying the news that particular games had been cancelled. Even when Bognor Regis Town announced their Isthmian Premier League game against Worthing was postponed, but would be played 24 hours later, they were accused by some “fans” as being “too scared to play”…Yeah, that’s right fella – 24 hours respite allows the Rocks to seek help from professionals to improve their mental state.
Having seen how much work goes on behind the scenes to prepare for a normal game, let alone a bumper Bank Holiday one, no club ever wants to see the weather ruin their big day. Additional staff will have been recruited, food and drink ordered, programmes printed and the pitch prepared. So why would any club be simply prepared to make a loss by not wanting to play? It should also be noted that clubs themselves don’t decide whether a pitch is playable – that is purely down to the match officials.
With my original early kick off falling foul to the weather I headed to the fantastically named New Defence to see the Step 5 local derby between Horley Town and Redhill, with the visitors having an opportunity to go top with a win in an incredibly competitive division.
The last few years had seen both clubs pack their bags and try out different leagues. Horley Town have had stints in the Combined Counties and the Southern Combination before returning, albeit kicking and mildly screaming back to the new Step 5 Combined Counties Premier, whilst Redhill can look not too far back at a stint at Step 4 in the Isthmian League before relegation saw them drop to the Combined Counties.
The expansion of the teams playing at Step 5 in the summer saw the Combined Counties being given a new division of 18 teams, formed by a few promotions from Step 6 and some sideways movement from the surrounding divisions. Everyone’s happy right? Perhaps.
But with so many other games off on a very wet Monday morning, Horley Town managed to beat the weather and host their 11.30am kick-off, traditionally a starting point for ground hoppers. Not that I would consider myself one, but here I was ticking off a new ground before I headed to the Rooks Sussex derby at Horsham.
The pitch was heavy, the teams committed and we had a decent game on our hands. Redhill took the lead in the 10th minute, despite a desperate effort from the Horley Town keeper. They doubled their lead in the 40th minute when Jamarie Brissett latched onto a long ball, checked back in the area and was taken out by a Horley defender who was done all ends up. King slotted home the spot kick to double their lead.
The second half was competitive, albeit light on goal mouth action until the 70th minute when Frost latched onto a loose ball and scored with his first touch to put the game out of reach of the home side and send Redhill to the top of the table. An 85th minute consolation goal from Horley’s Goulter provided something for the home fans to cheer about but it was too little, too late.
A decent crowd saw a decent game and undoubtedly Horley Town benefited both from an early KO but also having a pitch that weathered the weather. For other clubs, it was perhaps 24 hours too late for them but ultimately that wasn’t anything within their control, something many fans need to remember before they fire up Social Media and vent their frustrations.