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The Bucket and Spade brigade!

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“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside “and today that “like” is somewhere close to where the angry North Sea meets the all-together more tranquil waves of the Thames. Mid table Southend Manor’s weather hit Essex Senior League campaign, reaches it’s conclusion with equally cosy Eton Manor the visitors to Southchurch Park Arena.

The finale has come too soon for the Seasider’s; they have found a bit of form lately and are playing with some panache. Eton Manor have been equally frustrating this term, beating promotion hopefuls Barkingside and Takeley but then stumbling against lowly Bowers & Pitsea and Stansted.

Nevertheless, the mindset of the non-league footballer is somewhat different to that of the Premiership stars. If you have spent all week working in an office or on a factory floor waiting for 3pm Saturday, then there is no way you’re going to pass up an opportunity to let off steam with a few full blooded tackles and an over powering sense of devotion. The chance to be today’s “Lord of the Manor’s” will ensure both side do everything in their power to make that post match pint taste extra sweet.

Southchurch Park might not attract too much attention these days, but the ground does embrace a rich piece of local sporting history. On 15th May 1948, Sir Donald Bradman and the all-conquering Australian cricket team smashed 721 here in their tour match with Essex. The huge total is still a world record for runs scored in a single day, and the thumping innings and 451 run thumping is still the county’s heaviest defeat. More than 16,000 spectators crammed into the park that day, sixty-five years later the crowd is somewhat less significant, but nonetheless, a turnout of 91 is quite respectable for the ESL.

The Arena stand is somewhat ugly. It is awash with unusual graffiti, has a number of vandalised seats and offers a smell you expect from a tower block lift! Not a pretty image I know, but as the wind howls and storm clouds gather, it offers its dwellers some solace from the elements.

The audience has been bolstered by a late surge at the turnstile. A number of Southend United and Great Wakering Rovers supporters have filed in. Clearly, they still have the football bug, despite a disappointing conclusion to their respective seasons.

My good friend Gerry Smith from Phoenix FM joins me in the stand. Gerry should be at Wembley today watching the FA Vase Final. However, the tickets, and the neighbour I left them with (who we’ll refer to as Mr X), have gone mysteriously missing. It turns out Mr X has just returned following a short holiday at Her Majesty’s pleasure, one suspects he’s up to his old trick and has helped himself to a free day out using my beleaguered buddies tickets.

Southend Manor are quickest out of the traps. Aldaberto Pinto’s free kick falls to Terry Griffiths, but a combination of Joe Kizzi and keeper Carl Young snub out the danger. Then Pinto produces a piece of magic. A cross between Maradona and Robin Cousins, pirouetting majestically with the ball seemingly glued to his foot. This crystallised flash of brilliance lead up a blind alleyway, but the spectators appreciate the moment all the same.

It is not long before the home side break the deadlock. Gary Paterson display’s predator instincts, turning and then beating Young with a crisp finish.

Eton Manor search for an immediate route back. Southend custodian Adam Seal expertly flips John Bricknell’s dead ball effort over the top, and then the busy Darryl Wilson beats the keeper with a lob, but can only look on as his enterprising attempt falls wide of the target.

The blustery wet conditions and bumpy surface make it difficult to produce any kind of expansive football; this becomes even trickier when the cloudburst turns into a fully blown thunderstorm. However, to their credit, the players attempt to play a passing game as opposed to the long ball that so many people associate with this echelon of the game.

The visitor’s quest for parody is thwarted when Brad Vaughan produces a wonderful saving tackle on Wilson. At the other end the Seasider’s go close with both Paterson and Vaughan narrowly off target.  

Then like a lightning bolt to match that from the heavens, goal scorer Paterson appears a little late on Josh Sykes, sparking a bout of “handbags” amongst the players. Once the mêlée had subsided, Pato is brandished a red card by whistler Mr Stanley, while Sykes leaves the field via a stretcher. It is a sad conclusion to the season for Paterson. He is clearly not “that type of player”, whether his actions were a rush of blood or simply mistimed, he is clearly upset with himself as he leaves the field. Thankfully, the Eton Manor players’ injury is not as bad as is first feared.

However, any thoughts that the ten men would buckle are soon dispersed. Yaw Danso sends a wonderful curling effort beyond the extended Young to double the home sides’ advantage.  

Eton Manor use the interval to regroup, they emerge for the second period and carve out the first chance. Danny Walsh makes an impressive dash down the right flank but his teasing centre eludes an influx of possible takers. John Bricknell is next to try his luck, forcing Seal into a smart save from his free kick, then the big stopper earns his corn, denying Wilson low to his left.

Nevertheless, any lingering hopes of a comeback was scuppered when the impressive Mark Sission latched onto Danso’s pass before dispatching the ball home through the legs of Young. Sission is clearly an asset to the Southchurch Park club. He capped an excellent personal and team performance by racing clear then finishing with aplomb to make it 4-0.

In the burning embers, the game becomes a little flat. What with the contest now over, Gerry’s attention turns from the football to politics and then the distressing break-up of JLS, he believes that our combination of boyish good looks and a nice light baritone could provide us with an opportunity to fill the void they have created. Personally, I question who provides which, if either, and wonder if Mr X is having such an afternoon of intellect at the home of football. Meanwhile, Eton Manor’s Gary Wright makes a late attempt to recapture our attention with a snap shot at the home sides goal, however, his effort, much like the conversation, was wayward.

Southend Manor: Seal, Jarrett, East, Griffiths, Vaughan, Pinto, Danso, Pibworth, Paterson, Sisson, Smith.

Substitutes: Jude, Baldwin, Welsh, Ivie, Salmon.

Eton Manor: Young, Heywood, Wright, Johnson, Sykes, Kizzi, Bradbury, J Giddings, Wilson, Bricknell, Walsh.

Substitutes: Scott, L Giddings, Wallace.

Attendance: 91

Southend Manor 4-0 Eton Manor

Brian Jeeves “Shouting from the rooftops at Southchurch Park Arena”