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Every Little Help Buzzes Manor Past Bees

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It's often said that all good things come in threes.  The Sugababes, however, are proof that simply isn't the case.  Sometimes, things simply come in threes, good, bad or indifferent.

Such were the way of things at Southchurch Park Arena.  After a couple of decent FA Cup ties,Southend Manor and Basildon United met for the third time in the space of 11 days, this time with three Essex Senior League points at stake.  With two more confrontations in the pipeline, you'd be forgiven for either thinking familiarity will breed contempt, or wondering when they will announce their engagement.

The truth, as ever, is somewhere in the middle.  It is by quirk of fate, rather than design, that these two sides should meet so often.  And, as the summer evenings begin to draw in, the opportunity to enjoy some midweek football in warm weather is eagerly grabbed, whoever are playing.  And so it was, even at the third time in a row, that there was a crackle of anticipation by the seaside as they kicked off.

The task for the hosts was a tricky one. Four points from their three ESL matches meant Manor already trailed the Bees , who had won their own two league games - and also knocked the home side out of the FA Cup just seven short days ago.  

It belied the real story though.  In the two games played, there was a width of a cigarette paper between them.  If Southend Manor had a tough task, Basildon United also had another difficult night ahead, on a ground where success for them in the past has been hard to come by.  The stage was set for a genuinely intriguing contest.

Boosted by their FA Cup triumph, Basildon took the game to Manor in front of a smaller but no less enthusiastic crowd than last week.  Indeed there was an awful lot more boundless energy from one legend of the Essex and East London non-league scene in particular.  More about him later.

As it was, the Bees tested Lawrence Priddle in the Manor goal, with the ever dangerous duo of Isaac Aubynn and Greg Akpele having a crack in the first quarter of an hour.  Indeed, Akpele had got the better of the Manor custodian, but a covering defender cleared the danger.  

In reply, Charlie Little was putting himself about a bit for the home side, but on the half hour, the Bees could and should have gone ahead.  A long Basildon United throw-in, into the Southend Manor box, wasn't cleared, and the ball came to Tyler Hayes on the edge of the area.  With the goal gaping, he hurried his shot and put it over, when it seemed easier to score.

We all felt, us codgers on the sidelines, that it was the turning point.  And so it proved.  Steve Brown got down at his near post smartly to parry away a fierce Charlie Little shot in the right hand side of the area.  But he had no chance around five minutes from the break, when after a dreadful defensive error, Little was left through on goal.  He made no mistake from about 10 yards, to put Manor ahead.

As the second half wore on, Basildon were trying, without much success, to get back some momentum.  Manor, for their part, were battling rather than being particularly cohesive.  It made for interesting rather than eye-pleasing football.  Not that it mattered to the chap stood level with the home side's penalty area.

Anyone who's been to Tower Hamlets or Redbridge games in particular will know all about Neil.  No matter how good or bad the game is, he shouts excitedly into his microphone, or android, commentating excitedly throughout.  terrible 0-0 draws are turned into instant classics.  And tonight, a Southend Manor free kick from Tom Newell, which clearly went out for a goal kick was suddenly turned into an amazing match-settling goal.

Neil is a man who loves non-league football with a deep passion and is loved wherever he turns up on a matchday.  It's yet another reason why grassroots football is so loved in the UK.  You fear that at Premier League, Football League, and maybe even Conference level, he would be mocked mercilessly, and maybe worse.  

In non-league circles, though, his eccentricity and unbounded enthusiasm is embraced and encouraged.  He's laughed with rather than at, celebrated even.  Simply wonderful.

Such praise, however, was not forthcoming for the match officials at the end.  With Basildon United busting a gut for a late, late equaliser, it seemed a clear-cut penalty had been conceded by the hosts.  The ref, standing no more than 10 yards away, waved play on, despite it looking a stonewall trip, foul and penalty.

It enraged both the Basildon players and supporters, who then berated the officials further a couple of minutes into injury when a much less contentious 50-50 challenge sent another Bees player sprawling inside the box.  In this instance, however, the home side would have been very disappointed had the decision gone against them.

Full time came, with the standard reaction from some people on the touchline.  "Good game, ref.", came one sarcastic shout.  "He drinks with their players", came another completely unfounded comment.  As was the assertion that the Bees "should have had two penalties."  Clearly, if the first was given, the passage of play after that would've been completely different.

Basildon United manager, Laurie Carter, however, will know the truth of it.  It's all about cause and effect.  One or two refereeing decisions may or may not have an effect on the outcome.  But two things caused the defeat.  Not taking opportunities they created, including one terrible miss, and lack of concentration when defending, with an elementary error creating the match winning opportunity for Charlie Little and Southend Manor.

The management, and players themselves, will know that if you can't or won't do these two things, then you leave yourself wide open to relying on a refereeing decision.  For any team worth its salt, that's a slippery slope to find yourself on.  Bottom line is that some players doing their job properly, for the whole 90 minutes instead of 89, would have made the penalty decision irrelevant.

Still, it was another talking point, something to be remembered, as another fascinating chapter in Southend Manor v Basildon United was written.  With Neil brilliantly supplying the audio version as it happened, it meant, yet again, that on a night of Champions League football, the only place to be was actually Southchurch Park Arena.  Again.  

Roll on Chapter 4.

Southend Manor 1,  Basildon United 0