Although currently seventh in Sussex County Football League Division Two, Westfield are just three points behind fifth-placed Broadbridge Heath with two games in hand.
In a fixture brought forward late last week, Westfield got off to a great start as Tom Archer put them ahead inside four minutes with a header from a corner routine the club has worked on for quite a while.
Westfield hit the post through Gordon Cuddington, but Aaron Ransom brought Oak level by arrowing a shot into the bottom corner after the visitors only half cleared a corner.
The visitors’ cause wasn’t helped by the loss of Steve Thomson to a knee injury after 20 minutes, yet they were the better side during the opening 25 minutes of the second period.
Oak then started to look more threatening and stand-in Westfield goalkeeper Danny Woodley, who had a good game, made a great save from a one-on-one situation. The hosts grabbed the winner from the resulting corner, however, as Ryan Pretlove headed in from close range.
Woodley made another splendid stop moments later and Oak put the rebound in the net only to be denied by an offside flag. Mike Booth went close and Sean Smith had two great opportunities, but it wasn’t to be. Westfield travel to Storrington tomorrow (Saturday).
Westfield: Woodley, Williams, Bell, Archer, Thomson (Smith), Brand, Warren, Henham, Owens (Ringwood), Cuddington, Booth.
* WESTFIELD reserves picked up a 1-1 draw in a local derby away to Bexhill United on Saturday.
Jason Maurice was on target for a ninth-placed Westfield side which had lost only two of its last 11 Sussex County Football League Reserve Section (East) matches before the trip to Seaford Town last night (Thursday). Westfield finish up at home to Southwick tomorrow.
WESTFIELD still have a good chance of a top five finish despite a slightly unfortunate defeat on Wednesday night.
After a stuttering start to the season and suffering 2 very disappointing defeats and performances at the hands of Eastbourne Utd and Southwick we’ve showed an excellent response in our last 3 games.
All tough games away from home, a 6-2 win at Storrington was the first victory we enjoyed and this led to a 2-0 win away at Wick with a very well disciplined and mature performance from the squad and finally a 1-0 victory away at Bexhill. All 3 fixtures have seen a marked improvement from the squad and a notable maturity growing from within. Every player involved in these games have contributed and that’s the most pleasing aspect, we haven’t carried anyone and we’ve all stuck together as a side to ensure we picked up well deserved victories.
3 away wins, 9 goals for and 2 conceded (with 2 clean sheets) is a great return and we’re now on a winning run that we fully intend and expect to extend.
We’ve 3 more tough away games to come now, Steyning away in the Sussex Senior Cup, Hailsham (who’ve made a very lively start) away in the league and away at much fancied East Preston in the league before we have our first home game since 3Sept against Dorking Wanderers on 22 October. The squad has been stretched to the limits since pre season due injuries/suspension and unavailability but this has given some of our U18 squad the chance to gain valuable first team experience earlier than anticipated with Ross Williams excelling at left back, Khaya Nyathi and Bradley Owens showing that no matter your size or age if you have ability you can outshine seasoned county league players in midfield.
We’re hopeful that the groin strain and injured knee picked up by Dave Pugh and Mark West aren’t too serious and that Peter Baker can shake off his man flu in time for Saturday, we’re also optimistic that we’ll have Steve Ringwood ready for first team action in early October, his return will be a big boost to the squad.
Not everything has been going our way and one disappointing note was the injury to the influential James Gatcum in his first start of the season at Bexhill United last night when he suffered a broken ankle in a 50:50 challenge, everyone at the club wishes him a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back as soon as possible. Jim has been out injured since pre season and made his comeback on Saturday for the reserves only to last 30 minutes last night, we’re hoping the break is straight forward and that there’s no complications in his rehabilitation.
Baldy, Bally & Beak
We finally caught up with the legendary Matt Ball about all things Westfield. We speak to him about Saturdays win, the Westfield 'Kids', the trio's ethos and his burgeoning love affair with Dave Pugh.
P:Afternoon Mr Ball, I hope you're well? So was Saturdays win satisfying?
MB: Always well my son. To be honest it was very satisfying. It was a mature performance and just shows we are taking the team in the right direction.
P: Who stood out for you?
MB: Gordon was outstanding but MOM was young Ross. He was up against a very lively and strong lad but Ross stood up to him very well. He reads the game superbly and is actually one of the lads who listen’s to me!!
P: I’m shocked. Not that Ross was MOM but that someone actually listens to you! So on the same subject, are you happy with the development of the Westfield 'kids' and do you think your policy is the right one at this level?
MB: Most definitely. I can’t be doing with these so called good players who have only ever played at this level and think they know it all! Our passion as coaches is about improving young quality players and helping them grow and develop and hopefully move onwards and upwards. Yes we could get short term results by doing things differently but I know what a great job we are doing. Does it bother me we don’t get the recognition we deserve?? Yes and no. We live or die by our coaching ethics and if that fails then I can accept it. Anyone can win County 2 or 1 with a reasonable wage budget! ...... or maybe not ; )
P: I hear you're a big fan of Pughie's movement and work rate?
MB: I think Pughie is his own biggest fan! He keeps trying to tell me what a great player he is! I just switch off now just like he does in a game.
P: Ouch! Not one of the one’s who listens then. I’ll still put him down for 30 this season and after that comment probably a hattrick tonight! A little subtle motivation me thinks.
Gordon is looking like a great addition?
MB: Gordon is a genuine honest footballer and I love that. He never gives up and likes throwing a few eff & geffs at his team mates too!
P: What do you think about the standard of football at this level and what, if anything, frustrates you?
MB: The general level is really poor. Years back playing County League football was tough and a decent standard but as you know with the new pyramid structure all levels have dropped. I would say Hastings Utds league is equivalent to County League of 10 years ago . The biggest frustration is the lack of commitment from players. I say it how I see it and it really surprises me how lads react. They don’t wanna fight or prove you wrong they just spit their dummy out and leave....pathetic. Most people who know me, know I’m soft as s@@t away from football and will do anything for anyone but when it’s time for football it’s time for work!! If you’re not prepared to do that then we aren’t gonna get along.
P: Honestly and frankly put Mr Ball. So, how annoying is Gatch at training?
MB: Put it this way if I was still playing I would wanna kick him all night just to shut him up!
P: A bit like you used to with Jonesy!!!! Gatch is a huge addition to have back though?
MB: Potentially he could be a great player, he has all the attributes. He is good to have around the place though especially when the lads talk about his girlfriend!
P: Nice pics I hear! Or was that Birdie’s lovely lady???!!! What do you think about your local rivals?
MB: I don’t think anything to be honest. I don’t buy into all this rivalry nonsense. I am sure it bothers some players and some managers but for me it’s all about us getting our house in order and I don’t care who we beat.
P: Fair point. Back to Saturday, another clean sheet, you seemed to have sorted the side as a defensive unit?
MB: We have spent more time on our defensive duties this term and it is very satisfying that we’ve seen some improvement. We have never had a problem scoring goals despite Dave 'Bendtner' Pughs lack off thus far and I would much prefer a 1-0 win to a 5-4 any day of the week.
P: Christ, Pughie is firmly in your crosshairs at the moment! More weight to my argument though! Does the lack of recognition you receive for what you've managed to produce with no budget and limited resources rankle you?
MB: I think I have already answered this. The reason the 3 of us work so well is because we all want the same goal. We are very ambitious but also want to develop our coaching style by bringing young lads on and not buying success. Westfield FC allows us to do this. 5 of our current U18 team have been involved in the 1st team squad this year and done very well. Our reserves have been transformed and are progressing nicely under the watchful eye of Mason and our U18's are unbeaten this season. If a club at a higher level took a punt on us they would be pleasantly surprised with what we would bring to the table. Does it bother me that we don’t get the recognition?? Our players know what we are trying to achieve and they recognise it, that’s enough for me for now. Truthfully, are there any clubs locally with a budget and more resources over achieving?? Only one club is over achieving in my opinion and that is the one with no budget...... Westfield FC.
P: Tell us about Beaks legendary 'Bottle kicking' incident last season.
MB: Possibly the funniest thing I have witnessed in all my time in football and Tone and I still giggle like a pair of school girls when we mention it.! We still have to hide the bottles from him on match days. Priceless!
P: He really is a prize berk sometimes. We try to draw him on the incident but you refused to be drawn on the issue! Anything juicy you can give us on Tone?
MB: No Tone is the most boring person you will ever meet. Although he wears fake tan that makes his eyebrows go ginger, very strange.
P:We approaches Mr Harris with this allegation to which he replied ‘ It’s not fake tan!!! It’s natural tanning moisturizer’. Not really sure that’s much better Tone??? I hear you have a tendency to hide the players gear. True?
MB: I have a tendency to get bored and occasionally things go walk about. Although it’s starting to get out of hand and I wouldn’t want to be Jonesy at the moment!
P: Yeah, we heard about Windy having to travel home in the spare Keeper kit because his entire wardrobe had found it’s way into the showers. Any comment on Bexhill's team photo?
MB: I like their Physio xx
P: You old smoothy! The Christmas ‘Stars in their eyes’ party beckons over yonder horizon young Matthew, Who will you be taking on?
MB: Cee Lo Green I reckon. Or maybe Abba with Tone, Jonesy and Mason!
P: You and Mason as the ladies I’d assume! Goal for the rest of the season?
MB: Keep improving as a side and see how close we can get to a promotion position
P: Whats the most irritating characteristic of one individual in the squad? Joe's hair flicking or Ash's laid back attitude for example?
MB: Sam 'Kevin' Willett always having an opinion.
Tom 'Rhino' Archer saying he is the best centre half at the club
Jack 'glass Jaw' Stapley squeeling like a pig (every game!!!)
Dave 'Bendtner' Pugh always working late on PAIN Mondays (among other things!)
And Birdy; I’m sick of having to change his nappies.
P: Hattrick tonight Pughie and then strike a pose in front of the bench buddy! On a separate note, are you as big a fan of Jess as the rest of us?
MB: Lovely Jess knows what I think of her, I told her last night ; )
P: Brilliant! Finally, what are you expecting Tuesday?
MB: 3 points, Jonesy to row with Bexhill’s bench and for Garmos sake, a warm night!!
P: It’s been emotional Matthew!
MB: As always pal.
A decimated Westfield side make a stuttering start to the season.
We speak to Beaky over a beer on Sunday afternoon about the opening to the campaign and how he and the trio view the opening to the season.
P: Afternoon Beaky.
P: Excuse me for saying this buddy but it looks like you want to crawl into that Guinness and drown.
DJ: It feels that way if I'm honest Phoenix. It's all incredibly frustrating.
P: So where's it going wrong?
DJ: It's a tricky one. We have a fantastic squad, and thank god an incredibly strong under 18s. We started early deliberately because we wanted to change the way we play. It's coming slowly but is difficult because we're asking players to change the way they've been taught to play, especially our defenders. It's a slow process that eventually will reap benefits, we just need to be patient. But this coupled with the amount of players we've been without across the start of the season is making life incredibly tough.
P: Are you saying the 'kids' are failing to live up to expectations.
DJ: Not in the slightest! Brad, Khaya, Ross, Sam, Jockey, Rickkie and Sam Henham have all come in and done fantastically. The problem is that County league football can be very rudimentary...
DJ: Yes. In that I mean it's basic, very traditional English non-league football. Fast, frenetic and physical. Asking our more senior players, most of whom are still only 20, to have the confidence to change the way they play on what are invariably poor surfaces, is job enough, but asking 16 year olds to do it within a new environment is a very, very big ask.
P: So it is too much to soon for them?
DJ: No not at all. But it is too much to ask when we have four of them in the side at the same time. It's difficult to carry that many youngsters at any level and if I'm honest it's not fair on them and their development. I think that over the last 6 games we've been forced to ask to much of them too soon.
P: So what's the answer?
DJ: That's simple. to encourage them, make sure they're not afraid to go out and have the confidence to 'play' and make sure we look after them both on and off the pitch.
P: What do you mean by having the confidence to 'play'? Are you saying some of them don't want to pull on the shirt?
DJ: No don't be ridiculous. What I mean is that with the kids, actually with all our team, we're asking them to try and play the game in a certain way, we want to be proud of the way our side deploys itself and I think you've seen it in patches this year. At the core of that is the idea that they must never be afraid to get on the ball and play, they need to have the confidence to get on the ball and influence the game, they can never be afraid of making mistakes. The one thing we're trying to drill into all of them, which for me has been the route of the problem in English football, is they can't be scared to play or afraid of making mistakes. We won't shout at them for getting on the ball and trying to play. They won't hear us screaming because of a bad touch or a misplaced pass, the only time they'll hear us pulling them up is if they go missing, if they don't take responsibility and hide on the pitch. It's simple; know your role and responsibilities, stick to them and then go get on the ball and influence the game.
P: When you put it like that it makes perfect sense. So, can you see light at the end of the tunnel?
DJ: We have a tough few weeks left, culminating in away league games to Wick and Bexhill, slowly we should start getting everybody back and we'll be able to integrate the kids more carefully and take better care of their development.
P: How are Jim and Ringers?
DJ: They're both looking like being a few weeks off if I'm honest. I know they both love to be back for the Bexhill game on the 27th but I think it might be a bridge too far.
P: So have you revised your expectations for the season?
DJ: Not at all, we have pulled together the best squad this club has seen, the problem is at the moment it is being stretched to the limit. It's early days in all competitions, let's just see how it goes. But for me, other than bringing a trophy to the Parish Field, I just want these lads to persevere and have faith in what we're trying to achieve so we can see a Westfield side playing the game in the way we three believe it should be played.
P: Cheers Beaky.
DJ: No probes pal.
The overall squad is looking as strong as any we’ve had at the club during our tenure, I feel that in the past we’ve had a very good 7/8 players but struggled when hit with injuries or suspensions this season we can justifiably say that we’ve a very strong 18-20 players, all of a good age and all with good footballing ability plus a very exciting crop of youngsters who despite their lack of experience playing adult football and the fact they’re only 16/17 will most definitely be pushing for first team places this campaign.
We’ve had 2 pre-season friendlies to date securing a 2-0 win against Rusthall from the Kent Invicta whom like ourselves play at step 6 with Bakes scoring both goals and drew 3-3 with Kent Premier League outfit Sevenoaks Town FC who are the equivalent to an SCFL Div 1 team, Gordon scored 2 (his first for the club) and Pughy got the other on his return to the side, in all honesty we deserved to win this one as well having raced into a 3 goal lead at half time but multiple second half changes led to our shape getting a bit sloppy and allowing the visitors back into the game.
Both games were great work outs for the lads and we’re really pleased with the progress we’ve made in pre season and how we’re shaping up for the 2011-12 campaign although we’ve some big tests ahead of us with games against Crowborough and East Grinstead from SCFL Div 1 and a home game against Ryman Premier League outfit Hastings United FC on 23 July, a visit to Westfield FC from the Combined Counties League and a visit from an Eastbourne Borough XI as our final friendly on Sat 6 August.
The only real frustration at present is that it’s holiday season and we’ve not yet had the full squad together to work with, we’ve still 7 first team squad players to come back into the mix from the squads that faced Sevenoaks and Rusthall but that’s the time of year and something most sides have to cope with.
So as I said at the beginning so far so good and we look forward to pushing on and surprising a few teams this year as we look to build a lasting legacy at the club with all teams challenging for honours and continuing to pride ourselves on taking good young talent and helping them develop onto a higher level.
Thanks for your support and we hope to keep you entertained throughout the season!!!
Baldy, Beaky and Bally