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Final day draw not enough as Rams are relegated

Saturday 20th April 2024
Southern League Premier Division South
Beaconsfield Town 1 Plymouth Parkway 1
Holloways Park - Att 283

Rams of the match Kam English/ Dan Roth

Beaconsfield Town’s Six seasons in Step 3 came to an end on Saturday at Holloways Park after a 1-1 draw left them, their opponents Plymouth Parkway and Hanwell Town all on 48 points but the Ram’s inferior -15 goal difference tipped them into the fourth relegation spot and back to Step 4.

It was harsh on Jon Underwood and his team who would have comfortably survived in any of the other Step 3 competitions and previously survived in the Southern Premier South with fewer points, 46 in 2021-22

Plymouth arrived having been forced into a manic and nomadic end-of-season schedule.

As the west country weather battered their Bolitho Park pitch to such an extent that they were forced into fulfilling home fixtures as far away as Yate town. Saturday was their 11th game in April but it didn’t show in their legs until the closing stages when The Rams threw everything they had at them.

Beaconsfield began well. Adam Parkes in the Parkway goal flapped away an early Dobson cross under pressure and Luke Neville was unable to convert the rebound.

Possession was recycled to the left wing where Zidan Akers, who was everywhere in the first half. He worked his way into the box before laying the ball back to Kam English his well-struck effort from 15 yards beat Parkes’ full-length dive, but the young keeper was grateful to Skipper Toby Down on hand behind him to head the goal bound effort up and away. That was as close as The Rams got in the first period as both sides battled it out in the middle of the park.

Plymouth had their moments as the half wore on. Tom Norcott was forced into a scrambling save to turn away a dipping effort from Reece Thomson which bounced in front of the young keeper and reared up on him. He reacted well to cover the bounce and turned it away to safety.

Then, with a warning of what was to come later, Dylan Jones, probably Plymouth’s outstanding performer on the day, collected the ball in his own right, back area as a Rams attack was cleared, before setting off on a direct angled run.

As Beaconsfield struggled to respond to his pace, he drove ahead virtually unchallenged for 70 yards to the edge of the other box, before steering a low shot beyond Norcott’s dive. Fortunately for the Rams the effort flew narrowly wide.

The half ended with Tommy McElroy, marshalled on the edge of legality and probably the other side on occasion for the entire game by Toby Down and Oscar Halls, working an opening and producing an unconvincing low save from Parkes. The former Plymouth Argyle youngster was fortunate that the soft effort did not fall to a Beaconsfield attacker as it dribbled along the Six-yard box.
McElroy was again involved in the final incident of the half when, yet another strong challenge produced a frustrated response from the young forward. His anger boiled over into an outburst at the assistant and earned him a somewhat harsh yellow card.

Half time 0 - 0

With Swindon Two goals to the good at Halftime, Beaconsfield knew that only a win would suffice and began well. No perennial second-half slow start here, they were immediately on the front foot Dan Roth who had been tidy if unspectacular before the break stepped forward and began to run the game for The Rams as they went in search of the opener.

Jake Gosling played in Kam English down the left his low cross appeared to strike a defender’s arm on the way across goal but referee Chris Darling, not particularly well placed waved away the appeals.

Beaconsfield continued to press. Zidan Akers made space on the right wing and delivered a teasing cross English got across his defender at the near post and hurled himself at the ball, his brilliant diving header from six yards flashed past Parkes but agonisingly for The Rams crashed back off the crossbar.

As The Rams continued to press their golden opportunity arrived on the hour and fell to Dan Roth. Halls deflection of a Kam English pass skipped off the surface and the ball fell to Roth who controlled it on his chest 30 yards out, got the ball out of his feet and headed for goal. As he drove into the box, he steadied himself, but Parkes was quickly off his line and spread himself well to deflect Roths’s effort away with an outstretched leg.

The rebound Fell for Zidan Akers who was forced wide by the spin of the ball but was able to get in a goal bound effort with Parkes struggling to cover but Akers could not beat the out-stretched leg of Michael Williams who threw himself into the path of the shot to deflect it away.

A minute later as another Beaconsfield attack broke down the ball found its way to Dylan Jones on the right wing just inside his own half.

He dropped his shoulder, stepped inside James Dobson and bore down on goal again. This time his finish matched the promise of the run as he stroked it past the desperate dive of Norcott and into the corner from just inside the box.

Beaconsfield now needed two, but they picked themselves up and continued to press. Jon Underwood sent on Joe Wilson who made a huge impression in the final 25 minutes linking with Dan Bradshaw on the right flank and freeing Gosling to move into a more fluid forward role.

In the 69th minute Roth spread the play to Bradshaw who found Wilson in the area. Back to goal he jockeyed for an opening and drew a lunging challenge which Mr Darling deemed a penalty.

James Dobson took responsibility and rammed home the kick before earning a yellow card as he and Parkes became embroiled in the tedious battle for the ball that always ensues when one side want to get on with things and the other has been wasting time since the 25th minute. The fact remains though that the kick off and therefore the ball belongs to the side that concedes so attacking players have no business getting involved and the booking whilst not costly was entirely avoidable.

Beaconsfield were obviously in the ascendancy and Plymouth although defending for all they were worth, were game managing for all they were worth as well.
Falling over under every contact trying to buy cheap free kicks, developing phantom injuries.

Doing everything, they could to break up the game, slow The Rams momentum, in the face of Mr Darling who was happy to point out that he was adding time, nine minutes in the end, but chose to take no action until he finally booked Parkes wandering backwards and forwards across his six-yard box before taking a spot kick.

May be the FA could help officials and return to the practice where the ref decides which side a goal kick should be taken from? Thus, removing the tedious yet entirely predictable process of goalkeepers wandering around their six-yard boxes. Particularly after opposing forwards assist them by spotting the ball up for them thus removing their opportunity for mincing about and spotting the ball with studied deliberation on the other side.

They should also look at the other fashionable habit of benches signalling goalkeepers to go down to receive treatment, safe in the knowledge that they are the only players on the pitch who don’t need to go off after receiving that treatment.

On this occasion, ‘treatment’ was accompanied by a slow-motion saunter from the bench, a consultation longer than you get at most GP’s before the eventual gentle application of a small blob of completely unnecessary deep heat and an equally lethargic meander back to the bench.

Again, adding the time is all very well but taking no other action when everyone knows exactly what is happening simply encourages teams to continue.

By calling it game management we’ve apparently dignified it to the point of art. Everyone does it, so that’s alright then.

It’s been shown once this season that an early booking for time wasting, sets the tone and kills it stone dead, yet so few officials are prepared to enforce the laws.

The,” It doesn’t matter I’ve stopped the watch approach”. Is a cop-out and as is often the case shows a lack of understanding on the part of officials.

Put simply if teams believed they weren’t gaining an advantage by doing it they wouldn’t be doing it.

See also the lack of enforcement of the spot of dead balls and throw ins!

Wilson’s next involvement saw him find space in the box and fire in a low drive which Parkes did well to deflect away with an out-stretched telescopic leg.

From the resulting corner Ada Okorogheye, thrown on as Jon Underwood tried every attacking option he had in search of the win, saw a shot blocked by Shane White the ball span up and as White moved to get it under control Dan Bradshaw got his body between man and ball and went down under contact.

You’ve seen them given but both players hurled themselves to the floor under contact as if felled by snipers. Mr Darling decided that a goal kick was the better part of valour.

Bradshaw was again on the wrong end of the official’s decisions in the next attack. A deep cross was cleared to the edge of the area where it fell invitingly for the advancing Luke Neville. The skipper’s eyes lit up as he met it on the half volley in stride. Fair to say, it wasn’t exactly a sweet strike but squirted off a defender and fell for Bradshaw Eight yards out.

His crisp shot deflected off the despairing leg of Cameron Sangster and over Parkes into the net. Bradshaw and Beaconsfield’s delight was short-lived though as the midfielder was adjudged to have been in an offside position when Neville launched the initial effort.

Beaconsfield continued to press as Plymouth held on for all the were worth and defended the aerial assault of the final stages for all they were worth. They contested every header as if their lives depended on it and although, Neville, Jacques Kpohomouh and Okorogheye all won headers they were under such consistent levels of duress that they could not stretch Parkes further.

After Mr Darling remembered that time-wasting was punishable by a yellow card and showed one to Parkes in the Eighth minute of time added on. That was very much that.

Disconsolate Rams players fell to the floor while Plymouth celebrated the fruits of their herculean efforts over a season blighted by repeated cancellations and rearrangements, leaving them within one further postponement of not being able to fulfil all their fixtures as they had a game on every available match day from March onwards.

As for Beaconsfield they gave it everything they had and gave everything for their manager and the decent crowd who finally turned out to support them. On the day it was just not to be but whilst the relegation battle ended here. The seeds were sown way back in the season. When second half performances of passion desire and application were nowhere to be seen as leads and resolve dissolved in the face of minimal application from the opposition at times.

And with the margin of safety a single point away fair to mention some frankly baffling refereeing decisions that began on opening day. Where a Stonewall penalty shout and a chance to double the lead was rewarded with a second yellow and a red apparently for simulation.

A decision then compounded at the other end by a challenge an assistant deemed to be outside the box before being overruled for a penalty which was then ordered to be retaken when Sam Beasant saved the first effort.

Or the challenge on Jefferson Louis by a Gosport defender already on a yellow card scything him down in the box with the Rams ahead 1-0 only for penalty appeals to be waived away in what a neutral groundhopping fan later described as, “The worst decision he had seen in 30 years watching non-league football”.
Two goals in the last five minutes snatching defeat from the jaws of a deserved victory.

In the final analysis, the harsh fact is, the team who played so very well on the day here and came so desperately close to securing the win they needed, set the foundations for their ultimate demise in the early season. When they didn’t play like this often enough.

When they frittered away 17 points from winning positions crumbling under pressure seemingly on a weekly basis.

When it wasn’t conceding comfortable leads, it was last-gasp goals. Sometimes it was both.

In the midst of it all, surrendering a 3-1 halftime lead against Swindon Supermarine away, and then the same margin after 70 minutes at home before shipping a last-minute winner to emerge with One point from a possible Six that they held in their hands.

Comfortable Two-goal margins surrendered against Hendon and Tiverton

As we remarked at the time,

“It’s lucky Jon Underwood is already bald because he’d be tearing his hair out otherwise!”

All those points lost from winning positions. That was always likely to come back and bite. Sadly, it did just that.

Of course, this being football, it was the Wiltshire side who took full advantage.

As Beaconsfield and Plymouth toiled Marine comfortably accounted for Winchester City and leapfrogged out of the relegation zone, where they’ve been for most of the season. Making space for The Rams to drop back into it on the final day.

With Underwood understandably deciding to step down the search for a new manager and the rebuilding of the first team starts now as they wait to find out which competition awaits them next season.



All images ©Neale Blackburn Photography 2024
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