Sunday, 6 August 2017

First Rock From The Sundorne

Rock Rovers  1  AFC Wednesbury  1

West Midlands Regional League - Second Division

You could forgive me for being somewhat cautious when it comes to the first day of the competitive aspect of the football season.

Three years ago I turned up at Aston United on a beautiful sunny day to watch them in the Midlands Regional Alliance, only to find a cricket match taking place, and no evidence whatsoever of a football pitch in the vicinity. I ended up that day on the plastic watching PMG Cavaliers, it wasn't what I had in mind.

Then last season, my plan was to go to Azaad Sports in Wolverhampton, which I did, only to find the place bereft of any life. I checked the website only to see the game had been postponed, for seemingly no apparent reason. That day was a bit more testing as I had to make my way at a pretty rapid pace down the M5 to Badsey to see Montpellier in action, and even then that nearly didn't happen because of a torrential rain storm and lightning overhead!

Today, I did my homework, I sent a text the Rock Rovers Club Secretary (who was prompt and helpful) and also checked the weather forecast. Ordinarily in a league like this on a day like this I would just chance it, but today, no way!

It wasn't the most straightforward of journeys, I'd factored in the Shrewsbury Town home game element with Rock playing so close, but forgotten all about the fact Wolves were at home to Middlesbrough in front of a full house. I was stuck in a queue of traffic from the Cannock M6 Toll junction all the way down to the M54, it didn't please me one bit, and then on the M54 I drove into an absolutely torrential downpour that virtually bought the traffic to a standstill. I was hoping it was 'very' localised as it wouldn't have done a football pitch much good if it got hit by that just prior to kick off.

Thankfully, once beyond Telford all was good in the World again, and pretty soon I on the Wenlock Road in Shrewsbury and meandering my way through the estate to the Mereside Community Centre.

The Facilities
Rock Rovers were formed ten years ago, and after a lengthy spell in the Mercian League, they have joined the West Midlands Regional League for the first time this season. Previously they played at the Shrewsbury / Sundorne Sports Village on the pitch used by Haughmond but have now relocated, for what reasons I am unsure.

The Mereside ground consists of a large car park with both the Community Centre and a Sports Pavilion to the side of it. The pitch itself is one of two that are set some seventy yards away up a slight slope. The pitch used by Rock is fully railed and has what look to be some temporary dug outs.

The Crowd Gathers
With seemingly no refreshments available I took a little wander down a nearby path that bought me out on Sutton Road, which conveniently housed the Charles Darwin public house. It was a busy venue, full of Shrews fans who were having a pre-match snifter before the game with Northampton Town, but not long after I arrived, the bulk had made the way to the stadium.

Suitably refreshed, the walk back was a brisk one and I was pitch side some fifteen minutes prior to kick off. Rock have been consistently one of the stronger sides in the Mercian over the years, whereas Wednesbury were something of an unknown quantity with this appearing to be their first season as a Saturday club.

The game kicked off with the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance, which it ironically did on that day 12 months ago at Montpellier, but it never threatened to disrupt today's game. The other roar came just prior to the kick off at STFC, when the sound from the stadium drifted the short distance Eastwards on the breeze.

The first half was a tight affair, nothing between the two sides, both having limited chances but both also trying to play football on the flat and green playing surface. Things changed in the second period when the visitors scored with a close range header, but Rock came back and looked very threatening from in-swinging corners, however it did look like Wednesbury were going to hang on.

But then as we moved into injury time, Rock won a corner which from where I was standing (right next to it), was very much a goal kick. Anyway, in it came again but this time it was met with a bullet header and found the back of then net, Rock celebrated wildly, the visitors were understandably furious.

The game had got a bit feisty at times in the second period, and this incident didn't help matters, but thankfully despite some frustration and raised tempers, things were kept a lid on. The referee to be fair did ok and kept control, but for the goal, his linesman let him down.

That said, in my view it was a fair result, both sides looked very capable and I would expect both to be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.

Just as I was getting back into my car I heard another roar, Shrewsbury had got an injury time winner, must be the day for late goals in Salopshire. My getaway beat that games traffic and the Molineux mob had long since gone as I arrived on the outskirts of Wolverhampton.

A good day, but for me, just getting to the game I planned was a result given my track record!

The Storm Clouds Gather

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