The Christmas and New Year holiday fixtures always contain a healthy quota of local derbies. Our roving team of Chris Benn (County Photographer) and Jim Taylor (reporter) saw this as an ideal opportunity, during the current depressing times, to engage with more of our Senior Clubs.
However, our plans to feature matches exclusively played between Middlesex affiliated clubs were again partially thwarted on Monday, 3rd January, on this occasion by the wet weather. Happily, there were no problems with Harefield United’s pitch and we were able to take in their Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division game against Flackwell Heath.
Harefield United are the oldest club in Middlesex, having been formed in 1868, fifteen years before Middlesex FA. They celebrated their 150th season, 2018-19, by remaining unbeaten in league matches for the entire season, dropping only four points and winning 34 consecutive matches and also winning the Middlesex Premier Cup. Current Manager, Jason Shaw was in charge for that season. Their well-appointed and picturesque Preston Park ground provides an ideal setting for Senior non-league football.
We were in good company, as Chairman Gary South and his committee, were hosting Cllr David Simmonds MP and Cllr Jane Palmer at the match.
Before the match, Flackwell Heath were in 8th place in the league table (29 points from 18 matches) and Harefield United were 12th (22 points also from 18 matches). However, both teams had matches (up to 4) in hand over all of the teams above them.
Despite trailing at half time, the visitors finished comfortable winners of a very entertaining game. The outstanding player in the first half was the home goalkeeper Jacob Ballheimer, who made a string of saves to keep his team in the game and enabled them to surprisingly take the lead just before the interval. After the interval Flackwell Heath rattled in 5 goals, because their strikers were then frequently able to manoeuvre themselves into unassailable scoring positions, thus giving the keeper little chance of making saves.
Jacob Ballheimer tips a free kick over his crossbar
After a tentative start, Flackwell Heath took the initiative and Jacob Ballheimer was brought into action, tipping a free kick by Fabian Driffill, from around 25 yards, over his cross bar.
Jacob Ballheimer saves from Jack Shakespeare
Visiting captain, Jamie Essex released Jack Shakespeare, who burst through and delivered a fierce low shot, which Jacob parried for a corner. He took the incoming corner high up. Shakespeare then had two more attempts following promising moves. His first effort was slightly too high and the next hit the side netting. Then Alan Akerman delivered an awkwardly bouncing low shot from the edge of the penalty area, which Jacob had well covered. The keeper then dealt with a low drive from Jamie Essex.
Jacob Ballheimer catches a corner
The Hares enjoyed a brief period of pressure, during which two shots were charged down and a Lewis White shot cleared the bar.
The visitors resumed the attack. Fabian Driffill was fouled just outside the box, took the free kick himself and brought a one handed save from the keeper. Shakespeare released Essex, who fired wide. Then Shakespeare controlled a loose ball and shot for Jacob to save low down.
United had a period of dominance, as the interval approached. A header by Sean Mangan, from a corner, was well saved by keeper Isaac Hay. Hay then saved low down from Lewis White and the ball rebounded to Sean Mangan, whose shot was deflected behind. Then, in the 44th minute, a cross from Femi Ogunsola was headed home by Steven Green to put his side ahead.
Steven Green (3) puts Harefield United ahead
During the interval, Flackwell Heath must have been wondering how they were behind in a match in which they had created so many chances.
Half time score: Harefield United 1 Flackwell Heath 0
Flackwell Heath went back onto the offensive after the interval. Jacob made probably his best save so far, a reflex action from Callum Mapley’s header from a free kick. Next, he made a diving save from Mapley’s long shot.
Fabian Driffill (9) nets Flackwell Heath's equaliser
Fabian Driffill equalised for Flackwell Heath in the 53rd minute from close range, capitalising on the home defence’s failure to take an opportunity to clear their lines.
Fabian Driffill makes it 2-1 to Flackwell Heath
The visitors took the lead after 70 minutes. Driffill was again the scorer, collecting the ball from Mapley, and firing in low on the turn.
Aidan Higgs (14) scores Flackwell Heath's third goal
Three minutes later, substitute Aidan Higgs completed a move involving several players by netting Heath’s third goal from close range.
Jacob confidently held a long free kick from Brandon Eaton but he was beaten again by Higgs from close range, in the 80th minute. Fabian Driffill supplied the final pass.
Jacob prevented a Higgs hat trick by leaving his penalty area to kick clear from him a few minutes later. However, in the second minute of added time, Jamie Ayres converted Josh Oliver’s pass to add a 5th goal for Flackwell Heath.
Aidan Higgs (14) makes it four
Referee, Sobastian Frazer had a very good game, handling the various incidents which occurred in a firm and but sympathetic manner. He was well supported by his assistants.
Final score: Harefield United 1 Flackwell Heath 5
Harefield United: Jacob Ballheimer, Harry McCorkell, Steven Green, Callum Neal, Romario Warburton-Rowe, Sean Mangan (capt), Lewis White, Richard Pacquette (Courtney Austin 52 mins), Femi Ogunsola (Nicolas Hounto 76) , Louis Bircham (Harley Sells 78) and Paul Underwood.
Unused Substitutes: Ben Stallard and Anotida Mano.
Manager: Jason Shaw.
Flackwell Heath: Isaac Hay, Brandon Eaton, Callum Mapley, Jamie Essex (capt) (Josh Oliver 66 mins), Ryan Avery, Jack Taylor, Marcus Ushiro-Lumb (Aidan Higgs 58), Alan Akerman, Fabian Driffill, Jack Shakespeare and James Keeley (Jamie Ayres 40).
Unused Substitutes: James Burrell and Tyler Gregory.
Manager: Chris Ayres
Referee: Sobastian Frazer Assistant Referees: Robert Reid and Stephen Pordes.
We thank Chris & Jim for giving up their time during the holiday period to take in this match, they have selected their favourite images from the match as showcased throughout the report. Chris has also kindly provided a full album of photography from the match.
Chris & Jim's picks
Full album courtesy of Chris Benn