It was not to be an easy day at Easington. Temperatures were in the mid-30’s, and there was little shade to be found within this modestly proportioned community ground. The pitch hadn’t seen water for several weeks, and the few scraps of grass still clinging to the surface were devoid of any hint of greenness. The pre-match conversation in the bar was of concerns for the welfare of players in such conditions, but a series of drinks breaks during the proceedings had been sanctioned so the hope was that they would all get through the afternoon without any medical assistance.
Both sides went into the game on the back of FA Cup replay victories in midweek. For Histon, this meant the same starting line-up as for the 4-0 win over Desborough Town, and the same five faces on the bench.
The winner of this match was going to be the team which could best cope with the conditions, and for the first fifteen minutes it appeared that the Stutes were managing the better. Chances were being created. Evan Key had a headed effort cleared off the line, Rhys Thorpe shot against the foot of the post, and a free kick from the edge of the box fizzed just over the bar. But, as is so often the case, Easington scored with their first shot on goal.
It was almost as if the Histon defenders were reluctant to challenge for the ball while they were being opened up like a tin of beans. A series of passes in the Histon half ended with an unmarked Sports player having the time and space to pick his spot, giving Sam Roach little chance from close range. The goal was a shock to the system but, given Histon’s control of events up to that point, it would surely be just a minor setback, wouldn’t it?
They say that goals change games, and this was a classic example of the old proverb. No longer were the Stutes finding openings in the home defence. Instead, they were giving away needless free kicks on a regular basis. The rhythm established in the open stages of the game was now gone.
The Sports took full advantage and added a second on 38 minutes, this time being efficient on the transition, crisp with their passing and clinical in their finishing. With the overpowering temperature, and now a two-goal disadvantage to cope with, the half time break could not come quickly enough for the Stutes.
What was said in the away dressing room at half time will no doubt remain in the dressing room, but the attitude of the Stutes side that emerged after the break was far removed from what we had seen earlier in the afternoon. Bubba Camara was now on for Sam Collison as Histon switched to a back four and a more creative midfield combination, and the effect was almost instant.
Just five minutes into the second half, some excellent work by Ryan Towner resulted in an Evan Key header hitting the inside of the post, somehow not quite crossing the goal-line. Moments later, great vision and a sweet pass from Camara put Thorpe one-on-one with the home keeper but his attempted lob had far too much on it and sailed over the bar. The score could have have been level even before Ryan Towner had two good chances to score. With Histon now over-powering the opposition, the goalscoring chances were coming thick and fast. Dan Brown had a header blocked, and Thorpe again had a shot saved as Histon attacked in the belief that this game was far from over. Sadly, it soon would be.
The optimism was stamped out midway through the half when the Sports once again found a goal from out of the blue. This one came from the Histon left and ended when a powerful shot beat Chris Gough at the near post, with the stopper having replaced Sam Roach at half time due to a groin injury.
Luke Lindsay, Marcus Cole, and Kieran McGinty all tried their luck from the subs bench but the home goal was to stay intact. While the score-line is perhaps a little harsh on Histon, it showed the value of taking chances when they come along. On another day it might have been very different. The effort shown in the second half to change the game was worthy of credit, particularly as the energy-sapping afternoon sun was getting even hotter. Thankfully, everyone survived the scorching heat and unforgiving surface, and will undoubtedly be practising their shooting skills prior to the FA Cup match at Mildenhall Town next weekend.
Histon: Sam Roach (Chris Gough 46), Andy Ballester, Pat Bexfield, Evan Key (Marcus Cole 73), Ollie Brookes (Kieran McGinty 73), Sam Collison (Bubba Camara 46), Dan Brown (Luke Lindsay 63), Ryan Towner, Rhys Thorpe, Luke Crisp, Charlie Tunnell.
Histon subs not used: N/A
Histon yellow cards: Evan Key