1100 - Southern Combination League
Haywards Heath Town 5-0 Hassocks
The rain continued to fall and plenty of games fell victim to waterlogged pitches. My first choice of game for the 11am slot was Haywards Heath vs Hassocks. I had the option of Lancing on their 3G as back up, but Haywards Heath tweeted to inform everyone that it was 'game on' it was to the Hanbury Stadium that I headed.
This ground has been on my radar for a while after a groundhopping mate of mine went there last season and showed me pictures of the fabulous stand that dominates the ground, which was opened in 1952 by former FIFA President Stanley Rous. By coincidence I am currently reading 'Black Coal Mornings' by Brett Anderson who is from Lindfield, a village which forms part of Haywards Heath, not that had any infulence!
Haywards Heath are having a great season and are well in the battle for promotion. A win this morning, over bottom placed Hassocks, would put The Blues top of the Southern Combination as the season enters it's final weeks.
After a laboured opening 45, where Melford Simpson gave the home side the lead just before the interval, the floodgates well and truly opened in the second half as Haywards Heath went nap. Inspired by half time substitute Alex Laing, who scored within seconds of the restart, Heath eventually ran out 5-0 winners. The other goals came courtesy of another Simpson effort (74) George Hayward (84) and Karly Akehurst (89).
The 3pm games continued to fall by the wayside as the rain continued to tip down. My second choice of game at Bowers and Pitsea was postponed so I looked at a 3G option at Walton Casuals. However a massive snarl up on the M25 put paid to that option. Another choice was East Grinstead but another snarl up around the Dartford Crossing meant it was doubtful I would make my third game at Aveley later in the day.
1500 - Isthmian League
Division One South
East Grinstead Town 1-7 Hastings United
I decided to settle for just the two games, and hope for the best regards a third. Off I went to East Court, the home of East Grinstead Town. They too had tweeted it was game on but they possibly had jumped the gun a bit early as, on my arrival at the ground, the chap on the turnstile said the match referee had yet to arrive and inspect the pitch for himself. My heart sank.
I paid my money and entered the ground, the guy on the turnstile explaining that refunds would be given if necessary. You could see the pitch had taken a battering from the overnight rain. As fast as the groundsmen were forking the pitch, more water was coming down.
East Court has been home to East Grinstead since 1967 but the two stands that sit atop the grass bank were erected as recently as 2008. After spending their entire existence in the Sussex Leagues, the club were promoted to the Isthmian League Division One South in 2014, where they have remained since.
Both teams were apparently happy to play and the referee gave it the go ahead, much to my relief. Despite a little standing water the pitch held up remarkably well and the ball was zipping about absolutely fine. Having said that, I wonder in hindsight whether East Grinstead had wished they had bothered!
The Wasps had secured another season of Isthmian League South football a couple of weeks ago with victory over fellow strugglers Ashford United. However this afternoon visitors Hastings United gave them an absolute drubbing. You could say it was raining goals!
Davide Rodari helped himself to four goals (22, 32, 64 & 81) with Owen Rowe (71) Sonny Dullaway (73) and Dayshonne Golding (76) completing the rout. Stephane Bombelenga scored for the home side in stoppage time but I'm sure that was scant consolation.
Having checked the live maps at half time, Aveley was still a no-no but fortunately the traffic had relented by the full time whistle and the prediction was I could make it on time. I jumped in the car and headed north.
1800 - Isthmian League
Division One North
Aveley 3-0 Canvey Island
The prediction was spot on. The Dartford Crossing delay was around 10 minutes and, having bagged one of the last car parking spots, I was through the turnstile in time to see the teams enter the field of play. What a relief!
Aveley moved from Mill Field, which had been home since 1952, to Parkside at the beginning of this season. The pitch is artificial so there was no danger of any waterlogging here! The new ground cost just under £5M to build and is everything you expect in a modern football stadium. Grays Athletic also share the facilities.
Aveley are ensconced in mid-table in the Isthmian Division One North but visitors Canvey Island are very much in the play-off picture. However it was the home side that ran out comfortable winners 3-0. Myles Keizer-Burrows (30) Thomas Richardson (41) Calvin Ekpiteta (90) scoring the goals.
Canvey Island had plenty of possession but didn't really trouble Rhys Madden in the Aveley goal. That concluded a fabulous day of groundhopping and I feel very, very lucky to have got three games in the circumstances. All that was left now was the long journey home...