2015/2016 Season overview
Where did the last 10 months go? It doesn’t seem five minutes ago that we were all enjoying the sun shine and watching the Bloods in the 2015 pre-season matches. It was the first season that I had managed to attend every first team match, home and away, league and cup. For me, the best part of it was the friends I made along the way or as we like to call it ‘The Bloods Family. Every one of us has a different past, with different back grounds, careers and future ambitions, but for that 90 or so minutes we are one. One team, one family and with one love! And that love is for Saffron Walden Town Football Club. Whether you are a player, a fan, a volunteer or Granddad Sticko, we are a family! I challenge anyone to find a more dedicated, family focused club then the Bloods. This is starting to sound like a monologue from The Godfather.
So, I am going to try and go through every blog and pick out some highlights. It will give you a breakdown of the events and matches over each month.
Norwich 2 – Saffron Walden 0
8th August 2015
After an impressive pre-season against a range of very good sides our first trip was to current champions Norwich. This was the match we had all been waiting for. Norwich dominated last season and won the league by 22 points. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I was eager to see how invincible Norwich could be and how the Bloods would fare.
I set off at 12.30pm with the roof down and the sun blazing. We heard that there had been an accident on the A11 so I was glad we left when we did. We had a little traffic on the A47 due to road works but got to the ground at 2.30pm. When we got to there I heard that we had just signed a new player called James Thomas. It was a new look site which featured new blood, Sam Gregory and Ryan Fleming. Both players had been with us in pre-season and looked like exciting prospects.
Within 15 minutes the Bloods threatened the Norwich defence with a serious of attacks. By this time I knew the gloves were off and we wouldn’t be put off by their reputation for beating teams 6 or 7 nil.
At this point we had at least 60% possession and the fans were really getting behind the Bloods. I was so pleased with the way the lads were playing. Walden looked like they belonged in the Premier League. Confidence was growing and Jamie Solkon started to dart forward in his usual fashion.
Near the end of the first half Sam Gregory continued to work well with Jamie Thomas creating chances, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. Through their hard work they set Louis Harper who hit the bar. If the ball had been 6 inches lower, the Norwich keeper would have been picking the ball out of the net.
In the last minute of the first half the keeper lost control of the ball and the ball spun over him. We watched the ball almost cross the line, but Speller slid in and cleared the ball. Unfortunately Norwich’s Jamie Speller kicked the ball and the post, which resulted in a nasty cut. The Walden fans shouted at the ref so he would get him medical attention. We all waited after the half time whistle for Speller to be taken off and congratulated him for his amazing clearance and taking one for the team. #respectfulfans
We battled to the very end but unfortunately lost 2-0 after controlling the majority of the first half. When the final whistle went, the lads look very disappointed and felt robbed. I personally think if Norwich’s suspect first goal had of be disallowed, we would of came away with a 0-0 draw. But we were another team who fell to the impressive Matt Blake. One thing I knew as a result of this game and how well we played, we were here to stay in the Premier League.
Fan’s ‘Man of the Match’ went to Jamie Thomas.
Saffron Walden 0 – Newmarket 2
11th August 2015
If I could describe the match in one word I would say ‘frustrating’. Again we were on the wrong side of a 2-0 loss.
As always, I was looking forward to the match and especially returning home to the Meadows. I got the chance to use my season ticket for the first time! I was even sad enough to take a picture outside the ground with my friend John who had not been to the lane for 20 years. It was great to be back and to see the usual crowd and we were all raring for the game to start. We had a fantastic attendance of 254, which was the highest in the league that night. The second highest crowd was Gorleston at 127.
The match started lively and Walden did look the better side. Mashy got the fans going with a great run, which was followed by a brilliant turn from Wiggy, which warmed the Newmarket keeper up. If we kept this up the Newmarket keeper and defence were going to be in for a long night. I must mention that the keeper had socks which matched the colour of ‘Nemo’ from the film Finding Nemo. As you can image the banter started quite early on, but he remained professional and didn’t bite back.
The lads showed a lot of heart throughout the game, but it just was not our night. We lost 2-0 at home, after looking the better side. We were undone by a couple of text book goals, which we knew we should have done better. As I drove home thinking about the match I tried not to dwell on the loss. Sticksy had some work to do but we know that it would come. I was glad I didn’t have his job! I thought we just needed that first goal and we could build on that confidence.
Fan’s ‘Man of the Match’ went to Sam Gregory.
Hadley FC 1 Vs. Saffron Walden 2 – Road to Wembley – FA Cup Qualification round
15th August 2015
There is something so special about the FA Cup, and the match did not disappoint.
We had it all; Cheers, Jeers, Fears and Beers…Especially Malcolm ‘Hop a long’ Nash who was very smiley (Mrs. Nash loves you really Malc).
We set off in the car and I was given the responsibility of flag carrier. It feels a bit like taking care of the class hamster for the half term break. The traffic was bad due to an accident on the M11 between Junction 7 and 6. So we got off at Junction 7 and decided to drive through Epping. We got to Potters Bar with 20 minutes to spare.
Jon and I were greeted by Jackie and Malcolm Nash. It was good to see them at an away game, as they are usually helping out when the reserves have a home match. We had a job to do and we were going to do it. This is when I had heard that fan favourite Shaun Avis had decided to leave the club. I was disappointed but as I said to him, he had to do what was right for him.
So as the lads came out, we took a gamble and walked behind the goal that Walden were facing. We got the flag tied and ready on the railings and yes you’ve guessed it, Hadley won the toss so we had to take the flag down and leg it around to the other end. As we secured the flag to the correct end Martin Johnson told me that we only need to win 12 more games and we lift the trophy. Now that was optimism from the club’s Chairman.
As we cheered on the Bloods from behind the goal, we had stones thrown at us from the local kids, who were messing about behind the fence. As you can imagine, Mrs Nash was ready to express her ‘delicate’ opinion and told them in a calm and civil way to stop. This match was the birth of the famous and award winning flannel.
This is the match where Ben Lawrence was given the name ‘Beast’. Every time the Bloods won a throw-in near the goal, we would all chant ‘Beast, Beast, Beast!’
The match overall was very positive and we had finally gotten off the mark, after Sam Gregory had scored his first competitive goal for the Bloods. Spike delivered a cross for Solk’s, who headed the ball down to Gregory. Gregory looked off balance but corrected himself brilliantly and produced a great goal low and hard, beating the keeper.
Hadley didn’t back down and started to play better. They had a few good runs into our 18 yard box but Spike, Reid and The Beast cleared their lines well. Hadley’s number 9 had a great effort which was blocked and saved by Croll, who managed to keep on the ball.
The Bloods second goal was a beaut. We won a throw-in and the crowd once again were calling for ‘The Beast’ Ben Lawrence. In usual fashion he launched his throw into the box. Jake Noble timed his jump perfectly and floated the ball over the keeper and into the back on the net. It was a great unstoppable goal for Nobby.
Soon after we went 0-2 up, Hadley scored from an excellent run into the box. The Bloods defender got a touch, but the ball flicked up in the air, and the striker volleyed the ball into the back of the net. Hadley started to build in confidence and was looking like a different team.
Jake Noble took either an elbow or a forearm in the face by Hadley’s number 8. The referee had no choice but to produce the red card and send the player off. Noble stayed down for a while which looked worrying. He soon got back up after some treatment from the bench. Maher decided not to follow in the footsteps on Jose Mourinho and allowed Noble to be treated.
In the last 15 minutes Sam Gregory, who again played very well, was replaced by Graeme Turner. G man was greeted by a warm reception. It was the first time he had played for Walden since his knee injury back in May 2015.
The last few minutes were played in true FA Cup nail biting fashion. Hadley threw everything they had at us, but the defenders stood up well and refused to let Hadley back in. Overall it was a great performance from the team, who at times, were on the ropes, but didn’t give up
Fan’s ‘Man of the Match’ went to Jamie Solkhon.
Saffron Walden 0 – FC Clacton 0 (Bloods win 4-2 on penalties) – Essex Senior Cup
18th August 2015
I thought lasts FA Cup success against Hadley was eventful. It took some time for me to come back down to earth after this match. I should have started buying shares in cold flannels for Mrs Nash’s head. This match had almost everything; and in true fashion did not disappoint.
I sat there at around 3pm looking at the pouring rain, hoping the game would not be called off. I even took a walk away from my lap top for 5 minutes, to check the grass on the green. I would have been gutted if the game had been called off due to the weather. You can’t beat a midweek night out at the Lane to break up the working week.
Once I knew the match was on I headed down to my second home, the Meadow. I was worried about putting the flag behind the goal as I didn’t want it getting ruined after its 3rd appearance. Sticksy and Maher decided to make a few changes to last Saturday’s win against Hadley. In goal we had 16 year old first team debutant Sam Soutar and what a great decision that turned out to be.
The Bloods started the match all guns blazing. The growing confidence gave Solk’s an opportunity to come forward with a darting 100 yard sprint to win Walden a throw-in. The fans always appreciate great runs from our full-backs. You can always tell when the fans are getting into it - our voices go up an octave!
More and more chances came Walden’s way and FC Clacton had no choice but to park the bus. Gregory and Harper showed some great skill coming forward, but again were denied by a strong defence.
FC Clacton changed their game slightly and began marking Wiggy 3 to 1. Wiggy didn’t let that faze him and made some cheeky turns into the box. He was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty. The referee gave a free kick to FC Clacton instead. Not that we complained…..much!
Both teams continued to fight for that winning goal but the inevitable happened. It would go down to a penalty shootout. Who was going to be the hero? I bet Sam didn’t expect he would be facing penalties on his first competitive match.
At that point the fans looked nervous and Mrs Nash struggled to look. Surely we could do this and win? We cheered as loud as we could and hoped that the penalties would be taken where we were standing, as we didn’t want to have to leg it to the other side. Malcolm, with his broken foot, would have had to be pushed in a wheel barrow.
Hero Sam pulled of two fantastic penalty saves and we won the match 4-2 on penalties. The team all ran and surrounded Bell and Soutar. What a match! We looked the better side, and more then held our own when we went down to 10 men. I am smiling as I write this as it truly felt like we had won the cup.
Fans ‘Man of the Match’ went to Sam Soutar.
Saffron Walden 2 - Felixstowe and Walton 3
22nd August 2015
2pm and I was watching the lads warm up. It was 28 degrees and I had my new personalised training top on. The first thing I thought was, rather them than me. I’ll stick to my cold lemonade, thanks. The fans were still buzzing from the midweek cup win. I spoke to last week’s hero Sam Soutar and he still had a big smile on his face.
We went 1 -0 down as a result of some brilliant play by Felixstowe and Walton. Bennet was extremely quick and managed to get passed Grinrod. He made an excellent pass back to Sckarr, and his strike was perfect leaving Croll no chance. Out of respect we applauded the visitors.
The Bloods responded well from going 1-0 down. Wiggy and Gregory continued to haunt the defence but just couldn’t find that killer shot. Bennet again stuck to Wiggy like glue, and marked him well. Not many right backs can do that, so it was a great battle between them.
Midway through the first half the referee stopped the match for a water break. It was very hot, and ‘we’ were just standing behind the goal. The players did not look tired and soon got the game going again. If I had of been playing I would of passed out three minutes into the first half. You can tell that the management team had worked hard on their fitness levels.
Just when we hoped we would get back into the game, Felixstowe and Walton struck again. The goal was very well done. They played a long ball, which was flicked on by a header. The forward took the ball in his stride, and smashed the ball into the back of the net.
The Bloods were down but not out. Wardley needed to work his magic.
You could tell the Felixstowe and Walton defence where getting rattled. Wiggy played well and was awarded a penalty. Unfortunately for Wig, the keeper guessed the right was and saved the ball.
All was not doom and gloom, as the saved penalty resulted in a throw-in. The crowd were getting right behind the Bloods, and called for the Beast. The Beast launched his throw into the mixer. Murphy got the better of the centre back and in true ‘Boss Man’ fashion, beat the keeper with a fine header. 2-1. Come on you bloods.
80 minutes into the match, and Turner showed some first class skill. He ran up the wing, and played the ball around the defender to run onto. He held the ball up, and waited for Wig to get into the box. The cross was perfect and Wig chested it down, and smashed it in the back of the net, to make it 2-2. This is why I love non-league football.
Damn, Damn, Damn!! Just as I thought we could win, or at least get a draw, Felixstowe and Walton won a soft penalty. If you could have heard the tone of my voice on the Dictaphone, you would have thought the world had ended. The penalty was taken well and we were now trailing behind.
The match ended up Bloods 2 – Felixstowe and Walton 3. Personally I could not have asked more of the players in the 2ndhalf. We were undone by two brilliant goals in the first half. The fight back was almost a fairy tale ending.
Fans ‘Man of the Match’ went to Joe Murphy.
Mildenhall Town 1 – Saffron Walden 0
25th August 2015
I do love a Tuesday evening match in August, with the sun beaming down, and the beer flowing. Sadly that was not the case that night. The rain had not stopped since 2pm. So armed with my waterproof and brolly, I headed off to Mildenhall.
I arrived at the ground about 45 minutes before kick-off, and was instantly impressed by the quality of the grass. Full credit must be given to the grounds keeper and his colleagues.
Within 5 minutes, Mildenhall had scored. They had a free kick from the right side of the pitch. Solk’s was pushed over and fell on the ball. It was a very harsh decision. The goal was scored by Luke Butcher or I think that was his name. I was too busy stamping my feet at the time.
We almost went 2-0 down, as a result of great play from Mildenhall. Bell ran back and cleared the ball off the line for a corner. It was a fantastic block. Bell was now showing that he was back to full fitness. The corner was whipped in and well saved by Croll.
The Beast was doing his Captain duties, by barking orders at his defence to put in a tackle. Soon after, he made a great challenge to deny Mildenhall a shooting opportunity.
Our best effort of the half came from a great run from Solkhon, and link up play with Bell. Bell crossed the ball in long, which was slightly too high for Mashy.
The match started to get gritty with slide challenges from both teams. The ground was slippery with both benches calling for fouls.
First half ended Mildenhall 1 – Bloods 0. An improvement was needed if we were going to get back in the game.
I was feeling good about the second half, and knew the Bloods would come out fighting. Every game we have played so far, we have refused to let our heads drop.
75 minutes into the match, and Mildenhall should have been 2-0 up. They had a clear chance on goal, but lifted it over the cross bar for a conversion! The Mildenhall fans where not happy, as that was a clear chance to see off the game.
Croll made another fantastic save from Enaro. After all these great saves, it was starting to look like we may just get back into this.
We had more attempts, and were getting the ball in the mixer a lot more than the first half. The ball just did not drop well enough for a clear shot. Mildenhall defended well and refused to let us score. The matched finished Mildenhall 1 – Walden 0
The fans ‘Man of the Match’ went to Floyd Croll.
Saffron Walden 2 – Cheshunt 0 – FA Cup
29th August 2015
I had been awake since 6am on Sunday morning, reflecting on this epic FA Cup match, against Cheshunt. I was also slightly hung over, due to a beer festival in my village. A giant killing FA Cup win, and the choice of 30 beers just do not mix. I was in need of Mrs Nash’s cold flannel.
I arrived at the Meadows an hour before the game, so I could tie the flag up. A few of the Cheshunt players were warming up, and I was half expecting to be hit by the ball. So with one eye on the flag, and one on the ball, the flag was successfully hung. I took a ‘selfie’ for the blog and realised it was the first time I have been on the pitch since I was a kid.
I also have to mention Andy Green’s ‘Beer’ sign, which he was very proud of.
We started the match with a 1 minute silence, to show our respect to the poor victims of the Shoreham air crash. Two of the 11 people who died were from Non-League side Worthing United. Our thoughts and prayers went out to the friends and family of Matt Grimstone and Jacob Schilt. #nonleaguefamily
It was time to get started. Walden were going to be tested against Step 4 club Cheshunt.
It took a while to break down the Cheshunt defence. Turner made a great run up the wing, to win a free kick. Spike took the free kick which was tipped over the bar from the keeper. The crowd were feeling positive. The ‘Come on Walden’ chants were getting louder.
The corner was taken long, which found Wiggy in space. Wig delivered the perfect cross for Reid to head home. It was a great goal and the pressure finally paid off. Half time and the lads went in at 1-0 up.
Lady luck was on our side for the second goal which came in the first five minutes of the second half. Gregory ran with the ball at the Cheshunt defence. He passed it to Wiggy, who delivered a forward pass to G Man. G Man beat his man and crossed the ball, low and hard , about five feet in front of the goal line. Joe Kizzy slid in to shield the ball, but as he got up, he kicked the ball into the back of the net. You had to feel for Kizzy. It was very unlucky. Credit for G Man though, for his wicked cross.
63 minutes in and Gregory went down holding his foot. He looked in pain and couldn’t continue, and was replaced by Louis Harper. The injury turned out to be a disaster. After the match we found out it was Sam’s knee and he was in a bad way. The scans confirmed he had to have an operation which has put his football career in doubt. He did not feature again for the Bloods this season. We were all gutted for him and sent him get well messages. I just hope he gets to play again.
65 minutes into the match, and the fans realised how much the referee looked like Percy from Blackadder. With my Rowan Atkinson looks, we almost had a full cast.
In the final 10 minutes, pressure was being thrown at Walden, but Strong made a series of strong headers, diverting the danger. Cheshunt continued to try and get back in the game, but we were just too much for them.
The full time whistle went and the match finished Walden 2 – Cheshunt 0.
Fans ‘Man of the Match’ went to Greg Strong
It was not the start we all hoped for but we were certainly learning that going up a step was not going to be easy. After three games we had zero points and planted at the bottom of the table. The one thing that I noticed about this league was the speed the opponent would close you down when trying to travel with the ball. We were feeling a bit low after losing Gregory to an injury and Avis was playing his football elsewhere. However we had some exciting prospects in the team and were still in all cup competitions. We were just warming up!
Player of the month – Sam Gregory
Best game of the month – Clacton in the cup
Worst game of the month – Newmarket at home
Goal of the month – Nobby vs. Hadley in FA cup
Away fans of the month – Mildenhall
Away ground of the month - Mildenhall
Look out for all the action from September 2015
Thanks for reading