Sawbridgeworth Town welcome Southend Manor to Crofters End in a battle between two parts of the Essex Senior League furniture. The Robins are currently playing their 43rd successive season in the division. The Manor are taking part in their 31st. The Southendians are the only one of the two to have lifted the trophy but both enjoyed successful periods in the 1990s. Manor won their championship in 1991 while Sawbridgeworth were runners-up twice in 1993 and 1995.
Recent years have been successful for the Robins, they've enjoyed a run of five seasons finishing inside the top 10. Southend have been runners-up as recently as 2012 but recent seasons have been tough. They've benefited from the league's recent lack of relegation on several occasions since 2013.
Both sides have a had a tough start to this season. The Robins have lost six of their last eight games and only won once in October, albeit an impressive win against Hullbridge. The Manor have to go back to 26 September for their last win but have drawn their last two games 2-2, against Grays Atheltic in the Essex Senior Cup and Saffron Walden in the League.
The home side are currently in 15th place in the league, three points and three paces above the visitors with a game in hand. A win for the Robins could potentially see them move up to 13th. A win for the Manor would see them move above their hosts and potentially up into 15th place. Southend are currently only a point above Leyton Athletic who occupy the second relegation spot although the East Londoners have played a game more.
Ground 92: Crofters End
Sawbridgeworth's ground, Crofters End, is as the name suggests situated right at the end of a peaceful country street. Like many of the non-league venues, you find of the M11 it's leafy and has a rural charm. One side of the ground is a fairly ramshackle collection of buildings and constructions that include; a tea bar (with the obligatory burgers), a comfy clubhouse, and collection of small seating areas.
The far side adjoins a training pitch where one of the club's other sides were busy honing their skills, much to the annoyance of the home manager who threatened to turn off the lights if they continued to return loose balls directly onto the main pitch. Views on the far side are slightly restricted by the large dugouts and hefty floodlights which seem common in this part of the world - I distinctly remember similar one at Stansted.
What Crofters end lacks in aesthetics, however, it makes up for in friendliness and charm. You can smell the greenery on an autumn night and the various quirks of the ground provide ample subject matter for striking up a conversation. There is parking available at the ground and the surrounding streets. It's also walking distance from Sawbridgeworth Station.
Competition: Essex Senior League
Ground: Crofters End
Attendance: 30 ish
Programme: MIA at printers
Refreshments: £1 (tea)
Dogs spotted: None
The game - liveblog
Sawbridgeworth eventually won a competitive and intensely watchable encounter. The Robins move up to 14th place in the league while Southend Manor stay in 18th. Both sides could take plenty of positives from the game and neither looked like relegation material from what I saw.
Read my liveblog of the game below: