I’m beginning to fall in love with non-league football

I’ve wanted to pen this article for a little while now, but first I wanted to get a fuller experience of non-league football before I passed any comment on what has been an thoroughly enjoyable four to five months covering Eastbourne Borough at Priory Lane.

Right, before I start I want to make a confession; I’d not really watched non-league football regularly (to my shame that is) before getting involved in a local Eastbourne paper, The Independent whilst at University.

But after getting the nod to cover Borough every week, I instantly fell in love with this fascination people call non-league football.

Watching Eastbourne Borough at Maidstone United before Christmas
Watching Eastbourne Borough at Maidstone United before Christmas

Not only was I doing the thing I love which is writing and reporting on sporting events, but I am slowly getting to understand the culture and the love of football at the semi-professional level.

I’ve now been covering Tommy Widdrington’s side for about four to five months now; and so far this season I have seen them drop tantalising close to the depths of the relegation places, and now in the past few weeks possibly mounting a play-off challenge – the unpredictability of non-league football is just something else, something I wasn’t expecting.

If you thought the Premier League was crazy, just have a look at the play-off picture in the National League South!

Now, some of you may know that I’m a Crystal Palace fan; some of you may not –so when I go to Selhurst Park I am sometimes treated to a Premier League game of football (but not in past few weeks with the way Palace are playing) – but even then I come home frustrated and sometimes not entirely happy with what I have seen.

But then if I compare my emotions from when I return home from Borough, my feelings are completely different, I don’t think I have come home from a game and felt disappointed.

Now, can I pose you guys a question; when was the last time you saw an 11 goal game in the Premier League?

I cannot think of the last time I saw something like that, in England’s top-flight. The only game I can recall was when Tottenham beat Reading 7-4 in that crazy game a good few years back.

But watching Borough this season I have seen goals galore – in fact their last three games in which they are unbeaten with one win and two draws; those games have yielded 17 goals – the most recent of those was a 3-3 draw at home to Weston-Super-Mare last weekend.

But probably the most memorable game that sticks out at Priory Lane was the FA Trophy tie against Hemel Hempstead before Christmas.

Just after Borough scored in the 3-0 win over Wealdstone
Just after Borough scored in the 3-0 win over Wealdstone

It was an unbelievable, fast, and frenetic game of football in which the Sports as they are known raced into a three-goal lead with two from Elliot Romain, and then an own goal.

But in the second-half Hempstead fought back to 4-3. But goals from Darren Lok, Nathaniel Pinney, Gavin McCallum, and Jack Evans eventually killed off the visitors to hand Borough a 7-4 victory – whoever said non-league football was boring is just plain wrong!

As I’ve said I’m a newbie to non-league football, and when you support a football club higher up the football pyramid you tend to forget their are other clubs right at the other end of the spectrum. And it was only when I left for University that you meet people who support the clubs in the lower leagues.

So, I have become use to people talking about the likes of Aldershot Town and other lower league clubs that are fighting to get back into the football league –and it has been a welcome change from talking to people about thier clubs who are fighting for the elite prizes.

Football at non-league level can just be as entertaining as top-flight football

I have a flatmate who is a Chelsea fan and I have been trying to persuade him to come and watch Borough – but my stubborn Chelsea flatmate is having none of it, saying: ‘I’d rather watch a much higher, and better game of football!’

Now I have to agree that watching Chelsea is certainly a higher level of football compared to Borough. But some of the football Chelsea have played this season has been dreadful – so what’s the harm of going to watch Borough and catching some terrifically entertaining football?

Sure, some of the games at lower leagues are pure battles, with not much free-flowing football; but I have only witnessed that once in a blue moon at Borough.

Watching on from the press-box at Priory Lane
Watching on from the press-box at Priory Lane

It’s rarely ever dull at non-league level, especially in the National League South this season which has produced some cracking moments – so I urge anyone who has a local semi-professional club nearby, take a punt and see what happens, I reckon you won’t be disappointed.


 

I’ll be doing more of these sort of articles before the end of this season – so if anyone supports and follows a non-league side – get in touch and we can sort out an article!

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