The last time I visited Cricklefields was back in February 2012 when I saw Ilford v Romford in a Ryman Division One (North) game. The ground, just a stone's throw from Seven Kings Railway Station, has been The Foxes home since 1994. It's very easy to each the ground via public transport especially now Crossrail stops at Seven Kings - It takes around 20 minutes from Farringdon.
The visitors last Monday were Sporting Bengal United who were back in the Essex Senior League after just one season away following their relegation at the end of the 21/22 season. The Mile End based side won the Thurlow Nunn First Division South play-off final to achieve promotion back at the first attempt last season.
Ilford had finished in sixteenth place of the Essex Senior League in the 22/23 season which was former Ongar Town boss Richard Ponsford's first season in charge at the club. He had seen overseen Ongar's Essex Olympian Premier Division title win in the 21/22.
The Foxes had lost 1-3 to Halstead Town at home on the opening day of the season in front of a very good crowd of 220 people. Sporting Bengal United had marked their return to Step Five with a memorable 1-2 victory at Great Wakering Rovers with two goals from former Georgian u21 International midfielder Shermandin Artmeladze who came off the bench to score in the 79th and 94th minute. He still had time to be red carded after the winner was scored!
Prior to his move to the United Kingdom he played for FC Sapovnela and FC Shukura in his home country making a number of appearances in the Erovnuli League which is the top division in Georgia.
He was included the visitor's starting XI for this game. Sporting are currently managed by former Southend United player Steve Clark who also played for Dagenham & Redbridge and Macclesfield United during his career.
This was a highly entertaining game which saw Sporting much the better side in the opening half an hour or so. Tim Pitman in the home goal made a number of good saves to keep the score at 0-0.
It was The Foxes who went into the break 2-0 up via goals from Mohamud Kaudeer and Joe Lilly. You always thought that Sporting were going to come back into the game on the balance of play and they certainly did!
Artmeladze scored in the 48th minute followed by Elliot McGovern in the 56th minute after an error by Pitman in the box. Damilola Olusesi then completed the come back with an excellent finish in the 59th minute. It was Artmeladze who then made it 2-4 in the 61st minute.
Ilford did show some attacking signs in the second half with the speedy and skilful Kaudeer on the right wing making a great chance for himself which was well saved by Sidi Haidara in the Sporting goal. Haidara had to come off injured late in the game following a brave piece of goalkeeping diving at the Ilford attacker's feet from a free kick into the box.
After two games played in the Essex Senior League Sporting are only one of three teams along with West Essex and Romford who have 100% winning records. Stanway Rovers and FC Clacton have played only one game but lost.
Ilford went to Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division side Colney Heath in the Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round yesterday and drew 1-1 so there will be another game tomorrow evening at Cricklefields which should see a decent crowd in attendance. The Magpies equalised five minutes into added time.
Sporting played Southern Counties East Premier Division side Stansfeld and found themselves 0-3 down in the first 11 minutes! They managed to come back to 4-4 to force a midweek replay in Kent. The equaliser was scored in the 96th minute! It was an amazing goal - See below!
Didn’t even get into the game as a team but my goodness… 3-0 down in less than 10 and equalise in the 96th minute with this beauty.— Damz (@DamzoDaGreat) August 6, 2023
What. A. Team. @SportingBengal @EmiratesFACup pic.twitter.com/U4ZG8relFt
MATCH HIGHLIGHTS - SHORT
MATCH HIGHLIGHTS - LONG
AROUND CRICKLEFIELDS - AUGUST 2023
IF YOU LIKE YOUR OLD SCHOOL TERRACES THEN CRICKLEFIELDS IS A GREAT PLACE TO VISIT
THE FAR SIDE OF THE GROUND IS CURRENTLY SHUT OFF AND YOU ARE UNABLE TO STAND HERE