Eastern Counties League Cup, Second Round
White Ensign 6 Lopes Tavares 2 (att 15)
My desire for very long trips for midweek evening games has waned over the years, mainly due to the endless roadworks that make late night journey times a lottery. No fun if you've got to be up early for work the next morning.
But I didn't want to waste a day off at home so ventured to White Ensign's new base in Basildon, hoping the league cup tie would be settled in 90 minutes and I'd be on the road back towards Manchester at a reasonable hour.
My first worry was whether we'd have a game at all. When I paid my £5 admission, and an extra £1 for a programme, I was told the London-based visitors were yet to arrive, and so a late kick off was likely.
Better a late start than no game, and to be fair to Lopes Tavares they were lined up ready to kick off not too long after some of their players had arrived.
With the visitors having limited time to prepare I thought White Ensign at least ought to win comfortably, thus saving me from the prospect of extra time and possibly penalties.
But it was Lopes Tavares who took an early lead, albeit against the run of play. White Ensign were soon level, and they had a healthy 3-1 advantage by half time. Lopes Tavares weren't finished though, and they made it 3-2 in the opening minute of the second period.
For a time the visitors were on top, and I was half expecting an equaliser, but eventually White Ensign struck on the break for a decisive lead. Late goals added a gloss to the final score, although the hosts could easily have scored more, hitting the crossbar three times.
I've always considered White Ensign to be Southend team, and that's where they played when I visited them in 2003. Apparently facilities at their former home weren't deemed acceptable for a place in 'step six' though, so they've shifted a few miles west to Basildon Sporting Village.
It's an impressive and busy facility, although very few of those visiting were coming for the football. White Ensign's pitch is surrounded by a running track and dominated by a huge stand, which I guess ticks the ground grading boxes for this level, but I can't help think they'd be better off back at their proper home in Southend.