Binfield ended Westfields’ long unbeaten run in the Uhlsport Hellenic League stretching over 19 months by beating them 2-0 in a high-octane encounter at Hill Farm Lane.
The Hereford side had gone an impressive 26 games without losing before last season was abruptly ended due to the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, they were 13 points ahead of Binfield, who had moved into second place on the back of a fine run of results.
However, the Moles had played four games fewer than Westfields and believed they were capable of overhauling them in the title race. So they must now believe their confidence was well justified following Saturday’s hard-earned victory.
On the evidence of this game, there must be a good chance these two talented sides will again emerge as the main contenders for honours this season.
In front of a crowd of 260, they battled it out toe-to-toe for the whole 90 minutes, with every player chasing and harassing to close down their opponents at every opportunity. There was no hiding place and it wasn’t a day when even the most skilful player was able to dwell on the ball.
But Binfield just possessed the sharper end to their play and deserved to take all three points as they followed up their 4-0 win at Ardley United in midweek.
They created more openings than Westfields, who had beaten Bishops Cleeve by the solitary goal the previous Tuesday. That made it 27 games unbeaten, but their hopes of extending the impressive run suffered an unexpected early blow when they found themselves a goal down inside the opening four minutes.
For Westfields, it was a bad one to concede as hesitant keeper Steve Sarkodie panicked as he came under pressure from the onrushing Jamie McClurg, the ball ran loose, and Moles’ player-manager took full advantage to roll the ball – rather slowly – into an empty net.
It silenced the Westfields bench as shortly before instructions were being shouted out to their players to take advantage of any Binfield mistake.
Strong challenges went in early on which could easily have led to a yellow card for each side from referee Lee Hodgkinson, a newcomer to the Hellenic League list.
The visitors came close to equalising in the 28th minute when Olly Butler’s curling effort from a long distance out on the right hit the far post with keeper Chris Grace beaten.
Two minutes later, Binfield went equally as close with Asa Povey seeing his shot strike an upright, while home skipper Sean Moore fired just over the bar from outside the area.
But Povey made no mistake close to the 50th-minute mark, sliding in to meet a left-wing cross from Ollie Harris following good work by Joel Valentin.
Povey nearly had another in the 76th minute. Sarkodie raced a long way out of his area on his right to challenge Moore, but the striker got the better of the keeper and struck a low cross towards an empty net with Povey, sliding in, just inches away from turning it over the line.
Westfields, with three substitutes giving them fresh legs, worked hard to get back in the game and a good chance fell their way when Billy Murphy’s struck a dangerous free-kick into the goalmouth which just eluded two of his colleagues well placed in front of goal before being cleared.
The visitors continued to threaten but the Moles fought valiantly to keep them at bay to secure three valuable points.
Binfield finished with 10 men as midfielder Jack Broome appeared to raise his fist as he reacted to a challenge shortly before the end and was shown a straight red card for violent conduct.
That incident apart, the game was an excellent advertisement for the league.