Bostik Matchday: Today's Hayes look the real deal

In an early season clash of the two promotion favourites, Hayes & Yeading United hosted Tooting & Mitcham United. It was expected to be close. It wasn't.

Hayes FC, Yeading FC, and Hayes & Yeading United.

Isthmian League followers may be particularly familiar with the first two, but given only three games have passed since the latter joined us for the first time, rather less familiar with the current incarnation, who play at the SkyEX Community Stadium in Hayes having been homeless for a number of years previously. They moved to the SkyEx at the start of last season, and it is already an impressive sight- although it will be even more impressive when it’s finished, with plans in place for terraces and an enormous bar/function room. Certainly, it is a set up which will be suited to a level of football much higher than step four. All United have to do is get there.

The original Hayes side actually won the Isthmian Premier Division in 1996- six points and three places, incidentally, above Yeovil Town, who currently sit in seventh place in League Two, having previously risen to the heady heights of the Championship. After that title win Hayes got as high as third place in the Conference, on the cusp of promotion to the Football League, before falling away, whilst their rivals Yeading were Isthmian champions even more recently; indeed, as recently as 2005, when they finished six points clear of Billericay Town.

Welcome to Hayes & Yeading United

Welcome to Hayes & Yeading United

The two clubs muddled along, both struggling to attract gates high enough to keep going, and then they had a lightbulb moment. On 18th May 2007 it was confirmed that they would merge, to form what an official statement described as a ‘superclub’ to ‘integrate resources and bring together a community.’ And indeed, at the very start it seemed to actually be rather super, the new team winning promotion to the National League- Blue Square Premier, as it was then- in their second season, and staying there for two more. The new club was playing at Hayes former ground, Church Road, but that was sold and they ended up- temporarily- sharing with Woking whilst they spent the money they’d received tarting up Yeading’s old stadium, The Warren. But the exile continued, via Maidenhead and Beaconsfield, the money ran out, and on the field they suffered three relegations in five years, ending up in the Evo-Stik South East division before being moved over to our South Central Division for this campaign. Their Latin motto means, ‘Forward Together,’ but perhaps if anyone knows Latin well enough they could come up with the perhaps more appropriate phrase ‘Up and down like a yoyo together.’

Mind you, it wouldn’t fit on the badge.

All of that said, now firmly ensconced at the Skyex, there is an optimism about the club these days. Promotion was just missed out on last season, and this season only Enfield Town in the entire Bostik League have scored more league goals- and they’ve played two more matches to do it. With thirteen goals in three matches- indeed twenty-one goals in five, if you include the FA Cup (7) and Velocity Trophy (1)- unbeaten in all competitions and certainly living up to their tag as pre-season promotion favourites, if you want entertainment, Hayes is certainly the place to go. With nine goal Lee Barney and five goal Lewis Toomey they’ve certainly more than replaced departed striker Manny Duku, who departed in July to be Cheltenham Town’s replacement for Bristol City bound former Greenwich Borough man Mohamed Eisa.

Home fan Stephen, speaking before the game, was certainly in a positive frame of mind. “Promotion is a realistic aim. The squad has been dramatically improved, and we’ve kept most of last season’s side- so different from last year when we hardly had a team as the big kick off approached. The performances so far have been good, and we’ve scored lots of goals. I expect more of them today, and predict a 3-0 win.” He wouldn’t pose for a photograph, so perhaps he was meant to be somewhere else- but he was a vociferous part of the Hayes singing section all afternoon so if he didn’t want to be seen he certainly didn’t mind being heard. He has a possible career as a soothsayer in prospect, too.

The impressive Hayes & Yeading United stand

The impressive Hayes & Yeading United stand

Today’s opponents, Tooting & Mitcham United (perhaps we could call this the ampersand derby), were just behind Hayes in the list of pre-season favourites for the title. In ninth place currently, they started their South Central Division journey after relegation by losing a topsy-turvy opening match at Northwood 4-3- after being 3-1 up with less than a quarter of an hour remaining- but seem to have acclimatised since, a draw and two victories in their subsequent three games. On Monday, joint-managers Ashley Bosah and Cornelius Nwadialor saw their side defeat Chipstead 3-1, and victory today could have taken them as high as third (although given Hayes superior goal difference it would have to be a very large victory indeed).

Terrors fan- and club media guru- Tim was also quite positive, although wanted to keep that quiet. “Everything is going in the right direction. We dominated the first game and then capitulated, but apart from that we’ve improved steadily. Promotion is a realistic goal, but it will be difficult, of that we’ve no doubt. Let’s just keep improving and see where it gets us. We certainly won’t be complacent after that first game.” It seemed that Northwood were playing on his mind, perhaps he was suffering from Post Ewington Stress Disorder.

At one minute to three the teams arrived on the pitch to the accompaniment of Uprising by Muse. “We will be victorious,” they trilled-but which ‘we?’ “Is that all you take away,” chorused Stephen and his cohorts, as the Tooting fans attempted to tie up their flags behind the right hand goal. “We’re the black and white army,” came the response, whilst behind their heads a collection of jumbo jets approached nearby Heathrow.

After a fairly scrappy start Hayes began to find their range, and conjoured the first chance in the fifth minute. Ed Asafu-Adjaye got free down the left, and sent in an inch-perfect cross to Scott Bridges. The shot was well saved by Liam Sallis, but the rebound fell straight to Lewis Toomey and the goal gaped. Somehow the strikers shot took a deflection off the keeper and went for a corner, and he slumped to the ground, head in hands. From the corner another header was sent goalward and an acrobatic goalline clearance by Dominic Morgan-Griffiths was required to keep the scores level. Tooting were living dangerously.



Three minutes later another cross found the head of Barney, but for once this season he didn’t find the net. The ball drifted wide, and perhaps he should have done better.

Hayes kept up the pressure, but didn’t make it count. Free kicks and corners came and went, without Sallis being troubled, indeed, not even a quantum of Sallis’ energy was expended during the next quarter hour. The ball, however, was hardly ever out of the Tooting half. And then, Tooting should have been ahead. A sloppy pass allowed in Isiah Jones, but his shot rolled wide of Jack Smith’s right hand post with the keeper beaten. Jones wandered towards the corner flag, and kicked the air in frustration. There is no truth in the rumour that he missed that too.

As we approached the half hour Toby Little got forward down the left, and somehow managed to dummy both Danny Bassett and Lexus Beeden- one of them twice- before being allowed to advance to the edge of the box unchallenged before firing a shot wide of the near post. The two defenders looked at each other, perplexed, as Little shook his head, annoyed at his inability to hit the target.

The action was then at the other end. Jones showed a clean pair of heels to one defender, but then, just as he approached the corner of the box, Roddy Collins caught up with him. It looked from the main stand as if Jones had jumped into the Hayes and Yeading man, who had sped between him and the ball, but the referee gave the Terrors a free kick, which Peter Wedgeworth got on target for Jack Smith to palm away. Scott Bridges then shot wide for Hayes, and as half time approached Liam McDevitt sent an improbable header wide, but the whistle went for the break with the deadlock unbroken.

'Sod the Dog!'

'Sod the Dog!'

One minute into the second half Hayes got the chance their pressure had deserved. Barney had already had a shot blocked when Little drove into the box. An outstretched leg and down the full back went, the referee immediately pointing to the spot. It was a clear-cut penalty, there were no Tooting protests, and Scott Donnelly stepped up to stroke the ball home. Could Tooting respond?

They certainly weren’t helped five minutes later. Danny Bassett let the ball run too far in front of him, and overcommitted in trying to retrieve it. Asafu-Adiaje was closer to the ball, and got it, but Bassett caught only the Hayes player, and the red card was almost immediately raised. You couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for Basset, but the home side took advantage, almost immediately Lee Barney forcing home for his tenth goal of the season. There looked to be no way back for the ten-man Terrors.

In the 59th minute it was three, and this one was a pearler. Scott Donnelly was twenty yards out when the ball came to him, and he took it in his stride, walloping it beautifully into the corner. “Easy, easy,” came the chants from the home fans, who knew that, barring an act of god or a plane mistaking the pitch for a runway, victory was confirmed. Hayes manager Paul Hughes almost immediately withdrew Lewis Toomey, perhaps knowing that his striker was no longer required.

Perhaps, however, he’d made the decision too early? Hayes relaxed a little, and the Terrors pressed, Jones bamboozling the defence before being felled. It was another penalty, and Wedgeworth stepped up to reduce the arrears…but no! Smith guessed the right way, threw himself full length to his left, and diverted the ball for a corner.

"We will be victorious!"

"We will be victorious!"

The game then died a slow death. Hayes probed occasionally, whilst Jones ran at the home defence now and again, but the doldrums had arrived. “We want our Tooting back,” sang the disgruntled away support, without ever explaining where their Tooting had apparently gone. It certainly wasn’t that the Terrors were lacking in ability, or workrate- it was just that Hayes, on this day at least, were much better. Calmer, more assured, more clinical with the pass and in the box.

As Hayes held onto the ball and the game ebbed away, the home fans began to sing “Ole” on each successful pass. It was rather half-hearted, a little like most of the football during the last half an hour, but they had much to be happy about. They remained happy until the end, although the net was troubled no further.

General Manager Derrick Matthews, speaking before the match, had been rather cagey when asked about promotion, asking to be asked again much later in the season. He was undoubtedly right- many teams have started a season with a succession of early victories only to go off the boil when the weather deteriorates. But all that said, today’s Hayes looked the real deal.

Perhaps, just this once, the amateur tipsters of the Bostik South Central might be right.

The Tooting Travelling Tenors


The half time tea rush

...and the half time trudge


Bassett takes the walk of shame



Wedgeworth steps up to reduce the arrears- but Smith has other ideas

Hayes & Yeading United Video playlist

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