Saturday, December 09, 2006

Game 22: Salisbury City 1:1 Nottingham Forest 03.12.06 (FA Cup)

Finally the big day had arrived. I was up early listening to the Radio Wiltshire coverage and daydreaming while listening to "Thee Army", local band Pyeshoppe's FA Cup song. By 10.30 I was ready to get going and wandered down to the bus station to catch a bus up to the ground. Managed to jump on a Stonehenge bus, forgetting that it went via the train station so eventually arrived at the ground just after 11.

There was a real buzz about the place and the bright Winter sunshine was perfect weather to take it all in. Seeing the Match of the Day vans in place and the temporary studio erected above the away end brought it all home - this really was the big game.

Walking towards the turnstiles, I wandered past Mark Bright and the queue for the hot bacon buttys being served up by the mobile caterer. Once in the ground it was a case of finding the best spot and staying there - I decided to go behind the goal to the left with the barrier behind me so I could lean back against it and not have to worry about anyone surging over me. By 1pm the terrace was full and people were filling up the hatched areas before the stewards moved them on.

As part of the occasion, Aon the FA Cup sponsors had been handing out free 'klackers' that you could inflate and knock together to make some noise which went down well with the kids.

Salisbury kicked off and made the most of the surroundings - Forest seemed to struggle a bit more with the bobble of the ball and both teams took some time to get used to the wind coming off the plain. Balls were cleared into touch rather than passed around and it seemed the Forest team talk was to play it safe and take their time.

After 20 minutes I began to relax a bit - City were taking the game to Forest and were battling for everything. It looked like they could hold their own against a team three divisions above them.

However Forest started to use the possession a bit more and Ryan Clarke had to make a good save from John Curtis for a corner. As the players lined up for the kick Nathan Tyson was left unmarked on the edge of the box and when the initial corner was cleared, he was able to score from an acute angle. A good goal but from the Salisbury perspective it was a soft goal to give away. It took a few minutes for the part-timers to get going again and Forest gained in confidence.

Salisbury ended the half with a couple of half chances and going in 1.0 down gave everyone hope that the game wasn't over yet.

The second half started and it was City who started to dominate - the ball came in from a freekick and the Forest keeper punched it out to the edge of the box. Wayne Turk then hit a beautiful shot over the keeper but just as it looked to go in, one of the Forest players managed to get his head onto the ball. The closest to a goal City had come and the crowd started to encourage them more.

Clarke had to pull off some stunning saves to keep City in the game and then the moment arrived. Jon Bass came forward and hit the ball high into the box for Paul Sales to head down. Matt Holmes put his head in and managed to knock it forward to Matt Tubbs who dragged the ball back and as Holmes jumped up, he planted the ball in the back of the net in front of the home terrace. M-E-N-T-A-L. The whole terrace turned into looney leapers as the team piled on top of Tubbs on the far corner.

Matthews then came on for Sales and the game started to flow from end to end as both teams looked for a winner. Robbie had a couple of half chances but the ball just wouldn't fall kindly. Finally it was all over - Salisbury were heading to the City Ground for a replay and were in the draw for the third round. A great performance and one of those goals that will be talked about for years in this part of Wiltshire.

As I left the ground I gave Alan a call and chatted about the game until the draw came on - a Home tie against Premiership Charlton was the reward for the winners - one to dream about!

As I walked back into town, I took a detour into Victoria Park. It somehow seemed appropriate to pay homage to the memories of my time growing up here and watching some classic FA Cup games back in the 70's and 80's. One man and his dog on the old pitch. How times have changed.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Game 21: Salisbury City 2.1 Enfield 25.11.06 (FA Trophy)

I originally planned to visit a new Wess 1 ground this weekend but once they announced the FA Cup draw and ticketing arrangements then this was the game to be at! The club announced that everyone attending the game would be entitled to a voucher which would give a priority booking for the Nottingham Forest game the following Sunday.

After getting a soaking walking back from town that morning, I checked on the fans forum what the position was with the game - especially as a number of Wessex League games were being postponed across the region. Fortunately the news was good and the game was still on. Indeed, as I left the house the sun came out and there was bright sunshine on the car as I parked up.

Although I arrived early, the anticipated crowd did not materialise - perhaps the time between the draw being announced, the weather and the additional cost of attending another game was enough to put the gloryhunters off. Still 1465 was the highest crowd of the day (according to the latest figures on Tony Kempster's website) and well up on the 806 who watched the corresponding fixture against Newport County last season.

The first half saw Salisbury camp out in the Enfield end of the ground for the majority of the time but chances weren't taken. A couple of good penalty shouts were ignored by the ref - one for a tackle and one for a handball. However when Robbie Matthews was brought down in the box after a surging round around 3 defenders on 45 minutes, the referee finally pointed to the spot. Mooncat took the penalty himself and slotted in past the keeper for a first half lead.

The start of the second half was similar and I started to wonder whether Salisbury would regret not taking their chances, especially with the pace that the Enfield front line had. No sooner had I started to think that when Enfield countered and scored an equaliser. The rain had started to come down again during the game which made it difficult for the goalkeepers to keep hold of the ball. The Enfield fans in the corner (segregation training for next week) celebrated with a flourish of tickertape and for their team's sheer determination to keep in the game, they certainly deserved that moment of celebration.

At the other end, Salisbury continued to press. Paul Sales leapt up for a header which looked in all the way until the keeper somehow got his hand to it and pushed it over the bar. A superb reaction save. It took until the 80th minute for Salisbury to finally get the goal that their pressure deserved. Sales controlled the ball on the edge of the box, flicked it through to Turk who ran through the defence and crossed the ball to Matthews in the middle who made no mistake with his close range shot.

As the game finished, the announcer confirmed that everyone in the ground with a voucher would be guaranteed an FA Cup ticket and the cheers could probably be heard in Nottingham!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Game 20: Bognor Regis Town 1.1 Salisbury City 18.11.06 (NCS)

Decided to let the train take the strain out of a journey to Bognor, perhaps not the best decision. Headed down to Cosham on the 11.30 (late as usual)and enjoyed Chris's company from Southampton as he was heading to Fratton. As I got off at Cosham, discovered that the train to Barnham was cancelled and had to spend an extra hour travelling via the 'delights' of Hilsea. Met up with Gary B at Chichester and after a quick change at Barnham,arrived at Bognor with 45 minutes to go until kick off. Fortunately Gary knows the area well and we soon arrived at the ground.

Some games are a sober affair, some games are not. This one certainly fell into the 'not' category as the discovery that you could watch the game and have a pint at the same time meant we spent the afternoon very pleasantly....

Walking out to the terrace at 2.59pm, we were greated with the start of a rainshower that continued for the first half an hour of the game and contributed to some real problems for the Salisbury players.

While one or two had problems keeping their feet, a tackle on Jon Beswetherick lead to him being carried off after 15 minutes on a stretcher with his knee strapped up. We later saw an ambulance arrive to take him off to Chichester hospital. Aaron Cook was booked for what appeared to be an accumulation of tackles so will now miss the Nottingham Forest game while Scott Bartlett limped off following a nasty challenge. The rainbow forming above us didn't produce any gold and at halftime the game was goalless.

Bognor took the lead on 55 minutes with a neat 1-2 on the edge of the box putting Birmingham in to slot past Ryan Clarke. Nightingale missed a glorious chance to put the game out of Salisbury's reach before supersub Robbie 'Mooncat' Matthews struck an 80th minute equaliser at the far end.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Game 19: Salisbury City 3.0 Fleetwood Town 11.11.06 (FA Cup)

Watching Salisbury play in the FA Cup 1st round always brings back childhood memories of a trip to the Dell to watch the Whites play Millwall (then top of Division 3). While a league team hadn't come out of the hat for this game, a home tie against Fleetwood Town was perhaps a good opportunity to progress to the 2nd round for the first time in my lifetime.

I arrived at the ground about an hour before kickoff to make sure of a good spot on the terrace and was presented with some 'Eon' balloons that you could clap together to create an 'atmosphere'. Perhaps not for the old cynic like me but certainly the young Whites fans were enjoying them.Met up with Andy and Paul who had left the warmth of the Village behind.

By 3 o clock the ground was packed (turned out to be a record attendance of 2,684). Fleetwood had brought down a good number of vocal supporters (the "Cod Army") who we stood just behind for most of the game. After some early pressure from Fleetwood, Matt Tubbs scored one of the best goals that I've seen at the Ray Mac. Chasing onto a Scott Bartlett ball, he outpaced his marker on the left hand side of the box and from an acute angle blasted the ball into the far corner of the net. The home fans went crazy as Tubbsy headed to the corner flag to celebrate. Salisbury seemed to be one pace ahead of their opposition in midfield and only a freekick from distance troubled Ryan Clarke, who made a great save. Tubbs had three good chances to score and was proving a real handful for the Fleetwood defence. He certainly impressed the Fleetwood fan I was stood next to who couldn't believe he was playing at this level.

Fleetwood came out for the second half determined to pull back a goal and put Salisbury under a lot of pressure in the first ten minutes or so. It was clear that one goal wasn't going to be enough. In the 66th minute Tubbs aimed a freekick towards the keeper's left. He should have saved it but spilled the ball into the path of Matt Holmes who gratefully popped it in the back of the net. Relief! Two minutes later and Tubbs turned provider again. A run and cross from the left was finished into the top of the net by Scott Bartlett who had an excellent game.

There was some trouble once the goal went in as a number of 'Fleetwood fans' who didn't seem to be genuine supporters decided to react to some childish taunting by trying to cause a fight. It looked like it was going to kick off and at one point a policeman's helmet flew down the terrace. Fortunately it didn't but perhaps the club will have to consider segregation in future cup games to avoid this again.

When the final whistle blew I wandered the long way round the pitch to applaud the team off - at last Salisbury City were in the draw for the 2nd round!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Game 18: Warminster Town 4.2 Petersfield Town 04.11.06 (Wess 1)

Took the train upto Warminster and arrived around 2pm in bright sunshine. The ground is pretty close to the station, a quick walk down to the high street, turn left and walk up a hill. I tried to take a shortcut on spotting the floodlights only to realise that there wasn't an entrance on the hillside and the footpath only lead to some houses.

Arrived at the ground and paid £3 to get in which seems to be the standard price for Wessex Div 1 football. The players of both teams were out warming up but there were only a couple of spectators outside - the bar was doing a roaring trade. It wasn't until 2.45 that the regulars started to appear (although a few timed it for the second half when the gateman had gone). The ground had a spectacular view over the town and the rolling wiltshire countryside behind it.

One noticeable element to the game was the lack of sponsorship for both teams shirts, a real change to the Wess Prem where sponsorship is the norm. Petersfield did have a PTFC logo on their shirt numbers to try and make up for it.

Warminster took the lead on 15 minutes with a clever run and shot from the edge of the area. Gaining in confidence, they scored a second 2 minutes later when a ball from the right flew over the last defender's head to a Warminster player on the edge of the box. He hit a great volley past the keeper to the delight of the home fans. However the team sat back on their lead and allowed Petersfield back into the game. After a couple of chances were wasted, a powerful run down the left hand side through the defence put a Petersfield player into space to pull a goal back with a stunning shot before halftime.

Took a wander around the pitch at halftime and watched the second half from the opposite side. The moon started to rise and there was a real chill in the air as there was no cloud cover. While Petersfield continued to press for an equaliser, the final ball was lacking and against the run of play on the 73rd minute Warminster made it 3.1 from the penalty spot as one of their players was brought down in the box. However the Warminster team again sat back and two minutes later it was game on again as Petersfield pulled another goal back, this time a cross from the left was met with a powerful shot and the keeper was unable to keep it from crossing the line by his left hand post. Warminster managed to hold on to their lead this time and scored again on the 87th minute with a breakaway attack.

Rushed back to the station to get the 5.05 train (which was delayed) and was back home by 6pm. An enjoyable game to watch and a friendly atmosphere - seems to be a common trend at Wessex One games!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Game 17: Salisbury City 2.1 Beaconsfield SYCOB (aet) 23.10.06 (FA Youth Cup)

An early start at the Ray Mac for a Monday night FA Youth Cup 3rd qualifying round match. Due to kick off at 7.30, I arrived at 7.25 as the game started but just in time to snag the last team sheet.

Salisbury started brightly and had 3 early chances cleared off the line, including one that span off the Beaconsfield keeper and almost looped in. This early pressure didn't lead to any goals and Beaconsfield came more into the game. In the absence of a large crowd (official attendance was 61, just over 1000 less than Saturday's league match), it was possible to hear the players boots pounding into the grass over the hum of the tannoy. By 20 minutes both teams had created some guilt edge chances but good blocking and a post kept the scoreline at 0.0.

Sometimes coaches get it right, sometimes they don't. As the Beaconsfield coach yelled to the left winger to take the man on, the left winger launched a long cross deep into the box and found Gavin James (one to watch, he caused the Salisbury defence problems all night long) at the far post and his volley found the back of the net. Salisbury continued to create chances and on 43 minutes created a well worked equaliser. A free kick was passed to the side and then forward, allowing Daniel Sloan to beat the offside trap and pass the ball into the back of the net.

Both teams continued to pass the ball well in the second half, especially considering the lightning, thunder and torrential rain that was passing over Salisbury. Despite a number of chances at both ends and some inventive free kick routines (5 at the back post running back onside as the freekick was played to the nearpost being one memorable one), neither team could find a winner during normal time so the match went into extra time. Gavin James had the best chance, bursting through the Salisbury defence from the halfway line and only a late blocking tackle from Fisher stopped a late winner.

The game progressed in the same way during extra time and it was difficult to see who would win. Salisbury attacked once more and found some space on the right side of the box. To try and close the Salisbury striker down, the Beaconsfield keeper rushed out and slid into the player rather than the ball, conceding a penalty which Joe Barron tucked away. I felt sorry for the keeper who was almost in tears before the kick, especially as it was difficult to see how the Salisbury player had the ball under control and could have scored given the ball was speeding across the pitch. Despite a late rally, Beaconsfield were unable to find a way past the Salisbury defence and the game finished with the home side victorious.

The next leg (1st round proper) features league clubs from Div 1 and 2 like Swindon and Yeovil. Salisbury have an away draw against either Westfield or East Grinstead and perhaps a better chance to progress further in the tournament.

A good evening's entertainment for 2 pounds!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Game 16: VTFC 3.1 Horndean 14.10.06 (Wess Prem)

The last of the five grounds in this season's Wessex Premier to visit and a bit of a holy grail as I've been trying to clear the grounds of the top flight of Wessex league football for a few years now.

Drove down on the M27 and realised as I came off at the junction that this was the way I'd driven to Matt's in Woolston about 10 years previously. Despite this, I still managed to overshoot the entrance to the ground and had to u turn to get to the ground.

The game kicked off in overcast conditions and the weather didn't improve much throughout although there were a few bursts of sunlight through the clouds. The familar faces on the VTFC team where Tyronne Bowers and Ryan Ashford, both of whom had joined from Eastleigh. Bowers was playing as a makeshift striker and scored a cracking 30 yard effort in the first half, topped off with a Lua Lua gymnastic style celebration. VFFC had been pressurising Horndean from the start, assisted by Horndean's keeper not being able to kick with any distance and had hit the post and had a goal disallowed before that effort.

A minute later and it all seemed in vain. Horndean had managed a quick counter attack and a lob over the keeper from the edge of the box meant it was 1.1 going into half time.

The second half followed a similar pattern but Horndean were unlucky not to score on a couple of occasions. They got stretched at the back and conceded a second goal with a long shot past the keeper. In trying to restore parity, they got hit with a sucker punch of a goal in the last minute, created and scored by 2 of the VTFC substitutes. The ball curled beautfully into the corner to finally defeat Horndean.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Game 15: Lymington Town 0.0 Shrivenham (aet) 7.10.06 (FA Vase)

Left Salisbury in bright sunshine heading down the A36 to the fourth of the five current Wessex Premier League grounds I hadn't visited before. By the time I reached Lymington's ground (a couple of wrong turns later) it started to cloud over. Parked close to the touchline which allowed the gateman at this entrance to wander over at his own time and collect my admission fee - judging by the number of people who came in later, it would have been worth his while staying a bit longer!

Reading the Hellenic League website before the game, the Shrivenham manager described this fixture as the biggest in the club's history. Sadly it didn't live up to this billing. In a dour first half, Shrivenham made a couple of chances but neither team were passing well in the final third of the pitch and shots were few and far between. Lymington came out at half-time a changed side and made more of the play - helped by a couple of substitutions that added some more pace to the frontline. However there were still few shooting opportunities and the game didn't come to life at all. Perhaps the sign behind the goalmouth stating 'no playing in the goalmouth' was taken too literally!

At the end of the 90 mins I was happy to be heading off in the car and before I left I had a listen to the Radio Solent roundup of the other FA Vase games in the area. As I started to drive out I realised that the players were still on the pitch and the referee was in discussions with both managers. I reversed the car up and waited to see what was happening - it turned out that extra time was due to be played and the referee had pulled up with a muscle problem so a substitute had to be found to run the line. Sat in the car listening to an uninspired England game, watching a similar game in extra time. Despite the vocal Shrivenham support, it was Lymington who came closest to scoring with 2 shots that sailed wide and a shot from 6 yards that was cleared off the line when it looked easier to score.

No penalties, the game will be replayed at Shrivenham on Tuesday night.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Game 14: Romsey Town 4.0 QK Southampton 27.09.06 (WESS LC)

Although I've driven past Romsey's ground a few times I'd not seen a game there before so a Wednesday night evening League Cup game was an opportunity not to miss. Looking at the form of both teams before the game was a good indication of what to expect - Romsey doing well in Wessex Division 1 while QK Southampton (found out before the game QK stands for Queen's Keep) had lost all of their games in Wessex Division 2.

Andy drove down - his third game in three days after watching the league games at Portsmouth and Bournemouth - and we arrived at the ground in plenty of time as we didn't want to be caught out by a 7.30 start. Arriving at the ground, the gatekeeper asked if we were players or spectators - despite the temptation to advise him we were playing, we thought better of it and handed over our money. Had a flick through the programme which was free but didn't contain a lot of information, even the away team line up was blank. Enjoyed a drink in the bar before the teams came out for the first half.

Despite the previous form, QK started quite brightly and coped well with the Romsey pressure. Indeed at times it appeared that the Romsey players had too much time to think about what they should do (rather than play with their instincts) and the chances that they could have created were cleared. When they did manage to get shots on target, the QK keeper was equal to them until the 40th minute when a shot from outside the area flew past him.

Romsey scored again in the 50th minute as a free kick from the left was met in the area with a fierce shot that the keeper couldn't get near. It took until the 85th minute for a third, the QK keeper parried a freekick but a Romsey striker followed up (as all good strikers should do) and popped the ball in from close range. Despite missing a couple of chances earlier in the game, De'Ath killed off the game in the 90th minute, beating the offside trap and lobbing the keeper to make it 4.0