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!