Thursday, April 26, 2007

Game 42: Stockbridge 6.0 Petersfield Town (WESS 1) 25.04.07

Drove out to Stockbridge with Andy to see if we could find the ground and take in a couple of the local pubs on the way.

After a brief sojourn in the garden of Andy's first choice of pub we drove to the end of the road and found our directions were fine. A small crowd were in the ground and after paying the gatekeeper we parked up by the touchline in time to see the managers ambling on to the pitch with mugs of coffee in their hands - somewhat lowkey compared to the commentary of the Liverpool v Chelsea game in the car!

The first half was fairly quiet, after 15 minutes both teams had had chances to score but the quality of shooting was getting worse. The man on the ladder retrieving balls kicked over the hedge at the far side was kept busy by the home team but they managed to take the lead on the 23rd minute from a free kick that was given for handball.The cross came in from the left and a header came down from the corner of the bar and in.

Both teams were now creating some better chances and Petersfield came close to equalising on the 30th minute when their striker dribbled past two players and got a shot in that was cleared off the line.

I joined Andy in the car for halftime - he had decided to take the 'Viccy Park' option and stay in the car to watch the game while listening to the radio.

The second half was one of the most bizarre 45 minutes I think I've ever seen. It started with a bad backpass from Petersfield defender setting up a Stockbridge striker - his careful chip of the Petersfield goalkeeper almost came off but the ball bounced just over the bar. Petersfield's best chance saw a long dribbling run from the back almost pay off, a break down the left wing and a precision shot just wide of the right post. Both teams were unable to breakdown the opposition to create a clear chance but Petersfield were making a better show in the first 15 minutes than they had in the first half.

On 67 minutes, Stockbridge came close again. This time they beat the offside trap but instead of shooting the striker paused and passed the ball back to a teammate who put his shot well wide - lacking control and composure. Three minutes later it was the Petersfield keeper who lacked composure - coming out of the box he missed the ball which allowed a Stockbridge substitute time to run through on an open goal to score.

Stockbridge took control of the game and made it 3.0 in the 79th minute when they broke the offside trap again - a cross from the right found it's target in the middle and the striker had a simple pass into the net. A fourth almost came a minute later when the Petersfield keeper made a good save but that was to be his last positive contribution for his side.

A minute later, the ball went for a throw in about halfway in the Petersfield half. The decision to give the throw to Stockbridge seemed to enrage the Petersfield keeper who had an argument with the assistant referee on the near side. Both the keeper and the assistant referee swore at each other before the referee got involved and sent off the keeper. He was then surrounded by some of the Petersfield team and one of the defenders was sent off - his fault for continuing to argue even when the referee was telling him that he would get a card if he continued to argue. Two red cards in a minute for a throwin 60 yards from goal - unbelievable! Neither Andy or I could believe what we'd seen - especially the behaviour of the assistant referee who caused the problem by getting mouthy with the players, very poor in my opinion.

Petersfield rearranged their line up as they couldn't bring on a goalkeeping sub with all the subs used. Stockbridge scored a 4th on 85 minutes when their substitute had time to run into the box unopposed and place a shot past the keeper. A minute later and it was 5.0 - a chip over the keeper - and on 87 minutes it was 6.0 - the keeper was put under pressure with the ball and his pass to a team mate was intercepted and the striker placed it into the net.

I honestly thought that we would be on for double figures at this rate - at least 10 minutes were left to play with the time that had been spent with players arguing but sadly for the goal average, the referee blew up early. After the final whistle, the brother of the second Petersfield player to be sent off was also sent off for arguing.

We went back to the nearest pub over the road to try and take this all in and found ourselves joined by the Stockbridge players shortly afterwards (the Petersfield players unsurprisingly decided not to join them for some post match food).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Game 41: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 1.1 Brading Town (WESS PREM) 24.04.07

After enjoying the hospitality at Brading earlier in the season, decided to take in their first visit to Bemerton for a midweek league game. Alan came up for the game (via Waitrose for some bargains in the petrol station) and we met Andy at the ground.

Both teams play attacking football and Bemerton made some good early chances - a lob of the keeper hit the bar and a shot was cleared off the line after beating the keeper. It wasn't a surprise to see Bemerton take the lead on 22 minutes - a cross from the left was tapped in from short range.

Brading thought they had equalised in the 36th minute but the assistant referee had already flagged for offside. Bemerton limited Brading's chances but were unable to make the most of their pressure before halftime.

The second half started in a similar fashion with plenty of goalmouth action. Brading had a chance to score when the keeper was beaten in the penalty area but the open goal was well defended when a Bemerton player slid in to clear the ball at the last minute.

Brading had brought a few fans over from the Island and they seemed more vocal in the second half - possibly due to a couple of halftime pints but also because their team was getting back into the game. One shot flew past the post with the keeper beaten and on 71 minutes their no 9 cut in from the right and his shot flew straight into the bottom right of the goal to equalise.

It was all Brading now and they were streaming forward to look for a winner - perhaps a bit too much as they were caught offside a couple of times - one of the chances was certainly onside but a silly reaction saw the player booked. No goals came and they ended up putting pressure on themselves as a passback to the keeper looked as if it was picked up, even though he was under no pressure from Bemerton players. The indirect freekick was wasted though as it was smashed into the wall.

We wondered if another goal would come as the last 10 minutes was end to end and we lost count of the corners but the game finished 1.1 - an entertaining draw.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Game 40: Shrewton United 1.5 Sherborne Town (WEST 1) 22.04.07

Noticed in the Salisbury Journal that the Shrewton game I had attempted to see last month had been rescheduled for a Sunday so decided to head up to the ground and see if the game would run the full course this time.

Left Salisbury in warm, overcast conditions but as I passed Stonehenge it started to rain. Typical - no rain for weeks and I wasn't wearing a jacket. When I arrived at the ground, most of the spectators were sheltering under the main stand. After listening to the radio in the dry, I wandered over to the entrance to pay / get a programme. Turned out it was the old programme I had received at the last game and on hearing that I'd been at that game, the gatekeeper told me not to worry about paying. A nice touch so I made sure I bought some raffle tickets later (only 2 strips off the winning number!).

When the game kicked off, I overheard a conversation about the orginal referee - apparently he had wanted to referee this game but Shrewton had unsurprisingly asked for another match official to be appointed. They had played an away fixture the day before and there were a few new faces in the starting line up. The rain was light so I made my way to the barrier above (about 4 feet) the near goal to watch the game.

Shrewton started well and on 3 minutes they went a goal up when a cross came in from the left. The first Shrewton player it reached played a good dummy and let the ball continue to run across the face of the goal. One of his team mates then ran in and blasted the ball past the keeper.

It seemed a bit of an injustice after the previous game but, as before, Sherborne started to dominate play. There were few goalscoring opportunites early on, the best of which fell to Shrewton's no 4, playing as a striker, when he managed to skip past the Sherborne defence but shot just wide. Sherborne exploited space on each flank, spreading the ball quickly to the opposite side but their final control in the box let them down on a number of occasions.

There was a small flare up on the 39th minute when a Shrewton player was injured in the box and the referee allowed play to go on. Sherborne had a couple of attempts on goal before a Shrewton player was able to kick the ball out and let him get some treatment. An angry discussion continued while the injured player was treated because Sherborne were lining up to take an attacking throw in. Just before the throw in, at the instruction of one of the senior players, the decision was made to defuse the situation and return the ball to Shrewton.

Just before half time, Sherborne scored an equaliser. Shrewton were unable to clear the ball from their box and a second shot on target flew into the back of the net. Two minutes later, in injury time, they took the lead as one of their strikers was sent through and managed to get his shot away before the defence caught up. The keeper couldn't get his hand to it and it crept into the far corner of the net.

The first 20 minutes of the second half were similar to the first half - long periods of Sherborne pressure but little goalmouth action. The Sherborne physio ingratiated himself with the locals when he wandered by, describing one as a witch. The first real chance came to Shrewton on 60 minutes when a shot from the edge of the box was only stopped by the keeper managing to sit on the ball. Five minutes later and it was Sherborne's chance to score when Shrewton gave the ball away on the left wing. The scorer of the second goal cut in with the ball and shot, only for Shrewton's keeper to push it wide with a fingertip save.

On 70 minutes,unsurprisingly Sherborne extended their lead. A cross came in from the left and was met with a firm shot into an empty net - the keeper couldn't get near it. 13 minutes later and it was 4.1 - the ball came in from a corner and it looked as if Shewton had cleared the ball. However the ball came back in to the box and from a potentially offside position, a Sherborne player managed to keep the ball in with an overhead kick. The ball flew across to the other side of the six yard box and allowed one of his team mates to tap it into the net.

Sherborne added a deserved fifth goal two minutes later. A freekick was floated into the box and was headed in from the edge of the 6 yard box.

It was good to see that after the trouble at the first game, the referee didn't have to book anyone this time round.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Game 39: Salisbury City 3.0 Fisher Athletic (NCS) 17.04.07

Arriving at the ground 10 minutes before kick off, the car park didn't look too full and this was confirmed by the official attendance figure of 724. The good side to this was that it wasn't too crammed in the two sides currently available for spectators. After the previous three games, I made sure I took the longer queue for the normal turnstile for "good luck".

With the Conference ground grading due the next day, it was good to see the scoreboard and Hopback Brewery board back in place between the two new stands. It was even better to see Paul Sales back on the pitch with a cast on his injured hand allowing him to play.

With three kids watching the game from a vantage point on top of the spoil heap outside the ground, Salisbury kicked off and soon it became clear how much they had missed Sales. On 10 minutes he and Tubbs combined with a 1-2 that Tubbs should have hit in. Two minutes later and Sales was on the scoresheet. After forcing two corners in quick succession, the ball came in from the left wing. Sales rose above the defence unmarked and the keeper made a good save with his foot only to see Sales slide in and poke the ball in from close range.

Fisher had a couple of pacy strikers up front and made a couple of half chances but the ball was mainly at the far end. After 20 minutes, Jerome Watt made a great run down the left side and put a great cross in to the far post. Aaron Cook slid in but put his shot well over the bar from close in.

Five minutes later it was 2.0 - Sales put the ball into Tubbs path and he ran into space and shot past the keeper. Watt was playing with a lot of confidence and five minutes later showed this with a backheel to set up Sales with a scoring opportunity.

Fisher's main threat was to try and profit from Salisbury's mistakes. They were hardly out of their half and when they did manage to get into the final third, they weren't able to link up with each other. On 27 minutes Cook slipped on the edge of the box and let Fisher's no 9 in on goal. However he could only manage a weak shot at goal that Clarke gathered with ease - to the disappointment of his unmarked teammate on the other side of the box who was screaming at him for the ball.

Watt continued to excite the crowd and on 33 minutes he took the ball, passed it around the defender and took it from the left side of the box into the centre. His shot beat the keeper but ended up just past the post. It was certainly the best performance he'd put in since joining on loan from Northampton. Fisher certainly recognised this as they put some hard tackles in on him and on Prince.

There had been a couple of yellow cards for those tackles but the first red card was off the pitch as Tommy Widdrington was sent to the stand for something he had said to the assistant referee.

At the start of the second half, the teams were ready to start the game but the Fisher keeper hadn't appeared. While the Salisbury fans were happy for the referee to continue, he decided to wait and a couple of minutes later the keeper strolled out to join his team mates.

Just after the start, Tubbs embarked on one of his trademark runs and got round the defence only for the ball to bobble out in front of the regulars on the far side. Salisbury's passing and moving seemed much more fluid with Sales back, he controlled the ball well and his first touch was excellent. Fisher seemed to have gone from bad to worse and one shot they attempted went out for a throw in.

Salisbury continued to pressure but another goal seemed like it wouldn't arrive. On the 72nd minute Fisher changed both of their strikers to look for a change in fortune. There was a big scramble in the middle and the referee was knocked over, leading to a dropball that Tubbs won after a bit of confusion. It appeared that Fishers subs were making a difference but it was confirmed in a manner their manager wouldn't have expected. Matt Tubbs put a cross in from the byline and the no 15 volleyed it past his own keeper to stop Luke Prince getting the ball.

At 3.0 Salisbury should have been cruising but there were a few hearts in mouth three minutes later when Ryan Clarke missed a backpass but managed to sprint back and grab the ball just before a Fisher striker could get to the ball.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Game 38: Wellow 4.3 Clanfield (WESS 2) 14.04.07

Having driven home from Reading during Saturday morning, I decided to pick a local game at a new ground which narrowed it down to a choice of Stockbridge or Wellow. As Stockbridge had a midweek game coming up that I could make, decided to drive down to Wellow.

After a quick detour, I realised that the football club must be behind some tennis courts (no floodlights to assist directions!) and so it turned out. After sitting in the car for a while listening to the radio, I wandered over to the clubhouse and picked up a copy of "Village Voice", the club programme for a pound (there was no admission charge). It appeared that some of the Clanfield players had been delayed so kick off was put back to 3.20 but as it was a gorgeous sunny day no-one seemed to bothered.

By 3.20, the local pub had emptied and there were about 40 people leaning against the metal fence around the ground. There were no officials other than the referee so a representative from each club (who appeared to be the manager) ran the line - using the premise that they would be at the end their team was defending.

The game kicked off and while there was plenty of endeavour, the skill levels couldn't quite match as players huffed and puffed down the line. Wellow took the lead on 10 minutes when a header came off the crossbar and was tapped in from close range. Two minutes later they almost doubled their lead as a powerful header was deflected wide by the Clanfield keeper, who couldn't have seen it until very late.

On 25 minutes Clanfield equalised from a breakaway down the left hand side, their striker took it from the right and jinked around 2 players before lobbing the keeper - perhaps my initial misgivings regarding skill were a little misdirected!

Wellow were getting a lot of service from their right flank and on 30 minutes took the lead again with a close range shot past the keeper. Clanfield almost equalised on 35 minutes direct from a corner. The ball was then cleared to one of their players who shot over from 3 yards when it looked easier to score.

After that let off, Wellow took a 3.1 lead on 42 minutes with another close range shot that was swept past the keeper from close range. The talk around me turned to horse racing and I started to suspect that the delayed kick off may have been encouraged to allow the locals to watch the Grand National! However a minute later Clanfield pulled another goal back with a long distance shot that screamed past the keepers left hand.

I didn't want the half to end as Clanfield continued to attack and put a shot just over the crossbar. There were some words exchanged as a Clanfield player kept his knee in on a Wellow player after they went for a tackle and the dropball that the referee gave lead to further arguments between the teams.

At halftime I wandered back to the car to get an update on the latest scores from Radio Solent - a bit more difficult given that most teams had kicked off for the second half and I had to rely on goal updates during commentary and some texts from Stu and Chris.

Both teams continued to look for more goals in the second half and it was no surprise that Clanfield equalised just after half time in unusual circumstances. The ball hit the stanchion on the inside of the net and bounced out. The referee intially allowed play to carry on and was surrounded by Clanfield players while Wellow took a shot at the other end. He was eventually persuaded to discuss the decision with the Wellow linesman, who (correctly) advised that it had been a goal, a sporting gesture that was appreciated by the Clanfield captain but incensed some of the Wellow team, including their goalkeeper who was booked a couple of minutes later for continuing to argue with the referee.

Wellow lost their shape and their heads for a few minutes and there was another scuffle with two players - both deserving a red card for raising their arms and attempting a headbutt but the referee decided just to speak to the Wellow player and give him a yellow card. However some of the team were encouraging their teammates just to get on with the game and on 60 minutes they took the lead again with a shot that hit the post and bounced in.

Both teams continued to play some good counterattacking football after that but unsurprisingly the heat started to play its part and there were no more goals. An entertaining afternoon in the sun.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Game 37: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 2.1 Downton (WESS PREM) 10.04.07

Met up with Andy for this game, a replay of the FA Cup game earlier in the season that Downton had won 3.1 - fortunately while the teams were similar to those who met in August the referee wasn't the same!

With the sun gradually setting, Downton took the lead on 10 minutes with a close range shot from a right wing cross.Both teams were playing this local derby at a high tempo and some of the Bemerton tackles were rather strong. Once the goal had been conceded, Bemerton woke up a bit and were unlucky after a freekick when the ball hit the crossbar from a header and the follow up shot was saved. Another well positioned cross managed to beat the keeper but was too high for the oncoming striker to meet.

Downton started to put in some strong challenges as well and 2 players were booked in quick succession, 1 for sliding in on the goalkeeper after the ball had been cleared. Bemerton now had the upperhand and it took a good save from a header for Downton to keep the lead. The game was held up for a bit as a couple of players slid into the wall at the near end and took a knock trying to win the ball.

The best Bemerton chance of the half came on 40 minutes. One of the strikers beat the Downton offside trap and chipped the keeper with a powerful lob. Unfortunately for him, the ball bounced just in front of the goal and then bounced over the crossbar. Downton seemed content with their one goal lead and while our old shouting friend started up with some abuse for the officials, more strong tackles lead to another yellow card. They created one chance late in injury time, a shot that flew wide of the right hand post from a tight angle.

The second half continued in a similar vein - lots of Bemerton pressure but they couldn't find a way past the Downton keeper. The crowd was kept entertained by this and also the updates coming through from Old Trafford as Man United increased their lead against Roma in the Champions League quarter final 2nd leg.

The Bemerton pressure finally paid off in the 65th minute when they equalised with a screamer of a shot from 30yards from their no 13 (an unusual number for an outfield starter to wear!). A minute later and they were 2.1 up - this time a short range shot past the keeper put the hosts in front.

This time Downton woke up a bit and despite some comedy at a dropball that led to both teams berating their teammates, they created a couple of chances as the ball bounced from end to end like a tennis match. Even the goalkeeper fancied his chances, coming up several times for corners to try and cause some confusion in the box.

On 85 minutes it looked for a moment as if Bemerton had wrapped the game up as one of their subs broke down the left side and pushed a shot past the Downton keeper, only for the ball to bobble the wrong side of the post. Bemerton managed to run down the clock, keeping the ball in the corners as much as possible. In injury time, Downton managed to get the ball back and forced their own corner - no surprise to see the keeper jog up to the penalty spot but a poor delivery meant the rest of the team had to try and hold Bemerton up as he slowly jogged back towards his own goal. Late into injury time Downton tried but failed to get an accurate final ball towards their strikers and the home team claimed all 3 points.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Game 36: Verwood Town 2.1 Fawley (WESS 1) 09.04.07

Travelling in the opposite direction to most of the Bank Holiday traffic, I made good time and arrived at Verwood Town's ground about 45 minutes before kick off. After a quick picnic in the park, I wandered over to the pitch where Johnny Cash was blaring out from a ghetto blaster. Apparently the players take it in turn to choose the warm up music but this tribute to the Man in Black didn't sway the officials when checking the teams studs and jewellery before the game.

There was no admission fee for the game but this wasn't surprising given that their were no boundary fences or turnstiles. The programme cost 2 quid which I thought initially thought would recoup some of the funds but it turned out to be a good read with plenty of humour in the match reports. The ground doesn't have floodlights but does have two new stands to meet league requirements. From reading the programme I discovered that they would have to be installed to meet the full requirements for Wessex 1 but Verwood had been given some time to make progress with this following their promotion the year before.

After the teams kicked off, I found myself surrounded by the self styled Verwood WAGS who didn't stop talking throughout the first half. Verwood scored on 5 minutes with a header from a cross from the right beating the keeper at close range.

Verwood continued to put lots of pressure on Fawley and on the 15th minute managed to put the ball past the keeper from the edge of the box but the header lacked precision and passed the wrong side of the post. Fawley's keeper almost managed an assist on 25 minutes, mishitting a clearance to a Verwood striker who lobbed the keeper and was just about to celebrate when a Fawley defender scooped the ball off the line and out for a corner. The majority of the play was in the Fawley half but they did manage to force a couple of corners which were easily dealt with by the Verwood keeper.

On the 38 minute they created their best chance of the half with a deep corner that cleared everyone and allowed their no 9 to pick up the ball. He moved forward but mishit the ball forward which took it too far for a shot but did manage to get a cross in to the middle. His team mates hadn't read the opportunity and the ball was easily cleared by Verwood. Verwood were unlucky not to add a second in the 44th minute with a shot that went just over so took a 1.0 lead into half time.

Had a chat to a ground hopper from Dawlish after half time who had been to the Hayling game and just made it back to Verwood for the 3pm ko. He kindly passed on a duplicate Hayling pin badge that he had been given earlier that afternoon. Fawley had remained out on the pitch for the half time teamtalk and the message from their manager was to keep working and give it an extra 10% to get something from the game. This seemed to have the desired effect as they were much more determined in the second half.

However it was Verwood who scored next on 58 minutes. A breakaway attack from the right saw the ball played to the left hand edge of the box to a Verwood midfielder who struck the ball across the keeper and into the back of the net. Two minutes later he almost did the same thing again but this time the Fawley keeper pushed it round for a corner.

After this Verwood seemed to sit back on their lead and Fawley gradually began to assert themselves. They had a twenty yard shot tipped over, a header just wide and hit the post from distance. It seemed like the goal they deserved would never come but on 85 minutes the referee penalised the Verwood keeper for not releasing the ball in 6 seconds. An indirect free kick was given at the edge of the box and the Fawley player tapped it back to a team mate to drive under the jumping wall and past the keeper. Verwood were rattled and only a good tackle prevented a Fawley 1 on 1 with the keeper. Fawley deserved an equaliser on their second half performance but ran out of time as the referee blew up. Another entertaining game and another game with no bookings.

Game 35: Petersfield Town 1.4 Liss Athletic (WESS 1) 09.04.07

The Wessex League originally had this game as a 3pm kickoff so I had planned to meet Alan at the 12noon game at Hayling before going to this game. However during the weekend I noticed that the game had been put back to 11am so we decided to meet up for this game instead.

It had been a sunny weekend but I left Salisbury shrouded in grey cloud and by the time I got to Winchester there were swirls of fog covering the road. Fortunately for me, the sun came out by the time I reached Petersfield.

Looking through the programme waiting for Alan, I noticed that both teams had won their Saturday game 4.1 but were struggling at the bottom of the league. The warm weather and early start brought out a fair crowd to the game but not as many as Alan expected to see. As the game kicked off, we had a chat to a genial gentleman who mentioned that he was going to take his seat in the president's box - it turned out that he was Jim Sloan, a former director at Fratton Park.

The first half was fairly evenly matched. Petersfield started brightly and had a shot that came back off the crossbar while Liss put a shot wide of the keeper but wide of the post shortly afterwards. Neither team seemed to be making much headway in the first half hour but Liss gradually started to have more of the game. However it was Petersfield who scored first on 35 minutes, a ball was played into the penalty area and their striker span and slotted the ball past the keeper from 10 yards out. 5 minutes later and Liss were back in the game with the best goal of the morning - a 30 yard shot that chipped the keeper and flew into the back of the net. A well taken goal that the Liss players took great pleasure in celebrating in front of a local photographer. A couple of minutes later they had another great chance but couldn't go in front before halftime.

After a quick trip to the bar for soft drinks, we returned to our spot in the shade for the 2nd half. Alan noted that Liss must have had a rocket up their arse in the halftime team talk and it was no surprise that they took the lead on 50 minutes. Petersfield gave the ball away and a Liss striker slotted the ball in. For the next 20 minutes, Liss dominated with plenty of pressure and several corners but couldn't create any end product. Petersfield found it hard to get the ball to their strikers and the Liss keeper had little to do. Even the referee seemed to have it in for Petersfield, accidently standing on one of their players hands when he went down injured.

On 75 minutes the Liss pressure finally told. A cross came in from the right and flew right across the penalty area, allowing a Liss player to tap the ball in unchallenged past the keeper at the far post. A soft goal to concede but one that was replicated 5 minutes later by the same striker, this time a tap in from 3 yards out in the centre of the goal.

The referee then helped Petersfield out. After giving Liss a freekick on the halfway line in the 90th minute, he penalised their player for handball after he touched the ball when trying to place it on the ground. Apparently the referee felt that the ball had been in play at that point. The free kick was given the other way and Petersfield earnt a corner from which they almost scored. When the ball came across, no-one was able to poke it in but a Petersfield striker managed to cross it back into the centre. It looked like they would get a late consolation with their best chance of the half, but the ball was headed over from short range and with that the referee blew the final whistle.

An entertaining game with no bookings for either side. I said my farewells to Alan, then started the drive over to Verwood Town for a 3pm start.