Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Game 9: Romsey Town 2.0 Bemerton Heath Harlequins (WESS PREM) 28.08.07

Drove down to Romsey with Andy for our second visit to the Bypass ground and for both of us, our first experience of watching Bemerton as the away team.

Arrived at the ground in plenty of time for kickoff, sadly for Andy the bar wasn't manned and the pumps were all covered with beer towels. Instead of tucking into a pint we sat outside and watched the players preparing for the game. Romsey were playing a 2 touch passing game while Bemerton warmed up with some running across the width of the pitch.

When the game started, Bemerton (in orange instead of black and white diamonds) had the best of the early chances and Romsey's keeper was lucky on a couple of occasions when the ball beat him but rebounded back to him from a post or one of his teammates. Romsey had a couple of decent freekicks and from one of these, the Bemerton keeper pushed the ball over the crossbar. Romsey took a short corner and when the ball was eventually played into the box, one of their players ran in at the back post and planted a firm header into the back of the net. Normal service then resumed with some end to end moves, dubious offside decisions and a couple of cynical challenges, one of which earnt a Romsey player a yellow card. When a Bemerton player was not reprimanded for a tackle from behind, the Romsey player commented to the complaining spectators that he meant to play the man - so it was a fair cop! Romsey came close in the 40th minute with a cross that almost went in and had to be tipped over the bar.

Whilst listening to the Radio 5 commentary from Anfield in the car at half time, we agreed that while Bemerton had played well in defence and midfield, they hadn't been able to get behind the well organised Romsey defence to cause too many problems in the first half. A bit like the spellchecker for the program which gave us a few laughs.

This continued in the second half, when we moved to the other side of the pitch for a change of scenery. Bemerton became frustrated up front and the number 9 seemed to spend more time arguing with the ref and swearing than concentrating on his football.

Romsey scored a second goal on 68mins when a low shot from the edge of the box went straight through the crowd. Bemerton continued to try and get back into the game but too many balls were played up in the air or shots were scuffed from close range. The referee added on 4 minutes at the end of the game which was a surprise as there had been no stoppages for injuries, only a couple of substitutions. In the fifth minute of injury time, a Bemerton player received a straight red card for a 2 footed stamping tackle. 30 seconds after that the referee blew up and Romsey were top of the table, with a two point lead over Poole Town having played a game more.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Game 8: Salisbury City 2.1 Woking (Blue Square Premier) 27.08.07

Had a few possible contenders for today's game but decided on a trip to the RayMac so I could make the most of a Bank Holiday lie-in. Drove up to the Ray Mac and soon realised by the number of cars already at the ground that it was going to be a decent crowd.

Just before kickoff, a Hurricane and Spitfire flew low over the ground for an aerial display at Old Sarum. The Hurricane reappeared over the stadium for a couple of minutes after kickoff and then swapped places with the Spitfire. It was a real treat to watch them flying and to hear the Merlin engines over the ground. After 15 minutes, they both flew over the ground and back to Middle Wallop, allowing me to concentrate on the football again.

This was the first away game to be segregated and it appeared that the Woking fans had congregated into one corner of the away end, although a few people did make it over the the normal away side behind the goal. While I had a decent view from the home terrace it did make me wish I could head over to some of my preferred photo vantage points on that side of the ground.

Salisbury took the lead on 15 minutes. Robbie Matthews went up for a header and while that was saved by the Woking keeper, he could only push it into the box where Matt Tubbs was on hand to sweep it into the net from close range. 15 minutes later, a long throw from Andy Sandell caused confusion in the Woking box and Clarke smashed it in, again from close range. Woking didn't offer much in response until the last minute of the first half when a header hit the post and went wide. Salisbury were comfortably in control and the match felt more like a pre-season friendly.

Woking made a couple of changes for the second half. The first one was to change from their white and pale blue / grey striped shirts into an all green shirt that didn't clash with the home team. They also moved to a 4-4-2 formation and played much better as a result. Salisbury didn't look so comfortable and Woking looked like they could something from the game. Ryan Clarke miskicked a backpass straight to a Woking forward but with the goal at his mercy, he decided to try and control it rather than hit a first time shot. This allowed the Salisbury defence to get back and clear the danger when he passed to a team mate. A header from a corner was cleared off the line and another shot was hit well over the bar from close range when it looked easier to score.

The Woking goal finally came on 83 minutes, a good run and pass move in the box before the ball was hit in. Woking continued to press for an equaliser and there were a few nervous faces in the record league attendance of 2093. The second goal didn't materialise and Salisbury continued with their home win streak, now 9 points in 3 games.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Game 7: East Cowes Vics 0.5 Amesbury Town (WESS1) 25.08.07

Took an early morning ferry to Cowes with Amy for our now regular (well, 2 years in a row!) August trip to the Isle of Wight. After watching the speedboat racing, we wandered over to the chain ferry and headed to the ground via a well earnt rest in the park. Walking through the nearby housing estate, we realised that the noise behind us wasn't one of the Vespa's from the scooter rally but 4 prop planes doing some stunts. We watched them for 5 minutes before continuing to the ground.

On arrival, we headed to the back of the main stand and made ourselves comfortable in the shade. East Cowes had lost their previous game 7.0 at Farnborough while Amesbury had lost 3.2 at Stockbridge so both teams had something to play for.

The first half was an even affair. Amesbury were generally in control but East Cowes made a few chances on the counter attack and were unlucky not to score. Amesbury took the lead with a looping header from the edge of the box after half an hour but the game wasn't a classic. There was a bit of a scare when an East Cowes player collapsed in the box with no-one near him. It looked like he had fainted and the referee passed on specific instructions to the assistant to keep an eye on him. In the end this wasn't necessary as he was substituted but it was a sensible precaution from the ref who had a good game.

The second half saw Amesbury begin to pass the ball better and this made dividends with 3 goals in 7 minutes. The second of the game was scored on 50 minutes when a great crossfield pass split the defence and a shot from the right side of the box beat the keeper.

The third was scored 5 minutes later - a cross from the right looked to be heading into the keeper's arms when one of the East Cowes defenders ran in and got in front of him to head it into an unguarded net. The fourth goal followed 2 minutes later, a cracking shot from the left side of the box flew past the defence and keeper into the back of the net. East Cowes continued to try and get themselves onto the scoresheet but their afternoon was perhaps summed up when one of the players tried to take a shot and only succeeded in kicking his teammate and injuring himself.

Amesbury scored again near the end when a freekick from the edge of the box flew past the keeper, came down from the crossbar and was tapped in from a yard out by an Amesbury player who followed the ball in.

Despite the prowess of their team on the pitch, the behaviour of some of the Amesbury supporters left a lot to be desired - drinking alcohol in the stand, swearing, abusing the referee and to cap it off in the final minutes, one 'charming' young man screaming homophobic abuse from the stand at any East Cowes player in earshot.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Game 6: England 1.2 Germany 22.08.07 (Friendly)

While most of the games I've attended in the last 3 years have been at non-league level, the opportunity to see an England Germany match at Wembley was too good to turn down when my FAN number came up in the ballot.

After catching the train in from Reading, got a packed tube train upto Wembley Central and arrived with an hour and a half to go until kickoff. Despite it being August, the sky was overcast and it started to drizzle as I walked up Wembley Way. As I got to the top of the walkway, I noticed the England team coach making it's way to the ground.

I decided to take a walk in the rain to the Bobby Moore statue as I hadn't had a close look at the FA Trophy final back in May and it seemed appropriate given the opposition. There were a number of German fans outside the ground but everyone was in good spirits and no problems with the two sets of fans.

After making my way into the ground via the escalators to level 5, I grabbed a quick drink and watched the team news on the huge plasma screen that was showing Sky Sports News. I then made my way up to my seat, almost pausing for oxygen as I was near the top of the stand. Despite that, the view was excellent and I was pleased to find myself almost level with the penalty area on the side rather than being on one of the ends (despite the rain water that was lapping my feet - a bit like the coffee at St Mary's the last time I saw England play) . The programme was almost as steep - £6 - but had plenty to read which kept me busy until kickoff.

England started well and took an early lead a good run from Michah Richards found Lampard, who made his way into the box to finish at close range. Lampard had been booed by many at the start of the game and it was interesting to see the boo-boys silenced by an excellent goal. England dominated the early possession but there was little movement up front and the defence was too keen to play the ball between themselves. This caused a few problems as the German's got wise and pressed up the pitch. A misplaced Ferdinand pass almost let them in on one occasion and they continued to be sloppy with passes. Nicky Shorey cleared the ball from the penalty area and it looked like it would go out of play. The defence switched off and didn't press Schneider who managed to keep it in play. He hit a cross which almost went in. Robinson managed to get a hand on it but not enough to push it over the bar and the ball bounced on to the cross bar and down to a grateful Kuranyi who tapped it in from a yard. The 7,000 Germans in the away end (joined by a significant number dotted around the England support) went wild and continued to make most of the noise for the rest of the game.

England pushed forward again - Terry almost got to the ball from a Beckham freekick before Lehmann and Lampard had a shot charged down when it looked like he was going to score. In the end it was Germany who added a second just before halftime. Again, the England defence allowed Germany too much space and Pander blasted an unstoppable shot past Robinson.

In the second half, David James got a recall from the bench and both Owen and Smith were replaced up front - neither had really looked convincing. Crouch played as a lone striker with Dyer added to the midfield. Suddenly England looked transformed and the movement upfront gave cause for optimism. Beckham even managed to beat his man on the right (before hitting a tame cross to Lehmann). Dyer put a shot the wrong side of the post and Sean Wright-Phillips beautifully dummied the defence before putting his shot wide. Germany had a couple of chances on the counter-attack but James wasn't troubled too much. To my surprise Beckham got to play the whole 90 mins - with all the hype around his US move it was less of a surprise to hear the crowd noise raise everytime he got the ball or took a freekick.

Surprisingly, a mass exodus started with 15 minutes to go and by fulltime at least half of the England fans had left the ground - I decided to stay until the end (as normal) but wasn't rewarded with an equaliser. Made my way back to the queues outside the tube and had the pleasure of bumping into an old football mate I hadn't seen for a couple of years - made the hour wait for a train worthwhile.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Game 5: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 5.3 Reading Town 18.08.07 (FA Cup)

Met up with Andy at 2.30 on a very wet and windy Saturday to wander round to the Harlequins ground for an Extra Preliminary FA Cup tie against Reading Town. Not sure that it was Andy's first choice as Salisbury were also home vs Crawley but the allure of the FA Cup won him over.

Bemerton started off in bright fashion and were rewarded with a goal after 2 minutes when their striker went round the keeper and planted the ball into the net from close range at the far end. Reading Town weren't phased by this and four minutes later scored an equaliser with a cross being missed by the Bemerton defence and poked in from close range.

A minute later and the visitors were 2.1 up - this time a great pass split the Bemerton defence and the Reading no 10 took it past the keeper to score. The game then flowed from end to end and both team made some good chances. Bemerton seemed to have the upper hand but went 3.1 down with a wind assisted shot from 35 yards out that flew past the unprepared Bemerton keeper and found the gap between his hand and the post. The best goal of the game and indeed, the season so far.

Bemerton didn't stop attacking and got their reward just before halftime with a good shot to make it 3.2. Ian Chalk must have had the teacups rattling in his halftime teamtalk as it took 22 seconds (unofficial time courtesy of Andy) for them to equalise with a volley past the keeper.

After this flourish of goals, the rain stopped and Bemerton started to dominate. They had a couple of penalty appeals that could have been given but it wasn't until 4 minutes from time that they took the lead with a breakaway. This time, the Bemerton striker skipped round the keeper at full pace and passed the ball in to the net from 10 yards out before using the water on the pitch to slide across to the corner flag on the far side.

Reading commited players forward to try and equalise but this left space at the back and Bemerton were able to add a fifth goal in injury time. A cracking game and a few more goals than at the RayMac where reports were coming through of a 4.1 Whites victory.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Game 4: Salisbury City 2.1 Ebbsfleet United 14.08.07 (Blue Square Premier)

After the sunshine comes the rain - the heat of Droylesden was replaced by dark rainclouds over the Ray Mac during the first half of Salisbury's first home game in the Blue Square Premier.

Ebbsfleet had an early attack and when Mark Debolla was brought down by a late Aaron Cook challenge, the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Ryan Clarke was sent the wrong way and Ebbsfleet were a goal up after 4 minutes.

Salisbury took a while to get going but started to find their feet and on 41 a great cross from Bass on the right found Robbie Matthews in the middle. The ball seemed to have some spin on it which allowed Matthews to get in front of the defender and power a header into the corner of the net for the equaliser to the delight of the home fans.

As there was no segregation, I decided to wander down to the far end for the second half but didn't stay there too long as the rain started to come down and the raindrops on my glasses meant that I couldn't see too much! During that ten minutes, I did get to see Salisbury take the lead - Matt Tubbs raced though the middle after a misplaced Ebbsfleet pass and took the ball round the keeper before tapping it in.

Tubbs then had 2 goals disallowed for offside, including a superb effort from outside the box that flew over the keeper and in. Salisbury were playing with growing confidence and Ebbsfleet didn't offer much of a threat to Salisbury until the last ten minutes when they were down to 10 men. Neil Barrett, the former Portsmouth and Woking midfielder, landed awkwardly when jumping for a ball and had to be stretchered off - this coming a couple of minutes after the third Ebbsfleet substitution. The last couple of minutes was all at the near end but Ebbsfleet were unable to convert this pressure into a goal. Salisbury's first win of the season!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Game 3: Droylesden 0.0 Salisbury City (Blue Square Premier) 11.08.07

Alan got in touch during the week to see if I was going to a game and we decided to take a trip upto Manchester to see Salisbury's opening game against Droylesden. An eventful journey on the way up - a quick stop at the garden centre in Andover to use the loos, a motorcycle accident on the A34 that held us up, further delays on the M5 and M6 due to the volume of traffic and a wrong turn on the Manchester road that saw us drive clockwise rather than anticlockwise adding 30 mins to our journey meant we parket just off the main road by the ground 5 minutes before kick off and got into the ground just as the teams were coming out.

It was a lovely warm day and some of the locals decided to combine watching the game from the alleyway at the back of the nearby pub with a few cans from the local offlicence. The game wasn't segregated and we decided to watch from the shade of the main stand behind the goal where most of the Salisbury fans were congregated.

The opening few minutes were eventful - Matt Robinson brought down a Droylesden player in the first couple of minutes and it looked to me as if it should have been a penalty. To our relief it wasn't given and the freekick led to the next flashpoint of the game. The ball was blasted into the wall and in the melee, one of the Droylesden players was suddenly surrounded by some of the Salisbury team. After the predictable handbags, the referee sent of the Droylesden player and it was later reported that he had kicked Wayne Turk in the head when Turk was on the ground.

Salisbury failed to capitalise on the man advantage. Too many crosses were delivered from deep and with Paul Sales on the bench there was no guile in the play. Droylesden worked hard to cover the space and had a couple of chances when their strikers were played in but nothing that troubled Clarke.

It was a similar story in the second half. Droylesden had a good chance from a corner but the resulting header was tipped over the bar by Clarke. Sales and Brown replaced Tubbs and Matthews as the heat started to take it's toll. Sales had a good header when he found space in the box but it went straight to the keeper's arms.

A decent result to start the campaign and a decent bunch of supporters at Droylesden, several of whom wished us the best for the season and a good journey home as we left for the 4 hour journey home. A good northern awayday.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Game 2: Salisbury City 1.4 Southampton Reserves (Friendly) 01.08.07

The original plan was for Alan to drive up for the game but a heavy session the night before meant he was staying at home so I drove up to the Ray Mac, picking up Pete and a hungover Andy on the way.

Decided to watch the game from the new terrace - taking care not to stand on the yellow hatched line at the back. The slight elevated view and additional space was a pleasant change to the old 'pathway' terrace.

Before the game kicked off, there was some sad news as Roy Onslow, a veteran Salisbury player, had passed away. He had been present on Saturday for the 60th anniversary game and it was sad to have another minutes silence so soon afterwards.

Southampton had brought their reserve team with a couple of younger players who had some first team experience. They started out as if they had a point to prove and it was no surprise when they scored after 5 minutes with a McGoldrick volley. Salisbury were put under a lot of pressure and a couple of shots beat Clarke and were cleared off the line. It was a surprise that the score was only 1.0 at halftime.

Salisbury made some changes at halftime and looked better with Turk, Sales and Feeney on. The Saints keeper made a point blank save before they scored again from a close range header after a break with lots of pace - Clarke managed to get a hand on it but couldn't keep it out. Salisbury managed to pull a goal back agianst the run of play - new trialist Richards passed it to Feeney who crossed it to Brown to volley in at close range in front of a fantastic sunset over the ground.

The comeback was killed off 10 minutes later by a McGoldrick volley that smashed into the post with pace and span into the back of the net. Saints added a fourth 2 minutes later - hopefully the Whites won't meet a team this good in the Blue Square Premier!