Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Game 17: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 6.0 Aldermaston Town (WESS LC) 30.10.07

The original plan for this evening was to head over to Laverstock with Andy and Alan to watch the local derby against Downton in the Wessex League Cup. However the game got moved to Wednesday evening which meant Andy would be in Austria and I would be about to get on a plane to the USA, so we decided on another visit to Bemerton.

Alan got stuck on the motorway so we went straight to the ground and parked up at 7.30. As we got there, 2 blokes were walking away from the ground and providing directions on a mobile phone. We thought that it was unlikely to be another Aldermaston fan given their average attendance of 15 and it turned out to be the team minibus as it arrived 10 minutes later. This meant that the game kicked off at 8.15, half an hour later than advertised.

With Aldermaston rooted to the bottom of Wessex 1, we anticipated a goal feast - Alan predicted 7.2 to Bemerton. While Aldermaston played well in patches, they were not able to finish any of the handful of chances they created. Indeed their best chances came when the Bemerton keeper kicked the ball to them from free kicks and had to rush back to protect the goal, only to see the shots sailing wide.

Bemerton almost scored after 30 seconds and dominated play. Their passing and movement was far superior to Aldermaston and it was no surprise that they scored 6 - indeed they should have scored more as they took their time with chances and almost wanted to play the perfect ball when a direct "shoot on sight" attitude would have lead to at least another couple of goals.

The scoring went as follows:

13 min - cross from the right headed past the keeper.
29 min - shot from close range, with a headed goal disallowed for offside in between.
48 min - a quick turn and shot from the middle of penalty area to the right side of the keeper
77 min - free kick on the left passed into the centre and smashed in

At this point, Aldermaston brought on a young goal keeper.

81 min - two players went sliding in on a Bemerton striker at the left of the box, bringing him down for a penalty which was duly converted.

Not to be outdone on the substitutions, Bemerton brought on player-manager Ian Chalk, much to Alan's delight as he's always been a big fan of Chalky.

82 min - Chalky takes the ball down in the penalty area, advances and chips the keeper less than a minute after coming on. Class finish.

Aldermaston went down to ten men after this, a late sliding tackle earning a defender a second yellow card. Bemerton were unable to add to their goal tally for the evening but thoroughly deserved the win.

Game 16: Salisbury City 0.0 Stevenage Borough (FA Cup 4QR) 27.10.07

I had contemplated going to a Wessex game as this tie didn't really appeal but Andy persuaded me to attend as Stuart was coming down from Stevenage for the game. With Pete recovering from a hangover at 2pm, I drove up to the layby and picked them up for a Wembley and playoff final reunion.

This was Stevenage's first visit to the Ray Mac and the programme highlighted what pedigree they had in the FA Cup. However the recent resignation of their manager and injuries to a number of key players seemed to have an effect as a busy Salisbury team limited their first half chances to single figures. Despite this, they were the best chances of the half as Morison put a shot well wide of the post when put through and McMahon shot straight at Ryan Clarke from close range.

In the second half, Stevenage's play was better and they created more chances with some good passing and intelligent use of the ball. One shot came back from the crossbar with Clarke well beaten while other shots were either directly at Clarke or were deflected wide. Salisbury had been pressing well but started to get tired which allowed Stevenage more time on the ball. Then came a great opportunity for the Whites. The assistant flagged as a shot was blocked on the line - at first I thought he'd given a goal but it turned out to be a penalty as a Stevenage player had handled in the box.

Matt Tubbs stepped up to take the kick and I wasn't confident as he'd missed the last penalty I'd seen him take against Cambridge last year. Perhaps the delay in getting the kick taken didn't help as he put his shot past the keeper but past the left hand post as well. If it had gone in then Salisbury would have been into the First Round again but a replay will be needed on Tuesday night.

When we got back to watch the Pompey v West Ham game, we joked that there would be a late penalty after seeing Solano miss 2 glorious chances for the away team... on 94 minutes Benjani stepped up to take a penalty and the keeper saved it so the game ended 0.0 - almost a carbon copy of the game we'd watched earlier in the afternoon. Still, when the FA Cup 1st round draw came through from the BBC website, we weren't too disappointed to see Exeter (a) - while a win at Stevenage was possible we felt it was unlikely that they would play that poorly again so at least we wouldn't miss out on the chance to giant kill a League team.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Game 15: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 0.1 Fareham Town (WESS PREM) 23.10.07

Met up with Andy and Ferg at Andy's house for a short stroll round to watch Bemerton take on Fareham. We were a bit concerned on arrival to see that the floodlights on the main pitch weren't on but the turnstiles were open so we made our way into the atmospherically lit ground. As kickoff approached, the main floodlights were turned on and the players came through the back of the ground from the practice pitches to the dressing room.

Both teams were in the top half of the table and honours were pretty even for the first 20 minutes. Fareham took the lead with a breakaway on the right side after 26 minutes. As the ball broke to a Fareham player on the right of the penalty area it looked as if his first touch was too strong and the keeper looked favourite to gather it as he rushed out. Somehow the Fareham player managed to toepoke it past him and across the goal where Guise tapped it into the unprotected net.

Bemerton made a number of chances after that but couldn't finish. In the second half, a superb freekick bent around the wall but crashed against the post and out. A breakaway attack saw the keeper beaten again with a shot from the left hand side of the area, only for the ball to whistle past the wrong side of the post. Fareham also made some chances and it looked as if they were going to be granted a penalty for a bearhug, only for the officials to decide that the original offence was just outside the box. The player who took the kick made his point by putting the ball just inside the line!

The referee had another gaff earlier in the game when he decided to approach his assistant for advice on whether it was a throw in or goalkick on the farside. The assistant correctly determined that he should give Bemerton a throw but the ref didn't understand and gave it to Fareham instead (his original decision was to give them the goalkick).

The drama continued into injury time when Bemerton were awarded a penalty for a late tackle in the box. The shot was well struck along the ground towards the left corner of the goal but the keeper was equal to it and stretched out to push it. Perhaps this evened up the Bemerton keeper's blinder of a save from a point blank header earlier in the half but the disappointment of the locals around us (compared to the yells of joy from the noisy Fareham contingent!) was plain to see.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Game 14: Salisbury City 3.3 Altrincham (Blue Square Premier) 13.10.07

Sometimes it's best not to open your mouth and give your opinion on a scoreline. After 30 minutes of a scoreless first half I turned round to Andy and said that I really couldn't see a goal in this game. 30 seconds later an Altrincham player picked up the ball in midfield and belted it from distance over Ryan Clarke, under the cross bar and in. The first goal of a quite remarkable 3.3 draw!

Altrincham brought a decent and noisy contingent down South for this game, which kicked off at 1pm due to the England Euro qualifier later that afternoon. Picked up Andy from outside the Old Castle (that layby pickup is getting to be a habit!) and got to the ground in plenty of time. We decided to head to the far end (which Salisbury were attacking) only to find that while we were allowed to that end, the Altrincham fans were not allowed past the stewards. It subsequently turned out that this was due to the bar segregation at half time but it did seem petty to be honest.

Before the Altrincham goal Salisbury were well in control of the match and had created a number of chances - Fowler had a shot deflected wide and Feeney put a couple of half decent crosses into the box for Tubbs. After the goal went in they looked a bit shell shocked - which might explain why Clarke went running out of his goal again to play the sweeper and ended up taking out his man for a penalty which was duly converted.

After a change of ends and a stop off at the mobile tuckshop in the corner, we hoped for a change of fortune in the second half. Brown had a good chance early in the half but ended up kicking the air instead of the ball. Prince and Clay replaced Fowler and Bass, with Bartlett dropping back into defence but the change didn't pay off immediately as Altrincham hit the bar with a strong shot from close range and then scored a third. This time the ball wasn't cleared in the box and the Altrincham striker swept the ball into the net.

Salisbury tried to get back into the game and on 70 minutes an unmarked Marvin Brown rose up and headed in what we thought would be a consolation goal from a Luke Prince corner. Luke Oliver was moved upfront and Salisbury looked to play the ball high to him at every opportunity. After 87 minutes, another Prince corner was headed into the net - this time by Oliver at the near post - and an unlikely comeback seemed to be possible. With the crowd urging the Whites forward, Marvin Brown headed an equaliser a minute later to the relief of the home fans. Salisbury almost snatched a winner in injury time but the momentum couldn't quite stretch that far.

As we walked out to the car, an Alty fan wandered by looking shellshocked but still taking the time to wish us all the best and to tell us 'well played'. I think we could sympathise with him having seen similar games go against us over the years!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Game 13: Andover New Street 1.2 Petersfield Town (WESS 1) 06.10.07

Another grey day early in the season so decided to visit Andover New Street's ground - the weather must have reminded me of the previous game I'd seen them play (a 6.2 defeat at Laverstock last season).

After last Sunday's visit to the O2 Arena for the NHL game between Anaheim Mighty Ducks and LA Kings, it was nice to get back to a new non-league ground. Andover New Street had won their midweek game at Shaftesbury, only their second win of the season, so there was a bit of optimism around the ground when I arrived. Had a read of the programme (included in the admission price of £3) and watched some highlights from the Man Utd v Wigan game before having a look around the ground. There was a small stand that wasn't being used next to the main clubhouse. On the other side, a sight that reminded me of my younger days at Victoria Park, a small playground with slides and swings.

While the referee dealt with the kickoff, the assistant referee on the near side joked that I should do the offsides for him. While I didn't stay in that location for long due to the sun making a brief appearance over the other side of the ground, the Petersfield Town bench's comments about him later in the game made me wonder if it was a genuine request!

Petersfield dominated the first half with the majority of possession and one goal disallowed for offside. Andover were helped by some dubious offside decisions but were playing with a lot of determination to try and keep a second clean sheet in a week.

It was a surprise when Andover took the lead just before half-time. Petersfield pushed up for a corner and when it was cleared with a big kick up field, they only had one defender back to cover. An Andover striker chased the ball down and beat the defender to it, then chipped the advancing keeper from 35 yards out.

The second half followed a similar pattern, although Andover were looking more dangerous on the counter-attack. Petersfield's players were getting frustrated as time went on and more chances were missed but they managed to equalise after 65 minutes. I thought that the player should have hit the ball earlier and the chance had gone but he managed to shoot from the edge of the 6 yard box across the keeper and into the corner of the net.

Petersfield continued to miss good chances with shots flying over the bar from all angles. With 85 minute gone, it looked like the game was going to end up a draw and the Petersfield subs warming up were complaining that this was down to their manager and his poor tactics - althought it was quite likely to have been motivated by their non-selection / appearance on the pitch!

Luckily for the manager, his team's fortunes changed with 5 minutes to go. The Petersfield no 2 had been making good runs from the back thoughout the game and found himself in the penalty area when his legs were taken in a tackle. The referee did not hesitate to point at the spot and when the penalty was finally taken, it was hit down the middle with enough pace to squeeze under the keeper, despite him guessing where the ball would end up.

The small crowd continued to encourage Andover to get something from the game and they almost did in the final minute. A long, high ball was punted into the box and one of their strikers managed to plant a firm header past the keeper to the delight of the home fans. The delight was short lived as the inconsistent referee waved his arms around to signify a push and so the goal was disallowed.

Looking at the league table later, it showed that neither Andover New Street or Petersfield Town have drawn a league game this season. While this game had come pretty close, Petersfield would have been hard done by if they hadn't won all 3 points today.