Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Game 19: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 2.1 Hamble ASSC (WESS PREM) 27.11.07

Another trip up to the Heath, this time to catch a league game. Bemerton had lost their last two games in the last minute (conceding a 4th goal against Romsey on Saturday to lose 4.3 after their Vase exit to Bideford) so we wondered if they could keep going to the end tonight.

It was however a question of if / when the game would start as the assistant referee requested some work on one of the nets which took about 10 minutes to resolve. Once the game finally started, Hamble took control and won a corner in the 11th minute - much to the disappointment of the crowd and Bemerton players who felt that the ball had gone straight out from the attacker. From our viewpoint, the ball clearly took a deflection off the Bemerton defender's shin as it went through to the goalline so the decision was correct. From the corner, a Hamble player headed the ball high and looping over the keeper to put them in the lead.

In previous games this season, Bemerton have looked like a team with some purpose and invention but this was lacking this evening. Passes were overhit, played to the wings rather than into the box and the few attacking chances were easily dealt with. Hamble hadn't won a game since September but it was difficult to see why as they looked dangerous each time they went forward. The assistant referee on our side made a couple of errors to bring play back for offside when Hamble attackers had gone through the offside trap fairly in my opinion, so a couple of 1 on 1's didn't work out. The game didn't really have much to offer other than an opportunity for Andy and I to discuss the usual hotchpotch of work, pubs, tv, footie and music.

In the second half Bemerton made Hamble pay for some slack defending (and for their subs using the goalmouth for practice at halftime, ignoring Steve Slade's requests not to) by scoring from a cross on the right in the 49th minute. This time a header was placed down into the wet turf and bounced over the keeper from close range. There had been a light rainfall in the first half and for a short period this drizzle got heavier, causing a few spectators to vacate the area behind the goal for the stand.

Hamble still looked the most likely team to grab an winner. They had two big shouts for a goal following a goalmouth scramble that the assistant on the far side ruled had not crossed the line and a legitimate claim for a penalty after 70 minutes when the ball struck a Bemerton player's arms. Bemerton managed to apply some pressure in the last ten minutes and a good run from a substitute striker managed to beat the offside trap, allowing him to toepoke the ball past the keeper on 84 minutes. This time it was Hamble's turn to complain to the assistant referee on the nearside about the decision, which they felt was offside, but again he had got the big decision right as the player making the most noise was actually the player who played Bemerton onside. The substitute almost added a third on 90 minutes when he chipped the keeper from the edge of the box but the ball went just wide of the far post.

Not the greatest game but it did mean that a 3 goal tally to add to the 1,5, 6 and 8 goal hauls from previous visits this season.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Game 18: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 2.3 Bideford aet (FA VASE) 17.11.2007

After a couple of weeks in the soaring heat of Texas, it was reassuring to be back in England for a 'proper' cold November day and a shorter trip to Bemerton Heath with Andy for this FA Vase tie.

Bemerton took the lead after 15 minutes when a breakaway attack down the right saw the ball crossed into the middle of the penalty area for a Bemerton player to chest it down to a team mate to shoot past the keeper. Both teams created some good chances in the first half and it was down to both keepers that there were no more goals after 45 minutes. Bideford had a couple of shots that went just wide, a clear one on one chance that the keeper saved and a good penalty shout turned down while Bemerton had a couple of efforts from free kicks that the Bideford keeper seemingly flew across the goal to keep out.

Bemerton edged the first half but the second half was dominated by Bideford who had brought a vocal bunch of supporters up from Devon. They had a goal disallowed after 50 minutes when the ball trickled past the keeper from a corner and might have gone in, only for an offside player to try and make sure and get penalised in the process. Bemerton kept trying to break on the counter and on 75 minutes were again denied by the Bideford keeper who pulled off another stunning save. Andy reckoned that it would take a low daisycutter shot to beat him as anything in the air was not getting past him.

The away support was starting to get frustrated with the number of times their team were getting caught offside but on 80 minutes, as a Bemerton midfielder lay injured from a 50/50 tackle, Bideford pushed forward and from the resulting cross, the ball was headed low past the Bemerton keeper.

Back came Bemerton and on 86 minutes another counter-attack found it's way through the Bideford defence. Perhaps they had been listening to Andy as a crisp, one touch passing move found Sanger in the box and his low shot beat the keeper to give what seemed to be the winner to Bemerton. All credit to Bideford, they continued to try and get back into the game again and with a minute to go it was 2 all. A free kick was played into a melee of players in the box and the ball broke to a Bideford sub to poke it in.

As this was an FA Vase game, there was some debate about whether the game would have extra time and penalties or just extra time. Looking at the number of Bideford supporters who left the terracing on the final whistle, you wondered whether they had realised that there was still more to play for. Most of them were back shortly after the extra time started so it was probably the search for a pint to steady the nerves that was the priority!

In the first half of extra time, Bemerton had a goal disallowed from a corner while Bideford had another good shout for a penalty turned down by the referee. The second half of extra time built up to a frantic finish. With 4 minutes to go, Bideford's no 12 went past his man and into the box for a shot that looked to be heading in but finished up going just wide. Bemerton then broke away but Bideford's keeper saved the point blank shot.

Just as everyone started to prepare themselves for a midweek replay, Bideford's sub took a last minute shot along the ground with plenty of power from 20 yards, through a melee of players and the Bemerton keeper's hands to trickle into the goal. While the Bemerton players collapsed to the ground in disbelief, the Bideford supporters and players went crazy. There was just enough time to kick off after the goal before the final whistle was blown.

A very entertaining game for the neutral and one played in a good spirit as there were no bookings or sendings off throughout the 120 minutes.