Saturday, December 29, 2007

Game 22: Shaftesbury 0.0 East Cowes Vics (Wess 1) 29.12.07

Alan and I drove down to Shaftesbury for our first visit to the ground. On arrival, it looked like the parking spaces were all taken other than a spot in the bus 'station' next door so we decided not to risk it and parked in a council car park at the bottom of the hill.

Once we had parked up, we walked back to the ground but found that it was closed to spectators so we wandered over to the club bar and watched Sky Sports for a bit before wandering back to the now open ground.

Having seen East Cowes Vics lose heavily earlier in the season, I had predicted a home win but there was little to excite us in the first half. The ball was mainly with the home team but the passing and crossing were both poor and neither side tested the goalkeepers at all. The only clear cut chance actually fell to East Cowes when the Shaftesbury keeper dropped the ball from a corner but there was no-one near enough to take advantage. The game was so dull that one of the Shaftesbury officials had his spade out and was tidying up the walkway on the far side of the pitch!

The start of the second half was a bit more promising. The crowd enjoyed seeing the referee slip over before Shaftesbury managed to put the ball in the back of the net. Unfortunately for us, the goal wasn't given as their player was offside. East Cowes had a couple of shots as both teams started to set up some attacks.

East Cowes hadn't played on Boxing Day and the rest appeared to have done them some good as they pressured Shaftesbury into giving the ball away. The game started to get a bit niggly and some strong challenges weren't being punished. It was only after the fourth attempt to take a player out that the referee decided to get his yellow card out. The Shaftesbury players and crowd started to argue with the officials over minor decisions that the officials had in fact got right (from this neutral's vantage point).

By 85 minutes we had given up hope of there being a goal in the game. As the rain started to come down, we moved to the cover behind the goal only to hear that Reading were 6.4 down at Tottenham. Alan was gutted - not just about the scoreline but the fact that he would have been there had Spurs not drawn Reading at home in the FA Cup the following week, a match he would be attending.

In the last minute there was the chance of an upset. Shaftesbury had committed too many players forward and one of the East Cowes subs took a long ball forward and had a one on one opportunity against the keeper. It looked like he would score but his shot went wide of the post. We trudged back to the bar to check the fulltime results then rushed back to the car in the rain to avoid a ticket as our alloted time had almost run out.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Game 21: Salisbury City 1.1 Weymouth (Blue Square Premier) 26.12.07

After spending last Boxing Day on another island in the Atlantic, it was good to have the option to partake in the traditional post Christmas feast game again.

The two teams had met in the Setanta shield a few days before and Weymouth had won that match 2.1. From the opening passage of play it was clear to see why as they started very well. Beavon had a shot that was cleared off the line and the follow up shot was just wide.

Salisbury were under a lot of pressure and at times it was only Ryan Clarke who was keeping them in the game. Weymouth made some good chances to score and Beavon in particular looked dangerous. He had one shot well saved and played a superb back heel to a team mate to put him clear, only to see the shot go wide of the post.

When Salisbury finally managed to get a breakaway attack, Herring was unable to make it count as the Weymouth defence got back and Critchell made a good block tackle to stop the Whites man in his tracks. Beavon had to go off just before halftime with an injury, which was good news for Salisbury.

Even better news was a goal in the first minute of the second half against the run of play. Herring’s throw found Wayne Turk who played the ball into Marvin Brown to volley in. This knocked Weymouth and Salisbury went in search of a second. Robbie Matthews was unlucky not to get it a few minutes later when he hit the post with a shot.

Weymouth were not done and got themselves back into the game after 53 minutes from a Vernazza long throw. The ball fell to Jombarti who slipped it past Clark from a couple of yards out. A soft goal to concede and Weymouth now continued their domination of the game.

It fell to Ryan Clark to protect Salisbury’s point with a superb reaction save near the end. Salisbury were lucky to get anything from the game, as Weymouth had been the better team.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Game 20: Laverstock & Ford 4.0 Totton & Eling (Wess 1) 01.12.07

With tonight's Slade gig attendees in town, it was a full car that Andy drove to Laverstock & Ford (via the Duck). Although the weather forecast was for sun until 4, the sunshine didn't last more than a minute or two before kickoff. Paul and I left the car for a few minutes but soon the heavy rain forced us to seek cover in the car with Rob and Andy.

There was little to talk about in the first 20 minutes until a rainbow appeared in front of us. A moment later, Laverstock won a corner and when the ball was swung over from the far side, a couple of shots were blocked on the line - the final one being a clear handball from the defender. There seemed to be some confusion whether the referee was going to award a penalty or give a goal but after some discussion with the assistant on the far side, the goal was awarded.

5 minutes later and it was 2.0. A cross came in from the left which was missed by all of the defence and allowed a striker to move in from the far side and score from a tap-in. Paul and I had just got out of the car as the rain subsided but the conditions weren't helping the players. There were a number of sliding tackles missing the ball and the Totton keeper had a number of difficult backpasses to deal with, one of which he missed completely (luckily for him the ball went wide of the goal!). In the final minute of the half, Totton managed to put the ball into the net but it was disallowed for offside.

The second half started much better than the first, with the ball flowing from end to end. The Totton players were unhappy with some of the decisions that were going against them and the decisions that the referee was making - only giving a booking for a handball on the last man (which the assistant explained to the bench was the correct decision). Both teams had chances from free kicks but both were hit straight to the keeper. On 49 minutes McGregor (ex Salisbury City) had a clear chance but hit the ball over from 8 yards when it seemed easier to score.

On 60 minutes Laverstock extended their lead to 3. As the ball was played forward into the channel, the defender challenging from the ball slipped and fell over, allowing the striker to take the ball unopposed into the penalty area and shoot along the ground, across the keeper and into the back of the net. Three minutes later and it looked like McGregor was going to be in on goal only for the last defender to wrestle him to the ground. McGregor reacted badly to this and got up and tried to push the defender down. This multiplied as players ran into assist their team mate and started their own scuffles. The referee managed to calm the situation and gave the original protagonists a yellow card each for their troubles. Totton then tried to get McGregor to react again - 3 players surrounded him with the ball and one slid in with a deliberate attempt to play the man instead of the ball. McGregor kept his cool but there were a couple of other flash points before the end of the game that could have seen him sent off if his teammates hadn't pulled him away in time.

Laverstock finished the game off on 86 minutes with another well taken goal. A long ball from the middle of their half found a striker who then ran past 2 defenders before shooting past the keeper.