Sunday, December 28, 2008

Game 17: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 0.1 Romsey Town (Wess PREM) 27.12.08

Drove over to Andy's house then wandered round to Western Way to clear the Christmas cobwebs with some fresh air and a local derby with Romsey.

The first part of the game was pretty low key. Romsey took the lead on 28 minutes through an own goal - a cross from the left was deflected off a defender's legs and in. Romsey almost added a second a minute later but Bemerton's keeper made a good save.

In the second half Bemerton managed a few attacks but the consistent theme was that they broke down in the final third and the Romsey keeper had little to do.

Romsey were happy to contain Bemerton and created few chances themselves.

In the 73rd minute Romsey almost repaid the favour and came close to scoring an own goal. The header from the defender was planned but it caught the keeper out and he was wrong footed. Despite this, he managed to get back and make a save to keep the score at 0.1

That was Bemerton's best chance of the second half as they continued to create good openings and waste them with wayward shots that were more likely to hit bird's nests in the trees than the back of the net. In the final minute they almost equalised but the shot went just wide of the post. Not a classic game but it was nice to get out to two games over the Christmas period.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Game 16: Salisbury City 2.1 Oxford United (Blue Square Premier) 26.12.08

A cold afternoon up at the Ray Mac for the visit of Oxford United. I’d driven down from Reading and managed to arrive back in Salisbury at 2 so arranged to meet Andy at the ground. There was a big queue of traffic to get into the ground and it took about 10 minutes to get in as only one turnstile was open. While the Salisbury end wasn’t too full, the away end was packed and the game kicked off ten minutes late to allow everyone to get in. The away fans were certainly the loudest this season and with good reason – the attendance was 2,416 and over half (1,241) were from Oxford.

Salisbury attacked towards their supporters and took the lead in the third minute to silence the away end. Fowler leapt the highest at the near side of the penalty area and knocked a corner towards the back post. Griffin made up 6 yards in an instant and threw himself at the ball to head it past the stranded keeper.

Salisbury then doubled their lead in the seventeenth minute, Liam Feeney crossed the ball from the left side and found Ademeno lurking in the middle. He mishit his shot towards the near post while Billy Turley, anticipating a shot towards the far post, dived the wrong way. It seemed to take an age for the ball to bounce over the line but it finally trickled over the line.

Constable was looking dangerous for Oxford and managed to nick the ball past Bittner before collapsing in a heap. It was impossible to judge from the far end whether there had been contact made – luckily for Salisbury the referee judged that that it was outside the area and that no card was necessary. Salisbury defended deep and managed to clear a headed effort from a free kick over the crossbar. Constable had a couple of shots but didn’t get them on target to trouble Bittner.

Oxford made some changes at the start of the second half and after ten minutes of one way traffic managed to pull a goal back. Sam Deering was beating the Salisbury defence every time down the left side and after Constable’s shot was parried by Bittner, he chipped the ball into the open goal

That was the last contribution he made as moments later he went in for a tackle with Ruddick. At the time it looked like both players had gone for the ball, leading Deering to fall awkwardly. He had to be stretchered off but the referee didn’t see a late challenge and booked Oxford keeper Turley for running 40 yards to protest.

Yemi replaced him and almost found an equaliser with a strong cross shot from the edge of the penalty area that skimmed past the far post and went wide. Tim Bond also made a great goalmouth clearance with his head as Salisbury fought hard to keep the 3 points in Wiltshire. In the final minutes, Feeney should have scored when he went one on one with Turley but shot wide from distance when it might have been better to take the keeper on. By now the nerves were jangling but the Whites held on for a well deserved win.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Game 15: Christchurch 3.0 New Milton Town (FA Vase) 05.12.08

When choosing a game for this round of the FA Vase, I decided to go with the silverware and head down to Christchurch to see their local derby against New Milton Town. The FA Vase itself was on show in the club bar before the game with 2 FA staff and 2 security guards making sure it stayed there! It’s a nice gesture by the FA to bring their trophies around the country for people to see and I made the most of it by getting my picture next to the Vase.

New Milton started the better of the two teams and it took 14 minutes for Christchurch to create a decent chance. The ball came across the goal from a corner and presented Russell Cook with an open goal from two yards out . You guessed it – he missed!

Two minutes later and Christchurch did take the lead from a long throw in. The ball ended up in the penalty area and Mark Burrows looped a header over New Milton’s ex-Salisbury keeper and into the side of the net. It reminded me of some of the recent goals scored by Stoke from Rory Delap’s throws and Burrows was delighted with it, rushing towards one of the spectators behind the goal to celebrate.

The rest of the first half was fairly even. New Milton were limited to longshots that flew over the bar and it seemed that they were unable to counter the effect of playing down the steep slope. Christchurch looked like the better footballing team with some good passing and movement but their efforts only produced some soft shots that didn’t threaten the goal.

In the second half I moved from the far touchline to the main stand as the sun had gone down behind the trees and my back was rather sore – the old man in me needed to sit down! The sunset looked pretty amazing as the sky moved from orange to blue to dark blue and finally to black.

Christchurch scored their second goal after 47 minutes. Burrows managed to stay onside and picked up a perfect through ball. He ran into the box unopposed and chipped the onrushing keeper. If the first goal could be likened to Stoke, this one could be likened to Arsenal and their slick attacking play.

The next 20 minutes was all Christchurch and New Milton rarely left their own half. There were tow similar chances to extend the lead – one on 65 minutes and another on 71 minutes - long shot efforts on target but on both occasions the keeper pushed the shot over the bar.

The third goal finally came on 76 minutes. Michael Green won the ball for Christchurch on the halfway line, sped down the left wing and put a low cross into the middle with pace. As the ball came across, Cook stretched a leg out and swept the ball in despite the challenge from the covering defender. Another goal that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Match of the Day’s Premier League highlights!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Game 14: Salisbury City 1.1 Northwich Victoria (Blue Square Premier) 22.11.08

A bright start for Salisbury against their relegation rivals. In the second minute Jon Davis took a corner that was dropped by the Northwich keeper and knocked in by Matt Robinson, a rare goal for the defender during his career.

Northwich’s Burns looked to be a dangerous threat upfront and was unlucky not to be given a penalty when he was tripped in the box by Ian Herring. Northwich had several chances to equalise during the first half as Salisbury seemed content to sit back on the early lead. Luckily James Bittner was in excellent form to make some good saves.

In the second half Burns continued to cause problems – one cross he made into the penalty area was ideally placed if there had been any other Northwich players supporting. The goal that they had been threatening finally came on 54 minutes when a wide pass following a good run into the centre box gave Peter Winn an easy opportunity to place the ball past Bittner.

Jon Davis was a pleasure to watch as always and made some tricky runs. From one of these runs he took a shot that hit the outside of the Northwich post and bounced wide. With about twenty minutes to go the Whites had three good chances from corners in succession.

From the first, Robinson had a free header that was deflected over the bar. The second corner almost went in directly but the keeper palmed it over the bar. The third found Brian Dutton in space but he headed straight down into the ground and the ball bounced about up and over the crossbar.

Game 13: Willand Rovers 2.1 Bemerton Heath Harlequins (aet) (FA Vase) 15.11.08

After attending Bemerton’s last two FA Vase games, I decided to make the trip down to Devon to watch them take on Willand Rovers from the Western League. I made good time down the motorway and arrived in time to park in the ground and read the programme before heading to the touchline to watch the game.

The local paper had an article commenting on the possibility of Bemerton not having a keeper for the game due to injury and county FA call ups. Checking the line up, it was confirmed that they had managed to get a new keeper in time. Bemerton were playing up the sloped pitch in the first half and had some good opportunities early on to take the lead. On 15 minutes a shot was sent across the goal and ended up just going wide of the post while a later chance saw a close range shot blocked on the line. Willand also created some chances on the break but nothing to trouble the new keeper.

In the 26th minute, the hosts won a penalty for what the referee felt was a push in the box. This was rather soft and the defenders around the Willand player had the same opinion. However there was no changing the referee’s mind and the penalty was well struck into the bottom left corner of the net, giving the keeper no chance.

The muddy pitch was starting to cut up and the referee finally began to start to clamp down on late tackles, taking the time to talk to players and explain his decisions. Bemerton seemed a little bit stunned after the goal and took some time to get back into the game. They were creating some chances but their final ball continued to let them down.

Willand had been flagged offside a number of times during the first half but managed to suss the offside trap during the second half. There were a couple of occasions where players went through one on one with the keeper but each time the shot was taken early and went well wide.

Bemerton started to assert themselves onto the game and on 75 minutes scored a well deserved equaliser. The ball was played into the penalty area and broke to Paul Palmer who smashed it into the net from six yards out – the cue for celebrations on and off the pitch as Bemerton had brought a number of supporters down from Wiltshire.

The game went into extra-time and as the fog started to roll in, it looked like both teams would have to go to Western Way for a replay. It was now a question of next goal wins it and in the 119th minute the game was won. Willand won a corner and played the ball across the box. Players from both teams tried to get onto the loose ball and it was a Willand foot that hit a shot through the keeper’s legs, across the line and in. Heartbreak for Harlequins!

Game 12: Laverstock & Ford 0.3 VTFC (Wess PREM) 25.10.08

After missing a couple of weeks of games while my back was healing, it was nice to get out to a local game. Decided to watch this game as there were a couple of familiar faces playing for VTFC – Paul Sales and Tyronne Bowers who are both ex Salisbury players. Arriving at the ground I found that the regular car park was closed off and I had to park the car in an adjacent field.

Laverstock had an early chance on 5 minutes but the shot was dragged wide. VTFC were soon in control and their passing was of a much better standard than normally seen at this level. They earnt a couple of free kicks and corners but most of the talk on the terraces was about the referee and his assistant on the nearside who were making some unexpected decisions with corners and missing clear offsides.

VTFC took the lead on 24 minutes when a cross came in from the right and a Laverstock player headed it past his own keeper when under no pressure from the opposition. On 32 minutes they had a good opportunity to make it 2.0 when a header (from their own team this time!) went just wide of the post. 3 minutes later and the same player came close to scoring again. A Laverstock defender misread the bounce of the ball and when it bounced over his head the VTFC striker read it well and tried to lob the keeper. His shot bounced narrowly wide and perhaps he would have been better placed to try and bring the ball under control first before placing a shot.

In first half injury time, a free kick was given to VTFC when Paul Sales was shoved over. The free kick was played to Sales but his diving header from two yards was straight at the goalkeeper who managed to push it away.

VTFC had most of the play in the first half and this continued in the second half, along with the abuse from a Laverstock spectator who turned out to be the same “gentleman” who I’ve seen abusing officials at Bemerton. The players were finding it hard to keep their footing and the strong wind gusts were not helping. VTFC scored a second goal on 65 minutes with a player running through the Laverstock defence and chipping the goalkeeper from distance. In the 90th minute they wrapped it up with the best goal of the game. A sub took the ball down the left wing, rode through 3 challenges and put the ball past the keeper’s right hand.

Game 11: Portsmouth 2.1 Stoke City (Premier League) 05.10.08

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to a league ground so decided to take a trip down to Fratton to catch up with Alan, Matt and Chris and take in the game against Stoke, currently managed by ex-Portsmouth boss Tony Pulis. I was in a bit of pain with a bad back which stopped me walking too far so we had some lunch in Fratton and walked to the ground early. I haven’t been on the old Milton end since a game against Charlton in the early 90’s and I was glad to see a roof has been added since my last visit so the rain showers weren’t a problem.

The Portsmouth team has certainly improved since my last visit with a number of regular England players in the squad. However even the best players are prone to making mistakes and Stoke were gifted a great chance to score when David James hit a clearance straight to Rory Delap who put Dave Kitson in on goal. Kitson hadn’t scored for Stoke in his first 6 games and perhaps a lack of confidence led to his shot going wide.

The bulk of Portsmouth’s attacks were coming down the left flank with Nadir Belhadj and Armand Traore interchanging passes and positions. Pompey took the lead on 25 minutes with a quality strike from Peter Crouch. The ball came across from Defoe on the left handside and Crouch hit a spectacular overhead kick into the bottom left hand corner of the Milton end goal. From our vantage point you could see the ball heading in all the way – which gave me half a second to try and stand up before the crowd leapt up around us.

Stoke’s main threat this season has come from Rory Delap’s long throws and every time he got the ball he got a chorus of abuse, although this was more likely to have been due to his previous history as a Southampton player. In the 48th minute he launched a long throw into the box and another former Saint (and Pompey) player, Ricardo Fuller, managed to knock the ball in from close range.

Defoe almost replied within a minute but his shot from distance hit the post. A minute later and he repeated the trick, cutting in from the left and firing a shot past Steve Simonsen and in. Pompey made some good chances to add a third but it wasn’t to be and the game finished 2.1

The diagnosis for Stoke was another defeat but for me it turns out that I’ve torn a muscle in the base of my back and won’t be at football for a couple of weeks. Looks like it will take six months to heal properly.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Game 10: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 3.0 Shortwood United (FA Vase) 04.10.08

After two enjoyable games in the FA Vase this season, decided to go to the game at Bemerton Heath this afternoon. The bright sunshine of last week's game had turned into a grey, overcast day and as I left the house it started to rain. By the time I arrived at the ground 10 minutes later it was pouring down.

Shortwood had earnt an FA Cup replay after an excellent result against Conference South Havant last weekend and that midweek game almost went to extra time, with Shortwood missing a penalty in the last minute. With that in mind, I expected Bemerton to be the underdogs but that turned out to be a mistake!

Bemerton took the lead on 5 minutes with a Sanger header that looked to be heading over the crossbar but looped down over the keeper and into the net. 4 minutes later they had a great chance to make it two nil from the penalty spot. One of the Shortwood players pushed into a Bemerton striker in the box as both players ran towards the corner flag chasing a ball and the referee felt that this was a foul. Sanger took the penalty and put it wide of the keeper's dive to the right but the ball hit the post and bounced back out again to be cleared to safety. A couple of the locals weren't expecting him to take the penalty and probably wished he hadn't!

As the first half went on, the referee gave a number of freekicks when perhaps an advantage could have been played or where there didn't appear to have been a foul. This led to a stop-start game and neither team were able to take advantage of the chances they had. Bemerton had another chance to claim a penalty when Sanger was hacked down in the box but to everyone's surprise the referee waived play on.

In the 35th minute Bemerton were reduced to 10 men temporarily as one of the team was getting attention from the physio off the pitch following a heavy tackle. As Bemerton cleared the ball from their penalty area, two more players were felled by similar tackles. With the numerical advantage now 3, the referee decided to blow the whistle and allow the physios to come on to the pitch, followed by a dropball.

By halftime the wind had really picked up and Bemerton had the advantage of playing out of the wind in the second half. They made excellent use of this in the 47th minute when they took the ball down the left hand side to the touchline, put in a low cross that evaded the oncoming defenders to find two Bemerton players in the box. I thought that they might get into each other's way but to their credit, only one player went for the shot and it ended up in the back of the net.

Shortwood looked to be running out of ideas after going two goals down and it was not a surprise when they brought on a very tall sub in the 60th minute. His first job was to take a thrown in on the nearside - the crowd thought that he might be better placed in the box until they saw how long he could throw the ball! Even with the wind against him, the ball was propelled into the six yard box and Bemerton were lucky that the scramble that followed saw a near post shot go wide. Shortwood now created some good moves but their passing and shooting in the final third was not good enough to get them a clear scoring chance.

As Shortwood pushed forward, Bemerton were able to exploit some space at the back. A great pass from the halfway sideline found one of their strikers who hit a shot low across the grass from the edge of the area. It looked like the goalkeeper was going to save it easily but somehow it skidded along the wet turf and underneath his falling body, losing some momentum but making it to the back of the net for 3.0. The final fifteen minutes went by very quickly and Bemerton were through to the next round of the Vase.

Walking out I checked my raffle tickets against the board - I was 1 number out from winning the main prize! Hopefully Bemerton will be luckier in Tuesday's draw!