Saturday, September 27, 2008

Game 9: Salisbury City 2.3 Mansfield Town (Blue Square Premier) 27.09.08

All the pre-match build up for this game focused on the announcement during the week that Salisbury were asking their supporters to raise £100,000 to avoid the club having to make budget cuts. The chairman took the pitch before the game to stress that the club wasn’t in financial crisis yet but they wanted to do something to prevent future problems.

As the weather was warm and sunny, decided to watch the game from the side of the main stand rather than my usual vantage point behind the goal. Salisbury took the lead after 11 minutes, Sandell striking a low shot after a cross from Feeney found Herring on the back post. He headed it back for Sandell to score from six yards.

Mansfield had a lot of possession but were unable to make the most of some good approach play. Bittner in the Salisbury goal lead a charmed life, especially when coming out for corners and missing the ball – on both occasions a Mansfield player was unable to get to the ball in time to create a scoring chance.

In the second half Mansfield changed their formation to 4-3-3 and put more pressure on the Salisbury backline, especially down the left side. The equaliser came on 57 minutes when Scott Bartlett put in a strong challenge only to see the ball spin into the net out of Bittner’s reach. From my view point the ball almost seemed to be travelling in slow motion towards the goal.

Mansfield forced a corner a minute later which was cleared to Liam Feeney. He used his pace to sprint down the field and having outpaced his team mates, took the ball around Silk and hit an unstoppable shot past the Mansfield keeper from the edge of the area to put Salisbury 2.1 up

The goals didn’t stop there – four minutes later Mansfield took the ball down the left side and ex-league journeyman Mark Stallard was on hand to sweep the ball in from close range for the equaliser. Seven minutes later it was 3.2 to Mansfield – a Mansfield player controlled a through ball and slipped a pass into the box to a team mate who hit a low shot past Bittner.

Salisbury put Matthews and Griffin on to try and get back in the game. Griffin had the best chance to equalise, heading wide when he should have got it at least on target. An exciting second half but sadly not the right result for the Whites.

Game 8: Farnborough North End 0.2 Bemerton Heath Harlequins (FA Vase) 20.09.08

Decided to take the train to Farnborough and walk to North End's ground which looked like a reasonable hour's stroll from the station from the maps I printed off Google and the club's website. It was a nice sunny day but about half an hour in I found myself scratching my head trying to work out where the ground was as the recommended road was now closed and turfed over. A car pulled over and I was asked if I knew where the ground was. It was three of Bemerton's commitee men and after comparing notes, they kindly offered me a lift to the ground. Luckily for us a sign appeared at a nearby roundabout that guided us through a maze of roads to the ground. I think it would have taken me another 10 minutes to find that sign and probably another 30 minutes to navigate the maze of roads so the lift was much appreciated.

When we arrived at the ground, the Farnborough players had finished warming up and were posing for their official club photo before disappearing to the changing rooms adjacent to the pitch for some last minute instructions. Before the game, both sets of players shook hands as part of the FA Respect campaign. Bemerton were wearing their change kit of orange with Ian Chalk's company logo - I'm sure Alan would be queuing up to buy one of these garments.

Bemerton started brightly and made a few chances but their corners and free-kicks lacked purpose and poor delivery let them down. The best of their chances were a header straight to the keeper and a shot that struck the side netting.

Farnborough had a couple of pacy strikers and made some good breakaway chances. They should have taken the lead on the 37th minute when a cross found an unmarked player in the box. With the goal at his mercy he headed down into the ground, wide of both the post and his oncoming teammate's boot sliding in to try and get to it. Two minutes later Bemerton had a decent penalty shout - Joe Sanger ran across the keeper with the ball and was tripped up but the referee didn't agree that the keeper had made contact.

Farnborough started the second half well. An early cross looked promising but managed to evade everyone in the box. In the 49th minute they came close to scoring - a long ball was headed backwards, over the keeper and onto the crossbar.

These close misses galvanized Bemerton. From a throw in just in front of me, the ball was played into the box and won by a Bemerton player who carefully chipped the ball past the keeper and into the net.

Four minutes later and Bemerton doubled their lead with a diving header connecting with a cross with pace to make it 2.0. I wasn't sure that the try and remove my shorts celebration would catch on mind!

The home side didn't give up hope and on 80 minutes had a glorious chance to get a goal back. Their no 9 was lucky to be on the pitch after asking the referee to book a Bemerton player and then pushing the referee when it wasn't given. He took the ball in the area, turned and hit a shot against the post. He had another chance right on 90 minutes but shot wide. While Farnborough would rue their early miss, Bemerton were through to the first round proper.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Game 7: Downton 1.4 Westbury United (FA Vase) 06.09.08

Andy and I drove out to Downton for this FA Vase tie and my first "non – Salisbury" game of the season. Downton have been struggling in the league since their relegation from the Wessex Premier but had won a couple of cup games.

Westbury had the first chance of the game after 12 minutes. They had to make an early substitution due to an injury and their sub went one on one with the Downton keeper who made a smart save. While Downton had a couple of chances in the first half, notably an "accidental" save by the Westbury keeper when a header from a free kick was headed against his legs, Westbury were looking more dangerous with several of their shots either going over the bar or saved by the Downton keeper.

Andy and I watched the first half from the sideline by the clubhouse and as time went on, the clouds got darker and darker. After the disappointment of finding out the clubhouse wasn’t serving at halftime, Andy agreed to move into the main stand for the second half before the expected rain started to fall.

Downton had two good shouts for a penalty turned down by the referee. The first one was for a shove on a player which could have gone either way but the second should have been awarded when their striker was hacked down in the box. To everyone’s surprise, the referee didn’t see or hear the tackle and this was too much for one of the Downton players. He made a comment to the referee as he went past him, calling him a disgrace, so earnt a second yellow card.

This put Downton at an immediate disadvantage and Westbury made the most of their extra man. A couple of minutes later, the ball was crossed in from the left and headed in to put Westbury one up. On way back to halfway line something else must have been said to the referee as he brandished his red card again to the Downton no 2 – this time a straight red card.It was hard to tell what it had been given for and some of the crowd seemed in shock as the rain started to fall.

On 65 minutes Westbury added to their lead, as a long shot skidded past the keeper an in. 5 minutes later it was 3.0 – a shot from the left hit the post and bounced straight out to a Westbury player on the right hand side of the box, who smashed it into an empty net.
Andy and I started to speculate that this could be similar to a game we saw at Stockbridge a couple of years ago, where a double sending off led to a glut of late goals.

However Westbury decided to play catch up in the red card stakes – with 10 minutes to go one of their defenders pushed a Downton player in the face in retaliation after he was pushed near the goal line when trying to let the ball go out for a free kick. This reaction gave the referee no option but to send him off – the original offence by the Downton player only earning a yellow card.

Downton grabbed a consolation goal a couple of minutes later. A cross from the left was headed hard down into the ground and bounced up, past the keeper and into the roof of the net. This wound up one of the Westbury supporters who was ranting as his team for not being able to keep the ball in the Downton half.

These words may have inspired Westbury as on 85 minutes they scored again in a similar fashion – a cross came into the centre and a substitute beat the keeper to the ball and headed in. An eventful and enjoyable second half from a neutral point of view!

Game 6: Salisbury City 1.0 Weymouth (Blue Square Premier) 02.09.08

After a fortnight in the USA (including a visit to the impressive Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, where bizarrely hockey’s Stanley Cup was on display), it was good to be back home to watch some football.

Having missed the 4.1 defeat against Wrexham on Saturday, I was hoping for a better result against local rivals Weymouth. Sadly the bright sunshine of the weekend didn’t last and as we arrived at the ground it started to pour with rain.

Salisbury started the game well with a Matt Tubbs shot just wide after 5 minutes. There wasn’t a great deal of action after that which allowed Andy, Pete and I to catch up on events on both sides of the Atlantic. Other than Sandell putting a header just wide there was very little to write about in the first half.

The second half was a different story – both teams decided that this was a game that they could win. Salisbury forced a couple of corners and Weymouth had a breakaway attack that Bittner managed to deal with by diving at the feet of the striker. On 55 minutes the goal came – Salisbury won a throw in on the left side which Scott Bartlett sent into the penalty area. The ball was headed on and following a goalmouth scramble, Weymouth’s clearance fell to Liam Feeney who blasted it in from close range.

Weymouth put Salisbury under some pressure to try and get back in the game - one shot was just over the top of the goal and Matt Robinson made a good last ditch tackle to prevent another shot from hitting the target. It was Feeney who set up Salisbury’s next chance – after he was brought down on the edge of the box, Matt Tubbs hit a freekick just wide. Sandell also had a good chance – one on one with the keeper he managed to place a shot just wide of the post. I was worried that Weymouth would capitalise on these missed chances and they had a good opportunity when a header was placed just wide after a good run.

Feeney’s pace continued to cause problems and he put a great ball into the box towards substitute Charlie Griffin – only for Griffin to head it wide. Mike Fowler had a good shot just wide shortly after that and towards the end of the game, Scott Bartlett put the ball into the side netting when it looked easier to score.

As we approached full time it was heart in the mouth time again –a ball was crossed towards former Didcot striker Stuart Bevon but luckily Aaron Cook was on hand to block his shot and put it wide. Salisbury held on for a 1.0 win but Weymouth would have been disappointed not to get something from their second half performance.