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.