Saturday, March 28, 2009

Game 30: Hythe & Dibden 3.1 Verwood Town (WESS 1) 28.03.09

During the morning I was a little concerned about the weather forecast for the afternoon – heavy rain – so had a look at the Hythe website and was pleased to see that they had a stand that could provide some shelter if needed. It looked like I was going to need this as I left Salisbury with the windscreen wipers on full blast. As I got closer to the Hampshire border the rain eased off and the sun came out again.

I first noticed the ground as I drove by a closed gate with an advertisement for the game. It didn’t look like you could park at the ground so I scouted around the local area for somewhere to park and ended up in a free shortstay carpark in the marina and walked 5minutes back to the ground from there.

The ground has a small clubhouse in one corner with a busy bar. There was one small stand behind the near goal and a ‘standard’ build stand on the far touchline. There were several signs dotted around with details of the opposition and prices but no one appeared to be collecting admission. At back of ground the pathway lead to a play park with only some trees to stop prying eyes watching the game from the swings. Just before kickoff it started to rain but this wasn’t heavy and soon stopped.

Hythe took the lead on 9 minutes. One of their players took the ball at pace down the right, pulling it back to beat his man before cutting in with a cross across the box. The first player in the middle missed ball but his team mate on the far post put a low shot in to the back of the net. Someone came round to collect the admission and sell the program – I got a “special discount” and only had to pay £3 (inc programme).

Five minutes later Verwood equalised. The ball was played into the middle and the Verwood player managed to beat the offside trap, drag the ball around the keeper and get it into the middle before smashing it into the net from 2cm out.

Verwood were more comfortable on the ball but couldn’t get much past the Hythe skipper who headed and cleared anything that came near his central defensive position. Hythe had a skilful player on the left side and he hit a cracking shot that hit the post from 25 yards out. The rest of their play wasn’t coming too much as they didn’t look for team mates in space and took the wrong options instead of keeping it simple. The coaching staff on the sidelines were furious at the way the game was going and the ‘hairdryer’ was expected at halftime. Even before the referee could blow the whistle, they were arguing with one of their strikers who ended up in the book for foul and abusive language at his own boss!

The Hythe players came out several minutes before Verwood but were slow to get started in the second half. On 60 minutes they had a real let off when Verwood hit the bar with a shot in the box following a corner that left the Hythe keeper stranded. Five minutes later and a little against the run of play, Hythe were awarded a penalty after an inexplicable handball in the box. Hythe took the penalty and sent the keeper the wrong way to take a 2.1 lead.

Another five minutes later and it was 3.1 to the home team. Verwood took a free kick and launched it into the box. It was cleared away quickly and Hythe launched a counter attack down the left wing. Their left winger took it around 2 players but inside and smashed it into the far side netting inside the post – a superb goal. The game was all Hythe now – 2 minutes later and they had a similar chance as a player went one on one with the keeper from the left side but this time the shot hit the post and ball span away to be cleared.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Game 29: Salisbury City 1.0 Ebbsfleet United (Blue Square Premier) 24.03.2009

Drove up to the Ray Mac with Pete and Andy in a more confident mood than my last visit, due to Salisbury being on a eight match unbeaten streak including a win at league leaders Burton Albion.

Salisbury started well and Sean Clohessy had a good chance to score in the first minute but pulled his shot wide. 3 minutes later and he made amends. The ball broke to him unmarked in the centre of the pitch towards the edge of the penalty area. He took it towards the keeper and calmly volleyed it past him into the top left corner.

The rest of the game didn’t offer much in the way of entertainment. Salisbury had a goal disallowed just before half time for offside. Ebbsfleet were very compact and didn’t play with much confidence, perhaps a hangover from their defeat in the FA Trophy semifinal at the weekend. Their best chance was a shot from a corner that came back off the post in the second half.

The introduction of Jonathan Davies late on in the game brought Salisbury back to life again as he took on the Ebbsfleet defence on a number of occasions. His best opportunity to increase the lead was on 90 minutes but the curved shot was just wide of the near post.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Game 28: Stockbridge 1.1 Whitchurch United (WESS 1) 21.03.09

Took a drive over to Stockbridge to spend a peaceful sunny Saturday afternoon at one of my favourite Wessex League grounds.

Whitchurch took the lead after seven minutes. This was their third breakaway attack in as many minutes and the goal came from a close range tap in over the keeper from a cross.

Stockbridge equalised after 12 minutes from a freekick in what is commonly described as ‘Beckham Territory’. The finish was of international quality too - an excellent pacey shot to the keeper’s left and past his outstretched hand into the back of the net. Stockbridge had the best chance to take the lead just before halftime. A cross came in and a flying header put the ball just wide but it would have been best left as the boot of the player waiting to tap it in by the far post was a better option!

On 65 minutes Whitchurch had a good chance to go in front. A Stockbridge player tried to head the ball back to his keeper to pick up but the back header was too short and allowed a Whitchurch player to get to the ball first. His shot was saved well and the ball went wide for corner. There was a similar chance for Whitchurch ten minutes later when the ball was struck towards the goal from close in but was deflected over the bar with plenty of topspin for a corner.

The last real opportunity did see the ball in the back of the net but the goal was disallowed. With five minutes left to go, the Stockbridge keeper took a freekick close to the edge of his area. However the ball didn’t sail towards the halfway line as planned – the kick was sliced to the right, straight to a Whitchurch player who then ran the ball forward and passed it into the net.

The referee didn’t take any action until the 'goal' had been scored and then whistled furiously as if it was full time. He then disallowed the goal to the dismay of the away team and it wasn’t clear why he had decided on this course of action. The only explanation I could think of was that the keeper had been asked to wait for the whistle before taking the kick. My thought was that it was the keeper’s problem for taking it early and the goal should have stood but maybe that’s why I’m not a referee!

Since my last visit with Andy, a small stand has been built where we parked the car. This didn’t stop a few drivers from parking up behind the dugouts although I decided that the main road was a safer bet – less flying footballs!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Game 27: Amesbury Town 1.1 Tadley Calleva (WESS 1) 14.03.09

I hadn’t expected to be at a game today as we were travelling back from a short break in York but with an early departure and a good connection from Waterloo, I was able to get to a local game in Amesbury. This game had originally been due to take place in January so the programme from that day was reused but it was good that they had taken the time to prepare an insert with updated league tables etc. The big match of the day was Manchester United v Liverpool and as I arrived at the ground there were a few shouts of 4.1 from a celebrating Liverpool supporter. The weather was nice and sunny – much warmer than my last visit despite the strong wind blowing across the pitch!

Both teams struggled to cope with the windy conditions in the first half and some good chances were missed. Amesbury had the first opportunity to open the scoring with a scramble after a corner but no-one was able to force the ball in. A Tadley player tried an ambitious chip over the keeper from distance after 15 minutes but the ball held up in the wind which allowed the Amesbury keeper to get back to his goalline and pick the ball up. Amesbury then played a good cross into the box but no-one was in there to take advantage and the defence cleared easily.

Tadley started to pick up the second balls in midfield as Amesbury’s control let them down. After 30 minutes they had a one on one chance but the Amesbury keeper managed to save it with his legs. 30 seconds later an Amesbury defender headed the ball back to his keeper but it was too short. A Tadley player took the ball but hit it wide past the keeper from a narrow angle. The Amesbury goalkeeper appeared to be leading a charmed life as he ran out to try and win a ball on the edge of the area. He didn’t make it in time but fortunately for him his defenders got back to cover him which allowed him to get back into position when the shot finally came in.

Amesbury were creating some chances but their shooting left a lot to be desired in the absence of top scorer Nic Turpin. Two good opportunities went begging when shots were sliced wide rather than hit on target. Just before half time the Tadley no 9 ran in to the box but the Amesbury keeper made a good one-on-one save.

At the start of the second half Amesbury had a couple of good chances – one header that went straight at the keeper close to the line and another header that was well saved by the keeper. Some of their decision making in the final third was poor – several times a long corner was taken when the attackers had moved in for a short corner or vice versa. Tadley continued the Amesbury trend of hitting a rugby conversion attempt over the goal when shooting rather than keeping shots low and on target.

On 55 minutes an Amesbury corner routine almost worked and the ball was headed across the line but there was no-one there to pass the ball into the back of the net to the frustration of the home crowd. Three minutes later a shot made it past the keeper but it wasn’t strong enough to reach the goal line and a defender was able to clear it in time.

The opening goal finally came on 62 minutes. A weak freekick was taken from the D outside the penalty area and should have been saved by the Tadley keeper. He managed to spill the ball and an Amesbury player who had followed the ball in managed to poke the spilt ball in at the near post. Amesbury should have extended their lead a couple of minutes later. They had a counter-attack with three players on one but the player on the ball was greedy and tried a shot on goal that went wide when his teammates were in a better position to score.

Tadley had made some good breakaway chances during the game and their equaliser came from one of these chances. There was a good break down the left, an accurate cross into the middle for the Tadley no 9 to shoot pas the keeper. Both teams had a chance or two after that to get the winner but it didn’t come and the game ended in a draw.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Game 26: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 1.0 Laverstock & Ford (WESS PREM) 10.03.09

Andy and I wandered over to Western Way for this twice re-arranged local derby and our first sighting of an orange ball this season.

As with most local derbies there was an extra bit of spice to the game and this was apparent after two minutes when a Bemerton player was booked for sliding into the Laverstock keeper on the edge of the box. Laverstock started well and almost scored after 8 minutes. A freekick from the right hand side level with us was taken as a shot rather than a cross but ended up just over the bar. They were unfortunate not to score 15 minutes later when a Bemerton back header was too short for their keeper to reach and the ball was crossed into the centre, only for a free kick to be given for a challenge in the box on a defender. It took Bemerton 30 minutes to have a shot on target but it went straight to the keeper.

The rest of the first half was end to end play and on 42 minutes Bemerton were unlucky not to take the lead. The ball came out to the right hand side of the area and a well struck shot came in but ended up in the side netting. Just before the whistle they had a corner that went across the area and was cleared. A Bemerton player controlled the ball before running right through the Laverstock defence. His shot was deflected wide and went for another corner.

We were a little concerned that the two teams might cancel each other out for a 0.0 draw on the first half display but things improved in the second half. On 55 minutes Bemerton were unlucky again. A great through ball saw Mankin in on goal. His shot from close range beat the keeper but hit the left post and bounced out for a throw.

Three minutes later Bemerton took the lead. A freekick was floated into the centre of the area and a Bemerton player headed the ball down and into the net. Laverstock hadn’t offered much in the second half and made a couple of changes after 70 minutes, moving to a 3-4-3 and putting on a very tall, blonde striker. It was no surprise to hear his team mates shouting at ‘Crouchie’ to get forward!

On 88 minutes, the extra spice kicked in again after a dubious corner that was awarded to Bemerton. There was a bit of handbags and the referee spoke to players on both sides once things had calmed down. There was a bit of sting and venom in the tail too – in the final minute the ball broke to the edge of the Bemerton box. A Laverstock player carefully lined up a shot and kept the ball down and travelling towards the goal with some pace. The keeper was beaten but at the last second the ball curved to the right and ended up just wide. It really looked like it was going in and would have been a fantastic goal at any level.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Game 25: Alresford Town 3.1 Lymington Town (WESS PREM) 07.03.09

I hadn’t made it over to Alresford since they were promoted back to the Wessex Premier a couple of seasons ago so this game was a chance to complete the league again. As it was an opportunity to visit a new non-league ground, Alan decided to drive up and meet me at the ground. I arrived first and was reading through the programme when Alan called – he had misread the no parking sign on the verge and thought there was no parking at the ground so was calling to check where to go.

When he arrived we had a look around the ground and wondered why there was green netting behind one of the goals preventing anyone from viewing the game from there. It turned out that there are plans to turn the ground into a three-sided ground (with the non-viewing side becoming the far touchline nearest the cricket pitch) in order to meet the ground grading requirements for Step 5. Alan noted that there was a real slope on the pitch and that it was a bit chilly as the ground was exposed to the wind.

Alresford had most of the play in the first 20 minutes but it was a very stop-start game, as the referee liked the sound of his whistle! This affected the Alresford players, as they weren’t sure what challenges they could make and in the end, it took a badly timed sliding tackle for the referee to bring out a yellow card and set the boundaries. This was the first of 9 bookings in the game!

The first clear cut chance was created after 25 minutes when Finlay went through the Lymington offside trap and put a cross in. The Lymington keeper got a hand to it and pushed it out of danger before an Alresford player could get to it. Finlay was causing Lymington a lot of problems with his movement and another shot soon whistled over the bar.

Lymington were almost gifted a goal on 31 minutes. An Alresford defender headed the ball back towards the goal, expecting his keeper to be near the goal line, only to find the keeper was out of position. The keeper just managed to get back in time to stop the ball from crossing the line, much to his team mates relief! This seemed to wake the home team up and a minute later they took a deserved lead with a shot from the edge of the box curling into the bottom left corner.

Alresford were forced to make a substitution a few minutes later for a ‘retribution’ tackle on one of their players who had been dishing out the heavy tackles earlier in the half. This didn’t change the pattern of play and Lymington continued to be caught out on the counter attack. At one point 3 Alresford players beat the offside trap only for the player with the ball to get greedy after running from the halfway line and blasting a shot over the bar when his two team mates were both in better positions.

Lymington had their first shot on goal after 37 minutes but it went just wide. If Alresford could have built a goal above the regular goal they would have been 8.0 up by halftime – another shot was hoofed over the bar just before the referee bought the first half to an end. Alan and I wandered up the stairs to the bar to catch up on the scores from around the country.

Alresford continued to hit shots over the bar in the second half and after a criminal miss in the 55th minute; the supporters around us started to wonder whether they might regret not taking their chances. The players on both sides weren’t helping the referee in getting the game to flow – too often their protests were loud and aggressive and their complaints when a decision went against them led to more bookings.

In the 65th minute Alresford finally managed to keep the ball on the ground when shooting at goal following a corner. The ball beat the keeper’s dive but cannoned out from shins of the player guarding the far post and was eventually cleared for a throw. A minute later and it was 2.0 in controversial circumstances – the ball was played into the Lymington penalty area and a shot was smashed through a crowd and past the keeper. However there was a Lymington player down injured in the box and an Alresford player had handled it before the shot came in. The referee missed all of this and gave the goal once the protests from Lymington had been dealt with.

This wasn’t enough to settle the nerves of the Alresford supporters. With just five minutes left to play, their team conceded an unexpected goal. A high long goalkick came down the pitch, was headed to the left and then volleyed into the top corner from outside the penalty area to bring Lymington back into the game. Instead of celebrating, one Lymington player decided to gob off at the referee and received a yellow card for his efforts.

As Lymington pressed for an equaliser, the injury time clock racked up another couple of minutes as an Alresford player was taken out with a strong tackle that the referee deemed was not a sending off offence, much to our surprise. A fourth goal came on 90 minutes but this time it was to Alresford. A mix up between the keeper and a defender with a back pass allowed Finlay to run onto the ball, slip it past the keeper and then boot the ball into the top right corner of the open goal from the edge of box.