Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Game 23: Salisbury City 4.2 Farnborough (FA Cup) 27.10.09

I arrived at the Ray Mac to be confronted by an unusual sight – an official England coach in the car park by the turnstiles. On closer inspection it turned out to be the coach that Farnborough’s team had travelled down in!

While Salisbury are a couple of divisions above Farnborough, the Southern League Premier leaders were unlucky not to have been promoted last season and had strengthened their team since then. Having drawn against the Whites on Saturday and with the confidence of being unbeaten in the league they were not a team that could be underestimated.

It was a relief to the home supporters when Matt Tubbs scored a great goal at the far end in the ninth minute to settle some Wiltshire nerves. The goal came from a free kick on the edge of the area that Tubbs hit over the wall and looped down and over the keeper into the top left corner.

The Farnborough support had moved around to the In-Excess stand that their team was kicking towards and the unsegregated atmosphere was reminiscent of some of the local Conference South clashes. They certainly had something to celebrate after quarter of an hour when the ball was crossed in from the right side and found two players in the box. The ball went over the first player but fell kindly to the second player who chested the ball down and tapped the ball past Bittner.

Five minutes later and the underdogs were in FA Cup dreamland following another good cross from the right. On this occasion the ball went to the far post and came off Turley who was trying to get back to cover a Farnborough player. The ball flew past a stranded Bittner who had no chance to stop the ball hitting the back of the net. The game settled down after that and while both teams had a couple of chances there was nothing clear cut. Salisbury were playing tidy football but were happy just to hoof the ball into the box looking for the head of Webb. “Oh for a Paul Sales or a Robbie Matthews” said one of the locals near me as this tactic proved to be ineffective. Farnborough looked vulnerable at times but had a couple of useful forwards.

Salisbury started the second half in determined mood and only an amazing save from Richie Barnard to tip a Tubbs shot over the bar prevented Salisbury from parity in the first minute of the half. Two minutes later and they were level. Webb was brought down in the box and Tubbs made no mistake from the spot, placing his shot above Barnard who had guessed the right way. Salisbury then took the lead thanks to a misunderstanding in the 53rd minute. The ball was outside the area and neither Barnard nor his nearest defender took responsibility to clear the ball. Tubbs ran in and took it round the keeper and ran the ball towards the net before passing it in for his hat trick.

Farnborough came close to an equaliser with a header over the bar but the game was put out of sight after Flood won the ball from Opinel on the wing and cut inside the defence. He took aim and put a low shot right into the bottom left corner, the ball bouncing off the post and in. Salisbury now controlled the game and Tubbs almost added a fourth with a cross that came close to curling into the top corner.

In the 85th minute Salisbury took a well rehearsed short corner to Tubbs out of the right side. He played it back to Flood who had run back into an onside position. This gave him a good angle to cross from and he hit the ball to the backpost. Sinclair battled his way past a couple of defenders and put a header past Barnard. He was unlucky – the ball hit the post and bounced out. In the last minute Farnborough had a chance to pull a goal back when Ibe ran clean through the Salisbury defence but he put his shot wide of the post as Bittner narrowed the angle. So it was the Whites who would be travelling up the motorway to Accrington Stanley for the First Round Proper tie.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Game 22: Laverstock & Ford 2.4 Moneyfields (WESS PREM) 24.10.09

My original plan for today was to head to a Western League game but with heavy rain overnight and through the morning, I decided to stay local and head to Laverstock's game with Moneyfields. On my last couple of visits I've had to park up in a field away from the pitch but for today's game there was enough space to park by the pitch.

Both of these teams are mid table with four wins each but Laverstock have had to rely on their away form as they haven't won at home in the league this season. Moneyfields were quick to take the game to Laverstock and in the 6th minute had the first opportunity to score with a one on one breakaway. The shot was pushed wide by the Laverstock keeper and went for a corner.

In the 9th minute Moneyfields took the lead from a freekick from the near touchline. The ball was lofted long into the box and a Moneyfields player dived full length to head the ball back like a cross across the box. The ball flew past the keeper and a defender to the far post where a visiting player slide in and popped it into the net from close range.

In the 12th minute Moneyfields extended their lead from a long ball. The home keeper decided to rush out of his penalty area to act as a sweeper but as he tried to chest the ball down he misjudged the bounce and saw the ball fly over his head instead. There were two Moneyfields players following the ball and one of them beat the keeper to it and passed it into the back of the net.

The game turned on one moment in the 22nd minute. One of the Moneyfields strikers had run onto a through ball ahead of the last Laverstock defender and as the defender turned he clipped the striker's ankle. While it didn't appear to be deliberate, it did prevent a goal scoring opportunity so the referee was left with no choice but to send him off. While the referee was making this decision, one of the Laverstock players was discussing the decision with either the assistant or some spectators and appeared to have taken his protests too far as the assistant called the referee over. After a brief discussion, the referee pulled out his red card again and sent off the player who protested that he hadn't called anyone a *****.

Moneyfields made the most of their two man advantage and went 3.0 up in the 28th minute. The ball was crossed in from the right touchline and tapped into the net from close range.

However the sendings off seem to finally spark Laverstock into life and they pulled a goal back in the 32nd minute thanks to a great individual effort from pacy winger Youssef Bamba. He took the ball down the left wing, cut the ball back past a tackle and looked like he would cross the ball into the area for a team mate. However he decided to take a shot from the edge of the box and it flew across the keeper and into the top right of the goal. An spectacular finish that was applauded by both home and away supporters.

To my surprise Laverstock scored again in the 38th minute from some wing play down the right hand side. Moneyfields gave the ball away on the halfway line and Laverstock quickly counter attacked. The player took the ball into the penalty area and twisted, turned and dummied a shot before finally lifting what appeared to be a cross into the area. The ball went over the keeper's hands and then dropped down to hit the base of the left post before ending up in the back of the net.

After the excitement of 2 sendings off and 5 goals in the first half, it was no surprise that the second half didn't continue in the same way. Laverstock were able to survive an early scare after 55 minutes when a Moneyfields striker chipped the ball over the oncoming keeper only to see the ball strike the post and bounce out for a corner. Only the referee appeared to see a touch on the ball as all around me felt that it should have been a goal kick.

Moneyfields lost their way and were unable to break down the Laverstock team who defended well and successfully played the offside trap on many occasions - the Moneyfields coach announced in a frustrated tone that it was at least 16 times! In the 73rd minute Laverstock had their best chance to equalise from a freekick which found an unmarked player in the box. He had the opportunity to place a header on target but tried to put too much direction on it and put the ball wide.

In the 76th minute the Laverstock defence made another mistake. Moneyfields had played a cross into the box but it was a poor ball and none of their players was close to it. One of the Laverstock players went to clear the ball but mistimed his kick and ended up knocking the ball with his hand. The referee awarded a penalty and it was hit down the middle while the keeper dived to the left to give Moneyfields a 4.2 lead.

Laverstock continued to try and get back into the game and didn't tire as I was expecting with only 9 men on the pitch. They created a couple of half chances through their three subs before the end but were unable to get another goal.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Game 21: Salisbury City 1.0 York City (Blue Square Premier) 10.10.09

One of the teams I was looking forward to seeing in the Blue Square Premier when Salisbury were promoted was York City. Today's game was third time lucky as the previous games clashed with Amy's birthday and a frustrating weekend at work sorting out a VAT rate change.

York have had a run of 10 games unbeaten in the league before today's game but were missing recent signing Michael Gash up front through injury. Salisbury started brightly and in the second minute Matt Tubbs took the ball into the penalty area where he was brought down by ex Salisbury player Djoumin Sangare. The referee awarded a penalty and Tubbs stepped up to put the ball to the left while the keeper dived to the right.

After the early goal the game settled down. York were playing the ball high and long with their strong strikeforce of Rankine and Brodie tussling for the ball with the Salisbury defence. In the 22nd minute Brodie had a good chance to equalise, running onto a long ball and chipping just over the bar from the edge of the box as Bittner ran towards him.

York continued to put the pressure on and three minutes later Bittner was called into action with a spectacular save to push a shot over the bar. Five minutes later and Bittner made a superb double save to maintain Salisbury's lead before the Whites were saved by an offside flag as Meredith slid in and missed an open goal. In the last minute of the half Chris Flood found himself with an opportunity as he raced past the last York defender but he hesitated and took the ball too close to the York keeper who saved at his feet.

For the second half, Salisbury reverted to a 4-4-2 formation with Danny Webb replacing Darrell Clarke as they had not been able to keep possession upfield during the first half. Chris Flood had another good chance when through on goal in the 53rd minute but when he tried to place the ball it ended up going well wide of the post. York continued to press and Bittner had to use his feet as an emergency sweeper on a couple of occasions.

In the 65th minute Turley went off the pitch clutching his shoulder after challenging for the ball which left Salisbury down to 10 men. While Cox waited on the sideline to come on, Sinclair was brought down by a heavy tackle but the referee waved play on. York then crossed the ball deep to the far right but didn't make the most of the numerical advantage as the shot went wide. It seemed like only a matter of time before York would score as Rankin had a shot from the 6 yard line saved by Bittner followed by another breakaway attack where Brodie hit the crossbar after lifting the ball over Bittner from a tight angle.

The pressure from York was relentless and it looked like it had paid off in the 78th minute when a shot squirmed under Bittner's body and Brodie tapped the ball into the unguarded net from a yard out. The York fans started to celebrate as Brodie ran along the far touchline until they spotted that the assistant had his flag up for offside. Brodie was involved in a number of tussles with Salisbury's loan signing Ryan Tafazolli and in the 85th minute the two players both seemed to be tugging on each other's shirt as Brodie attempted to get onto a through ball. The referee didn't see it like that and produced a straight red card for Tafazolli.

Salisbury had to reshape the team and Matt Tubbs was sacrificed for Luke Ruddick to come on, Webb reverting to defence and Flood moving up to a lone front man role. As the board went up for 6 minutes of injury time, York missed a sitter. The ball was played out to the right of the penalty area to an unmarked player but he managed to drag his shot so far to the left that it missed the goal completely and went out for a goalkick. That was the last chance of the match and summed up the poor finishing from the visitors. At the final whistle it sounded as if Salisbury had won a playoff game as the cheers of relief filled the air.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Game 20: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 1.1 Alresford Town (FA Vase) 03.10.09

With the forecasts of high winds and heavy rain in mind, decided to join Andy at Bemerton for their FA Vase game against Wessex Prem rivals Alresford Town. After last week's delayed arrival I made sure that I got there in good time which was just as well.

Bemerton took the lead in the 2nd minute when an unmarked player received the ball on the left of the Alresford penalty area. He took it forward and then shot across the keeper and into the net.

The play was all one way traffic and in the 13th minute only the assistant's flag could prevent a second goal as the player who 'scored' had run in from an offside position. Offsides were an issue at the other end of the pitch as well. The two Alresford strikers weren't good at keeping onside according the assistant in front of us and everytime the ball was played forward one of them was given as offside. While they moaned and argued each time, they didn't seem to have the intelligence to change their runs to stay onside. This meant the half had a very stop-start feel to it.

In the 23rd minute Bemerton wasted another opportunity from a freekick. The ball was sent high into the area where it was headed down to a Bemerton player 8 yards out from goal. He leaned back as he hit a shot and instead of putting the ball in the net it flew up into the trees behind the goal. The rest of the half saw Bemerton dominate possession but neither team really took control of the game.

Before the second half, both teams brought on a substitute. The Alresford sub appeared to be tactical while the Bemerton change was enforced - one of their strikers had been tackled hard just before half time and couldn't run off his knock during the half time interval. The changes didn't seem to make much difference to the game - Bemerton continued to dominate and hit a couple of shots wide. Stuart Finlay (ex Bemerton top scorer) finally managed to stay onside in the 50th minute but as he was about to shoot a great sliding tackle came in from the side and cleared the ball.

As the game progressed Alresford started to create more chances around the area. One cross almost found the top corner and a couple of shots went wide. Bemerton had to make another change due to injury but weren't sitting back on their lead. In the 77th minute they almost added a second goal. The ball was crossed from the right at the second attempt and found a Bemerton player who leapt into the air and headed the ball past the keeper from inside the 6 yard line. The ball bounced down off the crossbar but didn't cross the line and was scrambled clear.

This miss was to prove costly. In the 90th minute and for the first time in the game Finlay was left unmarked in the box. A long ball was played to the left wing and then crossed for Finlay to head past the Bemerton keeper. This seemed to rattle Bemerton and they were lucky that the visitors didn't win the game in the last minute of injury time. Finlay was played in and just had the keeper to beat but there wasn't time to adjust his position for a shot before the keeper came out and the opportunist pass came off the keeper for a corner.

The equaliser took the game into extra time and I commented to Andy that the last time I had seen an extra time goal was at Willand Rovers last season when Bemerton had lost in the final minutes. Alresford were unlucky not to score right at the start of extra time with a shot from an acute angle that came back off the post.

That was the only excitement until the 110th minute when there was a flare up by the Bemerton dugout. An Alresford player wasn't happy at the time it took to get the ball back and started a shoving contest that soon escalated. After it calmed down, he was booked and a Bemerton coach was asked to leave the dugout. Both teams created half chances but the game fizzled out and finished a draw, with a replay during the next week at Alresford.