Monday, December 28, 2009

Game 35: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 4.2 Laverstock (WESS PREM) 28.12.09

For my last game of 2009 I decided to stay local and head over to watch the derby match at Bemerton. I had some concerns as to whether the game would be on due to the heavy overnight frost but the 2pm kick off time helped - according to one of the Bemerton officials if the game had been at the original time of 1pm it would have been called off - an extra hour in the sun made the difference!

Despite the visit of the Blue Square Premier league leaders Oxford United to Salisbury for a 3 o'clock game, there was a decent crowd of around 150 by the time this game kicked off and the terrace we normally watch from was packed. Bemerton were second at the start of play but from the opening period you could have thought the team in green and white were challenging for the title as Laverstock made several good chances. The final touch was lacking each time the ball came into the Bemerton box, otherwise they would have been several goals down by the fifteen minute mark.

The breakthrough finally came in the 16th minute. Laverstock's main threat was coming from pacy wide man Youseff Bamba and when he couldn't take the ball down the right wing he decided to cut in and take a shot from the edge of the area. Porter in the Bemerton goal didn't hang onto the shot and the spilt ball fell straight to one of the two onrushing Laverstock strikers. Without hesitation he volleyed the ball into the back of the net.

The lead only lasted four minutes as Bemerton managed to pull a goal back against the run of play. The ball was played down the right wing for a cross to come in from near the byline to the centre of the area. Jack Slade rose up and from my vantage point I could see his header was heading for the top corner as soon as the ball touched his head. The Laverstock keeper made a brave effort to try and reach the ball but to no avail.

The game then settled down as both teams pushed for another goal and also had a reasonable shout for a penalty turned down by the referee. There were some strong tackles and a nasty clash of heads just after the half hour which saw a Laverstock player requiring treatment from both physios before he could continue.

Bemerton took the lead from another cross in the 39th minute when they beat the offside trap and took the ball down to the left byline. A low cross found its way into the box and a Bemerton head stooped down in the centre to knock the ball past the keeper and into the back of the net.

The referee had kept good control on the game but there was a flurry of yellow cards just before injury time for some late tackles and verbals - two for Bemerton and one for Laverstock.

Laverstock had a great chance to equalise as the game went into injury time when the Bemerton keeper came well off his line to try and clear the ball and only succeeded in punching it to Bamba. He hit a first time chip wide of the post with an empty goal to aim at and should have taken some time to control the ball first. This mistake proved costly as Bemerton took the ball up the other end and scored a third. Another cross came in from the right and a missed clearance allowed a Bemerton player to kick the ball past the keeper who had dived the other way in anticipation.

These defensive frailties were addressed in the second half as Laverstock made two substitutions and went to a disciplined 3-5-2 formation. Their players stuck to their roles rather than pushing forward and leaving gaps for Bemerton to exploit. In the 51st minute Laverstock came really close to pulling a goal back as a superb dribble from midfield was followed up with a screamer that the Bemerton keeper just managed to touch onto the crossbar. The ball bounced over but the touch was missed by the officials who gave a goal kick.

Laverstock continued to press and managed to bring the scoreline to 3.2 in the 71st minute with an excellent shot from the left of the penalty area that curved round the keeper and into the side netting. Bemerton looked a bit nervous at the back and their passing wasn't as effective as the latter part of the first half. They brought on a sub up front who made all the difference in the last ten minutes.

In the 80th minute he crossed the ball from the left and found an unmarked Adam Jones who put his header onto the crossbar when it seemed easier to put it on target. The game was finally settled in injury time when he broke through the Laverstock defence on the right and drew a defender with him as he ran into the area. He then played a pinpoint pass to Joe Sanger who was unmarked in the area and calmly passed the ball into the back of the net to give Bemerton a 4.2 victory.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Game 34: Radstock Town 2.0 Brislington (Western Prem) 12.12.09

Decided to take in a game in the Western League today so after checking Frome Carnival didn't have a winter special, I drove up to Radstock and arrived at the ground just after 2.30pm. As on my previous visit to Radstock in September for a Welton Rovers match, I noticed that there was a children's playpark overlooking the ground.

The two teams walked through the main gateway on to the pitch in bright sunshine as the sun began to set over Somerset. After the teams were read out I realised that I didn't know which team was which but fortunately there was confirmation of the team colours in the programme.

Brislington (yellow and black striped shirts) took the game to Radstock (red shirts) from the kick off, earning a corner in the first minute that was headed over the bar. I thought that I might be in for a decent game but there were few chances in the first half. Brislington won a few corners but didn't put the keeper under any real pressure as the game degenerated into a kick and hope affair.

Neither team were able to keep control of the ball long enough to put together a decent attack and the nearest to a goalmouth opportunity was an occasional long distance shot high above the crossbar. It was difficult at times to see the match properly as the sun was very bright when it came out of the clouds and I didn't think I'd need sunglasses in December!

Brislington had a couple of penalty appeals turned down by the referee, a Mr Ganfield who I later learnt normally runs the line in Premier League and Football League fixtures. The first claim was for a push in the box which was ignored while the second claim was from a late tackle but it was given as a freekick outside the area.

I was expecting to see some cards for late tackles and other offences but the referee seemed content to talk to the offenders and resolve matters that way. As the players came off the pitch at half time, the home manager made his feelings known as in his opinion the referee was not in control of the game.

After warming up in the car over the half time interval, I ventured out into the cold to stand with the home supporters outside the club bar. One of these supporters was quite vocal in his support and coaching for the team, to the point where I started to wonder if he was able to string a sentence together without swearing or making reference to male genitalia. As in the first half Brislington had the better of the play but were unable to get the ball through the Radstock back line to create a clear opportunity.

With ten minutes to go I was convinced that the match was going to finish a goalless draw and the vocal home supporter appeared to agree as he pronounced that it was too cold to remain outside and departed to the bar to have another drink. Perhaps the absence of conflicting instructions from the touchline had a positive influence because with five minutes to go his team scored with their first shot on target of the entire game.

The ball was played up to a Radstock player in the penalty area and he managed to turn and hit a low shot that seemed to go under the keeper's body and into the net. Brislington seemed stunned by this turn of events as only a few minutes earlier they had almost scored following a goalmouth scramble.

Things went from bad to worse as they tried to create an equaliser. In the final minute of normal time a Radstock player won the ball in midfield and ran forward. With no passing options available he took aim and drilled a long distance shot low to the left side of the goal, past the keeper and in for a second goal.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Game 33: Chertsey Town 3.2 Sleaford Town aet (FA Vase) 5.12.09

After looking at the fixtures for this round of the FA Vase, I decided to visit Chertsey Town of the Combined Counties League for their game against Sleaford Town, who play in the United Counties League. Decided to let the train take the strain and was relieved to see a tracksuited Chertsey player cleaning his boots at Weybridge station as this meant the game should be on after some heavy overnight rain.

After wandering up the high street, I arrived at the ground in plenty of time for the kickoff. On the left was a main stand, with a long covered terrace on the far side and some cover behind one of the goals as well. I decided to watch the game from the shelter of the terrace and was pleased to note that the cover was overhanging the pitch. The weather was overcast and the expected rain duly appeared later in the afternoon so this was a good choice!

The game kicked off at 3 and was immediately halted as the referee blew his whistle for a retake as the home team's winger had started his run into the opposition half before the kick was taken. The white shirted Chertsey players managed to get the next kick right and put some early pressure on the green shirted visitors. Chertsey thought they had scored in the second minute but the headed goal was ruled out for offside. The pressure in the first quarter of an hour was all from the home team who had a penalty shout in the fifth minute denied when a player went through in the penalty area and was brought down. Three minutes later they did get a decision from the referee who awarded them a free kick that was hit over the bar.

Chertsey got the goal they deserved in the 23rd minute. Sleaford tried to clear their lines but the clearance was poor and fell to a Chertsey player on the right of the midfield. He played the ball to the edge of the penalty area and it was cleverly laid off to the left for Tyson to hit a first time shot past the keeper and into the top corner.

I thought that this would settle the home team but Sleaford went straight down to the other end from kick off and had a good shot on target that the keeper saved at his near post. In the 26th minute Chertsey needlessly gave away a freekick just outside the far right of their penalty area. The ball was quickly hit low past the wall and appeared to fool the goalkeeper who remained rooted to the spot as the ball ended up in the bottom corner by the right post. From the angle I was at it was difficult to see if it had gone straight in or if someone had deflected it in.

This gave Sleaford a boost and they began to dominate possession and attacking chances for the rest of the half. A minute after the goal they won another freekick which was taken quickly. The home team were expecting the ball to be crossed in but the player had hit a shot directly at goal and the ball fizzed just past the post with the home keeper again rooted to the spot. Chertsey reacted well to this and forced a corner a minute later. The ball was played high into the box and headed towards the goalmouth, only for the a defender's head to get in the way and stop the ball going in. The game now had a bit of edge to it and both teams were involved in some niggling challenges which the referee had to be quick to react too.

Sleaford took the lead moments after the restart. The ball was played forward down the middle and an opportunistic shot was parried out to the left of midfield by the Chertsey keeper. The ball wasn't cleared and fell to Waters who dribbled forward and hit an exquisite chip over the keeper who was just a few feet off his line. It looked the ball had gone over the bar at the far end but when it hit the ground and bounced up into the net it became clear that the visitors were 2.1 up.

If that goal had been scored in the Premier League it would have been a contender for goal of the season and Waters had another attempt in the 50th minute that matched that quality. As the ball was passed to him in midfield, it bounced up to chest height. This allowed him to swivel and hit a shot from 30+ yards out that looked to be dipping under the crossbar until the keeper jumped up and managed to get a hand on it to push it over the bar. From the resulting corner there was a goalmouth scramble before the ball ended up in the net. Before the visitors could celebrate, the referee blew his whistle and disallowed it for a foul.

The home team had been reduced to long "hit and hope" balls upfield and were being caught offside on a regular basis. The frustrations of an afternoon that had started so promisingly got too much for one of the home coaches and his vocal tirades at the officials saw him sent to the stand. Chertsey made a couple of substitutions to try and change the game and moved their ineffective left winger into the centre of midfield.

The adoption of a more attacking line up, the powerful runs of the new winger and an improved performance from the former wingman in the middle eventually changed the game. Chertsey managed to survive a couple of scares when Sleaford's otherwise impressive no 10 Hunter slipped when he went to shoot and put a shot well wide and a couple of minutes later when he lost the ball to the keeper in a one-on-one situation as the defence stood still and looked for a non existant offside.

In the 75th minute Chertsey won a corner and played a curving ball to the near post. After a Chertsey player stooped down to head the ball goalwards, the ball was cleared up into the air by the keeper which allowed Bamford to poke the ball in above the keeper's grasp for an equaliser. Sleaford's defence hadn't covered that post although they had a player covering the far post and this error cost them the goal.

Sleaford were starting to tire but it appeared that their manager had no faith in his substitutes as none of them were warming up which was a surprise. After the goal went in they adopted a more defensive 4-5-1 formation to try and cope with the Chertsey changes. This tactic took the game into extra time as neither team were able to add another goal.

In the second minute of extra time Sleaford were reduced to ten men. One of their players was running into the Chertsey penalty area with the ball but managed to overrun the ball. He stretched forward to try and regain the ball ahead of a Chertsey player who was odds on to intercept it but his tired legs mistimed the tackle and took out the Chertsey player, earning him a second yellow card and an early bath.

Chertsey came close to scoring in the 97th minute from a free header at the far post from a corner but the ball went wide when it should have been on target. It looked like Sleaford would earn a replay but as so often seems to happen in the Vase, a late goal in extra time settled the match. As a local shouted out to his team to have one more attack the ball was played out to space on the left wing. When the cross came in, the ball bounced around the area until Goddard managed to bundle the ball home. He ran over the the corner flag to celebrate, accompanied by his teammates and a good number of youthful supporters who had climbed over the barriers to run on the pitch and join their heroes. A thrilling end to an excellent cup tie.