Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Game 31: Fareham Town 1.1 Hamble ASSC (Abandoned h/t) (WESS PREM) 27.12.10

I hadn't planned to go to a game today and looking at the forecast it seemed unlikely that any would survive the weather. Paul then called to offer a lift to Fareham as he had called the club and received a positive response that their game against Hamble would be on. Sounded like a plan so we were soon heading down the motorway to Fareham via the back streets of Salisbury to avoid some big traffic queues. After a quick stop for petrol and a minor detour around the backstreets we arrived in plenty of time for the 3pm kickoff.
I haven't been to Cams Alders for a few years now but the ground didn't appear to have changed since my last visit for a Gosport derby back in the 2003-4 season. There is a big stand from the Southern League days which is some distance from the pitch. Next to it a food stand was doing good business as people arrived.
The start of the first half was a fairly bad tempered affair. This was started by a very late tackle by the Hamble captain in the 10th minute which deserved a red card and he was lucky only to be shown a yellow by the referee. The same player blasted the ball at a Hamble player behind the referee's back after conceding a corner that would have lead to a red card if the unsporting gesture had been spotted by an official.
Fareham's supporters were aggrieved by this injustice but were cheered up from this corner as their team took the lead. The ball was played into the area and a centreback rose up to loop a header over the defence and keeper and into the net. Fareham almost added a second goal moments later when one of their players went through on goal and it took a last ditch sliding tackle to steer the ball out of danger.
Hamble started to play football and worked their way back into the game with a well taken equaliser, again from a header following a corner. They almost took the lead in the last minute of the half when the ball was steered past the keeper from the edge of the area but the ball didn't have enough pace to make it over the line before a defender could get back to clear it.
A couple of floodlights on the far side had come on during the first half and I hadn't paid too much attention to the others, assuming that someone would wander round and turn them on for the second half. However it turned out that they were on the same circuit and all the lights should have been on earlier.
One of the substitutes was talking to a friend in the crowd and suggested that the game may have to be called off as the referee had asked for all the lights to be on before he could start the half. Given the deepening gloom around the ground this was the only practical option but there didn't appear to be anyone actually working to try and fix the problem.
The referee came onto the pitch with the managers and confirmed he was happy to wait until 4.15 to see if it could be fixed. The lights were turned on and off several times but to no avail and as the spectators stood around, the decision was made to call the game off. I watched one customer walk up to the pay booth to demand a refund only to be given short shrift. There seemed little point in requesting the same so we made our way out of the ground and back to the car feeling disappointed with the whole situation.
From doing some research after the game it appears that Fareham have had problems with their lights failing earlier this season. Most clubs would issue a voucher for reduced / free admission to the replay if a game is called off before the second half starts. In the absence of this basic courtesy I couldn't recommend a visit to this ground unless you could be sure that floodlights would not required at any point!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Game 30: Poole Town 3.2 Wantage Town (FA Vase) 11.12.10

After last week's FA Vase ties were wiped out by the weather, I was hoping to find one of the Southern ties on today. Working my way around blogs, forums and league websites my options were gradually whittled down to two matches at Poole or Lancing. My preference was to head to Lancing as a new ground but by the time I went to get the train there was no news on their fixture so I decided to head to Poole Town for a revisit as their forum had confirmed the match was on. I sat at Southampton waiting for my connecting train and saw the Lancing train leave - moments later their Twitter feed confirmed that match was on too - just too late for a change of plan.

Despite this I was looking forward to seeing the match at Poole as both teams have been in good form in their respective leagues. I arrived at the station and wandered round to the ground via the local Co-op for some lunch. There were some players chatting to supporters as I arrived and I received a friendly welcome from the admissions hut. After ascertaining that I was a neutral, they seemed surprised that someone would travel down from Wiltshire to see their match but hoped that my journey was worthwhile.

SInce my last visit to Poole for a pre-season match about five years ago, they have adapted the ground to add in a turnstile, some seating and a portable merchandise stall. There was also some plastic sheeting around the boards to stop people getting a free view of the match. Despite these changes, the ground has failed the ground grading requirements which has meant that Poole have missed out on promotion twice after winning the Wessex League. Their last attempt to get planning permission for a new ground failed so I wish them all the best with the current application at a new location.

There was quite a buzz of excitement around the ground as kick off approached. There was even a local film crew recording interviews with the locals ahead of the match. I decided to start watching the game from behind the goal and despite the Poole crowd decamping to the other end after the teams came out, I stood my ground.

At first I thought this was a mistake as the ball rarely came out of the Wantage half as Poole put the pressure on their visitors. Wantage managed one shot from a breakaway attack but it only seemed like a matter of time until Poole would score. It looked like they had done in the 10th minute from a high ball into the area that was headed in but the referee gave a foul for the challenge on the keeper.

In the 13th minute there was a goal but not to the home team. Wantage managed to break out of their area after clearing a Poole free kick. The home team had committed to many players forward and when the ball was passed across the area it found an unmarked Wantage player to chip the ball over the keeper and in.

Poole's response was almost instant. After winning a corner in the 15th minute they played the ball deep into the area. A Poole player rose up and headed the ball across the goal and between the defender on the post and the keeper. They then took a 2.1 lead in the 19th minute after winning a freekick outside the area. The shot was fired low and seemed to go under the jumping wall and then past the keeper's dive at the near post.

After this flurry of goals the game settled down. Poole had a header over the bar and Wantage did the same from a shot. A huge flock of starlings appeared near the ground and put on a spectacular show as the mass of birds gyrated around the sky.

Just before half time Wantage won a free kick on the edge of the area. I had moved to the touchline and from my angle it appeared that the Poole keeper had left himself too much to do to get across the goal if the Wantage player hit it towards the left post. The Wantage player must have picked up on this as well as he hit a superb shot into the top left corner of the net. A superb equaliser that left the home fans stunned again.

There was still enough injury time for both teams to have an opportunity to take a half time lead. Wantage had their keeper to thank for making a great save with his feet while one of his teammates went on a great run only to lose control of the ball in the final third when a quick pass could have set up a shot.

Both teams looked capable of scoring and Wantage almost picked up a third goal with a powerful shot in the 47th minute that had the Poole keeper at full stretch to tip round the post. They came even closer in the 53rd minute with a one on one break. The ball was taken around the keeper but the shot was pulled to the left of the post from the angle. Poole replied a minute later, working the ball cleverly across the area from a corner but hitting the shot over.

It certainly felt like the game could go either way and Poole decided to make some changes, adding experienced former Bournemouth man Marcus Browning to their line up. He looked composed on the ball and made some good passes to help his team keep possession. In the 74th minute this possession led to a goal. Poole's no 10 went through the defence and took a shot that the Wantage keeper was able to parry out but only as far as the Poole 9 who got to the ball ahead of the covering defence and it it in off the bottom of the crossbar.

Two minutes after this chance Wantage should have equalised. A great high ball was played into the area and found a Wantage player who had pulled away from his marker but he directed his point blank header straight at the Poole keeper. Poole were fortunate to keep 11 players on the pitch after a late sliding tackle in the 90th minute but it looked like they would hold on for the win.

Wantage were determined to take the game into extra time and brought on a sub for the last minutes of injury time. There was a cry of "Too late!" from a Poole supporter but the sub earned his team a corner and then put a shot narrowly over the bar. Poole played possession football and had a couple of shots to try and nick a goal to clinch the game. They were unsuccessful but managed to hold on to win a home tie against St Ives Town in the next round. An exciting cup game and one I really enjoyed watching.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Game 29: Salisbury City 4.2 Didcot Town (Southern Prem) 04.12.10

I hadn't expected to find a game on today due to snow in the week. However I hadn't considered the determination and efforts of the groundstaff and volunteers at Salisbury in clearing the snow from the pitch to get this game on. Salisbury have had a good start to the season and were unbeaten at home going into today's match.

I drove up to the Ray Mac and managed to squeeze the car in to some space on the tarmac near the entrance. I wandered in and took up position near one of the goals. I decided not to carry my normal camera to the game as it was still freezing cold outside and I didn't want to lose any fingers to frostbite! There were mounds of snow around the side of the pitch but the main surface was clear and looked perfect for a game of football.

Salisbury started the game with some urgency and Knight was unlucky not to score at the far end after 7 minutes when he scuffed a shot into the arms of the grateful Didcot keeper. In the 18th minute Giles put a header over the bar from a corner and the deadlock was finally broken in the 25th minute. McLaggon hit a good low shot that the keeper saved but spilt and Jake Reid was on hand to slide in and scramble the ball in.

This seemed to wake Didcot and they had a couple of chances with a shot way over the bar and another that fell just wide of the post. In the 35th minute a cross from the right deceived the Salisbury keeper and he missed the ball and it flew into the net. As the visitors started to celebrate I looked to my left and saw the assistant had his flagged raised. The referee went over to him and after a short, nervous wait for the home supporters he disallowed the goal and gave a freekick for offside. The Didcot players were furious and tried to go over to the assistant before being turned away by the referee.

Didcot's next chance was a little easier for the officials. A shot from their no 10 was so far off target that the official had to raise his flag - this time for a Salisbury throw in! Salisbury made the most of these let offs and were unlucky not to get a second when Knight had a shot that was cleared off the line. in the 41st minute McLaggon hit a low shot that the keeper pushed out but straight to the feet of Kelly who tapped the ball in for a 2.0 halftime lead.

Salisbury had some more luck in the 46th minute when Jake Reid put a cross into the middle and the ball came off a defender's attempted clearance and into the net. The game settled down after that and both teams played their part in an entertaining end to end encounter. Didcot continued to work hard and got their reward in the 64th minute when the ball was played into the area from the byline and then tapped into an unguarded net to make the score 3.1.

Salisbury had been a bit sloppy in conceding the ball for the goal but soon made amends. Pacey substitute Silver came on and from an early touch sped down the right side. He hit a low cross into the penalty area with pace to find Jake Reid running onto the ball. He hit it on the run past the keeper to restore the three goal lead.

The scoring wasn't over and perhaps the best finish of the game came after 82 minutes when ex Southampton player Dutton-Black received the ball on the right side of midfield, looked up and hit a great chipped shot to beat the Salisbury keeper. The weather had turned to heavy rain and Salisbury were lucky not to concede again near the end when Didcot missed a free header from a free kick. A good performance from both teams for the 608 who made the effort to turn up in these conditions.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Game 28: Amesbury Town 0.4 Stockbridge (Wess 1) 20.11.10

I originally intended on another trip into Dorset for a match at Swanage Town & Herston but had to change my plans after some plumbing issues in the morning. I had enough time to get to a local game so decided to head to Amesbury's bottom of the table clash with Stockbridge.
When I arrived at the ground I noticed that Amesbury have put some see through fencing along the formerly open side of the ground. Both teams were warming up on the adjacent pitch. The weather was dark and gloomy and it looked like it could rain at any moment.
Paul eventually arrived after taking his traditional wrong turn on the Amesbury roundabout. It looked like the Stockbridge defence were taking the wrong turn straight from kickoff - Amesbury got through them with ease and put a shot across the keeper but parallel to the goal line in the first minute. A Stockbridge defender got to the ball first to clear it before Amesbury could poke it home.
The first goal wasn't long in coming but it was a real surprise when it went in. The ball was outside the Amesbury area when a Stockbridge player hit what looked to be a speculative shot towards goal. The Amesbury keeper didn't move and from our angle on the side it looked to have gone wide but suddenly the net moved and we realised that it was a goal. Wandering around the sideline, we weren't the only ones with the opinion that it was a fluke.
Stockbridge didn't rest on the one goal lead and if the first goal had been a fluke, the second goal in the 15th minute was the polar opposite where a deliberate chip from the edge of the area went over the Amesbury keeper and in to the net.
Stockbridge made it 0.3 in the 20th minute from a corner. The ball was played into the crowded area and then flicked out by a defender's back header. It fell nicely for a Stockbridge player and he hit a volley that beat the keeper at his near post.
Amesbury didn't have much to offer and wasted a couple of opportunities from free kicks. In the 25th minute they were in a good position to the right of the area but the ball didn't make it past the defensive wall. In the 39th minute they did get a shot on target but it was tipped well wide by the keeper. Just before half time Stockbridge almost made it 0.4 when the Amesbury keeper missed the ball when he ran out off his line. Luckily for him the ball went just wide.
Amesbury made one change at the start of the second half, a straight swap up front. They had a brief scare when a deep cross found a Stockbridge head to send the ball on target but were soon relieved to see their keeper claim the ball. The half time break seem to have helped them and there were some good passing moves to try and work the ball through the defence. One of them led to the first yellow card of the game when an Amesbury player had his legs sliced by a late tackle.
In the 53rd minute the game had to be delayed for several minutes as the assistant on the farside looked to have pulled a muscle or hamstring. After some discussion between the referee and the home manager, a spectator was found to cover the line. It appeared that he was a qualified referee so while the teams warmed up, he got prepared to take over.
Stockbridge managed a fourth goal in the 65th minute although it was not as spectacular as their earlier efforts. A long goal kick was knocked on and then hit over the onrushing keeper.
Amesbury looked to have won a consolation penalty in the 70th minute when one of their strikers was floored by a defender's shove in the area but the referee decided to wave play on. Stockbridge pressed on and almost got a fifth in the 81st minute with a great shot that the Amesbury keeper did well to dive to and push out for a corner. From the corner he made another good stop from a header.
There was still enough time for the home team to score and they came very close in injury time on a couple of occasions. The first effort came from their number 9 who went through on goal only to see his low shot parried out by the Stockbridge keeper. He couldn't get to the rebound in time and after a small melee it was cleared. The second effort was also by the 9 who shot narrowly over from the edge of the area when a corner was played to him. In between those chances the Amesbury keeper pulled off another save to keep the score down, just getting his hand to a shot before screaming at the defence. Perhaps it was a bit late to be asking them to cover players running in at the edge of the area!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Game 27: Erith & Belvedere 0.2 Lancing (FA Vase) 14.11.10

I had spotted two FA Vase ties that were being played on Sunday rather than Saturday and decided to take in the later kick off between Erith & Beldevere of the Kent League's Premier Division and Lancing from the Sussex League's Second Division with Paul.
The weather forecast didn't look promising and by the time the train reached Basingstoke it was pouring with rain. Erith have been ground sharing at Welling United's ground since 1999 so after a quick walk across to Waterloo East we found ourselves at Welling station. The ground was a 15 minute walk down Welling High Street and after seeing the Lancing coach outside the ground we decided to dry out and warm up in a pub.
After watching the Grand Prix procession for a while we headed back out into the rain and walked upto the ground. The first set of turnstiles we walked up to were for Welling United but the gates were firmly shut. We could see people in the far stand so we walked further down the road and discovered that Erith have their own turnstiles. The admission was £7 which was more than we were expecting for a Step 5 team (London prices!) with a decent programme for £1.50.
Given the weather conditions, we opted to watch the game from the back of the Erith stand rather than the two open terraces behind the goal. While we were sheltered from the rain, there was a cold wind blowing across and I was grateful for the woolly hat I had stuffed in my bag "just in case" earlier in the day.
After a minutes silence for Remembrance Sunday the game kicked off. According to the programme Lancing normally wear yellow with blue shorts but it appeared that the referee didn't like the clash of shorts so they were wearing a gaudy shade of red instead.
The first opportunity fell to Lancing in the first minute when the Erith keeper thought he had more time to clear the ball and almost gave the ball away to Lancing. The floodlights soon came on and we then saw the first shot to trouble a London doubledecker bus as Erith hit the ball out of the ground. The home team were passing the ball around well and we realised that one of their team had a higher pedigree - former Wolves and Reading man Simon Osborn was playing in midfield.
Neither team had a scoring opportunity of note until the 22nd minute when the Erith keeper made a good save from a long range shot that he did well to hold on to. Lancing's 9 was struggling with the poor service and earnt a yellow card after kicking the ball away in frustration. When he received the ball in space minutes later and chipped the ball over the keeper there was more frustration for him as he was correctly flagged as offside by the assistant. This time there wasn't a ball to kick away so he trudged back towards the halfway line.
Erith had a good spell of possession and chances around the half hour. They thought they should have been awarded a penalty in the 29th minute but the referee felt that the player had slipped on the wet pitch. After an on target shot was deflected high and out of the ground by one of their players in the 32nd minute they missed a sitter from two yards and perhaps would have been grateful to see the flag go up on the nearside for offside.
The first half hadn't been a great advert for football but the second started off with a better tempo as both teams contributed to a end-to-end attacking period. Lancing came close with a shot and then had a header deflected narrowly wide. Erith created chances too and Lancing's keeper did well to push a lowshot onto his post. They came even closer in the 54th minute when a shot from six yards out somehow crashed off the crossbar when it seemed easier to score. The same player saw his shot saved by the keeper from a narrow angle a couple of minutes later.
As Erith continued to press for the first goal Lancing made the bold move of taking off both of their front men in the 60th minute. The move paid off two minutes later when a long freekick was punted upfield. The Erith keeper decided to come off his line to the edge of the area to win the ball but missed it, which allowed Garnham to head it in for Lancing.
The goal had come against the run of play and there was a brief flare up between the two teams minutes later after a late tackle. Lancing were on the front foot and another of their subs went on a long dribbling run only to delay a shot, which allowed the Erith defence to take the ball off him.
It took some time for Erith to re-establish their earlier dominance but when they did they created two good opportunities to score. Their number 9 went through the middle and only had the keeper to beat in the 75th minute but hit his shot at the keeper who made a good save. Two minutes later and the lively number 10 read the situation well as a Lancing player tried to play a header backwards to his keeper. He ran onto the ball, took it into the area and cracked a shot past the keeper. The whole ground thought it was in only for the ball to hit the wall at the bottom of the terrace and bounce back onto the pitch. Somehow he had put it wide of the right post!
With five minutes to go Erith had a great shot tipped over the bar by the Lancing keeper for a corner. The set piece didn't amount to much and the ball was quickly cleared for a Lancing breakaway.
 Their number 7 Hudson took the ball from the halfway line and ran down the left side of the pitch before cutting in and hitting a low shot across the area. The pace of the ball took it past the keeper and into the goal to give the visitors a 2.0 lead.
Erith pushed forward again to try and pull a goal back but to no avail. Osborn hit a shot wide and a header went wide from a free-kick when if it had been left, a player behind would have been in a better postion to score. When the final whistle blew it was the underdogs's supporters who were celebrating.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Game 26: Downton 2.3 Cadbury Heath (FA Vase) 13.11.10

With an opportunity to visit a new ground tomorrow in the FA Vase (weather permitting!), I decided to stay local today and head down to Wick Lane to see Downton take on Western League 1 side Cadbury Heath.

I arrived at the ground to find a lot of people sporting red and white scarfs - it turned out the first 50 people through the door got one for free. There was a lot of local interest as this is the first time that Downton have reached this stage in the tournament. Some of the youngsters near me were trying to work out how many games Downton would have to win before they reached Wembley - cup fever was in the air!

The first period of the match went by really quickly as both teams tried to break the other's defence down. Cadbury Heath started to dominate and hit a shot just over the bar in the 16th minute. Downton tried to replicate this a minute later only to see the ball go into orbit. Cadbury won a couple of corners and showed an unusual preference for an outswinging cross to the edge of the area rather than inswingers into the box. From one of these outswingers we saw another 'navigational error' with a shot that almost hit the corner flag.

Downton gave away a freekick on the left side level with the penalty area after 23 minutes. The ball was crossed in and found a Cadbury head to power the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal with the Downton keeper left standing.

After celebrating the goal and winning the ball back from the kick off they put together some sustained pressure on the Downton goal. A mishit shot was deflected wide for a corner which Downton cleared before an unchallenged run through the middle saw the ball fly just wide of the post.

Downton have been playing well this season but there was little evidence of this in their first half performance. In the 27th minute a free kick was wasted when a high ball to the outskirts of the penalty area was headed past the keeper but on the wrong side to go well wide. Western hit a screamer in the 38th minute that flew across the goalmouth from an acute angle and wide.

It took a last ditch tackle to keep the deficit down in the 43rd minute as Cadbury Heath broke down the right and an inviting ball was played into the middle. Downton seemed to be their worst enemies at time with weak goal kicks and hopeful long balls that were easy to clear.

At the start of the second half Downton brought on the experience of Matt Holmes and he steadied the midfield with some intelligent passes and runs. Both teams made further substitutions due to injuries before Downton scored an unlikely equaliser in the 60th minute. The ball came into the area, was cleared to the edge before a great shot was deflected past the keeper who was diving to cover the trajectory of the original shot.

Downton almost gave away another goal three minutes later when they failed to clear the ball and were lucky to have another defender on hand to put the ball out for a corner when it came across the area. Cadbury Heath missed an even better chance a minute later after a superb dribble along the touchline led to the ball being crossed into the middle. From a yard out, an unmarked Cadbury Heath player had plenty of time to head the ball but could only put it straight at the keeper.

The pressure finally told in the 70th minute when a Cadbury Heath player took the ball forward and wasn't closed down. He took aim from outside the penalty area and his low shot went between the keeper's dive and the left post to hit the back of the net.

Downton weren't going to give the game up and as the sun set to give us a spectacular red skyline they made their last substitution and pushed players forward to try and get the equaliser. This plan worked to a treat as within four minutes they were level.

Gulliver won the ball on the edge of the area and put in a superb floating cross towards the centre. As the Cadbury Heath keeper came out for the ball McGregor and another Downton player challenged for it and one of them managed to poke the ball past the keeper and in. There were big celebrations on and off the pitch and Downton almost took the lead a minute later when a header flew just wide of the post.

In the 85th minute Downton were almost in on goal again but the final pass let them down. There was certainly some nervous tension around the ground as both sets of spectators wondered if their side would score again before extra time. This tension seemed to affect the players as there was a melee in the centre after two visiting players were injured after trying to tackle Downton players.

The referee had to add on some injury time for this and an earlier stoppage. Cadbury Heath's keeper started to take his kicks quickly and from one of his long clearances the ball ended up on the left side. The ball was brought forward down the wing and then passed into the centre. The Downton defence wasn't covering one of their opponents there and he slammed a shot into the back of the net with moments left to play.

Once the players returned to the area and the subs back to the bench, Downton launched a last ditch effort to try and equalise for the third time. The long ball was dealt with eventually by the Cadbury defence but a late tackle led to another melee of players with some pushing and shoving as tempers flared over. Once the referee had the game back under control there was no time left so as the freekick was hit upfield the final whistle went. A disappointing end to the cup dreams for the home team after a stirring comeback in the second half.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Game 25: Blandford United 4.1 Sturminster Newton (Dorset Prem) 06.11.10

After hurting my foot last Saturday and having to miss Salisbury's FA Trophy win, I was looking forward to a game today. I had considered a number of games around the local leagues but after a text from Paul to let me know he would be in the area, we decided to drive down to Blandford United's match against Sturminster Newton, a 2pm kickoff.

After a quick drive down the A354, we navigated round the one way system and found the ground. There was one parking space at the end of the row of cars next to the Recreation ground where both teams were warming up in the bright sunshine.

We wandered over to the touchline by the changing room which were adjacent to a lockup with a club shop sign above it. There was no-one collecting admission until after the first half had started and someone then came round with programmes and requesting donations which we were happy to make. As we approached the kickoff there was a sudden influx of people and our headcount reached 50, more than some Western and Wessex Premier teams get.

The start of the game was a bit scrappy but Sturminster Newton didn't look like a team who had lost all 12 games in the league before today. They were putting together some attacking moves and forced the first save of the match from the Blandford keeper in the 10th minute. The next chance came five minutes later to the home team when a defender misjudged the flight of the ball and let it go past him to a Blandford player. This player also misjudged the flight of the ball and sliced his shot well over the bar.

Sturminster had the best of the first half hour but lacked a cutting ball to create clearcut chances. The closest they came to scoring was in the 27th minute when a freekick was played into the area and headed over the bar.

Blandford had been caught offside a number of times but finally got through the defence on the half hour. The player ran from his own half as the ball was played through before outstripping the defence and taking the ball wide round the keeper. He then hit a low pass into the back of the net as two defenders tried to catch him. This gave Blandford a bit of confidence and they almost made it 2.0 7 minutes later with a shot following a goalmouth scramble. The keeper was well placed this time to make the save.

As the players came in for half-time, one of the Blandford players noted that at least the poor half was out of the way now. Ten minutes into the second half and we saw one of the own goals of the season. Blandford crossed the ball into the middle of the area but no blue shirts were there to take advantage. It didn't matter as one of the Sturminster defenders decided that he would head the ball towards the goal. It looked like he was hoping to pass it back to the keeper but he had no chance to reach the ball and it ended up in the back of the net.

Five minutes later and it was game over. Blandford's 7 dribbled through the Sturminster defence and unleashed a rising shot that the Sturminster keeper did well to tip over the bar. From the resulting corner, the ball was crossed high to the back of the penalty area where a Blandford defender stooped down and headed the ball. It flew through a group of players and into the goal.

With the game as good as gone, Sturminster's keeper decided to take his sweeper role a bit further and on a couple of occasions dribbled the ball out of his area and looked to take the ball as far up the pitch as possible. It looked like he was a frustrated outfield player but his attacking urges gave his teammates a few scares, noteably when he came up past the halfway line for a corner! Blandford almost scored from a breakaway and came even closer when the keeper dropped the ball in the area and a toepoke ended up just over the bar.

Sturminster managed to pull one goal back in the 70th minute when the ball was switched from the left wing to the centre and a substitute got on the end of it to knock the ball past the keeper. This gave Sturminster a bit of confidence and they had a five minute spell when they came close to getting another goal.

Blandford wrapped up the game in the last minute when one of their midfielders burst through the middle, beat a couple of tackles and hit a low shot that trickled under the keeper as he came out to try and gather the ball. The ball rolled in on the left side of the right post and into the net before a defender could catch up with the ball. An entertaining game and while it was unlucky 13 for the visitors, the scoreline didn't reflect the effort that they put into the game.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Game 24: Totton & Eling 3.2 Fareham Town (WESS PREM) 23.10.10

I was hoping to attend the first game at the new Totton & Eling ground at Testwood Park but that came took place last weekend while I was watching Georgia Bulldogs demolish Vanderbilt 43.0 between the hedges in a sunny Stanford Stadium. Luckily for me I didn't have too long to wait after our return to the UK to head down to the new complex.

The new ground is about five minutes drive from the A36 / M3 roundabout although I managed to overshoot the approach as there are no signs up yet. There are a couple of carparks so I navigated to a space in front of the impressive AFC Totton ground which is due to open during November. I wandered past that ground, along by some training pitches and round to the turnstiles of a more modest ground at the back.

Despite it's more modest appearance, I was impressed with the ground and facilities and the view across the lake next to the ground. There was plenty of cover along one side and behind one goal which I thought I might need to use with rain forecast for the afternoon. The hardstanding and railings were just at the right height for me and the toilet block was bright and clean.

I was surprised to pay £2 for the programme but it was a full colour edition with plenty of interesting information. I hadn't realised that old Salisbury favourite Kev Dawtry was managing Totton & Eling and ex-Southampton midfielder Jo Tessem was their coach.

When the game kicked off Fareham took the game to Totton. In the second minute a curving shot was on target and had to be tipped wide by the Totton keeper. Five minutes later and the visitors took the lead. Somehow a Fareham player was left unmarked centrally just outside the penalty area and when the ball came to him he calmly ran towards goal before slotting a low shot under the keeper.

Totton & Eling were playing the ball round well enough but far too often the ball was going to a player with his back to goal who then passed the ball backwards. They created a couple of chances in the 22nd minute. A cross went across the area but in front of the onrushing strikers before a backheel set up a shooting opportunity that the Fareham keeper was able to get to.

Fareham had given away a number of freekicks for heavy or late challenges during the half and gave away another one just outside the penalty area on the left side just before halftime. A Totton player lined up and hit a superb freekick over the wall and between the keeper and the left hand post to equalise. A real surprise given the balance of play before the goal.

Totton started the second half as they finished the first and came close to taking the lead in the 49th minute when a great move was finished with a chip over the keeper. The ball didn't drop down in time and hit the crossbar before going over. Two minutes later and a low Totton shot had to be palmed away before another effort was tipped over the bar.

From the resulting corner the ball was hit into the box and after three efforts on goal the ball was scrambled into the net past the melee of players on the goalline to give the home team the lead.

Fareham made a couple of substitutions to try and change the game only to see Totton extend their lead three minutes later. The ball was played out to the left side from a clearance and crossed into the middle. As the goalkeeper came out, a Totton player managed to get his foot to the ball and hit it past the keeper and in at the near post.

This seemed to wake up Fareham and they won a corner in the 62nd minute. This set up a shot that beat the keeper but was cleared from the line by a defender as the away supporters started to celebrate. They didn't have long to wait to celebrate a goal as a carbon copy of the first goal gave them a lifeline in the 69th minute.

Fareham continued to put more pressure on the Totton & Eling defence and saw a shot tipped past the post in the 80th minute. A penalty shout from the terraces was then ignored by the referee before a cross was an inch away from finding a Fareham boot two yards in front of an open goal.

There was a slight distraction as some drizzle fell, creating the start of a brightly coloured rainbow over the lake. Fareham put a header over the bar but almost conceded again in the last minute when Totton & Eling broke away only to put a shot over the bar when they should have made the game safe.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Game 23: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 5.2 Lydney Town (aet) (FA Vase) 02.10.10

After a particularly stressful couple of days it was a relief to have an FA Vase tie on the doorstep. As I walked up Western Way, I realised that this would be the last match I'd see in my 30's - a sobering thought!

Both teams were warming up when I arrived and it was a little disconcerting to see some Lydney players wearing black and white striped shirts under their training tops as that strip would clash with Bemerton. When the teams appeared for kickoff Lydney were wearing bright yellow shirts so the matter was resolved.

Lydney play in the Hellenic League's Western division and this is the first time that they have reached the 1st round of the Vase. While Bemerton play in a division higher and have more experience of Vase football a quick look at the NLP showed that they would have to do well to beat a team unbeaten in their league.

The game started with a few fierce tackles and the Lydney 5 had to limp off for a few minutes but was fine to play on after some deft touches of the magic sponge. The visiting physio was kept busy when the Lydney keeper landed heavily when challenging for a high ball and the game was delayed until he had recovered sufficiently to continue.

As the half went on Bemerton started to dominate play. In the 15th minute Mankin beat a tackle on the edge of the area and put a good ball across the goalmouth that was just too strong to find a teammate. In the 28th minute Mankin went through the Lydney defence only for a last ditch sliding tackle to save the situation for the visitors. From the resulting corner, the Lydney keeper made an excellent save.

It looked like only a matter of time until Bemerton scored and Slade almost managed it in the 34th minute. He held off a defender's challenge as he received the ball on the edge of the area, slipped a low shot past the outcoming keeper from an acute angle only to have to watch the ball fly wide of the far post.

The dynamic of the game changed a minute later when Lydney were awarded a penalty for an accidental handball by a Bemerton defender in the area after an aimless high cross from the left. The Lydney player hit the penalty on target but Parsons in the Bemerton goal guessed correctly and made a superb save to keep the ball out of the net.

Despite this setback Lydney now had some confidence in their play and managed to chip Parsons a few minutes later only for the offside flag to rule the goal out. In the 42nd minute they finally got their goal. Bemerton didn't clear the ball from their area and a Lydney player took one touch to take the ball away from the defence before hitting the ball past Parsons with his second touch.

In the 47th minute there was another Lydney player on the ground in agony but this time he had one of his own team to blame for hitting a shot at crotch level straight at him! Bemerton looked a bit nervous at the back and Lydney should have been awarded another penalty in the 49th minute when Fisher shoved one of their players in the area. The foul went unseen by the officials which evened up the earlier decision.

It was perhaps another turning point in the game as within a minute Bemerton were level. Sanger ran onto a long ball and kept a cool head to equalise with a placed shot past the keeper. Bemerton came close to taking the lead on a couple of occasions after that. A shot from the midfield went just wide and a superb Sanger run down the wing and into the box ended with the shot going just the wrong side of the post.

In between these chances, the Lydney keeper was told to get back into his area by the referee having raced 20 yards out of it to protest about a tackle. His refusal to do so and persistent complaining to the officials throughout the first half lead to a yellow card to the delight of the local wind-up merchants behind the goal.

The game was finely poised as the second half progressed. A Lydney header came down onto the crossbar and over and a long distance free kick almost crept in. Bemerton weren't clearing their lines well and paid the price in the 72nd minute as a clearance was sliced into the middle of their area. Two Bemerton players went for it but collided and fell to the floor, allowing Lydney to get get a shot away. Parsons managed to get a hand to it but couldn't divert the ball enough and it went in off the post.

Three minutes later and there was a collective intake of breath around the ground as Young took a shot from inside the 6 yard box for Bemerton. It looked a cert for an equaliser but somehow he managed to put the ball wide. Lydney defended well until the 85th minute. Bemerton won a corner and played a ball to the near post. It bounced down and then skipped past the players on the goal line to the centre where Jack Slade connected with a powerful header to equalise.

After a quick break the game progressed into extra time. Bemerton finally took the lead in the 95th minute when Slade won the race to a through ball ahead of the keeper and chipped the ball into the unguarded net. The play was all with the home team now and they were unlucky not to add another goal when Slade tapped in a pass from Jones only to see the assistant's flag raised for offside.

In the second half of extra time Reynald went down the wing and slipped a great ball into the path of Young's run. His cross was hit first time by Sanger into the corner to give Bemerton a 4.2 lead. The scoring was wrapped up two minutes later when O'Keefe hit a low shot from the edge of the area with the keeper just a spectator as it crashed into the net.

Even with a 5.2 lead Bemerton continued to press on. Sanger outpaced three defenders with a great run, took the ball round the keeper only to hit the ball over from an angle instead of passing to an unmarked team mate in the box. Fisher then put a header over the bar from a freekick. Lydney created the last scoring opportunity with an angled header that went wide at the far post when a straight header would have found the net. An enjoyable FA Vase tie to finish another decade of football watching.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Game 22: Hamworthy Recreation 2.0 Blandford United (Dorset Prem) 25.09.10

While the FA Cup moved into the second qualifying round today, I decided to make the most of the good weather to pay a visit to Hamworthy Recreation for their match against Blandford United.

I arrived at the ground at good time and parked up outside the Sports and Social club building which had plenty of car parking spaces available. There was a helpful sign to point me in the right direction of the pitch and as I ambled up to the entrance the teams were warming up.

After paying £3 for admission and an excellent programme (including colour photographs!) I headed down to the pitchside to try and escape the biting cold wind that was blowing across the hilltop. Reading through the programme I noticed that Hamworthy were top of the table but are unable to take promotion to the Wessex League as their facilities can not be upgraded to meet the strict criteria. The ground has no floodlights or spectator cover so I was glad to be there on a sunny day!

I was pleasantly surprised by the way the game was played. In the first twenty minutes both teams were looking to get the ball on the ground and pass or run forward. While Hamworthy were more cultured in their approach, they didn't make the most of the set pieces and advanced postions their approach play was winning.

Blandford were capable of causing the home defence some problems and I thought for a moment that they had taken the lead in the 17th minute. The ball was played through at the far end and the shot appeared to beat the keeper and ripple the net. It wasn't until the keeper wandered round his goal to collect the goal that the spectators on the side I was on realised that the shot had gone wide!

A minute later Blandford came close again to scoring. The ball was crossed into the middle and a header flew just wide of the same post. The Hamworthy defence were cross-examining each other and it took a few words from their captain to calm things down.

There were between 15 and 20 people watching the game until the 20th minute. I heard a lot of voices to my left and saw a crowd of suited and booted wedding guests appear at the back of the hall for the photographs. I'm not sure what the protocol for headcount in such circumstances is but as they hadn't paid I decided not to include them!

Hamworthy continued to press through the middle and the wings but the Blandford defence managed to protect their keeper until the 45th minute when a shot finally was hit on target. The keeper made a good save to take us to halftime with no goals.

I made a quick exit to the car as my phone battery had gone from fully charged to no charge seemingly in the space of an hour. A quick top up from the car battery while I listened to the half time reports on Radio Wiltshire did the trick! I was surprised to hear that Salisbury were 2.1 down at Sholing in the FA Cup despite taking the lead.

Hamworthy started the second half as they had ended the first, dominating possession but lacking the final touch in front of goal. The number of chances that they created but finished with a shot or header over the bar was steadily increasing and I began to wonder if there would be any goals in the match.

Blandford were restricted to counter attacks but they managed to create a good chance moments after their keeper pulled off a good save from a Hamworthy shot. The ball was played quickly upfield and their number 10 dribbled into the area and fired a shot well wide. It looked like the tackle coming in from his left put him off his stride at the crucial moment.

The Hamworthy manager changed his attacking options with two subs and within 8 minutes they took the lead. A Hamworthy player received the ball in a central area well outside the box and ran forward. He wasn't challenged so unleashed a strong shot that flew into the bottom left corner of the net before the keeper could move.

Three minutes later and it was game over. The ball was played towards two opposing players in the penalty area. The defender jumped just behind the Hamworthy player and nudged him slightly as both players tried to reach the ball. This didn't look to be anything other than a normal challenge but the referee decided that it warranted a penalty.

The visiting players harrangued the referee for his decision and it appeared that one of them took the verbal protests too far for his liking as the red card was shown to a blue shirted player. He walked off the pitch and booted the dugout moments before the penalty was taken. The keeper guessed one way, the penalty taker chose the other way and the ball nestled into the back of the net.

Hamworthy tried to exploit the man advantage to extend their lead. The best effort came from the vision of one of their players by the right touchline. He decided to launch a long cross come chip that went over the visiting keeper but bounced half a yard wide of the post before going out for a goalkick.

Blandford didn't give up and to their credit continued to play counter-attacking football. They managed to get one of their players through on the right side but he was forced wide and only had one team mate to aim for who was surrounded by four green shirts. He decided not to take a shot and try and cross the ball to his team mate but it was easily cleared.

With three minutes to go, a clever move found a Blandford player unmarked in the area who shot past the keeper's acrobatic dive. Sadly for him, the assistant already had his flag up for offside.

Hamworthy almost made it 3.0 in the last minute. As the Blandford defence pushed up, the Hamworthy number 2 played the ball forward through their line and ran onto it himself. His through ball took him into the area but he took his shot early and watched it sail well wide.

I got back to the car to get the FA Cup scores and discovered on Twitter that Salisbury had managed to get a goal back so another FA Cup replay at the Ray Mac is scheduled for Tuesday night.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Game 21: Downton 2.2 Hallen (aet) (FA Vase) 18.09.10

I decided to take in one of the local FA Vase ties today and thought I'd pop down to Downton to watch them play Western Premier side Hallen. My last visit to Downton saw them lose 2.0 in the FA Cup but since then their form has been W6 D1 L0 in the league, leaving them top of the Wessex 1 table.

I was surprised not to see top scorer Dec McGregor warming up and later discovered that he had booked a trip home, thinking that there wouldn't be a game this weekend. Downton started well without him and a shot from Turpin went just wide in the first minute. They had a scare a couple of minutes later when the defence allowed a long ball to bounce up without a challenge. It fell at a good height for a visiting player to shoot and his effort smacked off the crossbar with the keeper beaten.

Downton won a freekick in the 6th minute and whipped in a good cross, only to see the resulting header fly just wide of the post. Three minutes later and the Hallen keeper pulled off a tremendous acrobatic save to push the ball into the nettles behind the goal. In my efforts to recover the ball I managed to get a couple of stings on my hand - lesson learnt, use feet to recover balls in nettles!

Hallen were concerned at the way Western was able to get into dangerous positions and one of their subs jogged round the pitch to get a message to the defence. A minute later and those concerns were reduced by a bizarre mix up in the Downton defence when they let the ball run to the keeper instead of clearing it. He seemed to spill the ball as he dived forward to the floor and this allowed a Hallen player to lift a shot over him and into the unguarded net.

Hallen now took charge of the game, almost scoring in the 14th minute when a great first time shot came back off the post with the keeper beaten. This pressure continued with all the play at the far end to me. Downton decided to change their formation in the 32nd minute as Matt Holmes came on for Hughes to bolster the midfield.

The change seemed to settle the team down and Downton almost snatched an equaliser in the 35th minute. This time it was Hallen's turn to mess up a backpass, allowing Turpin in. He took the ball round the keeper but took the ball out too wide in doing so and was unable to get the resulting shot on target as two defenders rushed back to the goalline to cover.

Downton started to put more pressure on Hallen with a couple of freekicks and a corner. In the 40th minute a Downton player ran onto a through ball and was clean through until the referee blew for offside. A minute later and one of the most bizarre collapses I've ever seen on a pitch - when a Hallen player backed into Crouchie he collapsed as if he had been hit by a sniper rifle. The dying giraffe impression made most of the spectators laugh but the referee was not so amused and gave him a yellow card.

The good work at the end of the half was undone in the 50th minute. After a period of Downton pressure Hallen won a freekick near the touchline. The ball was whipped over and before a defender could get a touch, a Hallen head got to the ball and headed it down past the keeper.

At this point I started to wonder if my attendance would not be welcome at Downton games in the future as I feared that they would not come back from the 2 goal deficit. It certainly seemed that luck was out as Holmes watched his shot sail wide and Western saw a shot cleared off the line.

A minute after that chance, Hallen gifted Downton a penalty as Western was brought down in the area. Western took the kick and although the keeper guessed the right way, the pace of the ball meant he couldn't get down in time to stop the shot.

It only took 2 minutes for Downton to bring the scoreline level. The ball was in the Hallen box and wasn't cleared, allowing Redman to blast the ball in from close range. Neither team created much after that although Downton looked the most likely to score. Just before the end of the half, Crouchie had a good dribble through the defence only to see the ball saved.

Hallen had the first chance in extra time, a shot from one of their subs was tipped wide by Aldridge in the Downton goal. There were a few breaks in play for injuries as the players started to tire. Hallen's sub had another shot but took it quickly when he had more time and saw the ball fly wide. Western had a good swivel and turn effort in the area but the ball bounced back of a defender's back.

Hallen came close to breaking the deadlock at the start of the second period of extra time. A cross came over but the high bounce of the ball took it over the oncoming striker's leg in front of an open goal at the back post. Western continued to be Downton's main threat and it took a good save from Hallen's keeper to deny him a goal.

With 5 minutes to go Hallen managed to get the ball into the back of the net but the flag was up well before the shot was taken. The match finished as a draw and there will be a replay on Monday night to see who progresses.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Game 20: Salisbury City 5.0 Highworth Town (FA Cup) 14.09.10

I wasn't expecting to see an FA Cup match this evening but after the 1.1 draw at Highworth on Saturday, I found myself jogging across a wet car park at the Ray Mac this evening as the rain teemed down.

The big news before the match was that former striker Jake Reid had signed on again for the Whites after leaving Bath City. He was presented to the crowd before the match started. The general consensus around me was that Salisbury hadn't turned it on against the lower league opposition at the weekend but I was hoping for a repeat of the Farnborough replay from last season with plenty of goals and excitement.

Highworth had the first good chance of the match when they broke down the left after 5 minutes. From a throw in, the ball was switched to the right side of the area but the shor flew over the bar. Salisbury were quick to respond, Joyce firing wide and Dutton hitting an attempt over in the next five minutes.

The players were finding it a little difficult at times to control the ball as there was lots of spray coming off the wet surface. McLaggon was running at pace at the visitors backline and in the 13th minute it looked like he had been brought down in the area at the far end. Despite the appeals of the crowd, the refere waived play on. Salisbury came even closer to a goal 3 minutes later when the goalkeeper saved a Giles header with his feet.

Salisbury managed to take the lead after 19 minutes. Knight took the ball down the left before cutting inside and taking a shot. It looked like it bounced off the bar before being headed in by Giles. Salisbury were looking confident and extended the lead in the 29th minute when Dutton hit a volley past the keeper.

Highworth pressed again towards the end of the half and had two good opportunites from corners but weren't able to score. In the final minute of the half Salisbury played a long ball into the area. It looked like it was going to the keeper but McLaggon slid in and diverted the ball in at the near post.

The game was fairly similar in the second half with Salisbury dominating play and possession. The crowd started to get a little frustrated that their team weren't adding to the scoreline, especially when Highworth broke away after a Salisbury corner in the 63rd minute and wasted a good opportunity to score.

The frustration didn't last long as Salisbury scored the best goal of the night in the 70th minute. Brett played a curving long ball from near the halfway line in front of the dugouts. The ball was weighted so it went over the defence but straight in line for Joyce to run onto and score.

Salisbury wrapped it up in the 77th minute when substitute Silver combined well with Joyce to play Knight in. He ran forward and hit his shot low past the keeper into the centre of the goal. A good performance from the home team that sent most of the crowd of 596 home happy and looking forward to the next round at Sholing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Game 19: Shepton Mallet 1.4 Melksham Town (Western 1) 11.09.10

I decided to spend the morning at the East Somerset Railway before driving the short distance to Shepton Mallet's ground.

The match was advertised as a 2pm kick off in the Non League Paper and on the League's website. When I arrived at 1.20 I was surprised to see a couple of cars driving away from the ground. The reason soon became clear - a board outside the ground showing a kick off time of 3pm!

After listening to the radio commentary for a while, I wandered over to the entrance and paid for admission and a programme. I had had a look at some pictures of the ground online but it soon became clear that there have been some recent changes. A new stretch of covered terracing has been built along the opposite side to the main stand.A small memorial stand to a former player who recently passed away has been erected behind one of the goals.

Both teams had an opportunity to score in the first ten minutes. Melksham volleyed the ball wide from a cross after two minutes and a Shepton Mallet player dribbled round the defence before shooting over the bar in the seventh minute.

Melksham took the lead in the 10th minute after winning a free kick on the edge of the penalty area in a central position. When the kick was taken, the man on the edge of the wall jumped high only to see the ball curl low past where he was stood and past the keeper's outstretched boot.

Shepton were under a lot of pressure but managed to break away in the 21st minute following a Melksham corner. The goalkeeper stood his ground in the area and managed to save the ball with his feet when the home player took a shot.

Melksham thought they had scored again after 37 minutes but the goal was chalked off for a foul the referee had spotted during the build up.

They came even closer a minute later when one of their players went through one on one with the keeper only to present too much of the ball to him. The keeper stopped the ball with one hand and gathered the ball under his body.

The referee missed a blatant foul in the last minute of the half that allowed Melksham to double their lead. The ball was floated in from a corner and the keeper went up to make what should have been a routine save. Instead, he ended up spilling the ball as a Melksham player had grabbed the back of his shoulder.

The referee couldn't see the contact and waved play on, allowing a Melksham player to whack the ball into the roof of the net. To rub salt into this wound, one of the Shepton players was booked for protesting.

Melksham made the game safe in the 49th minute with a superb floated shot from the left that flew over the keeper and into the back of the net. The keeper had no chance to stop the shot but did manage to keep out a couple of later efforts with some spectacular dives.

The ball was spending most of its time in the Shepton half and it was not a surprise when they scored a fourth goal in the 70th minute. The ball was crossed to the near post and a glancing header from close range powered the ball in between the keeper and the post.

Shepton had to clear the ball off the goalline in the 85th minute and had some more fortune three minutes later after they conceded a penalty for a handball in the box. A Melksham player took a slow, considered run up before hitting the ball into the left hand post and wide as the keeper dived in the opposite direction.

In the final minute of injury time Shepton won a freekick after a player was brought down by two opponents. The ball was hit superbly and curved over the ball and past the keeper before crashing into the top corner to give Shepton a consolation goal.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Game 18: Keynsham Town 2.1 Swanage Town & Herston (FA Vase) 04.09.10

I decided to take a trip by train this afternoon for my first visit to Keynsham and the FA Vase Extra Preliminary round tie against Swanage Town & Herston.

The visitors were the only Dorset Premier League team to enter the FA Vase this season and it was a nice touch to read that they had the backing of the whole League in this week's DPL newsletter.

The weather was overcast and grey as I wandered off the station platform and past a wedding at the local church to get to the ground. The football club is situated next to Keynsham Rugby club's ground and had an old fashioned metal turnstile to negotiate after I paid for my admission and programme.

The two teams were warming up on the pitch and I noticed that Swanage only had 12 players on the pitch compared to the full strength Keynsham squad. It turned out that they had problems in raising a team due to injuries, suspensions and unavailability. Having lost 10.0 the previous week I wondered if they would struggle against higher league opposition.

As the clock moved towards 3pm the two teams went into the dressing rooms for a final team talk before appearing at the doorway. The referee and one of his assistants came through but George, the second assistant, was nowhere to be seen. After a minute or so he emerged to calls of "Where's George" from both sets of players.

The first twenty minutes of the half saw end to end play but little for the goalkeepers to contend with. Keynsham were making some good runs down the far side and the Swanage keeper had to be alert in the 15th minute to make a routine save. Swanage were moving the ball round well to spread play and came closest to scoring in the 17th minute when a shot was hit across the goalmouth and wide.

While the game was taking place there was some "interference" from the rugby pitch behind the hedge. We got to hear the rugby referee's whistle at regular intervals and in the 22nd minute a rugby ball flew over the hedge and onto the pitch!

Keynsham had wasted some good possession when their strikers were running into space too early and were caught offside. In the 28th minute they managed to perfect a run so that the flag stayed down as one of their players ran onto a ball and took it into the penalty area. He decided to take an early shot as the Swanage keeper stayed on his feet but didn't get his angles right, allowing the keeper to make the save with a slight movement to his right.

Swanage seemed to be growing in confidence and it looked like they had scored in the 42nd minute. The ball was hit high into the penalty area and one of their strikers jumped with the keeper for the ball. The striker headed the ball over the keeper's head and into the open goal only to see the assistant put his flag up for offside to cut the celebrations short.

Keynsham hadn't impressed in the first half and made an early substitution in the second half to try and change things round. This seemed to work as they won a couple of corners in succession and it took a good save from the Swanage keeper in a melee of players to keep the scoreline at 0.0.

His good work was almost undone on the hour when he came out of his goal to clear a through ball. He beat the attacker to the ball but missed his kick. The attacker carried on his run but the trajectory and pace of the pass took him wide of the goal. This allowed the keeper to get back to cover the near post so the only option was to cross the ball. The keeper would have been relieved to see the ball fly harmlessly over the bar.

Keynsham had another opportunity to take the lead in the 70th minute from a corner as it started to rain. The ball was hit towards the penalty spot where a Keynsham head powered the ball past the keeper. The ball then bounced up off the crossbar and down only for another Keynsham player to head it against the bar. This time the ball bounced down and rolled along the bar before dropping down and being cleared.

Swanage were under a lot of pressure but managed a breakaway in the 72nd minute. A well struck shot from distance tipped the top of a defenders head and span wide for a corner. The corner led to the first goal but it was Keynsham that scored it - they broke away with the ball down the right wing. The ball was played into the area and as the Swanage defence appealed for offside, the first Keynsham player in a line of four volleyed the ball past the Swanage keeper.

Keynsham made the most of their substitutes as Swanage started to tire. The play was being stretched from side to side but the second goal didn't come and you could sense some frustration from the bench. A couple of players went down with cramp and the trainers had to come on to help them recover.

Swanage looked to be heading out of the Vase but with a minute to go a ball was played from the halfway line to one of their strikers. He took the ball forward, dummied past a defender and took aim from the edge of the area. His shot beat the keeper's outstretched hand and ended up in the back of the net. The Swanage support in the stand went crazy as their team celebrated an unlikely yet deserved comeback.

From the kickoff Keynsham brought the ball forward and went straight onto the attack. One of their players took the ball into the area and the Swanage keeper had to be out quickly to deflect it wide for a corner.

There was still enough injury time to take the corner and when the ball came back into the area, it was swept into the goal past the keeper's dive. Somehow Keynsham had scored in the last minute to progress to the next round without needing extra time.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Game 17: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 1.2 Winchester City (WESS PREM) 30.08.10

Following the Stockbridge game I headed home to put my weary feet up for a couple of hours. Andy had opted for a beer festival so I parked the car near his house and wandered around to the ground.

As the only later kick off in the area I had expected a decent crowd and the ground was much busier than normal. There were also a number of Winchester supporters and players watching from the sideline. The offical crowd figure for this top of the table clash was given as 172, doubling the attendance from the previous Monday evening match here against Lymington Town.

I was surprised to see that Bemerton were playing in their orange away kit instead of the usual black and white shirts - perhaps they had decided that it was easier to pick out players under floodlights wearing this kit. Winchester were in their change kit of all white.

Bemerton kicked off and went straight down to the far end with the Winchester keeper having to tip out a shot. From the resulting long throw-in Mankin rose above his marker and headed the ball into the top corner to give Bemerton an early lead.

Winchester soon settled down and had a couple of half chances. Bemerton were lucky after 25 minutes as a Winchester shot deflected through a crowd of players but ended up in the arms of their keeper. The visitors were managing a lot of possession but were finding it difficult to break through the Bemerton back line.

Bemerton had two good chances in quick succession on the half hour. Rowe found space in the midfield and ran through to take a shot that the keeper saved. Slade then had an excellent run down the left wing, taking the ball round two Winchester defenders before crossing it for Jones who had taken up an excellent position in the area. When the ball arrived he mishit his shot and it flew harmlessly wide.

Joe Sanger was leading the line well but received a booking in the 40th minute for a needless high footed challenge that hit the Winchester player instead of the ball.

In the final minute of the half there was a bit of controversy as the referee blew his whistle while the ball was in mid-air from a Winchester shot. The ball ended up way over the bar but it would have been an interesting discussion had the shot been on target!

The turning point in the game came four minutes into the second half. Sanger chased down a long high ball and in the absence of any defensive cover, the Winchester keeper came sprinting out of his area. Sanger decided to try and kick the ball over the keeper but ended up putting his boot into the keeper's chest. He collapsed to the ground and the physio was quickly on to make sure he was ok. After a few minutes he had recovered enough to be stretched off the pitch. Sanger received a second yellow card and was sent off.

Winchester made the most of the extra man advantage. In the 55th minute their captain came up from defence for a corner and aimed a great header into the bottom corner for the equaliser.

The game was now flowing from end to end as Bemerton reshaped their team and encouraged their right back to play further up the pitch. He was twice involved in some good pass and move play but the chances created weren't taken.

Winchester should have taken the lead in the 65th minute when a player cut through the Bemerton defence for a one-on-one with the keeper. His decision to hit the ball at the keeper was poor as it turned a good scoring opportunity into a straightforward save.

Bemerton were creaking at the back and only some last ditch blocking tackles were keeping the ball away from goal. Bemerton managed to get the ball forward but the final ball was lacking when they got into good positions. Fisher had a header on target from a corner but his effort was straight at the keeper.

There was a comical moment in the 83rd minute when the Winchester number 8 running across the area took the ball off the toes of the Winchester number 7 who was lining up a rocket shot.

Two minutes later and the laughter from the locals was replaced by cheers from the visiting supporters. Winchester broke down the left and when the ball was crossed a defender attempted to clear it, only to slice the clearance at pace towards the bottom corner. The goalkeeper had no chance to react before the ball hit the back of the net to give Winchester a 2.1 lead.

Bemerton tried to get back on level terms and Slade was unfortunate to see his shot on the turn whistle past the crossbar as the game moved into injury time. Despite their best efforts, it was Winchester who took the three points and 1st place in the table.

Game 16: Stockbridge 1.1 Shaftesbury (WESS 1) 30.08.10

After the Laverstock match I headed home for an hour to get some food and recharge the camera batteries before hitting the A30 and the short drive out to Stockbridge. I couldn't recall if you could still park cars inside the ground now that there is a small stand so I opted for nearby street parking.

As I wandered up the track to the ground I was overtaken by a car and at the entrance it was clear that there was space for a few cars to park but the vehicles are in range of any wayward shots. After paying £4 for admission (including a programme) I found a spot of shade by the goalmouth to watch the game.

I was glad to arrive early to the match as it kicked off five minutes early. Stockbridge came close to a goal after 3 minutes, a good cross from the right almost finding the head of a diving player. Two minutes later and they came even closer - a shot hit the crossbar, bounced down and was cleared from the line by a Shaftesbury defender. Despite some protests from the 'Robins' players that the ball had gone over the line, the referee allowed play to continue. The assistant referee on the far side was well placed and his flag didn't move.

Stockbridge finally took the lead in the 25th minute. A long freekick was headed back towards the left hand post and tapped in before the keeper could react.

Shaftesbury almost equalised a minute later. A cross from the far side went over the keeper at his near post and almost ended up in the net. A covering Stockbridge defender had to be careful not to hit the swerving ball into his own net.

Shaftesbury's defence was under a lot of pressure and only a last ditch tackle stopped a Stockbridge shot from flying past the keeper. In the 40th minute another goal mouth clearance saved the day for the visitors as a header was deftly played past the goalkeeper. The ball didn't have enough pace on it to go over the line, allowing the defence to clear.

Shaftesbury made a couple of substitutions early in the second half to try and get something from the game. In the 62nd minute they created a good chance from a freekick. The ball bounced in the area and sat up well for a shot but it was blasted high over the bar. Stockbridge countered and only the offside flag prevented a second goal a minute later.

Shaftesbury certainly looked like the better team in the second half, similar to the way that Fawley had come back against Laverstock in the earlier game. Stockbridge's keeper had to be called into action several times as a sweeper to clear balls that had gone over the back line before Shaftesbury players could reach them.

Stockbridge were conceding far too many free kicks in and around their area for their manager's liking. I was impressed with one of the Shaftesbury wingers who was the smallest player on the pitch but used a good touch and turn of pace both to create chances but also draw the fouls. Shaftesbury weren't making the most of these chances as balls were either kicked into the wall or high above the crossbar.

Stockbridge were denied by the offside flag again in the 74th minute. A shot was parried out of the six yard box by the Shaftesbury keeper but the player who received the ball from the subsequent pass was adjudged to be offside before he hit the ball in.

It looked like Shaftesbury's efforts would be in vain but in the 89th minute they grabbed a late equaliser. The ball was played low to the feet of one of their players just outside the area. He evaded a tackle and played a great through ball for the winger who hit a rising first time shot past the Stockbridge keeper at his near post.

Game 15: Laverstock & Ford 2.0 Fawley (WESS PREM) 30.08.10

For this Bank Holiday, I decided to stay local as the Wessex League fixtures offered a rare opportunity to complete a treble with an early kick off at Laverstock, an afternoon kick off at Stockbridge and an evening match at Bemerton.

I got to Laverstock's ground earlier than normal as I wanted to give myself a good chance of getting one of their excellent programmes. There were a lot of parked cars already and as I arrived at the turnstile I noticed that there were only two programmes left!

The match looked to have attracted a number of travellers judging from the number of conversations in exotic accents I heard while watching the teams warm up. The official attendance was 92 which is the best of the season so far at the Dell.

The match kicked off on-time at 11am and within five minutes of kicking down the slope Laverstock took the lead. They had a chance in the 3rd minute when a header from a corner went over the bar but went one better in the 5th minute when the referee awarded a penalty for what looked like a shove in the back.

Jamie Waters stepped up and hit the ball to the left side of the goal while the keeper dived the other way.

Fawley had their first decent attempt on goal in the 10th minute when a goal bound shot was tipped wide by Kauppinen in the Laverstock goal. Laverstock were unlucky not to extend the lead in the 12th minute following a good run down the left wing. The ball was crossed into the area and the header was hit back towards the left as the keeper moved the other way, only to fall wide of the post.

Laverstock were dominating the play and it took a goal mouth clearance by a Fawley defender in the 21st minute to stop them scoring again. Fawley weren't creating much up front and when they won a freekick in a decent position the chance was wasted as the ball was smashed into the Laverstock wall and cleared.

For all of Laverstock's dominance, they were also guilty of wasting chances. Two corners in quick succession found an unmarked Laverstock head but on both occasions the ball flew over the crossbar. Fawley should have made the most of this just before half-time when another freekick was walloped into the wall and deflected wide for a corner. When the ball came in the keeper misjudged the flight but it was too high for a Fawley player to reach it.

Fawley made a much better start to the second half. In the 49th minute they were very unlucky not to equalise with a point blank sliding shot that was hit directly at the Laverstock keeper as he ran across the goal and bounced away.

Laverstock had another scare from a corner four minutes later. The ball was played into the area and looked like it had started a game of pinball as it bounced around from player to player but Fawley were unable to get it in position to hit a shot on goal.

Laverstock were conceding corners on a regular basis as Fawley pushed forward and the momentum of the game seemed to be with the visitors. The attacking play of the first half had broken down and the ball spent little time at the top end of the pitch. The only chance of note was a freekick in the 67th minute that the Fawley keeper did well to tip over the bar.

The Laverstock keeper had to be alert in the 68th minute to preserve the lead. One of the Fawley players received the ball on the edge of the area and ran in on goal. As the keeper prepared himself for the shot, one of his defenders managed to get back and hustle the attacker into playing an early shot that the keeper did well to tip away.

Fawley continued to press, missing a sitter in the 69th minute from a corner when the ball was headed down and then shot over the bar. Two minutes later and the post came to Laverstock's rescue while their defence waved their arms and appealed for an offside decision that wasn't given. They also had a penalty shout of their own for what appeared to be a handball in the area but the referee didn't agree with their appeals.

Laverstock seemed to have slipped back into the same pattern of play that had lead to their defeat against Bournemouth earlier in the season. Instead of playing the ball through midfield and passing their way up the pitch they chose to put 9 men behind the ball and resort to long ball clearances. Often these clearances didn't give the strikers any chance to collect the ball.

With time running out Laverstock finally put a decent move together. The ball was played down the left wing and passed back to a midfielder. As he cut into the box a Fawley defender brought him down so the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot.

Waters was given the responsibility and took a good penalty to give Laverstock a 2.0 win.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Game 14: Bridport 0.6 Clevedon Town (FA Cup) 28.08.10

For today's FA Cup match I decided to head down to the Dorset coast to watch the Western League's Bridport take on Southern League opponents Clevedon Town. I had factored in some time for bank holiday traffic but started to wonder if it was enough when I hit long traffic tailbacks around the site of the Dorset Steam Fair. Although the event doesn't start until next weekend, I hadn't realised that the vendors and exhibitors were allowed on site from today.

As I drove past by back up destination of Dorchester's ground, I decided to keep on going and hope for the best. Despite the best efforts of tractors, horse boxes and caravans I managed to park up outside Bridport's ground at 2.55pm and made it in time to pick up the last programme as the teams were coming out onto the pitch.

Bridport have had an excellent start to the league season with four wins in four matches. Clevedon have recorded a draw and two defeats in their league but the two league gap between the teams became apparent early on.

It took two minutes for them to test the Bridport keeper with a long range shot that was well saved. After six minutes a similar shot beat the keeper, bounced off the right hand post and trickled along the goal line which allowed a defender to race back and clear the ball.

Clevedon were dominating possession and most of the play was at the far end. In the 10th minute the Bridport keeper had to be alert to get contact on another shot and his acrobatic dive did just enough to keep the ball out.

Bridport had a brief reprieve in the 14th minute when the referee awarded them a free kick in the Clevedon half. They decided to take a direct shot on goal but the ball was blasted wide of the post.

Clevedon were moving the ball around the pitch well and making space to get behind the Bridport defence. In the 23rd minute the Bridport keeper came out quickly and made a great one on one stop by getting in the way of the ball and then pushing it away from goal towards a team mate.

Bridport managed a rare attack in the 25th minute. A good passing move split the Clevedon defence and put the left back through on the far side of the penalty area. With the acute angle it looked like a cross would come over but the supporting players were disappointed to see a shot whistle well wide of the post and into the wall behind the goal.

The Bridport keeper ran out of luck in the 27th minute. A ball to the far side of the area found an unmarked Clevedon player. He looked to take a quick shot but he miscontrolled the ball. As it bounced down he took control of it and moved toward goal.

The keeper had no choice but to cover his near post but as he moved across the Clevedon player squared the ball to a team mate in the centre. As the keeper ran across towards the covering defenders on the goalline the ball was hit low into the gap and in.

In the 33rd minute the Bridport keeper was down quickly to save a point blank shot as his teammates appealed in vain for an offside flag. Clevedon scored a second goal two minutes later from another defensive mistake. A straight forward clearance was missed and as the ball bounced up it fell to a Clevedon striker to blast in from close range.

Clevedon wrapped up the half with another goal in the 43rd minute thanks to an error of judgement by the Bridport keeper. He missed a backpass which allowed a Clevedon player to take the ball round him and smash it into the net. Just on halftime Bridport had their best opportunity of the match. The ball was whipped in from the right and headed on target but straight at the Clevedon keeper.

The second half was a similar story as Clevedon dominated possession and chances. They realised that long balls into the channel were catching out the defence and used them to great effect. In the 64th minute the post came to Bridport's rescue when a shot from outside the box hit it and deflected towards the goalline. The Bridport keeper turned and quickly grabbed it before the whole of the ball crossed the line.

The long ball over the top worked again in the 67th minute to give Clevedon a 4.0 lead. This time the shot was well struck and beat the keeper's dive to land in the net. A similar shot just after that was only kept out by the Bridport keeper's fingertips.

Clevedon were awarded a penalty in the 74th minute after a high,late challenge from the Bridport captain sent one of their players tumbling. When he realised that the referee had given a penalty he booted the ball low and hard off the pitch and almost hit a group of children behind the goal. He was lucky that the referee only gave him a yellow card following this childish tantrum.

The responsibilty for the penalty fell to one of the Clevedon substitutes who had only been on the pitch for a few minutes. He put his shot low on target but the goalkeeper guessed the right way and saved the attempt.

A minute after his penalty miss, the Clevedon substitute must have been cursing the Bridport keeper as his goalbound header bounced off the turf and up into the keeper's outstretched fingers. The ball was tipped towards a group of Bridport players who cleared the ball away.

With ten minutes to go a Clevedon player somehow managed to miss the goal from close range. The ball was headed past the keeper to the left hand post where the Clevedon player just had to put it past the covering defender. The defender went low and put his body on the line only to see the ball go sailing over the crossbar as the striker got his angles wrong.

I began to wonder if Clevedon would add to their total but they were given an assist by another Bridport defensive howler. After a dribble down the right by Clevedon, a defender managed to get himself between the Clevedon player and the ball in front of goal. He brought the ball under control but in doing so it came closer to the goalmouth. The keeper came out to try and help out but left his legs open, allowing the Clevedon player to toepoke the ball from between the defender's legs and through the keeper's legs. Both Bridport players tried to stop the ball but only succeeded in bringing each other down as the ball rolled into the net.

The match was wrapped up in the 88th minute when Clevedon scored their sixth goal. Another of their subs took the ball round his man and put a shot over the keeper, off the post and in.