Saturday, January 30, 2010

Game 39: Salisbury City 2.0 Maidstone United (FA Trophy) 30.01.10

Another cold day and plenty of ice around the country, so with a lot of games off I decided to play safe and head up to the Ray Mac to watch Salisbury take on Maidstone United. The Kent team lost in the previous round to Histon after several postponements but were reinstated when it was identified that the Histon team included an ineligible player.

Having watched Salisbury beat Canvey Island in the Trophy a few years ago, I knew that the difference in leagues would make no difference in a cup game like this one. However Maidstone were left facing an uphill battle after conceding in the first minute. Matt Tubbs took the ball down the right wing and it seemed like every yellow shirt was chasing the ball like a primary school match. Tubbs played a cross to the centre of the penalty area where Bradley Gray had been left completely unmarked. He had time to take the ball down, take aim and fire a shot into the top of the net.

Salisbury continued to press throughout the first quarter with Tubbs firing a freekick over the bar and several corners putting Maidstone under pressure. They rarely took the ball out of their half and when they managed to get this far the move would break down as Salisbury were quickly back to cover.

The main turning point in the match came after 25 minutes. Tubbs received the ball on the halfway line with his back to the Maidstone goal. Before he had time to turn, a two footed tackle brought him down from behind. He got up and reacted badly to the challenge, perhaps unsurprising given the potential for injury. He got into a scuffle with the player who had tackled him and players from both sides rushed in to support their team mate. I was convinced that Tubbs would be sent off for his reaction but once the referee and assistant restored calm he was only shown a yellow card. Maidstone were reduced to ten as the original tackle was punished.

This seemed to focus their play and they created a couple of chances before the end of the half. One effort from a freekick appeared to be heading into the net before a Maidstone player decided to flick it on and ended up deflecting the ball over the bar.

Salisbury extended their lead on 51 minutes. Clarke took the ball into the penalty area and hit a shot from the left of the box. The keeper got down well to save the ball but couldn't hang onto the ball and it span to his right. Tubbs got to the ball before a defender and tapped it in from a yard out.

In the 65th minute Tubbs should have added a third goal after he took the ball round the keeper. Instead of hitting the ball straight away into the unguarded net he paused to try and play it safe which allowed the defence to get back and clear the ball. In the 74th minute Tubbs went through on the right side, passed the ball to the middle and from there it was passed to Gray on the left side. He took aim but hit his shot directly at the goalkeeper.

Salisbury were using both wings and playing the ball from side to side to stretch the Maidstone defence and tire them out. Flood came on as a substitute and had two good chances to score. In the 83rd minute he put a shot over the bar and in the 86th minute he placed a header just wide. Maidstone had a late chance with a shot just over the bar that Bittner had covered. A straightforward win for the Whites.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Game 38: Shrewton United 0.3 Calne Town (Wilts Senior Cup) 26.01.10

As Andy and I drove out towards Salisbury Plain we watched the temperature gauge on Andy's dashboard move into the negative. We decided to pop into the pub round the corner from the ground and had a few thoughts of staying next to the roaring open fire there before venturing out to the ground.

When we arrived, the pitch had a white sheen to it but the game was going ahead so we sheltered in the car until we saw the teams come out. Shrewton had the first chance of the match in the 8th minute when a free kick was played into the penalty area. The ball ran loose and a Shrewton player took it round the keeper only to blast it wide from an acute angle. Calne took the lead in the 19th minute from a corner which was headed past the Shrewton keeper.

Calne were dominating the midfield and Shrewton attacks kept on breaking down due to poor passing. When Calne made mistakes and allowed Shrewton to get past their midfield, the home team were unable to take advantage. The bulk of these chances were coming down the right wing but the crosses rarely found a Shrewton player.

In the 43rd minute Calne scored a second goal after being awarded a freekick on the touchline close to the penalty area. They intially tried to take a short kick early but the referee blew for a retake as they hadn't waited for his whistle. On the second attempt the ball was whipped in with pace to the back of the area.A Calne player running in towards the far post headed it back across goal for a teammate in the middle to pass the ball in to the net.

We headed back to the car to warm up but were only there for ten minutes as the referee brought the teams out early. In the 55th minute Shrewton were reduced to ten men when their captain was sent off. The ball had gone out just in front of us and Shrewton were correctly awarded a throw in. The Calne player the ball had gone off wasn't happy with the tackle that had lead to the throw in and squared up to the Shrewton player. His aggressive stance was backed up with some industrial language and it looked more like we were outside a pub at closing time rather than at a football match. The Shrewton captain tried to push the Calne player back and this was interpreted by the referee as violent conduct. To be fair he wouldn't have heard or seen the cause of the raised hands and decided to issue a yellow to the Calne player, followed to our surprise by a red for the Shrewton player. We were expecting both players to get the same punishment.

Calne made the most of their man advantage and had a shot just wide from the left in the 65th minute. In the 76th minute they scored again following a cross from the right. A Calne player almost tipped himself into a somersault while stretching to head the ball down to a team mate who had an easy tap in from close range. Both teams were finding it difficult to control the ball and many first touches were poor. The game became quite scrappy towards the end and despite late chances at both ends, the match finished as a 3.0 win for the visitors.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Game 37: Bemerton Heath Harlequins 4.2 Laverstock & Ford (Wessex League Cup) 25.01.10

Headed over to Bemerton with Andy to watch this quarter final local derby against Laverstock. As with the league game in December, Laverstock started well and dominated the early exchanges. It was no surprise when they took the lead after 19 minutes with a goal that may have been influenced by television. On Saturday, Aldershot had scored their winner against Bournemouth with a backheel in the penalty area and this trick was repeated by a Laverstock player.

Bemerton managed to win a few corners but didn't make the most of the few opportunities with shots sliced wide or over the top of the bar. Laverstock seemed to be in control heading to half time but in the 40th minute Bemerton managed to put a good move together. The ball was played quickly from the back to the right of the Laverstock penalty area where an unmarked player ran into the area and had time to place a low shot past the keeper and in for the equaliser.

Laverstock were very unlucky not to be awarded a penalty just before halftime. They managed to beat the Bemerton offside trap and as the Bemerton keeper slid towards the ball on the edge of the penalty area it looked as if he took the Laverstock players legs rather than the ball. The referee waived play on and Laverstock managed to pick up the ball which had spun out to the right side of the pitch. In the time that it took to get the ball Bemerton had managed to get several defenders into the goalmouth to cover for the keeper and Laverstock weren't able to get a shot away before the keeper recovered.

The second half started with another goal for the visitors but we only had to wait 13 seconds from kick off for it. Laverstock kicked off, took the ball through the middle and hit a great low shot into the bottom left of the goal. The lead didn't last long as Bemerton equalised for the second time on 50 minutes. The ball was crossed in from the right and a player in space in the six yard box slammed a shot into the roof of the net.

In the 60th minute Laverstock were reduced to ten men after they were awarded a freekick in their half. Their player tried to take an early kick and the referee brought play back. This infuriated the Laverstock player who refused to show his number to the referee when asked and continued to argue with the referee who eventually brought out a red card to everyone's surprise. The player eventually left the field and a minute or so later there was the sound of an almighty crash by the changing rooms. It appeared that the doors were locked so the player decided to try and kick them in.

Bemerton started to dominate with the extra man and had two good chances to score that the Laverstock keeper made good saves from. In the 75th minute it was Laverstock's turn to curse the opposition keeper as they used a backheel to set up a shot from close range that somehow Bemerton's keeper managed to block.

In the 80th minute Bemerton took the lead from a deep cross to the far post which was headed back into the centre and converted with a sliding shot. Two minutes later and it looked like game over when Bemerton took a 4.2 lead from a corner that was emphatically headed past the keeper. Laverstock kept on pushing for a goal and in injury time were unlucky to see an effort hit the bar with the keeper beaten.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Game 36: Bristol Manor Farm 1.3 Whitehawk (FA Vase) 23.01.10

After almost a month without any football due to the snow and ice, I was keen to get out of the house and to a match today. Originally I had planned to go to a Vase game at Brimsdown Rovers but that had been switched to a Sunday and my first choice back up at Royston was affected by rail engineering works. After spotting this I decided to head up on the train to Bristol and take the line out to Sea Mills which looked to be the closest station to the ground.

I didn't appreciate how close the ground was until I got to the end of the platform and saw the floodlights and pitch on the other side of a small river. The trainline actually runs directly past the pitch so it was a straightforward walk to the ground. I had allowed plenty of time in case the game was called off so I spent some time in the bar watching Preston v Chelsea before venturing out to the ground.

Whitehawk started well and had three early chances to take the lead - one offside, one shot wide and a freekick over the bar. The proximity of the trainline didn't bother the Bristol players when clearing the ball over the fence behind me and I noticed that there was a gateway so an official could venture onto the single track to collect balls during the match. There was a distinct slope on half the pitch and a Bristol shot that looked to be on target after 10 minutes ended up 3 feet over the bar by the time it reached the far goalline.

Bristol took the the lead in the 14th minute. The ball was chipped into the penalty area from a throw in and fell kindly for a home player to smash the ball in at close range past the keeper. In the 24th minute Whitehawk almost equalised but the Bristol keeper tipped the ball round the post. A minute later and it was almost 2.0 to the home side when the ball was headed on target from close range. The Whitehawk keeper stretched hi limbs as far as he could in every direction and covered enough of the goal to push the shot away.

Whitehawk won a corner in the 38th minute when a good cross into the box didn't find a visiting player but worried the defender enough for him to clear the ball straight away for the corner. This opportunity wasn't wasted as when this cross came in Whitehawk muscled their way past the defensive cover to score from a header into the centre of the goal.

There had been a few comments and gestures between the benches earlier in the game which boiled over in the 43rd minute. The referee didn't spot a Bristol player down with a head injury and didn't stop play so the teams carried on, despite shouts from the home bench for the visitors to put the ball out of play. The fourth official had to act as a peacemaker while the physio was on the pitch but I thought the referee helped as he made it clear to both benches that it was his mistake for not seeing the player and allowing play to continue.

At halftime it looked like the game could go either way. Whitehawk had played well but seemed to want to overcomplicate passes rather than shooting in the final third. Bristol looked confident on the break and I was hoping that both teams would continue as they had left off.

Whitehawk had the first chance of the half with a great dipping shot from their number 9 that the Bristol keeper did well to push over the bar. A minute later and Bristol came close to scoring - another great cross came into the box and fell to the back post when the Whitehawk player spilt the cross but no Bristol players were close enough to prod the ball home.

In the 65th minute it was Whitehawk's players who had their heads in their hands as they should have taken the lead. The ball was cleverly worked forward and across the line of defenders only for the final shot to go well over the bar at the near post. Bristol almost gave their visitors a goal ten minutes later when a long throw from the right was flicked backwards towards his own net by a defender. Luckily for him his keeper was alert and managed to grab the ball before it went past him.

In the 80th minute Bristol were denied a good penalty shout when one of their players dribbled the ball along the goalline and into the penalty area. It looked like he had been fouled by one of the chasing defenders when he collapsed to the ground but the referee waived play on. This was a crucial decision as Whitehawk quickly counterattacked. The ball was played into the area past the keeper which allowed the visitors to score with a tap in less than 60 seconds after the penalty appeal.

In the 85th minute Bristol were denied another clear penalty shout when one of their players was held back in the box by a blatent shirt pull. The referee managed to miss this and gave a freekick the other way for the subsequent retaliatory shirt grab as the Bristol player tried to get free of his marker.

In the 88th minute Bristol were caught out by another breakaway attack. Whitehawk's number 9 beat his covering defender, took aim and hit a great shot on target. The Bristol keeper managed to parry the shot but the pace took the ball away from him, allowing a Whitehawk player to control the ball, skip past him and pass the ball into the net to give the visitors a 3.1 lead.

An exciting cuptie and a great game to start off the new year.