Saturday, April 17, 2010

Game 54: Cranborne 2.4 Portland United (Dorset Prem) 17.04.10

I wasn't supposed to be at this game. At 2.30pm when I arrived at the Mick Loader Recreation Ground I should have been somewhere over the Atlantic but thanks to an Icelandic volcano our flight had been cancelled. Having scouted the fixtures I decided that I'd take a visit down the A354 to one of the nearest grounds that I hadn't visited before.

This was my first Dorset Premier League match although I had seen visitors Portland United in a competitive fixture at their home ground, a Wessex League game a few years ago against Winchester City.

The ground was a basic set up, 3 sides were railed off with the far goalmouth inaccessible with a field behind it. The teams wandered out to the pitch from the social club and the majority of the spectators followed. Some watched the game from the road behind the dugouts, perhaps to save themselves the £2 admission fee that was collected during the game.

The control and skill of the players was a lower standard than I'm used to watching, though perhaps to be expected as this is a Step 7 league. Portland dominated possession and it was rare that Cranborne got the ball out of their half. They managed to do so in the 18th minute with a rare long ball out of their half. One of their strikers flicked a header on to a team mate who ran through unopposed. His shot was parried out but the striker who headed the ball on had followed up and the ball fell kindly to him. He had an open goal to aim for and made no mistake to give the home team the lead.

Portland seemed a little stunned by this and continued to attack but their composure and final ball was lacking at times. When they did create chances, the ball was either blocked by a defender or it was hit wide or over the bar. It wasn't until the 35th minute that we got to see a clinical finish for the equaliser. One of the Portland players dribbled past his marker on the right edge of the area and put a low shot past the keeper.

Portland created several more chances but the Cranborne keeper made some good saves and when he was beaten, a team mate cleared the ball from the line. Just before halftime Portland looked to be about to take the lead. After some close passing in the area, a Portland player lined up a shot but incredibly hit it wide from 8 yards out when a straight shot would have beaten the keeper. Cranborne were defending very deep and weren't helping themselves by playing goalkicks short so the ball only came out to the backline who were barely out of the penalty area.

At halftime I wandered back to the car and took shelter from the sun while listening to the scores on the radio. I couldn't get a signal on my phone so it was good to be able to go back to old fashioned technology to get the updates.

The second half started in a similar fashion to the end of the first half. Portland were dominating play and it was no surprise when they finally took the lead in the 57th minute. The ball was played along the edge of the area and then chipped over the keeper and into the net. A minute later and they almost extended their lead with a shot that the Cranborne keeper did well to tip onto the crossbar.

Portland's third goal came in the 73rd minute. The ball was crossed into the far corner of the area, headed back into the centre which allowed a sub to flick the ball over the keeper and into the net with his first touch of the ball.

It looked to be game over but Cranborne had other ideas and got themselves back into the game in the 78th minute. One of the players received the ball on the left wing, ran down the left before cutting in towards the centre and hitting a superb shot across the keeper and into the right side of the net. This gave the home team some confidence and they broke away again in the 83rd minute. The player only had the keeper to beat but saw his shot sail past the keeper and then just past the right hand post.

Portland had a close escape so made sure of the 3 points a couple of minutes later. Following a good series of pass, run and move plays, the ball was passed across the area and lashed into the top corner. Cranborne were instantly deflated and their comeback was over. Both teams played out the remainder of the game without creating a clear cut chance and Portland earnt a deserved win.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Game 53: Salisbury City 3.1 Hayes & Yeading (Blue Sq Prem) 13.04.10

Headed up to the Ray Mac to watch a couple of lower midtable teams who needed a win from this evening's game to ensure that they would be safe from relegation. It was a perfect evening for football, sunny with no wind and it felt more like a preseason friendly as a result.

Salisbury dominated the possession and goal attempts in the first half but weren't able to get onto the scoresheet. After an early scare when Bittner had to react quickly to get onto a strongly hit backpass, they created 3 chances in the next ten minutes. After 4 minutes Gray put in a cross that just eluded Tubbs and two minutes Tubbs turned a low show just over the bar. In the 9th minute a great crossfield switch ball found Bull in plenty of space on the left wing. He ran into the box and put a good pass into Tubbs but the striker was crowded off the ball and hit a shot that lacked power at the keeper.

In the 23rd minute it was Tubbs who turned provider as he put in a great cross from the right that Shephard won in the centre and knocked back to the near post only to see Gray head the ball wide when it looked easier to score. Hayes looked comfortable on the ball but their approach play let them down. Gray had a half chance in the 32nd minute when he headed the ball over the keeper but saw the ball cleared off the line. In the last minute of the half both Tubbs and Shephard had the ball in the area but couldn't get a shot away before Hayes cleared the ball. By the time the referee blew the whistle, Hayes hadn't had a shot on or off target.

This changed at the start of the second half as Hayes put a bit more pressure on the Salisbury defence. A great cross field pass was thumped into the box and Bittner split the ball under pressure before grabbing the ball on the ground. In the 58th minute Tubbs put Gray in but he couldn't outmuscle the covering defender and the ball went out for a goalkick. That was his last contribution to the game as Reid was brought on to partner Tubbs for the last half hour. He was a spectator as the referee got in the way of a Salisbury clearance and Hayes won the ball on the edge of the box and had their first shot on target, albeit covered by Bittner all the way.

Bittner was at the centre of attention a few minutes later when Hayes won a couple of corners. He dealt with the first one well, tipping the pacey cross over the bar but the second one caused some problems. The ball was played up high into the area and when it fell towards the ground he flapped at it and was almost caught out.

Salisbury continued to create chances. Turley put a header just over the bar and Tubbs had a good shot from a freekick well saved. It looked like they were lacking a bit of creativity in midfield so in the 66th minute Flood replaced Bull. The impact was sensational - with his first touch of the ball he dribbled through the middle of the pitch and put a cross towards a gaggle of players heading to the far post. Adelsbury beat the covering defenders to the ball and headed it over to the near post where Tubbs forced the ball into a tiny gap between the keeper and the post to give Salisbury the lead.

Tubbs almost added a second from a dreadful error by the Hayes defence a minute later. The goalkeeper took a short goalkick to a defender on the edge of the area who wasn't expecting the ball. It rolled past him and to Tubbs who saw the keeper out of position and hit a first time pass that rolled agonisingly wide of the post. A real poacher's effort that deserved a goal. Salisbury were almost undone by a keeper error themselves in the 77th minute. Bittner came out of goal to try and clear the ball and decided to dribble up the wing. He lost the ball and was lucky that the shot towards an unguarded net was intercepted by a defender first.

A minute later and Flood played a great throughball for Reid to run onto. He cleverly dummied the keeper and took the ball round him. It looked like he had taken the ball too wide but he managed to get a shot in at an acute angle which ended up in the net thanks to a deflection of a defender. Eight minutes later and it was 3.0 when Shephard received the ball in the penalty area. It looked like he had been crowded out by the defence but managed to turn and hit a shot that deflected off a defender and past the outstretched glove of the Hayes keeper.

Hayes pulled back an equaliser in injury time following a goalmouth scramble that the defence couldn't clear in time to stop the ball going over the line. The goal was given by the assistant who was well placed to see the flight of the ball. It wasn't enough to change the game but gave the 20 away supporters in a crowd of 755 something to cheer about. Forest Green had beaten Crawley so Hayes were not clear of relegation but the win means that Salisbury have survived a ten point deduction to stay in this league for next season.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Game 52: Downton 4.1 Hamble ASSC (Wess 1) 06.04.10

I decided to head to Downton for my first evening match since the clocks went forward for British Summer Time to see if the home team could stop Hamble from retaking top spot in Wessex League 1. Since my last visit two temporary floodlights on scaffolding have been installed, one above the main stand and one above the dugouts. The lights weren’t in operation this evening but from memory it was a requirement if Downton are to remain in the Wessex League next season.

The talk on the touchline before the game was that Downton had some injury problems and they were going to be playing a different goalkeeper to normal. He had a quick introduction to the game as Hamble took a quick freekick in the second minute, only to see an unmarked player head just over the bar. There were some familiar faces in the Downton line up and one of them, Matt Holmes, had their first shot on goal in the 11th minute.

Downton took the lead in the 17th minute against the run of play through another familiar face. Declan McGregor was able to outpace the defence, head the ball past the keeper and then hit a shot into the net from a narrow angle. Hamble continued to press and dominated possession. They had an appeal for a penalty in the 26th minute that the referee disagreed with and awarded a freekick to Downton. Three Hamble players surrounded him to argue their case but were unsuccessful. This frustration continued and the referee had to speak to another of their team a few minutes later for hitting the ball away when Downton won a freekick.

Hamble had two good chances to equalise in the 36th minute. The first opportunity came from a low cross from the right but the player shot wide under pressure. The resulting goal kick was short and quickly won back by Hamble but the shot at the end of the run flew over the bar from the edge of the area. Three minutes later and a rising volley from outside the Downton area looked to be on target before the new keeper made a great diving save to push it out for a corner. Downton should have added to their lead just before half time. The ball was cleared long into the Hamble half and allowed Declan McGregor to outpace the defence again. He took the ball round the keeper on the left side of the area and then crossed to ‘Crouchy’ in the centre but his delayed shot lacked pace and allowed the defence to clear their lines.

At halftime all the talk amongst the smell of a local bonfire was of Messi and his Champions League goals for Barcelona against Arsenal. Little did we know what was to come. In the 50th minute, Hamble played a strong back pass to their keeper and he had to run towards the touchline to try and prevent a corner. While he successfully cleared the ball, he hadn’t spotted McGregor move towards the right touchline where the ball ended up at his feet. Before the keeper could get back into position, McGregor controlled the ball and hit a shot into the back of the net to put his team 2.0 up.

Hamble continued to pressure Downton’s goal and saw a good chance go begging in the 52nd minute when the ball was played into the box but no-one could get a touch to divert it into the net. Two minutes later and the Downton keeper made another great save before blotting his copybook slightly when he dropped the ball from a corner. Luckily for him the ball was played to the edge of the area before being blasted wide.

Downton had another break away in the 59th minute. A high long ball into the box found McGregor and he ducked to put the keeper off his catch before running on to tap the ball into the net for a hat trick. Two minutes later and it was 4.0 with the best goal of the night. McGregor went up for a header with two defenders. He did enough to win the ball, dribble it round the defence and then dash into the centre of the penalty area. As the keeper came out he calmly shot the ball to the keeper’s left and into the net. "Who needs Messi with Dec around" commented one of the locals.

Hamble weren’t able to recover from this, despite Downton giving them an opportunity when one of their subs was sent off for a very late tackle in the 70th minute. They did manage a consolation goal in the 85th minute when they switched the ball to the right flank to an unmarked player who chipped the ball over the onrushing keeper before sliding the ball in.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Game 51: Bradford Town 3.1 Almondsbury UWE (Western 1) 05.04.10

With the season starting to draw to an end, I decided to take the train up to Bradford-on-Avon for a Bank Holiday 3pm kick off as there were no new grounds within distance where I could double up an earlier kick off. After walking past a pub advertising “Bad Beer, No Food, No Atmosphere” I found the ground and paid £4 for admission and a programme. I then found a message from Paul to let me know he was in the area and would be joining me for the match.

There was a strong wind blowing across the ground so we decided to wander over to the far touchline so the wind and sun wouldn’t be in our faces. Bradford had the first opportunity in the 6th minute but it looked like the player had wasted the chance as the ball flew harmlessly over the crossbar. The referee decided otherwise and gave a penalty kick for what he saw as a foul as the shot was taken. The penalty was hit hard down the middle while the keeper dived to the right to put Bradford a goal up.

After the penalty, neither team offered much in terms of attacking opportunities and the wind wasn’t helping with high balls behaving erratically. Almondsbury were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty in the 21st minute when one of their players was brought down in the area. On this occasion the assistant had already raised his flag for offside.

Bradford were generally dominating play and were unlucky not to go two up in the 28th minute. A blue shirted player won the ball in midfield, played a ball through the middle of the defence for a team mate to dribble in, make a dummy and then place a shot just wide of the post. The second goal eventually came in the 35th minute. Bradford won the ball on the right wing and from a great cross an unmarked player in the centre slotted the ball low under the keeper and in. The defender who should have been covering him had slipped over as both players ran into the area.

Both teams weren’t afraid to give the referee plenty of verbals for every decision and one of the Almondsbury players was eventually booked for his continually whining about every decision that didn’t go his teams way. Bradford saw another good breakaway go to waste in the 42nd minute when a player broke down the left, dribbled across the edge of the penalty area only to slice his shot well wide. Almondsbury were similarly wasteful with a great freekick position just outside the area wasted in injury time when the ball was just driven into the wall.

Words must have been said at halftime as the first few minutes of the half saw all the play and pressure coming from the visitors. Bradford dealt well with the pressure and managed a breakaway attack in the 54th minute. The keeper saved the initial shot from outside the area but was only able to push the ball to his right. It looked like the three covering defenders would easily clear the ball but they were indecisive and allowed a Bradford player to slide in and force the clearance into the net.

The game was as good as over once that goal had gone in but both teams still pushed for another goal. Almondsbury had a shot cleared off the line before their keeper tipped a Bradford freekick over the crossbar. Almondsbury put a good cross into the box in the 78th minute only to see it whizz by all three players in the box to go out for a throw in.

In the 90th minute, Almondsbury took the ball into the penalty area and the assistant spotted an infringement, which led to the referee awarding another penalty at the far end. Almondsbury made no mistake from the spot, sending the keeper the wrong way for a consolation goal.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Game 50: Salisbury City 3.1 Ebbsfleet United (Blue Sq Prem) 02.04.10

A typical Bank Holiday Friday saw my chosen ‘double’ of Chard Town and Bridport Town rained off during the morning. Luckily Salisbury had moved their relegation clash against Ebbsfleet to Friday and the weather held off prior to the game.

Salisbury started the game well and took the lead in the 7th minute. A good cross from new loanee Chris Shepherd was flicked across goal by Matt Tubbs for Aaron Martin to smash the ball into the roof of the net at the back post. Ebbsfleet’s first real chance came from a well worked corner. The ball was worked to the back post where Bittner had to be quick to save both a shot and a follow up. Shakes also came close to an equaliser in the 21st minute with a shot over the bar when a corner was cleared.

Ebbsfleet should have equalised in the 22nd minute when Viera was played into space and only had Bittner to beat. He brought the ball towards the goal from the right side but his low shot was well saved by the Salisbury custodian.

Matt Tubbs was looking sharp up front and almost increased the lead in the 25th minute when his header came back off the left post, skipped along the goal-line and was cleared. Ebbsfleet were putting a lot of pressure onto Salisbury with their front players linking well. Shakes was played in with a great throughball in the 30th minute but blasted his shot over the stand.

With five minutes to go to halftime it started to rain and it got heavier before starting to hail. The terraces quickly emptied as everyone moved round to the stands to take cover but there was no respite for the players other than James Bittner. When the ball ended up near the corner flag, he ran to the back of the pitch before running down the line as his shaved head could get some cover. I was a bit worried with Ebbsfleet getting an advantage with a corner but the hail affected their play as much as Salisbury as Charles curled his shot over the bar.

Ebbsfleet had been in control of the game in the latter part of the first half and got a deserved equaliser less than a minute after the restart. A great through ball from the midfield found Viera in space and he outpaced the defence and slipped a shot low past Bittner and into the net.

The goal gave Ebbsfleet confidence to attack and a minute later they created a great chance to take the lead. The ball was played down the right side and an Ebbsfleet player took it past two defenders and put in an inviting low cross that was tantalisingly just too far out of reach for the player in the box to convert. The ever dangerous Ashikodi went on a run and put a shot just over the bar. I couldn’t work out why they were in the relegation zone from the way that they were playing.

Salisbury were struggling but Matt Tubbs then created two good chances. In the 54th minute he hit a rising shot over the bar and two minutes later came even closer to scoring. Tubbs received the ball in the centre and took the ball round Cronin in the Ebbsfleet goal, only to stumble slightly which allowed an Ebbsfleet defender to get to the line before his shot. The shot was on target but the defender was able to flick the ball over the bar.

Salisbury retook the lead ten minutes later from a corner. The ball was curled to the penalty spot by Clohessy and Giles rose a good foot above his marker to place a firm header into the top left corner of the goal. Both Flood and Tubbs had good shots well saved by Cronin but the best was yet to come for the Whites.

In the 72nd minute Ben Adlesbury received the ball outside the area. He chested the pass down, swivelled and hit a first time volley towards goal. The ball flew towards goal, hit the right post before bouncing along the goalmouth and in. No keeper in the world could have got close to saving the shot, one of the best goals I’ve seen at the Ray Mac.

Ebbsfleet had lost all confidence now and the game was all Salisbury. Flood put a shot over the bar before setting up another opportunity for Matt Tubbs in injury time. He hit a shot past the keeper but it rolled agonisingly past the post and wide.