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.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Game 13: Salisbury City 3.2 Weymouth (Southern Premier) 24.08.10

The last time I saw this fixture was almost two years ago with both teams hoping for a good season in the Blue Square Premier - Salisbury coming away with a 1.0 victory. Since then both teams have suffered from financial problems which have lead to demotion and points deductions.

Both teams went into this game with unbeaten records for the season. Salisbury had two wins and a draw thanks to a late comeback at Cambridge City while Weymouth had drawn all three of their league fixtures.

Due to the requirements of the safety certificate, the "away" end at Salisbury will be closed for many of the games this season to cut down the stewarding costs. For this local derby this end was open for supporters so I decided to make the most of it and wander round to the far end after picking up a programme. This decision was helped by the weather as it was a pleasant dry evening. Salisbury normally attack this end in the first half but after the coin toss the teams changed ends so it was Weymouth who were heading my way.

Salisbury started well and almost caught Weymouth out in the 4th minute from a freekick. The ball was outside the area and well placed for a shot but instead of this the freekick was chipped to the left to a player who ran into the space and then belted across the area. No-one was able to get the final touch to knock the ball in. After another freekick was hit wide by Adelsbury, the next chance fell to Joyce who took the ball down the right side before cutting in and placing a shot past the keeper but wide of the left hand post.

Weymouth started to get into the game and Salisbury keeper Smith had to be quick to come out to push away an effort from Dubois in a one on one. Weymouth also had a decent penalty shout after 24 minutes when one of their players went down under a challenge in the area. Despite the shouts of the crowd around me, the referee decided that there was no foul and waved play on.

Weymouth took the lead in the 28th minute with a well worked goal. The ball was played low into the penalty area and found Byerley in space. He dummied as if to take a shot and then took the ball past the sliding tackle of a Salisbury defender who was trying to cover the shot. Smith had also committed himself by diving to his right to save the expected shot and was on the ground, allowing the Weymouth player space to pass the ball into the back of the net.

Despite Salisbury having most of the possession they seemed to lack a cutting edge and were made to pay for this in the 36th minute. Giles mistimed a sliding tackle on the edge of the area and took out a Weymouth player instead of the ball. From the freekick, the ball was curved towards the far post where Gerring was unmarked. He dived in and put a header past Smith's hand and off the near post before bouncing in.

The Weymouth supporters around me seemed a bit in shock at having a two goal lead and conversation turned to head scratching as they tried to remember the last time that this had happened. One optimist pronounced that Salisbury would go on to win 4.2 and was quickly jeered by his friends for this suggestion.

Salisbury came close to pulling a goal back in the 43rd minute with a looping header. The Weymouth keeper jumped up and just managed to tip the ball over the crossbar for a corner. Just before halftime the ball was scrambled around the Weymouth area. McLaggon and Clarke both managed to get shots away but one was deflected out and one went wide of the post.

Salisbury continued to put the pressure on the Weymouth goal at the start of the second half as they switched to a 4-3-3 formation. Kelly had a chance to score as he cut in from the left but his shot lacked power and a cross to Wright may have been a better option as his teammate suggested. McLaggon had taken a knock at the end of the first half and didn't last long into the second half, deciding to walk off the pitch before the substitution was ready to be made. Bradley Gray was quickly off the bench and into the action.

Salisbury had a lucky escape in the 53rd minute. A dreadful pass in the area went straight to a Weymouth player in space. He had time to put a shot in which Smith did well to get down to and tip out only to see it go to a Weymouth player to tap in. Luckily the flag was up on the far side for offside so the goal didn't count.

Weymouth had another chance to extend their lead in the 72nd minute when a header from a freekick ended up just over the bar. I couldn't see how Salisbury were going to get back into the game but a minute later Bradley Gray gave them a lifeline with a 25 yard shot that flew over the keeper's hand, bounced down off the underside of the crossbar and into the goal.

This lifted the Salisbury team and crowd who got behind their side as they searched for an equaliser. Joyce came close to scoring in the 85th minute as he took the ball past his marker but his shot only found the side netting.

Time was beginning to run out when Clarke looked to receive the ball in the area. As he ran onto the ball a Weymouth defender took out his trailing leg and brought him down for a penalty.

Bradley Gray took the responsibility for the kick and whacked the ball in from the spot for the equaliser with two minutes left to play.

Sometime momentum can carry a team forward in these situations and tonight was a good example of this. As the clock ticked into injury time, Salisbury mounted a final attack. Casey had a shot blocked but the ball fell kindly for Joyce to hit a low shot past the keeper before he could react.

Somehow the Whites had come from two goals down to win the game in the dying seconds!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Game 12: Street 2.3 Bristol Manor Farm (Western Premier) 21.08.10

Back in July I had earmarked this weekend for a trip on the train to Devon, taking in a match at Dawlish but that was on the assumption that it would be a bright, sunny day - ideal for wandering around the beach. When I woke up this morning I was greeted by grey clouds and rain so it was onto plan B and a drive down to Somerset to visit Street.

The A303 was fairly busy and by the time I was heading through Wincanton there had been several bands of heavy rain which didn't fill me with confidence for a dry afternoon watching football. As I drove down towards Street there was a glorious view of Glastonbury Abbey lit up in a burst of sunbeams in a break in the clouds. I parked the car up close to the ground next to a second pitch and wandered through the full carpark to the entrance.

The welcome was very friendly and the match programme was included in the £5 admission fee which was a nice touch. The entrance to the ground led me straight into the first covered area but after a quick stop to read the programme I decided to head round to the far side to watch the game. This was on the basis that there was a seated stand on that side for shelter should the heavens open again.

Before the match one of the home officials had been asking the players out on the subs bench for a couple of shirts in the normal substitute range which I thought was unusual. As the teams came out for the obligatory handshakes I noticed that Street hadn't got the normal 1-11 shirts on. One player was wearing number 19 while another had number 22 on.

Street have had the better start to the season and came close to taking the lead after only 2 minutes, only to see the final shot head over the bar. Bristol Manor Farm were under a lot of pressure early on but won a free kick after nine minutes which allowed them to bring the big men from the back up to the Street penalty area. The ball was worked into the 6 yard box but the header didn't find the target and went wide of the post.

Bristol Manor Farm were making the most of their set plays and came close to taking the lead after 13 minutes from a corner. The ball was hit high towards the area and the defender on the edge of the six yard box jumped but couldn't make contact with it. The first Bristol player behind him also missed the ball but his team mate in the centre was able to head it down but narrowly wide of the post.

The first goal of the match came in the 20th minute from the penalty spot after a Street defender brought down a visiting player with a late tackle. The keeper guessed the wrong way and dived to his left as the ball went low to the right side.

The defender's afternoon got worse 5 minutes later. On the halfway line he tried to play a pass from the centre to the left wing but hadn't spotted a Bristol forward lurking on that side. The Bristol player intercepted the pass and ran unchallenged into the Street penalty area.

As two defenders tried to catch him, he waited until the keeper committed himself and slotted the ball low past the keeper. The keeper managed to get a slight touch on the ball but it was not enough to deflect it wide and the ball ended up in the back of the net.

Street managed to pull a goal back three minutes later from a freekick. The ball was hit high into the area and a player jumped up to head the ball backwards. It was enough to divert the ball over the keeper's head and into the goal via the far post.

The game was now really open and both teams were pressing forward as soon as they won the ball. Street's number 8 ran unchallenged to the edge of the area but mishit his shot well wide. Five minutes before half time they were unlucky not to equalise from a similar run and shot that cannoned back off the right post. Straight from the goal kick Bristol Manor Farm had a good chance with a breakaway run and a shot on the turn that flew across the area and wide.

The second half followed the same pattern of attacking play, both teams seeing long range efforts fly over the bar in the first five minutes. The Bristol keeper almost got caught out in the 55th minute when a back pass bounced higher than expected and almost took the ball over his head. He backpedalled quickly and grabbed the ball on the downward trajectory before it passed over the line.

Bristol had two clear cut chances to score in the 66th and 68th minutes. The first breakaway was halted by the referee's whistle for an earlier foul on a Bristol player which didn't go down well as the visitors would have preferred the advantage to be played. One of the players was booked for making his views known to the referee. The second came from a long throw but a defender got back in time to block the effort on goal.

With five minutes to go Bristol Manor Farm scored a third. A corner was cleared but only to a Bristol player on the right wing. He took the defence on before passing it to an onside team mate on the opposite side of the goal to tap the ball into the net.

Despite the two goal deficit Street were not prepared to give up and won a penalty themselves with three minutes of normal time to go. The Bristol keeper went running to the edge of the area to try and beat a Street player to a long ball but ended up taking out his opponent who went flying. Despite the protests from the spectators behind the goal, the referee only deemed it worthy of a yellow card. The penalty was a carbon copy of the first Bristol goal with the keeper diving to the left as the ball went to the right.

In injury time Street almost nicked an equaliser from a corner. The ball was flicked on to the far post but the shot was blasted over the keeper's hands and just cleared the crossbar. An entertaining game from my neutral perspective and an enjoyable afternoon out.