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.