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.