Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Game 31: Fareham Town 1.1 Hamble ASSC (Abandoned h/t) (WESS PREM) 27.12.10

I hadn't planned to go to a game today and looking at the forecast it seemed unlikely that any would survive the weather. Paul then called to offer a lift to Fareham as he had called the club and received a positive response that their game against Hamble would be on. Sounded like a plan so we were soon heading down the motorway to Fareham via the back streets of Salisbury to avoid some big traffic queues. After a quick stop for petrol and a minor detour around the backstreets we arrived in plenty of time for the 3pm kickoff.
I haven't been to Cams Alders for a few years now but the ground didn't appear to have changed since my last visit for a Gosport derby back in the 2003-4 season. There is a big stand from the Southern League days which is some distance from the pitch. Next to it a food stand was doing good business as people arrived.
The start of the first half was a fairly bad tempered affair. This was started by a very late tackle by the Hamble captain in the 10th minute which deserved a red card and he was lucky only to be shown a yellow by the referee. The same player blasted the ball at a Hamble player behind the referee's back after conceding a corner that would have lead to a red card if the unsporting gesture had been spotted by an official.
Fareham's supporters were aggrieved by this injustice but were cheered up from this corner as their team took the lead. The ball was played into the area and a centreback rose up to loop a header over the defence and keeper and into the net. Fareham almost added a second goal moments later when one of their players went through on goal and it took a last ditch sliding tackle to steer the ball out of danger.
Hamble started to play football and worked their way back into the game with a well taken equaliser, again from a header following a corner. They almost took the lead in the last minute of the half when the ball was steered past the keeper from the edge of the area but the ball didn't have enough pace to make it over the line before a defender could get back to clear it.
A couple of floodlights on the far side had come on during the first half and I hadn't paid too much attention to the others, assuming that someone would wander round and turn them on for the second half. However it turned out that they were on the same circuit and all the lights should have been on earlier.
One of the substitutes was talking to a friend in the crowd and suggested that the game may have to be called off as the referee had asked for all the lights to be on before he could start the half. Given the deepening gloom around the ground this was the only practical option but there didn't appear to be anyone actually working to try and fix the problem.
The referee came onto the pitch with the managers and confirmed he was happy to wait until 4.15 to see if it could be fixed. The lights were turned on and off several times but to no avail and as the spectators stood around, the decision was made to call the game off. I watched one customer walk up to the pay booth to demand a refund only to be given short shrift. There seemed little point in requesting the same so we made our way out of the ground and back to the car feeling disappointed with the whole situation.
From doing some research after the game it appears that Fareham have had problems with their lights failing earlier this season. Most clubs would issue a voucher for reduced / free admission to the replay if a game is called off before the second half starts. In the absence of this basic courtesy I couldn't recommend a visit to this ground unless you could be sure that floodlights would not required at any point!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Game 30: Poole Town 3.2 Wantage Town (FA Vase) 11.12.10

After last week's FA Vase ties were wiped out by the weather, I was hoping to find one of the Southern ties on today. Working my way around blogs, forums and league websites my options were gradually whittled down to two matches at Poole or Lancing. My preference was to head to Lancing as a new ground but by the time I went to get the train there was no news on their fixture so I decided to head to Poole Town for a revisit as their forum had confirmed the match was on. I sat at Southampton waiting for my connecting train and saw the Lancing train leave - moments later their Twitter feed confirmed that match was on too - just too late for a change of plan.

Despite this I was looking forward to seeing the match at Poole as both teams have been in good form in their respective leagues. I arrived at the station and wandered round to the ground via the local Co-op for some lunch. There were some players chatting to supporters as I arrived and I received a friendly welcome from the admissions hut. After ascertaining that I was a neutral, they seemed surprised that someone would travel down from Wiltshire to see their match but hoped that my journey was worthwhile.

SInce my last visit to Poole for a pre-season match about five years ago, they have adapted the ground to add in a turnstile, some seating and a portable merchandise stall. There was also some plastic sheeting around the boards to stop people getting a free view of the match. Despite these changes, the ground has failed the ground grading requirements which has meant that Poole have missed out on promotion twice after winning the Wessex League. Their last attempt to get planning permission for a new ground failed so I wish them all the best with the current application at a new location.

There was quite a buzz of excitement around the ground as kick off approached. There was even a local film crew recording interviews with the locals ahead of the match. I decided to start watching the game from behind the goal and despite the Poole crowd decamping to the other end after the teams came out, I stood my ground.

At first I thought this was a mistake as the ball rarely came out of the Wantage half as Poole put the pressure on their visitors. Wantage managed one shot from a breakaway attack but it only seemed like a matter of time until Poole would score. It looked like they had done in the 10th minute from a high ball into the area that was headed in but the referee gave a foul for the challenge on the keeper.

In the 13th minute there was a goal but not to the home team. Wantage managed to break out of their area after clearing a Poole free kick. The home team had committed to many players forward and when the ball was passed across the area it found an unmarked Wantage player to chip the ball over the keeper and in.

Poole's response was almost instant. After winning a corner in the 15th minute they played the ball deep into the area. A Poole player rose up and headed the ball across the goal and between the defender on the post and the keeper. They then took a 2.1 lead in the 19th minute after winning a freekick outside the area. The shot was fired low and seemed to go under the jumping wall and then past the keeper's dive at the near post.

After this flurry of goals the game settled down. Poole had a header over the bar and Wantage did the same from a shot. A huge flock of starlings appeared near the ground and put on a spectacular show as the mass of birds gyrated around the sky.

Just before half time Wantage won a free kick on the edge of the area. I had moved to the touchline and from my angle it appeared that the Poole keeper had left himself too much to do to get across the goal if the Wantage player hit it towards the left post. The Wantage player must have picked up on this as well as he hit a superb shot into the top left corner of the net. A superb equaliser that left the home fans stunned again.

There was still enough injury time for both teams to have an opportunity to take a half time lead. Wantage had their keeper to thank for making a great save with his feet while one of his teammates went on a great run only to lose control of the ball in the final third when a quick pass could have set up a shot.

Both teams looked capable of scoring and Wantage almost picked up a third goal with a powerful shot in the 47th minute that had the Poole keeper at full stretch to tip round the post. They came even closer in the 53rd minute with a one on one break. The ball was taken around the keeper but the shot was pulled to the left of the post from the angle. Poole replied a minute later, working the ball cleverly across the area from a corner but hitting the shot over.

It certainly felt like the game could go either way and Poole decided to make some changes, adding experienced former Bournemouth man Marcus Browning to their line up. He looked composed on the ball and made some good passes to help his team keep possession. In the 74th minute this possession led to a goal. Poole's no 10 went through the defence and took a shot that the Wantage keeper was able to parry out but only as far as the Poole 9 who got to the ball ahead of the covering defence and it it in off the bottom of the crossbar.

Two minutes after this chance Wantage should have equalised. A great high ball was played into the area and found a Wantage player who had pulled away from his marker but he directed his point blank header straight at the Poole keeper. Poole were fortunate to keep 11 players on the pitch after a late sliding tackle in the 90th minute but it looked like they would hold on for the win.

Wantage were determined to take the game into extra time and brought on a sub for the last minutes of injury time. There was a cry of "Too late!" from a Poole supporter but the sub earned his team a corner and then put a shot narrowly over the bar. Poole played possession football and had a couple of shots to try and nick a goal to clinch the game. They were unsuccessful but managed to hold on to win a home tie against St Ives Town in the next round. An exciting cup game and one I really enjoyed watching.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Game 29: Salisbury City 4.2 Didcot Town (Southern Prem) 04.12.10

I hadn't expected to find a game on today due to snow in the week. However I hadn't considered the determination and efforts of the groundstaff and volunteers at Salisbury in clearing the snow from the pitch to get this game on. Salisbury have had a good start to the season and were unbeaten at home going into today's match.

I drove up to the Ray Mac and managed to squeeze the car in to some space on the tarmac near the entrance. I wandered in and took up position near one of the goals. I decided not to carry my normal camera to the game as it was still freezing cold outside and I didn't want to lose any fingers to frostbite! There were mounds of snow around the side of the pitch but the main surface was clear and looked perfect for a game of football.

Salisbury started the game with some urgency and Knight was unlucky not to score at the far end after 7 minutes when he scuffed a shot into the arms of the grateful Didcot keeper. In the 18th minute Giles put a header over the bar from a corner and the deadlock was finally broken in the 25th minute. McLaggon hit a good low shot that the keeper saved but spilt and Jake Reid was on hand to slide in and scramble the ball in.

This seemed to wake Didcot and they had a couple of chances with a shot way over the bar and another that fell just wide of the post. In the 35th minute a cross from the right deceived the Salisbury keeper and he missed the ball and it flew into the net. As the visitors started to celebrate I looked to my left and saw the assistant had his flagged raised. The referee went over to him and after a short, nervous wait for the home supporters he disallowed the goal and gave a freekick for offside. The Didcot players were furious and tried to go over to the assistant before being turned away by the referee.

Didcot's next chance was a little easier for the officials. A shot from their no 10 was so far off target that the official had to raise his flag - this time for a Salisbury throw in! Salisbury made the most of these let offs and were unlucky not to get a second when Knight had a shot that was cleared off the line. in the 41st minute McLaggon hit a low shot that the keeper pushed out but straight to the feet of Kelly who tapped the ball in for a 2.0 halftime lead.

Salisbury had some more luck in the 46th minute when Jake Reid put a cross into the middle and the ball came off a defender's attempted clearance and into the net. The game settled down after that and both teams played their part in an entertaining end to end encounter. Didcot continued to work hard and got their reward in the 64th minute when the ball was played into the area from the byline and then tapped into an unguarded net to make the score 3.1.

Salisbury had been a bit sloppy in conceding the ball for the goal but soon made amends. Pacey substitute Silver came on and from an early touch sped down the right side. He hit a low cross into the penalty area with pace to find Jake Reid running onto the ball. He hit it on the run past the keeper to restore the three goal lead.

The scoring wasn't over and perhaps the best finish of the game came after 82 minutes when ex Southampton player Dutton-Black received the ball on the right side of midfield, looked up and hit a great chipped shot to beat the Salisbury keeper. The weather had turned to heavy rain and Salisbury were lucky not to concede again near the end when Didcot missed a free header from a free kick. A good performance from both teams for the 608 who made the effort to turn up in these conditions.