Saturday, January 29, 2011

Game 38: Merley Cobham Sports 0.4 Weymouth Reserves (Dorset Premier) 29.01.11

My original plan for today was to head up the A36 to another Western League game but a text message from Paul in the morning changed that plan as he offered a lift in his new car to a new ground. After some research we agreed on a visit to Merley Cobham Sports in the Dorset Premier League and their game against Weymouth Reserves.

We arrived at the ground in plenty of time for kickoff and waited in the car for the teams to come out as it was very cold outside. As I wandered down the touchline I noticed a miniature railway to the left of the roadway to the main building which made a change to the standard playgrounds.

Weymouth were wearing an orange kit which looked to be a left over from their first team’s time in the Conference South last season as it had a Blue Square badge on one arm. Merley Cobham were in a pale blue kit. There was no admission or programme on sale but we did make the recommended donation of £2 when a collection was taken during the first half.

The game kicked off on time at 2 o clock which was a bonus for me as the second half of games recently have been too dark to get decent photographs. Both teams had plenty of the ball in the first ten minutes. Merley thought they had scored in the seventh minute when the ball seemed to come off a Weymouth defender before hitting the net but the referee disallowed it as the assistant referee had his flag raised, presumably for an offside.

Weymouth were using the flanks well and the Merley keeper had to be alert on a couple of occasions to pick the ball out of the air from crosses. The first legal effort of the afternoon came after 16 minutes when Weymouth hit a rising shot over the bar from outside the area. This was quickly followed by the first goal of the afternoon after 19 minutes. Weymouth hit a long ball over the top of the defence for one of their players to run on to.

He took the ball into the area, jumping past a tackle from a defender and after dribbling the ball round the keeper slotted the ball into the net from a tight angle. An excellent finish followed by a Premier League style celebration, a mid air somersault similar to Lua-Lua’s famous celebration. The locals weren’t so impressed, “flash git” according to one.

The goal seemed to affect the flow of the game as Weymouth started to dominate the play although not the possession which was still fairly even. Both teams had a shot over the bar but goal attempts were scarce. Weymouth were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the 40th minute when one of their players was dragged down in the box by an arm round his waist but the referee missed it.

Weymouth extended their lead in the 43rd minute from a similar breakaway to their first goal. The striker was caught by a great defensive tackle on the edge of the area but the ball fell to one of his team mates running in behind him who saw the keeper had come off his line and hit an accurate chip over his head and into the net.

There was still time for the referee to take centre stage again as a Weymouth player was tackled near the edge of the area. From my perspective behind the goal it looked like a fair challenge inside the box but the referee decided that it was a foul outside of the box although at first I thought he was going to book the player for a dive. The freekick didn’t come to anything and we retired to the social club to warm up.

After an all to brief stay in the warm, we joined the other 30 or so spectators to watch the second half. Merley started in a similar fashion to the first half but their play down the far flank was easy for Weymouth to contain as they weren’t using the full width of the pitch. On several occasions good runs into space on the near touchline were missed by players on the ball not looking up.

In the 58th minute there was a nasty accidental collision between the Weymouth keeper and a Merley player as they both tried to win a ball that had been crossed into the area. The Merley player ended up heading the ball past the keeper but wide of the goal as both players collapsed to the floor.

The Merley player recovered first but it took the visiting physio a few minutes to help the keeper recover to the point where he could continue playing. Merley were dominating play throughout the first twenty five minutes of the half but weren’t creating chances. On several occasions they had set pieces and corners where they could have created goal attempts with direct passes or crosses but chose to overcomplicate play and lose the ball as a result.

Weymouth punished them in the 73rd minute after winning the ball in midfield. The ball was played down the right side and then crossed into the area to be met with a superb shot that flew past the keeper. Conceding the first goal of the half again deflated Merley’s spirits and they were lucky not to let in another a few minutes later. On that occasion the first shot was blocked and the follow up went narrowly wide.

In the 83rd minute Weymouth scored their fourth goal of the afternoon. The ball was crossed in from the right side but behind the front striker who had moved forward slightly too early. There was no-one in the defence close enough to get to the ball as it slowly rolled across the penalty spot before an onrushing Weymouth player placed a low shot past the Merley keeper. Weymouth continued to press but couldn’t add a fifth before the referee blew for full time. Paul had conceded to the cold air and was watching the game from the car and it didn’t take me long to join him in the warmth for the drive home.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Game 37: Bitton 2.3 Coalville Town (FA Vase) 22.01.11

I had been saving a trip to Bitton until today as the nearest FA Vase 4th round match that would be at a new ground. With the cold weather a number of games locally were being called off due to frozen pitches. With visitors Coalville Town travelling down from Leicestershire I assumed that there would be an early pitch inspection and with the game showing as on at 11.30 I felt confident it would be on.

I had passed the ground a couple of weeks earlier on my way to Longwell Green which made the drive up nice and straightforward. I even had time to travel through the centre of Bath for a change rather than take the backroads. When I arrived at Bitton I managed to find a prime parking spot to watch Bitton reserves on the outside pitch. There were a couple of decent goals and a penalty in the time that I ate my lunch.

As I finished eating I heard a big cry as the visitor’s supporters coach arrived and the chants started to ring out. Most of them headed towards the bar for some food and drink after their long journey but a few joined me in heading into the ground to take in the pre-match atmosphere. There was one small covered area by the entrance and an impressive stand on the far side. The ground was fully enclosed by a wall and fence but I was still able to watch the end of the reserve game over the top of the wall.

One of the aspects I enjoy about watching the later stages of the Vase is that it brings together successful teams from around the country and gives them the chance to take on new opposition. Coalville have had a very good start to the season and came into the match top of the Midland Football Alliance League with only 1 league defeat all season. Bitton have played a number of games less than their Western Premier League rivals due to cup runs but had only lost twice in the league.

By the time the game kicked off the ground had filled up nicely and I estimated an attendance of 250 or so. Bitton were wearing a red and white striped kit with Coalville in broad black and white stripes. There were a couple of strong tackles in the first ten minutes as both teams pushed forward. Having seen Bitton’s freekick expertise recently I felt that Coalville were taking a risk in giving away unnecessary fouls.

Bitton took the lead in the 10th minute when a shot rebounded off the right post and bounced back out to another home player to knock into the net with the keeper out of position. Two minutes later and it was almost two nil when a low shot was instinctively pushed away by the Coalville keeper.

Bitton then gave away a freekick in the 15th minute as one of their players brought down the pacy number 8, Robins. The ball was nicely positioned on the right side just outside the area and Coalville’s right back decided to go for goal rather than cross it into the area. He hit a superb shot that curled above the jumping wall and into the top centre of the goal, beating the Bitton keeper who managed to get a hand to the ball but couldn’t keep it out. An excellent finish.

The game had really opened up and both teams continued to show why they were doing well in their respective leagues. Bitton came straight back at Coalville and won a corner in the 17th minute. While the corner wasn’t the best and came back out, the follow up cross was hit better and found a Bitton head to steer a header just over the bar. Coalville had a lot of pace up front and used it in the 23rd minute with a great breakaway attack. The striker went through the defence and as the keeper rushed out to narrow the angle, the ball was chipped up and over his head. It took a full stretch for the keeper to leap up and get a hand to the ball to deflect it wide for a corner.

In the 28th minute Robins carved his way though the Bitton defence again and it looked like he would be in on goal only for a last ditch sliding tackle to take him and the ball out of danger. The Coalville bench was up in arms as they felt it should have been a penalty and the language used by their manager in describing the referee was frankly unacceptable. If the ground regulations had been followed, he should have been watching the game from the other side of the fence. Sadly we had to spend the rest of the afternoon listening to his foul mouth rantings.

Coalville were having a good spell and came very close to taking the lead when a shot from distance span past the Bitton keeper only for the ball to strike the base of the left post and go wide. In the 36th minute another shot from the edge of the area drew a good save from the Bitton keeper. He was then caught out a minute later when he came to the edge of the area to try and cover a Coalville player before scrambling back towards his goal when the player turned and crossed the ball. The cross found a Bitton player who was able to clear it away.

In the 40th minute it was Bitton’s turn to claim a penalty when one of their strikers was clipped as he ran with the ball into the area. The referee had a good look but waved his arms and allowed play to continue. Right on halftime Coalville had another freekick on the edge of the area but on this occasion the on target shot was saved by the Bitton keeper.

At halftime I thought that the cup tie could go either way, with Coalville perhaps at an advantage as they were playing down the slope. However it was Bitton who started the half better and were denied another penalty in the 48th minute when one of their players was dragged down in the area. The pressure from the home team continued and they saw a good shot tipped round the post moments later. From the corner it appeared that a defender headed the ball over the bar and onto the top of the net but the referee incurred the ire of the home fans by awarding a goalkick to Coalville.

The pressure finally paid off in the 52nd minute when Bitton were awarded a corner. The ball was crossed at pace into the middle where a home head glanced the ball through a crowd of players and into the net, hitting the side netting just behind the post to give Bitton a 2.1 lead.

Tempers started to boil over as the visitors conceded several freekicks. Coalville had one decent chance when the Bitton keeper spilled the ball from a shot and had to rely on a central defender to kick it clear before a Coalville player could get to the ball.

The game finally boiled over in the 62nd minute when Robins flew into a tackle with both feet and studs showing and took out the Bitton player as well as the ball. An awful tackle that could have led to a red card but after the teams were separated after squaring up, the referee only gave a yellow card. Not sure if he was influenced by the screaming from the Coalville bench and supporters behind the goal who were launching obscenity after obscenity towards him. Some of the Coalville supporters walked round to the main stand to try and wind up the home supporters while the home player received treatment.

This break in play seemed to distract the home team and Coalville took advantage. After hitting the crossbar with a header in the 65th minute, they wond a freekick on the far side. The ball was crossed into the area and after the first header was whacked straight at the keeper, a follow up header found the back of the net to make the score 2.2.

Coalville now had the upper hand and saw the ball fizz just wide of the post from an attempted cross before it was their turn to appeal for a penalty in the 85th minute. One of their players was brought down just outside the area and the referee correctly awarded a freekick for the trip. The Coalville manager continued screaming and screaming at the referee that it was a definite penalty - when he asked his player to confirm a minute later when he ran up the line, the player looked surprised and confirmed it wasn’t. No surprise that the Coalville manager was temporarily lost for words and didn’t confirm to the referee that he was wrong in the same loudmouth manner.

Perhaps he was still reeling from the surprise of seeing his captain miss an open goal as the ball fell to him in the area only to be hit well over the crossbar. It looked as if the game was going into extra time but there was a final twist at the end as a Bitton attack broke down and the ball was played long up the pitch. The Bitton keeper hadn’t looked comfortable with goalkicks throughout the game but when the ball came back to him I wasn’t expecting to see anything else but a long punt upfield.

However the keeper mishit the ball on the muddy surface and ended up slicing it high and to his right, straight to where a Coalville player was running in. He stayed calm and headed the ball over the retreating keeper and into the empty net before running to the away fans behind the goal to celebrate the 3.2 lead.

The game was already in injury time and there was no time for the home team to create another scoring opportunity before the referee blew the final whistle. As I walked round the pitch to get to the car the visiting players and supporters gathered by the pitch entrance to celebrate what they hoped would be another step to Wembley.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Game 36: Salisbury City 1.0 Wrexham (FA Trophy) 15.01.11

In contrast to Tuesday night's narrow defeat to Chippenham in the League Cup, it was a full strength Salisbury team warming up for the visit of Conference Premier giants Wrexham in the FA Trophy. Andy and I mulled over the team line ups over some KitKats. I saw the corresponding league fixture last season and while there were some familiar faces from that day on the visiting team, only Clarke remained from the Salisbury side that earnt a 1.1 draw with a late Tubbs penalty.
A big crowd had turned up and the powers that be had decided to segregate the supporters. It looked as if the Wrexham fans were given some seats in the main stand judging by the red hats and scarfs at the far end which was just as well as the two mini-stands were set aside for Salisbury supporters and wet weather was forecast.
Salisbury kicked off but lost the ball and were immediately on the back foot as Wrexham forced a corner as a shot was pushed wide. In the 6th minute Wrexham's Obeng brought the ball down the left side before cutting in and hitting a good cross to the edge of the box only to see the ball scooped over the bar. Salisbury had to wait until the 9th minute for their first real chance of the game, a header from a freekick that was saved.
The wind was playing a big factor as it blew heavily across the pitch from right to left. In the 11th minute a Salisbury freekick found some real curve and shot towards the left side of the area, surprising everyone. Another surprise almost worked in Salisbury's favour in the 16th minute when a Wrexham defender missed his kick, allowing Reid to take possession. He decided to play a 1-2 only to run beyond the defensive line when receiving the ball and end up offside to the disappointment of the home fans.
They didn't have long to wait to forget that disappointment when Salisbury were awarded a penalty. Knight won the ball on the left side and cut into the penalty area, only to be felled by a lazy lunge from a defender. In the absence of Tubbs, Reid took responsibility for the penalty and sent the keeper the wrong way. From where we were stood we could watch the line of the ball at the far end and enjoy that split second moment of knowing there was going to be a goal before the ball crossed the line.
I was expecting Wrexham to show some fight after going a goal behind but the game settled down into a midfield scrap with no clearcut chances. The best chance came in the 42nd minute when the dangerous Obeng again cut in from the left only to see his cross cleared as the strikeforce all rushed into the 6 yard box and in front of the flight of the ball.
The second half started off in a similar fashion. The wind dropped down a little but by the 55th minute the clouds had opened and it was raining heavily. The crowd was announced as 1032 with 113 away supporters who were mostly getting a drenching. In the 62nd minute I thought Wrexham might score with a busy run across the area only for the ball to whistle well wide of the post. Dean Saunders must have seen enough and brought on Mangan up front to try and rescue his side.
Both teams were creating chances - Salisbury seemed incapable of shooting when in good positions while Wrexham lacked accuracy on their crosses. Clarke came off after 70 minutes and the team seemed to sit further and further back, defending very deep as Wrexham came onto them. After the goal Andy had started to give me a running countdown on how long we had to defend the lead for and his updates seemed to be getting closer and closer together as the clock ran down!
Wrexham had a good chance to score in the 77th minute when the ball was worked into the box and seemed to be deflecting all over the place. Luckily Salisbury managed to get it clear before a shot came in. Reid had been working hard upfront by himself for most of the half and was substituted in the 78th minute, Fitchett coming on to try and give some fresh legs to chase the clearances. The next 12 minutes seemed to take an age as Salisbury continued their backs to the wall defending, with a superb save by Smith in the 85th minute as a shot curved and then span away from him. Finally the referee blew for full-time and the cries of "Wembeeerrrrlllly!" could begin. A great performance for Salisbury's first home win against Wrexham in three attempts.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Game 35: Salisbury City 2.3 Chippenham Town (Red Insure Cup) 11.01.11

With wet weather leading to the postponement of Laverstock's game on Saturday and Bemerton's game on Monday night, I was pleased to get to the Ray Mac to find that the Red Insure League Cup match against local rivals Salisbury and Chippenham was still on.
The two sides had met earlier in the month with Salisbury picking up a 4.0 win but the home team was significantly different for this encounter. With an eye on the FA Trophy tie with Wrexham at the weekend, Salisbury decided to put out a reserve side with three debutants, using their link with Sparsholt College. Chippenham's team was made up of more experienced players from their first team squad. This decision may have explained why the price of admission was dropped to £7 with programmes for a pound.
There was a reasonable sized crowd but once the match kicked off it felt more like watching a training session. There was a distinct lack of goal mouth action but lots of tidy passing around the pitch in the first five minutes. Chippenham had a couple of runs towards the goal, one which the Salisbury keeper reached first and one was given as offside.
It was the first time that the Salisbury back four had played together and this may have been a cause of Chippenham's first goal. In the 8th minute they won a corner on the right side. The ball was crossed in and curved towards the goal. Despite there being a player on the line and a goalkeeper in place to protect the goalmouth, all of the defenders left the ball and watched it fly into the net direct from the corner. A sloppy goal to concede.
Chippenham started to control play and won another corner in the 11th minute. This time the ball went in to the net from a header but was disallowed by the referee for a foul on the keeper. Salisbury's main tactic seemed to be to hit the ball long in the hope that hard-working Fitchett could beat the last man but this was more in hope as the passes weren't accurate. Mikey Harris, off the bench and his normal role of Assistant Manager hit a long shot wide in the 17th minute for the first attempt on goal. The Chippenham keeper was by now expecting the long ball and reacted quickly to sweep up behind his defence a couple of minutes later.
In the 27th minute Salisbury had a good shout for a penalty for holding in the area but the referee wasn't in the right place to see the offence and waved play on. A minute passed by and the ball fell to a Salisbury defender to clear. His pass out of the box wasn't accurate and fell to a Chippenham player who ran across the middle of the area before shooting wide. It seemed like it would only be a matter of time before Chippenham added to their lead when only a brave dive by the Salisbury keeper put off a Chippenham player so he headed wide. As expected, the second goal arrived in the 35th minute. Chippenham won a freekick on the left of the box, chipped it round the wall and straight onto the head of Powell who had run forward to flick the ball into the net.
Three minutes later and it was 3.0. Pryce in the Salisbury goal came rushing out off his area to try and clear a through ball only for Benson to beat him to the ball and then take it into the area before slotting the ball into the empty net before a covering defender could get back.
Salisbury made three substitutions at the start of the second half, bringing off some of the younger players to be replaced by Knight, Adelsbury and Kelly from the first team. As a result there was a lot more urgency about the Salisbury team and the pressure from Chippenham disappeared. Knight and Kelly were working the ball down the flanks and it took some good catches from the visiting keeper to keep the home strikers away from their crosses.
On the hour Harris managed to get a head on another cross and the ball looped up and just over the keeper's reach as he first jumped up then turned and jumped towards the goal line. The ball beat him on both occasions and nestled in the back of the net. There followed a few handbags as the Salisbury players tried to get the ball back while the keeper pushed them away. Chippenham were a bit rattled and were lucky not to see a player booked or sent off for a very late tackle. Adelsbury kept the keeper on his toes with a long shot that dipped over the keeper but just over the bar.
After missing a penalty shout in the first half, the referee did himself no favours by missing a blatant handball in the area in front of the home crowd. Another chance came and went in the 73rd minute when Fitchett went through one on one with the keeper after a great through ball, only to put his shot to close to the keeper as defenders caught up to him. The keeper made a good diving save on that occasion and did even better in the 80th minute to keep out a Fitchett header at the near post.
Chippenham had exploited the space at the back on a couple of occasions as Salisbury pressed forward to try and pull the game back but the shots were off target. In the 83rd minute it was Salisbury's turn to exploit space as Knight went on a great run, hurdled a sliding tackle and then hit a low cross along the 6 yard line. The ball went past the keeper, giving Kelly an open goal to aim at and he converted to make the score 2.3
A great comeback and with the crowd's hopes raised the Whites worked hard to try and snatch a draw that had seemed so unlikely at the start of the second half. Chippenham managed to clear the ball off the line in the 88th minute, saw their keeper dive in to snatch the ball away from Fitchett and then save a low shot from Casey. They then decided to take the path of least resistance and run the ball towards the corner flag at the far end to keep it away from their goal. An effective tactic that meant that the match finished in Salisbury's first home defeat of the season. Despite this, I don't think the crowd of 302 were too disappointed given the effort on display in the second half.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Game 34: Brislington 0.3 Bitton (Western Premier) 03.01.11

I had the choice of a number of games for my second match of the day. I decided to go to Brislington to watch their local derby with near neighbours Bitton, partly as it was a 3pm kickoff so I wouldn't have to rush off after the first match but also as the Google Maps photo indicated that there were three covered terraced sides and a large stand on the fourth side.
The drive from Longwell was straightforward and after a wait for a break in traffic on the A4 I was soon turning up the road to Brislington's ground. I parked next to the neighbouring cricket ground and decided to sit in the car for a while to keep warm and have some lunch. The decision to go to a covered ground looked like a good decision as there was no break in the cloud cover.
I decided to brave the freezing temperatures and wandered through the turnstiles to take some pictures of the ground. I think I was a bit optimistic as I was soon shivering and decided to take a tactical retreat to the clubhouse to warm up.
The first clear cut chance of the game fell to the visitors in the 10th minute. Brislington gave away a freekick in a central position on the edge of their area. The goalkeeper took his time to line up the wall but wasn't prepared when the ball flew over the wall. His only reaction was to stand and watch the ball as it flew under the centre of the crossbar and into the goal.
Bitton tried to increase their lead and came close a minute later with a shot that the home keeper had to react quickly to knock over the bar. Brislington's best chance came a couple of minutes later when the Bitton defence was caught out by their keeper's shout to leave the ball. He hadn't spotted a Brislington player running in on the ball and had to react quickly to get the ball clear.
Bitton began to dominate play and and the Brislington keeper pulled off a spectacular save after 24 minutes to keep his team in the game. Brislington almost benefited a couple of minutes later when they won a corner. The ball was played to the back post and a Brislington player rose highest to head the ball down towards the goal. It was on target but hit the keeper's legs and the ball was cleared. Five minutes later saw the Bitton keeper make a similar spectacular save to tip the ball over the crossbar.
As I wandered round the pitch at halftime I noticed that there was a real slope on the pitch that should have helped Brislington in the first half. I wondered whether this would help Bitton. They were helped by a Brislington slip after winning a dropball in the 50th minute but the resulting shot flew well wide of the goal.
There were a number of visiting supporters and they were incensed in the 56th minute when a late tackle left one of their team lying on the floor in pain and the referee didn't spot the challenge. They were cheering minutes later after a Bitton player broke down the left and played the ball across the defence to a teammate. He calmly hit a low shot past the dive of the keeper and in off the post.
Bitton continued to press and almost added a third goal in the 62nd minute when a shot hit a defender's leg to deflect it narrowly wide of the goal with the keeper stranded. The pressure continued and finally led to a goal in the 65th minute when they broke through the middle and hit a great shot to beat the keeper.
The snow from earlier had resumed and with the grey gloomy sky in the background the heavy flurries made it look like the game was being played in a snow globe. Brislington looked to have lost their way and it only took one of the subs moments to get booked after some back chat to the referee when a decision didn't go their way. The game really fizzled out as a spectacle and there weren't many chances. It looked as if the legs were beginning to tire in two teams that hadn't played a competitive match in over a month.
Brislington were trying to play long balls into the channels for their strikers to run onto but continually overhit the ball. They managed to create a couple of scoring opportunities when they changed this tactic. The first came in the 82nd minute when a great floated ball was played into the box and found an unmarked player. He should have buried the ball with a first time shot but allowed the keeper to come out and save the ball with his feet. A minute later and a freekick was hit over the wall but didn't dip down in time and landed on top of the netting behind the crossbar.
Bitton almost extended their lead in injury time. One of their substitutes worked the ball through the defence and slipped it past the keeper only to see the ball roll just wide of the right post. The referee brought the game to an end and I escaped to the car to get the heating on for the drive home.

Game 33: Longwell Green Sports 5.2 Odd Down (Western Premier) 03.01.11

After reviewing the Bank Holiday fixtures I decided to take in a couple of new grounds in the Western Premier league. The choice for the first game was fairly straightforward as Longwell Green was the only early kickoff that was a new ground. After heading up the A36 and through Bath, I headed past Bitton's ground and round to Longwell Green. There was plenty of parking available and the clubhouse had a wide selection of food and drink.

It was a much colder day than Saturday and the rain I was expecting from the forecast was coming down as snow although it melted on hitting the ground. I wasn't expecting to see Paul at the match but he decided to join me here before heading on to Roman Glass St George for their 2.15 game.
This was the first time that I had seen either of the teams play. The home team had lost the previous 11 games, failing to score in 8 of those matches including the last 4. This had lead to a change in manager and some new players who had to wait a month until now to make their debuts. The game kicked off just after 12 and soon settled down into an open end to end match.

Longwell Green won a free kick in a central position on the edge of the area when one of their players was brought down. Instead of taking a shot at goal, the player on the ball decided to play a short tap to his teammate standing next to him. It looked like the type of routine that was prepared on the training ground to start but the team mate wasn't at all prepared for this turn of events and ended up scuffing a shot wide.
Odd Down should have taken the lead in the 20th minute with a good move down the left but the ball was hit wide. They continued to put the pressure on and hit the bar from a free kick five minutes later. Longwell Green were finding it difficult to get the ball out of their half but Odd Down continued to miss their chances. They came close to scoring again in the 29th minute with a ball over the top of the defence that allowed their striker to run onto the ball. He slipped the ball past the keeper only to see his shot trickle wide of the post.
Longwell Green counter-attacked and their wide man took the ball down the left wing and into the penalty area. He took the ball to the byline when he was tackled and it looked like a corner would be awarded only for the referee to award a soft penalty. There didn't appear to be any contact made until after the ball had been played but perhaps I had a better angle than the referee. The penalty was well taken to the left and beat the keeper's dive to give the home team an unlikely lead.
The snow continued to fall and the flakes were getting heavier. Both teams had a goalbound effort saved before Longwell Green extended their lead in the 36th minute. They took a free kick and the ball was headed over the keeper and in as the keeper came out for the ball.
Longwell Green won the ball back from the kickoff and added a third goal moments later. The dangerous no 11 who had won the penalty took the ball down the left side again. He put a low cross in level with the six yard box and it looked like the keeper would gather until an attacker's boot trod on his glove forcing him to spill the ball. This gave a Longwell Green player an easy opportunity to tap the ball in at the far post.
As the first half went into injury time Odd Down managed to pull a goal back from a free kick on the far right. The ball was played from near the corner flag to the near post and headed in as the keeper and defence tried in vain to reach the ball to clear it.
The teams took a while to come out for the second half and the game eventually kicked off 8 minutes after the scheduled time. Longwell Green started well and forced the Odd Down keeper to make two good saves. Odd Down had a couple of chances as well but on both occasions the ball was hit at a Longwell Green player and was deflected wide.

Odd Down continued to create chances but weren't clinical in front of goal. When they managed to get a shot or header on target it wasn't far enough from the keeper to cause a problem and more often than not the ball was hit wide.
Longwell Green scored their fourth goal following a mistake by the Odd Down keeper in the 60th minute. He received a back pass but messed up his clearance which allowed Longwell Green's 7 to take the ball from him and curve the ball into the goal's side netting from a difficult angle. A well taken shot that drew plenty of applause from the spectators.
Odd Down brought on a couple of substitutes to try and change the game and one of them almost scored in the 64th minute with a shot that flashed over the bar. Longwell Green reacted to this by adding a fifth goal to kill the game off two minutes later. Their number 11 ran through the middle of the pitch without a challenge and hit a great shot into the back of the net.
The first half had seen a surprising penalty awarded and the referee decided to award another one in the 85th minute but this time to Odd Down as he wasn't happy with a tackle in the area. The penalty was well taken giving the keeper no chance. A final scoreline of 5.2 gave Longwell Green their first home win since the end of September.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Game 32: Weston super Mare 1.0 Dorchester Town (Conf South) 01.01.11

The first day of the New Year and a limited selection of fixtures as many of the local leagues had decided to play matches on the Monday bank holiday to give their players a bit more time to recover from their excesses. I decided to take in the Conference South match between Weston-super-Mare and Dorchester. The two teams were supposed to play the week before at Dorchester but the game had been called off due to the poor weather.
After a straightforward ride up to Weston via Bristol on the train, I went for a wander into the town and had a bracing stroll along the pier which has been rebuilt since my last visit to the town in the 80's. After a quick bite to eat I walked back past the station and past some modern restaurants and superstores to reach the ground around 20 minutes later.
I had a wander round the ground which has one big metal terrace at one end and a couple of older looking stands and covers elsewhere. I decided to take a stroll to the open side and read the programme there while waiting for the match to start. Shortly before kickoff Paul and his mate Dave arrived and joined me on the sidelines.
The first action of the game saw the youthful Weston keeper land in a heap at the back post as he was challenged when trying to collect a cross. After a couple of minutes for treatment he was ok to continue but perhaps not as confident as he should have been for crosses in the area as he spilt the ball from a corner after 10 minutes.
There were some poor tackles in the early part of the game and tempers started to boil over in the 15th minute when a retaliation tackle from the Weston no 2 who took out the Dorchester 11 who had caught him with a sliding tackle a couple of minutes earlier. The players from both sides piled in to try and have a pop at their opponents and the referee had to act quickly to pull the players apart before issuing some yellow cards.
It took half an hour for the football to come to the fore as Dorchester carried the attack to Weston. It looked like they would score in the 33rd minute when the ball bounced from player to player in the area but wouldn't fall right for any of the Dorchester players to get a strike in on goal. In the 38th minute it was a similar story when the Weston goalkeeper flapped at a corner and missed the ball only for the Dorchester players to fail to get a shot in on target to capitalise.
Dorchester finally managed to get a shot on target in the 40th minute but it was cleared by a defender on the line. Weston appeared to be playing a 4-5-1 to 6-3-1 formation and rarely got the ball out of their half. They weren't prepared to commit men forward and any counter-attacks were mopped up by the Dorchester defence as a result.
At the start of the second half the attendance was given as 324. Weston were now kicking towards the big metal terrace to our left and almost managed a goal attempt as their no 9 broke the offside trap but couldn't get to the ball before the keeper who won the race and booted the ball out of play.
Dorchester were temporarily reduced to ten men in the 50th minute as their right back went down in agony on the touchline in front of us after what looked to be an innocuous challenge. The ball went out for a Weston throw and one of their players was furious that they couldn't take it, his argument to the referee being that the injured player was off the pitch so the game could continue. The referee was quite firm but fair in his assessment that it was not sporting to continue play when the player was in agony and his head was right on the line.
In the 54th minute Dorchester were unlucky not to score from a corner which was cleared off the line. The game was more entertaining than the first half as Weston started to push players forward. They made two attacking substitutions on the hour, including Kabba, a pacy striker, to try and get something from the game.
The chances were still failing to the visitors but they seemed to lack any quality up front to make them count. One player went through and dragged a shot wide when it seemed easier to score. On that occasion the assistant's flag for offside saved any embarrassment. Fifteen minutes later and a shot from outside the area flew over the bar.
Talk amongst us had turned to previous 0.0 games and we couldn't see where a goal would come from. It took a superb run in the 80th minute to break the deadlock. One of the Weston subs took the ball through the centre of midfield and dummied the two covering defenders before putting a pass to his right. The ball was perfectly set up for a Weston player to hit first time and his low shot went under the keeper and into the back of the net off the far post. As my previous 0.0 was way back in 2008, I have to confess to enjoying that strike as much as the home fans behind the goal!
With a couple of minutes to go Weston almost made the game safe as their substitutes combined to put in the scorer again, only for his finish to lack accuracy and sail wide of the far post. There was still time for a final booking as Kabba decided to pre-empt the referee's whistle for a foul by picking up the ball. He hadn't realised that from the referee's position he couldn't see the shirt pull and only saw a deliberate handball from the striker.
Not the best game of the season but at least it was a new ground and there was a goal to celebrate in 2011!