Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Game 54: Salisbury City 3.1 Brackley Town (Southern Prem) 19.04.11

A bonus game this evening as the first attempt to play this match had been called off due to a waterlogged pitch with 3 minutes left to play and Salisbury leading 3.2. With the Whites still in the title race, the three points for a win were essential as Truro had a 5 point lead with 2 games to go at the start of play. Brackley had been one of the early season favourites for the title but had a poor start to the campaign and were mid-table, out of reach of the playoffs despite a good run of form. I was expecting a big crowd but it didn't materialise and the attendance was given as 565.

Neither team were able to create a clear chance in the first 20 minutes, Salisbury had a weak header saved from a corner while Brackley saw a freekick sail over the bar. Turley had to be alert on a couple of occasions to cut out some dangerous passes while Dutton earnt a yellow card for a poor tackle on halfway after giving the ball away. In the 21st minute McLaggon took the ball towards the left wing and played a great pass behind the defence, the space allowing Fitchett to burst forward and put a low cross into the middle for Wright to bundle past the keeper.

Despite having a 1.0 lead, Salisbury weren't allowed to settle and Brackley had a couple of decent chances, earning a corner in the 28th minute that saw more dancing round the keeper than a handbag at a disco. This ploy didn't work but a cross in the 30th minute almost did. The ball looked to be going well wide before it dipped and creeped towards the back post. The Salisbury keeper could only watch as the ball fell the wrong side of the post. In the 37th minute McLaggon picked up the ball from a poor Brackley pass in the middle of the pitch and raced forward. His pace was too much for the defence and he soon placed a shot past the keeper. The ball was heading just wide but Fitchett caught up with the ball and tapped it in, only to see the goal disallowed for offside. This decision didn't go down well with the home fans.

Brackley were starting to stretch the play and the ball was spending much of the time in the Salisbury half. In the 40th minute the ever dangerous Owen Story took the ball on the edge of the area, dummied a defender before hitting a shot low into the left of the goal. A deserved equaliser that meant the half time score was 1.1

The first response from Salisbury in the second half was to put Stuart Anderson into midfield, replacing Charlie Knight. The second was a golden opportunity for McLaggon who was unmarked when he glanced a header towards goal but his effort flew wide. Wright had the next chance, taking the ball in on goal but putting his shot wide. That didn't matter as the assistant had his flag up for offside but that seemed to be a strange decision as he had run from behind a defender to pick up the ball.

The play was all Salisbury now, the referee ignoring shouts of 'handball' from the crowd when a penalty should have been awarded. McLaggon then played a superb through ball for Wright but he didn't have enough time to control the ball as the defence got back, leading to a tame shot at the keeper. The roles were reversed a minute later as Wright headed the ball down to McLaggon who took the ball round a defender before hitting a fierce shot across the goal and in.

Brackley made a double substitution shortly afterwards, including ex Oxford United striker Steve Basham as they tried to get back into the game. Wright saw his long shot curve past the post but that was a rare opportunity as the Whites failed to keep possession. There were certainly some nerves on the terraces until the 87th minute when Mclaggon was played in again by a Wright header. He took a great first touch to bring the ball under control before hitting his shot across the keeper and in. An important 3.1 victory to move the Whites back into second place, 2 points behind Truro.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Game 52: Wincanton Town 4.0 Sturminster Newton (Dorset Prem) 09.04.11

Not quite a day at the races but it seemed appropriate on the day of the Grand National to take in a game at Wincanton Town, close to the Wincanton race course. I retraced my drive of the previous weekend in bright sunshine before turning off the A303 and into Wincanton. The ground here is out of the town centre but was straightforward to find thanks to a quick gander at Google Maps before I left. As well as football the complex has tennis courts and a bowls green with plenty of parking available.

After following the signs to go through the bar, I walked along a pathway to the pitch. After paying £3 for admission and a programme I wandered over the touchline and had a read before wandering round to a spot near the impressive stand. There was only one other person there when I arrived and the crowd was only 6 when the teams came out. Gradually the locals turned up so by kick off the crowd had risen to around 30 or so. I recognised the referee and his assistants from my visit to Sturminster Newton a couple of weeks earlier.

Wincanton took the lead in spectacular fashion after 10 minutes. The ball was not cleared away from a corner and a great volley saw the ball fly into the top left corner past the keeper's dive. Sturminster Newton came close to an equaliser a minute later when they won a corner. The ball was aimed into the middle of the area and they managed a couple of efforts on target that were cleared by the bodies of defenders on the goal line before a shot was hooked just wide.

Wincanton should have extended their lead on the quarter hour when they won the ball on the halfway line. A player took the ball forward but with only the keeper to beat he sliced his shot well wide. Two minutes later a long kick from the keeper presented a similar opportunity for Wincanton as a player raced past the Sturminster defence to run onto the ball but he also failed to get a shot away on target as the visiting keeper closed in on him.

Wincanton made an early substitution in the 26th minute, a switch in central defence. Three minutes later and they went 2.0 up following a mistake in the Sturminster midfield, giving the ball to a Wincanton player who had plenty of space to run into. The defence couldn't get back to cover and while the keeper made a good save to stop the first shot, he couldn't hold onto the ball and was powerless to prevent the Wincanton player from running onto the rebound and tucking the ball in from a tight angle.

The long balls from the home keeper were presenting a number of one on one opportunities for shots as balls over the top Sturminster defence weren't being cleared. One shot almost squeezed under the keeper but he managed to sit on the ball as it passed under him. Sturminster had an opportunity to pull a goal back in the 37th minute from a freekick. The ball was played high into the area and as it came down a shot was fired just wide of the goal with the home keeper motionless. With five minutes left to play I was surprised to see Wincanton make a second substitution as there didn't appear to be any injuries. Just before half time the home crowd weren't happy with a marginal offside call from the assistant on the near side although none of them were actually in that half to be able to see any better than the assistant!

Wincanton were soon on the attack in the second half, a header from a very long throw into the box went just wide. Neither side seemed to have the final ball when in good positions and while the game was fairly end to end it didn't seem likely that either side were going to score as the half went on. When there were shots on target, they were either hit directly at the goalkeepers or the keepers made good saves. This changed in the 77th minute as another long deep ball from the Wincanton keeper flew over the heads of the defence and into space ahead of the Sturminster keeper. A Wincanton player was quickly onto the ball and played it around the keeper before tapping in his team's third goal of the afternoon.

As the clock wound down I listened to a couple of Sturminster followers behind the goal come to the realisation that it wasn't going to be their day. Wincanton wrapped the game up in the 87th minute when they won a freekick in the centre of the pitch just outside the penalty area. The keeper lined the wall up and positioned himself by the right post. The ball was curled to the opposite side and the pace beat his dive, an excellent strike to give Wincanton a deserved 4.0 win.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Game 51: Westland Sports 2.3 Merley Cobham Sports (Dorset League Cup) 02.04.11

After the glamour of an FA Vase semi-final last week, I decided to head to Westland Sports near Yeovil for another semi-final. This one was in the Dorset League Cup with Merley Cobham Sports the visitors. I had seen a couple of different kick off times advertised so I decided to play safe and head down a bit early. As I turned off the A303 and headed towards the ground I found myself in a queue of traffic heading to the Yeovil v Bristol Rovers match. The road ran to the side of the Westland pitch and I was concerned to see that there appeared to be a match in progress. After making it to the next roundabout and turning away from the flow of traffic, I navigated past the Premier Inn and into the ground.

I soon realised that there were two pitches at the complex and was pleased to see players from Merley warming up on the far side. It turned out that the game that was taking place on the other pitch was a match between Westland Sports Reserves and Martock United. I later found out that this was also a semi-final for a place in the Yeovil and District League's Charity Cup. I watched the remainder of the first half, including one of the Westland goals in their 2.1 win, as it turned out that the first team game had been moved back to a 3pm kickoff.

As this game reached half-time, I wandered around to the main pitch and waited for the teams to come out for the match I had intended to see. I hadn't appreciated how close Yeovil's Huish Park is to this ground and it was somewhat surreal to hear the chants and noise from a League fixture blowing across on the wind.

On form it appeared that Westland Sports would be the favourites for this match but I had been impressed with Merley Cobham when I saw them earlier in the season. This impression was not unfounded as the visitors dominated play for the first twenty minutes. Merley had a good opportunity ruled out for offside, the ball had already been struck at goal and was about to bounce off the post when the referee blew for the infringement. Two minutes later and the home keeper committed himself to win a ball heading towards the far left of the area and lost the race. The ball was played into the centre of the area but the shot from a Merley player went over the bar with only a defender on the line to beat. The pressure finally told in the 17th minute when a defender missed his clearance, allowing a Merley player to run onto the ball and place a shot low to the left of the keeper and in.

Westland Sports had a couple of chances after this and on both occasions the Merley keeper covered the shot but allowed the ball to bounce away before grabbing it and bringing it under control. In the 41st minute the ball was crossed into the area for a Westland player to head down. The keeper had the initial header covered but again allowed the ball to bounce out. This time there was a Westland player close enough to him to beat him to the ball and tuck it under him for the equaliser.

The second half started in dramatic fashion. In the 47th minute a Westland player was clearly pushed in the area and the referee gave a penalty without a moment's hesitation. The penalty kick was struck low to the right but the goalkeeper guessed correctly and as the ball wasn't hit too far from him, made an excellent save. In the 50th minute Westland's made amends from their next attack. The ball went for a corner and was played deep towards the back of the area. A Westland player jumped above the defence and placed a high header on target. The ball looped over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net to give Westland Sports a 2.1 lead.

The lead only lasted for two minutes. Merley won a corner. One of their players suddenly ran forward and drew two defenders out with him as they anticipated a short corner. With those players out of position the ball was hit into the area and in a near repeat of Westland's goal, one of the Merley players got his head in above the depleted defence and powered the ball in under the crossbar. Merley came close again from a header minutes later but on that occasion the ball was headed over the bar. Four minutes after equalising, Merley took the lead. A great through ball found a Merley player in space and he took the ball round the keeper before slipping it into the empty net. The same player went through again shortly afterwards but his shot rolled narrowly wide after beating the keeper.

The game settled down after that as Westland tried to get another equaliser. There was a huge roar in the distance in the 75th minute as one of the teams at Yeovil scored (it turned out to be the Bristol Rovers goal in a 1.0 win) but little to shout about here. Westland had a couple of shots wide while Merley were happy to counter-attack, using the wings to good effect. Westland had one late effort that almost paid off but the final shot was hit wide. The clock was against them and it was the visitors who celebrated a cup final appearance at the final whistle.