Saturday, October 29, 2011

Game 13: Corsham Town 1.2 Street (Western Prem) 29.10.11

I've been meaning to visit Corsham for a match for some time now and when I discovered that they would be playing their 500th Western League match it seemed like a good opportunity to tick off the ground. I had arranged to meet Paul at the ground and after I missed the entrance and taken a brief detour I saw a familiar car pulling in ahead of me. Paul and I parked up along the touchline and had a chat while reading the programme from the warmth of our cars.

As kick off approached we wandered around to the teabar and picked up a free teamsheet from the official's entrance - something Paul advised was a regular occurrence. I had hoped that the afternoon would bring a home win given the occasion but Street were reading a different script and took the lead in the first minute. The ball was played up from the back and a header set a striker in past the defence. He carefully chipped the ball over the keeper and into the net. Corsham equalised in the 13th minute with a chance from nothing. Ledgister took the ball in the centre of the half and hit a long shot across the goal. He got the angle just right to beat the scrambling goalkeeper and put it inside the far post.

We wandered round behind the goal for a while but there really wasn't much entertainment on offer as neither team seemed capable of getting an effort on target. Paul was wondering if this lack of goal attempts would be a record for a first half of a game he'd been too. Street put a shot over the bar from the edge of the area and just before half time Corsham had a couple of opportunities. The first was a freekick that just needed a touch from an onrushing player as it flew along the goalmouth and wide. The second was a header from a corner which also fell wide.

For the second half we took another position opposite the main stand and next to the dugouts and hoped that the match would improve. It did - slightly - as Corsham's near misses continued, a cross in the 48th minute inches away from being converted by the onrushing striker. Street retook the lead in slightly bizarre circumstances. The ball was played to the left side of the area and there was enough space for their player to get a shot on goal before the defence got back. While it was on target, the keeper looked to have it covered until he moved his hand and allowed the ball to bounce off his fingers and in.

Corsham pressed for the equaliser but they couldn't get the final pass right or headers on target. Street were prepared to play counter-attacking football to defend their lead and both teams came close in the last 15 minutes to another goal. Corsham managed to get a shot past the keeper but it went just wide. Street had a good opportunity as a player took the ball round the goalkeeper but the angle was too acute for a shot so he brought it back past the keeper to line up another shot. While team mates in better positions screamed for the ball so they could shoot at an unmarked goal, the cutback and delay allowed the keeper to recover and push the ball out for a corner. Street resorted to time wasting at the end and Corsham's frustration came out as a bad tackle took a Street player out. The final whistle quickly followed to Paul's relief.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Game 10: Pewsey Vale 4.3 Stockbridge (WESS 1) 11.10.11

A rare midweek trip with Alan saw us heading up the A345 to Pewsey Vale for their Wessex league match against Stockbridge. We made good progress following the X5 bus for most of the route and arrived in the main car park with plenty of time before kickoff. After paying £4.50 for entrance and a programme we wandered around the ground and found a vantage point near the halfway line.

I hadn't paid too much attention to the team's recent league form but a quick browse in the programme gave an indication that Stockbridge were the favourites for the win as Pewsey were 3rd from bottom with only 1 win in their first five league matches.Stockbridge had played four more games and recorded 3 wins, 4 draws and 2 defeats.

The first period of play was fairly open with both teams pushing forward but there were few incidents of note other than a great headed clearance by the Stockbridge "sweeper keeper" who was a good 10 yards out of his area at the time. Stockbridge took the lead after 16 minutes when the home defence let a cross drift past them to an unmarked Stockbridge player who headed the ball low into the right hand corner. Three minutes later and it was 0.2 when a Stockbridge player was tripped in the area and the referee awarded a penalty. The keeper guessed wrong as he dived to his left only to see the ball nestle into the other corner.

The play was all down at the Pewsey end and their keeper made a fantastic save to push a close range header over from under the crossbar. Stockbridge even managed to pull off a maneuver that I've been waiting to see for a long time - usually all the outfield players traipse to one side when the keeper takes a kick, leaving half the pitch empty. On this occasion the winger stuck to his side of the pitch and was able to move the ball quickly up the empty section when the keeper passed to him. Stockbridge added a third goal on the half hour with a great dribble into the area and a placed shot low past the keeper.

Alan had a great welcome in the clubhouse at halftime, enjoying a huge cup of tea and a pasty for £1.50. He felt that Stockbridge had done enough to win the game and perhaps that's what the visitors felt too. Pewsey had different ideas and in the 50th minute pulled back a great goal. The ball was crossed from deep and a Pewsey player powered a header in from a central position. Three minutes later and it was game on - a freekick was awarded on the right side and when the ball came in it was headed back to a player in space near the penalty area. He took his time to place a shot to the right of the keeper and in to make the scoreline 2.3

The game settled a little after this flurry of goals but it was certainly Pewsey who were the dominant team. They saw an on target header cleared off the line from a corner and a fantastic close range save from the Stockbridge keeper deny them the equaliser. Stockbridge had lost their way although they did appeal for a handball in the area on a rare attack.

The equaliser finally arrived in the 76th minute when a well placed backheel set up a Pewsey player to smash the ball into the top corner. I thought that both teams would be satisfied with a draw at this point but Pewsey had other ideas and completed the most unlikely of comebacks by scoring again in the 86th minute. A quick pass and move put one player in for a shot in the area. The keeper did well to get down and deflect the ball to his right only to see a Pewsey player in space receive the ball with an empty net to aim at. He didn't miss and the game ended 4.3 to the home team.

It wasn't until the following day that I spotted a report of Stockbridge's match at Ringwood on the previous weekend. On that occasion they were also 3.0 up at half-time only to see the home team come back to win 4.3. It will be interesting to see how they get on at home to Portchester on Saturday!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Game 9: Blackfield & Langley 5.1 Downton (WESS PREM) 08.10.11

In previous seasons I've tried to use Saturday's games for longer trips to new grounds but I'm now finding that a 75-100 mile round trip for a new ground is becoming the norm. I hadn't spotted anything with particular appeal for this Saturday's match and was tempted to watch the Amesbury v Westbury fixture in the Wiltshire Senior Cup until I got a text from Paul to advise he was looking at doing a new ground in the Wessex League. After comparing notes of where he hadn't been and what time he could arrive for a lift, we narrowed the options down to matches at Fawley or Blackfield & Langley. With local side Downton the visitors at Gang Warily we agreed on a trip to Blackfield.

I recalled that on my last trip to Blackfield there had been a local league match on the outside pitch and when we pulled up in the car park we found this was the case today as well. The game kicked off a later than expected but we were able to watch a couple of goals from a team. A bit of investigation later and it turned out to have been a Southampton Saturday league match between Forest Town Reserves and AFC Gulf Western that finished 2.5 - both goals we saw had been scored by the visitors.

After leaving the warmth of the car for the grey and chilly pitch at Gang Warily we saw Downton take a 5th minute lead when the ball was played high into the box from a freekick and found an unmarked defender who jumped up and volleyed the ball past the keeper. Blackfield won a few corners after that and should have done better in the 15th minute when the ball was flicked back from the near post and ran along the goalmouth before going out for a corner. When they managed to get an effort on target, Downton's keeper was well placed to make the save.

The equaliser arrived in the 23rd minute from a free kick on the edge of the area awarded for a high footed challenge. The Downton keeper set up his wall but was unable to do much when the shot was curved low into the bottom corner. Another defensive mistake allowed Blackfield to take the lead in the 28th minute. A good high cross came in from the right but it looked like the keeper had it covered to make an easy catch. He over stretched and didn't manage to gather the ball which dropped onto an attacker's head and bounced into the net.

Downton were unlucky in the 32nd minute when Turpin won the ball from the last defender and moved in on goal only to hear the referee's whistle for the challenge. There didn't seem to be anything wrong with it and a good chance to equalise was lost. Blackfield had a couple more chances towards the end of the half, seeing a shot cannon back off the underside of the bar and the Downton keeper atone for his earlier error with a dramatic save. With two minutes left to play they added a third goal when a well worked pass into the middle was swept past the keeper.

Downton rearranged their team with a couple of substitutions at the start of the half and we moved under the makeshift shelter as it started to rain. Despite the change the style of play was unaltered and the midfield continued to overhit passes for the strikers and fail to support play further up the pitch. Blackfield were stretching the play and putting the Downton defence under a lot of pressure. They had already put one shot wide and another into the side netting when they won a penalty in the 70th minute. The Downton keeper came out to try and win the ball in the area but ended up taking the attacker's feet. Again he atoned for an error by guessing the right way and diving to the left to save the ball but he was unable to hold it and it rebounded back to the penalty taker to control and shoot into an empty net.

At 4.1 down Downton's heads were starting to sink and with four minutes to go Blackfield wrapped up the game with a close range header that gave the visiting keeper no chance as the ball had been crossed with such pace. The match finished 5.1 and we were soon back in the car and listening to an earlier than usual Non League Show on Radio Solent on the drive back up the A36.