Saturday, November 17, 2012

Game 14: Wareham Rangers 2.4 Merley Cobham Sports (Dorset Premier) 17.11.12

I wasn't sure if this game would be on given the rain in the area but decided to take a gamble and drive down just in case. I arrived at the Sports Centre and found a big car park where I had a spot of lunch after checking first that the players were warming up for the game.

The pitch was accessed through the Sports Centre and I had a friendly welcome from a couple of ladies collecting the admission fee in exchange for a programme. They were expecting a couple of ground hoppers who had called ahead to reserve their programme and we had a quick chat about the team.

After photographing the small stand I wandered round past the dugouts and found a spot opposite the stand to watch the game. The sky was overcast when the game kicked off five minutes late and I hoped the next couple of hours would be dry. Merley have been struggling in the league this season and looked to be off to a bad start when Wareham tapped the ball in after the keeper spilt the ball but the referee disallowed it for offside.

Wareham took the lead in the 21st minute. The ball was kept in play on the farside and when the cross came in it looked as if a defender would slide into clear it. However the ball hit the post and rolled favourably for a Wareham player to tap in from close range. A minute later and it was almost two, another deep cross was met at the far post with a shot that bounced up off the bar and then into the keeper's arms.

Despite the Wareham pressure, Merley scored a good equaliser in the 38th minute, a long ball beat the offside trap and a Merley player beat the onrushing Wareham keeper to it. He lifted the ball over the keeper and in. There were some Merley subs warming up near me and one was called into action shortly after the equaliser - not to replace a player, just to swap shorts with one of the onfield players who had managed to rip his down one side.

Wareham had a decent shout for a penalty just before halftime but the referee ignored the protests of the home team. They retook the lead in the 48th minute from a corner that was headed down and booted in before the keeper could react. Six minutes later and it was almost 3.1 when a player cut in and attempted a shot, only to slice it and see the ball spin to a team mate whose shot was well saved.

The match turned on a late tackle as from the resulting freekick Merley pinched another equaliser. It was quickly taken and found a player running into the box unmarked. He smashed the ball past a stationary goalkeeper before the defence could react to the delight of his teammates. This set up a fascinating final ten minutes as Merley kept their discipline and shape and eventually took the lead in the 82nd minute, a great curving shot from the edge of the area squeezing in.

Wareham took the ball down the other end and were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position. It was wasted as the shot hit the wall and they lost possession. Suddenly Merley broke down the left and a great pass set out a player to tip the ball past the keeper before slotting the ball in from the narrowest of angles. This didn't stop Wareham from trying again to get a third goal and they came close on two occasions - the first effort was kept out by a great diving save, the second saw shot hit the bar before being deflected over by a defender on the line.

A surprise win for the visitors and a champagne moment as I completed the Dorset Premier League for this season at least.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Game 6: Laverstock & Ford 1.3 Team Solent (Wessex 1) 15.09.12

With industrial action leading to a planned excursion to Carlisle being cancelled, it was an unexpected opportunity for a local game today. I haven't been to Laverstock for a while and since my last visit the club have been relegated,changed their manager and replaced their playing squad.

I arrived at the ground just before kickoff and picked up a programme that was included with admission. It had less content than previous offerings but was still a reasonable effort.

The game kicked off in bright sunshine and Laverstock took an early lead after five minutes. A dribble through the middle was unchecked, allowing the midfielder enough time to line up a low shot from outside the area that flew past the keeper.

Team Solent equalised after 36 minutes when Laverstock failed to clear their lines. An attempted clearance was deflected back into the area by a visiting player and he had time to place a low shot under the keeper and in. Just before the end of the half it was 2.1 to the visitors from a similar incident. Laverstock made another mistake with a clearance and a firm shot beat the keeper from close range.

The second half was light on clear chances and it wasn't until the 84th minute that Team Solent extended their lead with a breakaway goal. Laverstock had pressed forward for a cornerbut lost the ball. A good direct pass allowed one of the Team Solent players to race into the Laverstock half unchallenged. He took the ball into the area and placed a shot wide of the keeper and covering defender - a well taken goal. There was almost time for a fourth goal when the Laverstock keeper spilt a corner. One of his teammates cleared the ball off the goal line before Team Solent could react.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Game 5: Parley Sports 2.2 Wareham Rangers (Dorset Prem) 08.09.12

After a sunny morning in Swanage I drove in the opposite direction to the bulk of the traffic away from the coast and towards Bournemouth Airport. Skirting around the edge of runway, I soon found myself parking up at Parley Sports.

I wandered around the clubhouse and found someone selling programmes and admission for a donation. The pitch was behind the clubhouse and someone had parked their moped next to the pitch by an opening in the handrail. I wondered if it was the referee planning a quick escape but just before halftime one of the spectators moved it next to the clubhouse.

This was the first time that I've seen Wareham Rangers play as they were promoted into the league last season. In their first two games they had a win and a loss and they soon found themselves a goal down. In the 6th minute a Parley player dribbled the ball round three defenders before smashing a shot into the top corner. Wareham thought that they scored an equaliser in the 30th minute but it was disallowed for offside. Parley's defence was breached shortly before halftime so the last man took it upon himself to bring the Wareham player down. A straight red card resulted but Wareham were unable to take immediate advantage as the freekick from outside the area flashed just past the post.

Parley's keeper wasn't particularly tall but his reactions made up for his lack of stature at the start of the second half. A Wareham corner found an unmarked player in the centre who headed towards goal, only to be denied by the Parley keeper pushing the ball up and away with a strong hand. He got flattened by a team mate a few minutes later but before Wareham reacted the referee blew up to stop the game. There was a covering defender and the game eventually restarted with a dropball.

Parley came close to extended their lead on the hour. One of their players broke away with the ball and dragged it round the keeper. His touch was heavy and this forced him wide, allowing a defender to get to him and get a tackle in tackle before he could shoot.

Wareham were getting frustrated with the referee's decisions as they felt he was favouring the home side. Three yellow cards appeared in quick succession for verbals when the referee chose not to play the advantage.

It looked like 10 man Parley would hold on for a win until the 86th minute.A Wareham player sneaked the ball from the last defender and took a shot. His effort was deflected out by the keeper but fell to the onrunning Wareham player who whacked it in.

The lead lasted less than a minute. Parley took the ball through the middle as Wareham switched off. No defender moved in time to cover and Parley's low shot beat the keeper at the right post. The supporters and players by the clubhouse celebrated as if they had done enough to win the match.

We were into the last moments of injury time when a Wareham player was brought down in the area. The referee pointed to the spot and the penalty was converted to give the visitors a point. An exciting finish to the game!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Game 3: Axminster Town 0.0 Exmouth Town (SW Peninsula Div 1E) 18.08.12

I made a special effort to get to this game after reading that Axminster's Sector Lane ground would only be used for their first four games of the season. This was the first of those four games, a season opener against Exmouth Town.

I caught the train down to Axminster and walked through the centre and part way up a hill, finding the ground on the left hand side just before a pub on the right. After paying to get in I wandered round to the elevated bank behind the dugouts to read the programme. The plan for the club is to groundshare for the rest of the season and at the start of next season until the new ground is completed.

It was strange to think that this would be the final opening day kick off as the referee blew the whistle. Sadly the game was not one to match the occasion. Exmouth had a goal disallowed after 10 minutes as the referee wasn't happy with a 50/50 challenge between the keeper and an Exmouth player that set up the 'goal'.

It took Axminster most of the half to get going, a shot on the half hour clawed wide by the Exmouth keeper was their first clear chance on goal. In the last 15 minutes a few runs led to corners but there was no cutting edge.

The second half was a bit more exciting to watch as the game stretched out and players started to tire. In the 57th minute Axminster hit a long chip over the Exmouth keeper but it fell just wide. Both teams had players booked for dissent and the referee's efforts to keep control didn't allow the game to flow. The game finished with a couple of long range shots from both teams that didn't trouble either keeper.

After the game finished I walked swiftly back to the station to catch the hourly service back up the line. I just made it in time and had a pleasant chat to another nonleague enthusiast who had been at the game and had an encyclopedic knowledge of the grounds in the area. He pointed out the work to date on the new pitches which are going to be next to the railway line.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Game 2: Brazil 1.2 Mexico (Olympic Mens Final) 11.08.12

I put in a request for tickets to the Olympic Men's Final on the off chance of being successful in the ballot and was lucky enough to get a pair for Amy and I to attend the match.

It's always been an ambition to see Brazil in a competitive final so I was delighted that they made it through. Mexico beat Senegal in extra time and Japan in the semifinal but were seen as the underdogs, even though they had beaten Brazil in Dallas a couple of months earlier.

We made our way along a colourful Wembley Way with the sounds of a Brazilian samba band in the background. There were a lot of hopeful fans looking for tickets but no sellers in sight. It was fantastic to see the Olympic rings on the stadium above the Bobby Moore statue and we took some photos before heading into the ground early to take in the atmosphere.

When we walked out to our seats I was delighted to see that we were on the front row of the section and next to an aisle - a perfect view of the ground. We were lucky, one couple came in to find that one of their seats didn't exist! The customer service team whisked them off to find some replacement seats for them.

There was a lot of press about Brazil not having won this final before and the pressure was building for the young team with celebrities like Pele flying in for the game.

The Teamline ups were:

Brazil: Gabriel, Rafael,Thiago Silva,Juan Jesus, Sandro, Marcelo, Romulo,Leandro Damiao, Oscar, Neymar, Alex Sandro

Subs: Lucas, Hulk, Uvini, Danilo, Ganso, Pato, Nato

Mexico: Corona, Jiminez, Salcido, Mier, Chavez, Herrera, Fabian, Peralta, Aquino, Reyes, Enriquez

Subs: Cortes, Dos Santos, Jiminez, Vidrio, Ponce, Araujo, Rodriguez

As we approached 3 o clock the stadium filled up and soon the teams were on the pitch for the anthems. A huge scrum of photographers in desert coloured jackets scurried around the pitch for a photo opportunity. The teams then seperated and the Brazil team headed towards our end to prepare for kickoff.

Referee Mark Clattenburg blew the whistle but any latecomers would have missed the first shock of the day. Mexico kicked off and passed he ball back to the keeper to launch down the left side. A Mexican player missed the header as the ball bounced over his head and a Brazilian defender picked up the ball before turning to face the touchline. He could have kicked the ball out of play but cut back to slide a shortpass to a team mate, under pressure from a Mexican player. Mexico were quick to challenge and toepoked the ball through to Peralta. He took the ball on the corner of the area in space, took one touch and then fired a low shot. It had enough pace to beat the keeper's dive and enough accuracy to curve into the back of the net after 27 seconds. A stunner of a goal and the quickest that I could recall seeing. It was later confirmed as the quickest goal in Olympic Final history.

Brazil didn't settle after giving the ball away for the goal as Mexico worked hard as a unit to keep possession and frustrate the favourites. The crowd started the first of several Mexican waves to cheer them on. Brazil headed well over the bar from a freekick in the 12th minute and Oscar hit a shot directly at the keeper from short range 8 minutes later.

Despite the samba instruments dotted around the ground, the team had no rhythm. On the half hour Brazil made an early change, Hulk coming on for Alex Sandro. Mexico still looked comfortable as Brazil gave them
too much space, their attacking play leading to one shot fly over and another shot just wide. They had one moment of concern when Hulk let fly with a powerful dipping shot that the keeper managed to keep out before parrying the ball for a corner. This seemed to give Brazil some confidence with a nice pass into the box allowing Leandro to tee up a shot from Marcello into the side netting. Just before halftime Neymar tried a shot from distance but found the side netting as well.

I was expecting Brazil to continue this good period into the second half and Hulk almost delivered a penalty in the first attack, brought down just outside the area. His freekick beat the wall but not the covering defender. On the next attack Neymar hit a rising shot over the bar. Neymar and Hulk created a couple more chances in this five minute spell, more than Brazil had managed in the first half.

The game was delayed for a few minutes after Neymar was beaten to the ball by the Mexican keeper and suffered a blow to the head. He was soon back on his feet and hit another shot over the bar after the ball bounced around the area.

For all the Brazilian possession and improved play in the second half, the final ball or shot wasn't enough to really trouble the Mexican defence. In the 63rd minute Mexico almost added a second at the far end. A defensive clearance was charged down and the Mexican player took it round the keeper. The keeper did enough to push the ball against the striker and up into the air, allowing him to rush back with a couple of defenders. The Mexican player had to improvise to get a shot away and hit a wonderful overhead kick that crashed off the crossbar.

Brazil continued to attack and left space for Mexico to exploit. In the 68th minute a run down the right and a great pass found an unmarked Perelta in the area. His shot from close in beat the keeper but he was adjudged to be offside so the goal didn't stand. Two minutes later and another great chance to extend the lead came from a corner. The Brazilian keeper flapped at the ball and missed it, leaving Fabian with an empty net and a free header that he put onto the roof of the net.

The second goal finally came after a controversial freekick was awarded to Mexico in the 74th minute. It appeared that the Mexican player jumping for the ball had pushed Marcello out of the way but the freekick was given to Mexico. The Brazilian coach was furious with good reason. Ponce put the ball into the area and an unmarked Peralta headed the ball in from the penalty spot to the keeper's left.

The shock result was on the cards but Brazil weren't going to give up the game. Corona in the Mexican goal had to act as a sweeper to beat Neymar to one ball and several corners had to be dealt with. In the 90th minute a long crossfield clearance fell for Hulk who outpaced the covering defender and hit a low shot through the keeper's legs to pull a goal back.

Brazil pushed forward to try and put the game into extra time. Hulk took the ball from a pass before putting a cross onto Oscar's head. From 5 yards out and without a defender nearby, he managed to put too much weight on the header and it went over. Oscar slumped to his knees as he knew he could have got Brazil out of jail with that chance. The keeper took the goalkick and as the ball flew into the air the referee blew the whistle to confirm Mexico as the Olympic champions.

We stayed to watch the teams pick up their medals - one of the longest medal ceremonies with the 3 squads picking up a medal each along with the officials. The stadium was half empty as we left to walk up Wembley Way, revelling in a deserved victory for the underdogs.

Monday, May 07, 2012

2011-2012 Season Summary

Games seen: 30

Goals scored: 108

Highest Scoring Game: 9 Andover New Street 3.6 Bridport

Lowest Scoring Game:0 Downton 0.0 Amesbury Town, Chickerell United 0.0 Weymouth Reserves, Salisbury City 0.0 Weston super Mare

Goal Average: 3.6

Grounds Visited: 20

New Grounds Visited: 13

Game 30: Christchurch 3.1 Brockenhurst (Wessex League Cup Final) 07.05.12

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Game 25: Sturminster Marshall 1.0 Parley Sports (Dorset Premier) 24.03.12

After spending a glorious sunny morning in Swanage, I drove up to Sturminster Marshall for their match against Parley Sports. The ground was easy to find as it was in the middle of a housing estate, the main pitch behind railings and the players warming up on the outside pitches. In the far corner was a playpark with the clubhouse set behind it. After driving around the perimeter of the pitch I spotted a gap in the clubhouse carpark and decided to leave the car there - well out of range of any off-target shots.

The teams made their way onto the pitch and the match kicked off at 3.05. Both teams were putting together some good passing moves in the first period of play but goal attempts were rare. Parley had the clearest opportunity when a player intercepted a stray pass but his shot went well over the bar with just the keeper to beat.

I was enjoying the end to end play in the sunshine and was joined by one of the club officials for a short while for a friendly chat. Most of the play was at the other end as Parley pressed for a goal but their shooting let them down. Sturminster got into their stride toward the end of the half - a well worked move from a throw in found a man in space but his shot was just wide of the post.

In the 40th minute Parley won a free kick and the subsequent shot was spilled by the home keeper. Several players tried to force the ball over the line but it wouldn't quite go. In the final minute of the half a Sturminster cross was missed by a defender and allowed a close range shot from Sturminster. This time the effort was on target but the Parley keeper pulled off a great reaction save to tip the ball wide for a corner.

While the kick off for the first half was later than expected, the second half took even longer and play didn't resume until 4.10. The laid back attitude to time keeping seemed to extend to the pitch. While the football was entertaining to watch, I got the impression that the shooting boots had been left at home with the number of shots that ended up over the bar or wide.

In the 80th minute the deadlock was finally broken as Sturminster broke down the right wing and a good cross found an unmarked player on the left edge of the box. His shot managed to elude the keeper's dive and squeezed in by the near post. This seemed to spark the game into life as both teams suddenly came close to scoring - Parley were denied by a quick thinking keeper just beating their striker to the ball and an offside flag. In between those chances a low Sturminster shot from the edge of the area went just wide of the post with the keeper well beaten. The referee finally blew his whistle at 5pm and the teams went off, followed soon after by a tractor that dragged the two wooden wheeled dugouts off down the road.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Game 24: Elmore 1.2 Calne Town (Western 1) 10.03.12

I hadn't made any particular plans for this weekend so when Paul called and suggested a trip down to Tiverton to watch his local team on an away day it was great timing. We took the train down to the Parkway station and watched the steam special come through at the expense of missing the hourly bus into town.

As there wasn't much to do at the station we opted to take a cab to Tiverton and met a friendly cabbie called Fossil who drove us into town. Turned out that he used to run a pub for former Pompey and Saints striker Colin Clarke at the same time that I was living in Pompey in the early 90's and he told us some stories of some days out at the races with a few of the team that I used to watch on the terraces. Sometimes the world's a small place and today was one of those days. Fossil dropped us off in town after pointing out Elmore's ground and pointed us in the direction of the pub where we spent a bit of time for lunch.

Elmore's ground was just outside the centre of Tiverton so we didn't have far to walk back. When we arrived I was surprised to see a large green eagle above the clubhouse. We walked round the pitch to have a look at the Adam Stansfield stand, named after their former striker who sadly passed away from cancer a couple of years ago while playing at Exeter City, before heading round to the other side of the ground to watch the game.

Calne took an early lead in the match, a 4th minute goal that saw the Elmore keeper's attempt to clear a backpass charged down, leaving an empty net for the Calne player to pass the ball into. Calne almost added a second a couple of minutes later from a freekick but the ball eluded everyone when it just needed a touch to knock it in.

The rest of the half was poor, neither team creating much until Elmore's second attempt on goal just before halftime. The Calne keeper had to be alert to push an ontarget shot up and away from danger. The referee seemed rather whistle happy in the sense that a quick blast wasn't enough - we saw incidents with multiple whistling that seemed out of place given the nature of the offences.

The second half didn't have much to write home about until the 66th minute when an Elmore player was sent off for a second yellow card. The numerical advantage helped the visitors as four minutes later a Calne midfielder took the ball in space, dribbled it around several players and then hit a low shot into the bottom corner of the net. An excellent finish.

I couldn't see Elmore getting back into the game but with 5 minutes to go they broke away and pulled a goal back with a low finish into the left corner that beat the keeper's scramble. Elmore now started to press for an equaliser but it all went sour in injury time. After a late tackle in the centre circle the players started to brawl and it took a while for the officials to reassert their authority. The outcome was 2 more red cards (one for each team) but there was still more to follow. One of the Calne players had the red mist descend and he continued to abuse the officials. The referee had enough and before the game could restart sent him off, leaving both teams with 9 men.

It was no surprise that he blew the final whistle soon after before it all kicked off again. The Calne manager was not happy and came onto the pitch to put his views across to the officials before being ushered off. We wandered back to the bus stop and took the bus back to the station, passing an interesting looking ground and a pub that Paul was keen to visit once he realised how close it was to the station. Sadly our train times didn't work out to allow us to retrace our steps so there may be another trip to Tiverton in the future.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Game 20: Hengrove Athletic 2.1 Almondsbury UWE (Western 1) 02.01.12

After missing out on a Western League double on Boxing Day when both games were postponed (Larkhall and Oldland) I was keen to see if I could get a couple of games in today. My plan was to take in the 12 o clock kick off at Hengrove then head down the A37 and A368 to Bishop Sutton for the 3 o clock kick off. Before I left home I had spotted a pitch inspection was due at Bishop Sutton but hadn't heard anything about Hengrove so decided to take a gamble and head north.

Driving through Wiltshire in bright sunshine made it a pleasant trip but once I hit the outskirts of Bath, the clouds drew in and soon heavy rain was lashing down on to the windscreen. As I approached Whitchurch the sun came out again and I arrived at Hengrove in the dry. After paying £5 to get in (no programmes due to Christmas), I parked up and wandered round to the ground.

The pitch was set back next to the social club with a couple of pitches behind it and a cricket scoreboard indicating this open area serves more than one sport in the area. The main pitch was fully railed with the far goal next to the fence of a local garden centre. There was one main terraced stand with a regular 50 seater stand next to it. I was pleased to see there was some cover as the clouds in the distance were ominously dark grey and heading this way.

The pitch itself looked a bit heavy in places with sand in the nearest goalmouth to help soak up some of the water. The teams came out and the match kicked off on time in bright sunshine. Both teams had a couple of half chances in the first period and Almondsbury managed to get the ball in the back of the net after 23 minutes but the assistant had a flag up for offside and the goal was disallowed. By this time I had wandered round from the far touchline to take shelter in the terraced stand as the rain started to pour down.

In the 25th minute Almondsbury did take the lead with a good move down the right side. A defender slid in to try and win the ball (ideal conditions for lunging at the ball) but missed it. The winger lost his feet for a moment on the slippery surface before regaining his balance and getting a cross over to the far side of the six yard box. His teammate controlled the ball before whacking it in off the left post. The conditions got worse and both teams struggled to adapt to the physics of playing on this slippery muddy surface. It wasn’t until the 40th minute when the sun had reappeared before we saw another goal.

This one seemed to come from nowhere. The ball was on the left side of the Almondsbury half before being knocked into the six yard box, finding a Hengrove player in space. He turned and popped a shot against the post, beating the keeper’s dive. The ball then span out and presented a team mate with an open goal and an equaliser.

I was a little concerned that the game may not reach it’s conclusion as when the teams came out again for the second half, they were greeted with another monsoon like downpour which lasted for most of the next 45 minutes. The officials allowed the game to continue and to be fair, it wasn’t until the last 5 minutes or so that tackles got a bit reckless as the players tired on the heavy surface.

Both teams worked out that running with the ball on this surface was a better option than passing but Hengrove reacted better to the way the ball would stick to the surface on a tackle and created a number of openings that way. They were denied a clear shooting chance by a last ditch sliding tackle that deflected the ball out for a throw early on. Almondsbury won a couple of corners with shots from distance but were unable to capitalise on these set plays.

In the 73rd minute we finally saw a breakthrough. The Hengrove 11 won the ball on the right wing then dribbled his way through several players before setting up a shot on the edge of the box. The ball seemed to be covered by the keeper’s dive but it managed to slide under him and headed to the net, only to be caught in the mud/sand mix on the goal line. Two Hengrove players reacted ahead of the defence and one put his boot behind the ball and whacked it into the open goal.

Almondsbury got into some good positions but time after time they wasted them with shots flying well wide or over. In the last few minutes some of the sliding tackles were unnecessary and late, leading to a booking for a home player who protested his innocence even after the referee pointed out they were for an accumulation of fouls. By now I’m sure most of the players would rather have been inside rather than being pelted by hail and it was a relief when the referee brought the game to an end.

By the time I got back to the car and checked the phone, all my 3pm options for new grounds had gone and an accident on the Shepton Mallet road meant a decision to divert for home rather than wait in the traffic and hope to make kick off there. Still, it was good to get a game in today and I enjoyed the friendly welcome at the club.