Saturday, 2 May 2015

Visitors' Victory at Invicta


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 2 May 2015 at the Fullick’s Stadium
Result
Folkestone Invicta 0 Merstham 3
Competition
Isthmian League Division One South Playoff Final (Step 4)
Hopping
Ground #568 for me and chosen as the nearest step 4 ground that I had not yet visited.
Pre-match preparation
Both teams had close semi-finals.  Folkestone had needed an extra-time Whyteleafe own goal and Merstham needed penalties to beat Faversham.  Both teams had scored 107 goals in their 46 league games and the home side finished as runners-up, five points ahead of the visitors.  All this, cliché klaxon, means nothing.  It was possible to watch a bit of cricket next door before the game, from the back of the open terrace.  I know my American readers love this.




This match in one sentence
Folkestone paid for missing several first-half chances as Merstham took theirs with surgical efficiency, putting the result beyond doubt just after the interval.
So what?
Step 3 Isthmian Premier League for Merstham, for the first time in their history.



The drama unfolds
There were three early corners for Folkestone in quick succession but Merstham took a sixth-minute lead with an element of controversy.  The controversy concerned offside, and it has to be said immediately that I was not in line but behind the goal, and as a teacher of physics I should know all about parallax errors.  I am quite prepared to believe that Simon Cooper timed his run from midfield to beat the offside trap.  What I find harder to believe is that he himself scored – it seemed to me that the ball was touched over the line (it would have gone in anyway) at the far post by a team-mate who must surely have been offside.  The ref did check with the lino before finally allowing the restart, and I hope they are right and I am wrong. The record books show 0-1.

Merstham played with confidence and freedom, and also with a streetwise streak.  Ron Atkinson used to call strong early tackles “reducers”, and Merstham’s defenders certainly dished some out.  Nevertheless, the home side clawed their way back into the game, and the excellent one-handed save by Merstham’s Brannon Daly in this scene-setter clip might even be the turning point for the match.  Folkestone are in amber and black.  By the way, this is a superb non-league ground and location, as I hope you can see.


There was an ill-tempered confrontation shortly afterwards but I cannot really comment definitively from the other end of the ground.  Folkestone missed two decent chances in quick succession – just after I wrote, “F still in this” in my notes, Merstham got their second with a free header for Tutu Enriques.  Seconds before the break – potentially a killer blow.  0-2 at half-time

Folkestone came out first and fighting but then fell further behind to a well-taken free-kick from Fabio Saraiva.  That settled it, and although both sides kept trying to find the net the excitement of the occasion had ebbed away, not that the visiting contingent minded one bit.  Job done, really efficiently, and a major anti-climax for the home team whose promotion hopes fell at the same stage last season too.

I took another clip as Folkestone sought to get on the scoresheet.  Final score 0-3


Ground Pix







Some dugouts are dug out deeper than others!
Match Pix
Unusually, I watched the whole game from one spot ...








Something You Don’t Get in the Premier League
  

I am fairly sure that @putajumperon and I met this well-behaved Merstham supporter a few seasons back (on his epic FA cup journey) at Egham Town FC.  As I recall, we may even have missed a goal during the moment of distraction!

Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats



Blue beats grey and keeps a clean sheet.  Updated table at the end of the season – green is still at the top.

Soapbox Section
I did not know until today that there is a significant Nepalese community in the Folkestone area, partly due to historical connections with the Gurkhas of the British Army.  The crowd held an impeccable minute’s silence in respect for those who have lost their lives in the recent earthquake.
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  Maybe Chorley next Saturday if there are tickets available on the day.



Sunday, 26 April 2015

Tied Up in Notts All Day


Hopperational details
Date
25 April 2015
Hopping
The 2015 Nottinghamshire Senior League Hop – grounds 564 to 567 for my own list, and the second time that I have managed four-a-day.  No fruit was involved.  This is the land of cobs, and I had plenty.  Note to self for future Step 7 hops – take an umbrella.  I got the dress-in-layers bit right.  Also a hopping debut for my new toy, a Canon SLR which I cannot yet operate fully but it has plenty of Auto settings for now.
MATCH ONE
Result
Bingham Town 0 Ruddington Village 0
Venue
Butt Field
Competition
NSL Premier Division (Step 7)
This match in one sentence
An entertaining goalless draw in which both teams struggled somewhat with the breeze but were both going for the win right to the end.
So what?
Bingham are fourth and Ruddington eighth in this morning’s table.
The drama unfolds
It would have been possible to arrive by train two minutes before kickoff, a big tick for the multi-obsessive subgroup of assembled hoppers.  I enjoyed the fact that the result of this game was always in doubt.  Strong challenges were given out and taken, and occasionally players helped each other up afterwards or mutually acknowledged the contact.  I am well into my sixth decade and it is how I was taught to play the game.  The home side probably had marginally the better of the second half but a draw was a fair result.  On the final whistle, 387 hoppers streamed for the car park like the start of Le Mans but with more creaking and limping.
Scene-Setter Clip
Bingham are in the radioactive bile and black, Ruddington in blue.


Pix





Train!




Tractor!
MATCH TWO
Result
Netherfield Albion 1 Nottinghamshire FC 0
Venue
Teal Close
Competition
NSL Division One (Step 8)
This match in one sentence
Also affected by the breeze, and on the worst surface of the day, this game was settled by a late goal which the home side deserved on balance of play in the second half.
So what?
Netherfield 5th and Nottinghamshire 11th in this morning’s table.
The drama unfolds
Many hoppers were fearing a double-nil-nil the longer this game went on.  (It has happened to me once before!)  The woodwork was pinged halfway through the first half – see the clip below – but that was it.  Netherfield had more attacking impact and territorial advantage after the break, but the unusually bespectacled visiting keeper Scott Coxen was having a solid game and was dealing bravely with whatever came his way.  He had no chance with the late winner as the ball fell for Chris Riley to smash in a shot from six yards, after a neat move down the right flank.  Big relief for the small percentage of hoppers who HAVE to see a goal (otherwise they have to visit again, it’s the rule) and on to Game 3.
Scene-Setter Clip
Albion are in the stripes and hit the bar in this clip, which is the nearest that we got to a goal.  There is a bonus clip of the first serious precipation of the day - rain that was lumpier than the mushy peas.




Pix

Minute silence before all today's games: Respect for Colin Spencer of Nottinghamshire FC.
 


The wall does its job on this occasion!


MATCH THREE
Result
Burton Joyce 3 Attenborough 3
Venue
The Poplars
Competition
NSL Premier Division (Step 7)
This match in one sentence
The home side fought back from a two-goal deficit and then survived the late dismissal of their goalkeeper.
So what?
Burton Joyce and Attenborough are 7th and 6th, separated by three points.
The drama unfolds
This game was played in sunshine and showers on an excellent surface which would be envied by many higher-level teams.  Burton Joyce missed an early penalty but took the lead soon enough with a goal from Sam Buckle.  Attenborough were soon level with an excellent left-footed freekick from Joe Nice.  Nice one, Joe.  (Bet he gets that a lot.)  An opportunistic goal from Alex Elliker gave the visitors the lead on the half-hour.  A backheader had fallen just short of the keeper and Elliker slid in with the neatest of touches to roll the ball in from a very tight angle.  1-2 at half-time

Elliker hooked in his second just after the hour but Ryan Easom pulled one back after 68 minutes to keep the result in doubt.  The equaliser duly arrived after 83 minutes, a route one effort in which the ball fell nicely for Troy Smith.  Home keeper Roscoe Easom then came out of his area and clattered an attacker in return for a red card.  Attenborough tried to get some pressure on the rearranged host's defence but in the end a draw seemed fair enough as we all headed off to game number four, scurrying across the grass like a herd of crested newts when they hear the mower start up.  (Note to self: is it a herd of newts? Whatever.)  Final score 3-3
Scene-Setter Clip
Burton Joyce are in green-and-black.  This is from the later part of the first half when the home side are 1-2 down and trying to get back level.


Pix




Train!
Good save!


MATCH FOUR
Result
Sandhurst 4 Kirton Brickworks 2
Venue
Walesby Sports and Social Club
Competition
NSL Premier Division (Step 7)
This match in one sentence
Kirton had the temerity to take an early lead against their local rivals but they then had to wait until a late consolation as Sandhurst bossed the game in between.
So what?
Kirton are bottom of the table and Sandhurst are only one place above, but there is a ten-point gap.  Kirton are down but four points from three games (along with a superior GD) will mean that Sandhurst stay up at the expense of Beeston.
The drama unfolds
This game had a decent surface but a distinct slope.  It was played without lights in the kind of gathering grey gloom that I remember from my youth when we played on the rec until our mothers were not prepared to leave the gravy congealing any longer and called us inside.  Scott Ricketts put the visitors in front with an excellent early goal, but Lee Shaw and Eric Pearson scored with headers in quick succession to put the hosts in front.  2-1 at half-time

A penalty for handball gave Kyle Clarkson the chance to increase the lead after 55 minutes, and only two minutes later Ryan Chapman was in the right spot (just about) to scuff in a fourth via his standing leg.  The result was no longer in doubt but in the closing minutes some excellent interplay and close control allowed David Cooper to score a consolation.  Final score 4-2
Scene-Setter Clip
Sandhurst are in orange-and-black.  The camera has largely compensated for the gloom!


Pix



Some Things You Don’t Get in the Premier League
1)     New Laws of Economics at Netherfield Albion:  Let P1 = 2.50 (value of pie).  Let P2 = 1.00 (value of peas).  Therefore P1+P2 = 3.50 (value of pie plus peas).  The fact that pie, peas and gravy costs £3 means that the ADDITION of gravy has DIMINISHED the value of the pie and peas in what must therefore be PROVEN to be an act of culinary vandalism.  I expect there to be outrage at all points North of the Watford Gap.



2)     Daisies and Dandelions at Netherfield Albion:


3) Scooby Tree of the Day at Sandhurst FC:



Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
A bad day for grey and yellow, a reasonable day for table-topping green, and a fight-back day for orange.  (Remember this whole thing starts from the Petr Cech theory that orange is the best for keepers.)  Bingham’s orange and Ruddington’s green took a clean sheet each.  Netherfield’s blue took a clean sheet and Nottinghamshire’s yellow lost but only conceded one.  However, yellow and black conceded three each at Burton Joyce before green got a win over rivals grey in the final game but a cost of two goals conceded.  Here’s the story so far which now covers 62 games and 192 goals.



For a few minutes we wondered whether the Liverpool Beach Ball would be superseded by the Bingham Bag
3pts for a win, 1pt for a draw, -1pt for a goal conceded and +5pts for a clean sheet.  Sorted by PPG which is points-per-game.



P
W
D
L
GC
CS
Pts
PPG
Green
32.0
16.0
4.0
12.0
42.0
11.0
65.0
2.03
Purple
6.0
3.0
2.0
1.0
11.0
2.0
10.0
1.67
Orange
8.5
2.0
3.0
3.5
10.5
3.0
13.5
1.59
Maroon
4.0
2.0
1.0
1.0
6.0
1.0
6.0
1.50
Blue
13.0
5.0
3.0
5.0
19.0
4.0
19.0
1.46
Grey
26.5
11.0
7.0
8.5
38.5
7.0
36.5
1.38
Red
5.0
2.0
0.0
3.0
6.0
1.0
5.0
1.00
Yellow
14.0
3.0
5.0
6.0
25.0
3.0
4.0
0.29
Radioactive Bile
6.0
2.0
0.0
4.0
12.0
0.0
-6.0
-1.00
Pink
7.0
1.0
3.0
3.0
16.0
0.0
-10.0
-1.43
Black
2.0
0.0
2.0
0.0
6.0
0.0
-4.0
-2.00


Soapbox Section
Big thanks to the NSL whose clubs, officials and players were a great credit to their league.  This was a splendid and well-run day, and of course thanks to Rob Hornby who is the point-of-contact with this event for southern exiles such as myself.  I don't underestimate the amount of effort and communication that is needed to make something like this happen to a a high standard.
What Next?
Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  A playoff final somewhere next Saturday, i suspect, either Northern or Isthmian.