Sunday, 21 September 2014

The 2014 North Berkshire Hop


Hopperational details
Date
Saturday 20 September 2014
The North Berkshire League Hop
Match Details
1 Crowmarsh Gifford 0-1 Wallingford Town (Division 1)
2 Dorchester 3-0 Ardington & Lockinge (Division 1)
3 Marcham 1-7 East Hendred (Division 2)
4 Benson Lions 1-1 Grove Rangers (Division 3)
(at Defence Academy, Shrivenham - aka Watchfield)
Hopping
Grounds 545 to 548 on the lifetime list and the second lifetime occurrence of a personal quadruple (four in one day).
Pre-match preparation
Today is the North Berkshire League organised by Groundhop UK so all I need to do is get myself to Didcot Station for an early morning rendezvous with Jane.  A minibus, that is.  Other minibuses were available – specifically Rod and Freddy.  Must remember to bring my passport which is my ID for access to the Ministry of Defence venue for the last game.  The four games are 6th v 4th, 5th v 7th, 9th v 8th & 2nd v 3rd in their respective divisions.  Divisions 1,2 and 3 are at Steps 9, 10 and 11 in the “non-league” pyramid.
Each match in one sentence
1 - A tight match between Crowmarsh Gifford and Wallingford Town was won for the visitors with an overhead kick early in the second half.
2 - A catastrophic opening few minutes for the Ardington & Lockinge defence put them three down to Dorchester in no time and although things got no worse, neither did they get any better.
3 - East Hendred blew Marcham away with five first-half goals.
4 - After a goalless first half Benson Lions took the lead but Grove Rangers got a deserved equaliser.
So what?
I had a brilliant day.  That is all.
The drama unfolds
The day started stressfully as I had not picked up the news of the M40 northbound closure but it became clear very soon after I left the M25 that there would be no way I could make 9am the pickup by the organisers’ minibus at Didcot.  There had clearly, sadly, been a serious road traffic collision earlier.

I fired up Doris the Satnav (other Satnavs are available).  I had heard apocryphal stories of Satnavs giving bad advice and taking drivers off unfinished bridges and such like before, and never quite believed them.  I promise you that, with 30 minutes to kick-off of Game 1, Doris took me down a dead-end track with a surface like the Moon because she assumed that the Yappmobile has amphibious capability and driving over the Thames without a bridge would be no problem. Back to old technology and the ability to read a map.

I thus got to the Recreation Ground, Crowmarsh Gifford with only 10 minutes to spare having left the Yappmobile in the village centre.  All was well once I had collected my pack of programmes from organiser Chris, and organiser Laurence had explained that there were a few people in the same position and they would get us back here somehow by minibus after Game 4.  The fact that they already had this in hand was impressive – thanks, gents.  So, I started Game 1 with a pint of Lodden’s Boozy Floozy and all was well with the world.


It was an even game.  My scene-setter clip is from midway through the first half and has a goalline clearance from a spell of Wallingford pressure.  Crowmarsh Gifford are in amber and black.



Both keepers were busy.  Crowmarsh pinged the metalwork just after than clip then a Wallingford shot went into the side netting after the home keeper had been rounded.  To be level at the break was fair enough.  0-0 at half-time

The winning goal was early in the second half, an overhead kick from Ashley Searle that went in off the post.  I was right down the other end at that moment.  Crowmarsh did plenty of pressing but they could not find the finish, and we finished with a narrow away win from a very decent and competitive game.  Final score 0-1

I waved farewell to the Yappmobile and the Boozy Floozy from my seat in the back corner of Jane as we sped off to Drayton Road, Dorchester for Game 2 and a pile of pasta Bolognese before kickoff.  A pint of Marlow Brewery’s Rebellion may also have been involved.  (I was taking the day off as a role model.)


Three early goals killed off any uncertainty about the result.  Josh Nicholls scored a near-post glancing header from Dorchester’s first corner.  The second, less than a minute later, probably goes down as a luckless own goal for A&L’s Jake Rowe as a deflection looped up and over Andy Burt on the very next attack, but Jamie Fleet will claim it.  The third was scored from distance by youngster Cameron Patterson as Burt could only push the shot in off the post.  Only eleven minutes gone. The rest of the half was more even as A&L finally started to compete but the damage had been done.  Here’s the scene setter clip, Dorchester are in red-and-black.  3-0 at half-time



A&L pressed hard early in the second half to try to get back in the game and the match remained interesting enough as a spectacle.  However, they went down to ten men when fullback Luke Fairclough was sent off after a second yellow card.  Dorchester continued to make chances of their own – a cheeky shot from distance clipped the bar, another cheeky one was tipped over by Burt, Danny Brind’s header from Patterson’s cross likewise.  Overall, a solid win for the hosts and four touches of the match-ball for me, a new personal record.  Final score 3-0

Jane (coughing and spluttering somewhat, it has to be said, she has seen better days I am sure) ferried us to Anson’s Field, Marcham for Game 3.  Somehow I resisted the giant home-made cakes on offer.  For the record, beers from the Loose Cannon brewery were also available but I was my own designated driver for later, remember.  On the (very undulating) pitch, Jason Moss gave East Hendred the early lead with a proverbial towering header.  My scene-setter clip ends with the second goal, a header for Ben Sutton only a short while afterwards.  Marcham are in the white shirts.



Moss fired in a penalty, Ben Hummel smacked a shot gleefully into the roof of the net and Tom Doig bundled the ball in at the far post from a flicked-on corner, all before the interval.  Game over, just a question of the final tally with some hoppers hoping for the rare double-figure scoreline that you have to confirm (in brackets) like the good old days of the BBC teleprinter. 0-5 at half time

Goal six came from number six (Adam Wise) and it was a belter, a screaming and dipping shot from distance into the top corner.  Stuart Armstrong scored a consolation goal for Marcham before James Hicks came off the bench to score East Hendred’s seventh and last with an unstoppable shot in the fading light.  For the record, one sighting of a red kite over the nearby houses.  Post-match chat was that Hicks had already scored a goal for the reserves in a match played earlier in the day! Final score 1-7

Game 4 was hosted at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham.  Benson Lions is a team named after RAF Benson which draws on a largish number of civilian and service personnel for its teams.  The very readable and quirky programme explains how team-picking is often affected by operational deployment issues arising from world events.

Getting to the pitch required a personal visit to the guardhouse and an inspection of my passport.  The members of the visiting side were in the same queue.  Catering was again impressive and bottles of a limited-edition Flanders Ale (for the WW1 centenary) were on offer.  We were entertained by the marching band of 1244 (Swindon & District) Squadron ATC, and we gave (generously I hope) to service charities as the buckets passed by.  The pitch was excellent and the whole site gave an impression of the high personal standards that the services expect from anyone wearing the uniforms.

On the pitch, Grove Rangers started slightly better but it was an even game.  They came closest with a shot off the bar.  Here is the scene-setter clip - Benson Lions are in red and the looming silhouette of the Defence Academy in the background.  There were no goals in the first half.  0-0 at half-time



Lions took the lead early in the second half with a goal by Luke Willis.  He broke from midfield for a one-on-one with the keeper John Gould, who saved the initial attempt, and was then unfortunate to see the ball break kindly for Willis to roll it into the now-empty net.  The equaliser was a great goal – Marc Reid ran powerfully from halfway, and then bearing in from the left hit a great shot towards the far corner.  Andy Duncan got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.  The draw was fair enough from a decent, watchable game.  The last game of the NBL annual hop is now played for the James Rennie Trophy – in memory of a groundhopper – and so on this occasion it is shared.  Final score 1-1

Jane dropped several hoppers off at Didcot Station before diverting back to Crowmarsh Gifford on her way to the secret minibus burial ground.  Thanks again to GroundhopUK for all the organisation that went into a memorable day, and to the @laurencereade Twitter feed for confirming some goalscorer names.

Match Pix
Game 1:


Indirect free-kick for a backpass


Game 2:




Game 3:




Game 4:





Something You Don’t Get in the Premier League

Crowmarsh Gifford are one of many teams at this level sharing space with cricket
... the same is true at Dorchester FC
Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Game 1: both keepers in green, one loses and concedes a goal and the other wins with a clean sheet.
Game 2: win and a clean sheet for grey, bad day at the office for orange.
Game 3: win but no clean sheet for purple, a complete disaster for yellow.
Game 4: honours even between grey and yellow.
Updated league table to follow at the end of the month!
Soapbox Section
At a personal level I am pleased that Scotland voted to remain in the UK, but I will be deeply ashamed if the party leaders renegue on the unambiguous promises that they made to the Scottish people in the final days leading up to the vote.  It is really important, in my view, that those of us down south continue to pay timely attention to the clear message from north of the border.  We must not get caught up simply in our own thoughts of English parliaments and English laws from English lawmakers.  If Scotland ever came to view their “No” vote as a mistake in hindsight, I really don’t think it is one they would make again.
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  I will have (depending on a Tuesday replay) either 11 or 12 FA Cup ties to choose from, and maybe there will be time for some randomishness.



Sunday, 14 September 2014

Un 'Baller in Marske - Hero


Note to readers: have a look at the end of CLIP 2 even if you skip the rest!

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 13 September at The GER Stadium
Result
Marske United 2 Dunston UTS 2
Competition
FA Cup First Round Qualifying
Hopping
I am here for ground 544 because of a unique sequence of events which, although not random in the strict mathematical sense, certainly took the decision out of my hands and made it subject to events totally outside my control.  The final twist was Vaclav Pilar’s late, late winner for the Czech Republic against the Netherlands last Tuesday. He still has no idea of the life-changing significance of this event.

The story was played out on Twitter over two nights and is explained in the previous blogpost.  Firstly, the times of the two goals in the Switzerland v England game in Basel on Monday last gave me a shortlist of two games (this one and Burscough v Curzon Ashton).

Secondly, a random selection of four home and four away sides in the next night’s games scored 10 goals for Marske and only 9 for Burscough.  Marske were represented by Andorra (1), Czech Republic (2) , Bosnia-Hercegovina (1), Croatia (2), Bulgaria (2), Italy(2) with blanks for Turkey and Latvia.  Burscough had Wales (2), Netherlands (1), Cyprus (2), Iceland (3) and Azerbaijan (1) with no contributions from Kazakhstan and Norway.  Marske took an early lead through Bulgaria’s early win and for much of the evening were three goals ahead.  Suddenly an Icelandic brace brought Burscough close and then Gareth Bale’s second of the night gave them the lead (8-9) for the first time.  Croatia’s second made it 9-9 but this would still have been an away-goals win for Burscough – but with seconds left the Czech Republic grabbed their winner to send me NE rather than NW.
Pre-match preparation
These two teams have had good starts in the step 5 Northern League and lie 3rd and 1st, though the away side’s 2-pt advantage is offset by the home side’s two games in hand.  Marske had emphatic wins in the two previous rounds – 7-1 at home against Billingham Town and 4-1 away at Armthorpe Welfare.  The two teams met at Dunston in the first league game of the season and Marske came away with the points. They have the highest number of home goals scored and the best goal difference, and have won eight of their last nine in all competitions.

Dunston have yet to concede a goal in this season’s FA Cup and have beaten Morpeth Town (away) and Durham City (home) to get to this point.  They have won their last eight in all competitions after that early blip.
So, bound to be a dour 0-0 draw then?  (Postscript: no it wasn’t!)

On the day, my pre-match walk along the sands was shorter than planned owing to travel delays, but good for me nonetheless.


This match in one sentence
A compelling first half and a tense second, but capped with a dramatic final few seconds as the Dunston keeper kept his 10-man team in the draw.
So what?
Replay at Dunston on Tuesday.  This will be well worth seeing, trust me!  By then they will know their potential opponents for the next round after Monday’s draw.
The drama unfolds
Marske started brightly and should have taken the lead in the fourth minute.  Jamie Owens created the chance for himself through persistence but poked wide.  Then at the other end, Scott Fenwick scooped a shot over the bar after the bounce of a long high ball had been misjudged in the home defence.  Here is my scene-setter clip,  Marske are in yellow and blue.



The opening goal was a cracker.  A corner was initially cleared but fell kindly for Darren Hollingsworth.  Liam Connell made a valiant attempt to keep the shot out as it headed for the top corner, and needed treatment afterwards because he collided with the upright.  1-0 after 23 mins

1-0
Dunston responded and here is a pic of the moment that their captain Michael Dixon rose to place a glancing header into the net from a corner.  1-1 after 41 mins

1-1
The visitors then took the lead with a penalty that was awarded by the assistant referee.  It was a soft one because the ball was not really in the danger area at the moment of contact.  Fenwick sent Robert Dean the wrong way with the spotkick.  1-2 after 41 minutes

1-2
My second clip caught (in addition to some lovely interjections from locals!) the fourth goal of the game, another excellent strike, this time by Owens from a set piece.  This was in stoppage time so that the game was all square at the interval.  2-2 after 45+2 mins and at halftime



2-2

The second half was less dramatic but just as tense.  The two sides largely cancelled each other out in midfield or restricted their opponents to shots from long range.  Connell made one very good save early in the half.

After 72 minutes, Dunston were down to ten men as Daniel Halliday received his second yellow for a trip on winger Josh McDonald, who was flying past him on a break down the right wing.  No real arguments about that call.  Marske sensed their opportunity and pressed forward strongly in the closing minutes, and the third clip shows how close they came with efforts from McDonald and Owens.  I wish I’d let the camera run for another minute – with seconds left before the whistle, Connell made another quite magnificent save, from Owens yet again, to send the tie to a replay.  Final score 2-2



Ground Pix
This is a great ground with a clubhouse shared with bowls and tennis clubs, tucked away among some houses.






Match Pix






Something You Don’t Get in the Premier League
A tended garden area in one corner of the ground.  Great stuff!



Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
A draw and two conceded for each of the two most popular colours, green and grey.  Updated league table in a week or two.
Soapbox Section
For what it’s worth, I hope all you Scots out there will vote to stay with the UK this week and that the politicians of Westminster will go on to make the necessary changes to make us all happier with our governments so that we never need to ask the question again.  The turnout should really be very close to 100% - what could be more important than making a decision that affects the future of all your descendants?
What Next?
A trip next Saturday around the North Berkshire League with Groundhop UK on a minibus called Jane.  Four games in a day (for only the second time in my life).  Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter for this and other stuff.



Sunday, 7 September 2014

Faulty Reasoning in Basel (and Beyond)


Looking for an FA Cup tie for next Saturday (13 September), I chose 31 ties for my longlist using these criteria:
  • ·         A ground that I have not visited before
  • ·         The HOME team is at a same-or-lower position in the football hierarchy as of today – maybe at a whole level or more, or just at a lower league position in the same division

Then I used the RAND() function in Excel to change the list from alphabetical order (with a name like Yapp I despise Alphabetism in all its forms!) into a random order, which I can then link to the outcomes of the Switzerland v England game on Monday.  This is the only possible way that I can make Monday night interesting.
The video shows how that was done, live and unscripted (and apologies for the team name mispronounciation in the last minute, I am not as northern as I used to be, sorry, won’t do it again).



So, you can see that a goalless draw sends me to South Park whatever happens, a 1-0 win for either England or Switzerland will also give me a definite final decision, but any more than one goal in the game means that a second stage of randomness will be required to pick the final destination from the shortlist.

Here’s the final grid of links so that you can share in my excitement as the shortlist is decided by events in Basel …

UPDATE 1: Danny Welbeck's brace of goals came at times which put Marske United v Dunston UTS and Burscough v Curzon Ashton on to the Saturday shortlist of two.  A decision will  be made between them on the evening on Tuesday 9 September.

SOUTH PARK
v
METROPOLITAN POLICE
0-0 draw
EVESHAM UNITED
v
REDDITCH UNITED
0-3 mins
RUNCORN TOWN
v
WITTON ALBION
4-6 mins
MERSTHAM
v
CHIPSTEAD
7-9 mins
SALFORD CITY
v
NANTWICH TOWN
10-12 mins
SHORTWOOD
v
CIRENCESTER TOWN
13-15 mins
BISHOP AUCKLAND
v
SPENNYMOOR TOWN
16-18 mins
OSSETT ALBION
v
DROYLSDEN
19-21 mins
CLEETHORPES TOWN
v
CARLTON TOWN
22-24 mins
FOLKESTONE INVICTA
v
MARGATE
25-27 mins
NEWMARKET TOWN
v
HISTON
28-30 mins
TIVERTON TOWN
v
BIDEFORD AFC
31-33 mins
MANGOTSFIELD UNITED
v
WEYMOUTH
34-36 mins
MILDENHALL TOWN
v
WROXHAM
37-39 mins
SHILDON
v
WHITBY TOWN
40-42 mins
HARROGATE RAILWAY ATHLETIC
v
CLITHEROE
43mins-HT
ASHINGTON
v
SCARBOROUGH ATHLETIC
45-48 mins
CROYDON
v
BURGESS HILL TOWN
49-51 mins
ELLISTOWN & IBSTOCK UNITED
v
HEREFORD UNITED
52-54 mins
BLACKFIELD & LANGLEY
v
SHERBORNE TOWN
55-57 mins
MARSKE UNITED
v
DUNSTON UTS
58-60 mins
WARRINGTON TOWN
v
TRAFFORD
61-63 mins
KNAPHILL
v
FLEET TOWN
64-66 mins
HORNDEAN
v
NEWPORT (IoW)
67-69 mins
WEST ALLOTMENT CELTIC
v
LANCASTER CITY
70-72 mins
THAME UNITED
v
BURNHAM
73-75 mins
MARKET DRAYTON TOWN
v
STOURBRIDGE
76-78 mins
BODMIN TOWN
v
BRIDGWATER TOWN
79-81 mins
COLESHILL TOWN
v
BARWELL
82-84 mins
BRIGHOUSE TOWN
v
ASHTON UNITED
85-87 mins
BURSCOUGH
v
CURZON ASHTON
88-end

Technical stuff for randomness fans:  The selection of the 31 ties is not at all random.  The ordering of the list of 31 into random order is, however, truly random.  You can use the RAND() function within Excel to generate a random number between 0 and 1 and display it to as many decimal places as you like.  When the ties are sorted, the numbers in the cells change again at this point of recalculation but that does not matter.  All ties had an EXACTLY EQUAL chance of being first, or fifteenth, or twenty-eighth on the list.

However, once the list has been made randomly, we cannot say that all 31 ties now have an equal chance of being selected.  For example, Harrogate Railway Athletic and Burscough maybe have slightly greater chances of being shortlisted because we do not know how many minutes of added time there will be.  South Park has a different (unknown) chance of being shortlisted.  All of the other 28 teams have an equal chance of making the shortlist.

Small print: If there are two or three goals in any 3-minute interval, I will adjust for that in the next stage of selection.  If the game is abandoned because Switzerland do not turn up, then I will use another qualifier played on the same evening.  If England do not turn up ... no-one will be surprised and Roy Hodgson will say more rude words to the media.

UPDATE 2 - THE TUESDAY NIGHT SHOWDOWN

I assigned eight international teams to Marske and eight to Burscough for matches on Tuesday evening.  Both had four at home and four away. Marske would have the goals scored by Andorra, Latvia, Czech Republic,Turkey, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia and Italy. Burscough would get those from Wales, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Iceland, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Malta and Norway.

Markse took an early lead as Bulgaria won away early in the evening, and they held on to the lead for most of the time.  Suddenly, Burscough were back in the game as Iceland scored twice, and they took the lead for the first time with ten minutes left.  Croatia's second made it 9-9 and then the Czech Republic's late winner gave the honour to Marske with a final tally of 10-9.  All the evidence is there on the @GrahamYapp Twitter timeline.  Burscough needed a goal from Cyprus in stoppage time and they would have then won on an away goals rule that I had just made up with the help of @damon_th of The Real FA Cup.  It was not to be, so it is a Yappmobile trip to the NE on Saturday..