Sunday, 5 March 2017

Back to Basics for Number 600


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Sunday 5 March 2017 at Kimpton Recreation Ground
Result
Kimpton 3 GSS 1
 Competition
Hitchin Sunday League Division 2
Hopping
This is the long-awaited number 600 on my lifetime list.
Pre-match preparation
My day job is as a team leader for Science in a large Hertfordshire comprehensive school and this year has been tough like no other.  A long-awaited move to fantastic new premises coincided with a huge amount of curriculum change.  I’m not getting any younger and after a couple of minor scares while driving home late at night I decided that weekends had to be more for physical recovery and intray catchup.  Hence my disappearance from the hopping scene during term time.  I managed some October half-term hopping in Estonia (and Slough) taking me to #599 but the dreaded manflu wiped me out both at Christmas and in February.  All of this means that I had plenty of time to think about #600.

I am struggling to love modern professional football.  The whole culture of it.  The obscene player pay, the glory-hunter fans with no link whatsoever to the towns and cities.  The cost of replica shirts, the half-and-half scarves, the endless inane punditry.  Manipulation of referees.  Phone-ins where deluded fans shout their opinions about what rich owners should do with their money.  The rich owners themselves.  The sheer sense of entitlement of the top-six fans that they should win every trophy going every year.  The abuse on Twitter and social media.  Don’t get me wrong – I still love the game itself.  I’ll watch free televised live football whenever I get the chance and I admire the skill of the big names as much as anyone else.  But I see it all as a business rather than as sport.

So for #600 I am going local.  My village team’s Saturday side used to appear in the Hertfordshire County League but they folded a few seasons ago.  I was delighted to discover, literally while forlornly looking out of my bedroom window one sniffly and sneezy Sunday morning, a Sunday league presence.  I can just see the end of the pitch across the rooftops.  A google or two later and I discover the Hitchin Sunday League Division 2.  A journey of about 500m.  It fits my personal hop rules.  It is organised, competitive, and I have not watched a game there before.  I am hoping that it will be a decent contest between teams who play the game for fun and the general health-and-well-being benefit of a sporting life.

Kimpton FC are just below mid-table and a few places above GSS.  The hosts are unbeaten in four and the visitors without a win in five, including a 2-8 pummelling last time out.  The stats suggest a home win.  Kick-off is at 10.30am and as I write this (at 9.20am) it is teeming with rain and for all I know I will saunter down for a postponement.  If that happens, I will catch a couple of Pokémon near the War Memorial for street cred purposes, and sulk for the rest of the day whilst marking a set of Year 10 physics tests.  As ever, thank you for your interest!
This match in one sentence
Scruffy at times but reasonably entertaining while the result was in doubt.
So what?
The team below GSS also lost so they remain 9th. Kimpton will be up to 5th at least when today’s other results are in.
The drama unfolds
This is Hertfordshire and there were three BMWs and an Audi in the rec car park this morning. The rain cleared in an act of forecast defiance and we kicked off in sunshine. GSS lost their keeper to injury in the first few minutes, not a helpful turn of events.  Nevertheless Kimpton could not take advantage and the first real chance of any description did not appear until 26 mins when the GSS sub had to make a smart save.  Eventually Kimpton opened the scoring after a corner when #4 poked the ball home after some goalmouth scuffing.  1-0

The game continued to be contested in midfield and defence by and large and there were no more good chances before the break.  1-0 at half-time

Kimpton were going to need a second goal and they got it within a few minutes of the restart.  A flick-on from a right-wing cross was buried at the far post by #24.  2-0

The wind worsened but GSS seemed to improve while playing into it.  Their first chance was a header, which looped over.  Then Kimpton’s keeper almost had a comedy moment but recovered just in time.  I saw a couple of things I have never seen before – a rolled-ball restart (instead of a dropped ball) by the ref back to a keeper, and the return of Kimpton’s #9 on to the pitch (he’d been running the line for the second half having played the first).  Then GSS got back into the game when #22 headed in almost unchallenged from a corner.  2-1

It got a bit tense.  Both keepers had to make a save.  There was a bit of push-and-shove at the other end involving the GSS keeper and a home player.  Kimpton ran the ball into the corners to wind down the clock before they finally added a clinching goal in the final minutes.  There was an overload on the right of the box and the GSS keeper had no chance with a close-range finish.  Final Score 3-1

After the whistle, there was a bit of unpleasant nose-to-nose posturing and exchange of unparliamentary language between the Kimpton keeper and a GSS official, instigated by the latter. Not sure whether the ref noticed.  As I left the rec, the home players had already dismantled the goalposts and nets.  Zlatan and co get that done for them.
Ground Pix
From here, you can watch the aeroplanes on final approach to Luton Airport.  Kimpton itself is a linear village, as they say in geography textbooks, stretching along a dry valley.  The recreation ground is in a slightly elevated position on the south side.  The River Kym is back underground after a brief surprise reappearance in the High Street in 2001, presumably now dissolving big holes underground to entertain future generations of tourists.  Best not think about it really.  There's a wiki page and a village website which tells you all the reasons why it is a good place to live.  Most of the residents are not as miserable and grumpy as I am.  The parish church dominates the skyline from most angles.  Generally it is a very pleasant and thriving place with a strong sense of community, a school, three Pokéstops, and a Pokégym which doubles as the village pub. You don't get this stuff in the Rough Guides.


Match Pix
Kimpton are in light blue.


















Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Yellow v Yellow so nothing changed by today’s result.  Have not posted the table for a while so here's an update – it is now based on the last 97 games I have watched.

Kimpton's keeper with Yapp Acres somewhere in the upper left quadrant
The story so far:
3pts for a win, 1pt for a draw, -1pt for a goal against (GA) and +5pts for a clean sheet (CS), rank order by Points per Game (PtsPG)

P
W
D
L
GA
CS
Pts
PtsPG
Red
8.0
4.0
0.0
4.0
8.0
3.0
19.0
2.38
Blue
27.1
11.0
5.0
11.1
41.0
10.0
47.0
1.73
Green
46.0
25.0
5.0
16.0
75.0
13.0
70.0
1.52
Maroon
4.0
2.0
1.0
1.0
6.0
1.0
6.0
1.50
Orange
18.5
6.0
4.0
8.5
25.5
5.0
21.5
1.16
Grey
34.5
16.0
7.0
11.5
58.5
8.0
36.5
1.06
Purple
9.0
4.0
2.0
3.0
20.0
2.0
4.0
0.44
Yellow
20.0
6.0
5.0
9.0
37.0
4.0
6.0
0.30
Pink
11.0
2.0
4.0
5.0
25.0
1.0
-10.0
-0.91
Black
5.0
1.0
3.0
1.0
14.0
0.0
-8.0
-1.60
Radioactive Bile
9.0
2.0
0.0
7.0
23.0
0.0
-17.0
-1.89
White
1.9
0.0
0.0
1.9
4.0
0.0
-4.0
-2.11
What Next?
Term-time resumes but watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Slough Despondent, Canaries Flying


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 5 November 2016 at Arbour Park
Result
Slough Town 0 Hitchin Town 1
Competition
Southern Premier League (Step 3)
Hopping
I am here because it is a rare chance to be partisan rather than neutral at an unvisited ground.  Number 599 on the lifetime list.
Pre-match preparation
To be honest, preparation mostly involved the big decision whether to take the train, but the Yappmobile’s comforts won the day despite the risks of the M25 western section.  In the end all went well with the journeys.  For the match itself, 2nd plays 4th.  The teams have a decent localish rivalry and a good contest was to be expected at Slough’s new ground.  Both sides are in good form.  Hitchin have not lost in the league since the end of August and Slough’s home league games have provided seven wins and a draw.  Pre-match chat centred on Slough’s Elijah Adeybayo, a Fulham loanee who scored a debut hat-trick last week.  They made sure Hitchin knew this with a canny presentation just before kickoff.  I was also interested to see Hitchin’s Kane Smith who apparently caught the eye of WBA in the close season.
This match in one sentence
A great awayday performance from the visitors who take the points with a freekick.
So what?
Chippenham’s simultaneous win keeps Hitchin in 4th, but Slough drop to 3rd. Still plenty of this season left to go.
The drama unfolds
Hitchin made a bright start and won several early corners with Slough keeper Mark Scott having to look into the low sunshine.  Callum Donnelly and Kane Smith linked well but the shot went wide.  At the midpoint of the half Hitchin would claim to be on top territorially but only routine demands had been made of Scott.  The best chance so far then came to Slough.  The ref had just finished booking Donnelly.  James Dobson hit the post from the freekick and with keeper Michael Johnson on the deck, Elijah Adebayo flicked the ball over the bar.


 Robbie Burns found himself clear of the defence but the ball rolled just wide.  The same player then had a half-chance after a sloppy backpass but he was forced wide and could not convert from the narrowing angle.  The more pessimistic Hitchin supporters were beginning to fear that Slough would turn up for the second half and make them pay for the series of missed chances.  So the first half ended scoreless with only a moral victory of no great value for the visitors.  0-0 at half-time


The deadlock was broken by a direct freekick from Hitchin’s Ben Walster.  1-0 after 49 minutes

Ben Walster's match-winning goal
As you might expect, the gamesmanship, or game management if you prefer, began to creep in and the atmosphere became a tad tetchy.  Slough forced Hitchin back into their own half for long periods.  They coped better when they started pressing again higher up the field.  Thomas did all that was asked of him, which was not as much as Slough would want.  We reached the 75-minute mark and it looked for all the world like another goal was coming.  Hitchin were defending very well but not retaining possession after clearances except on rare occasions they looked dangerous on the break.  Burns worked hard up front but was well shackled.

As the home side became more desperate, Scott joined the attack for a couple of corners and to be fair, Hitchin did not adapt well to that new threat.  The keeper appeared to be close to scoring from where I was standing at the other end of the ground.  Again, his counterpart Thomas did all that was necessary as Hitchin rode their luck in the final moments.  Final score 0-1

Mark Scott (in blue) defied by opposite number Michael Johnson (orange)

Ground Pix
"It'll be nice when it's finished."  (Anonymous HTFC Supporter)
To be fair, it's pretty good already.  The artificial surface will divide opinion but I'm clear on this - it made for a better game.







Other Match Pix







Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Today, orange wins and takes a clean sheet against blue.


The story so far after 96 logged matches.
3pts for a win, 1pt for a draw, -1pt for a goal conceded and +5pts for a clean sheet.  Rank order by Pts per Game (PpG).


P
W
D
L
GC
CS
Pts
PPG
Red
8.0
4.0
0.0
4.0
8.0
3.0
19.0
2.38
Blue
27.1
11.0
5.0
11.1
41.0
10.0
47.0
1.73
Green
46.0
25.0
5.0
16.0
75.0
13.0
70.0
1.52
Maroon
4.0
2.0
1.0
1.0
6.0
1.0
6.0
1.50
Orange
18.5
6.0
4.0
8.5
25.5
5.0
21.5
1.16
Grey
34.5
16.0
7.0
11.5
58.5
8.0
36.5
1.06
Purple
9.0
4.0
2.0
3.0
20.0
2.0
4.0
0.44
Yellow
18.0
5.0
5.0
8.0
33.0
4.0
7.0
0.39
Pink
11.0
2.0
4.0
5.0
25.0
1.0
-10.0
-0.91
Black
5.0
1.0
3.0
1.0
14.0
0.0
-8.0
-1.60
Radioactive Bile
9.0
2.0
0.0
7.0
23.0
0.0
-17.0
-1.89
White
1.9
0.0
0.0
1.9
4.0
0.0
-4.0
-2.11
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  Next ground is number 600.  Back to work this week so nothing certain.