Wednesday, 27 October 2010

When the Saints Go Marching In (Repeat)

One of ten goal celebrations

Hopperational details
Tuesday 26 October 2010 at the Hunts Post Community Stadium, St Neots Town 10 (ten) Desborough Town 0 in the step 5 United Counties Premier League.  I am here because this was the first club of five to answer the ‘phone on a rainy day where I needed to check the game was on before travelling.
This match in one sentence
Goalless for twenty minutes before four goals in six minutes killed the game as a contest, and the last two came after the visitors had a man sent off.
So what?
St Neots are unbeaten in the league with a goal difference of +61 after 15 games, Desborough Town are bottom with only one league win all season.
Who caught the eye on the pitch?
I had to check the club website this morning to confirm that Shane Tolley and Stefan Moore both got hat-tricks – I must admit I thought Tolley had four, but it was an “I’ve lost count!” type of evening.  Youngsters frequently needed to turn to their dads to check the score.  I was perversely standing at the other end for a couple of the goals!  When Desborough missed two great chances at the start of the second half you feared the worst.

Tolley, a former Peterborough youth who had been plying his trade in the west country, now has 24 in 14 games.  Stefan Moore, ex-Aston Villa and older brother of Luke (currently on loan at Derby from West Brom) playing here in step 5 after a controversial move from step 3 Halesowen, showed his class with two particularly beautiful finishes and at least one assist.  He has 11 in 7.

Halesowen were very unhappy about the circumstances of his departure and issued a statement saying that they had fined him a month’s wages for bringing the club into disrepute.  Moore had told the press that the owners had failed to uphold certain promises about ambition (now where have I heard that recently?) and the club accused him of deliberately playing poorly in pre-season.  Halesowen also stated that they were reporting two clubs to the FA.  From where I’m sitting, the challenge of clubs to live within their means is in principle exactly the same at Manchester United as it is at Halesowen, just with more zeros on the numbers in the balance sheet.  The Saints fans will care not a jot and more double-digit victories are on the cards this season with this squad.

Anyone fancy doing a PhD on “Why does society decide to pay people so much for playing games as a profession?”
This match had the same effect on my pulse rate as …
… making the components for a desktop re-enactment of The Battle of Little Bighorn out of Blu-Tack.  Other tactile pressure-sensitive adhesives are available.
A snippet from the programme
Manager Dennis Greene has the step 5 version of the problem of keeping a squad of big names happy.  “A lot has been said over the last few weeks about the recent departures.  Please remember we are always looking to improve and this will ultimately mean that players move on.  The critical thing for the Club though is that we must introduce better quality … when the strikers came in and we switched to two up front Hughesy didn’t want to sit on the bench which led to his departure.  Over the course of this season we will play close on 60 games, had he been prepared to stay he would have probably played more games this season than last but he didn’t want to so he had to go.  I want to wish all those that have left good luck for the future.”
What I learned today
Thrashings are not actually that enthralling for the neutral.  To be fair, none of the ten goals were scruffy – they were all well-worked moves, with good curling crosses or one-touch passing at pace finding intelligent runners.  This was only the third-biggest win of the campaign for this team after an 11-0 FA Vase win over Felixstowe & Walton and a 13-0 league win at Yaxley.  This is a very tidy and impressive new stadium and presumably this club cannot afford to hang around in step 5 for long.  It’s so new that it is not on Google Maps, and houses are now being built on the old site with the new stadium being next to the train line.  Looks like someone has been doing some intelligent property development.  I can’t add this to my list of grounds for simultaneous trainspotting though as they are all hidden from view.  If you like identifying trains from their sounds (the equivalent of the birdsong experts, I guess) then this is the place for you.  Didcot Town unsurprisingly remains the best ground so far for trains though.
Modus Hopper Random Talking Point
This match sets a new personal record for the number of goals seen in a competitive game.  Before today, my records stood as follows:
  • Bedford T 4  St Albans 5 in 2003-4 with a sensational last-gasp winner in a play-off match before the non-league tiers were restructured
  • Belstone (Sunday) 4  Bury Park Saracens 5 in a bad-tempered encounter in the FA Sunday Cup in 2009-10
  • Bugbrooke St Michael’s 7  Olney Town 2 in 2009-10
  • In a WBA game, 4-4 v Watford including a Bob Taylor hat-trick in 1995-96

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