Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Study of Defensive Methods

The Avenue, from Maiden Castle
Hopperational details
Saturday 6 November 2010 at The Avenue, Dorchester Town 0  Bishop’s Stortford 0 in the step 2 Conference South.  I am here because Phil Brown (former Hull manager) chose Red Sauce in the Sausage Sandwich Game on the Danny Baker show on Radio 5 Live.  The BBC called me while I was sitting at Fleet Services on the M3 waiting for the outcome and I had a brief on-air chat about random groundhopping with the guest presenter, the legendary Suggs (of Madness, of course).  There was a moment of real panic just before I came on – you have to turn the car radio off to avoid a delayed feedback loop and I missed the key answer while the researcher was lining me up!  That’s why I had to ask what sauce had been chosen.  This week’s method is a tribute to Danny Baker, an inspired radio presenter who is absent at the moment for chemotherapy.  Get well soon, Danny.  “You are The Sausage Sandwich Man”, said Suggs, and that is good enough for me.
This match in one sentence
After a dull and even first half, Dorchester Town tried valiantly but unsuccessfully to score a goal in a livelier second half.
So what?
Dorchester are on a six-match (four wins and two draws) unbeaten run in the league.  These two teams remain level on points in mid-table but Bishop’s Stortford are lower on goal difference.

I reach a ‘hopping grand total of 349 and have now visited all of the current Conference South grounds.  I have three more Northern step 2 grounds to visit (Harrogate Town, Stalybridge Celtic and Workington) to meet my main target for the season.
Who caught the eye on the pitch?
For the first half, no-one in particular.  There was relatively little goalmouth action.  In the second half, Bishop’s Stortford goalkeeper Ross Kitteridge has to be picked out as the man who influenced the result more than anyone else.  He had a much busier half, making several decent saves and punches, and putting himself where it hurts in an 85th minute goal-line melée.  I was well placed to see that the ball definitely did not cross the line.  Whatever it is that players of this level get these days, he earned it.

Paolo Vernazza lined up for the visitors.  He is one of the few professional footballers that I have met face-to-face.  As an Arsenal youngster (around 2000 I think) he came with Ashley Cole (who had just scored his first league goal) and Liam Brady to present a Variety Club minibus for Beaumont School in St Albans, where I was headteacher at the time.  He went on to make over 100 appearances for Watford.
This match had the same effect on my pulse rate as …
… trying to replicate the famous Madness “One Step Beyond” synchronised walk with six partially inebriated students, which is not something I would ever have done on a croquet lawn in Cambridge, oh no, and if you have heard differently it must be some sort of misunderstanding.
A snippet from the programme
Terry the Dorchester stadium announcer is a groundhopper!  On his “Tannoy Talk” page he tells the story of the previous (half-term) week, in which he has been to Leeds U 4 Cardiff C 0, Ashton Town 3 Atherton Collieries 1, Eccleshill United 5 Staveley Miners Welfare 1, Southport 2 Kidderminster Harriers 2 and Stourport Swifts 3 Wimborne Town 1.  He notes that all bar one of these games had four goals, which is the kind of geek-like attention that gets my respect.

He writes, “I have just watched a programme about Twitchers on BBC4.  I can see some similarities in behaviour between groundhoppers and twitchers although new grounds and fixtures are perhaps a little more predictable than the location of rare migrating birds.”  Perhaps my twitcher brother Martyn aka @BlurredBirding has the tougher obsession after all.  Should we blame mum, dad or both for these genes?
What I learned today
Maiden Castle, near Dorchester, is an Iron Age hill fort dating from about 600BC to the time of the Roman occupation in the first century AD.  I climbed it for a pre-match walk in bright autumn sunshine.  It looks very impressive in aerial photographs and was well worth the effort, with views over the town to the north and Dorset farmland to the south.  Highly recommended as a good way to walk off or work up an appetite for any variant of sausage sandwiches – it is a five-minute drive from the ground on the southern outskirts.
What Next?
While walking, I took the opportunity to make the decision about Tuesday’s forthcoming hop.  Regular readers will understand that I take distance into account for midweek jaunts.  As it turns out the nearest games on Tuesday are as follows:

  • Step 3 – Hendon v Bury Town (Isthmian Premier)
  • Step 4 – Marlow v Arlesey Town (Southern Div One Central)
  • Step 5 – Haverhill Rovers v CRC (Eastern Counties Premier)
Here’s how it works …

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