Tuesday, 2 November 2010

They Used to Play on Grass

I believe Neath are no longer officially Athletic, even though they play that way

Smile please - 'hopper with camera nearby

Hopperational details
Sunday 31 October at Park Hall, The New Saints 3 Neath 1 in the Welsh Premier League.  I am here because a digital clock and die combo sent me to Mossley 2 Nantwich Town 3 in the FA Trophy yesterday (report sent to the nice people at theballisround and posted at http://theballisround.co.uk/2010/11/02/trophy-life/) giving me the chance of an overnight stay at the ancestral home in West Bromwich and a foray into the Borders.
This match in one sentence
Not as straightforward as the scoreline suggests; Neath battled well for much of this game and at least they got a late consolation goal.
So what?
TNS tighten their grip on second place in the league but are still well behind the leaders Bangor City.  Neath stay third, and it begins to look like the top two if not three places in this league are already settled.
Who caught the eye on the pitch?
The teams cancelled each other out for much of the game so it was individual moments that caught the eye.  Neath keeper Craig Morris made a superb but controversial save at 0-1 to keep his team in the game.  Home sources are convinced the ball had crossed the line.  His opposite number Paul Harrison had a great moment of his own later on.  Alex Darlington’s cool finish to make it 2-0 was probably the game’s defining moment, and Richie Partridge’s for 3-0 was icing on the cake.  Partridge was the featured player the last time I saw TNS (at Airbus) – he had a good game again today but was given fewer opportunities by the Neath defence.  Lee Trundle’s absence for the visitors drew an audible home-and-away ripple of disappointment as the teams were announced.

Previous posts featuring one of these teams:

Autumn has officially arrived

This match had the same effect on my pulse rate as …
… trying to decide which is correct from falling off or falling into Offa’s Dyke in a sentence about the effect of a game of football on my pulse rate.  Work that one out, and note the use of recursion.
A snippet from the programme
I have also commented on the Welsh League Cup in my earlier Neath post.  TNS believe they will be in the final after their last game, a 9-0 semi-final first-leg win over Bangor City.  Their lead article comments, “The cup has traditionally been a chance to blood younger players and give match action to fringe squad members, but (Bangor manager) Powell’s selections in what was, after all, a semi-final, showed a complete contempt for the competition, the sponsors and, most of all, the spectators who played to watch the game.”  Powell has been quoted elsewhere as saying, "I do what's best for Bangor City and no-one else."  It's déjà-vu all over again.
What I learned today
Park Hall has an artificial surface, of the type that is not allowed above Step 4 in the English non-league tiers.  Also, I have completely failed despite several attempts to take a photo that I could caption "R Partridge and a pair of trees".
Modus Hopper Random Talking Point
I can't say that the surface had a negative effect on the game for the spectator, or gave an unfair advantage to TNS.  I suspect that players of both teams, though, stayed on their feet more, and so there must be some difference in tactics and style of play.

Durham City’s relegation to step 5 last season was arguably a consequence of a sponsor’s withdrawal when it was made clear that the club would not be permitted to rise above step 4 because of their artificial surface.  They played most of the season with local youngsters, including one impersonator.  The six-point penalty for that misdemeanour cancelled out their two notable wins and they finished with “nul points”, as they say in Eurovision.  Woodley Sports also play on one of these surfaces in step 4.  Both clubs have to switch grounds for FA Cup ties, which must be played on grass.

Anyone remember the novel, “They Used to Play on Grass”, co-authored by Terry Venables in the 1970s?  I vaguely remember that he predicted something approaching a European league on artificial surfaces for the nation’s big clubs, including Celtic and Rangers.  However, I have not checked this – I read it as a teenager and that was enough.
What Next?
A local step 5 hop to Oxhey Jets v Hertford Town this evening!

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