Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Takeley Take the Points

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 26 March 2011 at the Len Salmon Stadium (3pm)
Bowers & Pitsea 2 Takeley 3
Essex Senior League, step 5.
The second match of my day, taking place while Wales were playing England in Cardiff.  The crowd of 47 is the club’s lowest of the season and about 33% down on their average.
This match in one sentence
Takeley made the most of their excellent start to the match but were made to work for the win by the home side.
So what?
Bowers & Pitsea have only one home league win in the calendar year 2011, back in January, and they have two teams below them in the table.  They still have to play bottom-placed Clapton once more and have been “concentrating on the league” since last October. Takeley are just below mid-table.
The drama unfolds
Takeley took the lead early on.  Two shots were blocked in quick succession but the ball eventually dropped for Eubell, wearing 9, and he buried it.  0-1.  A few minutes later, the home ‘keeper Bastin made a decent save but the ball came out to a Takeley forward, who buried it.  0-2.  To be honest, I didn’t manage to identify the goalscorer from the other end of the pitch.  I hope it was someone different and I haven't missed a hat-trick.

The first two clips, one from each end of the ground, capture the general atmosphere.

However, Bowers & Pitsea gradually got themselves back in the game and scored after 40 minutes through Richard Robinson to reduce the deficit.  1-2 at half-time.

The home side came out with the momentum for the second half but it took an unusual goal to bring them level.  A disputed direct freekick was scuffed low across the six-yard box by Craig Gillam, and perhaps distracted by inrushing attackers, the goalie Cookman somehow found it nestling in the corner of the net to mild surprise all round.  2-2.

Having worked hard to draw level, Bowers & Pitsea then rather charitably handed the lead back to Takeley.  Eubell seemed to have an age as he went through the middle, got the ball down, and finished.  2-3.

The other two clips show the home sides search for the equaliser.  A couple of times they went close, and sometimes more composure from #11 Charlie Kirby would have helped, but in the end Takeley held on comfortably enough for the win.  Final score 2-3.
Alternative activity of equal excitement for tourists in Pitsea
Go and defuse a bomb in the Wat Tyler Country Park.  This is one of the exhibits at the museum.  The country park is on land that once had an ammunitions factory, and it now has multiple uses.  In fact you could get married, study the molecular structure of nitroglycerin and learn about tower-block demolition on the same day.
A snippet from the programme
“Clubs can now apply to enter the FA Cup, FA Trophy, FA Vase and FA Youth Cup for season 2011-12.  Please click on the link and follow the instructions.  The closing date is Friday 1 April 2011.”
Something random
I was approached by a supporter who wanted to say hello and shake my hand.  As I must have looked bemused, he decided to clarify whether I was indeed the manager of Hullbridge Sports, and was rather disappointed when I was not.  Apparently I am his double, so a trip to this Essex Senior League club will be needed sooner rather than later to check this out.  Anyone got a pic?
What Next?
I shall look out for a chance to get to either FA Vase semi-final second leg next Saturday (at King’s Lynn or Whitley Bay, though I am not optimistic about getting a ticket), and in the meantime there will probably be a local midweek hop on Tuesday.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

My Eats, Meets West Moment at Tilbury

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 26 March 2011 at Chadfields, noon ko
Tilbury 2  Waltham Abbey 1
Isthmian League D1 North (Step 4)
Team Colours
Tilbury in black & white
The England-Wales game led some clubs to move ko times allowing the chance of an Essex double-header hop today
This match in one sentence
A very late stoppage-time winner secured the points for Tilbury after two penalties for handball had cancelled each other out.
So what?
Only one will go down from this division at the end of the season after the demise of Leyton, and Tilbury should be safe now, with Waltham Forest looking adrift.  Waltham Abbey are mid-table and probably need to give up any lingering play-off hopes after this result.  Tilbury’s Ben Bradbury has scored three penalties in a week after two very late ones secured a 3-3 draw against Romford in midweek.
Something random
Before kickoff, I bumped into a thoroughly nice gent – we were both checking out the opening of the tea bar and relieved when the hatch showed signs of movement.  In conversation I explained that I was a groundhopper but an underlying West Brom supporter when he dropped the bombshell, “West Brom?  I used to play for them!”, and introduced himself as none other than Colin West.  My instant reaction of, “The last time I saw you, you got sent off!” was, on reflection, not one of my finer moments.  (He had come back with Swansea for a playoff second leg, the last time I stood on the Brummie Road terracing.  Albion won, and went on to beat Port Vale in the playoff final at Wembley in Ossie Ardiles’ last game as manager.)
Colin West does what any groundhopper would do
Colin had a laugh with the tea lady along the lines of, “Isn’t that typical, you just get remembered for the one bad reason instead of all the good ones”, and he has a point.  We chatted for a few minutes about football (his world) and education (mine).  He played at West Brom for a few seasons under Brian Talbot and said he enjoyed his time there, playing alongside players such as Don Goodman.  Like many players of that era, he wishes the current players all the best in earning as much as they can from their trade.  He was at Chadfields today in a paternal role, as sons Sam (#5) and Jack (#9) lined up in the black and white of Tilbury.  Colin is still involved in the game in various ways, including some media work covering another one of his former clubs, Watford, and I will make a point of looking out for him in future.  His lads did well today as part of this very decent win for the home side.  Great to meet you, Colin, and thanks for your good humour and giving me a few minutes of your time.

I just love it when random things happen.
Sam West (5) in central defence for Tilbury ...

... and Jack West (9) up front.
For the record, Colin West made his league debut at The Hawthorns for Sunderland against WBA.  He played just over 100 games for them before his £100,000+ move to Watford, where he had an impressive 20-goal season in 85-6 and moved for an even higher fee to Glasgow Rangers.  The stay in Scotland was relatively short, and he was signed for West Brom by way of Sheffield Wednesday in the meantime.  His West Brom scoring record of 22 league goals in 73 appearances (64 starts) looks pretty good compared with several more recent custodians of the striker's role, but he will probably remember the West Brom supporters in his four seasons with us (from 88-89 to 91-92) as pretty grumpy as we struggled to get out of the third tier. After the season at Swansea, he had five seasons at Orient where he kept up the goals to games ratio (42 in 142) and his final tally comes up as 137 goals in 467 games at various levels.  Since then he has been assistant manager to Chris Turner at both Hartlepool and Sheffield Wednesday and had a number of coaching positions, most recently at Hartlepool where his contract as reserve team manager came to an end in May last year.
The drama unfolds
Here’s some of the early exchanges and a look at the ground.

The first real chance of the game came in the 7th minute but Tyler Campbell’s shot went wide for the visitors.  Tilbury’s Ben Boyce berated the lino for allegedly not keeping up, but the official told him to smile.  He didn’t.  Then in the 22nd minute, this happened.  You are the ref.

Ben Bradbury scored from the spot as you can see.  1-0.  The rest of the half passed without too much incident.  Jack West won a fair few balls in the air and made some intelligent flicks, but also got caught offside more than once.  Waltham Abbey had one good chance to equalise from a curling crossed freekick on the half-hour mark, but the header went wide to the hiss of a collective intake of breath from the noisier home supporters.  Tilbury generally coped better with the bouncing ball and looked good value for their lead.  1-0 at half-time.

Tilbury started the second half in much the same way.  They came close again and forced a series of corners.  Blue-booted Aaron Matthews was wearing number 3 but was very often in advanced positions.  One mazy run into the box led to some “watching Brazil” chants from the home supporters, who had clearly given the bar an early injection of cash at the interval.

Some of my other second-half clips are, shall we say, unbroadcastable without a new soundtrack and might upset sensitive people in Grays, for example.  The other lino came in for some stick after one moment of crossed wires between him and the ref.

Then, well, you are the ref again.

It was disallowed, and Waltham Abbey clawed themselves back into the game.  There was a long stoppage for an injury to Tilbury’s Conor Mead.  Players looked concerned, officials ran back to the changing room for a stretcher, and an ambulance was called from the pitch by mobile phone.  Then, a handball decision again, and Abbey substitute Kieron Ogunkoya had this penalty chance with 15 minutes to go.

So, 1-1 and looking like a draw.  However, fair play to Tilbury for determination and keeping heads up.  They hit the woodwork.  Then, the aforementioned Aaron Matthews burst forward once more in stoppage time and kept his composure for a good points-winning finish.  The whistle went almost immediately, to cue beery chants of, “We are staying up!”  Final score 2-1.
Alternative activity of equal excitement for tourists in Tilbury
Put on full Tudor costume, go down to Tilbury Fort, knock on the door and say, “Sorry, I’m late, but prithee may I join the Good Queen Elizabeth’s navy to fight against the Spanish fleet?” and see if you can avoid arrest for 90 minutes.
A snippet from the programme
I have mentioned Travellers Tales with Brian Buck before.  By Saturday 12 March he had reached 9986 matches at 2991 venues and this is a snippet from his report on Okeford United v Sherborne Town Reserves in the semi-final of the Dorset Senior Trophy.

“Today for me was an example of what football is or should be all about.  This village side, who play a few miles south of Shaftesbury, were having their big day.  Soon the programmes arrived.  They don’t normally issue and this was our real reason for being here.  Having got the Holy Grail we then shot off to knock off a few pubs before kickoff.  We saw people actually walking to the ground from the village and it seemed that they had all come to watch.  The pitch was one of those which sloped up and down and from side to side.  The ref was the son of ex-Football League red (sic) Paul Durkin and he was fine, which was fortunate for him as he was being assessed.”
What I learned today
The Academy, in the distance, dominates its surroundings
On the way to the ground I passed the Gateway Academy, one of the distinctive new buildings that has been created in the secondary education sector.  I immediately wondered what had become of St Chad’s School, which I remember as fighting against the socioeconomic odds in the early 90s when I was a deputy headteacher in Chelmsford and “league tables” were invented for schools.  Research today shows that it was indeed closed as part of the changes, and in fact the building burned down in 2009.  Those people who know me outside groundhopping circles will understand why I notice these things.  I wonder how parents are coping with all this – even “academy status” now means something fundamentally different compared with two years ago.
What Next?
A short drive along the A13 to Bowers & Pitsea v Takeley for a 3pm ko in the Essex Senior League.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Three Reds, Three Pens, Three-Two

The arch of the other ground in Wembley

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 19 March 2011 at Vale Farm (Wembley FC)
Hendon 2 Margate 3
Isthmian Premier League (step 3)
This does not add to my lifetime total as I was here earlier this season to watch Wembley FC.  However, it was good to cross paths again with one of my first non-league Twitter friends, Margate supporter @JeremyJacobs.
This match in one sentence
Margate went in at half-time on their way to a comfortable win against ten men, until a crazy second half of red cards and penalties left them with nine men hanging on for the win.
So what?
Margate stay 14th and Hendon drop one place to 16th (4pts behind with two games in hand) but both clubs look safe to stay in step 3 next season.  Margate are looking for a new manager having parted company with Iain O’Connell this week.
The drama unfolds
Managerless Margate made a bright start and Craig Cloke scored with a header after 8 minutes.  0-1.  After 15 minutes, another defensive lapse allowed Tom Bradbrook to shrug off the last defender and finish neatly. 0-2.  It really did look game over at that point, especially when Hendon’s Danny Dyer was sent off with a straight red card on 23 minutes for a tackle that was deemed dangerous by the referee.  The rest of the first half was unremarkable and we anticipated a second-half doze in the sun.  The first clip captures the general ambience. 0-2 at half-time.

How wrong we were.  Hendon came out with purpose and soon got a goal back with a move that scythed through the middle of the Margate back four.  Belal Aite-Ouakrim was the scorer, after 52 minutes.  1-2.  They were soon level, six minutes later.   Margate full-back Tommy Osborne diverted a goalbound attempt with an obvious handball on the line, and was duly red-carded.  The second clip is of the resulting penalty, taken by Jamie Busby.

So, 2-2 and 10 v 10, all to play for after all with half-an-hour left.  Then Hendon keeper Berkley Laurencin came out of his area, missed the ball but forced James Pinnock wide. As the keeper raced back towards the byline, he brought down Pinnock who was about to roll the ball across the unguarded goalmouth towards onrushing team-mates.  Penalty? Definitely – but what colour of card? The third clip tells the story.

Now, 2-3 after that penalty from Wayne Wilson, and almost 2-4 as the ball was rolled beautifully from the wing by Bradbrook into wide open central spaces for Pinnock to hit it first time on the run, but Laurencin made a good diving save.  Another missed tackle, and a yellow for Pinnock, meant that Hendon’s Busby had the chance to equalise from the spot.  The clip shows what happened and caught a prophetic moment from another guest Margate supporter, Neil, with whom I was chatting.  Neil showed early signs of conversion to non-league fandom, which is excellent.

A great save from Jamie Turner in the Margate goal preserved the lead.  When James Rogers earned a second yellow (and therefore a red) to send Margate down to nine men, we were in for a frantic finish.  Busby hit the post with a long-range shot with Turner beaten, but Margate played a 7-1 formation, more or less, and held out for the win with Shaun Welford working his proverbial socks off as a target man. Final score 2-3.  Hendon will rue their sluggish start to the game, and Margate's new manager will have some work to do.
Alternative activity of equal excitement for tourists in Wembley
The goalscoring pattern is the same as the classic FA Cup final from 1978-9, where Arsenal were coasting at 2-0 at half-time, Manchester United got back to 2-2, but Arsenal got a late winner.
A snippet from the programme
Former Hendon midfielder, now playing for Chelmsford City, Takumi Ake, emotionally recalled seeing the devastating scenes of an earthquake and tsunami impact upon his home country for the first time as “like something out of a film”.  But he expressed his thanks for the recent contributions to his “Tako Fund” to raise cash for the British Red Cross’ relief efforts.  The diminutive wide man was upset by the tragedy at home, fearing for the safety of his relatives.  He said: “My family and friends are all fine, though at first I was a bit panicky until I spoke to them about four hours after I heard the news … When I saw it all I just couldn’t believe it – that’s actually happening in Japan. That’s something you see in a film and I was in shock.”
What I learned today
You can actually see the arch of Wembley national stadium from Vale Farm – I missed this at my evening midweek visit earlier this season.  See
for details of that game.
Something random
If you haven’t already done so, have a look at my analysis of quarter-final draws.  There’ll be a test later. http://modushopperrandom.blogspot.com/2011/03/embrace-numbers-quarter-final-draws.html
What Next?
Work commitments will prevent a Tuesday hop this week, sadly, so no definite plans as yet.  Look out on Twitter as I may give you a chance to choose somewhere for me!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Embrace the Numbers - Quarter-Final Draws

In interviewing scores of people for jobs in schools over the years, I have met many people who were quite happy to admit they felt uncomfortable with numbers, and mathematics in general.  My aim in this particular post is to explain some probability calculations in an accessible and readable way, and try to demystify some of the supposed difficulty.  You might want to have a calculator to hand, and you might want to come back and read it again.  You might want to run screaming into the night in the general direction of Hertfordshire with a lump mallet and intent, but I hope not.

On Thursday I asked: "What are the chances of Man Utd playing Tottenham AND Real Madrid playing Barcelona in the Champions League Quarter-Final draw?"  (Doesn't matter which team is at home in the first leg.)

The classic quarter-final draw has eight balls in one pot, which can be drawn out with no special seedings or restrictions, to give four ties, with home & away teams decided by the order of the draw.  The mathematics is exactly the same for the current Champions League quarter final draw and the Sixth Round of the FA Cup or the FA Vase.

We have just learned that this year’s CL QF ties are Inter/Schalke, Real Madrid/Spurs, Barca/Shaktar & Chelsea/Man Utd.  I tweeted that the chances of this happening were 0.059523809%, and hopefully this post will prove it in a way that is relatively easy to understand,  and also give the answer to the above “competition” which I set in the previous post from the Haringey Borough game.

Step One – How many alternative draws are there?

Imagine the balls are numbered 1 to 8.  They could emerge in the order 4>3>7>1>8>5>2>6 but this is only one of many possibilities.

To establish the pattern, let’s simplify things and consider a draw of only two teams.  There are TWO possibilities for the first ball out, 1 or 2.  However, whichever one comes out, there is only ONE ball left in the bag.  So the only possible sequences are 1>2 or 2>1 and a total of 2 x 1 = 2 possibilities.

For three balls in a bag, there are THREE different possibilities for the first ball out.  For EACH of these outcomes, there are TWO different possibilities for the second one out, and then the third is fixed because there is only ONE left.  This means 3 x 2 x 1 = 6 possibilities.  They are 123, 132, 213, 231, 312 and 321.  (This pattern does not appear in cup draws as there are an odd number of teams!)

Four balls in a bag is a classic semi-final draw, and I have covered this in a previous post.  Hopefully it is clear by the same logic that there are 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24 possibilities, and the table in the post covers them all for the conspiracy theorists.

These numbers are known as factorial numbers and denoted by the ! symbol in conventional mathematical notation.  1! = 1, 2! = 2, 3! = 6 and 4! =24.  So the first number that we need for our quarter-final analysis is 8! = 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 40320.  In other words, the sequence 43718526 that I mentioned above is only one of 40320 unique possibilities for the appearance of the balls.

(We will need to remember later that some of the different sequences have the same sporting outcome in our particular example.  If the teams appear in the order 12345678 then the matches will be the same as if they appear 78563412.  More of this later.)

(These numbers get pretty large in the earlier rounds of the competition.  Try working out the number of possible draws for the third round of the FA Cup, which has 64 teams!  It's about one hundred and twenty-seven thousand billion billion billion billion billion billion billion, using a billion to mean a million million.  Perhaps we'll come back to this next January, if you are still speaking to me.)

Step Two – What is the chance that Man Utd will play Tottenham?

In my question, I made no distinction about which team was home or away on the first leg, so common sense takes us the next step.  Assuming the draw is fair, Tottenham is one of seven possible opponents for Manchester United.  All of these opponents are equally likely, so the chance of any named one is 1 in 7 (expressed as betting odds), one seventh (expressed as a fraction of one) or 14.2857% (expressed as an approximate percentage chance).  You can see this by working out 100 divided by 7 on a calculator, and it is an example of a recurring infinite decimal.  One seventh is 0.142857142857142857…. with the six numbers repeating in the same order.

Putting this visually, the size of this rectangle represents all the possible 40320 draw outcomes.  The reason why this is a 5x7 grid will become clear shortly.

In one-seventh of these (5760 of them to be precise), Manchester United will play Tottenham.  In another 5760 of them, Manchester United will play Real Madrid.  Manchester United have to play someone, and 7 x 5760 = 40320 as all seven opponents are equally likely as we said.

So the green-shaded area represents the 5760 possible draws in which Manchester United would play Tottenham, and the other six teams are playing each other in all the various permutations.

Step Three
What is the chance that Man Utd will play Tottenham AND Real Madrid will play Barcelona?

For the second part of my competition question, we have to focus ONLY on these 5760 possible draws that put Manchester United and Tottenham together.  Real Madrid may play Barcelona in lots of possible draws in which, say, Manchester United played Shaktar and Tottenham played Inter.  Those would be irrelevant to the question, which is about the chance of two things happening simultaneously.  To mathematicians, the word AND is very different from the word OR in these types of problem.

So let’s assume that Manchester United are to play Tottenham, in one of those 5760 possibilities shaded in green.  Real Madrid must be playing one of five other opponents, equally likely.  So one-fifth of those 5760 outcomes will have Man Utd v Tottenham AND Real Madrid v Barca.  5760 divided by 5 is 1152.  In other words, 1152 of the 40320 possible draws will have these two pairings.  (The other two pairings could be either way round, it wouldn’t affect the answer to our question.)

Visually …

The dark-blue segment represents our answer in which Man Utd play Tottenham AND Real Madrid play Barca.  It is one-thirtyfifth of the whole rectangle.

So we have two ways to calculate the final answer.

The fraction one-thirtyfifth as a percentage is worked out by pressing 100 divided by 35 on a calculator and we see 2.85714%.  Again, those numbers would repeat in an infinite decimal.  The same answer is achieved by calculating the odds as 1152 divided by 43020 and multiplied by 100 to get a percentage.  2.85714% again – it’s really exactly the same destination, just reached by two different routes.

The winner was: Hitchin-based tweeter @novice2scratch who is having an interesting sporting life of his own, which I hope you will all now follow immediately on http://novice2scratch.com/.  There's a great story unfolding there.  For the record, he supplied the correct answer within minutes of seeing the question.

Step Four – Finally, why did the real draw have a 0.059523809% chance of happening?

Remember that there are 40320 unique draws – each one is a unique sequence of the eight balls.  The chance of any individual sequence, say 14528763, is 1 in 40320 (expressed as odds), 1/40320 (as a fraction) and 0.00248015873% as a percentage.  If you try 100 divided 40320 on your calculator it will either round it to something like 0.00248 or will show it in something called standard form as 2.48015873 x 10-3.  I’m guessing that if that means anything to you, you have easily understood the rest of this post so I am moving on quickly.  It’s a small chance – one in about forty thousand.

However, in this particular context it doesn’t really matter to us which order the four ties come out.  Remember I said earlier that we would need to come back to this point.  With four ties to be drawn, there are 24 possible ways of getting the same sporting pairs with the same home/away order (by the same logic as the semi final draws), so my final step is to say that this combination of teams in the right home/away order would have come up from 24 out of the 40320 possible outcomes, and the same type of calculation gives us 0.059523809%. 24 divided by 40320 multiplied by 100 if you want to check.

Remember, you will be able to say, “Well, that had a 0.059523809% chance of happening!” EVERY year after EVERY FA Cup Round Six draw.  The numbers will always be the same, and if that doesn’t win you gasps of admiration I’ll be amazed.

Postscript – What were the chances of an all-English tie?

There are three English teams in the draw, so there could be one all-English tie, or none.  Going back to our visualisation, the green area represents all the possible 5760 outcomes in which Man Utd play Tottenham.  Chelsea could be playing any one of the other five teams.  The orange area represents all of those (another 5760) in which Man Utd play Chelsea, and Tottenham could be playing any one of the other five.  The purple area is for Tottenham playing Chelsea.

We can see that as a fraction this is three-sevenths, or (3 x 5760) out of 40320 = 17280 / 40320.  Either route leads us to 42.8571% and those same digits in a different order!  Beautiful, I think you'll agree.

So there we are.  Welcome to my world.  I told you there'd be tangents, and remember, "Chance is a Fine Thing". :)