Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Working Hard or Ardley Working?

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Tuesday 11 October 2011 at Oxford Road, Ardley
Ardley United 2 Cheltenham Saracens 1
Hellenic League Premier Division (Step 5)
Venue #427 on the lifetime list and I am here because of a 1 in 9 chance from the roll of two dice in the small hours of the morning.  Happens all the time.
This match in one sentence
Saracens woke up when Ardley went down to 10 men, but did not have enough penetration up front to avoid defeat.
So what?
Ardley go up to fourth for the moment though there are teams below who can overtake if they win games in hand.  Cheltenham Saracens remain uncomfortably near the foot of the table.
The drama unfolds
Warning - this report contains sub-standard analogies and should not be read to impressionable young minds seeking linguistic exemplars.

Ardley almost opened the scoring in the first minute as a cross from the left caused surprising difficulty in the visitors’ defence.  This turned out to be A Sign.  Only four minutes later, another one had the same effect and Scott Bridges arrived purposefully from midfield and had plenty of time to get the ball in.  1-0

Ardley proceeded to dominate, and just as I was making a note of how much they were dominating, and trying to work on an analogy involving Cruella de Ville and something like 87 out of 101 Dalmatians to quantify it, Saracens equalised with their first attack of the match on the quarter-hour mark.  A superb weighted through ball right down the centre line from #7 found #9 Carl Griffiths.  He took a touch to get round the onrushing keeper and smacked it high into the net.  1-1

Both sides were contesting decisions loudly and Saracen’s #10 might count himself a bit lucky to have lasted the distance given subsequent events.  There was probably verbal provocation from Ardley’s #5 but #10 certainly raised his hands and jabbed his opponent in the shoulder.  I’ve seen reds given for those.

Ardley restored their lead after 27 minutes.  Scott Bridges, the best player on the pitch for the moment (can you see what’s coming, folks?) played a gorgeous diagonal ball to the left flank, perfectly timed and inviting another cross from the left wing.  Yet again, it was not dealt with, and yet again the scorer seemed to have an age available to get the goal.  2-1

Scott Bridges continued to be at the centre of Ardley’s better chances.  His runs from midfield into the box were not picked up.  He went down, looking for a penalty perhaps, on one of them – to be fair, he didn’t appeal – and had a shot blocked at close range on another.  He got booked for a late tackle after 35 mins and I wrote down that he was having a mixed evening and started working on cocktail analogies.  There was no more scoring before the whistle.  My scene-setter clip (including the windows of the clubhouse bar for that executive-box sensation) is from the closing minutes of the half.  2-1 at half-time

The second half, with Ardley now playing down the slope, settled into the same pattern.  On one occasion, a sliced defensive clearance was lucky, and on another, Ardley players were queueing up to score but someone was selfish.  I made a note that they should have been out of sight, and started thinking about whether a Mariner or Voyager spaceprobe analogy would work best.  The second clip shows one of Bridges' runs into the box, and also shows how tempers were getting frayed like the ropes holding Jerry's anvil over Tom's head in the toons.

Just before the midpoint of the half, Scott Bridges picked up his second yellow, and therefore the red.  This will be no surprise to you if you’ve been reading carefully.  This seemed to galvanise Saracens in the same way that a cattle prod galvanises … er … cattle (it was an evening of trouble for analogies all round really) and they played with renewed energy.

They had half-chances from set pieces, but frankly lacked the ideas up front to break a strong defensive line.  Here are a couple of their best efforts.

As the match wore on, Ardley began to get plenty of possession of their own and the balance was gradually restored as they started to look just as likely to get a third.  There were more minor altercations, more yellow cards, but nothing really in the way of gilt-edged chances and Ardley held on easily enough to take the points, like a … well, make up your own analogy and tweet it to me @GrahamYapp.  Final score 2-1

I didn't see a teamsheet tonight and have not been confident enough to name every player featured in the text - I will amend in due course when I see match reports on the club or league websites.
Not awarded – would have been Scott Bridges if he’d stayed around.
A snippet from the programme
From the Hellenic League News page, an article about Letcombe’s difficulties: “Letcombe FC has used eight different goalkeepers so far this season … with none of (the three that had been used so far) available on Setember 10th, the club hastily signed local schoolteacher Simon Byrne… and youngster Sam Owen-Jones to play for the reserves.  Seven days later all five keepers were unavailable and defenders Luke Faircloth and Steven Wright took over in goal for the first team and reserves.  On September 24th, Stuart Game came out of semi-retirement to play for the reserves … Letcombe have now signed Andrew Walker who could soon become the club’s ninth goalkeeper this season.”
What I learned today
There was a Hellenic league groundhoppers’ day last week.  I was not paying attention.  The evening game was Ardley’s 4-3 win at Kidlington.
What Next?
I will be making a rare foray into the world of professional football on Saturday as I head to Brighton & Hove Albion’s new stadium in order to restore my 92.

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