Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A Game of Blofield Football

The ground is set in some fine agricultural land
Please supply your own "red tape problem in lower leagues" joke

Huddling together for warmth at set pieces
A live re-enactment of the classic three-hat problem in mathematics

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 26 December 2011 at Plantation Park, Blofield, Norwich
Norwich United 1 Kirkley & Pakefield 1
Eastern Counties League Premier Division (Step 5)
First half of a double Boxing Day hop, chosen this time for geographical reasons!
This match in one sentence
Both teams will feel they could and should have won this game, which at least had a lively second-half with more incidents to keep our attention.
So what?
Norwich United drop one place to fourth in the league but will face pressure soon from teams with games-in-hand.  Kirkley & Pakefield are four from bottom but their lead over three of the teams below is comfortable enough for the moment at least.
The drama unfolds
This game kicked off 25 minutes late, which had me getting nervous about the immediate trip to King’s Lynn.  (Happy ending follows in the next post!)  The first quarter-hour was pretty even, with both teams seeming to struggle to play their best football.  I suppose the county of Norfolk is famous for turkeys, and perhaps plenty had been consumed yesterday – plus it was a bit breezy.  Here’s a scene-setter clip from midway through the first half which finishes with a chance for the visitors.  United are in the yellow & blue.

My clockwatching anxieties increased as several players needed either lengthy treatment or lengthy lectures from the ref, who became a central figure in proceedings with his yellow card.  The second clip also ends with an away chance.
Another casualty
The good old-fashioned fully didactic ref-lecture technique
Yet another casualty

To be brutally honest, it was a very forgettable first half with five added minutes.  0-0 at half-time

The home side improved somewhat after the break.  Smith, the visiting goalie, blocked well after Tom Mustapha (formerly of Hitchin Town) had used his physical strength to set up a chance.  They went close from this corner …

However, K&P were really unlucky not to take the lead just before the hour mark.  A deflected shot ballooned upwards, and the keeper Ben Nower could only watch as it looped over him and dropped on top of the bar before bouncing over.  Then K&P fullback Joe Bell sent in a good ball which Grint, stretching, sent narrowly over.  (Bell is listed in the programme as “defiantly one to watch for this season”.)  United then had two decent chances of their own – Smith tipped over a 20-yard shot from Mustapha and was then fortunate that a placed shot from the corner was slow enough for him to reach.

For the second successive hop, I saw a Christmas gift of a goal.  Nower should have caught a bouncing through ball easily enough but his mistake presented Stock with an unmissable chance after 65 minutes.  0-1

Nower has the chance for solitary contemplation in the 66th minute
Fullback Andrew Key had been taking all the home set pieces and he had the first chance to equalise – but his direct free-kick was tipped over by Smith.  The next clip is taken from this phase of the match – United were pressing for the equaliser but K&P were threatening on the break.

After 86 minutes, the whistle went for a United penalty.  Even the home players seemed surprised but the ref was clear that fullback Chris Bond had committed a foul.  Key stepped up, but Smith dived to his right to push the ball away.

Smith is about to dive right, which is right.
However, the chance to atone came only moments later. Key's cross from the left wing was headed in by defender Adrian Ager.  1-1

The tide turned immediately and the home side tried to win it, and my final clip comes from just before the final whistle.  Not a great game, but probably a fair result.  Final score 1-1


Smith did very little wrong in the K&P goal.  Louis Cutajar looked neat and tidy on the left of midfield for the home side, but he was forced to go off himself not long after his directly opposing fullback had been booked.
A snippet from the programme
It is often true that a neat-and-tidy programme appears at neat-and-tidy grounds at this level, and Norwich United is a good example.  You can tell from the moment you enter the ground that the club is cared-for.  For the snippet, I will choose the pen picture that will be of most interest to my local followers:
“Tom Mustapha – Striker – previous club Hitchin Town.  Tom has joined us this season, he is very quick and can score goals.  His pace should prove to be a real problem for the opposition.”

Mustapha was one of several players upended more than once today.  I think his teammates are looking towards the bench for a thermometer.
Although he did not get on the scoresheet today, he is top scorer for the club in the league with nine goals this season.
What I learned today
The Norwich United manager, Paul Chick, and his assistant, Donny Pye, are known in these parts as the Chick n’Pye combo.  I like this a lot, and it beats anything original I have to offer today!
What Next?
A one-hour jaunt westwards to King’s Lynn Town for a 3.00pm kickoff!

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