Sunday, 18 December 2011

Middlesexy Football

Wembley's arch peeps over the buildings in the background
First half in bright low December sunshine
This blog's first "one man and a dog" step 7 photo (the lino doesn't count)
Second half starting to get murkier
Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 17 December at Alperton Sports Ground
Willesden Constantine 5 Broadfields United 0
Middlesex County League Premier Division (Step 7)
A few weeks back, I gave Facebook friends the chance to send me to a fixture for any reason they chose.  Rob Summerfield chose Willesden Constantine because of a family history reason – an ancestor worked in the engine sheds at the Junction.  My first attempt was postponed through illness and the second thwarted by an early kick-off time.  No mistake today though – and venue #436 on the lifetime list.  #2 son @yappattack, who now lives nearby, showed commendable foresight by deciding to stay in and write Christmas cards while listening to the Blackburn-WBA commentary on 5 Live.  Boing Boing!
This match in one sentence
A straightforward win for the home side though some late goals gave a harsh look to the final scoreline.
So what?
Constantine are second in the league but still ten points behind runaway leaders Interwood.  Broadfield are 7th with a perfectly symmetrical 6-1-6 game and 31-31 scoring record.  (It’s a long time to wait until 12.12.12 so I have to celebrate these things when they happen!)
The drama unfolds
The first chance of the game fell to Constantine but the keeper made a good block.  Soon after there were loud (and unsuccessful) appeals from Broadfields for a penalty but much too far away for me to offer an opinion.  My opening video clip to set the scene comes after 11 minutes – the home side are in all-blue.

The next clip is after 15 minutes and by this time Willesden were looking the more dangerous, playing patient football as far as the surface would allow.

They took the lead soon afterwards.  #9 finished nicely from the right-hand corner of the box with the outside of his right foot into the far left-hand corner.  Good goal, and entirely deserved on the balance of play.  1-0

They had to wait until 38 minutes to score again though – and things might have been different if Broadfields could have got to the interval at only one down.  A free-kick was punted forward into the box, as much in hope as expectation, but some confusion and hesitancy in the defence gave #10 a chance to finish comfortably with the keeper out of position.  2-0 at half-time
The half-time panorama
Concerned lino calls ref and coaches while Broadfields' keeper adopts submissive position
Eventually the keeper helps to lift the ref who makes the necessary repair ...
With injury time from the first half, a long interval (it’s a trek for the officials to the changing rooms, which the teams don’t make!), and then a net repair delay solved by someone lifting the ref – this is step 7 after all – we started the second half with the light already fading.  Here is a clip from early on, with a wonderful example of a lower-league bobble on an attempted through ball.

My wristwatch had given up at this point so all timings in this report are approximate from now on!  After about an hour Willesden missed a great chance for a third.  An unselfish layoff from #10 put in #11 but his shot shaved the post.  A couple of minutes later it mattered not as #9 found room to control the ball, take a moment and then smack it into the top corner for a joyful finish.  3-0

With my watch showing a ridiculously incorrect two minutes between planes landing at Heathrow (the landing queue is clearly visible from the ground) I abandoned it and started work on calibrating the nearest corner flag as a rudimentary sundial.  On the pitch, Broadfields looked spiritedly for a consolation goal or a way back into the match – after all they had scored 18 goals in their last four games themselves.

They beat the keeper with a header from a set piece but a #2 called Jack was there to head off the line.  I know his name from teammates’ shouts because he spent most of the half marauding along the touchline where I was standing as a right winger.  That is an ambiguous sentence, as it could be taken to mean that I want to be a Tory MP (no chance), but I think the context is clear enough.

The Broadfields keeper kept a fierce shot out at full length and the light got worse.  There was a bright sunset over to one corner but gloom everywhere else and the match finished in near darkness – the most bizarre lighting conditions I have ever seen in a match in this country.  With my watch showing 457 minutes and my sundial also stopped, Willesden added two late goals.

Their #12 held his head in his hands after missing a one-on-one, before #10 got his second with the aid of a deflection.  4-0

A sub (I think) smashed in the fifth and someone from Broadfields was reduced to taunting the Willesden players with, “Even if you win this league you’ll still be in it, you’re going nowhere.”  Seemed a bit childish to me but to be fair I didn’t hear whether there was provocation.  Final score 5-0

I’ll award it to #9 (right) for his two quality finishes and give an honourable mention for a captain’s performance from Marlon at the back.
A snippet from the programme
Er … none at step 7 as a rule!
What I learned today
Willesden Junction has a complex history – fortunately well-documented by the nation’s train enthusiasts.  The very first station seems to have been for the London & Birmingham Railway in the early 1840s, but the London & NW Railway opened a West Coast Main Line station nearby in 1866.  It became a Junction, I am guessing, when the London Railway built its line in 1869,   crossing at right angles but at a higher level.  The site had a large locomotive maintenance facilty used by various companies until the mid-1960s, and it is here I think that Rob’s grandfather plied his trade.  This image, with the sheds on the right, has been downloaded from Wikipedia and is used under the Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence.

As recently as 2010 the station and its surroundings have been the subject for a petition for a residents action group from Harlesden, concerned about the state of the pavements and approaches and the general lack of care being shown for the facilities by the authorities.
What Next?
An immediate trip to Slough to start rinkhopping – a new venue for me for ice hockey!  Middlesex League games kick off at 2pm in the winter months, so plenty of time to make the 6.30pm face off.

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