Saturday, 24 December 2011

Twas the Day Before Christmas

What's the collective noun for groundhoppers?

To be fair, there is no evidence that the bike belonged to one of the officials ...
Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 24 December 2011 at West Humble Playing Field
Dorking Wanderers 3 Storrington 2
Sussex County League Division 2 (Step 6)
Christmas Eve, lunchtime, and with an estimated 100 groundhoppers present, many of whom had been to a D3 game earlier in the day!  Well done Dorking Wanderers.  Your choice of ko time fufils a valuable social function in keeping me and all these other obsessives away from homes, shopping centres and workplaces where we would cause untold Christmas Eve chaos.
This match in one sentence
Dorking Wanderers kept their patience to overcome the setback of a gifted goal which had put them 0-2 down after an hour.
So what?
Dorking Wanderers are third, with five games in hand over fourth-placed Storrington, who may yet drop another place or two as the fixture numbers even out.  Both Wanderers and second-placed Hailsham Town would need East Preston to slip up in order to lead the division.
The drama unfolds
The beautiful setting of this ground is a powerful argument in favour of reserving “new” hopping venues for the daylight hours.  Having arrived in good time (but by no means the first among the hopping contingent!) I was moved to make a video introduction.

It was a strange start to the game.  There was a stoppage in play of almost two minutes for two lecture-and-booking combos (one on each side) as the ref imposed himself.  The home side made the best of the early chances, and after 12 mins the Storrington fullback needed to be there for a goalline clearance.

Cleared off the line!
My first-half clip of the play was taken about mid-way through the session.  Wanderers (in the blue/black) looked more menacing but Storrington had two strong and sizeable forwards who looked dangerous themselves on the few occasions they got the ball in advanced positions.

On the half hour, the Storrington #10 showed a glimpse of something to come with a dink over the bar.  The chance had come from a strong run out of defence from their #4.  However, Wanderers were still making chances and only superb last-gasp interventions by #7 and #11 in quick succession prevented an opening goal.  After 37 minutes, a strong run down the right wing by Wanderers’ #9 but the ball on a plate for #12 (an early sub had been needed) but the chance was spooned over.  Almost immediately, Storrington took the lead somewhat against the run of play – the scorer was #10, again using his strength and size to good effect.  0-1 at half-time

The Wanderers manager’s words drifted over at half-time – apparently, if everyone did their jobs, they would win this game.  Well, as it turned out he was right.  There was no hint of this however after 53 mins, when his keeper fluffed a catch and the lino confirmed a goal that, at this time of year, should have had wrapping paper and a bow.  0-2

Wanderers got their first goal on the hour.  Storrington should have been aware that captain #8’s corners would be heading for #11 – we had seen the play attempted several times already – and this time the delivery was inch perfect and the chance was buried.  1-2

#11 nearly got a second but an excellent defensive header by the impressive Storrington #4 saved the day.  The luckless #12 had half a chance from a one-on-one break but ballooned his effort wide.  The equalising goal came with 15 mins to go, from another #11 header, this time with an element of controversy.  Judge for yourself at the end of my second second-half clip.  2-2

I had barely finished noting the news when fullback #3 cut in powerfully from the left and smacked a splendid winner, despite the keeper getting fingertips to the shot.  Wanderers were able to see out the remainder of the game without too much difficulty.  A great game for the passing neutrals, and well done to the host club for their choice of kickoff time.  Final score 3-2
I am sure he is a name as well as a number, but to me he'll always be Red 4
Wanderers' #11's aerial presence had a big part in the result
Wanderers #11 has a strong case for his brace, but I am going for the Storrington #4 who kept the result in doubt for a long time with some excellent defensive work.
A snippet from the programme
The date of 24 December is the anniversary of the sacking of Les Reed by Charlton Athletic, covered in an article which begins:
“Charlton Athletic used to be one of the most stable and boring clubs in the world.  Alan Curbishley was the manager for 437 years and for almost every one of them the Addicks spent little, started well and then tailed off as soon as their Premier League survival was ensured.”
The article goes on to explain that Iain Dowie succeeded Curbishley, but when he was sacked, his unknown assistant (Reed) was appointed.  He is a well known coach, but only lasted 41 days as manager before his Christmas Eve sacking.  I got back to the car after the game to hear 5Live discussing, yet again, Steve Kean’s position at Blackburn Rovers. Hmmm – parallels.
What I learned today
This ground sits at the bottom of Box Hill.  This lump of chalk is good for viewpoints, butterflies, bats, a memorial to a man with BO, and follies among other things and the National Trust are looking after it for us.  Splendid.

Dorking Wanderers were formed in 1999 and have therefore been relatively successful in their short history, cementing a step 6 place with 6 promotions in 12 seasons.  They have been at this venue since 2007 (if I understand the programme correctly).

This ground is added to my list of venues where trainspotting can be combined – it is a local line for which various diesel multiple units from the BR Sprinter series can easily be seen in the livery of SW Trains.  158s and 159s if I am not mistaken.
What Next?
My provisional Boxing Day double is Norwich United v  Kirkley & Pakefield and King’s Lynn v Holbeach but follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter for any changes.

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