Sunday, 18 March 2012

Hopping Mad in the Central Midlands

Clifton set the ball rolling
Hoporganiser Rob Hornby tries to explain to Norwegian TV
Tramspotter bonus at Basford
Champions League style entrance at Dronfield Town
There's a goalkeeper at the end of every rainbow
Token arty shot - water drops on a fence #23

Glapwell and the inky blackness beyond it
Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 17 March 2012 in the Central Midlands
See below for individual match details
The Central Midlands League North (games 3,4) & South (games 1,2) Divisions (Step 7)
Grounds 452-455 – my first “quadruple” and my first “organised” hop.  The Basford United game was my 50th new venue this season.  Thanks to the league management and for hop organiser Rob Hornby.  I couldn’t get to the fifth game, which was the night before.  There were crowds of about 250 for each match.

Clfton v Real United

The drama unfolds from 10.10am

The Norman Archer Memorial Ground
In one sentence: A straightforward win in the end for Clifton, the better side on the day.

The first good chance of the game drew a sharp save from Real’s Dan Argyle, from Clifton’s number 9 Chris Atkins.  My scene-setter clip shows the keeper in action again, as Clifton started to dominate proceedings as the half went on.  Atkins’ strike partner Michael Evans was also a threat to Real with his strength and physical presence.  Clifton are in all-white.

However, despite looking the more likely, Clifton failed to make Argyle work harder, and there were no goals before the interval.  0-0 at half-time

An unmarked Atkins headed his side into the lead after 52 minutes with a looping header.  1-0  Eight minutes later the game was sealed with a textbook curling shot from Clifton captain Craig Anderson.  He had the good grace to look just as surprised as Argyle before celebrating!  There were some protests of offside but it was a great, great finish.  2-0  Ben Richardson added a third with the last competitive kick of the game.  Final score Clifton 3 Real United 0

So what? Clifton are 6th and Real United are 13th in their division.

Basford United v Notts Police 

The drama unfolds from 1.00pm

The Mill, Greenwich Avenue
In one sentence: The table-toppers were made to work hard by the Police side but late goals made the scoreline look comfortable.

Basford’s Jarrod Westcarr pinged the post in the first minute and the hoppers anticipated a goalfest in keeping with form and league position.  However, the Police had not read this script and took the lead in the 10th minute through Bernard Alves.  0-1

Here is the scene setter clip – Basford in yellow, Police in black-and-white.

Police goalkeeper James Elliott was getting busier by the minute and around the half-hour made three quick saves in succession to protect the lead.  A low save to his left prevented a ricochet own-goal.  Carl Westcarr and Aaron Hooton linked in the area but the latter’s shot was a nice height for the save.  A 20-yarder was pushed away.  However, it was only a matter of time before this happened, and the scores were level at the changeround.  The scorer was Martin Holt, it was unlucky for Elliott and oooh look! A tram!  1-1 at half-time

Basford only took ten minutes into the second half to take the lead.  Hooton’s first attempt was once again pushed on to the post by Elliott but the rebound fell kindly.  2-1  The keeper had no chance with Hooton’s second, though, as he controlled a dropping ball through the centre really well before taking a few steps and smacking it in.  3-1  A fourth goal came in the dying moments, an easy header for Courtney Hastings after Elliott missed a corner.  Final score Basford United 4 Nottinghamshire Police 1

So what? Basford top the table and the Police are bottom but one with only the freefalling Kimberley Town below them.

Dronfield Town v Thoresby CW

The drama unfolds from 4.30pm

Stonelow Playing Fields
In one sentence: The home side emerged winners in a competitive game played in rapidly changeable weather conditions.

Here’s the scene-setter clip.

Dronfield started the stronger and nearly took the lead after 13 minutes.  A set-piece had led to defensive disorder and Thoresby were relieved when the final rebound trickled wide.  However, a minute later, Dronfield’s striker John Doran moved on to a long ball through the centre, neatly stayed on his feet after a lunging challenge from the last defender, and finished the one-on-one.  1-0

Thoresby could have equalised after 20 minutes but a fierce shot from the left rattled the bar.  My new smartphone was displaying “Dronfield – rain” and on the basis that it is smarter than me I moved round to the covered stand.  Not a moment too soon – see the clip!  1-0 at half-time

Dronfield extended there lead after 48 minutes.  Good play by Doran and strike partner Nick Horsfield set up Andy Gange who looked “well happy” with his left-foot curling shot.  2-0

The low, intensely bright sun was a factor in Thoresby getting one back on the hour.  These clips have the goal and the rainbow!  The scorer is Danny House.  2-1

Doran hit the bar but soon afterwards provided the cross for Gange to head his second and restore the two-goal margin after 65 minutes.  3-1  Thoresby’s Gavin King soon had two chances to make it interesting again – for the first his control was good but the shot trickled wide, and the second drew a good save from Nick Siddons.  Sub Craig Stoddart then shot over which meant that it really was adding insult to injury when Doran scored again with a minute to go.  Final score Dronfield T 4 Thoresby CW 1

So what?  Dronfield stay third and in theory have enough games in hand to catch the leaders.  Thoresby drop one place to sixth and have even more games in hand, also enough in theory to catch them all.

Glapwell v Parkhouse

The drama unfolds from 7.30pm

Hall Corner
In one sentence: Glapwell improved in the second half but couldn’t find a goal from anywhere so in the end this was a straightforward Parkhouse win.

Here’s a first-half scene-setter with Glapwell in white & black.

The Glapwell printer ran out of ink before I could acquire a teamsheet but this is a club with personality that seems to be falling on hard times.  It has a gorilla playing the drums, and a lifesize knitted man in club kit, in the corner of the clubhouse.  Its floodlights are a testament to recent forays at higher levels and it was therefore chosen for the evening hop.  Their website has helped me with the player names below, so all is well.

Parkhouse were far and away the better side in the first half and it was no surprise when they took the lead after 23 minutes.  A great ball in from the left by Ant Lynam created a shooting opportunity – the first was blocked but the rebound was tucked away by Lee Clay and that was all the goal action for the first half.  0-1 at half-time

Glapwell started with more urgency pressing down the slope and for the next twenty minutes either side could have scored next.  The Glapwell number 8 was denied a shooting chance by a last-ditch intervention by the Parkhouse number 4 after a “dodgy keeper” clearance, and that was one of the clearer chances.  Glapwell looked pretty enough in approach but lacked a cutting edge.

Here’s my second half clip.

The sucker-punch of a second goal was a shot from a narrow angle on the right by Michael Wain with 15 to go.  They had one more disallowed and there was just time for home sub Adam Jones to send a direct freekick just over the bar.  Final score Glapwell 0 Parkhouse 2

So what?  Glapwell are bottom but one (above a side who have lost all 22 games) and Parkhouse are seventh and headed for mid-table.
What Next?
No idea! Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for any information.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Supermarinated Canaries

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 10 March 2012 at Top Field
Hitchin Town 0 Swindon Supermarine 1
Southern League Premier Division (step 3)
This game does not count as an addition to the lifetime list, but I am here to add my welcome to The Phoenix Club of groundhoppers from Belgium and Holland.
This match in one sentence
Hitchin Town missed lots of chances and Swindon Supermarine converted one of theirs for a classic streetwise away win.
So what?
Very valuable points for Supermarine on a day when several of the lowest-placed clubs picked up points.  Hitchin stay on 40pts and need a few more before they can be sure of survival in their first season back at step 3, but I would back them to do so.
Something random

Welcome to The Phoenix Club which includes tweeters @Doingthe116, @HansRedMagic and @DutchAddick.  They were today’s match sponsors.  This jolly group of football fanatics democratically selects a game each year and they have successively jinxed Workington, Merthyr Tydfil, Hayes & Yeading, Marlow and now Hitchin Town.  They have never seen their chosen home team win in their five-year existence.  I am tempted to invite them to Molineux for the next Black Country derby, but I am sure that Manchester City will pay them more to stay away from Eastlands.  The good news, however, is that as continental gentlemen of refinement they love their non-league.  A pleasure to meet you, gents, and good luck on your travels.  They are pictured here with local tweety friend and Hitchin advocate @CynInHerts.
The drama unfolds
My opening clip comes after 15 minutes – I had arrived just in time for kick-off – and Supermarine are in red.  There’s nothing wrong with the soundtrack, it was indeed rather quiet and subdued at Top Field today.

There was very little incisive goalmouth action in the first half-hour.  Supermarine are a strong and well-organised side, and they had the early territorial advantage.  We passed through, and thankfully left behind, a niggly few minutes in which several players shouted louder than the crowd on their swandive to the turf in search of a "decision".  There were a few exchanges of view, a bit of pushing and shoving, and a yellow card or two.  Martyn Bennett in the Hitchin goal was slightly the busier of the two keepers.  The second equally tedious clip (I was not cut out for a career in advertising, you know) is from half-an-hour in.

Gradually, Hitchin got into the game and I took clips of a couple of set-pieces, but if you are looking for real excitement then have a look at the Dulux catalogue of beiges instead.  0-0 at half-time

At half-time I was introduced to the visiting sponsors by @CynInHerts and joined them on the terraces for the second half.  We exchanged jolly groundhopping stories while we watched Hitchin Town impose themselves on the game.  Nice to meet people who don't think I am barmy.  They had even heard of Sherjill MacDonald, the enigma.  There was the real prospect of the end of the Phoenix Jinx, as it seemed a matter of when rather than if the home team would score.  Credit to the defence and their keeper for good work all round and one flying save in particular.

The sucker-punch away goal came with about 12 minutes to go.  Bradley Gray’s looping shot from the left gave Bennett no chance, possibly aided by a deflection.  0-1

There was to be no late drama for me this week, as the final two clips will confirm.  Final Score 0-1

The Phoenix Club have a tradition of selecting a man-of-the-match, and they like a tackle, so Hitchin’s Ieuan Lewis got their collective nod, and who am I to argue?  My picture of the presentation has been submitted to, and I hope their webmasters will consider it bad enough to publish in due course.  It deserves a wider audience of people deliberately looking for bad art.
A snippet from the programme

Fair play to the club for attempting a Dutch welcome on the front page, part of which translates as:

“The Netherlands has its own football tradition, one to be proud of, and we hope to show you something similar with “Total Football” here at Hitchin.”
What Next?
Not a clue. Other commitments mean that I am planning one day at a time but I could end up at the Central Midlands League hop next Saturday.  Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details.  For those following the blog in forensic detail I am pleased to report that offspring #2 @yappattack is seemingly on the mend but the oil in his eye will probably stay there for several months while retinal healing takes place.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The Draw of a Day Trip from Margate

This might explain at least some of the headaches of the home directors

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 3 March 2012 at The Abrahams Stadium
Wingate & Finchley 2 Margate 2
Isthmian Premier League (Step 3)
This fixture does not add to the lifetime list (see #203) but it was in the right place on my journey back having taken @yappattack to a checkup at Moorfields Hospital in the morning.  My original Twitter friend and Man of Margate @JeremyJacobs was also in attendance.
This match in one sentence
After a bizarre start which had two goals in two minutes, Margate eventually needed a late penalty to rescue a point in windy conditions.
So what?
Mid-table security looks likely for both these sides but Margate will be the happier having avoided what would have been a seventh league defeat in a row.
Something random
How are Wingate & Finchley surviving at this level with a crowd of 105?  Half of them were supporting Margate, including a bow-tie wearing band.  Nice!  Pic courtesy of Jeremy Jacobs.

The drama unfolds
The match kicked off at ten-to-eight according to the stadium clock on the far side.  The first harmless-looking ball over the top landed in the Wingate & Finchley penalty area after about 20 seconds.  Somehow, Tom Bradbrook had plenty of time to bring it down and fire in a daisycutter of a shot that crept in at the back post from the cutest of acute angles.  No idea how it went in, and in fact two other sources have it as a header, but not a great moment for home keeper Bobby Smith.  0-1

From the first attack after the restart, a long ball down the middle dropped from the sky towards the penalty spot.  Leon Smith (for whom the word burly was invented) jumped with Margate keeper Simon Overland, who was trying to punch clear.  Smith made contact with the ball and his header looped into the net, Overland made contact with Smith who stayed down for a horizontal moment of celebration.  Only two minutes gone, at most.  1-1

Neither team could maintain this goals-per-attack ratio and the game settled into a pattern, with Margate arguably having the advantage of the windy conditions.  Here’s a scene-setter clip taken about 20 minutes in from the back of the main stand.  The home side are in blue.

Wingate & Finchley took the lead after 33 minutes.  A curling ball from the right got into the 6-yard box and Gazmend Dauti arrived from midfield just before Overland to poke it home.  They held on to the lead comfortably until the interval.  2-1 at half-time

Margate made a double substitution at half-time and Tom Murphy and Matt Bodkin were to link up frequently with much greater pace and urgency.  Several times one or other reached the byline but a final ball either missed the target or evaded the attackers.  Here’s a second-half clip.

Lean Smith continued to impress as a target-man with good strength, immaculate close control and layoffs and intelligent movement.  Twice he found himself one-on-one with Overland.  On both occasions the keeper came out on top.

In stoppage time, Margate’s increasingly desperate attacks got them a penaty for handball.  Here’s Dan Stubbs sending Smith the wrong way from the spot.  2-2

There was still time for an “if only” moment for each side.  From Margate’s next attack, Smith made an excellent block but the rebound was skied by Richard Avery when it should have been easier to score.  Here’s the home side’s last set piece, which has Overland scurrying to his right as the stadium clock maintained its ten-to-eightness.  Final score 2-2

I usually ask myself which player decided the destination of the points – so this week it goes to Margate goalkeeper Simon Overland.  Leon Smith was the best outfield player on the pitch by some distance, but although Overland lost out to Smith in a 50:50 for the goal, it was the keeper’s two one-on-one saves that kept Margate in the game and paved the way for their point.  Honourable mention to the visiting subs Tom Murphy and Matt Bodkin.
A snippet from the programme
A very professionally produced programme including ads for lingerie (“Discover what lies beneath …”) and a vibrating platform (“I thought my footballing days were over until I used the TrueVibe…”).  What should I find but an article from @DannyLast on Football’s Guilty Pleasures …
“In our youth, the Italian word Panini meant more to us than Rossi or Tardelli.  Walking around playgrounds or standing outside Spar with our pile of unwanted stickers of Coventry’s Mick Coop – resplendent in his chocolate brown kit – in a vague hope of finding that elusive shiny Liverpool badge and the second half of the Swansea City team sticker to complete our album.”
What I learned today (well, this month)
A non-expert summary of what I now know about eyes.  Number 2 son Chris aka @yappattack is convalescing after a retinal detachment and treatment at Moorfields.  Broadly speaking, there are three modes of treatment for retinal tears and detachments.  Firstly, laser treatment can sometimes be used to stop a very small tear from spreading to other parts of the retina.  Secondly, a scleral buckle is a strip of silicone stitched to the back of the eyeball to change the shape of the eye and close the gap to the detached retina.  This is often used in conjunction with lasers or cryoscopy (very low temperatures) to create fresh scar tissue to keep the retina in place.  Thirdly, a bubble of inert gas (sulphur hexafluoride) or silicone oil is injected into the eye to push the retina into place from the inside.  Sometimes this will need the patient to maintain a certain head position for several days so the pushing is in the right direction.  The method that is chosen will depend mainly on the nature of the tear or detachment.  Chris’ scleral buckle from last week has proved insufficient so he now has an eyeful of silicone too for a few months.  All pretty amazing stuff technologically and this is why more of our young people should be taking up the sciences.

If ever you have the sense of losing part of your field of vision – such as a black curtain coming across or down (Chris described his starting with a “bubble” effect) – then get to Moorfields as soon as possible if you live anywhere near London, or to your local A&E.
What Next?
I am only planning one day at a time at the moment but I see there is a mid-Wales hop next week and a Central Midlands hop the week after that.