Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Bucks Fizzle and Bucks Fizz

Ruthless Aston Clinton, Roofless Bletchley Town

The yellow-and-blue of the Robins from Buckingham Town

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Monday 9 April 2012 in Buckinghamshire
Result & Competition
See below for individual match details
These are grounds #459 & #460 on the lifetime list.

Bletchley Town v Aston Clinton
The drama unfolds from 12 noon

Manor Fields

South Midlands League Division Two  – step 7
In one sentence: An easy win once the first goal had gone in to deflate the home side’s aspirations.

I picked this game because my reading of the league table suggested that Aston Clinton, having drawn on Saturday with their nearest rivals Mursley, could seal the title with a win.  Perhaps the South Midlands League helicopter would turn up with the trophy.  Now this blog will never ever criticize people working hard in adversity, volunteering for free to keep grassroots football going, but this has to be one of the most depressing places I have ever watched a game.  I have been kind in my photographs – I could have presented the place in a much worse light.  I really hope that those who are working behind the scenes for this club can get some reward for their efforts.

For the first half-hour, I discreetly tried to guess which team was which.  Admit it, hoppers, it happens sometimes.  The corner-flags were blue and white but about 10 minutes in I noticed that the subs with orange socks were in the “home” dugout.  It was half-time and two goals later that I was satisfied that Aston Clinton were in the blue-and-white.

They had almost taken the lead in the first minute but to be fair this first 30 minutes was quite even.  The lino called the ref to have a word with their management.  The other lino came in for an unwarranted torrent of abuse from one of their strikers.  He knew he was in an offside position, he had the presence of mind not to go for the ball on the near side.  What he didn’t know (and the angle of the lino’s flag was the giveaway) is that one of his teammates was offside and had gone for the ball in the centre.  The ref must have heard what I heard, and did nothing.  I just don’t understand why the officials keep turning up every week.

The first clip includes the first goal, scored by the blue-and-whites after 34 minutes.  The league website names the scorer as J Gordon.  0-1

The blue-and-whites went two up after 41 minutes.  Their number 9 broke the offside trap, headed for the right corner of the box, and with the keeper caught in no-man’s land curled a good ball in for an unmarked #3 (D Parsons) steaming in from midfield.  0-2 at half-time

Having satisfied myself that Aston Clinton were indeed in the driving seat I readied myself for 45 minutes of celebration and a helicopter landing.  Here’s a second half clip.

The third goal (scored by S Ward) came just before the hour after a defensive mix-up.  0-3  Bletchley’s full back #3 was sent off for a dangerous tackle with a quarter of the game to go, and the visitors (through P Weirich) scored a fourth within a minute.  Their centre-half had been urged to go up for a corner, he arrived late and won the ball in the air, and two rebounds later his teammate had the angle to shoot left to right across the keeper.  0-4  They had one more shot cleared off the line but the match fizzled out.  There was a distinct lack of celebration at the end, and I went off to the car to check the table.  I still think I am right.

Final score 0-4 

So what?  Aston Clinton win the division and Bletchley Town are in mid-table.

Postscript: Aston Clinton should indeed win this division but they were right not to be celebrating just yet.  I'd failed to notice that Risborough Rangers were sitting a few places lower down but with a ridiculous number of games in hand.  At the date of this edit (one week later) Aston Clinton are 10pts ahead of Risborough who are now in second place.  The leaders have three games left and the chasers have five, so Aston Clinton need two more wins if Risborough win everything remaining.  The second of their three matches pitches these two teams against each other, so the champagne must stay on ice a little longer.  Both had big wins this week.

Buckingham Town v Harborough Town
The drama unfolds from 3.00pm

The Winslow Centre

The United Counties League Division 1 – step 6
In one sentence:  Harborough needed a win to keep their title challenge alive and looked to have messed things up until Buckingham’s late equaliser was negated by an even later winner.

My second venue of the day found a home team called The Robins playing in yellow-and-blue on a pitch with red corner-flags against a team in green.  However, any confusion over identity was removed after two minutes as it was spectators with Buckingham Town jackets who were holding their heads in their hands.  Harborough’s full-back (the league website says W Arnold) shrugged with disbelief himself as his long curling ball into the box was whipped by the wind and through the slippery hands of the home keeper.  A comedy goal, sadly.  0-1

He continued to have a bad day at the proverbial office, almost passing to an attacker for a second.  The goal arrived, though, after 17 minutes.  #9 (R Barnett) broke the offside line and though the keeper got a partial block on the ball, it rolled over the line.  0-2

Here’s a clip from midway through the first half.

After 24 minutes, Buckingham got back into it.  The scorer (thank you to the club website) was Kyle Stimpson whose chance was served up on a plate following good work on the right.  With the better of the wind conditions to come later, this was a good sign for the neutrals (there were several hoppers present completing a double or the second leg of a triple).  1-2

Although I was at the other end at this point, I was surprised that Harborough’s #5 escaped without a card of any description for a late tackle to deny a clear run on goal.  The ref was much closer so must have the benefit of the doubt.  1-2 at half-time

The second half, whilst not a classic, was always competitive.  Buckingham forced Harborough’s goalie into a good tip-over as we entered the closing minutes, but it looked as if the visitors had done enough.  Then, with the triple-chaser hoppers edging towards the car park, we had a crazy final two minutes of action.

First, a bizarre equaliser.  Nick Bines sent a high, looping wind-assisted shot over the Harborough goalkeeper, who was way too far off his line.  I reckon it was 90th minute, give or take one.  2-2

The anger and frustration among the visitors was short-lived.  They scored themselves two minutes later – a low shot from left to right across the box by G Owen – to grab a vital win.  Unbelievable.  Final score 2-3

So what?  Harborough are two points behind Huntingdon Town but the two meet next week for what may be a title decider.  Buckingham Town lurk in mid-table.

What I learned today:  This is the first season that Buckingham Town have played here – they were, it appears, served a late notice to quit their previous ground.  Whilst I do not know or understand the full details, you can see an open letter written by John Bercow MP here:   http://bt-fc.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/open-letter.html

Programme Snippet:  From the double-header Easter programme (which is a superb product for step 6 in my experience!) ... "The apathy that we have been shown (by our immediate neighbours) has only served to galvanise us as a club and instilled a determination to survive and succeed.  We are Buckingham Town, we are almost 130 years old, we will come through these difficult times."
What Next?
No idea!  Follow @GrahamYapp for hopping information interspersed with puns and random observations about the English education system.

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