Monday, 27 August 2012

High Point for Highworth Town

Adventurous Ball Boy of the Week
Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Sunday 26 August 2012 at The Elms
Highworth Town 1 Shortwood United 0
FA Cup Preliminary Round.  Highworth play league football in the step 5 Hellenic Premier League, the same division that Shortwood played in last year.  The visitors finished second but qualified for promotion for their first-ever step 4 season in the Southern League Division 1 S&W.
I'm here for ground 471 on the lifetime list because it is the only FA Cup tie taking place at an "unvisited" ground today. 
Pre-match preparation
Highworth have won all three home games including a win over Corsham Town in the previous round.  Shortwood enter the cup at this point, and have a draw and a defeat from their opening league games.
This match in one sentence
Highworth survived a nervy opening and a frantic ending to record the win.
So what?
Highworth will go to Wootton Bassett Town in the next round and take £1750.
The drama unfolds
Highworth's afternoon started badly as left-back Joe Deyager signalled almost immediately that he was injured.  Number 5 Johnny Aitkenhead moved across, Number 9 Darren Smart dropped back into central defence, and Talif Hamza came on to lead the front line.  All this in front of keeper Elliott Jackson, Highworth's third of the season and making his first appearance.  Shortwood could easily have taken the lead in these opening exchanges - they appealed strongly for a penalty (mind you, who doesn't these days?) and caused mayhem in the box from a series of crosses and corners.  One goal-line clearance was needed - and there would be another later.  It took several minutes before Highworth had a worthwhile attack and Hamza's shot was tipped over by Tom King.

The two first-half clips are a scene-setter from the clubhouse end (Highworth in the red and black) starting with the cricket pitch, and then one from the half-hour mark which finishes with a direct free-kick to Shortwood.  I have moved round to the shade at the other end.  By this stage it was an even game, but there were no goals before the interval.  0-0 at half time

The second half continued in the same pattern.  By this point the teams looked equally confident, and there was plenty of attacking intent though defences stayed on top.  The Highworth breakthrough came after 73 minutes.  The defence missed a clearance and Bradley Clarke found himself clean through on King, with plenty of time to write his autobiography and conduct a signing session.  To his credit, he kept his composure, rounded the keeper and completed the easy finish.  1-0

Given the knockout nature of the competition, Shortwood had to press forward, and it has to be said they were unlucky.  Crosses were often too close to Jackson, though, and these two short clips are from this part of the game.

In the final moments, the officials missed a clear shirt-pull (but I can see why it would have been invisible to both of them) and James Singh hit the post with a cross-shot.  One final penalty appeal was correctly turned down as sub Ross Langworthy was challenged in the box, and Highworth held on.  A plucky rather than a convincing performance, but they are through and that's what this competition is all about.  Final score 1-0
The programme

Something random
This match had been moved to Sunday because the adjacent cricket club had priority yesterday.  This also explains the dugouts-on-wheels which would otherwise be fielding in the covers or midwicket area.

Hopping for Moorfields Update
Just the one goal to add to the relevant records making 21 from 6 matches.  No sign of snow, Dutchmen, somersaults, farm animals or any of the more unusual sponsored events.
What Next?
Bank Holiday Mondays are made for hopping triples and the plan is for a jaunt to Selsey, Crawley Down and Henley Town.  After that, who knows.  Maybe Rotherham United on Saturday 1 September to restore the 92.  Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter for news!

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