Thursday, 21 February 2013

Canaries and Robins Are Shot Down

Hopperational details
Dates & Venues
Monday 18 February at Top Field &
Wednesday 20 February at The AlderSmith Stadium
Hitchin Town 0 Leamington 1
Frome Town 0 St Albans City 3
Southern League Premier Division (Step 3)
Half-term week so a chance for some midweek action.  Have been to (and blogged from) Top Field many times, but this is a first trip to Frome which becomes ground 508 on the lifetime list and leaves me with 9 more to complete every current stadium from Premier League to “non-league” step 3.  I hate the term “non-league” and will only use it in ironic quote marks.
Pre-match preparation
Monday: Hitchin are low in the table but in good form and John Frendo has successive hat-tricks to his name. Leamington are league leaders.
Wednesday: Frome had two players sent off on Saturday and are in lower-mid table.  St Albans are under caretaker management and still aspire to the playoffs.

Other than this, a nice sunset over Wiltshire on the A303 as I headed way out west.

These matches in one sentence each
A smash-and-grab road win for Leamington who withstood plenty of worthy Hitchin pressure and nicked a stoppage-time goal.
A comedy third made the scoreline at Frome rather unflattering for the hosts, but the St Albans win had already been secured with two splendid goals.
So what?
Leamington cement their place at the top of the division.  Frome and Hitchin still have some work to do to ensure Southern Premier status for another season, but should be confident.  The St Albans promotion dream is still alive.
The dramas unfold
Hitchin started brightly and had plenty of possession, causing the Leamington keeper to work.  They had several half-chances and they played with confidence that belied the league table gap.  Leamington, however, are top for a reason and they coped with it pretty well, and on the half-hour cut Hitchin open down the left.  The ball flashed low and at speed across the goal but no-one got a touch.  No goals, but a thoroughly entertaining and competitive game so far.  0-0 at half-time

It was more of the same in the second half.  The first clip, from 65 minutes, starts with the Moon and Jupiter high in the clear night sky as the temperature dropped.  I took two more (77 mins & 86 mins) as Hitchin continued to threaten.  Hitchin are in yellow.

The smash-and-grab goal came in stoppage time – a real sickener for Hitchin but credit must go to a resilent and streetwise Leamington team.  Ricky Johnson was the scorer.  Final score 0-1
On Wednesday, I watched the game in the affable and knowledgeable company of Twitter friend @Yasser11 and, although at risk of hypothermia on a bitter night, we put the world to rights while the teams set about the game.  Right on schedule just before kickoff, the International Space Station appeared from the west and disappeared from view as it arrived in the same section of the sky as Jupiter and the Moon (still there!).  Sadly, I have to report user incompetence as my video clip is unusable.  Never mind, Yasser was there, and he witnessed it and tweeted it.

Frome dominated the early stages.  My scene setter clip (Frome are in red) is from fifteen minutes into the game.  A new stand is under construction but we were happy to stand where the seats will be fitted in due course.

As so often seems to happen when one team is in control, the other team scores.  The ball dropped nicely for right-back Chris Seeby on the edge of the box and he cracked a belting left-footer into the corner.  0-1 after 32 minutes

St Albans almost gifted Frome an equaliser when the ball was initially given away by Joe Bruce, but the defender did enough to hold up Ricky Hulbert so defensive reinforcement could arrive and the chance evaporated.  St Albans were also incensed by a handball incident – Josh Brigham appeared to trip and stumble into the ball but it was handball nonetheless and it cut out a through ball that would have given Chris Henry a one-on-one.  0-1 at half-time

The second goal came early in the second half and ensured that St Albans could be comfortable.  It was an excellent finish with a rising right-foot shot from the edge of the area by Henry.  0-2 after 50 minutes

My second-half clip is after 75 minutes.

Either because Frome were getting desperate or St Albans were getting sloppy, or maybe both, the home side had two good chances in the last few minutes.  A header (Brigham I think) went wide from a great and unchallenged position and then Nick Jupp made a super low one-handed save to protect his clean sheet.  We could have had a very interesting end to the game if either or both had gone in.  Instead what happened is that James Comley pinched the ball from between defender and keeper and had the Freedom of Frome and enough time to write his autobiography and make a speech before walking the ball into the net.  That was a bit harsh, but I know of no-one in Hertfordshire who cares.  Final score 0-3

I trust that Yasser’s body temperature has returned to normal and that his train was on time – nice to meet you at last, and hope you get to some more Wild West grounds in the next few months.
The Frome Town programme

Something random
A quick and self-indulgent hello to any former students or colleagues from St Albans who might stumble across this.  (For other readers: I was headteacher of Beaumont School from 1994-2004.)  Here’s a quick update on what I have been doing in recent years.  I worked for the county council as a secondary school adviser (and even took the exam to nominally qualify as an Ofsted inspector!) for three years but missed the cut-and-thrust of school life and got the job as head of Bushey Hall School in 2007.  I knew that the school was in difficulty, and “Special Measures” duly arrived, but I had two successful years before stepping aside so that the school could convert (as had always been planned) to academy status and the sponsors could make a new appointment.  My groundhopping really took off at that point, I discovered Twitter and a few months later I started this eclectic blog which was never meant to be totally serious.  I came out of retirement to take a part-time admin position at a small village primary school in 2011, and was in the right place at the right time to do some magnificent groundhopping in the Faroe Islands which still attracts a lot of interest from readers.  I would love some more sponsors for Hopping for Moorfields (see below) which will cost you less than the price of a St Albans pint by the end of the season.
Hopping for Moorfields Update
47 games have given us 154 goals at an average of just over three a game, so those penny-a-goal pledges will be worth about £2.50 come June.  We have had two instances of visible farm animals, 10 three-goal games, 1 eight-goal game and three goalless draws.  Sadly, no scoring keepers, bicycle kick goals or snow abandonments.  It looks like the final total will be over £500 but my target remains £1000. Email me on headyapp (at) hotmail (dot) com or contact me through Twitter if you want to jump on board.
Mars Bar Watch 2013
The Hitchin Town club shop sells them for 70p, but the second most expensive (so far) standard 58g Mars Bar in the country came into my possession on the way home in WH Smith at M3 Fleet Services Eastbound.  85p.  Shocker.
What Next?
I hope to get to another one of my Step 3 priority grounds on Saturday.  Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details.

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