Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Hard Lesson for Harborough Town

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Tuesday 19 August 2014 at Bowdens Park
Harborough Town 1 Blaby & Whetstone Athletic 6
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Replay
Ground 542 on the lifetime list.  Essentially, I am here because Greg Nwokolo of Persebaya Surabaya hit the post with an injury time free kick in an Indonesian Super League match against Persela Lamongan earlier today.  This meant that the margin of victory was three goals (3-0) rather than four which would have sent me to Abingdon United v Holyport, two (Tadley Calleva v Ascot United) or one (Thatcham Town v Slimbridge).  You can see how the story developed (and the bemusement of some of my followers) on the @GrahamYapp Twitter timeline.  For the record, the game concerned was played at the Gelora Bung Tomo Stadium and all three goals were scored by Emmanuel “Pacho” Kenmogne.  It’s random-ish.

Stadium Gelora Bung Tomo, Surabaya
Kenmogne (right) celebrates sending an English groundhopper to Harborough
Someone has kindly loaded the evidence on to YouTube for us!

Pre-match preparation
Harborough needed two very late goals last Saturday to earn a replay from a 2-2 draw.  They have had two defeats in their league, the Step 5 United Counties Premier.  By contrast, the visitors have two wins in the Step 6 East Midlands Counties League.  I’ve seen both clubs once before in 2012 – I saw Harborough win on their way out of Step 6 at the end of 2011-12, and B&W lose valiantly at home to a higher ranked side to end a decent Cup run in 2012-13.  You can pick the links for these games from the tag cloud to the right.
This match in one sentence
Harborough never really recovered from an incredible opening onslaught which, along with their own defensive incompetence, had Blaby & Whetstone three up inside ten minutes.
So what?
Blaby & Whetstone Athletic will host Step 4 opponents in the form of Stratford Town in the next round.   Plus, I have personally seen 27 goals in 4 FA Cup ties so far this season, including three “giant-killings”.  There are combinations of games that could beat that total – anyone out there?
The drama unfolds
My very early clip is probably the only two minute interval without a goal in it!  Harborough are in yellow.

The drama unfolded quicker than anything I have ever seen.  Aaron Preston was left totally unmarked to place a glancing header into the corner and give the visitors the lead.  Then, defensive hesitancy allowed him to nip in and intercept the ball for his second.  Even before I had finished my scribbled notes, Lee Barrett headed home from a corner.  Shouts of “Embarrassing!” from all directions and “Keep Your Heads Up!” from a few.  0-1 after 5 minutes, 0-2 after 7 minutes, 0-3 after 9 minutes

Blaby & Whetstone could have been five up by the half-hour.  Their number 9 missed the target in a one-on-one situation and Preston flicked over an open goal to miss the first chance of completing the hat-trick.  Harborough finally raised hopes that the match might be competitive when they found the net just before half-time and went in to the break with only a two-goal deficit.  This at least kept the passing neutrals vaguely interested.  1-3 after 40 minutes and at half-time

The teams traded second-half chances in an increasingly tetchy game.  The ref needed a touchline conference with his assistants after a bit of a melee near the dugouts.  No red cards, but plenty of shouting, pointing and posturing.  Yawn.  The key moment, however, was a goal by a Harborough sub that was (correctly) disallowed – if only that had counted then we might have had a different story, because just after that they manufactured a great chance, and the rebound from the keeper’s save only just eluded the same sub.  Margins, eh?  The second clip has Harborough trying to close the gap.

As it was, Blaby & Whetstone enjoyed the party.  The fourth was an own goal when the ball hit a defender after an attacker couldn’t quite reach a cross.  1-4 after 68 minutes

Preston missed another chance, rolling the ball just wide to the left after a strong run through the middle.  He finally got his third night shortly after.  1-5 after 76 minutes

The final goal came from Levi Porter who was released at the halfway line by a good through ball and he ran half the length of the pitch and rounded the keeper on the right to score in an empty net.  1-6 after 85 minutes

Harborough’s night was summed up as they hit the bar with a header with just a few minutes left.  Ultimately it was those catastrophic first few minutes that defined their destiny – out of the FA Cup this season.  Final score 1-6
Ground Pix
It has to be said that Bowdens Park is a magnificent facility and must also be added to any hoppers' lists of "Grounds Where Farm Animals are Visible During the Game".

Match Pix

Kick-off!  Lighting conditions not great for any more stills after that.
Something You Don’t Get in the Premier League
Free car parking and the ability to be away from the ground within two minutes of the end of the game…
Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
A thrashing for the grey of Harborough and a win for the green of Blaby & Whetstone.  Updated table to follow at the end of the month.
Soapbox Section
Best wishes to everyone (including me and other staff!) waiting on GCSE results tomorrow.
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  Family function on Saturday to celebrate several Yapp milestones but every chance of a Bank Holiday Monday double hop somewhere.

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