Sunday, 21 September 2014

The 2014 North Berkshire Hop

Hopperational details
Saturday 20 September 2014
The North Berkshire League Hop
Match Details
1 Crowmarsh Gifford 0-1 Wallingford Town (Division 1)
2 Dorchester 3-0 Ardington & Lockinge (Division 1)
3 Marcham 1-7 East Hendred (Division 2)
4 Benson Lions 1-1 Grove Rangers (Division 3)
(at Defence Academy, Shrivenham - aka Watchfield)
Grounds 545 to 548 on the lifetime list and the second lifetime occurrence of a personal quadruple (four in one day).
Pre-match preparation
Today is the North Berkshire League organised by Groundhop UK so all I need to do is get myself to Didcot Station for an early morning rendezvous with Jane.  A minibus, that is.  Other minibuses were available – specifically Rod and Freddy.  Must remember to bring my passport which is my ID for access to the Ministry of Defence venue for the last game.  The four games are 6th v 4th, 5th v 7th, 9th v 8th & 2nd v 3rd in their respective divisions.  Divisions 1,2 and 3 are at Steps 9, 10 and 11 in the “non-league” pyramid.
Each match in one sentence
1 - A tight match between Crowmarsh Gifford and Wallingford Town was won for the visitors with an overhead kick early in the second half.
2 - A catastrophic opening few minutes for the Ardington & Lockinge defence put them three down to Dorchester in no time and although things got no worse, neither did they get any better.
3 - East Hendred blew Marcham away with five first-half goals.
4 - After a goalless first half Benson Lions took the lead but Grove Rangers got a deserved equaliser.
So what?
I had a brilliant day.  That is all.
The drama unfolds
The day started stressfully as I had not picked up the news of the M40 northbound closure but it became clear very soon after I left the M25 that there would be no way I could make 9am the pickup by the organisers’ minibus at Didcot.  There had clearly, sadly, been a serious road traffic collision earlier.

I fired up Doris the Satnav (other Satnavs are available).  I had heard apocryphal stories of Satnavs giving bad advice and taking drivers off unfinished bridges and such like before, and never quite believed them.  I promise you that, with 30 minutes to kick-off of Game 1, Doris took me down a dead-end track with a surface like the Moon because she assumed that the Yappmobile has amphibious capability and driving over the Thames without a bridge would be no problem. Back to old technology and the ability to read a map.

I thus got to the Recreation Ground, Crowmarsh Gifford with only 10 minutes to spare having left the Yappmobile in the village centre.  All was well once I had collected my pack of programmes from organiser Chris, and organiser Laurence had explained that there were a few people in the same position and they would get us back here somehow by minibus after Game 4.  The fact that they already had this in hand was impressive – thanks, gents.  So, I started Game 1 with a pint of Lodden’s Boozy Floozy and all was well with the world.

It was an even game.  My scene-setter clip is from midway through the first half and has a goalline clearance from a spell of Wallingford pressure.  Crowmarsh Gifford are in amber and black.

Both keepers were busy.  Crowmarsh pinged the metalwork just after than clip then a Wallingford shot went into the side netting after the home keeper had been rounded.  To be level at the break was fair enough.  0-0 at half-time

The winning goal was early in the second half, an overhead kick from Ashley Searle that went in off the post.  I was right down the other end at that moment.  Crowmarsh did plenty of pressing but they could not find the finish, and we finished with a narrow away win from a very decent and competitive game.  Final score 0-1

I waved farewell to the Yappmobile and the Boozy Floozy from my seat in the back corner of Jane as we sped off to Drayton Road, Dorchester for Game 2 and a pile of pasta Bolognese before kickoff.  A pint of Marlow Brewery’s Rebellion may also have been involved.  (I was taking the day off as a role model.)

Three early goals killed off any uncertainty about the result.  Josh Nicholls scored a near-post glancing header from Dorchester’s first corner.  The second, less than a minute later, probably goes down as a luckless own goal for A&L’s Jake Rowe as a deflection looped up and over Andy Burt on the very next attack, but Jamie Fleet will claim it.  The third was scored from distance by youngster Cameron Patterson as Burt could only push the shot in off the post.  Only eleven minutes gone. The rest of the half was more even as A&L finally started to compete but the damage had been done.  Here’s the scene setter clip, Dorchester are in red-and-black.  3-0 at half-time

A&L pressed hard early in the second half to try to get back in the game and the match remained interesting enough as a spectacle.  However, they went down to ten men when fullback Luke Fairclough was sent off after a second yellow card.  Dorchester continued to make chances of their own – a cheeky shot from distance clipped the bar, another cheeky one was tipped over by Burt, Danny Brind’s header from Patterson’s cross likewise.  Overall, a solid win for the hosts and four touches of the match-ball for me, a new personal record.  Final score 3-0

Jane (coughing and spluttering somewhat, it has to be said, she has seen better days I am sure) ferried us to Anson’s Field, Marcham for Game 3.  Somehow I resisted the giant home-made cakes on offer.  For the record, beers from the Loose Cannon brewery were also available but I was my own designated driver for later, remember.  On the (very undulating) pitch, Jason Moss gave East Hendred the early lead with a proverbial towering header.  My scene-setter clip ends with the second goal, a header for Ben Sutton only a short while afterwards.  Marcham are in the white shirts.

Moss fired in a penalty, Ben Hummel smacked a shot gleefully into the roof of the net and Tom Doig bundled the ball in at the far post from a flicked-on corner, all before the interval.  Game over, just a question of the final tally with some hoppers hoping for the rare double-figure scoreline that you have to confirm (in brackets) like the good old days of the BBC teleprinter. 0-5 at half time

Goal six came from number six (Adam Wise) and it was a belter, a screaming and dipping shot from distance into the top corner.  Stuart Armstrong scored a consolation goal for Marcham before James Hicks came off the bench to score East Hendred’s seventh and last with an unstoppable shot in the fading light.  For the record, one sighting of a red kite over the nearby houses.  Post-match chat was that Hicks had already scored a goal for the reserves in a match played earlier in the day! Final score 1-7

Game 4 was hosted at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham.  Benson Lions is a team named after RAF Benson which draws on a largish number of civilian and service personnel for its teams.  The very readable and quirky programme explains how team-picking is often affected by operational deployment issues arising from world events.

Getting to the pitch required a personal visit to the guardhouse and an inspection of my passport.  The members of the visiting side were in the same queue.  Catering was again impressive and bottles of a limited-edition Flanders Ale (for the WW1 centenary) were on offer.  We were entertained by the marching band of 1244 (Swindon & District) Squadron ATC, and we gave (generously I hope) to service charities as the buckets passed by.  The pitch was excellent and the whole site gave an impression of the high personal standards that the services expect from anyone wearing the uniforms.

On the pitch, Grove Rangers started slightly better but it was an even game.  They came closest with a shot off the bar.  Here is the scene-setter clip - Benson Lions are in red and the looming silhouette of the Defence Academy in the background.  There were no goals in the first half.  0-0 at half-time

Lions took the lead early in the second half with a goal by Luke Willis.  He broke from midfield for a one-on-one with the keeper John Gould, who saved the initial attempt, and was then unfortunate to see the ball break kindly for Willis to roll it into the now-empty net.  The equaliser was a great goal – Marc Reid ran powerfully from halfway, and then bearing in from the left hit a great shot towards the far corner.  Andy Duncan got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.  The draw was fair enough from a decent, watchable game.  The last game of the NBL annual hop is now played for the James Rennie Trophy – in memory of a groundhopper – and so on this occasion it is shared.  Final score 1-1

Jane dropped several hoppers off at Didcot Station before diverting back to Crowmarsh Gifford on her way to the secret minibus burial ground.  Thanks again to GroundhopUK for all the organisation that went into a memorable day, and to the @laurencereade Twitter feed for confirming some goalscorer names.

Match Pix
Game 1:

Indirect free-kick for a backpass

Game 2:

Game 3:

Game 4:

Something You Don’t Get in the Premier League

Crowmarsh Gifford are one of many teams at this level sharing space with cricket
... the same is true at Dorchester FC
Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Game 1: both keepers in green, one loses and concedes a goal and the other wins with a clean sheet.
Game 2: win and a clean sheet for grey, bad day at the office for orange.
Game 3: win but no clean sheet for purple, a complete disaster for yellow.
Game 4: honours even between grey and yellow.
Updated league table to follow at the end of the month!
Soapbox Section
At a personal level I am pleased that Scotland voted to remain in the UK, but I will be deeply ashamed if the party leaders renegue on the unambiguous promises that they made to the Scottish people in the final days leading up to the vote.  It is really important, in my view, that those of us down south continue to pay timely attention to the clear message from north of the border.  We must not get caught up simply in our own thoughts of English parliaments and English laws from English lawmakers.  If Scotland ever came to view their “No” vote as a mistake in hindsight, I really don’t think it is one they would make again.
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  I will have (depending on a Tuesday replay) either 11 or 12 FA Cup ties to choose from, and maybe there will be time for some randomishness.

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