Saturday, 8 August 2015

Late Drama in the Original UCL

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 8 August at Latimer Park, Burton Latimer
Burton Park Wanderers 2 Blackstones 3
United Counties League Div One (Step 6)
Ground 572.  I am here because this is my nearest unvisited Step 3 ground.  Kettering Town of the Southern Premier are tenants here but it is my preference to watch the landlords. 
Pre-match preparation
This is the first game of the season for the home side, and the second for the visitors.  Both finished in the lower reaches of this league last season, but both have several new recruits in the team today.
This match in one sentence
A see-saw game settled by a very late winner.
So what?
Much too early to say – I am not a big fan of early-season predictions.
The drama unfolds
Very professional team announcements over a crystal-clear PA system are a rarity at Step 6, but I was probably the only one taking any notice.  There were more bodies on the pitch and benches than in the stands, and most of the latter were tracking the Premier League scores on their smartphones.  It may well be that the groundshare with higher-ranked Kettering is at least helping this smaller club to survive.  The pitch and facilities are better than you would normally expect to find.  We started at 2.56pm, presumably so everyone could be finished before Sports Report at 5 o’clock.

Burton Park wasted one early corner but scored an early goal anyway.  A free-kick was delivered from the left by Shane Hawkes and Sam Walpole scored with a header.  1-0 after 6 mins

The lead lasted no time at all as from the next attack, Adriano Staffieri held off his marker in a direct run on goal.  As the keeper, debutant Gareth Schneidereit, advanced, Staffieri rolled the ball past him slowly into the far corner.  1-1 after 7 mins

I took this scene-setter clip which shows Schneidereit getting the better of Staffieri on this occasion.  The hosts are in black-and-blue.

In fact, Blackstones had several more first-half chances with Schneidereit called into action several times.  Adriano Staffieri was a constant threat.  Maybe Blackstones had benefited from their earlier league start last weekend.  It was no real surprise when Adriano Staffieri lashed in his second goal.  1-2 after 30 mins

Ben Penney had a half-chance to equalise as he weaved through the Blackstones defence but his shot was blocked.  We went into the interval with the visitors deserving their lead.  1-2 at half-time

As often happens, words must have been said and substitutions were made.  Burton Park slowly but surely imposed themselves on the game, making Blackstones keeper Lee Crockett “lose it” with his defenders at regular intervals.  He was not a happy man, and he won’t like this pic of the ball being poked past him by Sam Rogers for the equaliser.  It had been coming.  2-2 after 74 mins

The game moved into an end-to-end phase, and just when we all thought that the points would be shared, substitute Rhys Ford was in the right place at the right time to take back the win for Blackstones.  The ref blew the final whistle almost immediately after the restart.  2-3 in stoppage time and at full-time 
Ground Pix
Latimer Park is not very photogenic and there is evidence of work-in-progress.  However, it is very good for Step 6, it must be said.

Match Pix

Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Blue beats green.  To be honest, I was surprised that the Wanderers keeper was allowed to start in a top so similar in colour to the visitors’ shirts.

The full points table will appear in the blog about once a month.  Red is currently leading on points-per-game, with green holding on to second place despite this defeat.
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  Not sure about anything sooner, but hoping (traffic permitting) to get to Lingfield v Canterbury City for the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round next Friday evening.  The game is moved because of the proximity of a cricket pitch that is in use on Saturday.  STOP PRESS: Just found out that the game has moved to Whyteleafe, so I may reconsider my Friday night plans.

In general for this coming season my priorities, with random interjections, will be: (1) The early rounds of the FA Cup (2) FC United (to restore everywhere down to Step 2) and (3) the following ten grounds to complete for the first time everywhere down to Step 3:  Ashton U, Frickley A, Grantham, Ramsbottom U, Salford C, Whitby T (all NPL), Burgess Hill T (IPL), Bideford T, Merthyr T, Poole T (all SPL).

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