Thursday, 11 August 2016

No Pies, So Nuneaton

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Wednesday 10 August 2016 at The Pingles Stadium
Nuneaton Griff 3 Dudley Sports 3 after extra time
Dudley Sports win 6-5 on penalties
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Replay
Ground 588 on the lifetime list.  I am here because I happen to be in the Midlands and I have never been to this ground before.  Both sides play at Step 6 but in different leagues.  Griff are in the Midland Football League D1 and Dudley are in the West Midlands (Regional) Premier.
The best-prepared dugout ever seen at step 6

Pre-match preparation
The teams drew 1-1 at Dudley, sharing first-half goals.  I just about made it to the ground in time but found that the food on offer was restricted to crisps and chocolate but at least that gives me the pun for this particular blogpost title.  No hard feelings.
This match in one sentence
A hard-fought and uncompromising game at times, in which Nuneaton Griff from two down deservedly earned a period of extra time, failed to defend a lead and then suffered the agonies of a shootout defeat. 
So what?
Dudley Sports will travel to Cradley Town in the next round.  See my previous blogpost if you need any pre-game analysis!
The drama unfolds
If you had arrived after 50 minutes you would have found Dudley in control.  They scored a goal early in each half to secure the proverbially dangerous 2-0 scoreline in their favour.  The first came after a freekick for handball in a central position.  The home keeper could only parry it out and it fell nicely for Tom Watkins who buried it.  0-1 after 6 mins

The game settled into a pattern of neat approach play from Griff and a more direct style from Dudley.  I took the opportunity for a walk around the pitch perimeter and the occasional surreptitious check for Pokémon when no-one was looking.  The ground is also right next to a trainline too so plenty to keep the obsessives attentive.  0-1 at half-time

Dudley got a quick second after the restart.  It was a good finish from Mark Gore who got on the end of a through ball and kept his composure to round the keeper and avoid the defender on the line with his shot.  0-2 after 47 mins

First-half history kept on repeating itself as Dudley defended well despite growing Griff pressure.  Then the hosts bought a soft-looking penalty (imo and I was reasonably close) which led to a yellow rather than a red card for Luke Williams under the provisions of new rule 328B (or something).  John Russell despatched the spot kick and looked very pleased.  1-2 after 81 mins

Nuneaton looked even more pleased in the last minute as sub Matt Brennan's (I think) close-range header crossed the line to send us into extra-time.  Cue whooping celebrations.  I wonder how many people had left by then.  2-2 after 90 mins

Extra-time continued to be entertaining with both teams looking for the winning goal and the home side looking a bit stronger.  Tyson Knight smacked the crossbar from distance and then Dudley's Joe Sidaway saved well to keep the scores level.  Then Nuneaton completed the comeback by taking the lead just before the end of the first period of extra time.  Brennan again.  3-2 after 105 mins

Adam Skeldon then sent us to penalties with a splendid direct freekick with just five minutes left.  Think Beckham v Greece but without the insane remuneration.  3-3 after 115 minutes and at the end of extra time

The penalty shootout was as gripping as you would expect.  Griff went first, and the first seven penalties were all scored safe and sound.  The what-if moment arrived with the eighth as Nuneaton keeper Andy Needham got his hand to the shot but it still went in.  Two more successes took us to a perfect 5-5 before Nuneaton missed, leaving Dudley a sudden-death chance to win, which they duly took.  Not bad for the passing neutrals, but a heartbreaking end to a keenly-contested match.  Dudley Sports win 6-5 on pens
Ground Pix
It's one of those inside an athletics track with an adjacent leisure centre.  The programme is titled "Underneath the Arches", a reference to the nearby railway bridge.  The line runs parallel to the touchline so trainspottergroundhoppers can have an occasional fix of Diesel Multiple Units too.

Four years old and still going strong!
Match Pix
Nuneaton Griff are in blue.

Dudley Sports' wonderful retro shirt-number font

Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Nuneaton's keeper defied the boundaries of sartorial sense and decency so this is another defeat for Radioactive Bile.  Grey takes the win, but not much positive points scoring this time what with so many goals being conceded.  Full table will appear from time to time.
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  I dare say I will turn up somewhere on Saturday, but there could be an as-yet-mysterious aerobic non-footy diversion on Friday night.

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