Sunday, 6 December 2020

Pluck of the Irish

 


Hopperational Details

Date & Venue

Saturday 5 December 2020 at Trafford Park

Result

Wroxham 3 Milton Keynes Irish 3 (MK Irish win 4-3 on penalties)

Competition

FA Vase Round 2

Hopstats

Ground 719 on the lifetime list and I am here because of Wroxham’s clarity and timeliness of communication on social media about ticketing arrangements.

Context

Wroxham had a good run in last year’s competition and are sitting at the top of the Eastern Counties Premier Division (Step 5). MK Irish are a new name (I believe it to be more of a merger than a formation, from MK Robins and Unite MK) in the Step 6 Spartan South Midlands Division One, and they are also flying high, second in the table but with games in hand. They beat another Step 5 side, Stansted of the Essex Senior League, in the previous round.

In One Sentence

A stoppage-time equaliser had forced a penalty shootout

So What?

The usual cliché about Wroxham concentrating on the league and MK Irish being in the hat for the next round.

Match Report

Acknowledgement to the clubs’ Twitter timelines for help in identifying players.

Wroxham made the early running, with Ish Fatadjo influential. A clever turn at the byeline created an early chance as his driven pass scooted through the six-yard box. Irish took the lead after 15 minutes, somewhat against the run of play. Wroxham were playing patient build-from-the-back football, with their wing-backs often in advanced positions to make runs at the defence. On this occasion, Joe Keeley’s run from the left was halted by a slide tackle and it looked to me from the other end that it was uncontrolled. Keeley hurdled the tackle, presumably no contact was made, but the run came to an end but MK got the ball quickly down the unguarded flank and out of nowhere George Shrieves was one-on-one with Ollie Sutton in the Wroxham goal. Sutton came out beyond the edge of the box to narrow the angle but Shrieves kept his composure to round him and roll the ball into the empty net.

Wroxham almost responded immediately from a freekick but they also lost Fatadjo to injury on the half-hour, to be replaced by local legend Grant Holt, veteran of over 600 senior games. The game settled into the original pattern of patient attacking from Wroxham and the occasional Irish break, and then we saw the first flying save from Irish keeper Owusu Kyeremateng, who  was to play a big part in this result. This time, his save had only short-term effect because Holt was in position to score a deserved equaliser from short range from the next passage of play.

Just before half-time, a superb goal from Simon Lappin, another Norwich veteran. His left foot strike from distance skimmed the turf as it arrowed just inside the post. A 2-1 scoreline felt about right on the balance and quality of play, and it would have been 3-1 but for another acrobatic stop from Kyeremateng just before the whistle. Maybe with hindsight that was the hinge point of the game.

Half-time: Wroxham 2 Milton Keynes Irish 1

The second half started to get a bit tetchy, and players on both sides were visibly struggling for stamina after an hour. The Irish equaliser came as they fashioned a move down the left and Mason Spence crossed for Jack Clarkson to bury a back-post header. Again, there was an element of surprise but we now know not to underestimate the visitors. They nearly took the lead again when a shot was saved well by Sutton only for a header from the rebound to go just wide.

It was interesting to watch Grant Holt at work as Wroxham were now launching waves of attacks towards the end where I was standing. Athletic tracking back cannot be his game these days, understandably. Sometimes he would stand in an offside position and direct operations. The Wroxham midfield were smart enough to adapt. He created two good chances in quick succession, one from an intelligent flick, and one from a pullback after his positional play had allowed him to get on to a through ball. It was fascinating to watch and will probably be lost in the headline from what was to come later. The Irish defence got lucky on one occasion but they stuck to their task well.

The last ten minutes was end-to-end and open from two tiring teams slugging it out. Then, a penalty for Irish with just three minutes left, and from the other end I genuinely couldn’t say why – it looks to have been some kind of off-the-ball incident. Spence sent Sutton the wrong way as he rolled it into the right corner.

In a crazy finale, Irish nearly added a fourth before Holt’s through ball in stoppage time played in fellow sub James Cooper, whose heels were clipped. Cooper went to the left with the penalty, Kyeremateng went the other way, so that was a last-kick-of-the-game equaliser for 3-3 and under this season’s rules it was straight to a shootout.

Irish missed their second penalty, but Cooper was third up for Wroxham and this time Kyeremateng guessed correctly. Both teams scored their third, and Irish also scored their fourth, leaving Holt with a must-score placekick. Past glories count for nothing as Kyeremateng got down to his left to save the shot. He was undoubtedly the man of the match today. 


There was a brief moment of unpleasantness in the post-match celebrations and Irish have tweeted that “the person concerned has been spoken to”. For this passing neutral, scurrying back to the warmth of heated seats in the car as the temperature plummeted, this was a great day out. There will be another hopper’s take on this game from Russell Cox on his blog – he must have been about 20m to my left!

Match Pix

Wroxham in the blue and white, MK Irish in orange and green. 







Ground Pix

Tidy ground with a good clubhouse, tucked away on a narrow lane with an adjacent train line for added anorak value. 








Covid Comment

The local case numbers are lower than they were at the end of October and once again my afternoon out was less of a risk than going to work as a teacher. The club was well prepared for temperature checking and signing in. There was a one-way system (though not always respected) and sensible arrangements for queueing for refreshments. I found my quiet corner forty minutes before KO and stayed there throughout. Around the pitch people were social distancing as much or as little as they chose, in their friends or family groups, and no-one invaded my space. There was no discernible difference in this aspect from all of the other games I have attended this season.

Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats Update

Usually accompanied by a pre-match prediction on Twitter just before kickoff. Working towards being able to compute a respectable statistical significance test by the end of the season. The full keeper top performance table from my last 220 matches is here, on this separate page.


Today, Pink beats Green and moves off the bottom of the colour table. All other places unchanged – a high-scoring draw is not a great outcome for keepers in the point allocations. With hindsight, I perhaps ought to have included points for penalty saves in the scoring system.

Pre-match Prediction based on Keeper Top Colour:

Prediction:

Home Win

Was prediction correct?

No

% correct so far

48% (36 from 75)


Based on conventional 3pts for a win, 1pt for a draw, but also -1pt for a goal conceded (GC) and +5pts for a clean sheet (CS).  Colours ranked on a points per game (PPG) basis. The odd decimal places were caused either by undeniable half-and-half tops or lower league sub keepers in a different colour.  The Fire Cracker colour was confirmed with the help of the social media team at Dulux UK.  All of this arises from a comment attributed to Petr Cech (and supported by anonymous scientists of some description) that orange is the best colour for a goalkeeper because it changes the behaviour of other players around the box. It is supposedly because of an innate primeval human reaction to the colour and the colour “spreads” more in the vision of a striker at the key moment of decision. Genius or garbage? The evidence is gathering here, and is leaning towards the latter.

What Next?

Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter! No decision made as yet for next Saturday. Once again I will take into account coronavirus case levels and the practicalities of ticketing and travel within the current rules.

 

Sunday, 1 November 2020

Moneyfields Three-Two Tight to Mention


Hopperational Details

Date & Venue

Saturday 31 October 2020 at Moneyfields Sports Ground

Result

Moneyfields 3 Kidlington 2

Competition

FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round

Hopstats

Ground 718 on the lifetime list, and I am here pragmatically because very few of my seasonal target grounds are in the lowest tier of Covid-19 designations.

Context

Both teams entered the competition in the last round, and both arrive at this fixture via 2-1 home wins. Moneyfields beat Basingstoke Town and Kidlington defeated Didcot Town. These sides are both in Step 4 Southern League divisions, but geographically separated with the hosts in Division One South and the visitors from Division One Central.

In One Sentence

Moneyfields came from behind to win with two very late goals after a red card for a key Kidlington defender.

So What?

Time for the usual sentence to go here, the one about Moneyfields in the hat for the next round and Kidlington concentrating on the league.

Pre-match Entertainment

After a horrendous drive down south in monsoon conditions, a pint down the road at The Jolly Taxpayer, putting the world to rights with a couple of strangers I met off the internet. You know who you are, and it was great to catch up with you!

Match Report

Thankfully the weather conditions improved as forecast and this turned out to be a compelling, competitive game with a dramatic twist at the end. It started out oddly enough with one of the assistant referees slipping on the muddy touchline and getting a match-ending injury. It didn’t look good. The call went over the PA for a replacement, and one was found fairly quickly. I think my FA Class 3 badge has lapsed now so I didn’t even think about it. I’m also sixty-two, with the mobility of a supertanker and a sensitivity to abuse concerning my sexuality and parentage, so not a good match for modern lino duty.

Both teams had tried to stay warm during the ten-minute delay but Moneyfields were caught cold from the restart. Callum Harvey hooked in acrobatically at the far post to give Kidlington the lead. We saw a couple of great saves from the Kidlington keeper Christian Lawrence but on the second occasion Kieran Roberts was able to fire in an equaliser to send the sides in level at half-time. Good contest at this point, not much either way and defences on top though both sides looking to dictate.

Half-time: Moneyfields 1 Kidlington 1

The end-to-end action continued as Lawrence saved well from a one-on-one (with a hint of offside) just before Kidlington took the lead through Jacob Davidge, with just over twenty minutes to go. Moneyfields had to respond quickly and so nearly equalised with a slick move down the right, but the attacking player sliding in at the far post could not make enough contact as the ball skidded across the box.

Then came the turning point of the game. A red card was given to Kidlington’s Tom Franklin and it was a tad too long before he started the walk. The gentleman scribbling furiously on the clipboard nearby at this point may well have been a referee’s assessor. I can’t confirm whether it was straight red or second yellow, but it changed the game. The absence of Franklin’s aerial defensive qualities was arguably a factor in the denouement.

Kidlington held firm until there were only two minutes left on the clock. Lawrence half-stopped a shot but Roberts was in the right spot to poke in the equaliser. With a penalty shootout now looking likely (as I had mischievously suggested at 3pm on Twitter from the keepertopcolourstats) there was to be one final plot twist. A stoppage time corner for Moneyfields was initially repelled but the second cross found its way to the far post where Steve Hutchings headed in.

A really good game, and in good company, to end this phase of football-watching for the season. Great effort from both sides in tricky conditions and a club that is well worth a visit for any groundhoppers.

Pix

All taken from one vantage point this week. Moneyfields in yellow shirts, Kidlington in some kind of luminous green. The pitch invaders had no effect on the play. Keep your football-is-not-for-gulls jokes to yourself please ;)







Black-headed gull in winter plumage in the holding midfield position
(Reliable source: Martyn Y)


CV19 Comment

Lots of sensible procedures in place – track and trace details collected, one way systems in the bar, table service, helpful tweets before the game with download details for the relevant apps. Two conclusions to be made once again, as they have been at every match I’ve been to this year. The clubs have done everything asked of them but a significant number of people, especially the under-30s, are largely paying no attention. Secondly, for me personally this is a safer activity than going to work at school, but only because this district is in the lowest tier of CV prevalence.

The same behaviour in a Tier 3 district would almost certainly have been a spreading event, and the reaction to scientists Whitty and Vallance on social media as I write (on Saturday evening) shows over and over again that the general public aren’t accepting what they are being shown through the numbers. Sadly, I won’t be around to see what historians make of all this. I doubt whether it will be complimentary.

Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats Update

Usually accompanied by a pre-match prediction on Twitter just before kickoff. Working towards being able to compute a respectable statistical significance test by the end of the season. The full keeper top performance table from my last 219 matches is here, on this separate page.

Custodian with floodlight, rooftops and diesel multiple-unit (2020)

This week Black beats Orange, but no clean sheets and no change in the league table positions. Again slightly surprised to see a top that clashes with the referee's kit.

Pre-match Prediction based on Keeper Top Colour:

Prediction:

Away Win (on Penalties)

Was the prediction correct?

No

% of correct predictions so far

49% (36 from 74)


Based on conventional 3pts for a win, 1pt for a draw, but also -1pt for a goal conceded (GC) and +5pts for a clean sheet (CS).  Colours ranked on a points per game (PPG) basis. The odd decimal places were caused either by undeniable half-and-half tops or lower league sub keepers in a different colour.  The Fire Cracker colour was confirmed with the help of the social media team at Dulux UK.  All of this arises from a comment attributed to Petr Cech (and supported by anonymous scientists of some description) that orange is the best colour for a goalkeeper because it changes the behaviour of other players around the box. It is supposedly because of an innate primeval human reaction to the colour and the colour “spreads” more in the vision of a striker at the key moment of decision. Genius or garbage? The evidence is gathering here, and is leaning towards the latter.

What Next?

As you will understand, not much. The spreadsheet shows fourteen grounds on my “everywhere down to and including Step 4” priority list, but there is no sensible way to plan, and for some grounds such as Brentford I would be way down the ticket priority list when attendance is allowed again. Thank you for reading the blog this season. I will pick up the threads again as soon as Covid-19 arrangements allow. In the meantime, stamp collecting beckons.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Visions of Greatness Park

e-Programme

Hopperational Details

Date & Venue

Saturday 24 October 2020 at The Bourne Stadium, Greatness Park

Result

Sevenoaks Town 0 Hastings United 1

Competition

Isthmian League Division One SE (Step 4)

Hopstats

Ground 717 on the lifetime list and here pragmatically as the weather has not been good and my other possibilities were both grass pitches and longer journeys. This visit completes the Isthmian League for me with the exception of Guernsey, which will have to wait until the end of the CV19 pandemic.

Context

Two sides unbeaten in the league, five games in. 5th hosts 2nd, so am expecting a competitive game. The quality will be helped by an artificial surface but could be hindered by the wind.

In One Sentence

A match indeed spoiled as a spectacle by the conditions but won by a magnificent goal.

So What?

Hastings go above VCD (who didn’t play today) to the top of the divisional table and Sevenoaks drop to eighth.

Match Report

My written notes were largely illegible by the end of the game so some of this is from memory. As I had feared, the game as a spectacle was largely ruined by the conditions. Bands of rain swept in laterally and almost horizontally with very short periods of respite.

There were few chances created in the first half. Sevenoaks applied more of the early pressure. Hastings gradually got to grips with the tactics needed, apart from Ben Pope who got himself needlessly booked for a deliberate Maradona-type handball. They had one of the better chances when a through ball allowed Jake Elliot to get through one-on-one with keeper Ben Bridle-Card. He seemed to misjudge the bounce, though, and the moment was gone. Bridle-Card then had to be alert to tip over a Gary Elphick header from a corner. The Hastings fans had by this time amused us with a rendition of “It’s Grim Up North!” before one of them embarrassed himself with a foul-mouthed rant at the officials before that corner. I wouldn’t want to have to explain to my grandchildren what some of those words are supposed to mean.

Half-time: Sevenoaks Town 0 Hastings United 0

Hastings scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game eleven minutes into the second half. Ryan Worrall picked the ball up in left midfield, went forward and right to create a shooting position and buried an absolute screamer just inside the left-hand post. Superb goal, and like so many for me this season, up the other end.

With defences on top in these difficult conditions, it remained a game of few chances. Hastings keeper Louis Rogers made a fantastic stop from one of the Sevenoaks subs (Zachary Guerfi, I think) and there was another timely tackle just outside the box to protect the lead.

The closing minutes were forgettable for this passing neutral as Hastings took the ball to the flanks and corners whenever they could. I don’t blame them in the slightest. This was a good win.

Match Pix

I managed to get a few snaps between the showers. Sevenoaks in blue and black.

 




 

Ground Pix

One of those grounds where you can sit on a bench on a nearby slope and watch some of the action for free. This is a newish community facility with other very good play areas adjacent. I had arrived at the time that lots of youngsters were being collected after a morning of football activity on the same pitch. 







CV19 Opinion

This was by far and away the most rigorous of the arrangements that I have experienced on eleven hops this season, at least initially. Everything seemed organised. The ticket had been purchased online in advance, an electronic temperature check was carried out at the turnstile, and the hand sanitising on arrival was supervised and enforced. There was a clear one-way system. The club had also tweeted earlier that they were limiting the numbers below the allowed maximum. Hand sanitiser was available in various locations around the ground and there were plenty of relevant notices.


As with all the games so far, I felt safe enough in my quiet corner. The price to pay for social distancing this time was a thorough soaking. The planned social distancing in the stands became a casualty of the circumstances as most people sought some form of shelter. Once again, it seemed clear that people were mostly operating in their own self-determined bubbles rather than adhering to the strict guidance.

Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats Update

Usually accompanied by a pre-match prediction on Twitter just before kickoff. Working towards being able to compute a respectable statistical significance test by the end of the season. The full keeper top performance table from my last 218 matches is here, on this separate page.

Today, Orange loses to Green. Orange drops back below Purple and the clean sheet widens Green’s gap to fifth but is not enough to overtake Blue. Notice how I write this stuff in the style of something important.

Pre-match Prediction based on Keeper Top Colour:

Prediction:

Away

Was the prediction correct?

Yes

% of correct predictions so far

49% (36 from 73)


Based on conventional 3pts for a win, 1pt for a draw, but also -1pt for a goal conceded (GC) and +5pts for a clean sheet (CS).  Colours ranked on a points per game (PPG) basis. The odd decimal places were caused either by undeniable half-and-half tops or lower league sub keepers in a different colour.  The Fire Cracker colour was confirmed with the help of the social media team at Dulux UK.  All of this arises from a comment attributed to Petr Cech (and supported by anonymous scientists of some description) that orange is the best colour for a goalkeeper because it changes the behaviour of other players around the box. It is supposedly because of an innate primeval human reaction to the colour and the colour “spreads” more in the vision of a striker at the key moment of decision. Genius or garbage? The evidence is gathering here, and is leaning towards the latter.

What Next?

Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter! I genuinely don't know what will happen next. Many of my target grounds for this season are in Covid19 Tier 3 high-risk northern counties and a lot will depend on the relevant law and guidance relating to travel. I am unsure whether I would use the "it's only guidance, not the law" defence even though I feel confident with my own grasp of the science and maths. Barnstaple, Basingstoke, Melksham and Moneyfields are the southern possibilities in the weeks ahead. I would not be at all surprised, however, by the announcement of a so-called circuit-breaker CV19 lockdown by next weekend.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Man Goes to See Mangos

e-Programme

Hopperational Details

Date & Venue

Saturday 17 October at Cossham Street

Result

Mangotsfield United 1 Cinderford Town 2

Competition

FA Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round

Hopstats

Ground 716 on the lifetime list. Not a random visit, this one. Chosen for pragmatic reasons, ticking off one of my longer remaining Step 4 journeys given a dry weather forecast, and choosing an area in the lowest risk category for CV19 case numbers.

Context

This is a knockout game, of course. Both clubs are at Step 4 in the Division One South of the Southern League. It’s fair to say that Mangotsfield have had a rotten start to the season with four league defeats and an FA Cup loss. Cinderford started well enough, and went one further round in the FA Cup, but arrive here on the back of three big defeats. The Goals Against columns for both teams suggest that this will not be 0-0.

In One Sentence

Cinderford secured the win with a workmanlike first half display and then coped well enough with the Mangotsfield second-half improvement.

So What?

The usual cliché about Mangotsfield concentrating on the league and Cinderford looking forward to being in the hat for the next round draw.

Match Report

Nothing of note from the sparring of the first fifteen minutes, as both defences held firm. I was distracted by the gentleman climbing the ladder on to the roof of the stand at the main road end as Cinderford went close twice in quick succession. It looks as if my search for quiet corners once again meant that today’s goal action was all at the other end. These first chances had come from a direct freekick and the resulting corner and the players’ reactions suggested that Cinderford had come very close to breaking the deadlock.

They did get the opening goal in the 18th minute. Will Gibbons made space running the ball from centre to left and his low shot back across the keeper found the bottom corner. Nice finish. The lead was doubled before half-time. Mangotsfield had given the ball away in midfield and got caught on the break. It took a great save from Jakob Glover, tipping the ball over the bar at full stretch, to prevent the goal … but only for a moment. From the corner, Matt Macdonald got on the scoresheet to put the visitors firmly in control.

At half-time I noted that throughout the first half Cinderford had defended well from a good number of freekicks and corners whilst themselves always looking a threat on the break. A classic away performance really.

Half-time: Mangotsfield U 0 Cinderford T 2

Mangotsfield made a couple of changes and improved in the second half and they forced an early save from the Man in Black, Nick Jones. A goal then could have changed the course of events but as it happened, chances were few in number as the time ticked away. Jones was called upon to make another good save. It was not until the 78th minute that Matthew Binding (I think!) prodded the ball home from close range, again after a corner, to make the last few minutes more interesting.

Home striker Olaoluwakitan Jaiyeoba had been a physical presence all afternoon, though Cinderford shackled him pretty well once his threat had become clear early on. He had a half-chance in the last minute to send us to a penalty shootout, but the shot went high and wide to the right. Cinderford’s day, and on balance over the whole game they deserved the win.

Match (and Ball Retrieval) Pix

Mangotsfield in sky blue and claret, Cinderford in green.







Ground Pix

Next to a road where passengers on the top deck of passing ‘buses get a quick peek at the game. A ground with a bit of character and slope, and a refreshment hut called the Mango Munch.

 







CV19

No problems. Signage in place, details handed over, reminders given over the PA. I was able to find my usual quiet corner and it all felt safe enough, certainly safer than going to work! I don’t wander around during the games now though, so all ground pix are from before kickoff and all match pix are from the same viewpoint.

Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats Update

Usually accompanied by a pre-match prediction on Twitter just before kickoff. Working towards being able to compute a respectable statistical significance test by the end of the season. The full keeper top performance table from my last 217 matches is here, on this separate page.

Today, Orange lost to Black, with no clean sheet for either. The black top was a direct clash with the referee kit. I remember that being one of the questions in my FA Class 3 referees’ examination back in 1978-9. Before anyone asks, I refereed some inter-college games at Cambridge University but couldn’t keep the commitment going once the teaching career had started, though I did referee plenty of inter-school games back in the day.

Pre-match Prediction based on Keeper Top Colour:

Prediction:

Home Win

Was the prediction correct?

No

% of correct predictions so far

49% (35 from 72)


Based on conventional 3pts for a win, 1pt for a draw, but also -1pt for a goal conceded (GC) and +5pts for a clean sheet (CS).  Colours ranked on a points per game (PPG) basis. The odd decimal places were caused either by undeniable half-and-half tops or lower league sub keepers in a different colour.  The Fire Cracker colour was confirmed with the help of the social media team at Dulux UK.  All of this arises from a comment attributed to Petr Cech (and supported by anonymous scientists of some description) that orange is the best colour for a goalkeeper because it changes the behaviour of other players around the box. It is supposedly because of an innate primeval human reaction to the colour and the colour “spreads” more in the vision of a striker at the key moment of decision. Genius or garbage? The evidence is gathering here, and is leaning towards the latter.

What Next?

Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter! Half-term break coming up, but likewise the strong suggestion of a circuit-breaker lockdown coming up so any decisions will be made next Friday. Many of my priority grounds for this season are in the northern counties of England and I’m expecting travel restrictions to be applied fairly soon.