Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Joy of Three

Mr Sudoku (see below) lurking at the back right of the stand

The slope downwards from L to R at Fleet Town

Kidlington's ground at Yarnton Road
Hopperational details
Date & Venues
Bank Holiday Monday 29 August 2011
a)    Bottom Meadow, Sandhurst (1130)
b)    Calthorpe Park, Fleet (1500)
c)    Yarnton Road, Kidlington (1945)
Results & Competitions
Sandhurst 2 (Unknown 22, Jeffrey 37)
Ash United 0
Combined Counties Premier League (step 5)

Fleet Town 0
Chertsey Town 3
(Bennett 28, Ferguson 80, McGarry 90+5pen)
Southern League Division One Central (step 4)

Kidlington 1 (Haysham 4)
Oxford City Nomads 1 (Curtin 90)
Hellenic Premier League (step 5)
Bank Holiday trebles are usually determined by geographical proximity to the game with the evening kickoff time.  This is my fourth, and the grounds will be #413, 414 & 415 on the lifetime list.
These matches in one sentence each
  • Sandhurst scored first after the even early sparring and went on to complete a routine and deserved victory.
  • Chertsey’s greater sharpness in and around the box got them a good away win, and Fleet face a possible ‘keeper crisis after a late red-card incident means that their top two are injured and suspended respectively.
  • Kidlington rescued a point with a late, late equaliser from a game that the visitors had dominated.
So what?
  • Both Sandhurst and Ash have a win and a defeat from their two games on Bank Holiday weekend – Sandhurst are a club in transition (see below) and this was a good day.
  • Newly-promoted Chertsey Town sit 11th in the table and leapfrog over several teams, including Fleet, after two wins this weekend.  Fleet have no points and no goals (and no goalkeepers?) to show after their two games.
  • Oxford City Nomads drop from first to third in the Hellenic League after weekend results, and Kidlington sit in upper-mid-table.
Alternative approaches to Bank Holiday Monday
  • Sit in an armchair with an unlimited supply of Stella Artois in supermarket loss-leader twelve-pack listening to traffic updates on the radio while periodically announcing that, “It’s mad out there today”.
  • Go to B&Q or Homebase with a list that is missing at least one critical item of equipment or materials for that DIY task that you have been putting off for the last year.  For best effect, discover the omission ten minutes before closing time.
  • Go into the garden and replace all the recently-living things that you paid good money for last week with some still-living-but-not-at-all-well things that the local garden centre is offloading on special offer this week.
  • Make a chart showing the number of hours left before your children go back into school and cheer yourself up by colouring in those that are occupied by sleep, work, going to the lavatory and hiding in your room/shed/den.  Extra style points are available for those using Excel and conditional formatting.
The drama unfolds
The first 15 minutes at Sandhurst was pretty even.  Sandhurst almost opened the scoring after 17, but this effort was headed off the line.

Ash responded immediately with a lovely 5-player move, but it was Sandhurst who got the goal after 22 minutes.  Good work initially by Vinnie Bond ended up with confusion and blocked shots in the Ash penalty area, but the ball broke eventually to someone I didn’t identify in the melée who poked it over the line.  1-0

The second goal followed before half-time.  A good pass from Ross Hogston found Sam Jeffrey on the right, and he cut inside to unleash a powerful left foot shot into the net.  Sandhurst held that lead comfortably till the break.  2-0 at half-time

This spectator had turned to the sudoku page even before half-time
Ash United started the second half with intent and nearly had a goal back after 53 minutes.  This effort trickled agonisingly wide with the keeper beaten. 

Toby Jannaway was one of several Sandhurst players who could have got on the scoresheet today:

Ash centre-back Alan Hanning was one of those getting a yellow card after a second poor tackle on Vinnie Bond, who to his credit picked himself up and got on with it several times after such events.  He was unlucky not to get a third goal after good work again by Jeffrey.  Sandhurst made a substitution and changed to 4-2-3-1 (the first time, I think, that I have heard that formation announced from the bench at step 5).  Although Ash broke forward every now and then, Sandhurst pretty much controlled the rest of the game as typified by this next clip.  Final score 2-0

Here are scene-setter clips from the second game, with Fleet in blue and Chertsey in white.  The second one seems to be a world-record attempt at packing the 6-yard box at a corner.

Fleet were to end up on the end of a heavy home defeat, but things could have been different had they scored after 12 minutes.  A mix-up between defender David Stevens and keeper Mark Shipperley (perhaps as the ball slowed down on the upslope) almost let in Luke King.  However, Chertsey took the lead in the 28th minute.  A superb long diagonal ball was well controlled by Dan Bennett on the edge of the area.  He rounded the keeper, stayed on his feet and showed enough composure to finish as his shot could only be deflected into the roof of the net by a desperate defender.  0-1

Chertsey almost added a second soon after, with Bennett prominent in all the best attacking moves, but there was no more scoring before the interval.  0-1 at half-time

Chertsey Town's Andy Crossley picked up a foot injury in the first half
The next clip is from the second-half as Fleet searched for an equaliser.

The visitors’ task of holding the lead got easier when Johnny Dyer was sent off on the hour, but to be fair there were chances for both sides before Chertsey added two late goals.  Troy Ferguson popped up from midfield after 80 minutes to seal the win.  0-2

There was time for one last twist to add to the gloom over the hosts.  Keeper Dave Smalley (playing in place of the recently-injured Andy Bayliss) brought down an attacker and received the red-card as we entered the fifth minute of stoppage time.  Bayliss, presumably not fully fit, came off the bench but Tommy McGarry put the spotkick away as shown below and the game ended immediately after the restart.  Final score 0-3

This Kidlington allotment holder favours the big-man-at-the-back approach when defending an aerial threat
The next clip is a scene-setter from the first half of Kidlington v Oxford City Nomads.  The hosts had opened the scoring after only four minutes with a fine shot by Pablo Haysham.  0-1

The Nomads dominated the half and were unable to add a second despite a string of corners and freekicks.  0-1 at half-time

As the game went on, discussions took place with fellow hoppers about the chances of an unjust Kidlington equaliser.  Nomads continued to dominate possession and create chances, but Kidlington had their moments too, including this appeal for a penalty.

It looked as if Nomads had done enough, but Ryan Curtin stepped up with a deflected freekick right at the death.  Nomads’ keeper Paul Davis was heading in the opposite direction as the ball crossed the line, and his teammates seemed less than happy with him.  Quite what he could have done differently, I don’t know.  Final score 1-1

Thanks to OCN’s website for the identification of scorers.

Sam Jeffrey (Sandhurst Town, pictured right, in the foreground) with honourable mentions to teammates Vinnie Bond (in the background) and captain Liam Eagles.

Dan Bennett of Chertsey Town (on the ball, below) for being a constant threat to the opposition.

Ryan Curtin of Kidlington just for that last-moment game-changer of a freekick.
The programmes

What I learned today
Sandhurst Town are seeking a new manager. The board refused to break a structure to pay two individual players, who are thus said to have made themselves unavailable for last weekend’s FA Cup tie (so as not to be cup-tied for later rounds with a new club).  The manager, Dean Thomas, also chose to leave and an interim management team is in place.  Chairman Tony Dean made an assertive defence of the club’s stance in his programme notes.

Andy Leader, last seen by this blogger in January (click the Andover tag on the right to jump to the page) is now assistant manager at Fleet Town.  For the record, he was very calm and quiet today.  Also, Calthorpe Park has a pronounced slope.  Fleet it may be, but Flat it is not.

Finally, at least one other ‘hopper had chosen the same games for today’s treble – good to meet you, Lee, and I am sure we will cross paths again!
What Next?
Mustn’t forget that it is an FA Cup weekend coming up!  Watch the @GrahamYapp Twitter feed for details … perhaps even for a short hop tonight.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Joy of Six

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Wednesday 24 August 2011 at Phoenix Park
Shifnal Town 3 (Horler 64, Horler (or Ellis?) 88, 90+6p)
Gornal Athletic 4 (Wherton 8, Young 59, Meese 89p, 99)
After extra time
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round replay.  Both clubs play in the West Midlands Regional Premier League at step 6.
I am here to complete a run of six FA Cup ties in six consecutive days, a new personal record for games in a single competition.
This match in one sentence
Gornal Athletic survive the sending off of their keeper and a stoppage time penalty setback to grab a winner in the first period of extra time.
So what?
Gornal Athletic go away to Rugby Town in the next round.
A random invention that would have the same impact on my personal happiness and well-being as watching this match
A printer-scanner for old photographs that would remove fashion disasters, dodgy hairstyles and other faux pas that otherwise cause amusement to your children.  I've seen my degree photos again this week and I refuse to believe that rounded collars existed.  Must be an optical illusion - surely not a health-and-safety issue.
The drama unfolds
Gornal Athletic started brightly and took the lead after 8 minutes.  Lee Wherton broke through from midfield and the ball sat up nicely for him to unleash a left foot shot low into the right-hand corner of the net.  0-1

Shifnal really should have equalised in the 18th minute and the second clip below is from the 25th when Gornal failed to pick up a runner at a corner.

However, Gornal were also making chances, as shown in the third clip.

0-1 at half-time

The ref had waited until the 27th minute before having a word with Gornal manager Ian Rowe.  He had been keeping up a tirade of challenges to the ref and linesmen, mentally kicking every ball and jumping up and down like an excitable child on (or over) the touchline.  He needs to have a look at himself to be honest so I thought I would assist with a short video clip.  This is the only usable one – this is a family website after all.

Cameron Morgan picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on the Shifnal goalkeeper as post-interval passions started to run higher.  Gornal increased their lead just before the hour.  Richard Young’s free-kick is caught in the next clip.  0-2

However, Shifnal pulled one back within five minutes, through substitute Gareth Horler.  1-2

The game moved from simmering to eruption with just over 15 minutes to go.  Firstly, Gornal keeper James Pemberton was judged to have brought down an attacker and denied a goalscoring opportunity as both players went for a bouncing ball.  Defender Peter Wood put on the goalkeeping kit and he will treasure the next moment forever.

Shifnal were not out of it yet and the tide turned in their favour with two minutes to go.  I thought Gareth Horler had got a second, but other published accounts today say it was Pat Ellis.  2-2

Incredibly, with my watch saying 89 minutes, Gornal sent the ball down the left and the ref was well-placed to give a handball decision as it was crossed in.  Dave Meese converted the spot-kick, with really only stoppage time left.  Many home supporters moved towards the gate and congregated in a grumpy group.  2-3

However, there was to be a lot of stoppage time, sending Ian Rowe apoplectic in the dugout.  I made it 96 minutes when the second of two last-ditch tackles was judged to be a foul, and this time Stuart Corns made no mistake with the Shifnal penalty kick.  The home supporters duly filed back in.  3-3

Ian Rowe used the break to remind his players that they were up against fourteen men, and they started extra time with attacking intent.  If this was a deliberate tactic to avoid a penalty shootout with a stand-in keeper, then it was excellent.

The winning goal was fired in by Dave Meese after 99 minutes, as shown in the next clip.  3-4 at the end of the first period of ET.

The International Space Station made its expected crossing at 2204hrs precisely.  It is the small bright dot moving from right to left across the field of view, just visible through the glare of the floodlights.  I love it when obsessive hobbies collide – if only I’d brought my stamp collection along.  You may need to look at this a few times.  It is a tiny dot just above the floodlight on the first glance upwards, then on the second glance you are looking for a dot that is just above and to the left momentarily before it disappears behind a cloud.  None of the locals seemed to join in with looking upwards - they were gripped by the onfield shenanigans.

You are looking for a tiny dot somewhere near the region marked with the red circle in the first upward pan, moving to the left and slightly upwards as we look.  The ISS is usually very easy to see as long as there is no cloud cover, but the glare of the floodlights makes it somewhat harder on this occasion.

Meanwhile, on the pitch, Gornal controlled the second period of extra time rather well.  The final clip is from the last frantic minutes, and Shifnal will wonder how they failed to make the extra man count.  Final score 3-4

Well done and thanks to both teams for a dramatic evening of entertainment.
Peter Wood for that once-in-a-lifetime first-touch-of-the-ball penalty save that is the dream for any stand-in goalkeeper.
A snippet from the programme

There is a quiz on the career of John Giles, from which this question is taken:

Which club did he leave Leeds to become player-manager of in 1975?
(See below for answer…)
What I learned today
Shifnal Town are a welcoming club who serve up the best cheeseburgers (note plural) and one of the best programmes encountered so far in step 6.
What Next?
Not sure – follow the @GrahamYapp Twitter feed for announcements.

Quiz question answer: West Bromwich Albion

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Late Night Lineup in Lenton Lane

Greenwood's pre-match huddle is clearly ineffective to the trained eye ...

The Holbrook huddle however, is a model of efficiency and economy, delivering optimal results

A non-league sunset to take your mind off the on-pitch arguments
Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Tuesday 23 August at Lenton Lane, Nottingham
Greenwood Meadows 0 Holbrook Sports 2 (Campbell 13, Ejiofor 90)
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Replay
I am here, for my fifth FA Cup tie in consecutive days, because of the fall of a Toblerone.  Regular readers will understand, others may wish to see the final video clip in the previous blogpost.

This match in one sentence
Unlike the original match on Saturday, Holbrook managed to hold on to a lead through a forgettable second half before they added a second in stoppage time.

So what?
Holbrook Sports go on to play Louth Town in the next round of the competition.

A random invention that would have the same impact on my personal happiness and well-being as watching this match
A device to turn a stream of Higgs Bosons (which to be fair are rare but essentially useless) into Budweiser (in a small acknowledgement to this competition’s new sponsors and increasing the chances of forgetting this game quicker).  This may mean digging up large parts of France and Switzerland, but needs must.

The drama unfolds
Here’s a scene-setting clip.

The next two clips are from early in the game.  (I was to lose the will to live later.)  Holbrook were using #9 Emike Ejiofor as a target man, and he was very effective in the early stages.  They put several dangerous crosses into the box and had the better of the early exchanges.

Holbrook Sports took the lead by this aerial route as shown in this final clip.  The scorer is Paul Campbell, arriving from centre-back for the set piece.  1-0

The same player almost added a similar second after 21 minutes.  In the meantime, Greenwood Meadows had been trying to make their approaches with passes to feet and through the channels.  Their #5 (Mario? Sorry, can’t be sure) was having a good game at the back in a good contest against Ejiofor.  The best move of the match in open play so far came as a sweeping Greenwood move down the right involving numbers 10, 6 and 7, with the latter shooting narrowly wide.  The Holbrook keeper was called into action twice just before the interval.  A good one-handed save from a shot from midfield was followed soon after by an athletic but out-of-position one as the home side sought the equaliser.

Both sides were showing exasperation with the referee.  We had kicked-off five minutes late and potential stoppage time was mounting.  However, Holbrook’s manager Leigh Grant was lucky to escape dismissal.   His apologies and pats-on-the-back seemed to mollify the ref sufficiently after a loud outburst from the dugout.

0-1 at half-time

The second half started eventually at 8.53pm and I tried to take out insurance against extra-time and penalties.  The second half became very scrappy very quickly, with several stoppages for injury and a number of contested decisions.  The most disruptive example was a collision between Greenwood’s large #11 with Holbrook’s smaller #2.  I was no more than two metres away.  In accordance with conventional Newtonian physics and the conservation of linear momentum, the visiting full-back came off worse.  Other spectators nearby were claiming that the home player had used his elbow, while the players seemed to be more concerned by a raised foot.  A foul was given (I have no idea why) from which Holbrook nearly got a second.

I felt that the young lino on this side of the pitch was not given sufficient support by the referee.  However, for his part he also “bottled out” of reminding the ref about a technical error - he failed to make a player leave the pitch after physio treatment (which makes me wonder whether he’d given permission to come on).  All of this annoyed spectators and the players were increasingly wound up.  Ejiofor got away with a significant burst of lino abuse.

Stoppages, yellow cards and “little chats” with the ref mounted up.  I edged towards the exit in anticipation of a Le Mans style getaway from the car park.  Holbrook won a series of corners and used the bulk of Ejiofor to keep the ball.  He then got on the score sheet himself from one of these corners as we entered stoppage time.  We went on for a total of eight added minutes before the blessed relief of the final whistle at 9.46pm.  Final score 0-2

Emike Ejiofor of Holbrook Sports.

A snippet from the programme
There wasn’t one.

What I learned today
I’d still rather be watching this than the early rounds of the Carling Cup.

What Next?
Six FA Cup Ties in consecutive days will completed on Wednesday evening.  See Twitter feed @GrahamYapp for details in due course.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Dew, King Apart - Longwell Sports Go Through

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Monday 22 August 2011 at Longwell Green Sports Club, Shellards Road

Longwell Green Sports 3 (Dew 56, King 77,82)
Bristol Manor Farm 2 (Bryan 36, Thomas 90)

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
This Monday night replay opens up the possibility of six FA Cup ties on consecutive days - four down, two to go!

This match in one sentence
Bristol Manor Farm played an attractive game and held a half-time lead that they could not protect against Longwell Green’s more direct approach - their second goal was a mere consolation.

So what?
Longwell Green go on to play either Merthyr Town or Bitton in the next round.

A random invention that would have the same impact on my personal happiness and well-being as watching this match
A daytime TV silencing kit.  In fact, a daytime TV set exploding kit.

The drama unfolds
Here are a couple of scene-setter clips.  Bristol Manor Farm are in yellow.

As can be seen, Bristol Manor Farm tried to play the ball on the ground from the back, and looked the better side for the first quarter.  Balls “down the channel” were usually overhit or swallowed up by defenders, and the visiting captain showed early frustration when colleagues failed to act on instruction.

The best chance of the game so far fell to Longwell Green after 25 minutes.  The keeper almost spilled a long shot, but recovered just in time to deny an onrushing forward.  They missed a good headed chance a few minutes later.  However, Manor Farm’s Scott Feltham was becoming influential in midfield with good runs and intelligent use of the ball.  Although Longwell Green changed their tactics and started pressing higher up the pitch to force visiting defenders into playing long balls, Bristol Manor Farm took a deserved lead after 36 minutes.  Feltham broke free on the right and crossed to create a simple chance for Luke Bryan, and the score remained the same until the break.  1-0 at half-time

Neutrals were allowed to be distracted by the sunset at the start of the second half.

The equaliser came from Simon Dew after 56 minutes, as shown in this clip.  1-1

The game settled into the same pattern as the first quarter, with Manor Farm playing neat approach football but the home side getting increasingly confident and effective.  Liam Knight began to catch the eye in the home midfield.  They had a big shout for a penalty but the well-placed ref decided that the defender had got the ball in the tackle.  The next three clips are from this phase of the game with the scores level.  The second in particular sums up the night for the orange-booted Kye Thomas of Bristol Manor Farm, although he was to have a last laugh of sorts later on.

Here is the clip from the decisive moment.  Bristol Manor Farm built a patient attack.  Kye Thomas ended up in an attacking position from right full-back but was forced infield and into congestion.  The ball ended up with a pacy Longwell Green substitute on the right, and another sub, Matteo King was unchallenged in the right-back position on the break.  My sympathies were with the visitors at this point. 2-1

However, any sympathy evaporated after 82 minutes when the ball was lost to King just outside the area and he smashed it home to settle the match.  3-1

Credit to Bristol Manor Farm who kept attacking and got a consolation goal from full-back Thomas via a deflection in stoppage time.  Final score 3-2

For me, Scott Feltham of Bristol Manor Farm with honourable mentions for Liam Knight and the match-turning Longwell Green subs Matteo King and #15 (possibly Brad Norris but I am not 100% sure to be honest).

A snippet from the programme
From “The History of the FA Cup”, taken from the fa.com website:
“The first FA Cup competition in season 1871-2 had fifteen entries.  This season more than 700 took part.  Wanderers, a team formed by ex-public school and university players, won the first final 1-0 against Royal Engineers at Kennington Oval.  A crowd of 2,000 attended the match and they each paid one shilling for the privilege.  The first Cup Final goal was scored by Morton Betts, playing under the assumed name of ‘A H Chequer’.  He was an old Harrovian who had once played for Harrow Chequers.”
I think we should allow a comeback for assumed names in the Premier League.  Suggestions, anyone?

What I learned today
I need a new category in my hopping notes for “Grounds Where You Are Likely to see Hot Air Balloons in the Twilight”.

What Next?
I need to make a decision about where to go tonight! There are three accessible games and this calls for a Toblerone Box Decision.  Other chocolate products are available, but none of them in prismatic boxes with an equilateral triangle cross-section.  Here we go - watch the Twitter feed @GrahamYapp later on for goal announcements.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Causeway Without a Rebel

The Malvern Hills from the Ketch viewpoint

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Sunday 21 August 2011 at Langland Stadium
Malvern Town 0 Causeway United 0
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round.  Malvern Town are from the step 6 West Midlands Regional Premier League and Causeway United play in the step 5 Midland Alliance.
My third FA Cup tie of the weekend, and chosen because of its Midlands location.  The Langland Stadium is in a picturesque location at the foot of the Malvern Hills.

This match in one sentence
Causeway United dominated possession and created dozens of chances, but Malvern Town’s defence held firm.

So what?
A replay (at Boldmere St Michaels FC) will be required on Wednesday.

A random invention that would have the same impact on my personal happiness and well-being as watching this match
A zero-calorie steak pie - these consecutive days of football-watching are very challenging to my dietary discipline.

The drama unfolds
Causeway United imposed themselves on the game from the start.  Here is a scene-setter clip.

The second clip is a rare Malvern attack.  In general they struggled to hold the ball up front and the Causeway attacks were frequent.  However, they were struggling to find a killer pass or move on a hard, bouncy pitch.  The game settled into a pattern and it seemed only a matter of time before the visitors took the lead.

Causeway’s #11 Sam Beasley received a yellow card after 37 minutes.  This was a routine transaction until (I am guessing) he said something inappropriate as he walked away from the ref.  The ref called him back and had another word.  A couple of minutes later the sub numbers board went up and Beasley was pulled off by the bench.  To say he was not a happy man would be an understatement - the shirt came off, he walked off petulantly, kicked the touchline gate open and then even from the far side of the pitch we heard the slam of the dressing room door as he went straight down the tunnel.  Two other subs were despatched, presumably to soothe his fevered brow.

Just before the break, Causeway came as close to a goal as they were ever going to do today.  See the clip:

0-0 at half-time

The first few minutes of the second half were relatively even, and there was a big shout for a Malvern penalty just before the hour mark.  The referee judged that it was a case of ball to hand.  However, the game then settled into the same pattern.  There were repeated chances from corners or free kicks for Causeway, with occasional forays from Malvern, which of course made the visitors increasingly nervous at the back as the final whistle approached.

The remaining clips are all from the second half, and neutrals will understand why I had gravitated to behind the Malvern Town goalmouth as the most likely place to catch a goal.

Final score 0-0

Malvern Town’s goalkeeper Ian Hill.  Not only for his performance, but for a comedy moment when he castigated the ref who had called him “Tom”.  The ref, with only a moment’s pause, said, “Well, don’t change your name again.”  Refs with a sense of humour, what next?

A snippet from the programme
The programme (nice original cover, by the way) was up to date with the previous day’s local FA Cup results.  Manager Les Jones wrote:
“What a great opportunity for the lads to play against higher league opposition in the country’s premier cup competition … the stage is set for a classic FA Cup tie.  I’m sure the lads will rise to the occasion and give a real good account of themselves.  Not only do I need you to give the boys your usual great support, but could you please also perform an effective rain dance to soften the pitches!”
He then lists three “unavailable” members of the squad, rumoured among the spectators to be at the V festival (this affected Holbrook yesterday too).  I wonder how many semi-professional footballers missed an FA Cup tie yesterday!

What I learned today
I was able to combine the day with a little bit of family history research.  Oral family history has it that my great-grandfather once owned a small piece of land next to a bridge by the River Teme in Powick, Worcestershire, and in fact was in a minor land dispute with the authorities.  The details are very sketchy and would need a lot more painstaking research, but I went for a post-match walk to some possible spots - I don’t know whether I found the right bridge and the right place but I did find some plaques commemorating the Battle of Worcester from the end of the English Civil War.

What Next?
Not sure - watch the @GrahamYapp twitter feed for any developments.  There are several replays this week!