Month: August 2014
Game 16 of the 2014/15 season
Another stern test for Macclesfield, still unbeaten but off the back of three consecutive draws, against big spending Eastleigh. The home side were still missing first team players Danny Whitaker and Chris Holroyd, but were able to fill the subs bench, a welcome sight for the Silkmen faithful.
Eastleigh started like a train, and put the home side under pressure from the start, without creating a clear chance however. Their pressure was rewarded when a soft penalty was awarded after a challenge from George Pilkington. Rhys Taylor continued his impressive form as he flung himself to left to keep out Midson’s effort from the spot.
The new look front pair of Waide Fairhurst and Domaine Rouse gradually began to impose themselves, making the most of some quality service from the wings, and support from central midfield areas. The two played a key role in the opener, with Fairhurst’s clever hold up play, allowing Scott Barrow to play in a measured cross, which Rouse dispatched from six yards out.
Eastleigh were hurried in possession as Turnbull and Lewis in midfield were able to get in peoples faces and regularly turned over the ball. Macclesfield themselves were able to maintain controlled possession, with both full-backs and wingers getting forward regularly, and to good effect. Waterfall and Pilkington were also resolute in defence; making numerous blocks and dominating aerially all game long.
Eastleigh began to lose their discipline, committing a series of rash fouls and allowing Macclesfield to create some dangerous situations from the ensuing set pieces. One such free-kick was fired across by Turnbull, straight onto the head of Paul Lewis, who stole in from the centre of the goal, inside the six yard box and guided home a second headed goal to give the home side a two goal cushion.
Just a side point, but after a fracas involving Andy Halls and Stuart Fleetwood, the referee was forced to consult both his linesmen and fourth official at length. To me this seemed like a sensible decision, a sign of trust in his fellow officials, but most fans took it as a sign that ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’. How about equipping the officials with mics, like those at the top level? It would certainly allow linesmen to help out referees more often instead of only giving ins and outs.
With a two goal lead, the Silkmen relaxed and allowed Eastleigh more possession in the last fifteen minutes. However, they were harassed at every turn, with Constable and Odubade unable to trouble Taylor from inside the area. Clever play from Gnahoua and Moke allowed Macc to keep their width and take advantage of the gaps left by Eastleigh as they poured forward.
Entertainment = 7/10 (missed quite a bit of the first half sorting out programmes so may well have been closer to an 8 otherwise).
Ground Number 124
This was a close call, with an incorrect postcode and being hidden behind a two storey leisure centre not helping matters. Thankfully, a last ditch attempt after a half an hour drive around the lovely seaside town of Sheringham paid off.
The ground is very basic, but this is to be expected; but £3 entry fee does smooth over any problems here. It is the typical concrete wall, rail around the pitch with 30 watt light bulbs for floodlights.There is a small stand across from the dugouts, all standing apart from one bloke who brought his own chair along. This has two steps and has a nice backrest to lean on, made from a scaffolding pole, which bent worryingly in the middle throughout. The next ground improvement would be to pave all the way round the pitch, to prevent frostbitten toes in future.
The football club also share a modern pavilion with the cricket club and this certainly finishes the ground off well. Again this was reasonable, with a much needed hot chocolate for just 70p.
It is also refreshing to see that no matter what level you watch a game at, there are always people that will stand just outside the ground and peer over the fence and watch for free, but at least in this case they swiftly returned the ball after an errant shot threatened to knock them off their perch.
Sheringham Town 2- 5 Norwich CEYMS – Tuesday 26th August 2014 – Almary Green Anglian Combination Premier Division
Game 15 of the 2014/15 season
My first and no doubt last fixture in the Anglian Combination Premier Division, the eleventh tier of English football, one below the North West Counties and equivalent to the Cheshire League. At the opposite end of the spectrum from the City Liverpool game of the Monday evening.
As always, this game started off at break neck tempo, with neither side being able to retain possession, and a distinct lack of quality on show. It was also noticeable that there were players of all different shapes and sizes, a feature that seems to be disappearing from the higher levels. The Norwich striker Allen and Sheringham’s #7 in particular, were the sort of player that give fans hope that despite carrying a little weight, they can make it as players; typically these players stand out and again this proved to be so, as Allen bagged a brace. Norwich were also able to provide us with a 6ft 6 substitute, who was strangely effective as left winger.
During one break in play attention turned to the important matter of trying to work out what CEYMS could stand for on the Norwich shirt. Four days later and with Wikipedia to thank, we have Church of England Young Men’s Club. Another favourite of this sort of game is count the crowd, with did not prove time consuming. After a double check to get our facts right, we arrived on 39 spectators, good job we turned up!
With seven goals you can’t usually go wrong, and this was no exception. It was also nice to see the goals shared around, and with all from open play. A couple of taps ins are to be expected, but there at least three well executed finished after team moves; something that would have been fitting of a much higher level.
After a shaky start this turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining game, with the away side running out as deserved 5 – 2 winners. Man of the match was definately the Norwich #6, although in the absence of a team sheet, or any away fans his identity will remain a mystery.
Entertainment = 6/10
Game 14 of the 2014/15 season
An enticing game between two sides still unbeaten after their opening three games of the Conference season. Kidderminster opened as favourites, with a larger squad and arguably better players.
This was definitely not a game that saw much in the way of goalmouth action, with both defences coming out on top. Kidderminster has the best of what could be considered half chances, but they were always heavily pressured and could not trouble Taylor in the Silkmen goal. At the other end, the partnership of Dunkley and Gowling proved a typically stiff challenge. They have been in tandem now for a couple of seasons, and possess all the attributes to play at a higher level.
The second half saw Kidderminster with the majority of possession, with Macclesfield looking to break when in possession. All credit to the home side in that they did not allow this possession to be comfortable in any area of the field, with Turnbull in particular snapping away in the centre of the park.
A real gritty effort from the home side, which will surely tell when they face Wrexham away on Monday (a schedule which the Premier League clubs manage to avoid!)
Entertainment = 6/10
A lot of people may think this is an odd score, but the surprise of the result, plus my appreciation for the tactical display and work rate of the two sides gives it a just above average 6.
The FA Cup is well underway for another season, as the extra-preliminary round unfolds. The BBC is littered with interesting tales and stories of mangers come chairman come groundsman come centre-fowards. All this is welcome coverage and shows the the FA cup is still a popular competition.
However, an idea my dad has often had is the scrap the qualifying rounds and simply throw all the sides in at round one. Just think of the fun as Manchester United roll up at FC Romania in late July. This would give the sides way down in steps 11 and 12 of the pyramid a chance of national radio and TV coverage, a full house, and the chance to take on the big boys as equals.
What do we all think?
Game 13 of 2014/15
A bit of a rush to get to this one, and a gave it the nod over Stafford Rangers and Stafford Town matches; and another chance to see Leek already. Unfortunately it was very disappointing fare given the level, and no sign of Pascal Chimbonda either.
From the off it was Leek who looked the more composed side, using the wings to good effect, with both full-backs bombing on to peg Drayton back. The home side really struggled to trouble Leek at the back, with mainly aimless long balls merely handing possession back to Leek.
The first goal was a cracking header from Shelley, the smallest man on the field, from a cross from Leek’s captain; who had either fouled someone or given the ball away for the first half an hour. The rest of the game saw Leek largely in control, but without ever being able to put the game to bed. Despite their side’s comfortable position, Leeks fans seemed intent on loudly criticizing the every decision of the officials, who from my neutral point of view had a good game
The last ten saw Leek pegged back, but it was more a case of securing the points and moving on to Saturday, than Drayton being an irresistible force. It was entertaining to see the grandad of the Drayton number 9 playing the role of lone nutter for the evening, spluttering and cursing to himself, chastising his team mates and working towards a heart attack. Leek ran out 2-1 winners to continue their good start to the season.
Entertainment = 4/10
Ground Number 123
First Visit = Tuesday 19th August 2014 – Market Drayton Town v Leek Town (Evo-Stick Division One South)
Bit of a slog this one and despite the best efforts of several drivers, we made it through the turnstile just after the referee blew to start the game. This is a proper non-league ground at its best, with several different stands and a patched up sort of look to the place.
The football club is set in a huge area that contains rugby and tennis clubs, with several other grass pitches. It felt a bit like the setup they have at Stone Dominoes. £12 for me and the old man seemed good value at the time, and whilst I liked the random nature of the ground, the game certainly didn’t warrant the long drive. Another feature was the unusual entrance which brought you through the turnstiles and out directly behind the goal. With no stand here, there is a strange covered terrace which is crammed in the corner. Next to this is very strange area of seating, uncovered which can house around 40 fans. This is is the sort of thing you see across the leagues as clubs scramble to meet ground regulations.
It was also noted that just four floodlight pylons, again another rare sight at this level, even more surprisingly they proved more than adequate as darkness quickly set in. I took some pictures, but the combination of my phone and failing light means they are better off not shared.
The clubhouse was decent enough, although I’m not sure about their decision to go for Casualty over Besiktas v Arsenal on ITV. It also features a first for me, a verandah from which many fans were able to sample an ale or two. Drayton were pretty subdued all game, so it was hard to judge their fans, although there were a plethora of different football shirts on display amongst the small crowd.
On reflection this is probably more of a North West Counties level ground, but I can forgive that because it has so many quirky features.
Game 1 of the 2014/15 season – after a busy summer of world cup viewing, 67 matches in 2013/14 and the very real prospect of not having a team to go and support come August.
A very picturesque if slightly unusual setting to watch a football game, sat on a grassy bank at Mottram Hall Country Club and Hotel, with a gathering of golfers, agents, walkers, half of the Apoel team who had played there earlier, and live on Romanian TV via one precariously position cable. If we ever have to sell the Moss then this would be ideal for me every week.
For a friendly there were some hefty tackles flying in, with Kissock starting off the fun with a full blooded lunge after about five minutes. It was also interesting to see the officials linked up with their fancy walkie talkies, can’t see that happening in the conference any time soon.
The first friendly always has a bizzarre mix of trialists, youth teamers and those weren’t good enough to get a move to somewhere better, and this did not disappoint. The first x1 we were fine with, but the bench was anyone’s guess, even veteran kit man Etch couldn’t shed much light on the mystery men for us.
Another feature of the friendly is that in your mind you are wielding the axe as if you were the manager. One misplaced pass or weak tackle and you have ruthlessly dismissed another player to roam the world of non league. Often these are the players that end up signing for you, like Jimmy McNulty (who has since gone on to greater things, since his nightmare debut in a 4-0 rout at Southport).
Equally as confusing as the identity of our new number 16, was the format of the game. Who needs halves when you can have thirds? Slightly hazily timed thirds, with something like 85 minutes played.
Highlight of the game has to be the two tracksuit bottom wearing substitutes that played the final ten minutes for Murges; pretty sure they were just coaching staff having a run out. Oh and Macc won 3-2.
Entertainment = 5/10
The Premier League began in earnest today, after a superb World Cup in Brazil and with a raft of expensive signings costing over £360 million. Chelsea have strengthened with the addition of two Spanish stars, Arsenal have made another marquee signing similar to Ozil last summer, Manchester City look to have finally got a partner for Kompany, Liverpool have bought well to replace the irreplaceable Suarez, and LVG has been recruited to jolt RVP and co back into some form.
What about the other 15 teams? Well they have been busy as well; Everton have made a statement with the £28million signing of Lukaku, Spurs have added quality and Stoke will hope Bojan can finally fire in senior football.
Goal line technology is here to stay, with the addition of the wonderful shaving foam the other referees aid this season. Howard Webb and Alan Hanson have gone, Lawrenson remains….
The problem is that the ‘Best League In The World’ is that the it is very difficult to look past Chelsea or City for the league. The top 4 looks to be a closed shop, with Tottenham, United and Everton looking on from below. There are a raft of clubs like Stoke and Newcastle who will be glad of mid-table, and the new boys will be battling in out with average sides like Villa, Crystal Palace and West Ham. Who will be the surprise package, the Ipswich of 2014/15?
Ground number 120
first visit = Barnton v Ashton Town (2nd August 2014) Vodkat North West Counties Division One
A first season at this level for Barnton at step 6 of the non league pyramid. In quite an unusual location, down a non-descript looking path that leads to a modern church, there is not much of a give away that a football ground lurks a matter of yards away. Another ground lacking in turnstiles, but does have a little hut for the gateman. Bit of a surreal moment as I quickly recognized the Barnton warm up goalkeeper as someone I played with a bit at uni.
This ground takes non-league to a whole new level; the fans were friendly enough, and the pitch decent, with a good pie hut. However, I’m not quite sure how they been accepted into the league. There are several things missing that seem to have been a feature of all clubs we have visited in the NWC. Firstly there are no floodlights, fine if we are in early August, but once the nights start to close in or they have a midweek game I don’t see how it can work. There was also a complete lack of seating, and even worse, half of the perimeter rail was fenced off meaning we couldn’t walk all the way round.
It’s not all bad though, the rail around the pitch means you are very close to the action, and there are a couple of decent sized covered standing areas for the locals. We will probably be back but hopefully some improvements will be underway by then.