Game 1: Clanfield 0.2 Liphook United (Hampshire Premier)

Game 1: Clanfield 0.2 Liphook United (Hampshire Premier) 08.08.18

After a busy summer of World Cup watching it was good to get back to basics and drive over to Clanfield’s Peel Park ground after work for a non floodlit 6.45 kickoff in the sunshine. Met up with Alan just before kickoff and made our way past “Griff’s Cafe” to watch the game from the railed sideline. The start of the first half was fairly even, both sides producing some chances but more often than not finding an opposition player with the ball. Liphook saw the home keeper make a good diving save to keep a free kick out before missing a good chance from a header while the visiting keeper tipped a good shot over the bar.

Liphook took the lead after 38 minutes when the ball was crossed in from the left, leaving the keeper stranded as he tried to close down the attack. There were a couple of covering defenders and when the Liphook player in the area scuffed his shot it looked like they would get the ball clear. Despite the initial mistake, the Liphook player did well to get his foot past a defender to poke the ball in. We didn’t have to wait long for a second goal and this one was an early goal of the season contender. A Liphook midfielder took the ball forward and launched a powerful long range shot that flew past the home keeper and in.

We popped into “Griff’s Cafe” to get some snacks and drinks before heading back out for the second half. Alan enjoyed the bargain prices and having a proper mug for his cup of tea. Clanfield came out with some better football and we thought that they would get a goal back when they were awarded a penalty ten minutes in. It looked like the referee awarded it for a home player being held back by a defender. The Clanfield player hit a good powerful shot towards the top corner but the keeper reacted well and managed to tip the ball over for a corner.

Clanfield put together a great series of passes after seventy minutes that ended up with the ball on the edge of the box under the control of an unmarked midfielder. He rushed his shot and put it well over the bar. From a similar position shortly afterwards Clanfield had an accurate attempt that was tipped onto the bar by the keeper. As the sky began to darken Liphook had a couple of chances but didn’t extend their lead.

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Game 21: Panjab 3.3 Cascadia (Conifa World Football Cup)

Game 21: Panjab 3.3 Cascadia (Conifa World Football Cup) 09.06.18

After last week’s very enjoyable games I decided to take in one of the final day fixtures. With Conifa, teams get to play in placement games after the group stages. Panjab and Cascadia had qualified for the 5/6 playoff games after losing in the quarter finals and winning the 5/8 placement games by several goals to nil. Panjab represent the Punjabi speaking population around the world while Cascadia represent the states of Oregon, Washington in the North West of the USA and British Columbia in Canada. This game was played at Fisher’s St Paul’s Sports Ground which has a clear view across towards Canary Wharf and the Docklands.

This was the second game at the ground today and kick off was delayed due to a penalty shootout between Tibet and United Koreans in Japan which saw United Koreans take 11th place in the tournament. There was a mix up with the Cascadia kit and they played the first half wearing fluorescent bibs with numbers in biro on the back to avoid a kit clash. In the second half they changed into their normal away kit with white shirts. Cascadia had some former MLS and UK based players in their team and played some good passing football. Panjab took the lead slightly against the run of play after fifteen minutes when the ball was cut back to the edge of the area and a great shot beat the Cascadia keeper. Seven minutes later and it was 2.0 when an unmarked player picked up a great through ball and shot the ball past the keeper before the defence could get back to cover. On the half hour it looked like game over for Cascadia as they conceded a third, the ball slotted past the keeper from close range. They continued to press for a goal and were unlucky to see the ball fly over the bar from a header with the keeper beaten. Moments later Panjab missed a sitter with only the keeper to beat and this was a turning point in the match. Just before half time Cascadia pulled a goal back with a header from a corner that bounced down and in.

Cascadia continued the scoring at the start of the second half. The Panjab keeper parried a shot and two Cascadia players reacted the quickest. One passed to the other who didn’t miss the empty net. On the hour the game was level. A Cascadia player picked up the ball from a great through pass and scored. They almost added a fourth two minutes later but the referee disallowed the goal for offside. Panjab got back into the game and saw several chances cleared off the line or saved. The referee blew for time at the end of an exciting match and the teams got ready for a penalty shootout. The first four penalties were saved or came off the bar. The Panjab keeper had to be alert for the second Cascadia penalty as the ball continued to roll towards the goal after his save but he did well to stop it a second time. Each of the teams scored their next three penalties so it went to sudden death. Punjab scored and their keeper saved the sixth Cascadia penalty to give them the win.

One of the best games I’ve seen in a long time and a great way to finish the season. Hopefully it won’t be long until I can get to another Conifa match.

Game 20: Northern Cyprus 3.1 Tibet (Conifa World Football Cup)

Game 20: Northern Cyprus 3.1 Tibet (Conifa World Football Cup) 02.06.18

The second game of the day was played at Enfield Town’s Queen Elizabeth II Stadium and I made it there shortly before kick off after a half hour bus ride from Haringey. I was pleased to have bought a ticket in advance as there was a big crowd at the turnstiles which eventually led to the game starting later so everyone could get in safely. There was a lot of local Turkish support for Northern Cyprus while Tibet had drawn fans from exiles and their supporters.

Northern Cyprus were the favourites for this game and started quickly with a goal after two minutes, a shot from the edge of the area beating the Tibet keeper. They were unlucky to see the Tibet keeper make some good saves and when he was beaten, the post came to their rescue. A couple more chances were missed and the Cypriot support around me was getting concerned about the lack of goals. Just before half-time this concern became more widespread as a Tibet player dribbled down the left and hit a shot that deflected off a defender and in for the equaliser. This was Tibet’s first goal in the tournament and there were celebrations all around the ground.

Tibet came close to scoring again at the start of the half, missing an open goal. Northern Cyprus continued to press and after hitting the bar added a second goal with a great shot that gave the keeper no chance. They also continued to live dangerously and almost gave away another equaliser when the keeper gave the ball away at the edge of the area. He wasn’t punished as the Tibet player could only get a cross into the middle and there was no-one there to capitalise. By this point the Tibet players had started to tire and were suffering from cramp. Northern Cyprus made the game safe with a third goal lobbed over the Tibet keeper.

Two very enjoyable games made this a great day out in the London sunshine and I started to make plans to take in another game next Saturday.

Game 19: Szekely Land 5.0 Matabeleland (Conifa World Football Cup)

Game 19: Szekely Land 5.0 Matabeleland (Conifa World Football Cup) 02.06.18

After reading about an alternative World Cup that was taking place in London, I decided to take in games at a couple of grounds I hadn’t visited before. The Conifa World Football Cup is played every two years and features teams that represent countries, minorities, linguistic minorities or remote territories that aren’t affiliated with FIFA. This year’s event was taking place in London so I headed to Haringey Borough’s Coles Park Stadium for the early kick off between Szekely Land and Matabeleland.

Szekely Land represent an ethnic Hungarian minority in Romania and brought a loud vocal set of supporters with drums, flares and a megaphone. They had won their first game against Tuvalu 4.0 Matabeleland represent three provinces of Zimbabwe and used crowd funding online and in the stadium to meet the costs of travel and accommodation. They lost their first ever Conifa match 6.1 against one of the tournament favourites, Padania. Their supporters congregated in the main stand with dancing and songs helping to create a fantastic atmosphere.

The key moment in the first half happened after 23 minutes when the Matabeleland keeper rushed out of his area and brought down a Szekely Land player who was through on goal. This rash challenge meant a red card and a replacement keeper came on. The free kick came to nothing but shortly afterwards Szekely Land scored from a penalty when the new keeper brought one of their players down in the box. A sea of red, white and green smoke came from the celebrations on the terrace. Ten minutes later and it was 2.0 with a shot going in direct from a free kick. Shortly afterwards a breakaway saw a Szekely Land player unselfishly pass to a team mate who made it 3.0.

Matabeleland had a couple of half chances during the first forty-five minutes but lacked a killer touch in the box. They thought they had scored early in the second half but the attempt was disallowed. Moments later Szekely Land added a fourth goal with a well placed chip over the keeper. Both teams played some good football on a hot afternoon and Szekely Land wrapped up the win with a run and tap in past the keeper just before the end.

Game 18: South Park 4.1 Molesey (Bostik South)

Game 18: South Park 4.1 Molesey (Bostik South) 21.04.18

A change of scenery and my first Isthmian game for a few years with Alan and Harry. South Park play on the outskirts of Reigate with the ground in the bottom corner of a park. Unusually there were two stands behind one of the goals instead of at the side, presumably to meet the grading requirements.

Molesey were second bottom at the start of play with South Park in middle table. Molesey almost scored in the first minute of the game, one of their players taking the ball round the home keeper only to cross into an empty area rather than try a shot from a narrow angle. They did take the lead ten minutes later, a long ball from a free kick was headed high and over the keeper. The programme mentioned that the South Park manager was stepping down at the end of the season but his frustration with the officials saw him sent off after the half hour. South Park had a couple of chances before the end of the half and got an equaliser in injury time. They appealed for a handball but the referee awarded a corner. From the corner the ball was played to the middle of area and a header was drilled past the keeper.

South Park took the lead soon after the restart, a long ball was played into the area and a low shot ended up in the net. Two minutes later and South Park got a penalty for a handball in the area.The keeper guessed the right way by going low to the left but couldn’t get his hands to the ball. Molesey went back on the attack and beat an offside appeal only to see the shot tipped wide for a corner. Both teams were looking for goals and the play flowed from end to end. Molesey almost let in a goal when the ball slipped through their keepers hand. They did concede one more, a South Park sub slipping the ball past the keeper on the breakaway.

Game 17: Bush Hill 0.1 Paulsgrove (Hampshire Premier)

Game 17: Bush Hill 0.1 Paulsgrove (Hampshire Premier) 07.04.18

With two Premier League derbies on TV today, I decided to go to the nearest new ground in the Hampshire Premier which meant a trip to Mansel Park on the outskirts of Southampton. The park is situated in the middle of a large housing area and there were plenty of local spectators for this clash between the 2nd and 3rd placed teams in the table. Bush Hill have only lost once in the league this season while Paulsgrove have two defeats so I expected a close derby match with the Portsmouth based visitors.

Bush Hill dominated the earlier exchanges and had a good shout for a penalty after ten minutes that the referee waived away. Paulsgrove took the lead after thirteen minutes when they won the ball on the edge of the area and put a shot past the keeper. The ball was cleared by a defender but the assistant flagged to indicate to the referee that the ball had gone over the line first. Bush Hill continued to press and won free kicks and corners but were unable to convert their chances. Just before half time they were reduced to ten men following a nasty stamp on a Paulsgrove player who had gone to ground off the pitch. The referee saw the incident and sent the Bush Hill player off.

The second half had only just begun when Paulsgrove missed a good opportunity to extend their lead. The ball was cut back to the edge of the area but the unmarked Paulsgrove player put his shot over. Moments later and the Bush Hill keeper was forced into a good save with his legs as Paulsgrove broke away again. Bush Hill started to pick up as the half went on and their number 9 took the ball round the visiting keeper twice from a tight angle. On both occasions he was unable to get a shot past the covering defenders. There was a brief interlude where events off the pitch took the spectators attention – a number of police cars drove around the roads near the pitch and eventually a man was arrested and put in the back of the van. With twenty minutes to go it looked like Bush Hill would get back into the game when they won a penalty. The keeper was moving towards his left before the kick was taken and got lucky as the shot went in that direction so he was able to save it. There was still time for more chances in an entertaining and feisty end to the game but it was the visitors who celebrated at the final whistle.

Game 16: Peasedown Miners Welfare 1.2 Long Ashton (Somerset County Div 1E)

Game 16: Peasedown Miners Welfare 1.2 Long Ashton (Somerset County Div 1E) 24.03.18

After a morning in Midsomer Norton, I took a short drive to the Miners Welfare Recreation ground in Peasedown St John. The pitch is railed off with a covered standing area on the far touchline, changing rooms behind one goal and car parking facing the near touchline. Before the game the teams lined up for a one minutes silence.

Long Ashton started well and controlled the early play. Their best chance came from a free kick but it was hit straight at the keeper. Peasedown came back into the game and almost took the lead with a chip that went over the onrushing keeper but fell the wrong side of the crossbar. They also hit a shot across the goal that was just too far for a player at the back post to connect with. In injury time Long Ashton took the lead with a powerful shot from outside the area that gave the keeper no chance.

Peasedown had a great chance to equalise on the hour when their number 10 was tripped as he ran into the penalty area. There seemed to be some confusion as to who would be taking the kick and eventually the same player came forward for it. The keeper guessed the right way and dived to his left to save the shot. Long Ashton took a two goal lead a few minutes later from a corner. The ball was cleared to the edge of the area to a Long Ashton defender. He got the ball out from his feet and hit a beautifully weighted shot into the top corner. Peasedown continued to press and pulled a goal back in the 90th minute with a header over the keeper. There had been a couple of fierce challenges earlier in the half and as Peasedown pressed for an equaliser tempers rose. There were three yellow cards in injury time as Long Ashton did enough to hold on for the win.