Game 22: Marlow United 0.0 (4.5 pens) Old Bradwell United (Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy Final)

Game 22: Marlow United 0.0 (4.5 pens) Old Bradwell United (Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy Final) 27.04.19

For the last game of the season I decided to take in a cup final being played at Abingdon United’s ground with Alan. We arrived in plenty of time for kickoff and managed to find some space in a crowded bar for a drink and a read of the programme. It seemed like most of Old Bradwell had the same idea as their supporters had travelled in great numbers to support their side.

We had been impressed with Old Bradwell in the semi-final at Sandhurst and Marlow United came into the game in good goal scoring form. Marlow had the better chances in the first half, coming close on the half hour from a corner. The ball was played into the area but no-one was able to get onto the end of the cross. Old Bradwell had their best chance deflected over the goal by a defender shortly afterwards and just before halftime Marlow came close again from a cross into the box. Two players had a chance to get onto the end of the cross, one missed it and the other hit the ball onto the post.

Marlow continued to press in the second half and almost scored in the first minute. They earnt a corner and hit the ball to the backpost only to see a goal bound effort cleared off the line. Old Bradwell also had a good chance from a corner which almost drifted over the keeper and in. There was a contentious decision from an assistant after fifty minutes when he ruled out an own goal for offside. The ball came over from the right side and as a defender tried to clear the ball it bounced off his foot and in. It didn’t look like anyone was interfering with play or in an offside position but the referee didn’t overrule the assistant to award the goal. Marlow continued to press for a goal and the game was end to end as the teams started to tire. Neither team was able to break the deadlock and with no extra time, we went straight to penalties.

The end behind the penalty area was packed with Old Bradwell supporters and the manager was rightly annoyed when some of them started to grab the net behind the goal and move it around to try and put off the Marlow penalty taker. The officials intervened and this resolved the situation. Both teams scored their first penalty and had their second penalty saved by the keeper guessing the right way. Old Bradwell’s penalty was well saved by the Marlow keeper and his team mate scored their third to give Marlow a 2.1 lead. The fourth round of penalties were successful and Old Bradwell were fortunate to see their fifth penalty go in off the post. Marlow’s penalty taker had to deal with the pressure of taking a kick to win the game and it seemed to get to him as he skied the ball over the bar.

With the scores level at 3.3 we went into sudden death. Both teams scored in the sixth round of penalties and Old Bradwell made the score 5.4 to put the pressure back on Marlow United. The player ran up to take the penalty and could only watch as the keeper guessed right and saved his shot to win the game for Old Bradwell United. This was Marlow United’s third consecutive defeat in this final but the majority of the crowd didn’t care as they ran on to the pitch to celebrate.

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Game 21: Honiton Town 1.4 Bovey Tracey (South West Peninsula Div 1 East)

Game 21: Honiton Town 1.4 Bovey Tracey (South West Peninsula Div 1 East) 22.04.19

There were several possible destinations for today but in the end I decided to let the train take the Bank Holiday strain and caught the train down to Honiton. On the way down I spotted the new Axminster ground which is now on the list for next season. Honiton play at Mountbatten Park which is a short minute walk from the station. At the entrance I paid £3 admission which included a programme and had a read through before the game started. Bovey Tracey are currently second in the league and still in with an outside chance to win the title with games in hand on leaders Stoke Gabriel.

The game didn’t start too well for the visitors, a free kick clearing the bar and so wide that it hit a car on it’s way out of the car park to the surprise of the driver. However they made amends three minutes later with a deep cross to the back post that was powerfully headed in. It was clear to see why Bovey Tracey are doing well in the league, they were well organised and caused a lot of problems for the Honiton defence from both wings and from long throws. The Honiton keeper was in good form and made a great point blank save from a fierce shot.

Gradually Honiton got back into the game and equalised midway through the half. The ball was headed across the goal to the back post and then headed high over the keeper before looping down into the net. Bovey Tracey went back down the other end and scored with a diving header meeting the ball from a low cross before the keeper could reach it. After a drinks break the game continued with Bovey Tracey doing most of the attacking. They hit the post and had several shots well saved. Honiton had a good chance when they won a free kick on the edge of the area and forced the Bovey keeper to dive to his right and make a good save.

The second half saw Bovey Tracey continue to press for more goals, moving the ball accurately from one side of the pitch to the other. If the home keeper hadn’t been in good form they would have added to their tally early in the half. Honiton didn’t create much but thought they had equalised after 75 minutes when one of their players jumped with the keeper and headed the ball in when the keeper missed it. However the referee decided to disallow the goal for a foul on the keeper.

In the last minute of the game Bovey Tracey were awarded a penalty and managed to tuck the ball low under the keeper’s dive. As we went into injury time they wrapped up the game with a fourth goal. The ball was played through the middle and two players ran through onside with no covering defenders. The player with the ball waited until the keeper came out before unselfishly passing the ball forward to his team mate to run onto and pass into the empty net.

Game 20: Chilcompton Sports 1.1 Nailsea & Tickenham (Somerset County Premier)

Game 20: Chilcompton Sports 1.1 Nailsea & Tickenham (Somerset County Premier) 20.04.19

With the sun out I decided to change my plans and head into Somerset to watch this game between the top two in the league. Nailsea were top at the start of play but have played three games more than their hosts and can still be caught. This was the first league meeting of the two teams who will meet again at Nailsea at the end of April in what could turn out to be the deciding fixture. The car park was busy but I managed to find a space and had time for a quick drink in the large social club bar. There were over a hundred people watching the game which was excellent for this level on a bank holiday weekend.

The first half was fairly open with both sides attacking well but lacking some quality when it came to finishing. The home team edged it slightly in terms of chances, hitting the post with their best effort. The referee sensibly added a water break halfway through each half to give the teams and officials a chance to keep hydrated on really warm day.

Nailsea started the second half strongly and thought they had scored with a header past the keeper from a long throw but it was disallowed for pushing in the area. After the second water break they missed a great chance when one of their players got round his man on the touchline and put a perfect cross in only to see the ball headed well over the bar by his team mate. Nailsea finally broke the deadlock a few minutes later. A long ball through the middle found one of their players in space. He ran into the area and managed to get a shot away just as a defender got back to block it. Luckily for him the ball bounced back off the defender and he managed to get a good connection on the ball to hit it past the keeper.

The equaliser came four minutes later from the penalty spot. It was a clear penalty for a mistimed tackle in the box but it was a couple of minutes before it could be taken as an injured player needed some treatment. The delay didn’t put the taker off and despite the confidence of an away supporter who was convinced the keeper would save it, the ball was hit low under the keeper’s dive and in. In the last ten minutes Nailsea went down to ten as one of their substitutes went down injured and couldn’t be replaced. Chilcompton put a lot of pressure on and came close to a winner right at the end. They played the ball into the area and tried several close range shots but they couldn’t force the ball past the covering defenders.

Game 19: Bodmin Town 0.2 Saltash United (South West Peninsula Premier)

Game 19: Bodmin Town 0.2 Saltash United (South West Peninsula Premier) 06.04.19

Alan drove us down to Cornwall for a long planned trip to watch Bodmin Town. After a wander through the town and a visit to the local steam railway we took a short walk to the ground where we paid £6 for admission and a team sheet. There was a large grandstand to the left with refreshments available in a nearby hut. The areas behind the goal had large grass banks above them and opposite the main stand were a couple of flagpoles, one for league sponsors Carlsberg and the other for the Cornish flag.

Both teams are out of contention for promotion or relegation this season with the visitors in 4th place and Bodmin in mid table before kick off. Salts started the half well and took the lead after six minutes with a confident low strike past the keeper. They almost doubled their lead five minutes later when the ball was poked towards goal and beat the keeper at his near post, bobbled around and was cleared. Saltash dominated the half but while their approach play was excellent, their finishing was wayward. Bodmin had a couple of goal attempts but didn’t really trouble the visiting keeper.

Saltash continued to dominate the second half and only a good diving save kept the score down early in the half. The approach play deserved better finishing with a well placed striker taking too long to get his shot away, allowing the defence to close him down. It was difficult to see where Bodmin would get a goal from although they attempted a couple of long range shots that flew well wide. With the clock running down Saltash finally added a second goal with five minutes left. A cross from the left found an unmarked player and he headed in to the top of the goal from a narrow angle.

Game 18: Corfe Castle 0.3 Gillingham Town (Dorset Premier)

Game 18: Corfe Castle 0.3 Gillingham Town (Dorset Premier) 30.03.19

After a morning in Swanage, caught the train up to Corfe Castle to see Flying Scotsman and then wander through the village to the Fortress, home of Corfe Castle FC. It was a lovely sunny afternoon with the birds singing and a great view of the castle. Corfe have been struggling but should have enough points to stay in the division while visitors Gillingham Town are comfortably in the top half of the table.

The first half action was end to end with both teams creating chances. Gillingham were caught offside in good positions several times throughout the half and had a goal disallowed as a result. Shortly after that Corfe won a corner and a glancing header was on target but cleared off the line by a defender. Gillingham were causing problems down the right wing as their players had a lot more pace than the home left back. They won a couple of corners as a result but couldn’t covert the chances these created. Corfe were playing well on the counter and came close to a goal when a player beat the offside trap and tried to lob the keeper as they came off their line, only to see the ball drop just over the bar. The deadlock was finally broken just after the half hour. Gillingham crossed the ball from the right to the far post, the ball was then headed back into the middle of goal and a Gillingham player headed the ball in.

Gillingham Town started the second half quickly and the Corfe Castle keeper had to be alert to clear the ball over the bar from a long range effort. Five minutes into the half they added a second goal with a great shot that beat the home keeper at his near post. Three minutes later the same player got a second goal when a free kick set him up to chip the ball over the keeper. Corfe tried to get back into the match but their shooting was rather wild and didn’t trouble the visiting keeper. Just before the end of the match a Corfe player was sent to the sin bin for dissent, the first time that I’ve seen that in a match.

Game 17: Liphook United 3.1 Locks Heath (Hampshire Premier)

Game 17: Liphook United 3.1 Locks Heath (Hampshire Premier) 23.03.19

This match was due to kickoff at 3.30 after a reserve game but started ten minutes earlier than expected – luckily I arrived in time to find a parking space at the Recreation ground and see the whole match. The set up reminded me of Shrewton with a raised pathway to the clubhouse above the pitch at one end. Locks Heath started well but were reduced to ten men after ten minutes after a dangerous tackle. Despite the numerical disadvantage they took the lead six minutes later with an attack down the right hand side that saw a player beat a tackle before scoring. The home team weren’t happy as they felt that there had been a foul in the build up and the keeper was booked for his protests. Locks Heath had to substitute a player after an injury shortly afterwards but kept their lead to the break.

The second half saw more free kicks for poor tackles form the visitors. Liphook managed to equalise on the hour with a header from a corner that found the bottom of the net. Four minutes later they took the lead from a long ball. The striker gambled on running after it and although the defender looked to have it covered, he allowed the striker to get to the ball and knock it low past the keeper and in. The reserve players were watching the game on the farside and the club official running the line end up swapping sides, presumably for comments being made. The official didn’t have any friends on the other side as a local gave him mouthfuls of aggressive abuse. Liphook added a third towards the end, a sub took the ball on the halfway line and took it round two defenders before running into the box and side footing the ball into the net. Locks Heath had a chance to pull a goal back when they were awarded a penalty when the home keeper brought a player down in the box. He was sent off for two yellows and was soon joined by a team mate who got a yellow for persistent verbals aimed at the referee and got another one moments later when he continued with his rant. The keeper’s replacement dived to his left but managed to keep the penalty out with his leg to his remaining team mates delight.

Game 16: Netley Central Sports 2.1 South Wonston Swifts (Hampshire Premier Div 1)

Game 16: Netley Central Sports 2.1 South Wonston Swifts (Hampshire Premier Div 1) 16.03.2019

I decided to take in this top of the table clash between Netley Central Sports and South Wonston Swifts partly as the home side have recently announced that due to resignations of club stalwarts at the end of the season, the club will fold unless someone steps in. At the start of the day the visitors were top of the table with a six point lead on Netley and a five point lead on Lyndhurst (who have two games in hand). With only two games left to play a win for the visitors would potentially give them the title.

The weather had been damp and very windy all day and there was no change as I arrived at the ground. The Station Road Recreation Ground is surrounded by housing on all sides with a shop near the entrance I walked through doing good business. The pitch has floodlights and there’s also a changing room facility with a tea bar and plenty of pitch side seating. With these excellent facilities it would be a shame if the club has to fold.

The first half was fairly even, Netley had the best of the early chances and were unlucky when a good cross into the area just missed connecting with the incoming attacker’s foot. South Wonston had a good shot that the home keeper did well to get a hand to. Around the half hour and slightly against the run of play, South Wonston took the lead at the far end of the pitch. It looked like a low diving header made it through a crowd of players in the box and the player on the line from the corner wasn’t able to keep the ball out of the net. Towards the end of the half there were a few late tackles and yellow cards as the game threatened to boil over. We had the same referee from Colden Common last week and he managed to keep control.

I was pleased to see the players come out early and the second half kick off five minutes early as the weather wasn’t improving. South Wonston had an early chance when a shot was cleared off the line from a corner before Netley equalised. A long free kick floated into the area and it looked like the keeper spilt the ball instead of catching it. Players from both teams attempted to get to the ball but after a couple of moments Netley managed to get the ball in for their equaliser. South Wonston thought that they had taken the lead again when a header from a free kick went over the home keeper but it was disallowed for offside, despite the protests from the visiting team.

South Wonston had several chances after that but weren’t able to capitalise on them. Just when the game looked to be heading for a draw, Netley turned it round. They didn’t react immediately to a long clearance from their keeper but managed to win the second ball when a South Wonston player tried to clear it away. The Netley player accelerated into space, held off the covering defender and hit a wonderful shot in. The whole team joined him in the celebrations. South Wonston continued to press forward in the time that remained but couldn’t get an equaliser.