Sunday, 25 February 2007

24/02/2007 - Braintree Town 3 Dorchester Town 1

There was a nice symmetry about visiting Cressing Road on Saturday, even though I had planned to go to Thurrock for a tick.

The Iron were playing Dorchester Town who I had visited last weekend on my south coast holiday and so I thought it would be interesting to see how the Magpies would fare against a Braintree team who are still challenging for a place in the Conference South play-offs.

Oddjobs around the house and the impending visit of the gasman meant that I couldn't stretch out to Thurrock and I ended up leaving for Cressing Road at about 2.55pm.

I would have made it in before kick off were it not for the fact that a lot of rain had left the car park half unusable and I had to turn around and park down a side street.

Anyway it was still nil-nil when I got in although just after I took up a position on the terrace, Braintree took the lead.

Left back Mark Jones picked up the ball about 35 yards out and let off a low shot which wormed through a crowd of players and slipped past Dorchester keeper Simon Evans who really should have done better.

Ten minutes later and Chris Sullivan was on hand to score Braintree's second, an excellent run followed by a curled effort which beat the Evans comfortably.

And then on 37 minutes, club captain Brad Quinton effectively ended the match as a contest with a third.

The bizarre thing was that in nearly all areas of the field apart from in front of goal Dorchester were the better team.

Their passing was fluent, their range was superior to the home teams, but their attack lacked that killer edge which Braintree displayed.

Into the second period and it was more of the same, possibly more so as Braintree had definitely taken their foot of the gas.

And the Magpies were rewarded with a well worked passing move which ended in a Justin Keeler side foot into the net on 63 minutes.

This was the shot in the arm that Braintree needed to raise their game and the final 30 minutes was played out which both sides failing to threaten in any great shape.

06/02/2007 - Braintree Town 1 Kidderminster Harriers 3

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

17/02/2007 - Dorchester Town 1 Basingstoke Town 2

The trip from our campsite in Wareham to Dorchester was an absolute 20-minute doddle, the weather was good and there was none of the trepidation experienced on the previous rain-lashed journey to Eastleigh or the rained-out disappoinment of an aborted midweek visit to Sherborne.

On the way we saw the lads of Bere Regis warming up for a Dorset League Division One match against Cranborne (1-1 apparently) as we slipped around the town's by-pass with bigger fish to fry in the Conference South.

The approaches to the Avenue Stadium in Dorchester are through a Tesco car park and indeed the supermarket giant was apparently responsible for the stadium development which is a magnificent edifice in keeping with the surroundings.

Parking on the far side of the ground near the terraces entrance we walked around to the imposing stadium front and slipped into the bar for a little light refreshment and to study the programme with an hour to spare before kick off.

Once into the stadium we opted to stand rather than sit and were joined by two banks of vociferous supporters - both home and away - who initially were standing at the same end.

Indeed the stewards had to marshal the Basingstoke fans away after kick off as the friendly banter started to degenerate into ritual abuse, but the 'Stoke fans were content to disperse to the other end of the arena in order to give the home keeper some stick instead.

There is no doubt that the Conference South can provide some half decent football, unfortunately the match which unfolded in front of us was the other half, as both teams struggled to make any real impact in dominance or goal threat.

Dorchester - the Magpies - had the best of the first half but spurned the chances which they managed to craft and I contented myself with trying to get a few elusive good action shots.

Into the second half after a bacon roll which could well have been a slice of shoe leather, and a hot chocolate which was all hot and no chocolate.

Not five minutes after I'd mentioned to my Dad that we could do with a goal - an away one at that - and my wish was granted.

Basingstoke had been soaking up the pressure and hitting Dorchester with a couple of neat counter attacks and this was the case as they took the lead midway through the second half.

The Dorchester faithful started moaning and groaning and calling for changes and the Magpies swiftly made a double substitution which bore fruit, when one of the men who came on was brought down outside the box.

The resulting free kick was whipped in and fumbled by the Basingstoke keeper with a Magpie forward gobbling up the rebound.

But just as the game looked as if it would peter out as a one-all draw, Basingstoke pulled off the best passing move of the match to grab an all important winner.

Three crucial points heading back to Hampshire which sees Basingstoke now within one win of escaping the drop zone.

Monday, 19 February 2007

13/02/2007 - Eastleigh 1 Braintree Town 1 (abandoned)

Having spent a week down in Dorset with the family and no computers, I've built up something of a backlog of reports from the matches I attended while on holiday.

The first of which was a midweek jaunt to Eastleigh to see my home town team of Braintree on a Hampshire away day.

From the minute we arrived on the south coast it had been raining almost non stop and setting off on the journey from Poole to Eastleigh we encountered monsoon conditions which seemed to signify either the match would be off or that animals would soon be assembling in pairs.

However the woman at the Eastleigh end of the phone assured us the match was taking place and it did appear to ease off a bit as we arrived at junction five of the M27.

You can see the ground from the motorway and the sight of lit floodlights cheered up dampened hearts as we turned off toward the Silverlake Stadium.

You have to negotiate Stoneham Lane by driving away from the stadium and then doubling back before making a right hand turn into the complex.

The stadium is dominated by the large grandstand on the home straight - a fairly recent addition - while surrounding is a series of covered areas on two sides and an end which is open to the elements where the clubhouse and snackbar reside.

The pitch looked in good shape although there were puddles forming and it was apparent once we had kicked off that conditions were more suitable to water polo than football.

But to their credit both teams were putting on as good a show as you could expect under the circumstances and while technically it was no oil painting, there was enough hustle and bustle to keep the 500 or so who had braved the conditions happily amused.

Less amused though were the team benches who were both in dire need of three league points (one to keep in touch with the playoffs, the other to avoid the drop) and also both aware that this was a match which would be decided on error rather than endeavour.

Indeed it was a defensive slip/push which lead to Eastleigh's opener shortly after half time and Braintree's reply came soon after from a soggy goalmouth scramble.

Just as the match appeared to be simmering nicely the referee decided he'd rather not be sloshing around a wet lump of Hampshire and with about 20 minutes to go he called it off.

There was much frustration and anger from the players but I think secretly everyone else was more than happy to make a beeline for their cars, although the stadium announcer did bark "RUBBISH" over the tannoy before the Eastleigh thought police bundled an overcoat over his head and spirited him away...

Thursday, 8 February 2007

07/02/2007 - Poole Town 2 Lymington Town 1

ACCORDING to the programme, matches between Lymington and Poole Town always produce fireworks of one sort or another and this was no exception, albeit more like a couple of rockets than roman candles, writes Peter Stoneman.

Also I am happy to say that my presence helped to snap the Dolphins five-match losing streak against Lymington, although it was played out in front of the lowest crowd of the season at 92 and the first under 100.

Poole just about deserved the win but it was not a very convincing performance against a team down to 10 men for over an hour of the game.

Poole's players had obviously been listening to Tommy Killick’s pleas for discipline as I have never seen them behave so well on the pitch, even Taffy Richardson was quiet.

Last Saturday against Totton they had two players sent off and a further four booked mostly for dissent. It was the third time this season they had collected multi bookings which costs the club a lot of money.

When I got to the ground on a very cold evening the grass had been cut and rolled and the pitch looked in the best condition I’ve seen it.

From the kick off Lymington were the best team and I just cannot understand what goes through some players’ heads. Paul Sims was booked for a nasty trip after about 15 minutes, then did it again three minutes later and much to the Poole supporters' annoyance got away with a ticking off.

Five mins later and he fouled Taffy Richardson from behind (he just lay there) and Sims was off.

Poole then went on the ascendancy and 10 minutes from the break popped in a goal the keeper should have stopped.

Just before the break they scored their second but the lino had his flag up for offside. The ref either didn’t see the flag or he ignored it and the Lymington players and bench went berserk but all they got for their protests was another player booked.

The 10 men, with the strong wind behind them, defended really well in the second half, broke dangerously and Killick was going demented in the dugout as the Dolphins continually gave the ball away.

With 20 minutes to go Poole’s midfield messed about on the edge of their area, surrendered possession, and Lymington's little winger, Kevin James, was bundled over in the box – penalty.

The Lymington bench went nuts again when they saw he was going to take the penalty himself and sure enough it was saved by Big Max but he couldn’t hold on to it and in the melee James was fouled again – second penalty.

Darren Crook who the bench wanted to take the first one put it away effortlessly. Lymington pressed hard for the equalizer and but for a superb save from Max from a thunderbolt from Steve Marwood they would have got it.

A good match to watch on a chilly night.

Poole Town

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

06/02/2007 - Braintree Town 1 Kidderminster Harriers 3

(MY) history books will tell you that this was officially a revisit, but in reality, so much water has passed under the bridge since I last went to Braintree Town, that it sort of counts as a new experience.

The last time I visited Cressing Road, Town were in the step five Eastern Counties League, they're now in the step 2 Conference South.

And the last time I visited Cressing Road, I was 10-years-old, I'm now 35.

So although a 25th anniversary visit doesn't count as a new tick, it was fresh eyes that were laid upon Braintree's ground on Tuesday night when they took on Kidderminster Harriers in an FA Trophy 'Sweet 16' replay.

Iron and Kidderminster went into the fixture following a nil-all draw the previous Saturday and with a quarter final home tie against Halifax Town as the reward for a win.

And to start off with it was all going so well for the Iron, as they competed with Harriers in the first half, had the better chances and scored an absolute peach of a goal jus before half time when a freekick was volleyed home by Russ Edwards.

A large crowd (considering it was a Tuesday night and absolutely freezing) then queued en masse for a cup of coffee to try and warm themselves up while no doubt the Harriers boss was hurling teacups around their dressing room.

If there was a dressing down then maybe it worked because the Harriers came out for the second half very much up for it and quickly ate into the Braintree lead.

The Iron heads then dropped dramatically. The Harrier full timers were markedly fitter than the Braintree part-timers and another flurry of goals sealed the tie for Kidderminster.

And to top it all, the battery on my video camera ran out two minutes before the first goal, so I missed them all. Nevertheless some of the other 'highlights' are below.

Saturday, 3 February 2007

03/02/2007 - Chelmsford City 1 Hendon 0

IT'S official, the Ryman Isthmian Premier is better than the Ryman Isthmian Division One!

I feel confident in making this startling statement having spent Saturday watching Chelmsford City take on Hendon at the Chelmsford Athletics Stadium in Melbourne Park.

Organised football in Chelmsford dates back to the 1870s and the team moved to the New Writtle Street ground in 1922. They were stalwarts of the Southern League and one of the most well-supported amateur teams in the country.

Their playing staff has featured many famous names including goalkeeper Nigel Spink, Peter Taylor and the legendary England international Jimmy Greaves.

But finances have often been an issue and they were forced to leave New Writtle Street in 1997 when it was sold by the official receiver.

Redevelopment of the site meant that the scene of my own personal footballing highlight - scoring a last minute extra time equaliser in the Mid Essex League Cup Final for Braintree & Bocking United - is no longer a sporting venue. (We won the cup on penalties by the way, and during my time with B&B I also played alongside Chelmsford City 'legend' Frank Bishop).

City spent some years groundsharing with Billericay Town and Maldon Town before moving to the Chelmsford Athletic Centre at Melbourne Park. The first game back in Chelmsford was played out in front of a 3,000 capacity crowd that saw many latecomers left outside the ground unable to get in.

Further intrigue was delivered by the arrival this season of manager Jeff King who was the maestro and bankroll behind Canvey Island's rise up the football leagues.

Hendon are a team that has morphed through their existence, starting life as Christ Church Hampstead in 1908, becoming Hampstead Town, and then switching to Golders Green FC in 1932.

They became Hendon in 1946 after the Second World War because of their position in the borough of Hendon which itself has become the borough of Barnet.

This season has seen both teams operating at opposite ends of the Ryman Premier.

Chelmsford have spent a couple of weeks on top of the pile in recent months but a slump in form has seen them drop to fifth in the table.

Hendon have been grubbing around the bottom reaches of the division and they dropped down into the bottom three after this defeat.

City were operating a 'Kids for a Quid' promotion for the fixture and it paid dividends (possibly even gate receipts) with a crowd of just over 1,000 enjoying their football in the February sunshine.

The match started brightly for the home side who had a couple of good opportunities the best of which when Jason Hallett (I think) narrowly missed connecting with the ball in the six yard box after a good cross.

But to give them credit, Hendon battled their way back into the fixture and deservedly went in at half time all square.
Chelmsford have been suffering a crisis in confidence in front of goal of late and this showed as they failed to convert the superiority that they were showing, but Hendon were also struggling from a lack of invention up front.

And when the goal came in the second half, this time Hallett finding the target after a whipped -on free kick wasn't cleared.

You got the feeling that one goal would win it and in the end this was the case. The home fans left happy with the win, but there were grumblings on the terraces that this isn't the form that will will bring Conference South football to a stadium that richly deserves it.


Ground Rating:

(It would get a four were it not for the running track)

Refreshment Rating:

(Had a quarter pounder with cheese a tea and a coffee, but it was from a big fairground type burger van)

Profanity Rating:

(Couldn't hear any swearing, too far away!)

Chelmsford History:
1908-09: Spartan League Eastern Division
1912-22: Athenian League
1935-37: Eastern Counties League
1937-38: Essex County League
1938-2004: Southern League
2004- : Isthmian League

Hendon History:
1908-09: Finchley & District League (Christ Church Hampstead)
1909-11: Finchley & District League (Hampstead Town)
1911-14: London League (Hampstead Town)
1914-26: Athenian League (Hampstead Town)
1926-33: Athenian League (Hampstead)
1933-46: Athenian League (Golders Green)
1946-63: Athenian League
1963- : Isthmian League

Chelmsford City
Hendon FC