Wednesday, 27 May 2015

A Day in ICT Support


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 30 May 2015 at Hampden Park, Glasgow
Result
Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2 Falkirk 1
Competition
Scottish FA Cup Final
Hopping
Ground 570 on my lifetime list and the 13th in Scotland – I was not sure whether to visit Hampden as the National Stadium or as a home game for Queen’s Park, but this showpiece game coincides with half-term so I have the time for a leisurely 760-mile round trip.
Pre-match preparation
Scottish football is going through turbulent times, but with the happy outcome that a ticket for this showpiece game was readily available.  The teams have come through the following games to get to Hampden.  On paper that looks like a tougher journey for Inverness, but that will mean nothing.

Round Four (point of entry):
St Mirren 1 Inverness CT 1 & Inverness CT 4 St Mirren 0
Falkirk 1 Cowdenbeath 0

Round Five:
Partick Thistle 1 Inverness CT 2
Falkirk 2 Brechin City 1

Quarter-Finals:
Inverness CT 1 Raith Rovers 0
Queen of the South 0 Falkirk 1

Semi-Finals:
Inverness CT 3 Glasgow Celtic 2 aet
Hibernian 0 Falkirk 1

Inverness CT finished third in the Scottish Premiership and will start as clear favourites against their mid-table opponents from the second tier.  They have already qualified for the Europa League next season, and a Cup win would open a place for St Johnstone.  Of course, Falkirk will be hoping to win the Cup and that European place.  Game on.

This match in one sentence
A poor game with a dramatic ending as ICT were reduced to ten, conceded an equaliser and then were gifted the winning goal in the 86th minute.
So what?
Inverness CT win the Cup for the first time in their history and St Johnstone get a Europa League place.  Falkirk, as they say, “go again”.
The drama unfolds
The first half was pretty forgettable to be honest.  Falkirk were slower to settle but weathered the early storm from Inverness well enough.  By the half-hour mark you would say that the game was pretty even.  Many fans had fashioned their own interim entertainment by making aeroplanes out of the pre-match red or blue display card (see below), and the loudest cheers came when one of them made contact with someone's head twenty rows below.  This is never a good sign at a football match - worse than "Mexican" waves.  You could hear the muffled sobs of secondary school technology teachers watching all those valuable resources go to waste.

The opening Inverness goal was almost a surprise – a neat through ball from Aaron Doran released Marley Watkins who rounded Falkirk keeper Jamie McDonald for a composed finish.  Probably just about deserved for possession and territorial dominance, but unlikely to be enough, I thought.  1-0 after 38 minutes and at  HT


Falkirk indeed came out with more intent in the second half and for long periods it seemed that an equaliser was coming.  I took my scene-setter clip when ICT had a set-piece, and captured the first of two turning points in the game.  Inverness are in blue.


That red card went to Inverness defender Carl Tremarco who was deemed to have denied the clear goalscoring opportunity to Blair Alston on the break, in the 75th minute.

With players on both sides already showing significant signs of fatigue, the pendulum swung even further towards Falkirk when Peter Grant soon headed a set-piece equaliser at the far post.  1-1 after 80 minutes

I really think Falkirk would have won if they had made it to extra time.  Both sides were visibly tiring – neither side really seemed to have coped well with the occasion – and the extra man would have been such an advantage.  However, Inverness were given the opportunity to break and Watkins ran from half-way to shoot.  It looked like a routine stop for McDonald but for some reason he parried it tamely towards the fresh legs of substitute Jamie Vincent.  He couldn’t miss, turning point number two of two.  2-1 after 86 minutes

Joy and despair - the Falkirk players seem to know that their moment has gone
Falkirk had a couple of half-chances and another set piece but Inverness held on easily for a first-ever Scottish FA Cup win.  Final score 2-1
Ground Pix

This is one national stadium where you can literally live in its shadow



This is a 1/10 model of the Kelpies, the largest equine artwork in the world, recently built in Falkirk.

The "wee man" lower left is for sense of scale





Suites named after scientists - loving that!



Groundhopper happiness! The programmes have arrived.  Mine secured 3h45min before kickoff, a new personal record.  Taken back to the car for pristine flat storage, of course.







Pre-Match Pix

Falkirk's low-key arrival.

Pic taken with police horse. Tick.  (Note: service not available in Newcastle)

Dressed-up children (why sombreros?) going on National TV montages.  Tick.

It is a fundamental point that letters are asymmetric and these things only work from one side.  Kriklaf means nothing to us over here ... meanwhile the Cup itself is suspended in a clear box under that helium balloon.

Some nice standing waves generated by the shakers. James Clerk Maxwell would love that!

Now, inside the murky world of choreographed pre-match card displays.  This is the first-ever for Inverness CT.  There is a fundamental problem here.  If you are in ‘em, you can’t see ‘em.

Here are our instructions ...

Hope this looks good for everyone else ...

Sneaky look sideways to check that adjacent ICT fans are being obedient too
Falkirk had some nice white card to play with

Match Pix



The crowd was around 37000 in a ground of capacity around 52000 so only the lower tiers were in use.
Post-Match Pix
Is it just me, or are post-match presentations just rubbish these days?  We waited an age for the Cup to be presented.  Very few of the the Falkirk fans stayed, even to see their own side get the runners-up medals.  However, the image that stuck with me is Jamie McDonald, left sitting by himself in the penalty area.  Not one team-mate came over, no-one. No captain, no-one in a white shirt.  Eventually, someone in a tracksuit came over and hauled him up.  It seemed a bit harsh for a semi-final hero.

Falkirk eventually collect runners-up medals ...

... but very few of their fans have stayed to see.

The Cup is held aloft in the traditional manner

... before the new formalities are completed in one corner.


We are now some 30 minutes after the final whistle and the division between winning and losing is stark.
Something You Don’t Get in Non-League


Half-and-half scarves.  I just don't get it.  If people like me don't buy them, who does?  I watch most of my football as a neutral - as a souvenir of being at the game, give me a programme every time.  Unfolded and in a polypocket protector, maybe.
Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
END OF SEASON TABLE
Today, black beats pink, sending them to the bottom of the league and also leapfrogging radioactive bile.

Well done that man for going over to Jamie McDonald.

The story so far:
3pts for a win, 1pt for a draw, -1pt for a goal conceded and +5pts for a clean sheet.  Ordered by points-per-game (PPG).


P
W
D
L
GC
CS
Pts
PPG
Green
32.0
16.0
4.0
12.0
42.0
11.0
65.0
2.03
Blue
15.0
6.0
3.0
6.0
22.0
5.0
24.0
1.60
Orange
8.5
2.0
3.0
3.5
10.5
3.0
13.5
1.59
Purple
7.0
4.0
2.0
1.0
13.0
2.0
11.0
1.57
Maroon
4.0
2.0
1.0
1.0
6.0
1.0
6.0
1.50
Grey
27.5
11.0
7.0
9.5
41.5
7.0
33.5
1.22
Red
5.0
2.0
0.0
3.0
6.0
1.0
5.0
1.00
Yellow
14.0
3.0
5.0
6.0
25.0
3.0
4.0
0.29
Black
3.0
1.0
2.0
0.0
7.0
0.0
-2.0
-0.67
Radioactive Bile
6.0
2.0
0.0
4.0
12.0
0.0
-6.0
-1.00
Pink
8.0
1.0
3.0
4.0
18.0
0.0
-12.0
-1.50
Soapbox Section
Sepp Blatter. Don’t get me started. The only thing we can do now is to show him clearly how history will record his legacy, and try to influence FIFA’s corporate sponsors.  However, there is not much chance of the latter because, ultimately, it all once again comes down to profit, and now they are “in” they want to stay “in”. Whatever else you say about ol’ Sepp, he understands what makes human beings tick.  Good job he’s a benign despot really – think of the damage he could do with that power base if he really wanted to.
What Next?
That is probably the end of 2014-15.  Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  I will certainly be back for the Extra Preliminary Round of the FA Cup in August, and I am hoping that Napoli will have a home European qualifier at just the right time to coincide with the summer hols.  If time, I will dig further into my collection of football games for a post during July.  Next season’s priority list will have a dozen or so grounds to take me for the first time to “Everywhere Down to Step 3” in England.



Sunday, 10 May 2015

Two-Nil is a Dangerous Scoreline Again


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 9 May 2015 at Victory Park
Result
Chorley 2 Guiseley 3
Competition
Conference North Playoff Final (Step 2)
Hopping
Ground #569 restores my current “Top 160” (everywhere down to Step 2) which at the end of 2014-15 is 157 venues because of groundsharing by Worcester (at Kidderminster), Gloucester (at Cheltenham) and Hayes & Yeading (at Maidenhead).  The list becomes instantly incomplete again at the start of 2015-16, for example with a new ground for FC United of Manchester.
Pre-match preparation
The teams finished 4th and 5th respectively behind champions Barrow in the regular season.  The playoff semi-finals in this league are two-leggers and Chorley overcame Boston United on penalties after a very dramatic 95th-minute equaliser (an overhead kick too) which took the game to extra-time.  Chorley had been two goals down.  Meanwhile, Guiseley were impressively beating AFC Fylde home-and-away.  The league fixtures were both fairly recent and resulted in narrow home wins.  At the same stage of last season, Chorley were coming up from Step 3 as Northern Premier League champions and Guiseley were losing to Altrincham in the Conference North playoff final. In the language of the week, this one is too close to call
This match in one sentence
The archetypal game of two halves, and Chorley will point to the three enforced defensive substitutions as a big factor in the turning of the tide.
So what?
Step 1 Conference National for Guiseley
The drama unfolds
The ground filled up early.  I hadn’t realised that the match would be segregated and I entered a Guiseley gate.  As it happened I got lucky with my positioning for this dramatic game.  Fantastic for the passing neutral.  My scene-setter clip starts with the opening goal from the first corner of the game, and by the way, this is a splendid ground of character and characters.  Dale Whitham’s corner is headed in by Andy Teague and the lino confirms that the ball was over the line as keeper Steven Drench can only push it into the top of the net.  Chorley (the Magpies) are in black-and-white.  1-0 after 5 mins


Guiseley were looking shaky in defence and there were more shaky clearances before suddenly Chorley’s keeper Sam Ashton was called into action for the first time.  Chorley looked dangerous from every set-piece and another header from Teague was correctly disallowed for offside.  The second goal, as they say, was coming – it arrived when Paul Jarvis received the ball on the left flank, cut inside to beat a defender and then score with the aid of a deflection.  2-0 after 24 mins

Chorley were dominant and it took at least one more decent save from Drench to prevent further damage before the interval.  I wrote a note to myself wondering if the real Guiseley would turn up for the second half – by now they had already needed to take striker Oli Johnson off.  2-0 at half-time

I had the camera ready for Guiseley’s first corner in the second half and was very surprised to see it taken as an outswinger by a right-footer.


However, they did get back in the game with a route one goal, after Chorley had lost both goalscorers Teague and Jarvis to injury. Adam Boyes produced a great first touch to control a dropping ball and score.  2-1 after 56 mins

When keeper Ashton was also forced off, to be replaced by Aaron Grundy, you feared for Chorley.  I filmed the next Guiseley set-piece, this time an inswinger and almost the equaliser, but the clip is most notable for what happens to one Guiseley spectator just behind the goal…


The equaliser duly arrived with a header from Liam Dickinson.  2-2 after 73 mins

The winner was scored by another Guiseley sub, Nicky Boshell, sparking scenes of jubilation at the away end and probably a feeling of growing inevitability at the other.  2-3 after 78 mins

Guiseley survived most of the remaining time easily enough and had chances for a fourth, but Chorley made one final push as the game entered six minutes of injury time.  They came so, so close as sub Matt Flynn’s header hit the woodwork.  Jack Dorney’s shot was saved easily by Drench, and here is the moment of the final whistle.  Final score 2-3


The excellent Chorley website says that Harry Winter was red-carded after the final whistle but I have no insight into that.  The hosts waited on the pitch patiently and respectfully until a shambles of a presentation was finally completed.  As is traditional in these matters, a man in a suit could not get out of the way in time of the first burst of bubbly.  Well done to Guiseley, commiserations to Chorley.  I hope that plenty more hoppers turn up to visit your ground.



Ground Pix







Match Pix



1st half: Teague's effort disallowed

Jarvis mobbed after scoring the second Chorley goal


1st half: Drench keeps the deficit down to two


2nd half: Dickinson celebrates the equaliser


Something You Might Not Get in the Premier League Next Season*
Magpies...
*satire
Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Sky Blue 2-3 Purple and there will be an end-of-season final table.  Chorley had two blue ones today.   Ashton is helped to the dugout and Grundy takes over.


Soapbox Section
I really ought to make a political statement here in this week of all weeks.  Looks like we are in for another period where competition between human beings and their organisations is more important than collaboration.  This, of course, works for some.  Like today, there will be winners and losers.  In my professional life, all I can now say to the “kids of today” is that in the next decade it will be more important than ever to get control of your adult life through being flexible, educated and qualified.  No-one is going to cover the costs of your lifestyle or even your basic needs by paying taxes for you.  You will need to sort yourself out.  If you have interpersonal skills, good communication, abilities in maths and sciences, you will be fine because you can join the winners.  Speaking more than one language will help.  Then your generation, in turn, can decide how best to ignore the rest like this one has now done.  Democracy got selfish in my lifetime, I reckon.
What Next?
Follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  I will be going to the Scottish Cup Final between Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Falkirk at the end of the month, and I usually find some late drama in the Essex Olympian League in mid-May!