Sunday, 10 September 2017

Sunday's Always a Godiva a Hop to Coventry


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Sunday 10 September 2017 at Butts Park Arena
Result
Coventry United 3 Tipton Town 1
Competition
FA Vase 1st Round Qualifying
Hopstats
Ground 616 on the lifetime list, and an impulsive non-random decision to get out more.  New ground for this team, shared with rugby sides from two codes.
Context
Both teams have started pretty well in their respective leagues.  Coventry United now have Step 5 status in the Midlands Football League, with Tipton two levels below in the West Midlands Regional Division One.  I’ve seen Tipton punching above their weight in knockout football before, on a 2010 run in the FA Cup.  The rise of Coventry United has been well documented – indeed they are the subject of a feature in today’s Non-League Paper. This is their first season sharing with two rugby teams at Butts Park, and they will inevitably start as favourites.
In one sentence
Tipton gave a spirited showing but couldn’t hold on to their gifted half-time lead, and in the end this was a comfortable enough win for the home side.
If only …
… a 70th minute scramble had produced a Tipton goal with the home keeper James Behan well off his line – a first shot was somehow blocked and he recovered to stop the second.
So what?
Another West Midlands Regional side, Stone Old Alleynians, will come here for the second round qualifying.  United will start as favourites for that one too and might even see themselves going a long way in this competition this season.
Match Report
Coventry United started to boss the game from the whistle, restricting Tipton to the occasional break.  Number 9 Aaron Opoku featured frequently using his physical strength in some effective link-up play with back to goal.  It was his shot that was well saved after five minutes by Josh Morgan, who had a busy afternoon ahead.  This pattern continued for some time.  Maybe Coventry were a bit too deliberate and slow in their build-up, and there were some heroic blocks from Tipton defenders.  The visitors took the lead after 41 minutes through a gift.  Debutant keeper James Behan’s touch let him down and he presented the ball and an open goal to a gleeful attacker.

Conditions worsened during the halftime break.  The rain grew heavier and the wind strengthened in Coventry’s favour.  Sadly for Tipton, the hosts levelled in six minutes.  A curled cross-shot by Chris Cox from the right found its way past everyone into the far corner.  There was an element of good fortune about the goal but it changed the tone.  Craig Read missed a good chance but it proved unimportant once Coventry took the lead on the hour.  Opoku will get the assist as he teed up Joshua O’Grady for an unstoppable shot.

Behan looked uncertain but Tipton were unable to capitalise on a couple of occasions where he’d ended up very out of position.  O’Grady went on a mazy run in the last ten minutes and put the result beyond doubt with his second of the game.  All credit to Tipton for a valiant effort in keeping the result in doubt for so long.
Ground Pix
Coventry Rugby (at Coundon Road) were a huge force in the Midlands in the amateur days of rugby union in the 70s.  They never really seemed to step up in the professional era and nowadays play in the game’s third tier.  I remember famous names such as Cotton, Duckham and Rossborough from watching the Five Nations (not yet Six in those days) on BBC Grandstand in my teenage years.  The side now plays at Butts Park Arena, shared among them, Coventry United, and Coventry Bears, the city’s rugby league side.  Today’s early-season surface was not the best I have seen this season and time will tell whether wear-and-tear will be an issue.  The main stand is excellent and comfortable, with good facilities underneath.  The site itself certainly has some room for expansion.  It will be interesting to see how far United can climb, but National League level looks a realistic ambition for starters.  I was given a pocket guide at the gate which sets out core values and principles for the club’s full range of activity, and it is impressive.


If you have to move the goalposts, wheels will certainly help...




Match Pix
United are in the red and green.




Train!


3-1 late on as O'Grady waltzes through the Tipton back line


Any Other Business
I was slightly surprised to find that programmes had run out already by the time of my arrival at 2.10pm, but I am appeased by the complimentary copy of the one from their first league game at their new home.  There were a good number of hoppers in attendance.  The presence of an adjacent raised train line will have caused further excitement for the trainspotterhoppers of the community.

In other matters, I’d like to recommend a trip on the Coventry Ring Road for loosening up any blockages you may have in your digestive tract.  I’ve been round it several times now over the years, usually laughing hysterically by the end of each trip.  The local drivers are unsympathetic to the fact that newbies have half a nanosecond to choose lanes and exits.  Satnavs give up and say, “You’re on your own, pal”.  The best approach is to be like a proton in the Large Hadron Collider and do several laps before spitting yourself out at the right exit.
Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Fluorescent versions of green (home) and orange (away) but no clean sheets for either.  Red remains in the lead with green in 5th and orange 6th.  Full league table will appear again in the blog from time to time.
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  Next Saturday, I am likely to be either at an FA Cup tie in the Midlands or in North Berkshire, depending on other family commitments.


Saturday, 9 September 2017

Hopping with the March Hares


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 9 September 2017 at the GER Sports Ground, Robingoodfellows Lane, March
Result
March Town 2 Peterborough Northern Star 3
Competition
FA Vase 1st Round Qualifying
Hopstats
Ground 615 on the lifetime list. Not randomly chosen, but I had to be reasonably close to home today with a reliably predictable journey time.
Context
Step 6 (Eastern Counties Division 1) takes on Step 5 (United Counties League Premier).  Both sides have had a mixed start to their respective league seasons.
In one sentence
Immensely frustrating for March who levelled the game from being two down only to immediately concede the winning goal to the ten men of PNS.
If only…
… the last defender in the 84th minute had eaten three Shredded Wheat (other cereals are available) this morning.  He and the scorer tussled for what seemed like an age before the winning goal was scored.
So what?
Peterborough Northern Star will travel in the next round to the winners of the replay between Netherton United (of the Peterborough & District League) and Potton United (of the United Counties Division 1).
Match Report
Thanks to the excellent PNS Twitter timeline for help with identification of scorers.

March held their higher-ranked opponents comfortably enough until midway through the first half. Zak Munton finished off Connor Pilbeam’s cross to open the scoring.  Munton got the second from the penalty spot before the interval too, getting up from being fouled.  March delivered a couple of crunching tackles – if they were meant as “reducers” they were much too late in all senses, and it looked a long way back for March as the half-time whistle was blown.

March had a penalty appeal denied after the restart but the game settled into a fairly tedious pattern of long shots and set pieces.  Then the home side got back into the game with a penalty.  PNS defender Christian Gordon used a hand to stop a goalbound header and was correctly red-carded.  Michael Chow scored from the spot.  Suddenly, maybe the last 15 minutes might be interesting after all.

So it proved, when substitute Dayne Moore scored a superb goal with a swerving shot on the turn from about 20 yards to tie the game.  With seven minutes left, Neil and I (see below) had a brief discussion about tactics, and we both decided that as manager of a lower-ranked side at home against ten men, we would “go for it”.  What do we know?  From the restart, a hopeful long ball caught March short of manpower at the back, and after what seemed like an age Jack Flintoft left the last man on the floor and scored the winner.  Absolute heartbreak for the home side.

March Town 2 (Chow 73 pen, Moore 83)
Peterborough Northern Star 3 (Munton 22, 39 pen, Flintoft 84)

Ground Pix
I watched this match mainly from the splendid old wooden main stand, in the knowledgeable company of @NFJensen of gameofthepeople.com. Therefore we remained dry, unlike the players – the match took place through varying degrees of drizzle and downpour against a backdrop of grey skies.  Although the stand is showing its age, the clubhouse is excellent and a trip to March is recommended to all hoppers.








Match Pix
March Town are in amber and black.


Munton makes it 0-2 to PNS


Good save!  Oh, wait ...
The Doh! moment


Chow scores from the spot to give March some hope

Wild but soon-to-be short-lived celebrations after Moore's screamer


Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Since last week, a definitive Twitter exchange with Dulux UK (thanks, Roxy) has established that the Ware Sports keeper was sporting something that should be called Fire Cracker. That’ll do for me.  Today’s game confirmed the recent decline of Green.  Both custodians were wearing it – one somewhat more limey it has to be said, so Green takes the win, the loss and the five goals conceded.

Results so far:
Based on conventional 3pts for a win, 1pt for a draw, but also -1pt for a goal conceded (GC) and +5pts for a clean sheet (CS).  Colours ranked on a points per game (PPG) basis.


P
W
D
L
GC
CS
Pts
PPG
Red
8.0
4.0
0.0
4.0
8.0
3.0
19.0
2.38
Blue
28.1
11.0
5.0
12.1
44.0
10.0
44.0
1.57
Maroon
4.0
2.0
1.0
1.0
6.0
1.0
6.0
1.50
Grey
40.5
20.0
8.0
12.5
66.5
11.0
56.5
1.40
Green
57.0
27.0
7.0
23.0
100.0
15.0
63.0
1.11
Orange
22.5
8.0
4.0
10.5
34.5
5.0
18.5
0.82
Yellow
24.0
7.0
6.0
11.0
46.0
5.0
6.0
0.25
Purple
11.0
5.0
2.0
4.0
25.0
2.0
2.0
0.18
Pink
13.0
4.0
4.0
5.0
27.0
1.0
-6.0
-0.46
Radioactive Bile
12.0
5.0
0.0
7.0
26.0
1.0
-6.0
-0.50
Black
5.0
1.0
3.0
1.0
14.0
0.0
-8.0
-1.60
White
1.9
0.0
0.0
1.9
4.0
0.0
-4.0
-2.11
Fire Cracker
1.0
0.0
0.0
1.0
4.0
0.0
-4.0
-4.00
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!