Saturday, 9 April 2016

Singing the Blues' Praises


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 9 April 2016 at Hanbury Stadium
Result
Haywards Heath Town 5 Mile Oak 1
Competition
Southern Combination League D1 (Step 6)
Hopping
Ground 585 on the lifetime list, here because of the postponement of the Isthmian League fixture at Burgess Hill Town.
Pre-match preparation
All rendered irrelevant by a pitch inspection while I was crawling round the dreaded M25 in the Yappmobile.  I was headed for Burgess Hill v Hendon which was called off late morning.  Most hoppers will know that dawning realisation on pulling on to a car park which looks worryingly empty.  This happened to me at 2.25pm so it was very much a quick look at the map and the fixtures for the next tier.  Haywards Heath jumped out as reachable and I made it with ten minutes to spare but having no idea whatsoever of the context for the fixture.  Thank you to Doris the Satnav for a flawless performance.  The first clue was the visitors forming a guard of honour for the hosts as I took my place in the stand.  First impressions of this club were very favourable and the standard of the surface deserves a mention.  Sorry that I didn't realise that the league trophy was being presented after the game or I'd have stayed a bit longer.
This match in one sentence
A comprehensive home win for the divisional champions.
So what?
The almost-invincibles of Haywards Heath will have three more celebratory games.  Mile Oak’s promotion hopes are mathematically still alive.  This groundhopper's day was rescued from disaster.
The drama unfolds
A quick look at the programme during the early exchanges confirmed that the hosts had won the league two games ago by beating today’s opponents 4-0 away.  In fact they have won 27 (twenty-seven!) in a row after losing the first game of the season, and not conceded a goal in eight.  Impressive.  Mile Oak just about have a mathematical interest in promotion from third place, but they would need a win today.  This looked unlikely from the outset as Haywards Heath contrived to miss a number of chances.  Number 9 Max Miller caught the eye as he created chances for Freddie Barker (skied) and Danny Turner (just couldn’t make contact) whilst hitting the post himself in between.

Into low-earth orbit for this early chance ...
Haywards Heath were on top but it took an odd goal to break the deadlock.  Mile Oak’s keeper Aaron Stenning came out into the sweeper position but his clearance went to the left wing, and the ball was hit in from a fair distance by Jamie Weston.  They got a second through Miller almost immediately despite Stenning getting a hand to his shot.  2-0 after 36 minutes

Two minutes before half-time and in a goalmouth siege, Haywards Heath hit both posts but from a neutral’s perspective the game was kept alive in first-half stoppage time.  The home defence allowed a left-wing cross which was buried by Eric Wedge-Bull at the far post.  2-1 at half-time

The Mile Oak comeback was snuffed out by Miller with a nicely-worked goal early in the second half.  They then added two more late on. Fullback Scott Marshall looked as surprised as anyone when his excellent shot made it four, and then sub Alfie Rogers scored the fifth. It sealed a comprehensive win for the champions who will go up to step 5 next season.  Final Score 5-1

Number 2 is mobbed for scoring number four

Number five is scored ...
... and celebrated

Ground Pix






Only the lower half of the main stand is in use at the moment
Match Pix
Haywards Heath are The Blues.










Five Years of Modus Hopper Random
Five years to the day since my first game on Faroese soil and the start of a sequence of blogposts that still gets more hits than anything else I have ever written.


Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Green versus green so nothing gained or lost today.
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  New term starts on Monday and it will be a last-minute decision next Saturday given that it is GCSE coursework moderation week.


Recipe for a Norfolk Stuffing


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Friday 8 April 2016 at The Recreation Ground, Mundford Road
Result
Thetford Town 4 Gorleston 0
Competition
Eastern Counties Premier Division (Step 5)
Hopping
Ground 584, chosen because it was a match that mattered to at least one of the teams involved.
Pre-match preparation
This is Thetford Town’s last home game of the season – their other four are all away, and they are uncomfortably close to the relegation zone.  This is a division of twenty teams, and if the same history applies as in that other Premier League, Thetford are still ten short of forty points.  Gorleston have done enough to be safe in lower-mid table, and Thetford won the reverse fixture fairly recently.  It feels like a “must win” for the home side otherwise there could be an uncomfortable ending to the season.
This match in one sentence
A hard-fought first half eventually led to a comfortable win even before home supporters provoked the visiting keeper into his own red mist.
So what?
That's thirty-three points for Thetford, who are more likely now go on to keep their Premier Division place and further fixtures with Gorleston.  Relegation rivals Swaffham Town, 5pts behind but with a game in hand, have lost eight in a row.
The drama unfolds
Both teams started at a good pace.  Gorleston’s defence looked solid early on and they had the first real chance, Keegan Middleton flicking the ball to himself and creating the chance for a left-footer just wide.  The first of several niggles came midway through the half.  A Gorleston player made a miracle recovery after a tackle that earned a yellow card for the defender.  Yes, an uncontrollable lunge, but someone has been watching too much Match of the Day.  Thetford gradually got on top territorially but could not create the end product.  Then out of nowhere, Gorleston pinged the woodwork as the game neared the interval.  In stoppage time, Thetford won a freekick on the edge of the box and here is what happened.  For some reason (incompetence!) I did not make a note of the scorer so will edit when the official result is published.



1-0  at half-time

Gorleston started the second half well but then conceded a scruffy close-range goal.  I think the scorer was Joe Allen but would stand to be corrected.  2-0 after 51 mins

Insult was added to injury when they were then caught on the break.  Robbie Priddle timed his run to perfection and scored with a low shot to remove any doubt about the destination of the points.  3-0 after 61 mins

The game looked as if it was petering out when the visiting keeper Taurean Molloy reacted to a spectator behind the goal.  It is almost certain that something provocative was said, and it is certain that the keeper moved towards the spectator and instigated a physical contact.  Thetford players got between the spectators and other Gorleston players, and to be fair they seemed to be defusing the situation quickly. The ref really had no choice but to produce a straight red, and from where I was sitting it looked as if the keeper then made contact with the ref’s arm before being ushered away by other players.  I thought it strange that he was eventually escorted from the field with the arm of the HOME number 8 around his shoulder.  It all left a rather sour taste.  There is no doubt that the home club regulars would be able to identify the agent provocateur.

When Gorleston headed a good chance over the bar with a minute left, it summed up their night.  There was time for a sub to belt in a fourth goal past the replacement keeper (defender Dan Goodrum) in stoppage time.  Final score 4-0

There was plenty of whooping and hollering from the home dressing room as I left the ground.  That’s what it must mean when you keep your place in the Premier League.
Ground Pix
I really wanted to avoid county stereotypes but this was the first thing I noticed on arrival.  Maybe the placement next to the tea bar is a coincidence.  To be fair, it must be a relevant advert in these parts but I was really bemused even more by the cartoon image of the scientist on the left.






Match Pix





Five Years of Modus Hopper Random
A five-goal thriller from exactly three years ago as London Tigers won at Holmer Green in the Spartan South Midlands League.


Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
This will properly mess up my spreadsheet.  No doubt that the home side’s orange earns the win and the clean sheet.  The original visiting keeper wore white and conceded three of the goals before dismissal after 78 minutes.  The replacement (one of the original outfielders) wore blue and conceded one.
What Next?
Burgess Hill Town v Hendon on Saturday for another step 3 tick.  Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!


Sunday, 3 April 2016

Salford City - Industry, Integrity and Different Gravy


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 2 April 2016 at Moor Lane
Result
Salford City 5 Grantham Town 0
Competition
Northern Premier League (Step 3)
Hopping
Ground 583, my first match of 2016 (work reasons) and chosen for convenience from my hoppriority list of ten unvisited Step 3 grounds because I am in the area for other reasons.
Pre-match preparation
I have been paying just enough attention in recent months to notice that Salford are having a good season, and had a decent FA Cup run with TV exposure too.  They are now in a good position to make the playoffs.  One of the co-owners, a certain Gary Neville, may be at a loose end this weekend after leaving Valencia.  This game might not be as easy as the league table suggests as 3rd play 14th.  Salford have won five and drawn one of their last seven league games, and have not conceded a goal in four.  Grantham are unbeaten in their last eight, and have five odd-goal wins and three draws.  I am expecting a competitive, close encounter rather than a one-sided goalfest.
This match in one sentence
A one-sided goalfest.
So what?
The title remains a mathematical possibility but that will probably go to either Blyth or Darlington, depending on the latter’s games in hand.  Salford’s playoff place is in their own hands now with four games to go as they sit 3rd. Grantham look to be safe in mid-table, remaining 14th today,
The drama unfolds
14 mins: a cross from the right-wing was only partly cleared and the ball fell nicely for James Poole who finished beautifully from the 18-yard line.  1-0


27 mins: the hosts doubled their lead with an even better goal from Danny Webber, who curled a right-footer beyond the reach of the Grantham keeper Jake Turner.  2-0
37 mins: the first real chance of note for Grantham Town but Jay Lynch made the block save at his near post – a goal there might just have changed the game.  2-0 at half-time
51 mins: a good tip-over-the-bar save from Turner as Salford continued to threaten.
67 mins: Turner makes two saves in quick succession but eventually pressure led to a brave headed goal by Jordan Hulme.  3-0
79 mins: Grantham were not coping with Salford’s one-touch play in an around the box and another teasing right-wing cross was headed home by Hulme.  4-0
87 mins:  Salford were in no mood for scoring scruffy goals and sub Evan Gumbs fires a grasscutter from distance into the corner.  5-0
This was a very impressive performance from Salford.  Hulme was denied his hat-trick first by Turner then by the post in stoppage time.  Grantham’s day was worsened by a late injury to Lee Shaw which looked like it ended in a visit to hospital.  Final score 5-0
Ground Pix
Forget everything that we thought we knew about Northern Powerhouse economics.  With a price structure like this we should all be selling the Bolivian zinc and investing in the Northern Gravy futures market.










Match Pix
  








Something You Don’t Get in the Premier League
I can only assume that this is traditional solid Northern careers advice for any youngsters tempted by a move to that London town:


Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Blue beats purple and has a clean sheet too.  Updated points table at some unspecified point in the future!
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed my first game of 2016.  One day I will restore some work-life balance and pick up the random groundhopping trail again.


Monday, 28 December 2015

Wakeup for Great Wakering as Urchins Go for their Nap


Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Monday 28 December 2015 at Burroughs Park
Result
Great Wakering Rovers 0 AFC Hornchurch 5
Competition
Isthmian League Division One North (Step 4)
Hopping
Ground 582, and here at my nearest unvisited Step 4 ground after the collapse of a Sussex-Kent double header due to the weather.
Pre-match preparation
Minimal because of the late change of plan, but a glance at the table suggested that the visitors would start as favourites.  The thing I liked most about this venue was that Google Maps started by suggesting "Great Wall of China" when I was a few characters into the search.
This match in one sentence
A dominant Hornchurch performance and a win that was as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.
So what?
Great Wakering stay in lower-mid table and Hornchurch reinforce their promotion credentials, firmly in the playoff places at least and still in the hunt for the top spot.
The drama unfolds
Hornchurch took the lead from their first real attack.  Alex Bentley curled home a right-footer from the edge of the area after a rebound fell nicely into his path.  0-1 after 7 mins

0-1
The second goal was very well-taken, a first time shot from 18yds by David Knight, albeit in plenty of space as my photo confirms.  I wrote down the word “ominous” in my notes.  0-2 after 16 mins

... and 0-2 with a superb first-time shot from Knight
Knight produced a baby’s pacifier from somewhere about his person for the celebration.  Maybe he should have kept it in – his direct personal abuse of the assistant ref a few minutes later went unpunished.  I can’t believe it was unheard.  The game continued with Hornchurch in the ascendancy until half-time when I crossed paths with @essexfootie in the tea bar queue.  If you are not following this man on Twitter, then you should be.  0-2 at half-time

Great Wakering started the second half brightly but Hornchurch also responded immediately and George Purcell smacked the crossbar.  Their next chance came before too long, though, as more good work from Knight on the left created a shooting opportunity.  Home keeper Adam Seal did well to narrow the angle.  He had no chance with the third as Purcell picked up the ball from a miscued clearance.  He had plenty to do but he held off the defenders and shot low into the left corner.  0-3  after 56 mins

Great Wakering hit the bar from a distance with 15 minutes to go, and then the rebound was somehow scrambled away from the six-yard box.  Purcell made no mistake, however, with his second of the day, a direct run from midfield and rounding of the keeper.  0-4 after 80 mins

The final goal was pinged off the far post by Bentley after some intricate passing around the Great Wakering penalty area.  A very solid performance from the visitors.  0-5 after 85 mins and at full-time

I went off to South Mimms Services for soup and one of the most inedible bread rolls in the history of European cuisine, followed by a Lemsip chaser.  Hashtag living the dream.
Ground Pix
Neat, tidy and cared-for.  Plus a mascot called Rover.







Rover just wants to join in really ...

Match Pix
Great Wakering Rovers are in the green-and-white.





Something Important in the Local News
Entertainer Sir Bruce Forsyth has mentioned pleasant memories of childhood day trips to Southend in his new book.  This has led to a full-page celebratory article in the current Southend Echo, with an appreciative quote from a councillor with responsibility for tourism.  There is a beach ball in the accompanying photograph, but sadly nothing on Brucie’s opinions about the Isthmian League.
Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Grey thrashes blue and has a clean sheet too.  Full table to follow in the new year.
What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!  Taking one day at a time due to manful, which as many hoppers know is very serious.