Sunday, June 28, 2015

Last season's competitions

Here's a list of the different competitions I saw teams compete in with the number of games in brackets:

Eastern Counties League Premier (11)
English League 1 (4)
Pre-season friendly (3)
Absolute Sport Travel Trophy (2)
Emirates Cup (2)
Northern Premier League Premier (2)
Cambridgeshire League Senior A (2)
Eastern Counties League Division 1 (2)
English Premier League (2)
FA Women's Premier League Cup (1)
FA Vase (1)
William Coad Intermediate Cup (1)
Bundesliga-1 (1)
FA Cup (1)
Central Midlands League (1)
Creake Charity Shield (1)

Last season's stadiums

Here are the stadiums that I visited last season with the number of games and home team in brackets.

The Unwin Ground,Ely (Ely City - 15)

London Road, Peterborough (Peterborough United - 5)

Villa Park, Birmingham (Aston Villa - 3)

The Abbey Stadium, Cambridge (Cambridge United - 2)

The Emirates Stadium, London (Arsenal - 2)

The Walks, King's Lynn (King's Lynn Town - 2)

Memorial Playing Fields, Downham Market (Downham Town - 2)

Recreation Way, Mildenhall (Mildenhall Town - 1)

The Recreation Ground, Thetford (Thetford Town - 1)

Cricket field Road, Newmarket (Newmarket Town - 1)

Westfalen Stadion, Dortmund ( Borussia Dortmund - 1)

Brisbane Road, London ( Leyton Orient - 1)

Hillsfield, Rocester (Rocester - 1)

Last season in numbers

I saw slightly fewer games than usual last season, mainly due to a lack of mid week games and other football type commitments. I still managed to get to 37 games and see 121 goals though. 

The biggest home win was Arsenal 5 Benfica 1 on 2nd August in the Emirates Cup and the same score between Downham Town and Halstead on 11th April.

The biggest away win was Ely City 0 Ipswich Wanderers 7 on 15th November.

The most goals in a match was also 7 from the above game and Mildenhall Town 4 Ely City 3 on 26th August.

Some thoughts on last season

I have taken a long time in summing up last season and we aren't that far from the start of pre-season now. One of the reasons for this is that it was so disappointing.

With Villa it was another season of battling relegation, although the sacking of Lambert and replacing him with Sherwood helped to galvanise the team, it was still a disappointing season. At least Sean finally saw a league win when we saw them beat West Ham in May through a Tom Cleverley goal. What could have been the real highlight of the season ended in disappointment when Villa lost 4-0 to Arsenal in the FA cup final. We had already seen how powerful Arsenal could be at the start of the season when we saw them destroy Benfica 5-1 at the Emirates.

The real highlight of the season was going to Dortmund and visiting not just the stadium, but also the museum. It was an amazing weekend and an amazing stadium to visit. Unfortunately, BVB went down 1-0 to Hannover, which was basically the story of our season. BVB like the English teams we follow had to settle with a season of disappointment and under performing.

The least said the better about Ely City, a mass exodus of players at the end of the season led to expectations being very low from the start. Ely started off brightly enough and were just unable to get the points on the board. By mid-September thought they had completely fallen apart and went through the winter getting ripped a new one by every team that came. This wasn't helped by some arrogant, but not that good players who seemed to think they were too good, but were in fact quite the opposite. Towards the end of the season they rallied a bit though and despite a relegation that was a bit of a humiliation I'm quite looking forward to next season.

One of the teams the Robins will be playing next season are Downham Town. They were a bit of a find on the local scene. They're a bit more communicative on social media than the other local clubs, pretty friendly up there and on the couple of occasions we have been up there served up some real entertainment and plenty of goals. In a way they have replaced Thetford as the team to go to when Ely are away and there isn't time to get to a bigger club, as again Thetford played at home the same weeks as Ely. We only made it up there once this season and that was for a game against Ely. They've more or less continued where they left off and after promotion a couple of seasons ago do just enough to not be dragged into the relegation battle.

A team that I had higher expectations for was Peterborough United. They started off brilliantly and then fades even more spectacularly. Replacing Darren Ferguson at the helm with Dave Robertson did the trick initially, but it was always going to be too much of an ask to reach the playoffs. After years of bashing in the goals, Posh need to get back to scoring ways. They have been creating plenty of chances, but putting them away has been a different story. At least it was enjoyable though to get back to going to Posh games frequently.

King's Lynn are the other of the local teams that we frequent, we went there a couple of times last season and they were good enough days out and the Lynn players and faithful showed a lot of fight, sometimes a bit too literally! They also missed out on the play offs though and have been moved from the Northern Premier to the Southern Premier. It will be interesting to see how they get on. Their style of play won't suit the teams in their new league so they should pick up points that way. On the other hand the southern League tends to be stronger, so they will have some harder games there.

Anyway, not long now until the pre-season starts, probably with Soham United v Ely City on July 11th. Sean's team, Crusaders are now affiliated with Ely City and have a friendly in the morning against their junior team, so it might be a full on day in Soham.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Aston Villa 1 West Ham United 0

Well, it was a long time coming, but Sean finally got to see Villa win a league game and it was probably the first time he had been at Villa Park when the 'feel good factor was there'. Villa are still in slight danger of relegation, but recent wins against Spurs, Everton and an FA Cup Semi-final victory over Liverpool have only been slightly tempered by a defeat away to Manchester City where Villa should probably have got something. The crowd was in good spirits and the place was filled to near capacity. Villa were superb in the first half and we were right behind the goal where Jack Grealish jinsed in to set up Tom Cleverley for his 31st minute winner and third goal in three games. Villa should really have put the game to bed before half time. However, they went into the break with a slender lead and were forced to dig in a bit in the second half. It was a nervous end to the game, especially as West Ham had the ball in the net, but were offside. Villa deserved the win and Tim Sherwood was happy with the proffessional display. That said, there really was a sense of relief when the final whistle blew. All of the players deserve a mention, but especially the midfield who were brilliant at times.

Shay Given - had a very quiet first half. He was called into action in the second half on a couple of occassions, but saved well when needed. His kicking was also notably a lot better than Guzan's.

Leandro Bacuna - He really isn't a defender, but the way he gets forward is a real asset to the team. He also came close from a set piece. He was substituted for Hutton later on when it was time to shore up the defence.

Kieran Richardson - Again he's a bit too forward thinking for a defender, but put in a shift on Saturday.

Ron Vlaar- Grew into the game, he defended resolutely later on, but made a couple of mistakes which may have been punished by better forwards. He also had a couple of chances from headers from set pieces, but they weren't the best efforts you would ever see.

Jores Okore - Was playing injured, but you would never know. He epitomises the 'fight like lions' philosophy at the club at the moment.

Charles N'Zogbia - I thought he had a decent game, although a lot of the media thinks otherwise and his pace troubled the Hammers. He perhaps didn't look that great compared to the superb efforts put in by the rest of the Midfield. He came off late on to be replaced by Gabby, who really should have scored when Jack Grealish put him threw. We would have had a better last quarter of an hour if he had!

Tom Cleverley - Much maligned Tom wasn't a hit with the Villa fans for a while, but since Sherwood arrived he has been transformed. He scored the winner and fought for every ball. I would have awarded him Man of the Match.

Fabian Delph - Fabs is always Fab and his vision, movement, commitment and ball control was excellent, as it usually is.

Jack Grealish - Super Jack has finally been given a run in the team and he hasn't disappointed. He has been tremendous and set Cleverley up for the goal. West Ham couldn't get near to him apart from to kick him! He was given a standing ovation when substituted for Carlos Sanchez when the defence needed to kick in. I thought Cleverley was slightly more influential, but nobody can begrudge him the Man of the Match award.

Christian Benteke - Had a quiet day by his standards, but as he had just one player of the month then that isn't surprising, it's always a curse.

So, a great performance from the lads and we finally went home happy from Villa Park. There are still two games left and Villa still need to win them to be sure of survival and then there is the FA Cup final against Arsenal. It's been a tough few years, but the future is hopefully bright.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ely City 1 Stanway Rovers 1

On Saturday it was Ely's last game of the season. They were already relegated and Stanway were in third with not a lot to play for either. The game was typical end of season fair. The weather was good, but the football was dull. Stanway struck early in the second half and late on a goalkeeping blunder gifted Ely an equaliser and that was about it.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Ashdon Villa win a trophy

Yes that isn't a typo! Hopefully, a team with a similar name can get some silverware at the end of the season too!

I like the local cup finals that they have down at Ely City this time of year, unfortunately due to being away or bad advertising I've missed the others, so when I found out about the Creake Charity Shield Cup Final being down there I was interested, when I found out one of the teams was called Ashdon Villa I knew I had to be there.

The opponents were Cherry Hinton Reserves, who play in a division below Villa. From the start it was clear that Villa were the better side, but the Cherries had a fantastic defence and neither side had a real chance in the first half, although Villa dominated the play.

Unfortunately for Villa it was Cherry Hinton who took the lead on 52 minutes when a sliced clearance by a defender saw him put it in his own goal. Some justice was done 10 minutes later when the Cherry Hinton keeper thought a cross was going to hit the side netting, but instead it hit the post and rebounded out to a grateful Villa centre forward who hammered home the equaliser.

Villa continued to attack, but the Cherry Hinton defence were resolute and some of the crosses were a bit wayward and shots a bit weak. One of the Cambs FA officials said 'it had a draw written all over it', I couldn't disagree, but with the temperature falling and work the next day I was hoping it would be finished in normal time.

It wasn't and we headed into extra time and Villa continued their bombardment. On 100 minutes a great free kick was hammered home and just the other side of extra time Villa were awarded another free kick. This time an indirect free kick in the six yard box for a back pass. Pretty often these type of free kicks are wasted, but Ashdon made sure and the game finished 3-1 to Villa.