Sunday, January 30, 2011

The magic of the cup hits Thetford

Yesterday and today was the fourth round of the FA Cup, in fact Notts County and Man City Plc are playing on the TV in the background as I write this. So the media has been going on about the magic of the cup and several hundred other cliches, although looking at the attendances the general public hasn't been that enthralled by it. That said the way the TV has controlled the fixtures probably has something to do with it. I can't think that Huddersfield fans would have been happy about getting up at the crack of dawn to get to London even if they were taking on Arsenal or should I say 'the mighty Arsenal'; I really have been watching too much TV. I still can't stand Crawley though, so they haven't completely brainwashed me.

Anyway, it was a very different sort of cup game that I went to, but it had all of the elements of a classic cup tie. I travelled over the border into Norfolk for the Ridgeons Division 1 cup semifinal between Thetford Town and Long Melford. The first half was a very cagey affair with a lot of tempers being lost and both teams getting stuck in. The bad mood seemed to spill into the crowd too with several arguements between the rival fans breaking out. It did seem that the Melford fans had had a sense of humour bypass to be honest though. That said although I think it was a bit like six of one and half a dozen of the other I've noticed that the arguement of who was the dirtiest team of the first half has spilled over on to the Internet. Thetford's Bruno Tavares probably has the bruises to answer that one. Anyway, at half time it was 0-0 and it didn't look like anyone would be breaking the deadlock and with a train to catch and sub zero temperatures I wasn't really relishing the the game going to extra time and then penalties.

Luckily, that didn't happen. Like last time I went to Thetford a couple of weeks ago Thetford came out stronger in the second half and added the width that had been missing in the first half. In the first half Thetford striker Matt Blake had looked a bit out of sorts, but in the second half he put in a man of the match performance and got his just rewards by putting Thetford one up with a beautifully taken goal on 62 minutes. Melford weren't finished though and from the restart got into the Thetford half beat the defence and hit the post. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a flash in the pan and Thetford continued to dominate, but weren't able to add to their slender lead. 1-0 and Thetford are in one final with only King's Lynn stopping them from making it to the Norfolk Senior Cup final.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ely City V Mildenhall Town

Last night's game was entertaining enough and Ely deserved to come away with at least a point.

The game started off well with both teams creating chances on what was a skiddy and fast surface. However, it was Mildenhall who drew first blood and went ahead on 20 minutes when ex-Ely player John Sands put the ball in the back of the net. After a few more good chances for both sides Ely scored an equaliser on 34 minutes when James Wallace piled the ball in from a 35 yard free kick. Ely could have easily been a head just four minutes later when Chris Sterecki was clear through only to be foiled by the last defender. Unfortunately, the half ended in a bit of stupidity when Richard Chadwick clashed in what looked like an accident with the Mildenhall goalkeeper, it didn't appear that the Mildenhall players and referee agreed and he got booked and Robbie Mason followed him after giving it some back chat.

The second half started off lively enough and it was Ely who dominated for long periods. However, Mildenhall hit the post on 65 minutes and Lee Pacey pulled of a few couple of saves in the same period. On 71 Minutes Ely also came close to equalising and on 80 minutes Ebanks-Blake who was on for Chadwick should probably have had a penalty, but it wasn't to be. It looked like Ely would be travelling back to Cambridgeshire with a point, but no. On 85 minutes Mildenhall got a winner when Adam Dalby was caught playing the ball out of defence.

It was a pity as he had had a good game, as had all of the defence with Adam Murray probably being man of the match.

Entrance to Mildenhall

The Stand at Mildenhall

In the right of the photo is the stand at Mildenhall, unfortunately the light was not really up to it, so I changes it to black and white.

A trip to Mildenhall

Last night saw Mildenhall take on Ely City in the rearranged Boxing Day Derby game, so we went on the relatively short journey. I didn't really know what to expect. They finished second in the league a few years ago, but the money ran out and they seem to have been mid-table ever since. They are a club with ambition, some might say delusions of grandeur: they have applied for promotion despite being in midtable and there being rumours that they couldn't even pay the cleaning lady last month.

The ground is a bit of a strange one and despite them wanting to get to Step 4, it looks more like a Step 6 ground when you get in there. As you enter the ground on the left hand side of the pitch is a small covered terrace, a clubhouse and a very small stand, which consists of three rows of benches and offers restricted view if anybody is ordering from the tea hatch. The rest of the ground is open and unterraced.

They obviously have some commercial ideas though, as they had a decent stall of souvenirs, although I'm not sure if £12 for a club hat and scarf offers the amazing value they advertise it as. They also have the annoying trick of having music play when they score a goal, it's annoying at bigger clubs, but it's never going to crank up the atmosphere in the Eastern Counties.

If I sound a bit downbeat about the whole experience it was the programme that really annoyed me. We were given a warm enough welcome by the locals, but racist jokes in the programme? That's not acceptable.

Luckily the game was entertaining, although Ely lost (report to follow), but I guess if it hadn't been we could have entertained ourselves by watching the planes land at the nearby air base.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Club focus -- Ipswich Wanderers

Ipswich Wanderers are not a team with a long history, but their rise to the Eastern Counties Under 14's team and 2 years later became an adult side and joined the lowest division of the Ipswich Sunday League. Just 6 years later in 1988 they became founder members of the Eastern Counties League. This coincided with the same year that they were named after their sponsors and were called the faintly ridiculous Loadwell Ipswich. Fortunately, that only lasted for a year though.

In 1998 Ipswich were Division 1 Champions after only losing 3 games all season. The following season Wanderers struggled in the Premier League and just avoided relegation. There was one silver lining though, as in the same season they also won the East Anglian Cup.

They were back in Division 1 in 2003, got promoted to the Premier in 2005 and back to Division 1 in 2008. They are currently challenging for promotion again.

Club focus -- Thetford Town

Thetford Town are known as the Brecklanders, wear claret and blue and were formed in 1883. Their ground is called Mundford Roadand they have played there since 1905. Up until World War 1 they played in the Norwich and District League. After the War they played in both the Norfolk and Suffolk league due to a geographic anomaly that meant that the town was in both counties (no I don't get how that works either!) Anyway, this meant that Thetford were able to win the Norfolk Senior Cup in 1948 and were Suffolk League Champions in 1955.

Unfortunately they weren't able to defend the Suffolk Championship, as the county boundaries changed and Thetford was firmly in Norfolk after the change. It took them time to settle in the Norfolk League and they didn't really make a mark until they finished 2nd in the League in 1982. In 1990 they were runners up in the Eastern Counties League Premier and in 1991 they won the Norfolk Senior Cup again, although they might be on the way to win the cup again as they have a semi final to look forward to in a few weeks.

The stand at Thetford

Here's a picture of the stand at Thetford, unfortunately I couldn't find the camera, so it's been taken with the phone again.

Conspiracy Theory in Thetford

Today I went to Thetford for the first time for a game in Division 1 between Thetford Town and Ipswich Wanderes. The journey was easy enough as the ground is only a few minutes walk from the train station, although luckily I bumped into a groundhopper who was making his way to the ground as obviously I went the wrong way out of the station.

The ground wasn't a bad ground. There was a clubhouse, as I saw people with beer, but I couldn't find. There is a stand on one side, but the other 3 sides are open and back on to a park and cricket pitch. Collecting stray balls seems to be a full time job there.

The game got off to a good start with Ipswich taking the lead on 10 minutes and Thetford equalising on 15 minutes. Ipswich, who are looking for promotion had two of the unfittest looking players I've ever seen, but they looked pretty effective. For the first half hour it was end to end stuff and both teams looked like they had plenty of goals in them. However, in the second part of the first half Ipswich looked the stronger side and they were probably disappointed not to go in 2-1 up at the break.

The second half started in the same way the the first half finished and Ipswich soon got the goal that they deserved. However, there was another twist as the floodlights went out and for a while it looked like the match was going to be called off, which had the officials from Ipswich suspecting foul play and it did seem as if they had been switched off. Nevertheless, after about 20 minutes the lights came back and the game changed dramatically. Thetford had been a lot more sensible about the whole thing by taking the players into the dressing room while the Ipswich players were stood outside in the cold messing around and smoking (I told you they seemed like an unhealthy bunch).It obviously had an effect as Thetford looked far stronger and got the equaliser and could have gone on to win. They faded again in the latter part of the game and Ipswich finished looking the stronger side.

A draw was probably a fair result and you can see why Ipswich are chasing promotion despite the fact that some of the players looked unfit and they didn't seem to have a substitute. Anyway, a good day out and fairly good value for money. I'm sure I'll be back to Thetford one day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We didn't know at the time ...

... but the picture of Gary Johnson in the dugout a couple of posts ago was to be the last time he would take charge of the Posh after resigning earlier today.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Another poor photo from Fulham v Posh

Some of the Peterborough end. One of the few areas of the ground that was packed. It got more packed later, as some of the Posh fans seemed to turn up late, if the trains from Peterborough were anything like they were from Ely that wasn't a surprise.

Crappy phone photos from Fulham v Peterborough

Mark Hughes and Gary Johnson in the dug outs

A lot of goals at a Peterborough match shock

Yesterday I went down to Craven Cottage for the FA Cup third round tie between Fulham and Peterborough. The day started off in the usual style of a trip to Fulham with a sampling of over priced beers in the pubs of Hammersmith.

I had no idea of what to expect from the result, but I though that a lot of goals could be on the cards Macca had a bet on Danny Murphy being the first goal scorer. The only thing he seemed sure of was that the first goal scorer wouldn't be Diomansy Kamara.

At the ground the crowd was a dissapointing 16,000 with over 6,000 coming down from Peterborough for the game. We were sat near a couple of familiar faces with Barry Fry just behind us and the more popular George Boyd in front of us.

The game went in favour of the Premier League team and although as usual Tomlin and McCann looked competent in midfield and Mackail-Smith looked capable up front the defence that can look frail in League 1 looked really out of their depth against a Premier League attack.

It was rather predictably Diomansy Kamara who put the Whites 1-0 up 32 minutes and just before the break a rare but well taken goal by Dickson Ethu put the home team 2-0 up and it didn't look like the Posh would get back in the game. George Boyd had obviously seen enough as he went into the private bar at half time and didn't emerge for the second half.

Things were about to get worse for the posh though with Kamara scoring his second on 59 minutes and half time substitute Zoltan Gera (AKA Gearhead) causing the Posh all sorts of problems. In fact it was Gera who made it 4-0 when he slotted the ball away on 66 minutes. Peterborough deserved some consolation and it came on 71 minutes when probably their best player on the day Lee Tomlin scored. Any dreams that Peterborough might have had of getting back into the game were quickly dashed 5 minutes later though when Kamara completed his first ever hat trick in English football to make it 5-1 to the home team. Peterborough didn't lie down and die though and were rewarded for their tenacity with a penalty on 86 minutes. Up stepped Grant Mc.Cann and unlike the shots that he had been peppering in from the free kicks Posh had be awarded near the box he put it right in the back of the net. The only problem was that this just seemed to spur Fulham on more and in the last minute Jonathan Greenind, another player on as a sub, managed to hold off the defender to slot the ball in Lewis's net to make the score 6-2. It was probably this goal that summed up Peterborough's day, as a stronger defender would have probably beaten Greening to the ball.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New year and a win

After a real hiatus of getting down to the Unwin due to bad weather and then being away on the two days when they actually managed to get a game on I finally made it down to the Unwin for Ely's game against Newmarket Town yesterday. The first disappointment was no programmes, but let's be honest the printers were probably on holiday like everybody else and apart from anything else the club has probably had to pulp a few over the last few cancellation heavy weeks.

Anyway, the game got under way and there were a few changes to the Ely team with Adam Murray and Robbie Mason being suspended and a couple of faces from the reserves were present as well as an Ebanks-Blake up front who had previously played for Histon A. Ely got off to a bright start and the first 10 minutes saw the Robins peppering the Newmarket goal. The best chance falling to Chadwick, who only just misconnected with a cross from Ebanks-Blake. After 10 minutes of dominance Newmarket came close when ex-Ely player Grant Robbins somehow skyed an effort over the bar. Ely continued to dominate, but on 18 minutes anothe ex-Ely player, Bell for Newmarket managed to beat the offside trap but couldn't find the back of the net. Ely seemed to have a better control of the offside trap today, although the linesman in the first half did seem sympathetic to the defence on a couple of occassions.

On 20n minutes Ely went ahead with a brilliant goal from Dave Smith, whether the free kick that led to the goal was a free kick was a free kick though was a bit debatable, but Ely deserved the lead. In fact Ely continued to press forward and were unlucky not to be further ahead by the break.

Ely finally got the two goal lead that they deserved in the second half when they were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area. I think that the defender was lucky to get away with a yellow, but the resulting free kick was hammered into the back of the net by, I think Sam Parkin, I'm not sure as it was a way from where I was standing and the lighting was beginning to fail and the local media obviously hasn't got anything up yet, so apologies if it wasn't Parkin who scored on 54 minutes.

Two goals up and it seemed like Ely were cruising, but things are never as simple as that after coming close on 63 minutes ex-Robin Bell scored for the Jockeys on 65 minutes to set up a nailbiting finish for the last 25 minutes or so. Things got worse on 69 minutes when Chadwick was sent off for the Robins. Newmarket continued to pressurise Ely, and Ely continued to clear the ball, unfortunately as Ebanks-Blake had also been substituted all clearances up fieled were easily cleared by the Newmarket defence. Kentoh Gray was introduced for Ely and he harried the Newmarket defence enough to keep the two sides equal until the end of the game.

Ely deserved the win and let's hope that their new year's resolution is to stop throwing leads away.