Saturday, February 25, 2012

Record win at Thetford

Thetford Town 10 Cornard United 0
Bruno Tavares (4 minutes)
Matt Dixon ( 14 - pen)
Matt Dixon (18)
Valter Rocha (19)
Matt Dixon (25 - pen)
Bruno Tavares (28)
Matt Dixon (34)
Steve Harley (73)
Nathan Szsyzlk (80)
Steve Harley (90)
.... and it could have been a whole lot more....

This was the biggest win that I have ever seen and followed hot on the heels of a 9-0 win for Thetford last week, although they did blot their copy book in midweek with a 1-0 defeat against March.

Even before the game it looked like Cornard were whipped, when the team sheets went up Thetford had players with names that wouldn't sound out of place in the premier league, Cornard looked like a bunch of strangers. In fact only 5 of the players named in the squad were on the pitch. This could have meant that they had signed a load of players recently with an eye for moving up the table or that they were having to bring in players from wherever they could. It certainly seemed like the latter was true. In the warm up Thetford were doing some technical stuff and looked like a well oiled unit, Cornard just spent 5 minutes knocking the ball about before going back down the tunnel. When the players emerged on the pitch Thetford got in a huddle, Cornard looked embarrassed to be on the pitch with each other. However, whatever the deficiencies of the Cornard team are you can't take anything away from Thetford who have been spectacular for most of the season and have a number of players in the first team and the reserves who are capable of scoring at this and a higher level.

Thetford were quick to get off to a good start when Matt Dixon was fouled on the edge of the box and Bruno Tavares stepped up to blast home the free kick. Rocha was then causing problems and on 8 minutes it should have been 2-0 but Dixon and Tavares messed around too much. Then on 14 minutes a defender flattened Dixon in the box. At the same time one of the Cornard defenders was stretchered off with what looked like a broken leg. Once it was sorted Dixon stepped up and scored the penalty and it was 2-0. Just 4 minutes later and again Tavares and Dixon were at it again and Tavares mazed through the Cornard defence before laying it off to Dixon to make it 3-0. From Cornard's restart Thetford won the ball back, Rocha was found wide on the right he skipped into the box and with less than 20 minutes on the clock it was already 4-0. They still weren't finished and on 25 minutes Dixon's speed foiled the Cornard defence and all the goalkeeper could do was bring him down in the box. On another day the keeper could have been sent off, but that would have been harsh, although at times I was a little uncertain if he had actually played in goals before, although he did have an awful lot to do and despite the scoreline redeemed himself a little later on. Not this time though as Dixon scored the penalty and it was 5-0. It wasn't long before the Cornard defence were sliced open again when on 28 minutes Tavares went through the defence like a knife through butter and he got his 2nd and Thetford's 6th. It was a whole 6 minutes before Thetford created another real chance although even in that period they had a few wayward attempts on the Cornard goal. However, more happened in the 34th minute than had happened in some other games. First of all Dixon had a blast at the goal, but it only hit Rocha in the face (who despite getting a right slap in the face managed to laugh it off); a couple of seconds later Bruno Tavares hit the bar and then a few seconds later Dixon got his 4th and Thetford's 7th.

So the first half finished with Thetford 7-0 up, but even in those 10 minutes of the half in which they didn't score they had some decent chances. On 39 minutes Harley and Tavares linked up well, but the keeper saved. On 42 minutes Sean O'Donnell should have scored but blasted over; and on 43 and 44 Dixon wasted 2 gilt-edged chances and blasted wide, which brought about a couple of cheeky chants of 'you don't know what you're doing' aimed towards the player who had already put 4 past the keeper.

Cornard started off the second half looking a bit better organised, but Thetford were not in a forgiving mood. Luckily the linesman was though. On 51 minutes Tom Cusack scored a good and valid goal, but it was ruled offside by the linesman, for what reason other than feeling sorry for Cornard I have no idea. The same thing happened on 58 after another period of Thetford peppering the Cornard goal when Dixon scored and was given offside, but for what reason I have not got a clue. In fact Thetford were unable to breech the Cornard goal again until 73 minutes when Steve Harley played keepie-ups with himself before firing home to make it 8-0. Then on 80 minutes substitute Nathan Szysyzlk made it 9-0. There was time for one more when Harley made the Cornard defence look stupid and scored to get the team in double figures in the last minute.

It still could have been more and Tom Cusack who had had a perfectly good goal chalked off by the linesman hammered against the post. A bit of messing about where they were trying to set up Simon Mann for some reason instead of firing home and then the whistle was blown Thetford had 10, but it could so easily have been 15-0!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Club Focus - Cornard United

On Saturday I'm planning on a trip to Thetford to see them take on Cornard United. Thetford who were running away with the First Division of the Eastern Counties League have had a bit of a wobble lately, but after a 9-0 win in the Norfolk Senior Cup at the weekend and the fact that Cornard are bottom of the league they will be confident of picking up the points.

Cornard are not one of the leagues oldest clubs having been formed only in 1964 when they joined the Sudbury Sunday League. In 1966 they joined division 3 of the Bury and District League and in 1970 they joined division 6 of the Colchester and East Essex League. In 1976 they joined the Essex and Suffolk Border League after having climbed up to Division 2 in C&EE League.

Cornard's most successful period came at the end of the 1980s and start of the 90s. In 1988-9 they won the Suffolk Border League, League Cup and Suffolk Senior Cup. The following season after gaining promotion to the Eastern Counties League Division 1 they were promoted again as Champions. It was during this period that Cornard fielded several 'golden' oldies. When I saw the list of some of these ex-players for the first time I thought that maybe they had developed some raw talent, but it turns out they became a bit of a rest home for ex-professionals during this period.

The players who turned out for United during this period included Gary Brooke who played for Spurs, Robbie Devereux once of Ipswich and Colchester and Tom English who turned out for Coventry and Leicester. Perhaps the biggest name though was Mark Falco, who had a very successful period in the 80s at Spurs and also turned out for Rangers when Rangers had money to blow. He also went straight from league football with Millwall to join Cornard rather than having spent time kicking around the non league scene beforehand. He always sticks in my mind for having an argument with Villa fans and then saying he was going to sink them on his own. In the resulting game he had a howler and Villa won 3-0. Despite having made his name as a striker his most memorable performance for Cornard was when he played as an emergency goalkeeper in an FA Vase game in 1993 against Felixstowe & Walton. Cornard won 2-0 and Falco was man of the match.

The good times came to an end in 1996 when Cornard were relegated back to Division 1 where they have been ever since. In 2001 they tried to change their name to Sudbury Borough, but it was blocked by the parish council (I don't know what it had to do with them either).

Things don't seem to be going too well at the moment, although the chairman seems to be intent on getting some publicity for the club. A few weeks ago he was in the Suffolk Free Press saying that an ex- England international was about to take over as manager, but he couldn't say who it was. I'm not sure if it was hot air or if Falco is making another comeback.

Club Focus - Crewe Alexandra

Although I didn't make it to any games while I was away in Staffordshire last week I did manage to visit a ground that I hadn't been to before and that ground was Crewe Alexandra's Alexandra stadium. It's a pretty nice stadium and was renovated when they were looking to be regular participants in what is now called the Championship at the start of the millennium. However after doing what they do best and developing new players that are then sold on they have found themselves to be a mid-table League 2 side. In fact it was the sale of Dean Ashton to Norwich in 2005 that was blamed for their slump that season that set them on a downward trajectory.

The Alexandra stadium, which was then known as Gresty Road and for some unfathomable reason has been renamed (if it wasn't bad enough with all the sponsor changes and new grounds) has been Alex's home since 1899 and been a built stadium since 1906. It was renovated in 1999 after the Taylor Report and has the impressive Railtrack stand, which cost the club £6 million, where there was once the Railway Terrace where fans would spend half the time immersed in smoke when the old trains went past. The stadium is conveniently located right next to Crewe station and the club are nicknamed the Railwaymen due to Crewe's past and present as one of the busiest railway stations in the country and at one time the world. It currently holds 10,153 although over the last few seasons average attendances have hovered between 4 and 5,000.

Crewe Alexandra were formed in 1877 and are named after Queen Victoria's daughter Princess Alexandra or the pub of the same name depending on what story you believe. With a good pint of John Smith's costing £1.85 in the pub down the road though now, you can't really blame them for wanting to name the club after a pub if that rumour is true. In fact if you are passing through Crewe I suggest you get off have a quick look round the ground and sample a pint in one of the town's fine drinking holes!

After initially backing the wrong horse and joining the Football Alliance instead of the Football League in 1889 the club became founder members of the Football League Division 2 in 1892. However, it wasn't to be the happiest of sojourns into the League, as they only lasted four seasons. They re-entered the League in 1921. For the most of that time apart from a stay in the 2nd level in the early noughties they have been a lower league team. They haven't had any major trophies to add to their name, but they have won Cheshire Senior Cup 6 times, the last being in 2003 and the Cheshire Premier Cup in 2009 and 2010. They were also named in 2006 by FourFourTwo as the most admired league club.

One of the main reasons for the club's, if not popularity then likeability has been the work done of developing youth at the club spearheaded by Dario Gradi, who was the clubs manager from 1983 to 2007 and then again from 2009 to 2011 (he stepped down earlier this season as manager to work in his previous job as Director of Football with an emphasis on developing youth). It's easy to see why he has so much respect in the game with a list of graduates from the club during his time there including Dean Ashton, Geoff Thomas, David Platt, Neil Lennon, Robbie Blake and erm Robbie Savage.

One of the reasons I went to the club was to get Sean a badge for his collection. The Crewe badge has a lion, which is the symbol of the town, standing on a football.

If it looks like the lion is about to catch a football then it is probably because before 1994 it was holding a locomotive wheel. However, it would seem that some of the grandeur surrounding the railway has like the town faded a bit and it was deemed inappropriate.

The club have unlike a lot of clubs that have been around for such a long time not experimented with changing their colours. They did mess around with a white shirt with blue knickerbockers (as I think the Victorians called them) but even then they incorporated a chic red neckerchief into the ensemble, for a couple of years in their early existence, but for the most part have been proud to wear red and white, like this season's kit shown below.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

3 o'clock is deluge time

The ice had finally disappeared and despite the wind Saturday got off to a bright enough start for the under 7's game I was required to go to. The unexpected good weather lasted until I left the house to get down for Ely v Felixstowe & Walton and then the skies opened up and I got soaked.

That wasn't the final deluge of the day though as Ely got off to a fine start despite not having kicked a ball for 3 days and it was raining shots on the Felixstowe goal. The first 20 minutes were a complete bombardment with Nick Impey and Luke Parkinson firing in the crosses and full backs Lewis McDonald and Sam Parkinson also joining in the fun. Adam Murray came close with a couple of headers from crosses and Nick Impey hit the bar with a cross/shot. Ely couldn't quite find the finishing touch despite it being more or less one way traffic.

The visitors first chance, and what was to prove to be their only real chance, came on 29 minutes when some bizarre head tennis amongst the Ely players nearly ended in an own goal. However, Jamie Greygoose standing in in goals for the suspended Lee Pacey finally got the ball and cleared it to Lee Parkinson who went down the other end left the final defender lying on the ground after an unfortunate slip on the now greasy pitch and shot.... wide.

Ely did finally get the breakthrough that they deserved on 38 minutes when Adam Murray found the back of the net with a header. I say deserved, but the F&W defenders were clearly expecting an offside flag and I missed who crossed the ball as I was looking for the flag to be raised. The first half finished 1-0 and even if there were some doubts about the legitimacy of the goal the Robins deserved to be home and at least metaphorically dry.

The second half started and the rain had abated and the sun was out. It seemed to have a relaxing influence on the players, although it could have been that Ely were happy to run out with a 1-0 win and the visitors really didn't look like getting back into the game or perhaps they were just a bit knackered after having such a long time off in the middle of the season.

Just after the hour mark though Ely brought on Austen Diaper and he really made a difference and helped put the result beyond doubt. On 68 minutes Diaper found his way through the Felixstowe defence slotted the ball across to Luke Parkinson and it was 2-0. Four minutes later and it could have been three, but Ely's lack of bottle from the spot (despite a penalty shoot out win in the last game they played) was confounded when Wilson and both of the Parkinsons refused to step up leaving it to Josh Bridgeman who didn't take his time and skied the ball well over the fence at the Cathedral End. It did end up 3-0 when on 79 minutes Diaper had a shot from a good 40 yards out and found the back of the net for goal of the season. His performance should have been enough to force him back into the starting line up next time and the result was enough to keep Ely in third hot on the heels of Brantham.

The big freeze

Well, the last few weeks haven't been much fun on the football front or any front really. Apart from being especially busy there were a couple of weekends where there were no games in the East. Villa have been useless and apart from the Africa Cup of Nations there hasn't been much on telly that really inspired me. I have to say regarding the African competition, hats off to Zambia, who were amazing and I regret writing them off a couple of weeks ago. The nearest I got to a football ground was when I visited the Crewe Alex club shop last week. However, football was back on the agenda today and although my plans to go to Peterborough v Bristol City were foiled by internet failure I did manage to get to Ely v Felixstowe and Walton.