Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ely receive the runners-up trophy

Ely receive the runners up trophy after the Norwich United game

Mid season weather and end of season football

Ely took on Norwich United in their last game of the season yesterday and were already guaranteed to finish the season as runners up in the Eastern Counties League, but it would have been nice for them to finish off with a win and they duly obliged. The weather however was more suitable for late Autumn than Spring, but the football definitely had an end of season feel about it, with both teams making mistakes that they probably wouldn't have if more had been at stake. Ely were also missing Josh Bridgeman and Ben Lawrence to injury and Austin Diaper to suspension. The first real chance of the game fell to Lewis McDonald who fluffed a brilliant lay off by Richard Chadwick on 8 minutes. The opening play was however pretty evenly balanced, although every Norwich attack was cut out by Adam Murray, which was probably just as well, as Lee Pacey in the Ely nets seemed to be struggling with an injury himself. On 19 minutes Richard Gammon had a real chance to put the Robins ahead after a clever move by Brady Stone and Nick Impey, but it was cleared off the line. Just to show how well balanced the teams were at this point in the game was underlined when Norwich then went up the other end and hit the post. This obviously spurred the Planters on, as 5 minutes later they took the lead just 5 minutes later with a brilliant through ball and chip over Pacey. Ely tried to get back into the game and the pressure finally paid off on 38 minutes when Chadwick jinxed into space on the right wing and slotted home from the tightest of angles. So at half time the scores were level and the impetus was back with the Robins. Ely started off the stronger of the 2 sides in the second half and were putting on most of the pressure, but as I said it was typical end of season game and they looked a bit casual in front of goal. Norwich on the other hand were starting to look a bit disinterested and happy to play for a draw. Norwich's first chance of the half came on the hour mark when Pacey did well to save with his legs / backside. This shock seemed to wake Ely up a bit though and Luke Parkinson came close to getting the winner on 70 minutes when he hit the crossbar. It wasn't all over though as just 4 minutes later Norwich had a gilt-edged chance to take the lead, but somehow managed to mess up. Finally though Ely did manage to find the winner when Adam Murray rose above the crowd to score a header from a corner in the last minute. This probably typified how Ely have been all season with the great team spirit and a never giving up on the game and was a fitting way to end the season after a few up and down weeks. It was the icing on the cake of a season that exceeded all occasions and it was nice to see the players receive a trophy for finishing runners-up.

Sean gets his hands on some silverware

Sean with the surprisingly huge Cambridgeshire Invitation Cup that Ely won against Soham last week. The photo was taken in the clubhouse before the game against Norwich United yesterday.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thetford have to settle for second

It has been a superb season for Thetford and at the start of the season I think that most people at the club would have been more than happy with promotion, which they had achieved a while back.

For a long time thought they were at the top and after seeing off the challenge of Whitton United looked like they would walk their way into the Premier Division as Champions. However, a late surge by Godmanchester meant that Thetford were in second on goal difference and needed Godmanchester to slip up against Whitton or to hope that they beat Long Melford by 3 more goals than Godmanchester won by.

Both teams looked pretty even for the first 10 minutes, but it was obviously Thetford who had the bit between their teeth in their endeavours to try and score as many as possible. The best chance in the opening encounters was when a mis-hit clearance by Paul Wood in the Melford Road hit Thetford hot-shot Matt Dixon and nearly went into the back of the goal. One thing to note though was that even in these opening encounters Melford were intent on wasting time and the keeper was in no hurry to take any goal kicks.

After the opening encounters Bruno Tavares started to pull the strings on the left wing for Thetford and Melford's only chance of stopping him seemed to be to upend him or try and wind him up. It was all in vain though, as on 21 minutes a shot from Tom Cusack was parried by Wood in the Villager's goals and Bruno was ready to pounce and make it 1-0 to the Town.

Thetford doubled their lead just 7 minutes later when some great play from Sean O'Donnell was sorted out in a melee of players and found Liam Bolton on the right wing who put the ball into the path of Matt Dixon who was able just to tap it in to give Thetford a 2-0 lead.

Thetford continued to press with the hope of extending their lead and looked dangerous, however a fantastic shot on 34 minutes was expertly saved by Ian Fancett in the Thetford goal on 34 minutes. Thetford should really have gone in 3 up at the break when just before a half time a brilliant through ball by Steve Davis, who had just come on for a presumably injured Nathan Szyszlyk, found Matt Dixon, who uncharacteristically shot over.

The second half got under way in some of the worst rain I have ever seen, it was like the monsoon season, but cold. Thetford continued to press, but the pitch was getting slippery and you couldn't have blamed the teams if they had just wanted to give up. On 52 minutes Thetford were given a chance to be 3-0 up when Matt Dixon was upended in the box. He stepped up and scored what was to be his 49th goal of the season.

Thetford continued to supply some good through balls but Melford finally seemed to be getting wise to it with the best chance falling to Matt Howard, whose final shot was what only what could be called a defender's shot. Melford finally conjured up their first chance on 63 minutes when they hit the Thetford post. At this stage though a lot of the fluency was being lost from the passing game of both teams as the pitch became increasingly greasy, as the rain continued to stop and start. Melford had clearly had enough and the keeper was finally booked for time wasting on 68 minutes. Thetford on the other hand wanted to win and win big and it was mainly due to the pitch that 2 minutes later a comedy of errors saw the ball missed by Cusack, Dixon and Tavares when it would have been easier for all of them to score.

Inevitably as news went around the ground that Godmanchester were winning 4-0 Melford pulled a goal back one minute after Thetford's mix up in front of goal, Adam Rickwood hitting the ball home for the visitors.

The wind wasn't taken out of Thetford's sails though and they continued to pepper the Melford goal, Cusack was replaced by valta Rocha, who gave the Town an extra dimension and his crossing skills looked like they may pay off dividends. A great cross from Rocha on 84 was almost hammered home by O'Donnell and another cross in the last minute from Rocha was put met b y one of the Melford defenders who steered it into his own net, but a push in the box meant it was disallowed.

Thetford won 3-1, but it didn't matter as Godmanchester put 5 past Whitton without reply, but what a great season for Thetford. The performances that I saw against Halstead and Cornard earlier in the season were as clinical as you could see anywhere in non league. They are waving goodbye to the First Division and Matt Dixon received the league's version of the golden boot at the end of the game. They still have a Norfolk Senior Cup Final against Gorleston to look forward to and hopefully Matt Dixon will be able to get his 50th of the campaign in that game.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ely get their hands on some silverware

Chris Sterecki gets the man of the match award

Ely celebrations

Luke Parkinson cross

A cross from Parky early on in the Cambridgeshire Invitation Cup Final

Camera at the Cams

I took the camera to the cup final, but the bloody thing is on its last legs, so apologies for the even worse than usual quality.

Ely win the cup

On Wednesday night Ely took on local rivals Soham at Cambridge United's Abbey Stadium in the final of the Cambridgeshire Invitation Cup. There was probably an equal number of fans of both teams but the Ely fans were definitely making most of the noise.

Both teams seemed to be equally matched, but Soham probably had the best of the early chances. Nevertheless it was Ely who struck first when some silky skills from Chris Sterecki, after I had just been remarking on how poor he had been for most of the season when he got a chance, found Chadders unmarked in the box and he slotted home to put the Robins 1-0 up. One minute later he thought that he had doubled Ely's lead but he was ruled offside.

Soham came back at Ely and Dubi Ogbonna was looking especially sharp, but Ely were looking sharper in front of goal and on 34 minutes Sterecki went on another mazing run, beat most of the Soham team and then threaded it through to Josh Bridgeman who made it 2-0. Ely now looked in complete control and seemed happy to see out the half with a 2 goal lead, but Ogbanna managed to pull one back for Soham on the stroke of half time and Ely's lead looked a lot less comfortable.

Ely started the second half off like they meant business and a great shot from Luke Parkinson on 50 minutes hit the bar. However, things started to move in Soham's favour and Ogbanna scored a goal that was ruled offside and Pacey pulled off a fabulous save from Ryan Auger. Then after having all the pressure a header from Michael Simpson made the scores all square.

Not long after though Soham manager Steve Fallon brought Ogbanna, who was looking increasingly like getting the winner off and the new formation didn't seem to suit them and it looked like the game was going to head into extra time. Ely were forced into a substitution themselves when Brady Stone limped off and Ben Lawrence who was injured himself with a broken finger came on. Ben's first job was to hoist a long throw into the box, which given his broken finger was a surprise in itself, but it proved effective and Adam Murray was bundled over. With just 3 minutes on the clock Luke Parkinson slotted home the penalty with aplomb and sent Ely home with the cup.

After a fantastic season which sees the Robins finish second in the league it was great to see them pick up some well deserved silverware.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More random pictures from Posh v Forest

Forest clearances

Forest clear twice under pressure from the Posh.


Joel Lynch wins yet another free kick.

Posh on the attack

Forest free kick

Dexter Blackstock lurks behind the Posh players as Forest get ready to take a free kick.

Peterborough and Forest before the game

Nadiya's photos

Coming up... some photos from Peterborough v Forest by Nadiya.

Tricky Trees

Yesterday the Easter football continued when we went to London Road to see Peterborough take on Nottingham Forest in the Championship. When I bought the tickets Forest were in dreadful form, so I had been looking forward to seeing Posh beat one of my least favourite teams of yesteryear.

A lot of neutrals don't seem to have anything against Forest, but back when they were good they always seemed to annoy me. First they always seemed to win from a dubiously won free kick that was put in by Stuart Pearce after another Forest player pushed over someone in the wall to make a gap. If it wasn't that it would be a dodgy penalty. Then there was the appalling treatment of away fans who were kept behind for hours and generally treated like crap and their total flaunting of ticketing rules. Oh, and they are a bunch of scabs.

I had totally forgotten about these prejudices, but they all came flooding back yesterday.

Apart from running into their obnoxious fans on trains and in town their team made it clear that they weren't above bending the rules. The worst thing being they seemed to get away with pushing, diving and generally manhandling the Posh players for the most part of the game. Gabriel Zakuani must have felt he was in a wrestling match at every set piece where he got wrestled to the ground more often than not by Joel Lynch, although Dexter Blackstock took over when the fracas were in the Posh area.

To be fair though Forest looked the stronger of the sides and got of to a terrific start and Paul Jones in goals and Gabriel Zakuani in defence probably saved Posh from being a few goals down from the early moments. The woodwork also saved Posh early on when Blackstock hit the bar and McGuggan the post in the opening 10 minutes.

Posh weren't helped by the fact that they were missing on form striker Tyrone Barnett and after 18 minutes Emile Sinclair had to be substituted for David Ball who until recently was on loan to Rochdale. Posh also had a few chances though with Newell and Boyd coming close on 20 and 22 minutes.

Forest came back at Borough though with Jones doing well to save from Blackstock twice and Majewski once at around the 25 minute mark. Forest did finally get the goal that they deserved on 38 minutes though when Dexter Blackstock scored for the visitors.

In the second half things evened out and it felt like Posh could get back into the game, especially as despite their dominance Forest didn't look good and their general fitness and poor marking could have been exploited if Posh had been on better form and if they had had a decent striker. Posh were passing the ball around well, but weren't looking like scoring.

Things changed on 70 minutes though when McLeary was sent off for a soft foul on McCann. This was perhaps a bit unjust and will be what the Forest fans will remember, but as far as I am concerned it just evened things out a bit.

After this it was all Posh and Forest had to be content with time wasting as much as possible. McCann and Boyd came close, but it ended 1-0 to Forest.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Robins blow it

It was never going to be easy for Ely to get a win against Stanway Rovers on Saturday after losing Ben Lawrence to injury, and Chaddders and Pacey being suspended after the ridiculous antics of the referee at Yarmouth. Apart from the Robins missing a centre half, a centre forward and a goalkeeper, Stanway have been one of the most improved teams in the second half of the season and have been scoring for fun. The wheels also seemed to have come off Ely's championship pretensions after losing 6-0 away at Woodbridge the week before.

However despite all these fears it looked like Ely were going to keep up the pressure on Wroxham and get back to winning ways when after only 4 minutes Austin Diaper slotted home. On 16 minutes the Robins doubled their lead when a cleverly worked move saw Adam Murray and Brady Stone (who was back in the team for the first real time this season in place of Ben Lawrence) power into the box and cause confusion with Adam Murray connecting with the ball and heading it into the back of the net to make it 2-0 to the Robins. Ely were given yet another lifeline one minute later when one of the Stanway players was sent off for saying something to the referee. After this harsh decision Luke Parkinson scored, but it was given as offside. However, it looked like the Robins were fully in control and when Macca hit the inside of the post with a blaster on 19 minutes it underlined Ely's dominance.

Stanway weren't going to lie down and let the Robins walk all over them though and on 30 minutes Greygoose, who was standing in for Lee Pacey between the posts, made a spectacular save to keep it at 2-0, which is how the score remained until half time.

It was definitely going to be a game of 2 halves though, as Ely started the second half looking like the team that were 2 goals down and playing with 10 men. On 51 minutes Stanway got a goal back and were suddenly dominating play. Just 2 minutes Brady did well to keep the Robins in the game by clearing the ball off the line, but on 55 Stanway pulled level after some very poor defending let the visitors get an equaliser.

Stanway hadn't finished and put the knife in in the last 10 minutes scoring 2 further goals to come from 2-0 down to win 4-2, in what was the worst performance for the Robins at home all season.