Sunday, May 27, 2012

Crusaders' end of season trophy awards

In the evening it was all back to Ely City for the trophy presentations. Here are a few pictures from that.

Medals from the Mini Euros

Here's Sean receiving his medal at the end of the tournament.
Here he is with the medal afterwards, not looking that cheerful considering

Match day action from Crusaders' Mini Euros

Here are a couple of pictures of Sean in action from the tournament that Crusaders' had yesterday morning.

Crusaders' day

Yesterday was the end of season for Sean's team, Ely Crusaders. Fortunately we finally had something like decent weather and I think that it was the most time I spent at Ely City's Unwin Ground, which is ironic as the season has been over for a month. That accompanied by more good weather today still means that I haven't got round to the end of the season review, oh well four days off next week, so maybe I'll finally get round to it then.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hoping against hope

I've not written anything for a couple of weeks because I've been living in hope that I might squeeze one more match in, but it doesn't look like that is going to happen now, so I'll get on with the end of season review soon. I'm also smarting a bit about having a flat sitting empty in Ukraine with the Euros around the corner, and where will I be? Sitting in a crappy office in Cambridge.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Stevenage shake things up

We had been planning to go to the Stevenage v Bury game for a few weeks and when I checked on the website it had always said it was a pay on the door affair and a category B game. Unfortunately, although I knew that it had become a must win match for Boro. One that they had to win to get into the playoffs, I didn't think to check until the night before. So, I was a bit dismayed when I saw that they had launched e-ticketing (finally) and to get there early in order to avoid disappointment. Get there early we certainly did. We arrived there at 12:30 for the 3PM kick off, but there were no queues. We went to the clubs shop and had a drink and then joined the queue which now consisted of 5 people. That said it was a good job we got in early, as we got a good spot on the half way line, which we wouldn't have if we had arrived later as we had previously planned. It was a big game for Stevenage, but Bury who had been the visitors to Broadhall Lane on the last day of the previous season and had won promotion to League 1 with Boro on this ground were solidly stuck in mid-table with little to play for. That didn't mean though that they were going to lie down and make it easy for the home side. In fact in the opening minutes a fantastic free kick from Steven Schumacher almost put the Shakers in the lead. Stevenage soon managed to gain control though with Luke Freeman causing all sorts of problems down the left, Joel Byrom threading the ball through the midfield channels and Patrick Agyemang proving a fierce opponent for veteran defender, lower division legend and ex-Stevenage favourite Efe Sodje. Stevenage took the lead on 23 minutes when the dangerous Freeman put the ball in the centre from the left, Sodje failed to clear and Craig Reid pounced to hammer home.
1-0 wasn't enough to settle the nerves completely, as Notts County, who were Stevenage's opponents for the final spot in the playoffs were absolutely hammering Colchester. Just to make matters worse Chris Day in Boro's goals was called into action to make saves from Schumacher, Grella and Worrell. At the other end Shaker keeper Jonathon Bond was also kept busy as Stevenage looked for the sucker punch as Byrom hit the bar, Freeman came close again and on the opposite flank Lawrie Wilson had 2 decent efforts saved. Stevenage finally put the score beyond doubt on 76 minutes when a foul on Byrom by Robin Shroot, well the linesman thought it was resulted in a penalty. Byrom remained calm and stepped up to with ice in his veins to strike home.
After this Stevenage were in complete control and in stoppage time an emphatic shot by substitute Chris Beardsley made it 3-0. Next up for Stevenage are Sheffield United, who manager Gary Smith says Boro will show respect to. Some of the chants would suggest that the Boro fans will perhaps be a bit less respectful to the Blades.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Stevenage Photos

Shh, don't tell anyone. For some strange reason some over officious steward told me that photography wasn't permitted in Broadhall Lane, but I managed to get a few photos before he gave me a ticking off. We were at the game early as we didn't have tickets. It's a shame I couldn't get any photos during the game as we were pitch side and it was a cracking atmosphere, but I really didn't wan my camera stamping on by Captain Mainwaring. Seems strange that I saw hundreds of people taking photos at the Cup Final on TV today, but you can't at Stevenage.
East Terrace: We were on the East Terrace. We had a lot of space when we took up residency at 1:30, but at 3PM we could hardly move.
South Stand: Like a few clubs that have done redevelopments the best stand in the house is where the away fans are accommodated for. This was the only place where there was any space.
North Terrace: The smaller terrace behind the goal
West Stand: The club's main stand

Club focus - Stevenage

Stevenage Borough were formed as recently as 1976 and most of their success has come in the last few seasons. In fact today when we went to see them play Bury and clinch 6th place in League 1 it was their highest ever finish in the league and as it was the game that fired them into the playoffs it could be argued that it was also the biggest game that they have ever had, although the game that they have set up against Sheffield United next week is going to be much much bigger. Stevenage Borough or Stevenage, as they are now known came into existence after the demise of local club Stevenage Athletic. After kicking around in some very minor leagues they entered the United Counties League in 1980 and moved back to the Broadhall Lane ground that they now play at and had been originally occupied by Stevenage Athletic.
In 1984 they entered the Isthmian League and kicked around the various divisions in that league before joining the Conference in 1994 when it was still only one division.
They were more or less an instant success in the Conference and in 1996 they won the league. However, they were denied promotion due to the standard of the ground. Without being funny I don't know what changes they have made to the ground, but there are definitely teams now in the Conference with better grounds and I'd put Broadhall Lane on an equal footing with Histon and Ebbsfleet, which isn't a bad thing as the atmosphere of a small ground and being right near the front you really get close to the action. That said it always seems a shame when clubs are denied promotion on ground grading and the next season they defiantly wore 'Conference Champions' on the badge on the shirt.
In the late 90s they also experienced some success in the FA Cup reaching the third round for the first time in 1996-7 where they lost to Birmingham City at St.Andrews. Again it was the ground that let them down here as they had been drawn to play the game at home, but the match was moved to the Midlands due to restrictions on Broadhall Lane. In 1997-8 they went one better reaching the 4th round and taking Newcastle to a replay. They should have finished the Toon off at home, as Alan Shearer's goal that made the game 1-1 in the first match should have been disallowed. They did get their own back on Newcast le though in 2010-11 when they knocked Newcastle out after beating them 3-1. This season they went all the round to the 5th round and took Spurs to a replay. The last 5 years have seen Stevenage reach unprecedented levels and probably ones that they couldn't have dreamed of. The bitterness of being denied a place in the league in 1996 and losing the FA Trophy final to Yeovil in 2002 must seem like distant memories. In 2007 Boro won the FA Trophy for the first time after coming from two goals down to beat Kidderminster Harriers 3-2. The following year they made it to the playoffs, but lost to Cambridge, although they did have the consolation of winning the Trophy again, this time beating York City. In 2010 they saw that they wouldn't be competing in the Trophy again by gaining promotion to the League. They did have the chance to sign off with a Trophy win, but this time they lost in the final to Barrow.For some reason they also dropped the name Borough from their name. They only stayed in League 2 for one season, as at the end of their inaugural league season they beat Torquay in the playoffs. They could now make it a third consecutive promotion after reaching the playoffs where they will meet Sheffield United in the first game.