Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Better against Histon, but still no win

Yesterday Ely took on Histon in the 3rd match in their pre-season programme. In the first match they played well and dominated against Huntingdon, but only managed a draw. Then next up was Deeping Rangers, who they played poorly against and lost and then last night they welcomed Histon, who unlike Huntingdon and Deeping don't play at the same level, but at 3 leagues higher so it was interesting to see how they would perform against a team from a higher level.

Ely had a much more familiar feel to them and fielded a team who apart from the right back, who had signed from CRC and a midfielder recently signed from Wisbech was made up of familiar faces from last season. Impey and Strecki had gone off on holiday to Ibiza, but Taz, who had, it was rumoured signed for Soham was given a rare start on the wing.

Ely lost the game 1-0, but the performance was much better, and although I don't think anyone would argue that they deserved to win it they held their own against their more illustrious opponents for most of the match.

The teams were quite evenly balanced for the first 15 minutes with both midfields playing well and Murray and Histon's centre halves doing well for their respective defences. However, it was Histon who opened the scoring with the only goal of the night when a slip by Parr, the new right back from CRC, allowed Histon to loop a shot in from the left which was looped over Pacey's head giving him no chance. It was a shame as Parr in general had a good game.

There were relatively few chances in the first half for either team. Ely's best chance came on 23 minutes when Luke Parkinson came close with a trademark free kick. Histon also came close to extending their lead on 32 when a speculative shot from distance went just over after it looked like it was going to squeeze under the bar. However, for the most part the teams cancelled each other out, Murray as I said was having a blinder and Ely's passing was good, but Histon's was great.

One criticism of Ely in the first half could have been that they were too defensive, but they looked to remedy this in the second half. That said their best chances came from set pieces. They did have two really good chances. The first being when Diaper just missed connecting with a cross on 62 minutes and the second being on 83 when Diaper really should have converted a cross from Chadders.

The game finished 1-0 though and Ely still have games against Sudbury and Chatteris before the real football gets underway.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Disappointing against Deeping

Yesterday Ely City took on Deeping Rangers in their second pre-season friendly. Ely were missing several regulars and as well as blooding several new players they also called on a few members of the reserves to swell the ranks, so apart from Chris Sterecki, Adam Murray (who instead of Centre-half was playing up front), Lee Pacey and Ben Lawrence there weren't many familiar faces in the team. One other face who might become familiar is Paul Clayton, who in the report of the previous game was known as Norwich bloke.

For once though the sun was shining, although unlike half the insect life in East Anglia the fans hadn't exactly swarmed to the Unwin. Ely started off as badly as they did on Tuesday against Huntingdon when on 3 minutes the visitors were ahead from a curling header. Unlike on Tuesday Ely couldn't respond straight away, although Adam Murray should have put the Robins on level terms on 6 minutes when he was fed a pass by Clayton. This seemed to spur Ely on and like in the previous game they created chance after chance; the best ones being an excellent save from the Deeping keeper after a header from Nick Impey on 10 minutes and a long range shot from Adam Murray on 29 which went just wide.

Deeping came back and responded with an excellent effort on 30 minutes when they hit the bar and on 32 they were 2-0 up. They were then able to keep Ely at bay until half time and the score remained the same after the break.

Ely started out the second half on the attack and got back in the game when the ball somehow found itself in the back of the net on 48. I'm not sure who scored it, but by now there were a hell of a lot of unfamiliar faces on the pitch. Nevertheless it was a good opening response and we were starting to believe that the Robins might salvage something from the encounter. The glimmer of hope was to be short-lived though because on 52 minutes Deeping had a shot and Chris Sterecki decided to try and punch it out. He didn't. The ball just went into the back of the net. To be honest when he handled it, it looked like it had already crossed the line. The officials disagreed and Chris was given his marching orders and Deeping were awarded a penalty instead of a goal. Pacey saved the penalty, but it was probably one of the most stupid and needless sending offs I have ever seen. Don't forget that I'm a regular at Eastern Counties League football, so I have seen plenty of dodgy red cards.

Anyway, Ely seemed to cope well with 10 men, but the punch had gone out of the attack and more and more reserves were finding themselves on the pitch. Not much else happened, although on 72 minutes the visitors finished off the job and made it 3-1, which is how it ended.

Looking on the bright side, it was a makeshift team and Ely were disappointing in pre-season last year and then went on to have one of their best seasons ever. Next up are Histon and they are promising to bring a strong team, so let's hope that the Robins can also put out a decent team and hopefully put up a decent fight.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Club focus - Deeping Rangers

After the Huntingdon game next up for Ely in pre-season is another club from their sister league United Counties and it is another relatively new club who have their roots in Sunday football. This time the Unwin Ground welcomes Deeping Rangers from Market Deeping in Lincolnshire.

Rangers began life in the Peterborough Sunday league in 1964, but moved to one of the city's Saturday leagues 2 years later. They moved to their present ground, Outgang Road in 1985 after missing out on promotion due to inadequate facilities. After a few more years in the Peterborough League they won promotion to the United Counties in 1999. This side included a couple of players who went on to bigger things, Malcolm Christie who played for Middlesbrough and Derby and Ben Wright, who as well as playing in the league for Lincoln represented Viking Stavanger in the UEFA Cup.

Rangers almost pulled off a second promotion in a row in their first season in the United Counties, but they eventually finished third and had to wait until 2001 to take their premier division bow. After following a 10th place finish in their first season with a 5th place in their second they had a mixed few seasons before appointing present manager Tuncay Korkmaz for the 2006-7 season.

He must have done something right, as Rangers set a club record of 28 consecutive unbeaten games. No wonder Tuncay is still leading the team! They went on to win the league, but weren't promoted, although they have stated that their ambition is to play at a higher level. The following season they finished 7th and then followed up with two fourth place finished, before a disappointing 12th in 2010-11. Last season they finished 4th again, which is pretty credible given the amount of budget some teams had in that league last season compared with Rangers.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ely draw with Huntingdon

Last night Ely took on Huntingdon in their first pre-season game ahead of the new season. The good news is that the Robins seem to have been able to keep the players who formed the successful team of last season and there were a couple of new players who if they sign on will give the club more options.

Things didn't get off to a good start though and Huntingdon beat a poorly executed offside trap after only 5 minutes to take the lead. That didn't last too long though, as just a minute later a great pass from Nick Impey put Luke Parkinson clear on goal and the teams were back on level terms.

One of the areas where Ely could perhaps have been better last season was in front of goal, as despite finishing second they had a goal scoring ratio that would have been more suitable for a mid-table club. Last night they had a forward on trial from Norwich United and Richard Gammon, who looked a lot more lively than when he was given a chance up front last season, starting in the forward positions, but the problems still continued in front of goal.

After the first goal Ely really started to pressure Huntingdon with Luke Parkinson coming close again on 15 and Adam Murray testing the keeper with a glancing header on 22. Gammon and Norwich guy also saw plenty of the ball, but both of them seemed to lack the killer finish. Ely finally took the lead which they deserved when David Wilson scored after a shot was put in by the Norwich loanee. He could have scored for himself just 4 minutes later after beating the offside trap, but a tame shot didn't trouble the keeper.

Before the break Ely had several more chances, the best being a shot by Impey on 37 minutes, which was cleared off the line and a couple of tame shots from Gammon and the new guy could have also done more to worry their opponents. Huntingdon also had a chance on the stroke of half time when last season's player of the year Ben Lawrence sliced the ball and it almost bounced into the goal, but the half finished with the Robin's 2-1 up.

As is often the case in these friendlies Ely made several changes at half time most noticeably in defence and the changes obviously upset the balance of the team. On 51 Huntingdon were gifted a chance and got back on level terms. After this Ely found their feet again and continued to create chances. Austin Diaper who came on for Richard Gammon came close on 57 and Luke Parkinson hit the bar on 62. MacDonald should have scored on 72 after scuffing a rebound from a point blank header, but it didn't look like it was going to be the Robins' night. There was still time for them to have a decent handball appeal turned down on 82 and for Taz to go on one of his mazy runs and hit the crossbar on 84, but there were no more goals and the game finished 2-2. Let's hope that the chances will start to go in soon, and it's probably best to get this sort of bad luck out of the way before the proper games start on 4th August.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Club focus - Huntingdon Town

Tomorrow Ely City should be getting their pre-season started with a fixture against Huntingdon Town. I say should be as the torrential rain means that even now in mid-July there is a chance that the fixture will be off.

Huntingdon Town were promoted to Step 5 at the end of last season when they moved up a division in the United Counties League from Division 1 to the Premier Division. This will be the highest league that the Croms have ever played in. Although there was a Huntingdon Town team at the end of the 19th Century, a team that won the Huntingdonshire Cup 11 times before World War I, the current club goes back only as far as 1980. Another club that was a merger between the original Huntingdon Town and Huntingdon Wanderers was formed in 1948 as Huntingdon United and Huntingdon United RGE who were formed in 2005 and play in the Cambridgeshire League claim the heritage of this club.

The current Huntingdon Town club were formed in 1980 as Montagu. They originally played in the West Anglia League before moving to the Cambridgeshire League in 1996 when they changed their name to its current one, although they also went under the label of Sun FC for a few seasons too.

In 2003 they moved to their current Jubilee Ground and also entered Division 1 of the United Counties League where they played until winning promotion at the end of last season.

Ely might lay claim to Oliver Cromwell's house but Huntingdon is his birthplace, hence the nickname of the Croms and the overweight looking, warts and all, puritan on the badge.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

King's Lynn v Wisbech - Lynn crushed by Fenmen

Yesterday we made the trip up to the Walks for the first pre-season fixture of the period when Lynn took on Wisbech in what can only be described as one of the tastiest Derby matches. Over 450 people turned up for a game that was a hastily arranged game, which shows how important the fixture is locally.

Lynn have recently been promoted to Step 4 and will play in the Northern Premier League Souther Division after 2 successful seasons in the United Counties League, whereas Wisbech will be playing in the Eastern Counties at Step 5 after finishing 4th in that league last year. It will be interesting to see how both clubs get on, as Wisbech have their eyes fixed on promotion and have strengthened the team with signings such as Chris Bacon who used to play for Lynn and Dubi Ogbonna of Soham Town Rangers fame. Both of these players could play at a higher level, but probably don't fancy having to travel too much. Conversely Lynn have seen their preparations put back with the club representing a revolving door in the transfer market. They might be seen as victims of their own success, as they are going to have a lot of travelling to do in a league that is dominated by Midlands teams, which also may have put a few players off playing for them. That said, I still thought that after a couple of seasons of stuffing everybody Lynn would be too strong for the Fenmen and would probably win, which may be why I took a photo of a Lynn attack in the first minute.

I was to be proved wrong though as Wisbech were 1-0 up after just 8 minutes when Chris Bacon was brought down in the area by Lynn keeper Alex Street. Bacon took the penalty himself and put his new team 1-0 up against his old team. Things were to get worse for the home team as on 10 minutes a poor back pass allowed Dubi Ogbonna to make it 2-0 to the visitors.

Wisbech continued to dominate the half and look like the team that were about to embark on a season at a higher level. Tempers started to fray and the referee did well to stop a 22 man brawl on 39 minutes. In a competitive match there would have definitely been a few more cards being brandished.

Wisbech compunded the Linnets misery just before the break when some wing trickery by Rogan McGeorge saw the ball curl into the net to make the half time score King's Lynn 0 Wisbech Town 4.

Lynn came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, but since the departure of goal machine Jack Defty it is clear that they are going to struggle in front of goal. Steven Spriggs who has recently rejoined the Linnets after a spell in Sweden looked devilishly skillful on either wing for Lynn, but he definitely needs some one in the centre to get on the end of his passes. Not surprisingly Lynn finally got a consolation goal on 81 minutes when Spriggs decided to go it alone rather than give the ball to a team mate.

It was too little too late though, as Dubi Ogbonna, who was looking much sharper than he did last time I saw him had already put the Fenmen out of reach with a goal five minutes before Spriggs had got on the score sheet.

The last 10 minutes were played out with the levels of fitness you would expect at the start of the season and although Wisbech had one more chance (as shown below) the game finished 4-1 to the Fenmen.

The end of Summer

Well, it almost feels like the Summer has ended without starting, as football is back on the agenda. It was never really off the agenda though as there was Euro 2012, which I enjoyed, but having to endure photos from my friends in Ukraine at several high profile games and with some of the world's star footballers, e.g 'here's me with Pirlo' 'here's me with Ronaldo', etc. was a bit hard. I mean fair play to them they deserve it after years of following Ukrainian football, I only wished that I had been there. Instead I spent most of the Summer examining on Saturdays, which was just as well as the weather was too crap to consider a trip to the beach. I wouldn't have minded, but I still seem to be skint despite all that extra work.

Anyway, the football was back yesterday when King's Lynn took on their great rivals Wisbech in a 'friendly' at the Walks.