Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Mansfield Town 0 v Exeter City 2 - SkyBet League 2

Tuesday 24th November 2015
SkyBet League 2
at the One Call Stadium (Field Mill)
Mansfield Town (0) 0
Exeter City (2) 2
Joel Grant 6, Lee Holmes 41
Attendance 2,435 (140 away fans)
Sub details:
Mansfield Town
Chris Clements for Nathan Thomas HT
Adi Yussuf for Jamie McGuire HT
Matty Blair for Reggie Lambe 57
Exeter City
David Wheeler for Tom Nichols 56
Matt Oakley for Lee Holmes 65
Craig Woodman for Joel Grant 78
All strikers go through a lean spell from time to time, when they can't even seem to buy a goal and when it happens they just have to get their heads down, work hard, carry on making all of the right runs and, most importantly, keep believing in their own ability.
But, having said that, Matt Green will have been mightily relieved that his recent dry spell came to an end against Hartlepool United at the One Call Stadium on Saturday, when the Stags picked up three points to keep them in contention for one of the play off spots, with a 3-1 win that included two strikes from Green himself.
Adam Murray has kept faith in his main striker and that appears to have been a shrewd move on his part... which is pretty much in keeping with most things the young Stags manager has done this season.
Tonight's visitors, Exeter City, pulled off a great result at the weekend, when they came away from Home Park, with a 2-1 'Devon derby' victory under their belts, against current League 2 leaders Plymouth Argyle.
Although the Grecians kicked off tonight in 13th place, they were only three points behind Mansfield; which illustrated two things, namely:
1) How tight the table is at the moment and how small the margin for error is for any team who wishes to stay in, or around, the mix.
And... 2) The three point gap also served as a warning that Exeter are also there, or thereabouts, as regards being play-off contenders themselves, so the potential threat they posed couldn't be taken lightly.
League titles, promotion and play-off spots aren't won in November... and there are several highly fancied teams jostling for positions just below the Stags in the table; but Mansfield are exceeding even their most optimistic of fans expectations at the moment... and while other clubs supporters are shouting from the rooftops about where the prizes are going this season, Murray and his staff are just getting on with the job in hand and orchestrating, a quiet revolution, you might say.
There will be setbacks along the way, tonight for example, but to my mind the positives are far outweighing any negatives.
Only time will tell if Mansfield are going to stay the course over the whole season, but the signs are there, that this side are on an upwards trajectory, that marks a vast improvement on anything else that has gone before, since they rejoined the Football League.
Granted, a lot of those signs weren't evident tonight, but Paul Tisdale, the visitors manager has top seven ambitions for his own side as well and the Grecians are a very well drilled and regimentally organised side.
They turned up at Field Mill with a game plan, frequently switching formations throughout, particularly during the first half, where they cruised into a two goal lead... and whilst Exeter set about stifling the home side and hitting them on the counter attack, some of the Stags players, seemed almost complacent about the task that lay ahead of them.
It wasn't that Mansfield didn't have enough of the ball to create numerous opportunities, but when Exeter switched to playing with two banks of defenders, clear cut chances were always going to be at a premium.
The Stags needed to change things around drastically to combat the visitors tactics... and indeed Murray's double substitution at the break was a means to that end... but Tisdale must have had his side putting in overtime in training pitch, with the emphasis on player and positional rotation and City's team are evidently very comfortable with this approach.
They certainly did a job on their hosts tonight and warranted the win that sent their 140 supporters home happy.
The trip from Exeter is approximately 230 miles and 4 hours long in each direction. Massive respect is due to those who made the effort... I salute you all!
The visitors took the lead after just 6 minutes, when Lee Holmes beat the Stags right back Mitchell Rose and picked out Joel Grant who netted from the edge of the six yard box.
Cue much finger pointing and remonstrating among the defenders, who in common with the rest of their teammates had been slow coming out of the blocks.
Ryan Tafazolli miscued a half chance wide of the mark, Jamie McGuire and Krystian Pearce, both took turns to head the ball just wide of the left hand post as Mansfield battled vaingloriously to break down the visitors resolute defence... and Matt Green tried his luck from 20 yards out with a shot that Bobby Olejnik dropped to gather; but in the main, the Stags forward play, in the first half, consisted of long passes and speculative crosses, that were never getting anywhere near their intended targets, if indeed they were specifically aimed at anyone in particular and not just 'hit and hope' balls.
Grant returned the favour to Holmes shortly before the interval, when he supplied the pass that set up the Mansfield born former Derby County player, to make it 0-2.
HT: Stags 0 v Grecians 2
Adi Yussuf and Chris Clements came out for the second half, in place of Nathan Thomas and Jamie McGuire, with Yussuf partnering Green up front and both of the striking duo went close chances to reducing the arrears, while Jack Thomas unleashed a thundering shot that crashed to safety off the head of Troy Brown, who is possibly see seeing stars on the team coach right now.
Whenever the Stags piled forward looking for a way back into the game, they were always susceptible to being hit on the break and Ryan Harley, fresh from his goalscoring double at the weekend, tested Brian Jensen with a long range shot.
Blair Adams who had been making several effective runs down the left flank, was joined by Matty Blair from the bench, with Reggie Lambe making way, as Murray looked to provide more ammunition for his front men.
But Exeter, had already done the damage in the final third, and were now shutting up the shop at the back; where a mixture of determined (and often brave) defending from the visitors and some uncharacteristically poor passing by far too many of the Stags players, made for a combined recipe for an inevitable outcome. Having taken a two goal lead into the break, Tisdale's side sat back and threw the gauntlet down and fronted up to withstand an anticipated fight back... alas, far too few of the home side's players seemed to have the inclination to take the responsibility of picking it up.
Fingers crossed, tonight was a one off blip for Mansfield Town.
Their manager looked gutted and visibly upset after his side embarked on a 'no show' for long spells of the game... and I reckon they will have been told in no uncertain terms what standards are expected of them, when they next pull the Stags shirt on.
FT: Mansfield Town 0 v Exeter City 2
Adam Murray described tonight's below par showing as: "probably the worst performance, especially the first half, that I've had in my year in charge"... and I don't think you'd find many Mansfield supporters who had actually watched this truly awful display, who'd disagree with that.
But Exeter deserve some credit too, when Chelsea do what they did tonight it is called 'parking the bus', but in my humble opinion, when a League 2/Division 4 side take a two goal lead into the break at a midweek game 230 miles from home, it is expected... and the Grecians steadfastly stuck to their guns and held on tightly to the three points with all of their might.
Mansfield Town, who dropped to eighth in the table tonight, travel to Barnet on Saturday, while Exeter who climbed three places and are now level on points with the Stags, face Bristol Rovers at home.
Personally I have got a lot of faith in Adam Murray and I believe 100% that he is the right man to take Mansfield Town forward. Some of his players let him down tonight badly, the acid test now, will be how the Stags boss deals with the aftermath of this lacklustre showing and how the team responds next time out.
Nobody ever said it was going to be easy!
Behind the scenes tonight, the Mansfield Town FC Junior and Youth section sponsors, coaches, support staff and directors had a get together in the club's 1861 Suite.
In spite of the less than enthusiastic response to the actual first team game itself, this gathering was a celebration of the success story surrounding the club's development teams and academy sides this season. And it was both a pleasure and a privilege to be invited along.
I am really enjoying my (strictly part time) involvement on Saturday mornings, and it was great to see so many of the people who are helping to facilitate the future of the club at all age levels, under one roof at the same time, all with one common goal.
The future is bright... the future is amber!
In recent weeks, two Under 18 team players, Cain Smith and Zayn Hakeem have been included in the first team squad on match days... and there are plenty more, banging on the selection door, where they came from.
Maybe a few players who almost looked disinterested, unfocused and as if they were merely going through the motions tonight, ought to be taking a cautious look over their shoulder.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Retford United 2 v Rainworth Miners Welfare 2 - NCEL Prem

Saturday 21st November 2015
Toolstation NCEL Premier Division
at the Jones & Co. Stadium, Cannon Park
Retford United (0) 2
Jason Bradley 52, 55
Rainworth Miners Welfare (0) 2
Matthew Sykes 69
Jamie Yorke 90+4
Admission £6. Programme £1.50. Attendance 92
Had they not equalised late (very late) into stoppage time, the visitors would've been rueing a string of missed opportunities on a cold afternoon at Cannon Park come full time. But in the event, it was Retford who felt hard done by, for having battled their way to within a whisker of a win, but ultimately, only to have been denied by Jamie Yorke's stunning 94th minute strike.
United's Jamie Davies and Jason Bradley both fared well against their former club, who are back in the NCEL this term, having spent five years in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, before taking a voluntary drop back down to step 5 when they resigned their place in the NPL at the end of the 2014-15 season.
Julian Watts and Ady Smith who have previously managed the now defunct Wrens reserve side, have taken on the task of readjusting the club to NCEL level football... and following this afternoon's incident packed draw, they currently sit in a respectable 8th position in the premier division, six places and eight points above their hosts.
Though the pitch had been rolled earlier this week, the water table will always be a problem at a ground that was built on land that was previously a flood plain... and though the recent heavy rainfall in the area may well have dried up on the surface, due to the north wind that howls across the ground on days like this, it was never going to take much for underfoot conditions to deteriorate and start cutting up.
That is not a slight on the groundsman at Cannon Park, I hasten to add... soil technicians across the land deserve far more praise than they ever get at this time of the year, i.e. October to March, every season.
Purists in search of the dribbling code of the beautiful game and lovers of tippy tappy football, would have been best advised to go elsewhere today, because although the pitch wasn't entirely a quagmire by the time 90 minutes (plus the added 5) had elapsed, it was certainly what your friendly local turf accountant would call 'heavy going'.
Graft not guile wins the day on afternoon's like this and to that end, although both sides had good cause to think they deserved all three points, they both deserved something out of the game for slogging on until the final whistle.
Going off on a tangent for a few moments:
I have attended several meetings over the last month or so, that have taken place at Retford United, where some very serious debates and discussions have been ongoing, as the football club looks to rebuild internally... and although I have no hands on involvement with either of the teams that play at Cannon Park, I am happy to report that all fictitious tales pertaining to the imminent demise of football at this ground are grossly exaggerated.
Plans are afoot and an announcement via the local press is imminent.
The major stumbling block that has blighted football in this locality, i.e. a lack of transparency, has been conquered - and the worrying rumour that claims anybody joining the club in any official capacity will be liable for picking up the tab for inherited debts has also been dispelled.
Beyond that I can say no more without betraying confidences and compromising people's trust, or pre-empting the official announcement... so watch this space folks.
Good news incoming any time soon.
The Badgers have the right sort of personnel on board to steady the ship and move on towards a brighter future, but they still need more of them.
And the indecent amount of (so called) 'football people', who had hoped Retford United were on the brink of sinking without a trace and were spreading lies to that effect, can go and **** themselves. You know who you are... and so do I!
I shall toss a coin and decide whether to name you or not.
So, if you are an experienced local football club admin, who is in the market for getting involved at a forward thinking/moving step 5 non league club, working on solid foundations; get your CV up to date, because several opportunities will be available in the very near future.
Match details:
The first half was fairly scrappy as the two sides made hard work of mastering the conditions at times, Rainworth were in the ascendancy during the first ten minutes, when they threatened to camp out in the Badgers half, but the final ball was lacking... and when the Yorke shot from 25 yards out on the left flank during the opening exchanges, his speculative effort crashed against the underside of the roof of the stand behind the goal.
Apparently he was just practising his range for later on.
Retford's left back Jordan Hardman, ran 40 yards forward with the ball and knocked a through ball into the path of Adam Lee, but Ricky Hanson cleared the danger for the visitors as the two captains locked horns.
Adam Lee kept probing for an opening but was given little or no room to manoeuvre by Gareth Campion and his central defensive sidekick Jack Andrews.
Yorke attacked down the left flank again, but when he picked out Jack Barnett at the back stick, the Wrens number four hooked his shot behind the goal as another chance went begging.
Hardman and Brad Johnson carved an opening, but Connor Smythe turned the ball behind for a corner.
Johnson tried to take advantage of the conditions, with an inswinging flag kick, but Sam Leigh was alert to his ruse and tipped the ball over his bar.
As an indication of how sticky the pitch was becoming, Lee was frustrated as he burst through one on one with Leigh, but couldn't take advantage of the space he'd made because the ball held up in the mud as he galloped away.
Yorke's free kick was blocked by Davies and the ball rebounded to Sam Dockwray who unselfishly played it back towards Yorke who forced another save out of the Retford keeper.
Rainworth had two more chances before the break, when Davies saved a close range effort from Matt Sykes, who got his shot in despite the close attentions of two defenders... and Smythe shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy on the stroke of half time.
HT: Retford United 0 v Rainworth Miners Welfare 0
Retford looked more at ease on the ball after the interval. The half time team talk and a few tweaks to their playing system had done them a world of good, and the home side began imposing themselves on the game more than at any point during the first half.
Jason Bradley, right on cue to add the finishing touches to a supporters angst ridden outburst about him that went along the lines of: "He can't run, he can't tackle, he can't jump, he can't, oh.... goal!!!" rose in a crowded goal area to nod home a right wing corner at the back post, before cleverly wrong footing Leigh with a neatly executed back heel three minutes later, to put the Badgers 2-0 ahead.
You could probably say that the quick double was against the run of play given what had happened previously in the game, but the Badgers won't have minded too much about that, while Rainworth had left themselves a mountain to climb because of some wayward first half finishing.
Rainworth threw on Liam Theakstone to beef up their attacking options and the Wrens substitute, plus Sykes both had chances to half their arrears but only troubled Stuart the gateman who had to dash off into the car park to retrieve the ball both times.
But Sykes still knew the best way to beat Davies and foil the dogged Retford defence was to shoot on sight and on 69 minutes he belted a screamer into the back of the net from outside the area that left Davies clutching at fresh air.
The visitors were piling everybody forward as the clock ticked down but Retford were holding on and began putting the ball forward and into the corners to waste time.
In the dying seconds of stoppage time, Rainworth won a throw in out on the left flank, level with the Badgers 18 yard line.
A spectator knocked the ball back towards the pitch from up on the grass bank, the Wrens took a quick throw in, Sykes whipped a deep cross over the far side of the area and Yorke smashed an unstoppable volley into the roof of Davies' goal.
A fair result all told, Rainworth didn't deserve to lose, but such a late 'Fergie-time' goal was a sickener for the home side.
Retford United 2 v Rainworth Miners Welfare 2
The person who retrieved the ball and indirectly assisted Rainworth in pursuit of their late equaliser, was heard to say: "Oh s***! I've just cost Retford United two points!"
He is a local guy who lives really close to Cannon Park and writes a football blog called THE66POW.
D'oh! I hope nobody at the football club finds out.
Retford United's forthcoming midweek game at Worksop Town in the NCEL Premier Division is off, because the Tigers have a rearranged FA Vase game scheduled at Tadcaster Albion on Tuesday. As things stand the pitch at 'Taddy' is flooded and that game is already at risk, but the 'Bassetlaw Derby' has already been put back until some time in February now.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

England 2 v France 0 - International match

Tuesday 17th November 2015
International Friendly
at Wembley Stadium
England (1) 2
Bamidele Alli 39, Wayne Rooney 48
France (0) 0
Attendance - 71,223
A view from Wembley Way, 6pm, Tuesday 17th November 2015
1 Hart (13 Butland 45 mins), 2 Clyne, 3 Gibbs, 4 Dier, 5 Cahill,
6 Stones, 7 Alli (14 Jones 88 mins), 8 Barkley (17 Shelvey 79 mins), 9 Kane (16 Bertrand 80 mins), 11 Sterling (20 Lallana 68 mins), 10 Rooney
Unused subs - 12 Smalling, 15 Walker, 18 Mason, 19 Lingard,
21 Heaton
1 Lloris, 15 Sagna, 4 Varane, 21 Koscielny, 17 Digne,
22 Schneiderlin (18 Sissoko 83 mins), 6 Cabaye (12 Diarra 57 mins), 14 Matuidi (19 Pogba 45 mins), 8 Ben Arfa (20 Coman 45 mins), 10 Gignac (9 Giroud 57 mins), 11 Martial (7 Griezmann 67 mins)
Unused subs - 2 Jallet, 3 Evra, 5 Perrin, 13 Mangala,
16 Mandanda, 23 Costil
Royalty, national team managers and government leaders pay their respects
The last time that I watched France play at Wembley, was during Fabio Capello's misunderstood reign as national team manager... and it marked one the most dismal and below par performances that I have ever had the misfortune to witness by any England team ever... and believe me, there have been a few serious contenders for that 'accolade' over the years!
France's narrow margin of victory did not truly reflect the dominance they exerted for so much of that particular game, as they won 2-1, with a goal in each half from Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena.
Jay Bothroyd and Stephen Warnock both came on late in the second half in a bid to freshen things up for Capello's team on the night... and Peter Crouch netted England's only goal four minutes from time, having just come on in place of the injured Steven Gerrard.
But a lot of the 85,495 crowd that night, wouldn't have seen Crouch touch home Ashley Young's corner with an outstretched boot, because there had been a flood of people hemorrhaging through the exits since ten minutes into the second half, just after France had scored their second goal. 
It would have been really funny if England had snatched a late equaliser, but wholly unreflective on how the respective sides had performed over the entire 90+5 minutes.
Moving swiftly on to November 2015:
On Friday night, Roy Hodgson's England side fell to their first defeat in 16 games, in Alicante, when they went down 2-0 against the reigning world champions, Spain.
It was only a friendly and some of the names on an experimental teamsheet weren't entirely what I would've expected to have seen in the final countdown to a major tournament, but the England manager, Roy Hodgson, has been on a bit of a roll, so let's be optimistic and give him some credit that everything is going to plan. 
Hodgson does actually know what he's doing and is adept at getting the team playing to their strengths... and working hard, collectively to overcome their weaknesses. 
But, with all due respect, the team's in England's Euro 2016 qualifying group, never have and never will, be among the big hitters in world football, whilst the opposition they now face in the warm up games for the tournament in France, are a cut above what they've been used to playing against for quite for a while now.
Not that I would want to take anything away from a monumental achievement of such a lengthy unbeaten run, but in spite of a record breaking run of results, this is still a team going through a transitional phase. Personally, I trust Hodgson 100% with the ongoing development of the national side.
Of course, given the recent catastrophic events outside of 'planet football', i.e. in the real world, which is inhabited by some truly disgusting and brainwashed savages, who have created carnage and murdered countless innocent victims in Beirut and Paris over the past week, London is visibly on a state of high alert at present.
The question has arisen, of why the Beirut attacks and those in Nigeria earlier in the year, weren't given the same level of blanket coverage, by our national media news outlets, as the atrocities in France on Friday night have been.
However that is a discussion that possibly needs debating elsewhere and this isn't the right place for that kind of thing.
But, on this sceptred isle of ours, where you can see the French coastline from Dover on a clear day, the killing spree in Paris happened far too close to home for comfort, which understandably means our own media is focussing far more of their attention on events that are taking place just a short distance away, across the English Channel.
The French are our very near neighbours... and though any act of terrorism, anywhere in the world, that claims so many innocent lives, should be afforded the same measure of compassion and a proportional amount of humanitarian aid and media attention, the geographical logistics of what happened in Paris on Friday night, are the reason that this country showing such a massive amount of solidarity with France at this terrible time.
A train travelling through the channel tunnel takes just 35 minutes to complete its 31 mile journey and as many as 400 trains, carrying a combined total up to 50,000 passengers, use this route daily.
The French only live next door... there but for the grace of God.
Yesterday (Monday) the FA and Wembley Stadium released the following statement:
Supporters coming to Tuesday evening's fixture between England and France are advised to get to Wembley Stadium as early as possible to avoid queues and to support commemorations of the tragic events in France.
Following extensive liaison between The FA, FFF, UK Government and the relevant security authorities the game against France will go ahead.
Fans can be assured that all appropriate security measures are in place for the fixture which includes extensive searches upon entrance to Wembley.
Fans should arrive as early as possible to avoid any delays in entering the Stadium. For your convenience it is preferable for supporters not to bring bags and there will be increased bag searches upon entrance.
Tickets will not be available to buy from the Stadium Ticket Office on the day so supporters are asked not to attend Wembley if they have not pre-purchased their tickets.
Before kick-off The FA plans to appropriately remember Friday's Paris incidents and encourages England fans to support the following initiatives:
- England fans are asked to respect the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, the words of which will be displayed on screens inside the arena
- La Marseillaise will be sung after God Save the Queen, in a change of protocols
- Materials will be on seats in the east side (England Home End) of the stadium, which will form the French Tricolore when fans hold them aloft during the anthem
- A minute's silence will be observed prior to kick-off
- Please ensure that you take your seats no later than 19.55 to observe the minute’s silence and national anthems
- Both teams will wear black armbands during the game
- The England team will make a gesture of solidarity to the French team prior to kick-off
The FA will also continue to light the Wembley Arch in the blue, white and red of the Tricolore as well as displaying the national motto of France, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, which stands for liberty, equality and fraternity.
The FA would also like to advise all supporters that our planned activity with Breast Cancer Care will be delayed to a later date, with the full support of our official charity partner. We would like to thank all who have made donations to this point and helped in raising vital awareness for such an important cause.
In this regard, anyone purchasing the programme on Tuesday night or who has received it via postal delivery should note there is no reference to Friday night’s tragic events because of printing deadlines. As indicated, The FA will be showing its support to the people of France throughout the fixture – both in stadium and across all of our other media channels.
We thank all supporters for their understanding at this difficult time.
Tonight, despite the full ticket price, the transport costs (that always increase whenever England are playing at home) and the healthy rivalry that exists between these two countries on the field of play; this fixture itself had become something of an irrelevance as a sporting event... it was, when all's said and done, just a game of football, not a matter of life and death.
But, to the watching world, particularly to those barbaric terrorists, both overseas and in our own midst, this was a defiant stance, a loud statement that the civilised world aren't running scared from these cowards that will attack theatres, sports events, restaurants and family outings, but don't have the numbers and wherewithal to engage in a full scale military confrontation, face to face, with a real army.
An international friendly football match, grew in enormity, symbolically, the moment that both nations governing bodies, security forces and football associations, decreed over the weekend, that the game was still going ahead.
At first when the 'game on' announcement was made, I pondered over whether it would be wise, or even sane, to still attend this fixture... but quickly reached the conclusion that there was no way on earth that I was going to be bullied into not attending by propaganda merchants and scaremongers.
Some people who had match tickets and had arranged travel and time off work, opted not to be at the national stadium tonight... and nobody could blame them for taking that decision. 
Being met at London Underground stations by armed police officers and getting searched several times earlier in the afternoon whilst gaining entry to our usual trail of public houses, was an otherworldly experience, that must've had even the hardiest of travellers wondering if staying indoors and watching the game on ITV might have been a better option.
But 71,223 people opted to stand united, shoulder to shoulder and send out a clear message, that extremists are not going to stop the overwhelming majority of people, from going about their usual day to day business, regardless of the beliefs of those among us, who misguidedly think that the world is on the run from their reign of terror and warped ideologies.
That said, tonight's Germany v Netherlands game in Hanover was postponed just 90 minutes prior to kick off, following a security tip off from French police, about an allegedly planned terror attack, which possibly accounted for the number of empty seats in Wembley Stadium as some people had a last minute change of heart about attending this game.
A windy night.
Jack Butland helps to remove a Vauxhall advert from the pitch
Joining in with 'La Marseillaise', the French national anthem, which was sung in unison by supporters of both teams prior to kick off, was a big ask for a lot of the England fans present. Not because they were adverse to the idea, but although it was a heartfelt and noble gesture, I would imagine that the majority of the crowd weren't actually French speakers... and displaying the words on the big screens wouldn't have been much help for most people present either.
But this protocol was observed as well as could possibly be expected of a Wembley crowd, that a large percentage of, wouldn't have even known that their own national anthem has more than just an opening verse... and the respectful silence was observed completely by all present.
Oh... and amidst all of the solidarity, defiance, camaraderie and unbreakable human spirit on display, there was also a football match tonight as well.
England played very well in the event, amid a strange, restrained and eerie atmosphere... and deservedly beat France for the first time in 18 years, since a narrow 1-0 win in Montpellier at Tournoi de France, on 7th June 1997, when Alan Shearer scored the only goal of the game. Glenn Hoddle was the national team manager back then, and the current French manager Didier Deschamps, was still a stylish and influential midfield player for his country.
In the six subsequent games between these two teams since that victory in Montpellier, two games were draws but France won the other four.
FAQ... Are England going to win the Euro 2016 championships?
Ha, ha... don't be daft, but under Hodgson, a major rebuilding programme is taking place. He sometimes comes across as awkward in front of press conferences, but so what? It's his coaching nous and in depth knowledge of the game that is making a major difference to the England team, not his press soundbite capabilities.
"Close to faultless" was how Hodgson described goalscorer Dele Alli, on his first full start in an England shirt after making three previous appearances from the bench. 
Alli has represented his country at U17, U18, U19 & U21 level, before being elevated to the first team squad. Regardless of the traditional national pastime of rubbishing the England football set up, this kind of thing tends to suggest, that although there is still some way to go, the FA coaching blueprint and DNA set up, is making some great strides in the right direction.
Tonight, Roy Hodgson's line up had an average age which was lower than any of the current Premier League sides.
Alli himself started the move that led to his goal, when he won the ball in midfield with a tenacious tackle, before charging towards the French goal and taking a return pass from Wayne Rooney before letting fly past Hugo Lloris, shortly before half time.
Three minutes after the restart, Alli was involved again, when he dispossessed Paul Pogba and laid the ball out wide to Raheem Sterling, whose cross fell invitingly for Rooney to smash his 51st England goal past the covering defender Laurent Koscielny and the French keeper Lloris from six yards out.
Deschamps side, understandably, weren't entirely on top of their game tonight, though they had made a lively start to the game and showed some nest touches towards the end for twenty minutes. 
But Hodgson's young charges had shown enough tonight to demonstrate that the England national team is making steady, but impressive progress.
Jack Butland, another player who has come up through the FA's development ranks, did more than enough in the second half, to show that Hodgson has a competent and able back up keeper as cover for Joe Hart, should the need ever arise.
Not much of a blog about the game all told, but tonight, the game itself was of secondary importance, in comparison to the myriad of other far more important things that it came to represent.
FT: England 2 v France 0
Although the English fans had witnessed a decent performance from their national side tonight, the celebrations at the end were nevertheless a bit muted and subdued, given the circumstances under which the game had gone ahead.
The walk beneath that tunnel at the end of the Empire Way, that leads to the stairs up to Wembley Park tube station, where you're all packed in together like sardines; is never the most enjoyable part of a visit to the national stadium. But tonight, probably more than usual, most people (i.e. everybody) obviously wanted to get that part of their journey home over more quickly than usual.
The London Metropolitan Police, packing (on full display) a quite staggering arsenal of firearms, the extra London Underground staff and the barely disguised plain clothes officers in attendance, made light work of getting thousands of football fans out of the area in double quick time and should be applauded for their efforts.
Football united ne sera jamais vaincue... la solidarité
L'EQUIPE front cover... received via a picture text message I received in the wee small hours, several hours after tonight's game had finished, while I was heading home, somewhere between Peterborough and Grantham, on the snail paced and malfunctioning ECML Virgin East Coast locomotive from Kings Cross. 

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Retford 4 v Brodsworth Welfare 1 - CMFL North

Saturday 14th November 2015
at the Dean & Co. Stadium, Cannon Park
Retford (4) 4
Luke Tong 7, 23, 41, Jack Munn 23
Brodsworth Welfare (1) 1
Brad Sykes 30
Admission - £3. Programme - £1. Attendance - drenched!
That's neat Swanny! ;-)
Retford's final home fixture of 2015, began amid a few insignificant miniscule spits of rain, flecking a gentle breeze that soothingly caressed Cannon Park.
But by the time the final whistle sounded, the heavens had opened and a storm to rival the one that caused a Kansas farm girl called Wendy (played by Judy Garland) so much grief, in the 1939 horror movie and 'technicolor triumph': The Wizard of Oz.
For a few moments I thought I'd seen an actual 'Twister' crashing along the right touchline, but it transpired that it was actually the home side's right back, Simon Brewster, in full flight, showing at least five opposition players a clean pair of heels.
I'll tell you what 'Brew' if you could take the ball with you whenever you did that, you'd get a decent write up everytime I watch you play.
The colossus that is Will Tomlinson didn't actually get on the scoresheet for Retford today, but he did more than enough around the visitors goalmouth to assist in creating a couple of goals and was a constant thorn in the Welfare's (back)side, until he was replaced by Matt Bryce.
'Big Will' might not always be a ninety minute athlete these days, but he makes his presence felt in all the right places while he is on the pitch... and bringing him back to Cannon Park is one of the successes of this season for the town's fledgling club.
Luke Tong instinctively moved in on goal when Tomlinson crashed an angled shot at goal on seven minutes and was in just the right place, at the right time, when Dom Senior's block rebounded into his path, to put Retford in front on 7 minutes.
'Broddy' have been finding results hard to come by of late and the in the first half a hour they were up against some 'one way traffic' and rode their luck a bit at times... although, to be fair, they looked a lot better after the break.
Jason Swannack chased the ball down in the middle of the park, but although the pitch had been rolled, a bounce in front of Senior took the sting out of the shot and Senior saved it quite comfortably.
Swannack, along with the rest of his back four, Ben Marro, Tom Gilmore and 'Brew' were absorbing the Welfare's attempts to threaten Jamie Housley's goal, particularly the latter with a few uncompromising tackles, while Retford always looked threatening going forward. Lee Gallagher was making a decent fist of directing traffic in the middle of the park.
Senior turned another Tomlinson effort around the upright, but a couple of minutes later the match referee Mr Kieran Hatfield, applied the CMFL Referee's handbook, Rule number 7, Subsection 4(a), that states: It is mandatory to book Will Tomlinson in every game he ever plays in. Although in the match official's defence, he had no option but to also enforce clause C, which says: Especially if he goes to ground in the penalty area with no opposition player anywhere near him.
Either way, Dom Senior was soon in action again, because Tomlinson had sneaked himself, stealth like, past the visitors defence again and was in on goal once more.
Ash Chapman's right wing corner, found it's way out to Si Brewster on the edge of the box, but the conditions weren't really suitable for his obvious finesse and his delicate lob ended up in the car park, when the determined full back might have done better if he'd just put his foot through the ball and gone for power instead.
Luke Tong tried his luck with a long shot, but Senior had positioned himself well again and caught it easily... not that it's ever going to be completely easy when dealing with such a wet ball.
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It was good to see Sam Tomlinson back in action this afternoon and he put in a great shift out on the left flank, while roaming infield to get involved, as is his wont..
Tong scored his second goal in the 23rd minute, when Swannack picked him out on the edge of the area with a pass from the halfway line and he flicked an header into the top right hand corner.
Within five minutes the home side were three goals in front... Swannack knocked a sideways pass the Tomlinson, but he was thwarted by the busy Senior and the loose ball ran free to Swannack again, whose shot was deflected for a corner. Chapman took it quickly and Jack Munn arrived at the back stick to plant a header just inside the left hand post.
As the weather worsened, Brodsworth were now at risk of getting blown away by Retford, let alone the blustery wind they were playing into. But on the half hour mark, Stuart Laidlaw knocked a defence splitting ball forward into the path of Rod Purshouse and Brad Sykes... and the latter stooped to nod the ball past Housley. Though if 'Broddy' didn't have white letters on the back of their bright yellow shirts, it might have been slightly easier to ascertain who was actually doing what.
Former Retford player Graham Severn was easy enough to recognise though, with his grade one crop and captain's armband... and to be fair he was doing his level best to keep his troops going.
Tong headed Retford's fourth goal and bagged his hat trick a few minutes before half time, with Hutchinson and Tomlinson combining to set up the chance.
As the first half drew to a close, Severn headed a cross from Josh Bowkett over the bar.
With the wind behind their backs now, the Welfare gave a much better account of themselves after the interval, but although both sides went all out to find the net, there was to be no further goals scored this afternoon.
Brewster danced past several tackles down the right flank but his cross was hacked away.
Purshouse won the ball in the middle of the pitch and knocked it forward to Josh Dodds, who tried to use the wind to his advantage by taking aim and letting rip from 37 yards (I paced it out after the game), but Housley stood firm and kept the ball out.
The visitors pushed forward again and this time Housley had to rescue the situation bu saving at Bowkett's feet.
Luke Flanagan teed the ball up for Cortney Peynado, but the 'Broddy' right back struggled to get his shot on target on a pitch that was starting to cut up underfoot as the rain got worse and worse.
Luke Tong had a pop at Senior's goal at the other end, but the Welfare keeper held onto the ball for the umpteenth time.
Bryce, on for Tomlinson, left a few Brodsworth players looking as static as statues through the left channel and motored towards the goal, Senior started to run from his line, but the second half substitute unleashed his shot before the Welfare stopper had got very far... but with several locals in the stand already up their feet ready to celebrate, the ball flew just wide of the far post
Flanagan found himself inside the Retford area once again as the visitors pushed forward in search of a more respectable scoreline, but he knocked the ball wide.
The home side strung a few passes together, no mean feat as the conditions worsened, when Bryce and Brewster combined on the right, before laying the ball back for Gallagher, who lofted a forward pass deep inside the visitors area that was only half cleared into the path of Munn, who hit a first time shot inches wide of the goal.
Brodsworth rallied, but try as they might, they just couldn't find that final touch and though Bowkett came close twice, this wasn't going to be their day.
Brewster forced his way into the area from out on the right and drilled a shot just wide of the left hand upright.
Both teams deserved a round of applause at the end, for slogging on through some atrocious conditions, but most people either dashed off to their cars or rushed into the clubhouse to get some shelter out of the rain.
Ultimately, though the visitors made a game of it after the break, Retford had done more than enough to kill the game off already in a virtually one sided first half.
FT: Retford 4 v Brodsworth Welfare 1
'Broddy' have a 'Donny derby' at Bentley Colliery next Saturday, while Retford start a run of four consecutive away games with a short trip down the A614 to Bilsthorpe, both of these CMFL (North) fixtures kick off at 2pm.
It's spitting!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Mansfield Town 4 v Dereham Town 3 - AET - FA Youth Cup

Cover depicting Cain Smith emerging from the fog
in the First Round game v Cambridge City
Friday 13th November 2015
FA Youth Cup 3rd Round 2015
at the One Call Stadium (Field Mill)
Mansfield Town U18
45 mins 1 90 mins 3 ET HT 4 FT 4
Tom Marriott 23, Louis Danquah 77,
Zayn Hakeem 78, Surafel Behailu 99
Dereham Town U18
45 mins 2 90 mins 3 ET HT 3 FT 3
Seb Bialasik 32, James Cooper 42, Robbie Linford 90+3
Admission £3. Programme 50p. Attendance 194
Left click for enlarged image.
Full match report on the Mansfield Town website  CLICK HERE
Neither side could have given any more as they went toe to toe for 120 minutes, plus an extraordinary amount of stoppage time at the end of the 90.
In the Mansfield Town's ten men walking wounded, showed that they had what it takes to force the issue in extra time... and showed a lot of character and a massive amount of resilience to overcome a very lively Dereham Town side.
Fair play to the visitors too, who had overcome Peterborough United at home in the previous round, in front of a crowd of 199. They played very well tonight and weren't just here to make up the numbers.
FA Youth Cup 2015-16
The story so far:
In the first round, on Monday 2nd November 2015, Mansfield Town beat Cambridge City 3-0 at home. The attendance that night was 253
The young Stags now face Sunderland at home in the third round. Date still TBC.
Dereham Town's impressive record in this seasons competition, prior to tonight is:
1st Qualifying Round - Thursday 24th September, W 4-1 (H) v. Haverhill Rovers. Att 48
2nd Qualifying Round - Thursday 8th October, W 8-2 (A) v. Wroxham. Att 92
3rd Qualifying Round - Thursday 22nd October, W 3-0 (A) v. Stowmarket Town. Att 47
1st Round - Thursday 5th November, W 2-1 (H) v. Peterborough United. Att 199