Monday, 2 May 2022

Notts County 1 v Dover Athletic 0 - National League

Monday 2nd May 2022
National League
at Meadow Lane
Notts County (1) 1
Rodrigues 18
Dover Athletic (0) 0
Attendance: 6,523 (inc. 72 away fans)
I arrived in Nottingham early in order to take in Mansfield Town's League 2 game against Salford City that was being shown live on SKY TV in the bars around Meadow Lane and on the screens in the concourse of the Derek Pavis Stand inside the ground too. 
That game finished 2-2 when a win for the Stags would've seen them climb into the automatic promotion spots with just one game to go. Now it'll all go down to the wire next Saturday, when second placed Forest Green Rovers visit a sold out Field Mill, while results elsewhere could have a massive bearing on whether Nigel Clough's side clinch a top three spot, end the season in the play offs or possibly even miss out on either the above. If only Mansfield could've scraped a making hard work of it 1-0 win... a bit like Notts County were about to, then the world would've been a much better place.
With two games of their season remaining, in spite of winning twice and drawing six times this season, Dover Athletic lay dormant in bottom place at the foot of the National League table, on zero points, after starting the season with the handicap of a twelve point deduction, for failing to fulfil their fixture commitments last term due to the financial impact of the Covid pandemic.
After this afternoon's fairly unspectacular win, where they made heavy work of overcoming their stubborn visitors, Notts only need only one more point from their final two outings (Altrincham at home and Maidenhead United away) to guarantee themselves a place in the promotion play-offs.
It might seem odd to anybody who wasn't present at this game today to hear that some of the home crowd actually booed County off the pitch after the final whistle, given that the majority of the action was played out in the Dover half of the pitch and the Pies had mustered a weighty total of nineteen attempts on goal against their lowly visitors, who they had beaten 3-0 just six days ago in Kent.
But, to quote the local radio reporter I heard when I got back to my car: "Well, it was a win, but it was dire", before inviting Pies fans to ring in during the next thirty minutes to share their views". 
Rather than subjecting myself to any more of that doom and gloom, I opted to listen to a playlist of Kraftwerk remixes all the way home instead.
In truth, I'd given up trying to stifle my yawning during the second half and now felt that I didn't want to subject myself to a further half hour of tedium, listening to people moaning about how dreary the afternoon had been. Maybe County, with one foot (in all probability) already in the play-offs, froze when it came to pushing on, perhaps they were wary about keeping something in reserve for the forthcoming lottery of games that they surely must be on the verge of qualifying for, but lets give credit where it is due; Andy Hessenthaler, to his immense credit, with an already relegated team who had nothing to play for but their pride, set up his side in a manner to stifle their high-flying opponents and fend off the thrashing that many attending this game were anticipating.
It wasn't pretty to watch, but you can't fault any of the Dover players for giving nothing less than 100% and leaving everything they had out on the pitch.
County huffed and puffed, but 'The Whites' (playing in red), had constructed their house on solid foundations and though they rode their luck a few times, the well drilled visitors rear-guard was only breached once... well, if you discount the goal that Kyle Wooton had struck off (incorrectly as it transpired) for offside and the absolute sitter that the same player missed from virtually under the crossbar. Take nothing away from the Alexis Andre Jnr either, who's agility and ability in pulling off at least three top draw saves, contributed greatly to his side restricting the Magpies to just a single goal.
Just two days ago, County had lost on the road at Aldershot Town, who'd had the added incentive of desperately needing the points to ensure their survival in and continued participation in non league football's top flight beyond this season, so it was understandable that Ian Burchnall had taken full advantage of the squad rotation options available to him, in a bid to keep his players in top condition for the battle ahead. He'll know which of his charges are carrying knocks and blowing out of their bottoms stamina wise and picked a starting line up that could do the task that was required today... and regardless of how ineffective they were in front of goal at times as Dover bravely put their bodies on the line, three points is three points, especially during the run in at the business end of the season, with so much at stake.
Ruben Rodrigues netted the only goal of the game (above) in the  eighteenth 18 minute, when he swept in Jayden Richardson's sideways knock across the six yard box, after Jim O'Brien had unlocked the visitors defence with a measured diagonal ball into the path of Richardson's run. It was Rodrigues' twentieth goal of the season in all competitions, which won't have gone unnoticed amongst the the ranks of the scouts from Football League clubs who have been at Meadow Lane this term checking on the  progress of the twenty five year old Kyle Wooton who has been weighing in with an average of almost a goal every other game for Notts this season.
Besides coming up against a resolute Dover defence  who dealt steadfastly with just about as many crosses from both flanks as you'd find on your average spot the ball coupon, while a rack of missed chances and an above average number of 'crossbar challenge' successes added to the equation,  Meanwhile, County had almost as many corners as you'd find on a rhombicosidodecahedron, that they failed to make good of as they dominated the game, cue the frustration from the vocal element in the stands... but it's hardly as if the home side weren't putting the effort in, or capitulating like a certain Derbyshire side who ply their trade across the other side of the M1 who seem hell bent on giving Dagenham & Redbridge every opportunity to pip them for seventh place.
FT: Notts County 1 v Dover Athletic 0
To conclude: on Saturday, County have the opportunity to cement their place in the National League play-off berths, when Altrincham visit Meadow Lane, while Chesterfield can probably consider themselves fortunate that Dagenham & Redbridge face a trip to high-flying Solihull Moors who are still in the hunt for automatic promotion.
It's definitely squeaky bum time for Paul Cook's side who looked to be odds on to head back into the Football League not so long ago... "It's a funny old game, innit Saint!""

Saturday, 30 April 2022

AFC Wimbledon 3 v Accrington Stanley 4 - EFL League 1

Saturday 30th April 2022
EFL League 1
at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, Plough Lane
AFC Wimbledon (0) 3
Ayoub Assal 56, Jack Rudoni 58, 66
Accrington Stanley (3) 4
Jay Rich-Baghuelou 18,  Colby Bishop 35, 
Michael Nottingham 45, John O'Sullivan 63
Attendance: 7,839
Point and hope photo gallery: Click HERE
AFC Wimbledon
Tzanev;,Osew, Heneghan, Nightingale (Csoka, 46), Brown; McCormick, Bendle (Chislett, 83); Adjei-Hersey (Cosgrove, 46), Rudoni, Assal; Mebude
Unused subs - Broome, Hartigan, Guinness-Walker, Kalambayi
Accrington Stanley
Isherwood, Clark, Sykes, Nottingham, Rich-Baghuelou; O’Sullivan, Leigh (Butcher, 68), Coyle (Conneely, 76), Hamilton, McConville; Bishop
Unused subs - Hood, Rodgers, Procter, Nolan, Woods
Traveling by train from the north to Plough Lane is straightforward enough, whichever mainline station you arrive in London at, the Thameslink line from St. Pancras isn't be far to walk to and trains run from there (Platform A) fairly frequently to Haydons Road, which is a ten minute stroll away away from the ground.  Alight on Platform 2 and head up the stairs and turn right over the railway bridge, follow Haydons Road until the traffic lights and turn right into Plough Lane. 
AFC Wimbledon's home is just a few minutes along the road from there on the left, where it stands on the site of the former Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium, a couple of hundred yards from where the original Wimbledon FC used to play.
A further clue that you're heading in the right direction is the old signpost on Haydons Road that directs you towards to the Greyhound Stadium, but be aware, the positioning of a sign near the station exit does kind of suggest that the stadium might be 900 yds in the opposite (and completely wrong) direction.
Of course, underground, over ground and even Wombling free , there are other routes that you could choose to reach the Cherry Red Records Stadium, butin my ever so humble opinion, the Thameslink route, which takes roughly forty minutes and requires no changes whatsoever en route, is by far the easiest and most convenient. Each to their own though innit? I know how much some of you like whizzing around on numerous trains and visiting as many different railways as is humanly possible. That isn't a slight on anybody by the way, we all have hobbies and pastimes. Some really sad anoraks even tick off football grounds, imagine that!
'Twas high noon (well 12.30PM to be more precise) for five League 1 clubs this afternoon, as they vied to avoid finishing their respective seasons in one of the three remaining relegation berths that hadn't already been claimed (with indecent haste) by Crewe Alexandra. One of those teams looking to smash and grab their way out of the mire and overcome the highly unlikely odds afforded them by the last bastion of slim hopes that goes by the name of 'mathematical possibilities' was AFC Wimbledon. 
In a nutshell Mark Bowen's side had to win and make up a goal difference of plus seven on Fleetwood Town, who they needed to lose at Bolton Wanderers, while also hoping that Gillingham didn't pick up at least a point at home to Rotherham United.
Doncaster Rovers, who started the day level on points with AFC Wimbledon but a further minus twenty goals behind the Dons could probably have been written off as a lost cause before their game at Oxford United had even kicked off, while Morecambe (who had a home game against Sunderland) started the day two points ahead of both Fleetwood and Gillingham, who'd need to win their respective games to have any chance of catching the Shrimps, who themselves went into 'Survival Saturday' (to hype things up in a pay per view telly kind way) handicapped by a minus thirty goal differential.
One history in the making fact of the day was: should the Dons fail to preserve their third tier status, then today would mark the first ever relegation suffered by the club since their formation in May 2002.
Prior to today, relegated Crewe had notched up a mere seven wins all season, but even they had one more victory to their name than AFC Wimbledon, who hadn't won a game since December 7th, when (by way of a massive coincidence) they beat today's visitors Accrington Stanley in the reverse fixture at the Wham Stadium. All told, as the game got underway, the home side were looking to avoid ticking off a twenty seventh consecutive winless game, that's quite some record and provided a thick coating of perspective to the task that lay ahead.
So that was the runners, riders and SP schedule, with several inevitable probabilities outweighing a multitude of extremely long odds possibilities in a fairly top heavy manner. 
However last day of the football season quite often throws up a few quirky coupon busting results and sub plots to keep the expectant hordes on the edge of their seats and in spite of the virtual inevitability of most of the above, this afternoon wasn't without it's fair share of drama, especially in the second half at Plough Lane. 
A museum room accessed through the club shop
AFC Wimbledon's inaugural League 1 game at their new(ish) 9,215 capacity home was a 2-2 draw played behind closed doors, against Doncaster Rovers, on 3 November 2020.
On 18 May 2021, 2,000 people were admitted the the Cherry Red Records Stadium to watch the Dons play Liverpool's U23 side in a test match. 
Spectators were allowed to attend AFC Wimbledon's first home league match of the current 2021-22 campaign, a 3-3 draw against Bolton Wanderers, which was watched by a crowd of 7,728.
Today marked a first visit to the new Plough Lane ground for myself, after two previous attempts earlier this season were scuppered due to a twice postponed League 1 fixture v Charlton Athletic, which was eventually played earlier this month when I couldn't  get there logistically. 
The massively experienced Mark Bowen was only given the Dons management job as recently as March 20th (on an until the end of the season basis) and during April his team have drawn four times and lost twice, including a 3-1 defeat on the road at Crewe, in a game that they were actually 0-1 ahead in at half-time, after Birmingham City's forgotten striker: Sam Cosgrove (who is on loan at Plough Lane) scored their opening and only goal.  Following the Dons draw at Fleetwood a week ago, the headline to the match report on their own website carried the moniker: 'Wimbledon all but down after draw'. There's 'nowt like staying positive and trying to keep everyone's spirits up, is there!? And that was definitely 'nowt like.
For their part Accrington have been consistently inconsistent throughout the past month, inasmuch as they've won two, drawn two and lost two. Most recently they beat Lincoln City 2-1 last weekend, a side who continue to confound their doubters while stubbornly punching above their weight in League 1.
This division is becoming increasingly competitive with every passing year, it'll definitely be no place for the faint hearted next term, given the quality of the clubs who will be joining the third tier ranks from both the Championship and League 2 any time soon, not to mention the big hitters who are on the verge of missing out on promotion any time soon. Sadly at of todays fixtures, that saw the League 1 season end (barring the play-offs) before the Premier League, the Championship and League 2 reached their conclusion, AFC Wimbledon won't be part of that particular equation any more.
In the seventeenth minute, just after low Dylan Adjei-Hersey shot had warmed Liam Isherwood's hands, with what was the home sides best chance of the first half... while word began to filter through that Fleetwood Town had gone in front at Bolton and before anybody had even had a chance to get their calculators out to work out what the ramifications of that particular game might be for the Dons, Jay Rich-Baghuelou smashed the ball past Nik Tzanev in the hosts goal, from outside the area to effectively put the lid on Wimbledon's escape plans, while the other Stanley players nipped off to fetch an hammer and some nails to finish the job off. They returned shortly afterwards, with a vengeance.
Until now I'd had a fairly relaxing afternoon looking on as the game unfolded from my comfortable end of row vantage point, feeling particularly smug with myself that the Sumo wrestler who'd waddled in just after kick-off and headed my wayhad  deposited himself two (and three) seats across from me before getting stuck into the task of masticating the pile of fodder he'd fetched along to sustain himself.
A great view and a huge human barricade to thwart any interlopers who'd intended to invade my own personal bubble of tranquillity... what could possibly go wrong? Hmm, I was about to find out why such a desirable seating option hadn't been snaffled up by anybody else. Problem one: the guy directly in front of me was up and down like a defective Jack in a box... frequently! "Liner, he just stole a yard at that throw in, it's no wonder we keep losing", "F*cking hell referee! Anybody could see that was a mistimed tackle that almost decapitated their number 3, not a foul!". "F*cking hell, get up and hop it off number 3, you don't need two feet... it's a mans game", "Oh shut up you smart arse Scouse's" (aimed at the away fans to our left (Accrington is approximately fifty miles from Liverpool by the way)... and on and on and on,
I wasn't here to watch the back of shouty man's head whenever he had a problem with anything and everything and must admit to being on the verge of forgetting everything that my counsellor said to me in those anger management sessions and throttling the irritant with my bare hands (from the response of those around me to his annoying tantrums, such a course of action would've been met by universal approval). 
But my attention was drawn away from my prey, by an odd looking man who must've have been on sponsored seat using challenge, because he'd already moved himself and his oversized rucksack to at least six different places since the commencement of the game.
Surely not! He can't be  be! But he could. Having spotted the merest slither of light betwixt myself and my new world eating champion pal Jabba, he made a beeline for the minimal gap between us, climbing over three rows of seats and inconveniencing an infinite number of people who were trying to watch the game, instead of using the staircase to our right.
Fidgeting his way into the limited space he began flailing his elbows about to, a bit like Magnus Pike directing traffic at a busy intersection. To avoid being shoved off of my seat and onto the floor by his wriggling buttocks, I stood up and looking at the two empty rows of seats behind us announced: "Right I'm moving up there to get away from his f*cking retarded shouting and your lack of muscle co-ordination... and don't either of you tw@ts even think about following me!"
By heck! Such a stroppy outburst was very out of character for me.
But hey! Strike me down for not having been ever so PC or patient at this juncture. But one needs to draw the line somewhere. 
And for what it's worth, in my humble opinion, all seater grounds aren't the problem, it's some the Stefan Kuntz that you have to share them with.
The game continued... Ross Sykes and Michael Nottingham were twin towers of strength at the back for the visitors, repelling the Dons ineffective advances towards Liam Isherwood's goal with consummate ease. The home side did create a handful of chances, but their profligate finishing (I'm being polite at this juncture, believe me) was met with a mocking and jubilant response from the travelling 'Accy' fans of: "That's why you're going down!". It was almost too painful to watch at times, even though I was now in an infinitely less harassed corner of the ground, that for some strange reason I had all to myself.
The Dons continued to look like a team who'd already bought a leather bound atlas of League 2 grounds in preparation for next season, while the visitors hardly had to get out of cruise control to ease themselves into a three goal lead by half-time. 
The hosts made hard work of clearing a right wing cross into their midriff and as the ball pinged about the area it fell kindly for Colby Bishop, who tucked it home from ten yards, At this point a number od Dons fans headed for the bar, while others decided to call it a day. On the stroke of half-time Tzanev did really well to tip over a header from a right wing corner, but the respite from the inevitable was only short lived and from Sean McConville's resulting flag kick Michael Nottingham directed his header into the roof of the net.
HT: AFC Wimbledon 0 v Accrington Stanley 3
I'm told, on very good authority (AKA: a guy in a Wimbledon FC 'Crazy Gang' t-shirt who I'd never met before in my life, who struck up a conversation with me in the queue for the toilet at half-time, said it), that there is a scope, should it ever be deemed necessary, to double the current capacity of the stadium, though going on the current state of play at the club, I would've thought that would be a very long way off, if indeed it ever happens at all.
Looking at the ever growing number of swanky buildings climbing up around the Plough Lane site, I'd imagine that the stadium will be even more landlocked, in the not too distant future. As it is, the three stands outwith the double tier construction that I was in the lower part of, that are all of the same height with the corners filled in (though there was an open area to my immediate left, looking over across to where the away fans were housed) provides a more than adequate enclosure for the Dons and stands as a testament to what fan ownership of a football club can achieve. 
Possibly 'Crazy Gang man' was also stating a fact rather than indulging in tittle-tattle (tiddle-tattle?) when he told me that the AFC prefix at the front of club name was an acronym for 'A Fans Club', it would be nice to think that he was telling the truth. 
He didn't seem overly happy when I asked him if the people in the flats surrounding the ground got a discount oh their rent if their windows overlooked the football ground and subjected them to such a grim spectacle as watching AFC Wimbledon since their season imploded in December.
Sam Cosgrove was introduced to the fray for the start of the second half and as impact substitutions go, his input was quite remarkable, the Dons upped the ante around the visitors as they strove to keep the ball away from their lumbering number nine and remarkably scored two quick fire goals to make the score 2-3 before the hour mark, Ayoub Assal and Jack Rudoni both found the net for the Dons, from Dapo Mebude and Luke McCormack deliveries into the area, much to the delight of their fans who hadn't decided to stay in the bar or bugger off home already. The look on the faces of those who left during the interval must've been a picture, as the game was turned on it's head a turned into a seven goal end to end thriller, instead on an inevitable display of one way traffic.
Or had it? McConville, who'd been a thorn in the Dons backside for most of the afternoon, put in a cross from the left wing and John O'Sullivan rose like a salmon between two markers to power a header just under the crossbar (above x 2), right in front of the celebrating away fans in the sixty second minute.
Game, set and match? Not bloody likely said Rudoni, as he tore towards the Stanley area, almost from the restart, jinking one way then the other before planting the ball past Isherwood. One can only speculate as to why the hosts number twelve took responsibility for the goal instead of laying the ball off to the well placed substitute striker Cosgrove,
Four goals in ten minutes had brought this game to life, but it was probably advisable that the home faithful didn't check how the scores were panning out elsewhere.
Effectively, the Dons were going down after all and by virtue of earning an unlikely draw at Oxford United, Doncaster Rovers (also relegated) had leapfrogged over Mark Bowen's side to finish twentieth in the table. 
FT: AFC Wimbledon 3 v Accrington Stanley 4
While the 0-2 result at Priestfield Stadium meant that victors Rotherham United were promoted, while the Gills also lost their scrap against the drop. While Fleetwood Town, who spent a nervy afternoon losing 4-2 at Bolton stayed up and Morecamble survived by virtue of results elsewhere.
MK Dons won  0-5 at Plymouth Argyle (who fell out the play-off places on the final day of the season as a consequence) to finish third, a point outside the automatic promotion slots, while Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland and Wycombe Wanderers (by virtue of a late Jordan Obita goal at Burton Albion) will also join the 'other Dons' in the end of season play-offs.
Having stayed on to watch the added time, during which AFC Wimbledon were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty as they mounted an all hands to the pumps assault on the 'Accy' goal, I'd only left myself with eleven minutes to catch my train back into London.
A brisk walk ensued, as I got my head down and paced ASAP it to the station at ramming speed.
"Wow Dad! That old man in the white jacket walks fast" said a small child in a Dons shirt as I motored past him... cheeky little bar steward!
According to the step counter technology on my phone I'd run it there in just six minutes. I'm not fit enough to have jogged there, let alone run, but if my telephone wants to make me out to be a fit and sporty type, I really ought to take it as a compliment instead of calling the app a damned liar. And besides, that's a bloody good effort for such an 'old man'.

Monday, 18 January 2021

BLOG HIATUS

THE66POW isn't going away indefinitely (you wish) but this site is currently on hiatus while I'm undergoing a self-imposed sabbatical/lockdown, of sorts.
I will recommence posting on this long-winded, self-indulgent, bullshit blog (with added football content) again, at such a time as either: that there beautiful game restarts as a spectator sport and/or inclination kicks in again. 
Until then... stay safe.
In the meantime THE66POW.FM (Est. March 2006), the musical soundtrack companion to this very blog, is still being updated on a fairly regular basis.
Normal service (whatever that means these days) will be resumed...  eventually.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

The NCEL... a purely hypothetical scenario

Table One detailed below, shows the most recent and up to date standings in the NCEL Premier Division, while Table Two shows where the clubs would finish if (a word with just two letters but many connotations) the season had to end right now, without any further games being played and it was decided to deliberate the final placings by calculating a points per game average total for each team.
Table Three and Four work along exactly the same lines as One and Two, but cover the NCEL Division 1 placings instead.
Where clubs have both had the same PPG totals, I have used goal difference to separate them in their respective divisions. 
I must stress, this is purely an hypothetical number-crunching exercise on my part... and to that end I have no inside information as regards any official NCEL business, nor am I privy to anything that might already have been discussed behind closed doors. 
For the record, I don't personally favour any particular method or option as regards either the deciding of league positions, or the nulling and voiding yet another season. 
To that end, I will gladly leave that kind of stuff to all of you experts out there... and going by the huge amount of theories and opinions being posted out there on various social media platforms, there are an awful lot of you (and a lot of you are awful) who seem to think that they have all of the answers to this multi-layered and complex matter.
Table One:                                      
                                       PD  PTS  GD 
1 Yorkshire Amateur 11 29 27 
2 Bridlington Town 9 21 24  
3 Liversedge         7 21 22 
4 Garforth Town         9 21 10
5 Maltby Main         10 18  6  
6 AFC Mansfield 9 17 17  
7 Handsworth         12 17 -3 
8 Grimsby Borough 10 16  6 
9 Barton Town         11 14 -9   
10 Albion Sports          9 13  0  
11 Eccleshill United 11 13 -4 
12 Penistone Church  7 12   6   
13 Hemsworth MW  7 12   3    
14 Goole AFC          11 11 -21    
15 Silsden AFC          10 10  -6   
16 Thackley                  11 8 -11 
17 Staveley MW            6 7  -1
18 Knaresborough T      9 7       -9    
19 Bottesford Town  11 4 -24    
20 Athersley Rec          10 3 -33
Table Two:
                                          PPG
1      Liversedge          3.000
2 Yorkshire Amateur  2,6363r 
3 Bridlington Town  2.3333 
4 Garforth Town          2.3333
5      AFC Mansfield          1.888r 
6 Maltby Main          1.8000
7      Penistone Church     1.7142 
8      Hemsworth MW       1.7142
9 Grimsby Borough   1.6000
10 Albion Sports           1.4444 
11 Handsworth          1.4166
12 Barton Town          1.2727  
13   Eccleshill United  1.1818
14    Staveley MW            1.1666
15 Silsden AFC          1.000    
16 Goole AFC          1.0000     
17 Knaresborough T     0.7777  
18 Thackley                   0.7272    
19 Bottesford Town        0.3636     
20 Athersley Rec          0.3000
Table Three:
                                          PD   PTS   GD
1 Emley AFC             10    26     18
2 Campion                     11    24     17
3 Winterton Rangers       9    22     23
4 North Ferriby             10    22     11
5 Retford FC             13    21       6
6 Brigg Town             11    20     13
7 Rossington Main     12    18       5
8 Skegness Town       8    16       5
9 Parkgate                     10    16     -2
10 Hall Road Rangers     10    14     -3
11 Hallam                       8    13      4
12 Nostell MW             12    12     -8
13 Glasshoughton Wel     12    11      1
14 Armthorpe Wel     12    11   -14
15 Swallownest               8    10     -1
16 Dronfield Town     11    10    -11
17 Harrogate RA               8     9      -9
18 East Hull                     10     7    -23
19 Worsbrough BA          13     6    -21
20 Selby Town               6     3    -11
Table Four:
                                             PPG
1 Emley AFC              2.6000
2 Winterton Rangers      2.4444
3 North Ferriby              2.2000
4 Campion                     2.1818
5 Skegness Town     2.0000
6 Brigg Town             1.8181
8 Hallam                     1.6250
7 Retford FC             1.6153
9 Parkgate                     1.6000
10 Rossington Main     1.5000
11 Hall Road Rangers     1.4000
12 Swallownest              1.2500
13 Harrogate RA              1.1250
14 Nostell MW              1.0000
15 Glasshoughton Wel      0.9166
16 Armthorpe Wel      0.9166
17 Dronfield Town      0.9090
18 East Hull                      0.7000
19 Selby Town              0.5000
20 Worsbrough BA           0.4615
Feb 14th 2021 - Footnote:
For the benefit of those of you who have gotten all stroppy and taken umbrage with me pertaining to the vagaries of the above topic, might I politely point you in the general direction of the title of this blog post: The NCEL... a purely hypothetical scenario.
I'm neither condoning nor condemning any kind of mathematical equation for determining the NCEL's final league tables placings when the current campaign ends prematurely (and it will). 
In actual fact, my pert buttocks are full of splinters from sitting on the fence as regards any of the above.
My swingometer isn't pointing in any particular direction, because there isn't a one-size fits all solution to the complexities of this situation... which side are you dressing to?
Footnote #2:
And it came to pass that the elders of the NCEL eventually reached the decision that they would combine the above totals with those of the previous season to work out the final league placings on an average points per game ratio... and we all lived happily ever after.

Monday, 28 December 2020

Retford FC 5 v Worsbrough Bridge Athletic 0 - NCEL Div 1

Monday 28th December 2020
Toolstation NCEL Division 1
at the Rail Ground
Retford FC (2) 5
Matthew Robinson 44, 80 
Zach Casburn 45+1, 47 pen 
Luke Abdy 66
Worsbrough Bridge Athletic (0) 0
Attendance: 150 (no more, no less)
Jon Knight's match photo gallery: Click HERE
Twenty five minutes prior to this afternoon's kick-off, the temporary Covid-compliant attendance limit of 150 had already been reached at the Rail Ground and subsequently the Choughs were having to turn spectators away, several of whom found a perch to watch the action from on the adjacent Babworth Road rail bridge that spans over the ECML and overlooks this chilly scene.
Yorkshire Live Sports Streaming were in town today broadcasting the game live... right from the first whistle, it became apparent, during the feisty open exchanges, that they might've done well to have employed Kent Walton to do the matchday commentary.
As all of you readers of a certain vintage will know, Kent was the go to and authoritative figure in the field of televised professional wrestling, AKA undignified slapstick grappling.
Back in the day, wrestling was a sport (of sorts) or a choreographed form of comedy entertainment, wherein a fat man (real name Shirley) wearing a ladies bathing suit, who had signature moves that consisted of the 'Daddy Splash' (i.e. knocking opponents into orbit with his big belly) and asphyxiating his victims by laying on top of them, was the king of the ring. 
He always won, of course... it's not just football referees that display 'alleged' bias at times.
'Big Will' Tomlinson. Whoops! I mean
'Big Daddy' AKA Shirley Crabtree.
The spectacle got the housewives of a certain age and the nations grannies all moist on a Saturday teatime every weekend and was very funny, if 'nowt else, in an era when television channels were still few and far between... kids these days don't know they're chuffing (or should that be chough-ing?) born.
Any road, focussing back on the matter in hand, namely: a game of Northern Counties East League Division One football, let's chuck in Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 'Two Tribes' (played at ear-splitting volume) as the theme tune to set the scene, stand back and embrace the wondrous sight of twenty-two alpha-male types kicking the absolute crap out of each other, based loosely around the framework of a 'well-contested' sporting event.
Ding, ding... 'Seconds out! Round one!'
As the teams locked horns and the ensuing tussle began, it was pretty clear that the referee: Colin Bailey, was going to need eyes in the back of his head today, not least because his front pair appeared to be malfunctioning quite badly.
Whether he had adopted a policy of letting a few hefty challenges go, in an attempt to let the game flow, or was genuinely missing a lot of things that were happening outside the sightlines of his peripheral vision, is open to conjecture. I suppose there is always the possibility that the match official enjoyed a good old scrap and his pre-match meet and greet with the team captains, had consisted of just seven words: "Get stuck in!" and "Gladiators are you ready!?"
Either way, even though it was no hiding place for the faint-hearted out there on the field of battle, it was still a very entertaining contest nevertheless. 
But, let's be frank, nobody present was expecting, or wanted, to see any of that three across the back, buggering about with the ball in front of your own keeper, tippy-tappy variant of the game, that is channelled into our homes via satellite dishes and cathode rays. We'd all turned out to see some proper football. That's not meant disrespectfully or as a slight on the very willing and able coaches at these respective clubs, because needs must on a sticky wicket in the middle of Winter, when there are three points at stake. I don't envy whoever will be forking and rolling this lot over in the morning... assuming that we're not all under a foot of snow by then. Those clouds moving in from over Bill's mother's house looked weighed down with the horrible stuff.
Matt Robinson almost put the Choughs in front from the first attack of the game, but Luke Forgione's WBA cleared their lines... and once we'd seen a couple of potential flare ups come and go as the players from both sides decided to indulge a bickering festival, it needs to be said that the visitors looked anything but a side who are struggling along near the foot of the table.
People will no doubt look at the final result and respective league placings tonight and assume, incorrectly but quite understandably, that fifth placed Retford completely rinsed their lowly opponents.
The home side deserved their win, there is no disputing that... and there were some quality finishes among their impressive haul of goals that were forged out of sheer ruthlessness at a particularly critical period of the game. But on the balance of play, I personally felt that the Briggers were unlucky to have been on the wrong end of such a top heavy margin of defeat. 
Alas, it's a time-honoured ritual and brutal tradition, that teams occupying the lower rungs of any given division are forbidden by the football gods to claim anything like their fair share of any 50/50 rub of the green decisions, while Dame Fortune will turn her back on them completely at the same time as well.
And if you should ever find yourself getting sucked into such a downward spiral, don't be expecting any favours from the likes of Mr Bailey either.
Harry Scott in the visitors goal was well placed to deal with several promising raids on his goal by the hosts, the most threatening of which saw Jack Johnson pick out Jake Scott with a quickly taken throw-in on the left, that the industrious playmaker took under control before quickly switching the ball into the right channel into the path of Haydn Goddard who took a touch before letting fly with a stinging shot from fifteen yards out, that the visitors keeper did well to deal with.
The turning point in the game came in the thirty-eighth minute, when during yet another argument between players from both sides, just outside the visitors area, that had erupted following a heavy  lunge by a Worsborough player, the referee was subsequently subjected to a string of 'potty-mouthed' invective and decided to sin-bin Worsborough's Lewis O'Connor for an alleged abusive comment.
Dissent and swearing towards officials is wrong and needs stamping out, however... our entourage were stood pitch-side approximately twenty five yards from the incident, and we were all surprised that O'Connor had been given a detention, because it wasn't his challenge that had sparked the row off and it also didn't appear to be the visitors number eight that had actually badmouthed the harassed official either. 
And, to my way of thinking, it did seem grossly unfair that O'Connor was singled out to sit it out, when the man in the middle had been letting so many other things go unpunished thus far. 
But apparently, the official wanted to make an example of somebody (anybody seemingly) to defuse the frequent squabbling and stand-offs that had punctuated the first-half.
Retford exploited their numerical advantage to the full, as you would expect any team in a similar situation to do, so fair play to them for making good of the imbalance that they had been gifted. 
But it will have been agonising viewing for Lewis O'Connor, watching on as the Choughs netted three times during his enforced absence... and I don't imagine that 'fair play' are the words that he would've used to describe his predicament.
A local supporter in our midst was chuckling to himself and shouted out: "You're doing a great job referee, keep up the good work mate!" and "You're welcome back here anytime ref!"
Do these sort of things balance themselves out over the course of a whole season? 
Ask the Worsborough bench that question... but be prepared to run away fairly sharpish when they respond accordingly.
Robinson opened the scoring in the forty-fifth minute, burying the ball from twelve yards out, after Goddard had teed the strike up for him with a sideways knock, as the pair advanced in tandem towards the Briggers goal through a bloody great big chasm of space, that only a few minutes previously would most likely have been occupied by a certain player wearing a red shirt with a white number eight on the back of it. Within a minute, as the game entered first-half stoppage time, Zach Casburn found the net with a great finish, when he directed a glancing header beyond the reach of (H) Scott. 
By a quirk of fate, Casburn wasn't even in the Choughs original starting line-up this afternoon, but was only drafted in as a late replacement when Graeme Severn limped out of the warm up. 
What an inspired substitution that one turned out to be, inadvertently.
Two minutes after the restart there's a ball to hand situation just inside the Briggers area, we've all seen 'em waved away and we've all seen 'em given too. But while this particular referee and Worsborough Bridge Athletic were involved in the equation, nobody was ever in any doubt what was coming next. And Casburn stepped forward and emphatically put the ball away from the resulting penalty kick.
When O'Connor entered the fray, the resident comedian greeted him cheerfully: "Welcome back... you haven't missed much while you were away!"
In all likelihood, it was already 'game over' by now, but the diminutive Harley Holt, almost reduced the deficit when he crashed a dipping long range strike against the crossbar after the ball had been cleared away in his general direction.

To their credit, Worsborough had kept their heads up and were still trying to take the game to their hosts, but salvaging anything out of this encounter became a lost cause when Luke Adby fired a snap shot across the face of their goal, that nestled just inside the left hand upright.
Owen Wildblood (at least I think it was him) as I peered through the frost forming on my spectacles test Jon Kennedy with a thumping thirty yard shot, but the legendary keeper turned the ball away at full stretch and Retford broke away quickly from end to end, as Casburn galloped forward at full pelt, Maxim Hague wiped him out with a body check, but Mr Bailey played the advantage which the home side couldn't take advantage from.
But it wasn't long before the Choughs added goal number five, when Robinson nudged the ball past (H) Scott as he advanced from his goal and his knock had just about enough puff behind it to crawl over the line. 
Elliot Wilson was a fraction away from netting a consolation goal for the Briggers, when he showed a few good touches out on the left wing before floating over a cross that dropped just inches wide of the far post.
Ever the consummate pro, regardless of the fact that the game was heading into stoppage-time and his team were five goals ahead, 'Kendo' gave his defence a rollicking for allowing Wilson to get into such a dangerous position.
FT: Retford FC 5 v Worsbrough Bridge Athletic 0
In the final analysis, besides being a decent side anyway, the Choughs had the added elements of heaps of mettle and application in their arsenal today... and it was always going to prove difficult for their visitors to overcome such a strong side anyway. 
But Worsbrough will won a lot of people over with their approach to the game, by still battling on and trying to play football the right way, even when the game was running away from them and beyond their reach.
No doubt the sin-binning was a contributing factor to the final outcome, but it would be churlish to chastise Retford for dealing with the scenario they were gifted with in such an effective and efficient manner. In fact, quite the opposite... they would've needed their collective arses kicking if that hadn't made hay while the sun shone on them.
This visit to the Rail Ground marked my last game of 2020 and ended the year a high note. 
Away from football, it's been a fairly crap and often quite scary twelve months on so many different levels and the kind of stuff that they show you on the telly stokes up people's fears unnecessarily too. 
For example, only this morning they were showing a trailer for the new year edition of 'Doctor Who', and it transpires that Daleks can fly nowadays. Jesus wept! Those things used to frighten me half to death when I was a kid and they couldn't even climb up stairs back then... these are bat shit crazy times that we're living in.
Being mindful of the fact that travelling between two different tier three areas, unless I'm working on t'railway or fulfilling my duties as a club official, is not an option... as things stand, my first fixture of the new year (and new decade) will hopefully be in played in my hometown of Retford too, when Clay Cross Town are scheduled to visit Cannon Park to take on Retford United on Saturday, as the top two teams in the CMFL North go head to head.
Of course, the possibility of another impending lockdown, and/or raft of postponed games because of the Winter climate dropping in on us any time soon. will probably, in all likelihood, scupper those plans.
And in truth, I'm not even slightly optimistic that I will be venturing outdoor to watch any football again for quite a while.
Though it pains me to say it, there is a very real possibility, probability even, grimly heading in, that 'non-elite' football is facing the prospect of a second successive uncompleted stop/start season.
The fact of the matter is, we should all be bracing ourselves in readiness for yet another round of debate/arguments and (heated) discussion, pertaining to 'points per game' and/or 'null and voiding' and an impending, even bigger than ever, 'what a to do' situation. 
But, there is more to life than football and we're all going to have to grasp that particular nettle, very tightly, with both hands, any time soon. 
Mind how you go and stay safe.