Saturday, 30 July 2022

Arsenal 6 v Sevilla 0 - Emirates Cup

Saturday 30th July 2022
Emirates Cup (PSF)
At Ashburton Grove (Emirates Stadium)
Arsenal (4) 6
Bukayo Saka 10 Pen, 19 
Gabriel Jesus 13, 15, 76 
Eddie Nketiah 89
Sevilla (0) 0
Arsenal: 
Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Gabriel, William Saliba, Oleksandr Zinchenko (Mohamed Elneny 79), Granit Xhaka (Sambi Lokonga 90), Thomas Partey (Cedric Soares 79), Bukayo Saka (Nicolas Pepe 79), Martin Odegaard (C), Gabriel Martinelli (Reiss Nelson 90), Gabriel Jesus (Eddie Nketiah 79).
Unused subs - Matt Turner (GK) Alex Runarsson (GK), Hector Bellerin, Pablo Mari, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Marquinhos.
Sevilla: 
Bono, Jesus Navas (C), Karim Rekik (Pablo Perez Rico 70), Jose Angel, Marcos Acuna (Kike Salas 70), Fernando (Pedro Ortiz 70), Ivan Rakitic, Oliver Oliver Torres (Munir 80), Erik Lamela (Luismi Cruz), Tecatiti Corona (Ignacio Quintana Navarro 80), Youssef En-Nesyri (Ivan Romero 70).
Unused subs - Marko Dmitrovic (GK), Marius Herzig (GK), Gonzalo Montiel, Nemenja Gudelj, Thomas Delaney, Joan Jordan, Pedro Ortiz, Lucas Ocampos, Suso, Papu Gomez, Antonio Perez, Ivan Araque.
The team sheet wasn't 100% accurate, but it contained enough clues for us to work out who any of the missing names were and decipher which players go by several names, depending upon their nationality and other preferences. The Sevilla goalkeeper, Bono, wasn't actually the lead vocalist out of U2 (although you'd have been forgiven for thinking that he was during the opening twenty minutes), his full name is Yassine Bounou; a Moroccan international who prior to today already had two goal assists to his name this year. After this afternoon's off-day he probably qualifies for two more too... for Arsenal.
It's the occasion of a jolly down south, to that there north London, to watch 'The Arsenal' in action, at the behest of mi' Julie.
I know what'll be fun, let's undertake a three hundred and ten mile round trip when all of the roads are completely gridlocked because it's the opening weekend of the school Summer holidays and there's a train drivers strike on... and just to make things ever so slightly more challenging, let's chuck an early kick-off into the equation too, and then complicate matters still further by taking 'just another ten minutes' when the (ridiculously early) morning alarm goes off, that inevitably becomes a substantial and rather lengthy lay in. Eek!
But, regardless of all the obstacles, we got there in plenty of time. Because, in spite of appearances, I'm infinitely more resourceful and organised to the nth degree on Saturdays than I am on any other day of the week.
In the half hour prior to kick-off, the matchday announcer at Arsenal, one Nigel Mitchell, had three memorial tributes to deal with, which he delivered seamlessly and very respectably.
It was announced on the Arsenal.Com website on July 22nd that legendary supporter: Maria Petri, universally known as the Gunners number one fan, who'd begun following the club as a twelve year old in 1950, had sadly passed away. A video was screened of her singing with the Arsenal women's team, who she also followed avidly, and was met with enthusiastic applause from today's sell-out gathering.
Following a period of reflection, another heartfelt tribute, dedicated the former Arsenal and Sevilla player Jose Antonio Reyes, who died in a road traffic accident two years ago, aged just thirty-four took place, which included both of today's managers: Mikel Arteta and Julen Lopetegui, exchanging their teams respective shirts with Reyes name and number on the back, nine for Arsenal, ten for Sevilla. Reyes was of course one of the Arsene Wenger era 'Invincibles' team of the 2003-04 season.
The players father: Francisco Reyes, also presented the man of the match trophy to Gabriel Jesus following this afternoon's match.
The third and final tribute was for the former Arsenal player, captain and manager Terry Neill, who died just two days ago, aged eighty.
Having joined the Gunners from Bangor in Northern Ireland in 1959, Neill began playing for Arsenal as an eighteen year old in 1960 and was promoted to first team captain just two years later and went on to make Two hundred and forty one appearances, weighing in with eight goals.
Between 1961 and 1973 he won fifty-nine international caps and scored twice for Northern Ireland, who he also served as a manager and player-manager from 1971 to 1975, when he was also the player-manager for Hull City.
After two years managing Tottenham Hotspur, who were relegated the season after he left, Terry Neill became the manager of Arsenal, replacing the retiring Bertie Mee in 1976. He led Arsenal to three successive FA Cup finals: 1978, 1979 and 1980... and a European Cup Winners Cup final in 1980. When Peter Hill-Wood dismissed Neill from his post in December 1983, he subsequently retired from football.
The Emirates Stadium (AKA Ashburton Grove) had been chosen to host the FA Community Shield (Charity Shield in old money) between Liverpool and Manchester City this afternoon, because the Women's Euro 2022 Final is being staged at Wembley Stadium this weekend. C'mon England! But Arsenal declined the offer, so that they could fit in this solitary home fixture amongst their pre-season schedule. The capacity crowd that turned out for this friendly/Emirates Cup game* obviously agreed with that decision and were eager to get a look at the new signings. I suspect that they will be very happy with what they saw and perhaps even a bit more optimistic about the forthcoming season than they have been for a few years, while Arteta has steadily built the kind of a team that he wants.
Team work makes the dream work, as they say... and the Gunners recent recruitment drive towards finding the right kind of players to blend together as been nothing short of very impressive. But all of the superlative sickliness in the world won't count for much unless Arsenal can hit the ground running when the new Premier League season starts for real next weekend.
Incidentally, the Guardiola v Klopp Shield game will be played later today at Leicester City's King Power Stadium instead, which is where Sevilla will be heading for a friendly against the home club tomorrow. And they will probably be hoping that the Foxes aren't quite as fired up as Arsenal were today.
The Sevillistas, who had finished fourth in last season's La Liga, were under the cosh from the word go.
While the crowd were paying their respects to Reyes by applauding the in the ninth minute, the hosts skipper Martin Adegaard hooked the ball forward for Bukayo Saka to run on to, the Arsenal number seven reached the ball to the right of Sevilla's area but was pushed away by Karim Rekik and the match referee Andrew Madley blew up and pointed to the penalty spot. Saka took the resulting kick himself and calmly despatched the ball past Bono. Ten minutes on the clock 1-0 to the Arsenal... nineteen minutes and it was 4-0. A four goal smash and grab raid inside a nine minute spell saw Arteta's latest model in full flow and )dare I say it) beginning to resemble Wenger's aforementioned 'Invincibles'. Granted, it's only pre-season and it won't count for anything unless Arsenal can transfer this kind of dominance to their Premier League games, but the visitors were effectively being demoralised and dismantled.
Jesus netted his first goal of the day after collecting a pass from Ben White and combining with Granit Xhaka whose low delivery into the six-yard box was clumsily diverted into the path of Jesus by Bono and the Brazilian striker took full advantage of the hapless keeper's unintentional generosity. 
Within ninety seconds, Jesus struck again, when Gabriel Martinelli knocked a left-wing cross behind the static visitors defence for the Gunners new number nine to run on to and add his second goal.
Though you couldn't attach any blame for Arsenal's third goal to Bono, who had been left completely exposed by his AWOL backline, the keeper was the architect of his own downfall for their fourth, when he inexplicably stabbed at a back pass and weakly rolled the ball straight into the path of Saka, who compound the errant keeper's misery by slotting the ball through his legs.
B'Jesus said Paddy! 
On the stroke of half-time, Bono suddenly remembered that goalkeepers are allowed to use their hands as he pulled off a great double-save to thwart Jesus and Odegaard ("A decent goalie would have held onto the first one", muttered Mrs W), before keeping his nerve to block out Martinelli as they went one against one.
Obviously the second half was never going to be as high tempo as the first as Sevilla steadied the ship and no less than thirteen substitutions disrupted the flow of the game.
But, there were two more goals for the home crowd to celebrate... and the next one came from an almost inevitable source.
Martinelli's corner caused chaos among the visitors ranks and Bono did well to get behind Gabriel's close-range effort, but predictably as the ball rebounded off of the Moroccan stopper, that Jesus bloke was in the right place at the right time, to snaffle up the half-chance and complete his hat-trick.
White had the chance to increase the hosts lead, but though he beat Bono all ends up with a crafty lob, the ball sailed wide of the upright.
In the final minute, Xhaka linked up with Martinelli, who motored forward from midfield before knocking a sideways pass to Eddie Nketiah (who'd come on as a seventy-ninth minute in place of Jesus) and he added the final touch.
FT: Arsenal 6 v Sevilla 0
The journey home wasn't anywhere near as heart-stopping an experience as the mad dash to get to Ashburton Grove had been this morning... and my better half hardly covered her eyes or screamed very much at all on the way back. But the fun and games had been worth it. Imagine if we'd have missed that opening twenty minutes.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Notts County 2 v Nottingham Forest 2 - PSF - Derek Pavis Trophy

Tuesday 26th July 2022
Pre Season Friendly - The Derek Pavis Trophy
Notts County (0) 2
Macaulay Langstaff 47 Sam Austin 59
Nottingham Forest (1) 2
Sam Surridge 43, Cafú 53
Attendance: 14,041 (inc. 5,929)
Notts County:
Sam Slocombe, Kyle Cameron, Aden Baldwin, Richard Brindley, Adam Chicksen (Joel Taylor 82), Aaron Nemane (Tobi Adebayo-Rowling 82), Ed Francis (Geraldo Bajrami 64), Jim O'Brien (Cedwyn Scott 64), Ruben Rodrigues (Frank Vincent 82), Sam Austin, Macauley Langstaff (Kairo Mitchell 82)
Unused sub -Tiernan  Brooks (GK)
Nottingham Forest
Jordan Smith, Loïc Mbe Soh, Giulian Biancone (Justin Hanks 82), Richie Laryea (Julian Larsson 75), Aaron Donnelly; Cafú (Dale Taylor 71), Braian Ojeda (Billy Fewster HT), Ryan Yates (Oliver Hammond HT), Alex Mighten (Ateef Konaté 75), Sam Surridge (Zach Abbott HT), Lyle Taylor
Approximately four hours before tonight's game, Forest posted their line-up on t'internet, listing what was effectively a second-string, with a few bells attached... and then also advertised the fact that they would be streaming the game live on their website, for nowt. All of which cheered some of their fan-base up no end (I'm being ironic) as they took to social-media to bemoan the injustice of it all, given that the whole allocation of away tickets was sold out in anticipation of Steve Cooper's side having more of a first-team look to it, while possibly showcasing the Reds new signings. 
Judging by the response in the home sections of the ground to Sam Surridge's opening goal just before half-time, there were plenty of visiting supporters swelling tonight's attendance by sitting in amongst the County faithful too.
Kick off was delayed by fifteen minutes, because there were still queues of people waiting to get in at 7.45PM. At approximately 8.20PM a stroppy individual demanded that I should move because I was in his seat and went on to tell me that if I didn't comply he would fetch a steward to have me removed. "Look! Seat 49. I'm assuming that you can read". Had he been polite about the situation, I would've explained that every single row in this block had a seat 49 at the end of it and pointed out that he should double check what which letter he needed to look for, but he was swearing, being aggressive and getting personal... so I didn't. But responded in kind, suggesting that he had better go and find a steward because I was going nowhere.
He returned with two of them, one of whom asked to see my ticket so he could advise me where I was moving to, "Err, you are in the right seat, S 49" I was informed. Not that I didn't already know, of course. 
Mr Stroppy then showed them his brief. "Oh, there's y'problem you're sat right down there, this isn't your row number". Well, I never! I glared intensely at the back of the annoying individuals head as he made his way down the stairs, hoping that I'd inherited some my Grandma's psychic powers, so that I could cause him to fall and hurt himself, really badly, while checking out every single seat 49 in Block B as he rolled by, picking up speed, before meeting his demise in a crumpled heap right at the bottom.
Alas, my Gran might've been a medium, but I'm more of an XXL myself, so that didn't work.  
The Pies could consider themselves unfortunate to go in a goal behind at the interval, because with just a fraction more sharpness and a bit more luck in front of Jordan Smith's goal, they might've been two, or even three goals in front before Sam Surridge bent the ball just inside the right-hand upright, beyond the reach of Sam Slocombe, in the forty-third minute.
Ruben Rodrigues in particular had been unplayable, ragging the visitors defence all over the place with Jim O'Brien and Ed Francis making sure that Smith was being kept busy too.
Macauley Langstaff, County's recent acquisition from Gateshead, endeared himself to his new home ground just two minutes after the interval, when he was picked out inside the Forest area by Rodrigues and thumped the ball emphatically past Smith, with a peach of a left-footed finish to level things up.
Any fears that Notts might have been knocked out of their stride by Surridge's sucker punch just before half-time were soon dispelled as the hosts continued to take the game to their illustrious neighbours.
But in the fifty-third minute, Forest scored against the run of play again, when Cafu beat Slocombe with a sweetly struck long-range free-kick. You don't stop those.
Langstaff was denied by Smith, while Slocombe kept out Alex Mighten at the other end.
But Nottinghamshire's senior non-league side equalised again just before the hour, through Sam Austin, another new addition to County's ranks who has signed from Kidderminster Harriers.
Kyle Cameron played the ball inside to Austin who controlled it before lashing a shot past Smith, despite a number of defending players being in close attendance.
Rodrigues and Austin were both thwarted by Smith as the home side kept up their impressive tempo up for the remainder of the game. While second-half substitutes: Cedwyn Scott and Aaron Nemane, both went close too.
Right at the death, Rodrigues nearly claimed the local bragging rights for the team from the north of the Trent, but he clipped a great chance narrowly wide of the upright.
FT: Notts County 2 v Nottingham Forest 2
Watching Lyle Taylor going through the motions for ninety minutes, on the periphery of tonight's game, was a sad sight. The local press gave him a mark of four out of ten for his endeavours. Surely, taking into account his exploits in a struggling Birmingham City side last season, he can still do a job for somebody, somewhere. I hope he gets sorted out soon.
On the short walk back to where I'd parked my car, some young County fans were singing: "Premier League, you're having a laugh!", a Forest fan responded: "Don't get carried away County, it was only our reserves out there tonight". 
New LED floodlights. Very posh.
But, all told, there had been plenty of first team experience featured in Steve Cooper's line-up, and facts are facts; the visitors had just got lucky and had effectively been outplayed by their National League neighbours and would've lost tonight had it not been for the prowess of Jordan Smith between the sticks.
Kyle Wooton and Cal Roberts might well be gone, ditto two managers: Neil Ardley and Ian Burchnall, in quick succession, but in Longstaff and Austin, the Pies recently recruited head-coach Luke Williams. might just be finding the right ingredients towards concocting a successful formula to help Notts regain the Football League status that they lost in 2019.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Charlton Athletic 1 v Swansea City 2 - PSF

Saturday 23rd July 2022
Pre Season Friendly
at the Valley, Floyd Road
Charlton Athletic (1) 1
Harry Darling 4 OG
Swansea City (0) 2
Joel Piroe 53, Ryan Manning 85
Attendance: 3,345 (inc. 369 away fans)
Point & hope mobile phone picture gallery: Click HERE
Keith Peacock
Charlton Athletic:
Wollacott, Clare, Inniss, O'Connell, Sessegnon (Chin 74), Morgan, McGrandles (Payne 46), Fraser, Leaburn (Henry 74), Stockley (C), Blackett-Taylor (Kanu 74)
Unused subs - Harness, Bakrin, Elerewe, Santos, Williams
Swansea City:
Fisher, Latibeaudiere (Manning 72), Wood, Darling, Naughton; Fulton, Grimes (C), Sorinola (McFayden 86), Piroe, Paterson (Ntcham 72), Obafemi (Congreve 80)
Unused subs - Benda, Cooper, Cullen
Preamble:
A managerial timeline since Thomas Sandgaard took control of Charlton Athletic on 25 September 2020 seems like a good place to start this afternoon's overview: 
On 15 March 2021, with the Addicks sitting in eighth place in League One, Lee Bowyer resigned as manager so he could take over the reigns at Birmingham City. 
After a matter of only a few days, during which time Johnnie Jackson had very briefly deputised in a stop-gap caretaker capacity, Nigel Adkins was appointed and steadied any potential fallout from Bowyer's departure, as the South London club finished the 2020–21 season in seventh place. But a poor start to the 2021-22 campaign, during which time Charlton won just two out of their opening thirteen league matches and slid into the relegation zone, Adkins was sacked from his short-lived role on 21st October 2021.
Once again Jackson was enlisted in caretaker role, which after a promising start led to him being appointed as the full-time manager in December 2021. Alas, he was also dismissed at the end of the season, after leading the team up the table from the drop-zone to a final mid table placing of thirteenth. And on 8th June 2022, it was announced that Charlton had snaffled Swindon Town's manager Ben Garner away from the Wiltshire club and installed him in the Valley hot-seat on a three year contract.
At the time of writing, neither Adkins or Bowyer are employed in any kind of football management capacity, but as soon as 16th May 2022, Johnnie Jackson was given the manager's job at AFC Wimbledon and he's wasted no time at all in his efforts to rebuild the Dons following their relegation to League Two at the end of last season.
Since last term, Charlton have signed the following players: Steven Sessegnon (on a season long loan from Fulham), and five free transfer signings, including three: right back Mandela Egbo, attacking midfielder Jack Payne and goalkeeper Joe Wollacott from Garner's former club, along with Midfielder Conor McGrandles from Lincoln City and central defender Eoghan O'Connell from Rochdale.
The departure lounge at the Valley has been considerably busier. Besides Ashley Maynard-Brewer, who has moved out on a season long loan to Gillingham and Jason Pearce's retirement from playing to take up a coaching role with the Addicks Under 18 team, another sixteen players from last season's squad have been released, including both Chris Gunter and Josh Davison who've teamed up with Johnnie Jackson at AFC Wimbledon. 
Amidst such a mass exodus (haemorrhaging?) of personnel, Charlton only received (undisclosed) transfer fees for two of their outgoing players, namely: the aforementioned Josh Davison and Ben Dempsey, the latter of who joined Ayr United.
Of course, such an extensive programme of releases, will obviously have reduced the club's wage bill no end. But I was personally surprised and a touch disappointed, to see that  Conor Washington, a striker,  left the club on a free. Subsequently, he'll be turning out for Championship side Rotherham United this coming season. 
It'll be interesting to see if Garner will be allowed to strengthen the attacking options that he currently has at his disposal, in light of Washington's departure. Because it's a long old season and more cover will be required out of necessity, to allow for the inevitable injuries, suspensions and tactical switches that will be need to be negotiated, as the forthcoming league campaign, in what is becoming an increasingly competitive division, builds up a head of steam.
Although, that said, Charlton's Academy continues to provide an impressive number of highly promising youngsters, several of who look good to go and have been knocking on the first team door of late and featured as squad players last term.
Are they ready to step up? Well, chucking them in at the deep end will soon answer that question.
With the Addicks celebrating their thirtieth season back at the Valley this term, Ben Garner's mission, as per Mr Sandgaard's wishes, is implementing a more attractive playing style, incorporating a high press... and targeting a top two finish. Good luck with that.
A home debut for Ben Garner
Just saying:
I arrived early at the Valley today, because I was meeting up with a few people to pick their brains for a research project that I'm currently undertaking... and when I got there I had the great pleasure of bumping into and exchanging pleasantries with one Keith Peacock. 
The photo from our impromptu chat, that appears towards the top of this post, went out on my Twitter account feed soon afterwards... and has since been reproduced on somebody else's social media site. 
I s'pose it's nice that so many people will get to see this rather smashing image of a genuinely lovely guy and highly revered football legend, even if it is as a consequence of a Facebook group admin using it for clickbait purposes on their own social-media platform. I guess that once anything appears on the internet it instantly becomes public property.
But, for the record, though I usually only use my own pictures on THE66POW, very occasionally I have utilised a few that photographer friends of mine have taken. But, when such a thing occurs, I always afford them the courtesy of gaining consent first and then crediting my sources. Manners maketh the man.
Matchday:
Five of the six newcomers featured in the Charlton side over the course of the ninety minutes. A good few of the younger element were given a run out too, which with the first game of the League One season at Accrington Stanley just a week away now, is probably a strong indication of Garner's intentions once the new campaign gets underway for real.
The game was only four minutes old, when Harry Darling provided an embarrassing comedy element to proceedings, when having spotted Albie Morgan closing in on him at ramming speed, the Swans defender rolled a back-pass to Andy Fisher without actually checking where his goalkeeper was first. Whoops! Darling OG, Morgan assist, methinks.
Any assumption that as a pre-season fixture, there wouldn't be any real tackling or feistiness on show today was wiped-out, quite literally in the ninth minute, along with Matty Sorinola; when Jayden Stockley single-handedly upped the competitive ante of the game, with a wholesome and fearsome lunge that instantly had players from both teams fronting up to each other to exchange WhatsApp account details and restaurant recommendations for later on, or a few rude words to that effect. The referee, John Busby yellow-carded Stockley for his misdemeanour, prompting a shout from the West Stand seats of: "Booking players, in a friendly!? Have a word with yourself ref!". Methinks, if this had been a competitive fixture, then the Addicks captain might well have been looking at a different coloured card.
Corey Blackett-Taylor was terrorising the Championship side's defence on the left and was unlucky to see his volley clear the bar, when he ghosted inside on the defences bind side to meet Morgan's dipping delivery. Meanwhile at the opposite end, Joël Mohammed Ramzan Piroe combined with Jamie Paterson to tee a shot up for Matt Grimes, but his effort took a deflection and ended up in the lower-tier of the Covered End.
369 Swansea fans
Blackett-Taylor was chomping at the bit and looks to be raring to go ahead of the new season, after outstripping Joel Latibeaudiere for pace, he centred the ball to Stockley, who saw first-time strike was pushed away by Fisher in the general direction of Miles Leaburn, one of the new breed of young talent at Charlton I alluded to earlier, but he couldn't quite keep his shot down.
Michael Obafemi, Swansea's Republic of Ireland international striker was being his usual self, a powerful, hustling and bustling, in 'yer face and on your toes hitman who'll be the scourge of many a Championship defence this season. He proved to be a great test for the Addicks defence, with Sean Clare evidently relishing the ensuing battle, particularly when he stole the ball away from the visitors number nine just inside the area when he was about to let fly at Joe Wollacott's goal, with a timely and impressively composed interception.
Obafemi did find the net, but fortunately for the hosts he'd timed his run all wrong and the offside flag was already aloft long before he curled the ball beyond the reach of Wollacott.
And what of Wollacott, on his home debut? Very, very impressive I'd say. Dealing with set-pieces, shot stopping, reflex-saves and even au fait at adapting to a 'sweeper-keeper' role, something that he'll often be called upon to perform as this modern day tactical trend of faffing about at the back and passing the ball about between defenders remains en vogue. The former Swindon keeper must've been all of twenty yards outside of his area when he charged out to dispossess Grimes, pretty much the same distance that Fisher had had to come to block the path of Steven Sessegnon as he marauded down the left flank (as he appears wont to do) shortly before half-time.
Right at the start of the second-half Jayden Stockley was flattened (well, he started it) just outside the visitors area, but the resulting free kick amounted to nothing. Swansea tried passing their way forward through the centre of the pitch, but their movement was met by stubborn resistance from a well drilled Charlton midfield. Russell Martin, the Swans manager began ranting at the assistant referee, obviously feeling that his opponents were being a bit too rough with his Championship players. At this juncture, I'm going to call things as I saw them (which might not be 100% correct) and award Martin with an assist for Swansea's first goal. 
It unfolded like this: he  (Martin) was still berating the 'linesman' as play continued, who as a consequence was distracted and slightly behind play as Obafemi broke forward. Had the official been in line with play at the time, it is my belief that he would have flagged the Swans impressive front man for having been caught offside, again, but nothing of the sort happened and only a last ditch challenge at the expense of a corner prevented an equaliser. Subsequently, although O'Connell got his head to Grimes' corner the ball fell kindly for Piroe who lashed it into the bottom corner of the net. 1-1
I must stress. that the above description of the build up Swansea's first goal, is merely my eye-witness account of events as I believe I'd actually seen them. I'm not always right. And thus I figured that standing up, gesturing towards the scoreboard and chanting: "V.A.R! V.A.R!" was a fairly pointless exercise, that would only draw unwanted attention my way and mark me out as a bit of a twat. So I settled for shouting: "Oi! Liner! Do you even know which end of that flag you should put the batteries in!?" instead. That told him, eh!? It was a good finish mind you.
Is there a protocol for awarding anybody with a man of the match award at a pre-season game?
Well, if there is such a thing, then Wollacott, the Ghanaian international goalkeeper, would have been a worthy recipient today, especially for a string of outstanding saves he made in front of the Jimmy Seed Stand in the second-half.
Ryan Inniss, who hitherto had put in a decent shift, suffered from a momentary lapse that allowed Obafemi to get through, one against one, with Wollacott, who bravely denied the Swans what had looked to be a nailed on cert for a second goal.
Then in quick succession, the Addicks keeper showed a great combination of both agility and strength, to deny Piroe and Grimes. 
Jack Payne spotted Aaron Henry's forward run and and slid a measured pass into his path, but Fisher sprinted from his area once again to make a timely clearance. 
I wonder if defenders chip in a percentage of their salaries into a collection these days, to buy a few post-match beers for the goalkeepers, who are seemingly employed to take on the burden of large chunk their backline's workload.
As the game moved into the final five minutes, two of Swansea's late substitutes, freshened up the visitors attack and clubbed together to provide a winning goal for the Welsh side. Cameron Congreve burst forward on the right flank and reached the dead-ball line, from where he crashed a thumping shot towards the near post where Ryan Manning steered the ball into the Addicks net. 
And so it came to pass that Charlton lost, narrowly, against a team from a higher division. But on the whole the Valley faithful seemed happy that their side had shown many positive attributes and that they had, under the guise as a work in progress side - still familiarising themselves with each other, given a very good account of what they are about in the new world.
FT: Charlton Athletic 1 v Swansea City 2

Saturday, 16 July 2022

Burton Albion 1 v Birmingham City 2 - Bass Charity Vase (PSF)

Saturday 16th July 2022
Bass Charity Vase (Pre Season Friendly)
at the Pirelli Stadium
Burton Albion (0) 1
Tom Hamer 74
Birmingham City (1) 2
George Hall 37
Sam Cosgrove 87
Attendance: 2,588 (inc. 1,716 away fans)
Man of the match trophy winner: Ryan Woods
Point and hope picture gallery: Click HERE
Burton Albion
Ben Garratt (Viljami Sinisalo 46), Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (Charlie Lakin 55), Deji Oshilaja, Sam Hughes (C), Gassan Ahadme (Louis Moult 64), Davis Keillor-Dunn (William Kokolo 67), Jonny Smith (Terry Taylor 46), Trialist A ( Quevin Castro 46), Trialist B (Ciaran Gilligan 67), Frazer Blake-Tracy, Tom Hamer.
Unused sub - Ben Radcliffe.
Birmingham City:
Neil Etheridge (Zack Jeacock 71), Dion Sanderson (Marcel Oakley 70), Marc Roberts (Tate Campbell 70), Maxime Colin (Mitchell Roberts 70), Jordan Graham (Josh Williams 70), Ryan Woods (Alfie Chang 70), Juninho Bacuna (Odin Bailey 70), George Hall (Jordan James 60), Przemyslaw Placheta, Scott Hogan (Jobe Bellingham 70), Troy Deeney (C) (Sam Cosgrove 70).
On 2nd July 2022, with ever more fanciful rumours of an impending takeover at St. Andrew's building up a head of steam (of sorts); head coach: Lee Bowyer, was relieved of his duties after what had become an increasingly uncomfortable tenure, that had lasted all of sixteen months (which actually represents some kind of longevity under Birmingham City's hiring and firing policy of recent years) and was replaced the following day by John Eustace, who has joined Blues on a three year contract. 
You may ask...why leave it until July, a whole two months after last season ended? The most likely answer to that seems to be: a pre-determined activation of a contract loop-hole, so whoever actually owns the club could pay Bowyer less severance (allegedly) than if he'd gone straight after the home defeat against Blackburn Rovers on the final day of the lacklustre 2021-22 campaign.
Image usurped from eBay
Either way, as per usual, there are always infinitely more questions than answers pertaining to all things Birmingham City related. And as regards any of the takeover guff (seeing is believing), ground repair updates, or any kind of assurances to allay the manifold and ever growing list of concerns that supporters have, the silence is deafening. I've had this long held belief that if Birmingham City was a television soap opera, people would've switched it off years ago for being too far-fetched.
But hey! Cheer up all of you over-thinking things and prevaricating Blues fans, because today, right here, right now, in all of it's splendorous glory, there is that all-important and pressing matter of the Bass Charity Vase to play for at the Pirelli Stadium.
Eagerly anticipated (sort of).
This eagerly anticipated event, is even being streamed live on the internet n' all that. And after the game the players from both teams received medals while spectators were urged not to go on the pitch during the post-match presentation ceremony, in case they should have become overwhelmed by the gleeful exuberance of the occasion and behave inappropriately. Most people adhered to the guidance, but a few Blues fans ran onto the pitch to celebrate at the end a sweltering afternoon. Boys will be boys!
I don't know about you, but the excitement of the pre-match build up had been making me feel quite giddy all week and I'd even booked on a later train home, just in case the game needed to be decided by means of a penalty shoot-out.
At the roundabout go straight on (Stretton)
Okay you've sussed me out... in truth, delaying my journey home by forty-five minutes saved me fourteen quid on the fare, which when added to the fiver I refused to pay for a programme (covering three games, two of which I have bugger all interest in), probably puts me in line for this week's 'Martin Lewis of football anorak bloggers' award. Or at least earned me the moniker of: 'you tight bastard', which was  bestowed upon me by my pals who caught the earlier train back. 
You've got more bloody money than sense you lot!
Maik Taylor, popular ex-Blues keeper.
Back at St. Andrew's as goalkeeper coach.
Even though the match ticket only had Pre Season Friendly printed on it, with no mention of any kind of silverware (prestigious or otherwise), any port in a storm will do, when all that's been gathering in the Blues trophy cabinet for far too long now, is a layer of dust.
On the yomp back to the station after the match, my friend joked how great it would be to wind-up certain  opposition fans with the raucous and heartfelt strains of: "Bass Charity Vase winners, you'll never sing that!". The sentiment behind his mirth was "Step aside all you Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest fans whose teams conquered Europe, back in the days when football was still televised in black and white and you lot weren't even born".
But... and I really hate to do this to you pal, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to put some flash on the bones, regarding the history of the Bass Charity Vase and reveal the truth about various inaccuracies pertaining to the words and sentiments of your tongue in cheek, well intended and cheerful ditty.
The Vase was first competed for in 1890, at Peel Croft in Burton-upon-Trent and Derby County won the silverware in it's inaugural year, when they beat Stoke City 3-1. The Rams actually appeared in the first five finals, all played at Peel Croft and in the fifth one of those they drew 2-2, with Aston Villa. The Villans (what an apt nickname) were awarded the win because on of Derby's brace had been an own goal.
So one could say that technically, Villa, who were still based at Perry Barr back then, hadn't actually won the silverware fairly and squarely... not yet anyway. But, twelve months later they saw off Stoke City by four goals to nil, to retain the honour that had been awarded to them the previous year. 
 
As an aside, Peel Croft was then still the home ground of Burton Swifts FC, who merged with Burton Wanderers in 1901 to form Burton United, who played on the aforementioned Derby Road, quite near to where the roundabout depicted above now stands.
Fast forward to as recently as 2018 and Villa beat Burton Albion 4-0 at the Pirelli Stadium, to claim the Vase for a third time. Their last goal that day was netted in the seventy-fifth minute by a certain Gary Gardner. Furthermore, Forest have also won the trophy three times. Today marked Blues second success, having previously won the competition in 1928 when they beat Derby County 3-2, while they were still called Birmingham FC. The City suffix was added in 1943.
To my warped way of thinking, the potted history depicted above, only goes to show that the long established Bass Charity Vase, which has been contested for using numerous formats throughout it's lengthy history, is a trinket worth having at any time, even if the last eighteen finals have been played as part of Burton Albion's pre season preparations. So let the bragging rights begin. 
Moving swiftly on...
When one arrives by train in Burton-upon-Trent, a market town in the borough of East Staffordshire, close to the border with Derbyshire, or the Brewing Capital of the World, to use it's more grandiose title; it is approximately a thirty minute hike to the ground on foot. Turn left as you leave the station and head down the hill, then turn right into Derby Street which becomes Derby Road at a roundabout and keep right on to the end of the road... you'll get there eventually, via Clough Drive, which is named after the current Mansfield Town manager Nigel, and not his slightly more famous dad.
The "nice young man, with a lovely smile" played 227 times for the Brewers and manged them from 1998 to 2008 and 2015 to 2020.  If you don't fell energetic, there are buses (V1, X38, 6) that all drop off near the ground with fares ranging from between £3 to £5, while a taxi weighs in at around £9. 
But it was a nice day for a stroll and if you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves. Incidentally, as you march along the Derby Road towards the ground there are two pubs: one which looks like it hasn't been open since it got a mention in the Domesday Book and another which has been converted into a garage. I'm old enough to remember going into the latter one, when it was still called the Derby Arms, en route to a Burton game, when they still used to play at Eton Park, which was (just about) next door to their current home.
Burton drew last years Vase showpiece against Leicester City, but beat their Premier League visitors from over t'other side of the M1 on penalties, following a goalless ninety minutes.
Today's game got under way just after the scheduled kick-off time of 2PM, in front of a total crowd of 2,588  which officially included 1,716 visiting supporters in the sections of the ground that had been reserved for them, but there were plenty more Blues followers tucked away among the home supporters in their seats too. But everybody was mixing in a friendly and amicable way, although it must be said that the occasion and ambience of the afternoon didn't exactly warrant even a modicum of hostility.
During a lively first-half both teams had chances to open the scoring. Troy Deeney might've done better with a couple of chances, while his strike partner Scott Hogan skimmed a shot just the wrong side of the left hand post from outside the area.
At the other end, Sam Hughes and Davis Keillor-Dunn both caused problems for Neil Etheridge and  the latter even had the ball in the net when Jonny Smith's cross was met by Gassan Ahadme, who's on target header was pushed away Etheridge and pounced upon by Keillor-Dunn but an offside flag denied Albion's number ten his moment of cup final glory.
In the thirty-seventh minute, Blues went ahead of this hitherto evenly matched contest. Juninho Bacuna was unlucky to see a well struck volley glanced narrowly wide from a deflection. 
New signing Przemyslaw Placheta, who looked impressive on the ball this afternoon, took the resulting corner which the Ahadme headed away from the front post, but his clearance only reached Bacuna, who curled the ball back into the mix first time, finding Hogan who planted a bouncing delivery across the face of Ben Garratt's goal that George Hall turned into the net with a stooping header.
Garratt restricted Blues to a single goal interval lead when he twisted and turned to get a hand too Deeney's header and diverted the ball from under the crossbar.
In the dying seconds of the half, Etheridge pulled off a save to deny a player who was playing under the alias of Trialist A... not to be mistaken for Trialist B.
HT: Brewers 0 v Blues 1
Blues came out for the restart with the same eleven players they had started the game with. After sixty minutes George Hall got a knock and was replaced with his fellow Academy graduate Jordan James (who along with another emerging young talent, Jobe Bellingham has just committed to the club on a three year contract. Around the seventy minute mark, Blues sent on their remaining ten substitutes.
For their part the hosts made seven changes at various points during the second, which included both trialists leaving the pitch, with Quevin Castro replacing A at half-time and Ciaran Gilligan taking over from B in the sixty-seventh minute.
With Blues still finding their feet after, just minutes after they had swapped almost their entire their team around, Burton took advantage when Terry Taylor floated a corner-kick to the back-post from the left hand side that Tom Hamer powered home with what could be described as a 'free header.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, the Brewers manager, looked to put the visitors second-string under the cosh and appeared to adopt a direct approach to see the game out and search for a late winner. But after their initial hesitancy Blues weathered the aerial storm and took the game to Burton in the closing stages. particularly through the right channel, from where Odin Bailey beat Viljami Sinisalo, Albion's second half keeper but was denied by a last-ditch clearance by Hughes. I was surprise but pleased to see Bailey is still with Blues, because the rumour I'd heard was that he'd joined Livingston following a successful loan spell up there last season. 
Sam Cosgrove was brought by Birmingham City during Aitor Karanka's nightmare reign at St. Andrew's (for an undisclosed fee), having netted thirty-one goals in seventy-nine appearances for SPL side Aberdeen.
Subsequently, Cosgrove made just a dozen appearances for Blues and was loaned out to both Shrewsbury Town and AFC Wimbledon. His spell with the Wombles expired at the end of last season and he returned to St. Andrew's amid uncertainty about his future. But having already played in pre season, the six foot four inches tall striker looks to have been given a chance to prove his worth to the new manager. With three minutes remaining on the clock today, the hit-man combined with Bailey, before dragging the ball from right to left just outside the area to make a shooting opportunity for himself and bagged his first ever Blues goal, with a well placed left-footed shot. The first of many, maybe? That would be nice.
FT: Burton Albion 1 v Birmingham City 2
And so it came to pass, that after ninety-plus minutes of football, held up intermittently and frequently by a sensible ans plentiful number of breaks for the players to take fluids on board, Birmingham City became the Bass Charity Vase winners again, a mere ninety-four years since they had last won the bloody great big thing and ninety-three years since they last competed for it but lost 2-1 in the final against Gresley Rovers.
The silverware was presented to Blue captain Troy Deeney by the Bass Vase President Dave Mellor (no, not that Dave Mellor). And as the away end serenaded their team with a chorus of "Campiones!" we all headed off home, via the overcrowded and bijou standing area that passes for a railway station round these parts..
Blues have been recruiting a few new players over the past couple of weeks and though such things never actually count for very much, they are now unbeaten in three pre season outings, having already beaten Walsall 1-0 in a behind closed doors friendly at the Wast Hills training ground and drawn 1-1 v Portimonense S.C.in Portugal.
On Tuesday night, John Eustace's side will feature in two games, when he'll be sending different line-ups to both Solihull Moors and Cheltenham Town respectively. And then next Saturday Rayo Vallecano de Madrid, who finished Twelfth in La Liga (the top flight in Spain) last season will visit St. Andrew's for a 3PM kick-off. Rayo are also playing games at Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester United while they're in the country. And lets be honest, they're probably quaking in their boots at the prospect of facing Blues after hearing about today's cup final victory over League 1 side Burton Albion.
Enjoy your football.