Saturday, 20 February 2010

Scunthorpe United v Watford - Football League Championship.

Saturday 20th February 2010. Football League Championship
at Glanford Park, Scunthorpe

Scunthorpe United (1) 2 (Hooper 42 & 90+5 pen)
Watford (0) 2 (Graham 64, Eustace 90+1)

Admission £15 (standing), Programme £3 (10 out of 10),
Attendance 5,411
At Glanford Park you can eat either outside the ground, or inside.
Or both if you're so inclined.

How did we used to manage before the internet and mobile phones were invented?
Back in the 'good olde days' clubs would just have one permanently engaged telephone number you could ring to ascertain whether fixtures were postponed or not.
And for the most part the Non League club numbers listed in the Directory would be out of date anyway.
It's easy these days though, receive a text message moments after the ref has declared 'game off', forward it to all interested parties and then wait for news of the next fixture to fall foul of the weather, until eventually after Worksop Town, Mansfield Town and Sheffield FC have all fallen by the wayside, you get an invitation ... "Scunny's still on and we're setting off in 10 minutes if you fancy it'.
Indeed, I did fancy it.
Tempting as it was to go to Cannon Park to see Matlock Town's visit to Retford United, I had already ascertained that the pitch there was going to cut up badly, which would probably mean that game would be ruined as a spectacle.
Glanford Park, in spite of being a Championship venue, still has a covered terrace behind one goal, which at £15 offers very reasonably priced admission for this level of football.
Note I said level there, not standard.
At £3, a lot of people I know would baulk at the price of the programme, but it is larger, thicker and contains far more reading matter than any other club magazine I've ever seen before, so I purchased one on the back of the award winning reputation I'd heard about and was very impressed.
In my book it's great that a team from a town like Scunthorpe can reach the dizzy heights of being just one promotion away from the 'greed is good' league. That said, I wouldn't want to watch Championship football on a regular basis, but it won't do me any harm to see how the other half live every once in a while.

Some people have set agendas and rules that dictate what type of games they will watch, but personally I just go where the mood takes me.
There weren't any other neutral games within a reasonable distance of home that I fancied today, or grounds that I hadn't already visited numerous times before, so Glanford Park was as good a destination as any. I think the last time I was here was for an England v France Under 17's International about 7 or 8 years ago with my son and his hyperactive mate, I'd never been very good at keeping lists until that column on the right of this blog appeared, so I don't know the exact date. The ground hasn't changed one little bit since then by the way. But I digress.
I can't be doing with all the faux 'Groundhopper' inverted snobbery stuff myself, it's not as if those of us who get tarred with that brush are some kind of elitist cult with a pecking order based on one-upmanship and holier than thou type standards, now is it?
If people feel they have some kind of point to prove, then that is their problem, not mine.
I'm just a football fan who enjoys the freedom of being able to go and watch whatever game I fancy, wherever I like, whenever I like.
WIN UP TO £1000 INSTANTLY - I didn't of course.

Usually Non League football is my tipple of choice these days, but there's nowt wrong with trying out a few different flavours every now and again. Is there?
Spread your feckin' wings a bit cherubs, there's an whole wide world out there for you to discover.
And if you're not really enjoying what you're doing, well, quit doing it.

Today was my fifth football match in six days, but that is only because I went out for a relatives 65th birthday meal last night, or I would've gone to Rotherham United v Torquay United then instead, another non Non League game ... Oh, great snorkel parka God in the sky forgive me!!!
To be frank, the quality of football in the Championship isn't anywhere near as good as it should be if today's game is anything to go by. But I enjoyed my day out with a couple of good mates that I hadn't been to a match with for ages.
Neither of them support league clubs either. Their team play in the Conference (at present) and Field Mill had a frozen pitch today.
In this day and age, Mansfield Town regaining their Football League status would be very nice, but it isn't seen as some be all and end all kind of holy grail any more.
The Rainham Steel Stand.
Surprisingly enough, not a fertile breeding ground for boy bands and male models

Scunny's first half game plan seemed to revolve around leaving just one man up front most of the time, while the rest of the team played really deep and kept conceding possession far too often and easily.
Evidently, the home crowd weren't at all enamoured with this approach and were soon venting their dis-satisfaction towards the manager Nigel Adkins and one or two of his players, who quite obviously aren't ever likely to top any fans favourites poll any time soon.
Watford were encouraged to push forward in response to the Iron's negativity, which they did often, but without any real malice.
The Hornets linked up well around the box but were lacking that final edge ... and Scunthorpe ought to be grateful for that or this game would have been out of their reach by the break.
Possibly the home side's goal difference of minus 19 explains why they've taken to packing out their defence, maybe they were luring Watford into a false sense of security before unleashing a few swift counter attacks but had forgotten to implement the second part of this tactical ploy.
Either way it wasn't working.
Watford's lack of penetration, power or accuracy around the goal were the main reasons that they weren't winning at a canter.
The only two incidents of note in the first 45 minutes, were a hold up in play while a referee's assistant needed treatment from the home side's Physio and, completely out of the blue and to the amazement of everybody present, Scunthorpe scored.
We spotted an handball in the build up, but the referee didn't ... so on 42 minutes, Gary Hooper ran on to a defence splitting pass and struck the ball low and hard past Scott Loach in the Watford goal.
The Caucasian Tom Cleverley of Watford taking a corner

After the teams returned from their half time isotonic drinks, Scunthorpe looked as though they had finally remembered what it was they did for a living on a Saturday afternoon and came out all guns blazing.
For a while at least.
Martyn Woolford came closest to increasing their lead when his effort was turned onto the bar by Loach and the dissenters in the crowd seemed to cheer up, but their happy demeanour was short lived.
On 64 minutes Watford scored, it was a scrambled effort from close range, which highlighted one of the Iron's main problems this season ... they're crap at defending set pieces.
Woolford, again, tried to restore the home side's one goal advantage, but got the ball stuck under his feet when it looked easier to score from close range.
When Woolford was substituted a while later it was a very popular decision going by the crowd's reaction to him being taken off.
By now, the moaners amongst the home fans had their own players, their manager and the referee in their sights.
Stood close to us (too damn close actually), two of the most vocal critics were spewing out some of the most undiluted effluent imaginable and one of them in particular looked to be heading to the emergency room in the coronary unit at the local hospital if he didn't calm down a fraction.
My notebook was in danger of becoming soggy due to the steam coming out of his ears (well, almost, you get the picture).
A United player, Marcus Williams, conceded a foul when he shoved a Watford player in the back, the ref's whistle sounded and Williams nonchalantly belted the ball away across the field.
Time wasting when you're only drawing at home isn't very bright, getting yourself booked into the bargain is particularly stupid. But angry man was now on the verge of imploding with indignation and blamed the referee for the whole incident.
"You ought be be wearing a yellow shirt ref, you're given them everything"
'Hmm, only when Scunny players break the rules' I thought quietly to myself, not wanting to cause a scene.
The ref's next action was to give Watford's Tom Cleverley a straight red card for a dangerous challenge. A fracas involving several players broke out in response to the foul, but nobody else was dismissed, not even the Scunthorpe players who had retaliated, so the referee must've forgotten he was being biased when that happened.
Angry man screamed abuse at Cleverley as he left the pitch "Go on, get off you black bastard!"
Alas, he couldn't be ejected for being racist, because Tom Cleverley is actually white.
In the first minute of injury time, Scunthorpe failed yet again to clear a set piece and Watford launched a smash and grab raid that appeared to have nicked all three points at the death when Eustace netted in front of the jubilant visiting fans.
Four whole minutes later, the 'biased' referee awarded United a spot kick when a firmly struck cross hit Jay DeMerit with some force.
It looked to me as if it had hit him in the face ... and the way he fell to the ground holding his head in his hands seemed to indicate that was the case. The linesman flagged for a corner, but David Webb of County Durham (the referee, not the ex Chelsea player) pointed to the spot never the less.
Hooper hit the penalty home for his second goal, the goalkeeper got booked for his response to the last action of the game and everybody went away happy ... kind of.
Gary Hooper smashes home a stoppage time equaliser for 'Scunny' from the spot

To round off this resume of my day trip to 'Sunny Scunny', here are some of the respective managers after match comments, taken from the BBC website:

Scunthorpe manager Nigel Adkins: "We have got to look at this game as two points dropped. We felt Watford's opening goal should not have been allowed because there was a clear foul on our goalkeeper but then the referee has had an interesting game. I'm sure, though, that it was handball for the penalty which has earned us a point."

Watford manager Malkay Mackay: "It should never have been a penalty. The ball has hit DeMerit flush in the face at 100 miles an hour and after the game I took him to see the referee to show him the state of his eye where the ball has hit him. The linesman, who was much nearer, has signalled for a corner but the referee has given a penalty which I find incredible. It was one of a series of strange decisions that we got from him this afternoon.

"To referee a game at Championship level requires an official with some experience and I don't think this referee has handled many games like this."

And as for 'Angry man' and his final thoughts on the game ... he'd left just after Cleverley's sending off and missed the whole of the dramatic grand finale. Good, I'm glad he did!