Saturday, 31 December 2011

Yaxley 1 v Irchester United 0 & Peterborough Northern Star 2 v Kings Lynn Town 2

I often get asked if I'm a Groundhopper ... and I usually categorically refute the allegation. However today, well ... caught red handed and guilty as charged innit
This morning, I bid farewell to the family and my kind, considerate, understanding and loving t'other half, telling them "I'm on my way, to far away, goodbye and toodle-loo", then gratefully rested my aching bones and weary carcass in the back seat of Mr C. Picken's auto-mobile, before heading south, down the A1, in the general direction of Peterborough.
For those of you who don't already know, Colin lives in Scotter ... and Scotter is the capital city of Lincolnshire.
Peterborough United, AKA 'The Posh', were playing away this afternoon, 'oop north in Middlesbrough.
But that was of little consequence to us, because today, our intrepid trio of thrill seekers were pushing back the boundaries and going elsewhere anyway, for a ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties Football League double, at a couple of grounds none of us had ever visited before.
Woo hoo!
Namely, In2itive Park, the home of Yaxley FC, followed by a mad dash across the city to Peterborough Northern Star's Focus Community Centre home, 7 miles to the north in the salubrious suburb of Dogsthorpe.
I'm indebted to Colin for inviting me along today and offering to drive, because the dislocated shoulder I suffered in the run up to Xmas, is making driving a very uncomfortable experience at present.
And until I can get my own car fixed next week (ever tried finding a garage that is open over the festive season?) I can only embark upon - "Short distance runs only mate ... and take it bloody steady!" - according to the kindly mechanic who gave up a small portion of his Yuletide holiday to give my car a quick once over.
Not that I'm trying to milk the sympathy angle here, because I know none of you really give a flying one anyway.
Saturday 31st December 2011
at In2itive Park, Leading Drove, Yaxley, PE7 3NA
United Counties League - Premier Division
Yaxley (1) 1
Ricky Hailstone 21
Irchester United (0) 0
Admission £6 Programme £1
Yaxley: Lea Jordan, Ryan Wood, Lewis Stone, Aaron Ridout, Matt Holland, Pete Smith (Sam Bate), Paul Jones, Dan Fountain (Jones De Sousa), Sam Bettinson, Ricky Hailstone, Andy Beech (Josh Rosser)Irchester United: Gavin Harding, Dean Hopewell, Joe Hopewell, Phil Lawrence (Lewis Strafford), Chris Gell, Jake Gillingwater, Liam Bright (Dave Maguire), Gary Storher, Matt White, Stuart Reid, Lee Thompson (Curtis Long)
There are 21 clubs in the UCL Premier Division.
Prior to kick off Yaxley were sat uncomfortably in 20th place, 2 points above Desborough Town who have played 2 games less than the rather quaintly nicknamed 'Cuckoos'.
By comparison, this lunchtime's visitors, Wellingborough based Irchester United, are having a much better season and travelled to Yaxley today, formidably looking down on their hosts from a lofty position of 17th in the table.
How mouth watering can any prospect get, I ask you!?.
A precautionary call was made to Yaxley FC en route. to check if the game was on, given the amount of persistent rain there had been overnight. And we were cheerily informed that there would be no problem with the pitch.
I was reliably informed by fellow traveller Paul Hawkins, that this area of the country is historically known as 'The Soak'.
Well it had lived up to it's name today ... and I learnt a new and fascinating geographical fact, that will liven up many a bar room debate in the future ;-)
The home side were on top in the first half, while Irchester struggled to put more than a couple of passes together.
It wasn't exactly a game for the purists, but there was plenty of effort and endeavour on display. They're a friendly lot in Yaxley and seemed genuinely pleased that people had made the effort to travel to watch them.
On ten minutes there was a hold up in play, while the ball nestled in the neat row of conifers that stands along one side of the pitch, acting as a wind break.
Thankfully more balls were available and the game could continue.
We didn't really want any more delays, the timing in between our first and second games of the afternoon was critical and depended on this one finishing on time.
The elders of the conventions of Groundhopping pedantry, would drum us out of the Tufty Club and confiscate our badges, if we were to shave a couple of minutes off of either game, even if such a course of action was deemed necessary to adhere to the small matter of obeying the rules of the highway code and the law of the land.
We must have safety on the Queen's highway (look right, look left, look right again ... as our junior school road went), but hell have no fury like some of the stopwatch brandishing Mr Angry characters who permeate certain internet forums, but ... for the record, we can keep hold of our anoraks, Thermos flasks, notepads, pens, cameras and spare socks for a little while longer yet ... and we did it without Sat Nav guidance or the aid of potted and plotted directions from piles of obscure Non League travel digests, handbooks and directories.
Mavericks or what!?
That said, I was sorely tempted to deliberately leave Yaxley's game early and then stand around in the muddy overspill car park at Northern Star's ground until five past three, just to prove what an anarchist and rebel I am.
I'm happy to report there were also a plentful array of posh toilet facilities
in the ground, with tiled walls, posh soap, hand dryers and all mod cons

As yet another ball went sailing over into the nearby allotments, an octogenarian local bemoaned "What a daft bugger, a simple tap out of play would've done. Knowing this ref, if we run out of balls he'll call the game off!"
Personally, without actually having a ball to use, I'm hard pushed to see how any referee in the world would've had any other alternative to be honest, but I kind of understood the gist of what he was getting at. "You wouldn't boot it over there if you had to fetch it yourself, you little twerp!"
One of the referee's assistant's looked like he used to be in Bucks Fizz in a previous life, he didn't let indecision take him from behind, he trusted his inner vision and didn't let others change his mind his mind.
He was spot on whenever there came a time for making his mind up.
On 21 minutes Yaxley scored the only goal of the game, in keeping with the tempo of the game thus far, it was a scrappy one.
Lewis Stone drilled an in-swinging right wing corner into the mix, it cannoned off a couple of players, before the home side's captain Ricky Hailstone managed to nod it over the line.
Lewis Stone's dead ball prowess was at the centre of Yaxley's two other decent chances in the first half.
Another of his pinpoint corners was knocked narrowly wide by Aaron Ridout and then the Yaxley number 3 saw his free kick well saved by Gavin Harding on the stroke of half time.
After a poor showing in the first half, the Romans invaded Yaxley territory at will after the break and went about building some straight road's leading into the heart of the home sides defence.
Lea Jordan, Yaxley's keeper, hadn't had much to do for the first 45 minutes and was so underused he would've been better employed retrieving stray balls from around the perimeter of the ground, but he earned my vote as man of the match in the second half, with a string of top class saves that without a doubt, won his side all three points today, just as much as his captain's first half goal.
Jordan was at full stretch and running backwards when he managed to tip Stuart Reid's goalbound effort over the crossbar, it was an outstanding save. Minutes later he managed to get enough of a touch with his fingertips onto a Jake Gillingwater shot to turn it onto the bar.
Irchester's attacks were coming thick and fast now, Dean Hopewell was denied by Jordan (again) and so was Gary Stohrer (yet again).
Curtis Long sent a cross in from the right wing and it looked as though Stuart Reid must score from a header at the back post, but he headed wide (see his team mates reaction above).
Right at the end of the game Lea Jordan was finally beaten, but Jake Gillingwater's free kick was narrowly wide of the goal.
As the referee blew for full time we were already stood next to the exit and were heading out of the car park before the first of the players had even reached the changing rooms.
After the first half, Yaxley had just about deserved to be in front and Irchester United definitely deserved to be behind, because they hadn't played very well at all before the break ... to put it mildly.
But the visitors attacked like a team possessed after the restart and if the Yaxley players got a win bonus for that result, they should all donate them to their keeper Lea Jordan.
In a nutshell, a game that had promised and delivered very little for a while, was completely transformed and ended up being quite entertaining in the end.

14 minutes later ...
Saturday 31st December 2011
at Focus Community Centre, Chesnut Avenue, Dogsthorpe
United Counties League - Premier Division
Peterborough Northern Star (0) 2
Karl Gibbs 77, John Stead 90+2 penalty
Kings Lynn Town (1) 2
Luke Thurlbourne 5, Stephen Spriggs 57
Admission £5 Programme £1 Attendance 466Peterborough Northern Star: Luke McShane, Nathan Horne, Mark Cox, Dan Clements, Richard Jones, Wayne Morris, Ali Nyang, Liam Hook, Matt Cook (Karl Gibbs), Jon Stead, Addie Staffieri (Avelino Vieira)
Kings Lynn Town: Alex Street, Ryan Fryatt, Jordan Yong, Dan Buhlemann, Stuart Wall, Rob Hughes, Stephen Spriggs (Danny White), Luke Thurlbourne, Liam Harrold (Robbie Harris), Danny Beaumont (Nelson Moreira), Jamie Thurlbourne
A top of the table clash, between 4th placed Peterborough Northern Star and their visitors, league leaders, Kings Lynn Town.
The Peterborough side, formed in 1905, have previously been called both Northern Star and Eye United, which explains why their nickname is the 'Eyes'
Town were formed in 2010 following the demise of the original Kings Lynn team, who's 130 year history stretched from 1879 to 2009.
The home side attacked inside the first minute and Alex Street, the Linnets keeper, was soon in action, making the first save of the game, his block ran loose to the incoming John Stead (see above) who's effort from the rebound was well off target.
The opening exchange was a wake up call for the visitors and soon the play switched ends and Luke Thurlbourne got on the end of a Stephen Spriggs cross to head home the opening goal.
Kings Lynn Town usually wear a very smart yellow and blue kit,
but today they wore a revolting slime green and grey away kit

From then on, it was Kings Lynn who had by far the better of the first half.
However to their credit, PNS didn't panic or start hitting the ball long in an effort to chase the game, when they did have the ball they kept it down and passed it around.The sizeable following from Kings Lynn, acted as a 12th man for their side, geeing up their own players while trying to unsettle the Northern Star lads and match officials.
Sadly there was a small element amongst them who's hostility overstepped the mark at times, especially with some abuse and 'wisecracks' aimed in the direction of Ali Nyang, the home side's number 7.
He is a competitive and combative attacking midfielder, the engine room of the Northern Star side, but although he isn't particularly shy about making his presence felt, he was also on the receiving end of a fair bit of physical stuff too."Even if the ref can't say what you are, cos he's not allowed to be racist, Luis Suarez and John Terry would f***ing tell you!" was one of the more repeatable insults thrown in the direction of the pitch.
I hasten to add that the majority of the away support were perfectly fine and a credit to Kings Lynn Town.
There were a lot of Linnets fans present and the majority of them were there to watch the game and support their team.
But half a dozen or so of them revelled in the confidence highs that safety in numbers numerical advantage and the anonymity of hiding in a mob gives big gobs and cowards.Kings Lynn, are a good side, I'm glad their reformation gave the original club's supporters a 'back from the dead' side a club to support and I've always enjoyed going to games at their ground, right back to when Peter Morris was the manager there. However it would be easy to see how a small (but voiciferous) minority could get Kings Lynn Town a bad name if the club allow them to get a foothold.
I feel I must repeat myself here, just to emphasis my point ... it was only a few idiots indulging in the unwanted bravado crap and MOST of the Kings Lynn following were nothing to do with it.
My own opinion of Ali Nyang is ... although this is the first and only time I've seen him play, if first impressions are anything to go by, I wouldn't be surprised to see him playing at an higher level than the UCL any time soon, there were some really good players on both sides, but Nyang stood out more than any of the others. Though Stephen Spriggs, the Kings Lynn number 7, deserves a special mention for his performance too.
When half time came, Kings Lynn hadn't managed to extend their lead, despite having had plenty of play in and around the Northern Star box and the teams went off with just a single goal separating them.
There was one funny moment as the players were leaving the pitch for the interval and one of them decided to have a moan at a linesman over a decision he had allegedly got wrong.
The official replied "OK mate, I made one mistake in 45 minutes, how many did you make?"
The two Time Lords in the ground were disappointed that the Daleks
had failed to turn up for their traditional Bank Holiday battle.

Come in a Tardis! You must've come in a Tardis!

Kings Lynn ought to have extended their lead when Steve Spriggs put a cross into the path of Liam Harold, but he narrowly failed to make the slightest contact that the chance needed.
But on 57 minutes the ever lively Spriggs, took advantage of North Star's defender Mark Cox standing off him and ran through to make the score 0-2.
At this point, it looked as if Kings Lynn Town's impressive record of not having dropped a point away from home this season would remain intact.
Northern Star's manager Chris Plummer made a double substitution sending on Karl Gibbs and Avelino Vierra, it proved to be an inspired switch.
Gibbs pulled a goal back on 77 minutes, his first shot came back to him off a defender and he calmly rolled his second past Alex Street who seemed to be anticipating the home side's sub to blast his effort rather than place it.
Game on again.
The Peterborough side rode their luck a few minutes later, when a combination between the visitors substitutes saw Robbie Harris head a Danny White cross against the bar.
Two minutes into stoppage time, Avelino Vierra was stopped in his tracks as he advanced on the visitors goal for one last push.
John Stead put the penalty kick away comfortably, even though Alex Street got a slight touch to it ... and Kings Lynn's run of consecutive away wins had been halted.
But they're still unbeaten on the road in the UCL Premier Division and nail on certs for the title.
I think it would be fair to say, that we had witnessed an apparent gap in class today, or maybe even a gulf, between games at the top and bottom of the UCL league table.
I'm looking forward to visiting a few more places I've never been to before in 'The Soak' soon.
Performance of the day ... Colin Picken, for navigating the route between Yaxley and Dogsthorpe to get us to the second game in time for kick off with just two minutes to spare, ensuring we didn't miss a moment of the day's action.
Personally I would never have gambled on that left turn at the first traffic lights and we'd probably still be driving around Dogsthorpe now, looking in vain for the floodlights, if I was at the controls.
Good call that man!

I'm giving the New Years Day, York City v Mansfield Town BSBP fixture a miss.
There is more to life than football ... but only very (very) occasionally.

See you all again in 2012