Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Handsworth Parramore 1 v Cleethorpes Town 1 - NCEL Prem

Handsworth Parramore (1) 1
Gareth Griffiths 41
Cleethorpes Town (1) 1
Brody Robertson 16
Admission £5. Programme £1.50. Attendance 127
For match preview and stats from the HPFC website HERE
Let battle commence, so to speak... a physical and often direct (both teams had to adapt to the conditions), but very evenly matched and occasionally frantic game of football, played at breakneck pace in a swirling wind, under a deluge of rain, icy sludge and hail, between two highly competitive sides who were both evidently committed to the nth degree on battling it out for maximum points.
Handsworth and Cleethoroes are two of the most likely contenders to knock Tadcaster Albion from the top of the table and when they met met heads on in this greatly anticipated 2nd v 5th clash, it was certainly no place for the faint hearted out on the field of play.
Anybody who wakes up tomorrow morning not feeling the aches, strains and pains from tonight's efforts, or who isn't carrying at least three or four man-sized lumps bumps and stud marks, or in Brody Robertson's case, a big foot print on his arse, certainly wasn't playing in this no holds barred contest. I've got a badly bruised ankle and I was only sat in the second row of the stand.
Some people obviously take all of this "pinch and a punch for the first of the month" stuff very seriously.
Thanks to Steve Holmes for providing
me with the team details tonight
What this enthralling contest might possibly have benefited from, would have been: if the referee Nigel Smith had come down hard on one or two naughty transgressions earlier in the game and set the tone for the night, rather than giving 22 testosterone fueled alpha males a free reign to run amok at times..
Fudging the issue momentarily, with a timely sidestep... with all due respect, Graeme Le Saux is considered to be an intellectual among footballers, because he once completed a half finished a Sudoku puzzle in a Metro newspaper he found on train, or something like that... but the majority of players don't have the former England player's mindset and if you give 'em an inch, they'll happily go on the rampage and see how many miles they can really get away with.
Obviously that doesn't apply to all, or even most of the guys who were involved in this game, but one or two of them were definitely prepared to step over the line and were guilty as charged.
For the record, Le Saux once offered David Batty out for a scrap when they were playing for the same team, to my way of thinking, that wasn't exactly genius behaviour. 
Both teams started out on the front foot as the play switched quickly from end to end, with chances galore in front of both goals and it very quickly became apparent that this game was going to be just as close an encounter as the the two previous meetings between these sides this season, namely: a a 2-1 victory for 'Clee' in the FA vase at Sandy Lane in December and a 1-1 at 'the Bradley'when they met in the league in January.
Keiran Wells combined with Simon Harrison to create the first opening, but the latter put his effort wide of the upright. Jon Oglesby fizzed a shot from 15 yards into the advertising hoardings at the other end.
Peter Dickens cleared the ball up the field from an Ambers corner and Brody Robertson broke into the home side's area at pace, but scuffed the ball wide of the mark as he tried to place it wide of 'Archie' Sneath instead of just just giving it a good old fashioned, foot through the ball whack to abdicate all of the worry to the stranded keeper.
The home side raided the Owls goal again with a quick pass and move interchange between Ant Wilson, Wells and Harrison, that opened up a space for Danny Buttle, but the lively winger knocked the ball narrowly wide of Miles Fenty's goal.
Matt Bloomer tested Sneath with a dipping shot, but the Ambers keeper got down well to watch the ball past the post. 
A goal, one way or the other, was an inevitability given the way the game was shaping up and Brody Robertson claimed it on 16 minutes, when Sneath could only parry Marc Cooper's thumping shot into the path of the prolific striker after Luke Mascall had created the opening with a measured cross.
Cleethorpes put the home side under a spell of sustained pressure and the Ambers cause wasn't helped when right back Ben Starosa limped out of the game and Micky Godber had to reshuffle his pack.
Keiran Wressell headed narrowly over as the Owls tried to make good of their momentum and Sneath did well to save from Marc Cooper, but as so often happens when Parramore are up against it, they resiliently withstood everything that Marcus Stewart's side were throwing at them and snatched a goal late in the first half to get back on level terms just before half time, when Gareth Griffiths slid in to connect with Buttle's free kick from out on the left wing and direct the ball past Fenty. That's 3 goals in 4 games for the Handsworth centre half now.
Almost on the stroke of half time, Sneath denied Cooper gain.
HT: Handworth Parramore 1 v Cleethorpes Town 1
Ambers chairman Pete Whitehead,
modelling the clubs new leisurewear range.
The Owls strikers Robertson and Cooper both went close as the second half started at the same intense pace, but at the other end, Handsworth went even closer, with Fenty doing well to keep out a well directed header from Wells.
Fenty then punched Buttle's right wing corner away to the edge of the box and Bloomer blocked Richard Adams attempted shot.
Colin Marrison released Wells down the right flank and Luke Fletcher and Buttle both had a stab at his right wing cross before the Owls cleared their lines at the expense of a corner, from which Buttle picked out Griffith's on the edge of the box and Cleethorpes breathed a sigh of relief as he crashed the ball a fraction wide of Fenty's goal.
The struggle for control of midfield began to resemble a scene from the Battle of Agincourt, the referee needed to have eyes and ears everywhere and though he had two very able assistants in Gareth Carlisle and Rob Rees, Mr Smith did miss quite a lot of off the ball stuff and several of the players began to get agitated by his reading of the game and decision making.
I know it's easy to pass judgement from the stands, but the suggestion I overheard that "Players can be substituted when they're struggling, why can't the referee be swapped for one of these linesmen?" summed things up from one neutral onlookers point of view.
Alex Flett, the visitors captain and Handsworth's Luke Fletcher both excelled in the heat of battle, deep in the heart of the 'maddening crowd', but 
Robertson was being 'very' closely marked and the referee was seemingly oblivious to him being held back as he homed in on goal. I'm told that these things balance themselves out over a season... but you'll have to discuss that one among yourselves. The Cleethorpes contingent in the stand behind the goal, didn't cheer ironically when a decision went their way for nothing.
Both teams were entrenched in the middle of the park, going toe to toe and sporadically releasing passes for their forwards to run onto, or playing the ball back for their respective centre halves to launch the ball forward over the congested middle third to the same effect.
Oglesby at one end quickly followed Wilson at the other, were both denied by the woodwork, before Mascall knocked the ball past Sneath after Robertson set him up with back-heel inside the Ambers penalty area, but the flag went straight up and the effort was ruled out for offside.
Cooper, came very close to netting the goal that would put him just one strike behind the league's top scorer but his shot took a deflection.
Handsworth cleared their lines from the flag kick, but Pete Winn latched onto to clearance on the left flank and saw off two challenges as he surged towards, but he as hacked down by Griffiths about twenty yards outside the goal area.
Cue an ugly stand off of pushing and shoving with at least one player going to ground and both assistants had to pile onto the pitch to help out Nigel Smith.
Two Handsworth players, Griffiths and Marrison received their marching orders, as Mr Smith picked the bones out of what he'd seen... the latter reacted angrily but fortunately he was shepherded away from getting himself into further trouble by Keiran Wells and the linesman Rob Rees.
Owls chairman David Patterson.
Surprisingly I found him in the bar!
It had been a fiercely competitive game at times and the flashpoint had been coming for a while, but for what it's worth, in my humblest neutral opinion, which is built on observing several incidents that the referee had struggled to deal with, the situation could've been avoided if the he'd stamped his authority on the game early on and got both captains together when an edge of tetchiness began to creep in.
There were less than ten minutes on the clock when he could have and should have made an example of a player (who shall remain nameless) who unleashed a volley of abuse at the official Warning: Parental advisory clearly ranting "****ing hell ref, that was sh*t get a ***ing grip you tool!"
Clearly their was very little respect in evidence for the match official and one or two of the more fired up players were intent on taking matters into their own hands.
Thankfully, the situation calmed down, an uneasy truce ensued and peace was restored after several minutes, but the referee then showed Macall a yellow card before signalling for the game to carry on. Nota problem you might have thought and it wouldn't have been if Mascall hadn't already been booked. Gareth Carlisle signalled the referee across and pointed out the error and the Cleethorpes number 7 was granted an early break from the wind and bucketing rain.
Sneath pulled off a brilliant reflex save to turn Fletts free kick against the crossbar when play restarted, it's the mark of a good keeper when he can maintain his focus with all of that 'other stuff' going on.
Wells, the architect of many a late strike for the Ambers (I'm sure that Cleethorpes won't need reminding about last years League Cup final, so apologies to them for this bracketed comment) was thwarted by Fenty, moments after Sam Denton had headed over, so credit is due to both goalkeepers for preventing a draw for their respective teams.
It had been a proper battle and highly entertaining for the 127 spectators who had braved the elements and on the balance of the football that was played on the night, I reckon a score draw was a fair result.
Refereeing is a difficult job, I had the opportunity to follow that 'career path' a few decades ago, when it was obvious that Bambi on ice had more chance of becoming a footballer than I did, but I bottled it and I have never regretted that decision.
It is said that goalkeepers are all insane and that it comes with the territory, but referees are a breed apart and I don't envy them one bit. All I can add is, I would have marked both assistants higher than the man in the middle tonight and I'm quite glad that I don't have that kind of responsibility at this current moment in time.
FT: Handsworth Parramore 1 v Cleethorpes Town 1

Micky Godber's diet
is going very well.
There is a time and a place for tippy tappy football, tonight's seasonal climate dictated the tactics and both managers were astute enough to cut their cloth accordingly.
The weather was hideous on the way home, which in my case is thankfully only 8 miles away from the Windsor Food Service Stadium.
It must have been a torrid journey for the Cleethorpes contingent in such awful conditions, especially after the local radio station issued a warning about problems on the roads in the area, which may of well had said "If you're intending on travelling from Worksop towards the east coast tonight, you're f***ed!"
Good luck to both of tonight's teams in their run in towards the end of the season... and to all four of the other contenders who currently hold positions in the top six of course.
My hunch is that I saw the team who will finish at the top of the pile in action tonight, but I won't tempt fate by putting the mockers on them by naming names. Besides which I have some good mates at both clubs and I'm adept at getting splinters in my bum from fence sitting and not taking sides when the need arises.