Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Handsworth Parramore 1 v Cleethorpes Town 2 - NCEL Prem

A night out in Worksop by train. Avoid eye contact and any conversation
 with anybody who frequents this railway station at night. Weirdo Central.
Tuesday 22nd November 2016
Toolstation NCEL Premier Division
at the Windsor Food Servive Stadium, Sandy Lane, Worksop
Handsworth Parramore (1) 1
Connor Smythe 34
Cleethorpes Town (1) 2
Andrew Taylor 24
Brody Robertson 83
Admission £5. Programme £1.50. Attendance 159
The Cleethorpes Town mini bus probably has it's own reserved parking bay at the Windsor Foodservice Stadium by now, given how frequently it rolls up there, as the Owls flew in from the east coast yet again, as they do with unyielding regularity, by virtue of these two sides getting paired together in just about every cup competition imaginable, over the past few seasons.
The Ambers master of ceremonies, Mr Steve Holmes, read out the crowd changes for the benefit of the players, because everybody was already on first name terms with and recognised the members of the two sides anyway... and it was game on.
Both teams had enjoyed comfortable wins in the league at the weekend, with Cleethorpes taking all three points from a 3-0 win at AFC Mansfield, while the Ambers beat a below par Retford United 10-0 on home turf;  which by way of a massive coincidence, is exactly the same hefty margin of victory that the Owls inflicted on the very same opposition just over a month ago.
As a consequence of Retford United's recent (mis)fortunes, somebody has been writing offensive, trolling messages and posting them on the Badgers supporters club Facebook page, using the alias David James... what a Wally!
The visitors started the night sat in second place in the table, with games in hand over (the then) league leaders Thackley, while the Ambers are tucked in the chasing pack just below them, currently poised for an upwards push from sixth place.
There are still a lot of points left to play for and a long, long way to go still until the end of the season yet, but tonight's 'smash and grab' ram raid of a win for Marcus Newell's side, saw them open up a nine point gap over Handsworth, as they returned back to the top of the table, with a performance that owed more to guts than guile at times. But needs must as the rain kept coming down and remaining upright on the slippery surface, let alone trying to do anything else, became an increasingly difficult enough task in itself as the game went on.
With both teams having a well deserved reputation for working their socks off, both on and off the ball, there would obviously be times tonight, in conditions such as these, when a strong referee would be needed, but alas, Eamonn Keane, who holds the world record for bench pressing, having once lifted 15,344lbs four years ago, was unavailable and I suspect that his replacement, Edward Stapleton would struggle to shift a mere 40lbs, so there just might have been one or two contentious decisions and potential flash points over the course of the ninety minutes, especially on the occasions when not only did he feel inclined to ignore the appeals of the players and management teams, but also chose to ignore his assistants when they had a better view than him, were better placed to call a judgement and were vigorously waving their flags and trying to attract his attention.
Far be it from me to suggest that the ref dropped a few clangers tonight, but this isn't football and the guys with the flags aren't just there for throw ins and offside calls... just saying!
That said, I wouldn't ever want to be a football referee, especially on a night like this, when the persistent drizzle never let up for a moment. And the be fair, the one thing that Mr Stapleton did do really well, was to make allowances for the conditions and take them into account when players came together at ramming speed because it was nigh on impossible to apply the brakes.
Inside the opening couple of minutes, the referee had his first penalty appeal to with, when Andy Taylor went to ground under a challenge inside the Parras area, but his 'optimistic' claims were quickly waved away.
For the record, Taylor didn't dive, but he wasn't fouled either, his momentum, speed and gravity on such a tricky wicket were always stacked against him.
Was he right to cry 'Foul!' as he hit the deck? Probably not... but he only did what every other player in the known universe would've done in the same circumstances, so you can't knock him for that.
Archie Sneath got an early touch when Liam Dickens unleashed a twenty five yard shot, that skimmed along the wet pitch in a manner that would have given Barnes Wallace a boner, but the Ambers keeper held onto the wet ball well.
Aaron Moxam was buzzing around the edge of the visitors area during the opening exchanges, while at the other end, Connor Smythe nipped an Owls attack in the bud, with a well timed tackle on Luke Mascall as he advanced forward on the right flank.
Alex Flett was on hand to intercept the ball and clear the danger when Jon Froggatt slipped a through ball into the path of Luke Fletcher.
The visitors were thwarted by Sneath who got down to collect the ball, with Brody Robertson bearing down on his goal, after a well directed flick on from Luke Mascall fell into the path of the prolific Cleethorpes front man. From the Handsworth stopper's clearance, play switched to the other end and Frogatt was denied by a well timed, no nonsense intervention from Matty Coleman who quite possibly found the goal round the back of Redlands School on the opposite side of Sandy Lane with his hefty clearance.
Smythe picked up the replacement ball and Buttle headed his throw in back towards the Ambers left back and he delivered a dipping cross towards Froggatt; but this time Matt Bloomer had picked up the strikers run and got the ball away.
Groucho, Harpo and the other one
Mistakes were always likely to happen in such wet conditions and sure enough, the first goal came from a defensive error, when Stuart Ludlam didn't get any power behind a header back towards Sneath and the ball dragged it's heels in the surface water and allowed Taylor, who had gambled on chasing it down to get there first and nick it past the Parras keeper, to give 'Clee' the lead after 24 minutes.
The home side went straight on the offensive and Liam Higton did well to keep out Simon Harrison's shot on the turn. 
Handsworth pushed forwards again and Danny Buttle nudged a probing pass into the path of Fletcher who made an angled run into the right channel and into the Cleethorpes area where his run was abruptly halted by Peter Winn's outstretched boot and/or a slight push. Fletcher got up and tried to keep his shot on target, to no avail, but the linesman was flagging like mad to indicate that Winn's timely stalling tackle was indeed a foul as he'd got nowhere near the ball.
Mr Stapleton ignored his assistant and let play go on.
I would imagine that the people I know in both camps would know that I am neutral enough to make an unbiased judgement regarding this particular decision.
Before I call it how I saw it, just let me say, that I think Peter Winn is one of the better players in this league, a grafter and reliable complete all rounder for the Owls cause, but in this instance, deliberately or otherwise, I am convinced that it was a foul! 
And Handsworth should have been awarded a penalty.
These things balance themselves out over the course of... well, y'know!
The Smythe and Buttle combination on the left for Mick Godber's side, who had been so effective against Retford at the weekend, combined again to level the game at one apiece on thirty four minutes.
Buttle crossed to Moxam, who on finding his route to goal blocked played the ball back out to the Ambers left winger and his second delivery bounced up perfectly on the edge of the area for Smythe, who left Higton clutching at fresh air as he let fly with an unstoppable half volley.
The remainder of the first half, though condensed mainly in the middle third of the pitch, was compelling viewing as two evenly matched sides, fought tooth and nail for every ball. The Tim Lowe battle to keep Buttle at bay was just one of many intriguing sideshows to the main event, as was the Luke Fletcher v Alex Flett tussle,that ended upjust about honours even.
No doubt there will be a few aching calves and lumps and bumps all round tomorrow morning.
Right on half time Harrison had the opportunity to put the Ambers ahead, but what his twenty yard free kick had power wise, it lacked in precision.
HT: 1-1, all square, everything still to play for and equal in every way at the half way point. 
Amidst a goalmouth scramble, of which there would be several throughout the second half, in the visitors goal area, Gaz Griffiths knocked the ball back to Moxam who saw his shot charged down by Coleman who took one for the team.
The home side chiseled away at the Cleethorpes rearguard, around the edge of their area, but were struggling to find the final ball and incisive cutting edge to penetrate the Owls, who had rolled up their sleeves and putting in a real determined effort.
As both the rain and the pitch started to get heavier, Wigton pulled off an instinctive save to keep out Buttle's angled shot.
On any other given night, Buttle would probably have been on the score sheet, but Coleman was in a defiant mood and cleared his goal bound header off of the line. Lowe to was covering his keeper Higton's back and hooked Froggatt's close range effort away.
Jon Oglesby, out on the left for Cleethorpes can cause real problems when he is allowed the time and space to create, which is probably why Ludlam wiped him out as he advanced down the left flank. Flett delivered the resulting free kick into the Ambers area, but the ball was cleared.
Image result for handsworth parramore the66pow
Froggatt chased down a long ball into the area that was cleared for a corner, but before the ball had actually gone out, an Owls defender scooped it over the line with his hand.
Mr Stapleton had obviously made a pact prior to kick off, that there wouldn't be any penalty awards honoured whatsoever tonight and ignored the transgression. It was certainly a very odd heat of the moment blood rush to the head thing to do when the ball was already going out anyway.
Strange days indeed!
Moxam went close again; but Cleethorpes, fresh from their afternoon visit to the Tattooist parlour, just off Isaac's Hill in Cleethorpes, where they had all had THEY SHALT NOT PASS inked upon their battle ready torso's, were in a very uncompromising mood tonight and the victory was borne out of ninety plus minutes of hard graft and a time honoured second half away team tactic, of absorbing a lot of pressure and then delivering a sucker punch on the counter attack.
Cleethorpes were pressing the game further up the pitch now and defending across the middle of the pitch, that gave them a well placed foundation to build a quick attack from and sure enough, with just seven minutes remaining Oglesby and Robertson broke forward in tandem, with the latter running five yards in front of the Owls number eleven who was in possession.
Oglesby rode a challenge and prodded a slide rule pass forward into the path of Robertson and though Sneath spread himself to limit the striker's options, he side footed the ball under the Parras keeper from eight yards out to put the visitors back in front.
Handsworth could see the game slipping away as Buttle's dipping corner into the Cleethorpes six yard box was cleared by Flett and with so many Handsworth players up the pitch as they looked for a late equaliser, they had left room for Oglesby to race forward again. But he was hacked down by a late and quite deliberate foul by Griffiths, who swung his leg across the Cleethorpes winger after the ball had gone... and players from both teams ran over to get involved in a heated argument.
I like Griffiths, he's a great centre half and good at getting up from box to box for set pieces and he isn't shy about getting stuck in; but in this instance, he was also very lucky that he was only shown a yellow card.
And that was that... both sides had ample chances over the course of the whole game to rack up a decent score, but it's about taking your chances. Handsworth had the lions share of the goal scoring opportunities, even though a lot of them were only half chances, given how hard the visitors were working to keep them at bay, but in the event, the Owls were more clinical when their chances came along... and the Cleethorpes fans serenaded everyone with a chrus of "Brody's gonna getcha!" as we filed out into the dark wet night.
FT: Handsworth Parramore 1 v Cleethorpes Town 2
The Ambers are at home against Maltby Main on Saturday, in what will be their third home game in a week. While Cleethorpes Town entertain Armthorpe Welfare in the first of four consecutive fixtures at 'the Bradley', which seems a bit daft to me after they have just completed a tour of six away games in a row.
I'm glad I am not the programme editor at either club... have you seen the price of midnight oil these days?
And I am also glad that my duties elsewhere don't extend to marking referees any more, nuff said!?