Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Lincoln United 1 v Stamford AFC 0 - EvoStik NPL Div 1 South

Tuesday 6th December 2016
EvoStik Northern Premier League Division 1 South
at the Sun Hat Villas and Resorts Stadium,
Ashby Avenue, Hartsholme, Lincoln
Lincoln United (0) 1
James Blunden 68
Stamford FC (0) 0
Admission £8. Programme £1, Attendance 138
My last visit to Lincoln United saw them deliver an impressive and attacking display, against Gresley in the FA Trophy, who they beat 4-2,
It was a thoroughly entertaining game and I was suitably encouraged enough by what I saw to return to the Sun Hat Villas and Resorts Stadium at the earliest opportunity.
Alas, tonight's game was nowhere near as open and aesthetically pleasing, but it was still compelling enough, both strategy wise and as a tactical battle.
Graham Drury, who is occupying the Daniels hot seat for a third spell, was putting hisside through their paces prior to kick and was overheard saying (Mr Drury isn't a quiet sort of guy), "If we're high we can affect their game in midfield", which described just perfectly how the visitors set up their stall in an attempt to clog up United's supply lines tonight.
Earlier this season, Stamford had reached the First round of the FA Cup, when they defeated Wrexham in a replay at the Racecourse Ground, before bowing out against Hartlepool United. Tonight they didn't look anything like a team capable of scaling such heights for long spells of this often scrappy, physical and congested contest.
The home side kicked off, twice after a false start and Jordan Hempenstall saw his dipping shot clear the right hand post inside the opening minute.
Matt Cotton dropped a long pass into the Stamford area, but Delroy Gordon stood his ground well and cleared the ball as he and his defensive partner Kern Miller commenced on a night of solid defending, which in no small way put paid to a lot of the Whites atacking options over the course of the night.
Gerry Francis scoffing a burger... surely not!?
Andy Toyne chased after a long pass from Sean Wright and slipped a first time ball to the feet of Cotton, who laid it off to Hempenstall to his left, whose goal bound effort was cleared off of the line by Gordon.
Both sides (and just about everybody else in the ground) seemed surprised when the referee, Ed Cook, awarded the visitors a free kick for a nothing challenge in the centre circle, so being a good sport n' all, Jake Duffy punted a gentle kick straight to the home side's centre half and captain Michael Jacklin to clear, which couldn't have fallen better to him if it had been a precision pass from a team mate.
The two Ollie's, Luto and Brown-Hill made some ground down the left flank for Stamford, with the former winning a free kick, which Luke Hornsey cleared away from Jake Duffy's dead ball into the Whites area, at the expense of a corner.
Rob Norris took a defender with him and released Cotton with a clever back heel, but Gordon was a tower of strength for the Daniels once more and the Lincoln number ten was going nowhere fast via that route.
Hempenstall, who had netted a hat trick on my last visit to Ashby Avenue, was obviously drawing attention to himself as the home sides main threat and he took a hefty knock that required treatment, as a few man  sized and industrial strength challenges started flying in.
The home side's centre forward didn't look entirely comfortable as he 'ran it off' in a chase for Sean Wright's knock over the defence for him to run onto, but he still got his shot away and wasn't two wide of the target.
Duffy found himself in possession thirty five yards away from Jake Turner's goal and his audacious snap shot was probably the same kind of distance wide of the post, as the ball crashed into the advertising boards.
After starting off at a cracking pace, the tempo of the game had slowed down considerably as the first half wore on.
I'm not au fait with all of the new fangled rule changes pertaining the game of Association Football these days and I certainly missed the one that said Kieran Shaw should flag Norris for being offside when  there are only three opposition defenders between him and the goal as he broke forward twenty yards inside the Stamford half.
Maybe it's a one off special instruction from the FA that must be applied to games that area still considered to be 'derby' matches, even though both teams play at grounds that are fifty miles and a hours drive apart. Just saying.
Brown-Hill intercepted Wright's attempted long ball towards the Stamford goal and sprinted forward, exchanging passes with Eliot Sandy before dragging his shot across the face of goal and just wide of the right hand post.
Both sides appeared to be running in quicksand as they reached the edge of each other's respective goal areas, as the game churned down towards a grinding halt at half time.
"A mediocre game between two mediocre teams" was one comment that I overheard, as I made my way towards the queue for a half time coffee, but that was quickly rebuffed by a slightly less generous onlooker who opined: "No, it's a very poor game between two very poor sides"
It wasn't quite that bad, but it was definitely more of and intriguing game of nip, tuck and containment, that anything even slightly resembling a public demonstration of all out attacking.
But hey! Defending is a very under rated science and their were a few steadfast examples out on the field of play, who were excelling in this noble art.
The last action of the first half, saw Lincoln waste a great opportunity, when Hempenstall got in among Stamford's defensive wall, disrupting their shape (it's no wonder he gets kicked sometimes, is it, eh!?) to create a gap for Norris to exploit from a free kick, some twenty yards out, but he jarred his  foot under the ball and sent it into orbit. Cue ironic cheering from the visiting supporters.
HT: Whites 0 v Daniels 0
"Well that was spectacularly unspecfuckingtacular!" moaned a dissatisfied local, using the longest word I have ever heard used to describe a football match, as he made his way to the bar at half time doing a Nellie the Elephant manoeuvre along the way ... and was never seen agaaaaain!
I rushed past the away team dressing room, for fear of being struck by a few flying cups and chairs.
 It would be fair to say that Graham Drury's half time team talk cum swearing marathon could probably be heard in North Hykeham.
It was good to catch up with the former: Derby County, Lincoln City, Stockport County, Al Ittihad, Southend United, Shelbourne, Notts County, Cork City, Vietnam and Burma manager during the half time break, who simply rolled his eyes to sky and shook his head when I asked him what he thought of the night's football so far.
Not that I am one to name drop to make it look as though I'm down with the in crowd, as I was only saying to Barry and Paul Chuckle, Jason Donovan's dad, Paul O'Grady's cousin (twice removed) and Clodagh Rodgers, in Russ Abbott's pub last night.
As an aside, Rodgers has never forgiven Dana for stealing her thunder and becoming every household in the UK's favourite singing Irish woman.
Thankfully, the fog that had been threatening to descend on Hartsholme, merely made a brief appearance around the tops of the floodlights for a while, before it cleared off again. 
Probably scared away by all the shouting and hot air emanating from one of the dug outs (cough).
Turner launched a long kick the full length of the pitch, that bounced up in the D on the edge of Stamford's area. with Miller and Hempenstall  racing after it neck and neck, shoulder to shoulder. Inevitably they collided and both crashed to the floor in an undignified heap, with both players appealing to the referee. But Mr Cook waved play on and beckoned for them both to get up... and while it would be improper for a mtach official to speak in such away, the look on his face said 'not a ****ing chance, either of you!'
Sam Donkin, who had been competent, confident and commanding thus far, marshaling his defence with a constant flow of 'vocaal encouragement' dropped a clanger the size of the Soup Dragon, when he air-kicked at a straight forward clearance from a back pass and the ball deflected off of him for a corner.
Norris took the flag kick to Wright. who nodded the ball forward from next to the penalty spot, to where Hempenstall made contact but flicked it over the bar.
A goalless draw beckoned if the ball wasn't going in from that sort of range.
The Whites delivered a few free kicks into the mix, but Donkin had made his solitary mistake of the night and was looking impressive, while Miller and Gordon were content to head every single ball that came their way back in the direction it had come from.
During the first half, I suspect the the referee had forgot to pick up his yellow card before the game, or he was having an amnesty on cautions, but after the break he was in serious danger of getting repetitive strain injury in his right arm he was dishing out so many bookings.
Stamford made a triple substitution on the hour, which brought a cat call of: "Woo hoo! That must be the most excitement we've had all night!" from a sarcastic octogenarian, who sounded as though he was a visiting supporter because of the 'twaaang' in his accent, rather than a local.
Hempenstall, who's name I have possibly misspelled several times over the course of this match overview, really should have broken the deadlock, when he turned the ball over from virtually under the bar, after James Blunden had headed Jacklin's free kick across the face of the visitors goal.
Blunden claimed the next chance for himself and planted a firm header into the back of Stamford's net from Norris' hefty whack, from a frr kick in front of the home bench.
Donkin did well to keep out another free kick from Norris, after being wrong footed by a deflection.
One of the Whites substitutes, Luke Smithson was involved in two openings for the home side late in the game, picking out Kallum Smith with a right wing cross, who forced a point blank save out of Donkin, before going for goal himself from Chris Salt's delivery, but the Daniels keeper pulled off another stop and tipped the ball over the bar.
In stoppage time, Sean Wright was red carded for a second bookable offence and frustrated at seeing the game slipping away after he'd played so well, Donkin ended up inside the home side's half, but Turner caught his hopeful long punt. What a grand finale that would have been.
FT: Lincoln United 1 v Stamford AFC 0
On the balance of things, a steady, no frills, single goal home win, was just about the right result.
Tonight's scorelin saw Lincoln United leapfrog Stamford in the table, into fifteenth place, but both teams have a whole rack of league games in hand, due to their cup commitments in a variety of competitions thus far this season and should have no problem climbing up the table into a more comfortable position over the coming months.