Monday, 2 January 2017

AFC Mansfield 1 v Handsworth Parramore 0 - NCEL Prem

Monday 2nd January 2017
Toolstation NCEL Premier Division
at Forest Town Arena
AFC Mansfield (1) 1
Gary Bradshaw 10
Handsworth Parramore (0) 0
Admission £5
Programme £1.50
Attendance 116
Attention to detail:
The resplendent winter sun shines brightly through the
etched letters cut into AFC Mansfield's new turnstiles.
The Bootiful Game, a periodical magazine dedicated to the NCEL, ran a predict the result poll on Twitter in the run up to this game and their swing-o-meter was definitely hanging heavily towards an away win.
The scores on the doors were:
17% AFC Mansfield
74% Handsworth Parramore
9% Draw
But this just goes to show why the richest man in the Bookmakers, is invariably the one who has his name above the door.
For the record, I was one of the minority of 9% who had expected and voted for a draw.
Which I suppose it was, if you count this as part two of a double header between the two sides, after the Ambers had won the first leg 2-1 at the Worksop Van Hire Stadium on Boxing Day, when Alex Rippon and Aaron Moxam had given the Ambers a two goal half time lead, before Chris Timons netted a late consolation away goal for the Bulls.
Sadly for the former Stags player, away goals don't count double in this competition.
I will choose my words very carefully, given that there are quite a few people connected to both of these clubs who I regard as good friends and actually enjoy the company of.
But, from where I was sat watching this often turgid contest today... and without leaning either one way or the other, I think an overall fair and brief synopsis of the game that unfolded, would be: a team who put in a just above average performance, defeated their highly fancied opposition, who were themselves suffering from a severe case of having an off day.
Should a match highlights DVD ever become available, as a keep sake of this below par game, it wouldn't last very long, but could actually become a best seller, as a cure for insomnia.
Might I be so bold as to suggest, that it is far too early just yet, for some players (though not all of them) to be counting down the clock until the end of the season and merely going through the motions already.
Both teams can play much better than this and owe their management, respective club backers, volunteers and the people who paid in at the turnstiles to watch them play, a better performance next time out.
Truth be told, two evenly matched teams, both containing a spine of decent players, cancelled each other out for long spells, while the majority of this less than gripping encounter was slugged out in an overly congested midfield zone and the arc thirty yards or so above it.
Which actually made for a terrible game to watch, at times.
You couldn't fault a good number of players (though not all of them II) from both sides, for their commitment and effort, if nothing else, as they slugged things out across the width of the pitch, either side of the the centre circle; but a bit more inventiveness and taking opposition players on wouldn't have gone amiss, like the kind of stuff that Andy Ofusu of Parramore and Lynton Karcach both did once they were belatedly introduced from their respective subs benches.
Handsworth looked keen to take the initiative early on, but their enthusiasm seemed to disipate fairly quickly.
Danny Buttle made the first forward move and forced the Bulls into conceding a left wing corner, but as the two sets of players jostled for position amidst a tangled mass of arms and legs heading from the outer reaches of the goal area into the six yard box, Jordan Annable got up between Buttle's flag kick and the near post and made this defensive lark look easily, with a well anticipated and executed clearance.
A few firm but fair head on challenges, saw the ball vanishing into the stratosphere several times as opposition players simultaneously tried putting their feet through it, but in the fourteenth minute, Rudy Funk's side put together a few decent touches around the Ambers area (and one dead jammy and fortuitous inadvertent flick on) and netted what turned out to be the only goal of the game.
The evergreen Ryan Williams set the move in motion, with a cross from the right wing, that glanced off of Ollie Fearon's head towards Gary Bradshaw and the Bulls captain Danny Patterson who had taken up position just outside the area to the left of the D. Bradshaw instinctively ran forward
as his skipper hooked the ball over the static visitors defence towards Fearon, who knocked it down into the path of Bradshaw who scored from close range, while the Handsworth back line appealed for the linesman to get his flag raised for what they perceived to be an offside offence.
Although the referee's assistant seemed to favour making his decisions either late, or after the event, he was unmoved in this instance... and the goal stood.
However, the linesman on the opposite touchline didn't hesitate to raise his flag immediately as Jon Froggatt made his forward run a fraction too early, in pursuit of Alex Rippon's's knock forward.
Buttle dropped a corner in from out on the right, but as White collected the ball, he landed awkwardly almost fell backwards over his own line
Joe Cheeseman (I can only assume that he was the yellow one, who was full of holes), was combining well with Jon D'Laryea and the aforementioned Patterson, to offer cover between the Bulls goal area and the centre circle, while Ryan Williams must have a well at the foot of his garden, that is piped into the stream of eternal youth. Young players should take note of how the evergreen wide player looks after himself, if they desire longevity in their own playing days and follow in his footsteps, apart from that time he mistakenly moved to Chesterfield for a while. He recovered well from the experience mind you and as proof of this, he even earned himself a second spell at the Stags after temporarily playing his football at the wrong end of the A617.
You live and learn, eh!?
Luke Fletcher won a corner for the visitors out on the right, that Buttle delivered across the face of the Bulls goal, but D'Laryea got an important touch to guide the ball wide of the left post.
Tom Claisse delivered the flag kick from the left, but the referee had a close look as Cheeseman and Buttle came together and awarded a free kick in the Bulls centre halves favour.
Aaron Moxam, Handsworth's recent signing from nearby Rainworth Miners Welfare wasn't get much change out of Matty Plummer, but he did break free just after the half hour mark, but saw his stinging shot from ten yards tipped over the bar by Jason White.
Last month, when the Bulls had thrashed Retford United 13-0, to equal the all time top winning scoreline in the NCEL, their keeper White, had struck a penalty against the crossbar, so the record will have to stand a little while longer yet.
Claisse took the resulting corner, but Fearon was back to head the ball away, but only as far as Buttle, whose attempt to pick out Moxam with a delivery into the area was cleared by Cheeseman.
Meeanwhile at the other end of the pitch, Bradshaw chased the ball down towards the right flank and swung a decent cross towards Jimmy Ghaichem, whose flick on into a scrum of bodies found it's way into the back of the goal, but the 'goal' was ruled out for an infringement spotted by an eagle eyed flag bearer, who was probably attempting to even things up from what had occurred earlier in the game.
With half time looming, Bradshaw homed in on the Ambers goal as he chased a long ball down, but the ever reliable Connor Smythe was across quickly to cut out the danger.
Right on the stroke of half time, Buttle broke forward down the left for Handsworth, but Cheeseman tracked him back and made yet another telling interception and clearance.
HT: Bulls 1 v Ambers 0
I overheard a conversation at half time that made me chuckle: "Handsworth are too quiet, you can hear a pin drop out there today". "Yeah, they will be, Kieran Wells as ****ed off to Basford United!"
In the opening moments of the second half, a game of head tennis ensued in the Mansfield goalmouth from Claisse's corner, which saw Froggatt get approximately the sixth touch as the ball bounced one way and then the other, he nodded the ball towards the top of White's goal, but just as it looked as though it was about to tuck itself under the bar, the Cheese guy was there again to connect with his forehead and propel it away to safety.
"What's his name?" asked a spritely octogenarian sat to my left. I pretended to consult my team sheet and told him; "It's Zola pal... Gordon Zola!".
New year, same substandard jokes folks. But you keeping coming back for more!
Michael Harcourt slipped a through ball towards Moxam, but Plummer was on hand once more to thwart the prolific striker.
I do hope that after the game, Plummer checked before he sat down, that he didn't have the usually prolific hit man in his back pocket still. For the record, that isn't a slight on Moxam, the NCEL Premier Division's leading goalscorer, but a testament to the great shift that Plummer had put in.
Fearon and Williams were threatening to make the game safe for the Forest Town based side, with D'Laryea getting up in support to good effect, but when the latter broke through the left channel, Harcourt blocked his shot and as the ex Mansfield Town and Gainsborough Trinity midfielder reached the rebound, Smythe showed good positional awareness once again and stopped the ball en route togoal, before tidying things up for Micky Godber's side.
Bradshaw scuffed a close range effort over the bar after Ghaichem had played a bouncing cross right in front of him.
Smythe went close tolevelling things up with fifteen minutes to go, when he curled a low free kick from out on the right, just wide of the left hand upright.
Fearon and Ghaichem staged a two pronged attack from the left flank, but Harcourt stood firm and denied them both.
Claisse, sensing that time was running out, launched two long balls into the Bulls area... going long when you are chasing the game in the closing stages, is even allowed the purist football handbook, in fact, it is mandatory, but Cheeseman would've been happy to stand his ground and head such deliveries away all night.
Two Handsworth subs combined, but as Plummer blocked Ofusu's effort and the ball ran to Richard Tootle, he couldn't get enough power in his shot to trouble White unduly.
Karkach entered the fray with just two minutes remaining, offering more pace and width to the Bulls attack, but he was unable to harness it into his teams game or make any real impression, despite offering the onlooking crowd at touch of the flair that this game had been crying out for.
FT: AFC Mansfield 1 v Handsworth Parramore 0
The Bulls fashioned this win out of grit and determination.
There wasn't an awful lot of football, but there was quite a lot of awful football along the way this afternoon.
Handsworth need to regroup and go again on Saturday, when struggling Armthorpe visit them. 
While AFC Mansfield host an FA Vase fourth round tie at the Forest Town Arena against Sunderland RCA. Good luck with that one Mr Funk!