Friday, 7 December 2012

Barking move into last eight of Essex Senior Cup with penalty shoot-out win

Essex Senior Cup: Romford 3 Barking 3 (Barking win 9-8 on penalties)
Barking booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Essex Senior Cup with a 9-8 penalty shoot-out win over Romford at Ship Lane and will now host Grays Athletic in the last eight.

The tie finished 3-3 after extra time but Michael Sammut’s penalty miss proved costly as Barking’s Scott Walsh fired in the Blues 10th spot-kick to send them through.

Michael Sammut's sudden-death penalty is saved

The first half began cagey with neither side creating any clear-cut opportunities in front of goal, so it was no surprise when the first real chance was converted.

It was Romford who took the lead after 37 minutes with Adam Salmon’s free-kick somehow finding its way through a group of players towards the far post before meeting the head of Jack Barry.

The Blues were almost instantly level as Kieran Walsh played a neat one-two with Ife Ogunbayo, but the striker put his shot wide of the far post as Mick O’Shea’s side went in a goal down at half-time.

Just five minutes into the second half the home side were two to the good.

Lewis Francis’ ball in to Nick Reynolds was headed down for Matt Toms to volley into the bottom left corner.

Ten minutes later it was the referee who was under the spotlight as Barking’s Dumebi GB-Dumaka appeared to be brought down in the penalty area and the referee had no hesitation to point to the spot. Ben Turner soon stepped up and smashed the ball centre of the goal to give the away side hope.

However, 30 seconds later the referee was pointing to the spot again, this time at the other end. This time Jay Abberley fouled Reynolds and Francis converted the spot-kick to make it 3-1.

As the away side looked to be heading out of the Cup, some quick footwork shown by Kieran Walsh created space for the pacey youngster to slot home Barking’s second of the game.

Now Mick O’Shea’s men had their tails up, and they always looked like equalising.
With five minutes remaining, substitute James Barlow managed to knick the ball from Salmon to break free and slot the ball under the keeper, sending the game into penalties.

Barking’s Jay Abberley missed their third spot kick before Alfie Hilton spurned Romford’s fourth.
It then went down to sudden-death and Christian Buffour saved Romford’s (Michael Sammut) tenth penalty, before Scott Walsh converted his to win against his former side to win the game for Barking.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

‘Two year plan’ to generate young prospects at Redbridge Football Club

Redbridge have revealed a ‘Two year plan’ at the Ryman League North club which will bring in young, talented players through the system.

The Motormen manager Del Robinson, also a coach at West Ham United, has expressed his intent of finding younger players who ‘want to wear the shirt’.

Robinson revealed the managing duo are keen to look towards the youngsters, “I think when managers come into new clubs and the supporters have expectations, sometimes you’ve just got to start from the beginning and that’s what me and Steve [Portway] want to do.”

“We’ve got a lot of younger players training with us now down at the training camp and we’re encouraging them to train with the older guys and hopefully one day they’ll end up being Redbridge players.

“It’s a two year project.” Robinson confirmed.

Talking in a more recent fixture, Robinson was adamant that the players in his squad must want to play for the club rather than just wanting to play football, “We need to get our own guys in who want to wear the shirt.”

“We had a few people around us that were looking for a game of football, I don’t want that, I want players that want to play for the club.

“The younger elements that will want to be here on a night like this and want to learn, that’s what we want, I’d rather lose with that.” Robinson said.

Redbridge are currently second-from-bottom in the Ryman North division, with just two wins from 14 matches. The Motormen have conceded 43 times this campaign, the most goals in the league.

Redbridge were formally known as Ford United prior to July 2004, but the name was changed in an attempt to attract a larger support within the local area.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Redbridge slip to record defeat as Concord hit nine

Redbridge co-manager Del Robinson was expecting a heavy defeat against Concord Rangers in the third round of the Ryman League Cup, and that’s exactly what he got.

Concord ran out 9-0 winners to inflict the heaviest defeat in history on the Motormen, but Robinson always had an eye on Saturday’s big clash with fellow strugglers Ilford.

“It’s what I expected, they’re good players and it’s a bit of a lesson. We’re thinking about Saturday really,” said Robinson, following Jason Hallett’s six goals at Oakside, which saw a young Redbridge side thrashed.

The scoring began in the first 30 seconds as Hallett was on the end of Harry Elmes cross which came from a quick-throw.

Just minutes later the lead was doubled as Jerome Walker’s ball into the box was miskicked by a Redbridge defender and fell straight to Hallett, who found the net again.

The ball seemed to be glued to Hallett’s feet when Danny Spendlove’s corner fell to the Beachboys’ number nine who completed his hat-trick just thirty minutes into the game.

Despite Billy Ledine’s efforts in the Motormen’s goal, it was 4-0 five minutes later, another Spendlove corner was met by the head of Elmes whose header was tipped onto the bar by the keeper, but none-other-than Hallett was there to score his and Concord’s fourth.

Hallett looked like scoring every time he touched the ball, although there was a one-off occasion where the striker failed as he hit the post following a low cross into the box by Ade Osifuwa.

A controversial moment came just before half-time as Hallett was played through on goal after a long run by Spendlove until he was clattered by Stephen Ikumelo, but the referee waved away the protests.

Substitute Tony Stokes almost provided a fifth as he flicked the ball onto Walker, who ran through the Redbridge defence and got a shot off but a fantastic save by Ledine denied him.

The travelling supporters didn’t have long to wait though as a fantastic low cross by Osifuwa found Hallett at the far post for his fifth of the game.

With 30 minutes remaining, a short corner by the visitors was played to Spendlove who crossed the ball into the area before Stokes headed the ball past Ledine for 6-0.

It was one-way traffic as Redbridge failed to make the Concord ‘keeper work all game, but matters got worse five minutes later when Ikumelo brought down Stokes in the penalty area. Hallett’s penalty kick was saved by Ledine, but the rebound fell straight to the striker’s feet, gifting him his sixth goal of the match.

Stokes always looked dangerous since coming off the bench and he deserved his second goal of the game as he was fed the ball by Jack Lampe before cutting inside to curl a lovely effort into the far corner of the goal making it 8-0.

The final goal of the game came with just six minutes remaining – Stokes was involved again as the substitute set-up another by squaring the ball across the goal for Billy Knott to finish off what was a thumping victory for Concord Rangers

Monday, 12 November 2012

Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 Southampton U21s

Table-topping Spurs thumped Southampton 4-0 with former Saints loanee Yago Falque netting twice at White Hart Lane.

Early chances fell to Southampton striker Sam Hoskins in the opening 15 minutes, but the rapid forward couldn’t quite find the net.

Ben Reeves’ freekick on 21 minutes was dealt with well by the Tottenham defence, before a quick counter-attack saw Dean Parrett in space bursting into the Saints’ half. Parrett slotted a perfectly weighted ball into Falque who showed composure by finishing nicely past Chris Jones in the Southampton goal.

Just three minutes later, the home side found themselves two-up. The impressive Tom Carroll crossed a well-flighted ball into the box which found the head of Jonathan Obika who headed nicely past Jones.

It looked set to be an uphill task for the Saints, but the visitors managed to look more comfortable on the ball, skipper Ben Reeves was particularly impressive in possession.

Although the hosts added another to their tally a minute into first-half stoppage time, this time Obika turned provider for Falque, the former Southampton loanee then bent a fantastic curling shot which hit the top of the far post before nestling into the net.

With a three-goal cushion, Spurs were happy to keep possession after the interval as Southampton began to tire.

Chances were few and far between in the second period and it was the Saints who had the first after 63 minutes, Joe Curtis stole the ball from a Tottenham defender before showing neat footwork to get a shot off, but Lawrence Vigouroux done well to save the effort.

Just over five minutes later, Southampton looked set to score again. Reeves played Sam Hoskins through on goal which led to a one-on-one situation but Hoskins’ shot was saved by the leg of Vigouroux.

The three-goal cushion seemed a little flattering for the hosts considering chances were becoming consistent from the men in red. With just over 10 minutes remaining Curtis played an accurate ball out wide to the pacey Jake Sinclair, who returned the pass with a deep cross which found the feet of Curtis but the shot was palmed wide for a corner.

Almost instantly after, Tottenham added insult to injury with a fourth but they certainly saved the best until last. Substitute Souleymane Coulibaly picked up the ball on the left-hand side and just struck an ambitious shot which nestled into the top right corner stunning everyone at the Lane.

Within the two minutes additional time, Reeves managed to worm his way through a number of Spurs defenders before hitting a right-footed shot which looked to be going into the top corner of the goal but Vigouroux was at full stretch to keep his clean sheet.

Tottenham Hotspur: Lawrence Vigouroux, Ryan Fredericks, Kevin Stewart, Massimo Luongo (C), Grant Hall, Tom Carroll, Yago Falque, Ryan Mason, Jonathan Obika, Dean Parrett, Cristian Ceballos.

Southampton: Chris Jones, Danny Butterfield, Matt Targett, Joe Curtis, Bevis Mugabe, Jordan Turnball, Jake Sinclair, Corby Moore, Sam Hoskins, Ben Reeves (C), Lloyd Isgrove.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Cheshunt manager Faulkner fuming after defeat

CHESHUNT manager Tony Faulkner was left fuming after his side’s 2-1 defeat at Redbridge on Saturday.
UNHAPPY: Cheshunt manager Tony Faulkner
UNHAPPY: Cheshunt manager Tony Faulkner
“After 20 years of managing, that’s probably the most one sided defeat I’ve ever been involved in,” he told Josh Harris.
“We had 37 crosses into their box. We felt like we had three really good penalty shouts, one which he (the Redbridge defender) punched underneath the bar and he (the referee) gave a corner.
“Glenn’s (Williamson, the Cheshunt keeper) made a howler in the first half where he’s punched it into his own net.”
Faulkner admitted: “They didn’t even have an attack in the second half – it was our mistake for their second goal.
“It was very, very frustrating. As a manager you look at yourself and think ‘is there anything else I could have done?’ Glenn’s had one save in the whole game.”
Going into Saturday’s match, Cheshunt side had the best scoring record in the league, but with just the one goal against Redbridge, the manager blamed the lack of goals on his attackers.
“Our final third and delivery wasn’t as good as it could be, but having said that, we had enough quality on some of the balls.”
Looking ahead to this Saturday’s clash against Harlow Town, Faulkner said he expected a positive result. “It has to be a win,” he told Josh Harris.
“If we’re going to fulfil our goals (play-off positions), you’ve got to win the game. I expect to win every game, there’s no one in the league we fear.
“We know on our day we’re as good as anyone and better than most. We’re going to go into that game against Harlow firing, were angry now. We need to get it out of our system.”

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Metropolitan Police thrash Redbridge in the FA Trophy (First round)

Redbridge 0-5 Metropolitan Police – FA Trophy (First Qualifying Round)

Metropolitan Police bagged themselves a place in the next round of the FA Trophy with an emphatic win over Redbridge at Oakside stadium.

Players warming up at the Oakside stadium
The away side took the lead within seconds as Crawley loanee Jonte Smith kept his fantastic form up with a neat finish from close range.

Smith, 17, continued to threaten the home side’s defence as he got on the end of most Met’s attacks.

Within seven minutes, Redbridge found themselves two-goals down. Craig Brown’s low cross reached Howard Newton, who tapped the ball past Michael Bowdwitch.

The home side began to show intent mid-way through the first half, a goal-mouth scramble was almost bundled into the net, but the ball somehow ended up going wide.

Steve Portway was clearly unhappy with his team’s efforts during the first forty minutes, the Redbridge manager decided to bring off Lee Newton for Stephen Ikumelo with ten minutes yet to play until the interval.

The Met’s continuous efforts soon showed why they were a division above the Motormen, Jimmy Cooper’s men made it three before the break.

It was a poor goal to concede from the home side’s point of view; Jamie Butler’s long goal kick forward looked like it was reaching Bowdwitch in the opposite goal, but the awkward bounce allowed Chris Bourne to nod the ball over the keeper and into the net.


Second half chances were few and far between as both sides began to value possession a little more, Smith sustained his dominance up top for the Met.

Cooper decided to make all three of his substitutions at once mid-way through the second period, swapping three midfielders in the process.

With no substitutions remaining, Cooper was forced to bring Smith off with twenty minutes to go as he picked up a groin injury.

The Met showed no sign of having 10 men though; as the away side made it 4-0 when Newton poked home Billy Crock’s drilled cross.

Portway’s side began to come into the game a little more during the latter stages of the second half, opportunities were created by Nana Asamoah and Spencer Sachies but the Motormen failed to convert their chances.

The Met finished off the scoring during additional time with a well worked goal involving most of the team, this time Bourne turned provider for Alan Tait, who converted the cross into the fifth and final goal.

Steve Portway decided to gather his players in the middle of the pitch after the game, which included some aggressive shouting and confrontation towards each other.

By Josh Harris



Monday, 24 September 2012

The Adkins diet finally shows results

Speculation of the manager’s future was surrounding St Mary’s, questions were pointed at the defence, and even Kelvin Davis was being quizzed over recent performances.

Despite impressive performances from their opening four games, Southampton sat solely at the foot of the Premier League with no points.

Rickie Lambert had made an account of himself, just like the rest of the Saints team as they put in impressive displays to test some of the best teams in English football.

A number of supporters began to lose faith and hold question marks up to Nigel Adkins and co. after the 6-1 thumping at Arsenal.

Kelvin Davis dropped

Kelvin Davis was beaten at his near post at the Emirates and had a pretty miserable game, but Saints fans have seen this before and Davis has kept his place in the team for years.  

Regardless, Davis was dropped for the home game against Aston Villa, which was “the start of Southampton’s season” according to Adkins.

The 35-year-old has proved he’s good enough; he may have just had a bad day at the office.
As it turned out, Adkins made a good decision. The 20-year-old had a solid game; it was a shame that Darren Bent ruined his chance of keeping a clean sheet.


New summer signings

Adkins also decided to put Maya Yoshida and Gaston Ramirez in the starting line-up, two new summer additions to the squad.

Ramirez had an outstanding game, showing others why he was worth his reported £12m price tag.
Paul Gazzaniga - Southampton v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Pre-season Friendly
Paulo Gazzaniga

Rickie Lambert showed why he is vital towards the Southampton team this season, his opening goal showed strength, agility, shot accuracy and power as he received the ball from another influential Saints player, Adam Lallana, before firing past the Villa ‘keeper.

Promising youngster Nathaniel Clyne also came up with the goods as he fired the home side into the lead five minutes after Lambert’s contribution.

Jason Puncheon has been like a new signing for the Saints this season, he was shipped out on loan the previous two seasons due to reasons we don’t know. The shifty winger caused Villa problems on Saturday and even scored (with a deflection) Southampton’s third goal.

Another new signing got involved in a goal too, Emmanuel Mayuka was played through by Lambert before Brad Guzan brought the Zambian forward down in the penalty area.

Lambert – Never in doubt

It was never in doubt that Lambert would score the spot kick, as he fired in his 26 out of 26 penalty for Saints.
Lambert (right) celebrates another converted penalty.
The Saints host Sheffield Wednesday at St Marys for a League Cup game before heading to Goodison Park to face a tough Everton side who currently sit third in the Premier League.

It will be interesting to see whether Adkins keeps Gazzaniga in goal for the trip to Merseyside whilst Davis and new signing Artur Boruc remain in contention for the bench.

The ‘dreadful’ start that some labelled on Southampton may not look so bad now that the three points gained against Villa have lifted the South coast side out of the relegation zone.

The Saints: Together as one
If Adkins’ men can’t pick up a point or three at Goodison, the home match against Fulham the following week will prove to be another vital game before heading to fellow promoted club, West ham.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Southampton Return - Premier League Season Preview

Keeping up

There is no doubt that Saints manager Nigel Adkins has secured himself as a fan favourite in less than two years of being in-charge; the forty-seven-year-old has driven the club to back-to-back promotions. The clubs stability has also seen a huge change since the arrival of Nicola Cortese, who took over from his great friend Markus Liebherr, who sadly passed away in August 2010.
New Signing: Jay Rodriguez

Cortese has given Adkins whatever he wants since his arrival, although he does seem to wear the trousers when it comes to signing players. This summer, Jay Rodriguez, Steven Davis, Nathaniel Clyne and Paulo Gazzaniga have been brought in to strengthen the South coast outfit.

The style of football which has been played by Southampton for the past two seasons has been beautiful to watch, free-flowing passing and movement have been a pleasure to watch for the fans. The question on everyone’s lips is whether the team can still play that style of football when in the top tier. Pre-season has seen Adkins’ side mix up the formation, trying out a 4-3-3 style, as well as the classic 4-4-2 with talisman Rickie Lambert partnered upfront with Billy Sharp/Rodriguez.

Player to watch

Most Southampton fans would probably say Adam Lallana as their player to watch in the Premiership this season, although I think most people have heard of the talented midfielder by now. My player to watch is Morgan Schneiderlin, a personal favourite, but his talents seem to have gone un-noticed whilst his playmaking abilities have won us numerous matches in the second and third tier of English football. The French under-21 international has been a vital part of both promotion campaigns, despite only scoring three goals in two years. His ability to pass a long-range ball cross-field is outstanding, not to mention his positional and defensive knowledge, despite being just twenty-two years of age. Enough of the praise from me though, he will soon be a well-known part of the Southampton side this season when he comes up against some of the best players in the world.

Morgan Schneiderlin - Southampton v Nottingham Forest - npower Championship
In Action: Morgan Schneiderlin

Player to sell

Not Needed: Lee Barnard
As much as I hate to say it, I think Lee Barnard’s time with Saints is up. The striker scored enough goals for the club to deserve a starting eleven spot, although regaining promotion to the big-time may be just one step too far for the striker. He seems to suit the Championship with his knowledge and experience, but I doubt his ability in the Premiership, especially with three top-quality strikers ahead of him in the pecking order. I am surprised a Championship club hasn’t come in for him yet. Although the reason for this maybe because of his court case which has gone quiet in the media, the 28 year-old was arrested after a brawl in a night-club which resulted in him being dropped from the first team in League 1.

View on the manager

Nigel Adkins is tipped 40/1 to be sacked first this season, I think he will be fine as long as Southampton don’t finish bottom by a distance. If we keep picking up the odd three points here and there, I think he should be safe. Some consideration should be taken from what he has done for the club, although I worry Nicola Cortese will look past that and focus on surviving in the top tier. Adkins is known for his positivity and enthusiasm, but as proved in recent seasons, many managers don’t get away with being good in front of the camera, it’s all about results.

Realistic ambitions

As expected, the newly-promoted side is going to be tipped for relegation. However, if Adkins can find the correct formation to use and the right style of play (which he has done so far in his Southampton reign), then he could become even more of a Southampton icon and keep the Saints up. Results will depend on the new signings, Rodriguez must impress in the top flight, despite not having any premiership experience. Rickie Lambert must also stay fit and carry on scoring goals like he did in the Championship/League 1. Adam Lallana could help keep the side above the relegation zone, his 11 assists and 13 goals last year prove he is good enough to step up to the plate.

League position

The lack of premier league experience could prove vital in survival for Southampton, if they stick together and show a real team spirit, they may be able to beat the drop. I have faith in Nigel Adkins to do the job again for Saints; Cortese must show faith in his manager too though. I think 16th place is a realistic ambition for the side this season, if the team can get in front and retain leads like they did last season (won all 21 matches after being in front at half-time) then they could beat the drop.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Matthew Le Tissier on Southampton's Return to The Premiership

Southampton legend, Matthew Le Tissier gave me his views, predictions and transfer tips for Saints' return to the top flight.

Without fierce rivals Portsmouth on the fixture list for next season, Le Tissier expressed his excitement to the games which he thinks will get St Mary's rocking, "I'll be looking forward to Manchester City, United and Spurs, they should all be a great atmosphere at St Mary's".

Whilst on the subject of Tottenham Hotspur, I asked who he thought would receive the best reaction when returning down South, "I think Alan Pardew, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Bale and Theo will all get good receptions."
That question, of course, had to follow with: Who will get the worst?
"I think Harry Redknapp will probably get the worst." he admitted without hesitation.

The last two seasons have gone swimmingly for Southampton Football Club, and the style of football being played has been a joy to watch. With the big step up to the Premier League, Le Tissier still believes the same style of football can be played, and continue to be successful.

"I don't think Nigel should change the tactics from the last two seasons, its been successful so far." 'Le God' said.

Obviously, there are many advantages of being promoted to the Premier League, but what disadvantage will hinder Southampton the most?
"I think the biggest disadvantage will be the rise in standard of the opposition strikers" he admitted.

When asked if the lack of Premier League experience in the team would be a major problem for Saints, Le Tissier responded "Hopefully not, Norwich and Swansea didn't have too much, and they did well."

The Sky Sports pundit stated that Nigel Adkins will have to keep Southampton in the Premier League in order to remain manager of the Club at the end of the season.

With the recent signing of Jay Rodriquez, Le Tissier thinks Danny Murphy should be the next signing at St Mary's. The 35 year-old has just been released by Fulham, but that doesn't put the Saints legend off, "I think Danny would be a really useful signing".

So, after finding out who Matt Le Tissier thinks Adkins should sign, what tactics to play and the disadvantages of promotion, I wanted to know what position Le Tissier thinks Saints will finish next season.

"I think Saints will finish somewhere between 10th and 16th"

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

My trip to the Copa Del Rey Final, Madrid

24th-26th May 2012

As any football fan would be, I was most excited at the prospect of watching the greatest football team of my generation, Barcelona. Not only was I twenty-four hours away from seeing arguably, the best team in the world at present, but I was also about to witness the most talented footballer in the world, Lionel Messi.
Despite all the excitement coming from watching Barca, I was also excited about Athletic Bilbao, one of the three Spanish sides never to have been relegated from La Liga and the runners up of the Europa League this season.
The Vincent Calderon
As I set off to the Vicente Calderón Stadium (home of Athletico Madrid), I came across a number of fans from either team. I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly both sets of fans were to me, and more particularly each other. An Athletic fan told me that the two crowds are very friendly as they both 'dislike' Athletico Madrid, which baffled me slightly considering the final was set in the middle of Madrid!

I was fortunate enough to find a pack of Bilbao fans who spoke very good English. They informed me about the different languages the two teams speak from their different areas in Spain, Athletic Bilbao - from the Basque country, and Barcelona - from the Catalonia part of Spain. The Bilbao fans were religious about their football team (like many) but believed their team were 'a way of life'.

The Bilbao fans started chanting outside the Calderon Stadium, so I thought it would only be polite to attempt to join in. As I began singing 'Bilbao, Bilbao!", I was soon corrected to sing "Athletic!, Athletic!" which was what the Basque fans prefer to be called.

The Athletic fans were quick to react when I mentioned I was from Southampton, England. A connection between the two clubs has been apparent since the club was formed, shipyard workers from Britain brought the game of football to Bilbao when transporting iron mines. The connection to Southampton Football Club became more relevant when I heard the following story:
A young student from Bilbao named Juan Elorduy, who was spending Christmas 1909 in London, was charged by the club to buy 25 new shirts, but was unable to find enough. Waiting for the ship back to Bilbao and empty handed, Elorduy realised that the colours of the local team Southampton matched the colours of the City of Bilbao, and bought 50 shirts to take with him.

After learning about the links with my local team, I felt as though I should support Athletic for the final, which was an hour from being played in the 55,000 seat stadium. The Basque supporters travelled four hours to Madrid, bringing 50,000 supports, including 270 coaches, the majority of fans would not watching the game inside the stadium.

As I began to walk closer to the ground I was greeted by a number of people who were trying to sell tickets outside, out of curiosity, I asked "how much?" the reply -"400 Euro!".

I was also shocked to see a flare, which was lit a few yards in front of me by Barcelona fans on the street, which seemed to be a normal thing on match days as I was the only person around who looked confused. In England, a flare lit in the street would probably cause a riot!

The stadium saw a sea of red and white across one side, with red and blue colours the other. However, it took just two minutes into the game for one of the sets of fans to erupt. The Catalans had scored early to dampen the mood for the Basque's, Pedro with the opening goal for Barca.

Despite the early set back, Athletic fans were still hopeful of winning the game, I was told by a local "We always believe". But he soon looked deflated, a second goal to Barcelona was scored by who else but Lionel Messi, the greatest player on the planet, a trademark goal as he showed composure and skill to score. The Bilbao fan to my left turned to me and shook his head, saying "Too good, Messi is too good", whilst the Barcelona fans bowed down to the star.

I soon saw another flare which had been lit, with Barca fans dancing and singing around it, almost like a party as they expected their team to win the game.

Athletic were constantly pinned back in their own half, struggling to counter attack as their most consistent player, Fernando Llorente looked outnumbered by the Barcelona defenders. Although every team would struggle against this side considering their manager, Pep Guardiola was managing his final game for the club after winning fourteen competitions with the team.

Before half-time, the game was all but over, a third goal by Barcelona sunk the people of Basque as they could only hope their team found a huge amount of luck in the second half, after Pedro scored his second of the game.

The match finished 3-0 to Barcelona, and was over by 11pm local time. As I met up with a Athletic fan, I was informed that the Basque supporters wouldn't be picked up until 4am before they travelled back to Bilbao, that is commitment at its best, any football club in the world would be proud to have supporters who travel that distance through the night for a game they saw on a television screen.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Hampshire Cup Final: Eastleigh 2-0 AFC Totton

Eastleigh Ruin The Stags' Party

Eastleigh won the Hampshire Cup after a 2-0 victory over the holders AFC Totton at St Mary’s, a game which made history due to the first ever use of goal-line technology.

The Stags were hoping to drown their sorrows after narrowly missing out on promotion, as they lost in the play-off final to Oxford City just a week earlier. It was always going to be a tough task though, considering Totton manager, Stuart Ritchie, had left the club to join Havant and Waterlooville prior to the Cup final.
Both teams warming-up before kick off

The Spitfires were also without their manager, Ian Baird, who committed to a trip to Hong Kong after his side were knocked out in round two of the competition, Eastleigh were reinstated though as their opposition fielded an ineligible player.

The Spitfires, who were being managed by assistant manager Shaun Wilkinson, took the lead just thirteen minutes in; an exquisite ball from Daryl McMahon allowed Mitchell Nelson in behind the back four, who sent the ball towards the far post, Chris Flood was in the right place at the right time to stick it into the net.

McMahon was involved in the action again instantly, his thunderous free kick was too powerful for Stags’ keeper Grant Porter, who could only parry the ball straight to the head of Gary Elphick, but the centre-back put his header over from just a yard out.

With Eastleigh dominating, it was down to Totton to take advantage on the counter attack. Half an hour played, the Stags broke from a corner as Jonathan Davies carried the ball forward and eventually sent Nathaniel Sherborne through on goal. The striker could only put the ball wide though, despite having acres of space and time.

Half Time Eastleigh 1-0 AFC Totton

As the second half began, the fans were reminded that these two sides are local rivals, Totton’s Ryan Hill and Eastleigh’s Michael Green came together after a tackle which resulted in both players receiving a yellow card for raising their hands, although some may have felt a red card was necessary.

The Stags seemed lifted and their aggression went into the style of football they were playing, a string of superb moves saw the team in yellow dominate the early stages of the second half.

Totton were producing the chances on goal but a number of clear cut opportunities were being wasted, James Couttes was the most recent player to miss from five yards.

Gareth Barfoot remained alert, as he kept Eastleigh in front with a fantastic double save as Jonathan Davies hit two identical shots within seconds from a narrow angle.

The Blue Square South outfit doubled their lead against the run of play, Spitfires’ Chris Flood chested the ball down into his path and took it wide on the left flank, then crossed the ball far post which looked to be heading into the net, but Mitchell Nelson arrived on time to make sure the goal-line technology wouldn’t be needed.

The second goal appeared to have drowned the life out of Totton, who couldn’t find a way back into the game after Eastleigh’s second.

‘So near, yet so far’ would sum up the Stags’ season in a nutshell, as they fell two games short of promotion and a Cup win in the space of a few days, but the celebrations went Eastleigh’s way at St Mary’s stadium in front of a bumper crowd of 2,303.

Full Time: Eastleigh 2-0 AFC Totton

Eastleigh goalscorer, Mitchell Nelson, spoke to me after the game:

"It feels good coming off the back of the game at Maidenhead, I had a good game. I thought to myself, try and take it into the next game, so i thought why not enjoy myself?"
Full post-match interview available here:

Written by Josh Harris.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Eastleigh 2-1 Eastbourne Borough

Spitfires Dominant in the Air to Secure Victory

Gary Elphick helped Eastleigh to secure their first win in five games with a close-range header against his former club.

Tommy Widdrington was hoping to extend his sides’ five game unbeaten run at the Silverlake Stadium, whilst Ian Baird’s men were looking for their first win in five league games.

The Spitfires started the stronger of the two teams, attacking from left to right with a slight wind blowing in their favour. The advantage showed in the early stages as Aldershot loanee, Bradley Bubb played a one-two with Damien Scannell. As he received the ball back, Bubb went for placement but stand-in ‘keeper, Clark Masters was on hand for Eastbourne to push the shot wide for a corner.

Three minutes into the game, Daryl McMahon floated in a corner which the Sports failed to clear, inviting more pressure onto themselves. As Damien Scannell whipped in the cross from the right-hand side, Gary Elphick was in the right place at the right time to head in against his former club, which he left in January.

With the early goal under their belts, Eastleigh were looking comfortable. As chances were few and far between, neither side had any real clear-cut chances. Bradley Bubb appeared to be the most lively man on the pitch, showing pace, power and agility.

As Borough broke on the counter, Matt Crab carried the ball forward until a poor touch allowed the it to get away from him, he over-stretched, and the striker dived into the tackle on Danny Smith which looked dangerous but not malicious. Bizarrely, the referee decided to book both players involved, rather than just Crab, who seemed to be the culprit.

Half Time: Eastleigh 1-0 Eastbourne Borough

Likewise the first half, Eastleigh didn’t take long to set the tone. Just five minutes after the interval, a corner by McMahon was floated in towards Spitfires’ skipper, Tom Jordan, who scored with a bullet header to put the home side 2-0 up.

Baird’s men were looking even more comfortable with a two-goal cushion, although it was the final ball which was letting them down. Lee Peacock and Bubb were linking up brilliantly at times, but the finishing wasn’t on par. 

Tommy Widdrington decided to freshen things up just over the hour mark, bringing on Ellis Remy for Crabb, who didn’t have the best of games.

Widdrington’s substitution worked wonders for Borough, Remy was in action straight away as a long throw-in by Gary Charman was met by the substitute. An athletic over-head kick saw Eastbourne pull one back with less than twenty minutes remaining.

With a reduced defecate; the away side had their tails up. After a forced corner, there were shouts for handball from the travelling fans as former Eastbourne man; Gary Elphick, appeared to make contact with the ball illegally.

In added time, the Sports thought they had levelled the scoring. Charles Ademeno chipped Jack Dovey and almost started celebrating until the ball was thumped away off the line by an Eastleigh defender, securing the win for the Spitfires.

Full Time: Eastleigh 2-1 Eastbourne Borough

Attendance: 439

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Thurrock 1-1 Maidenhead United *Match Report*

Thurrock 1 – 1 Maidenhead United – Match Report, Josh Harris

A miserable looking day matched the sight of Thurrock’s league position before kick-off. After the resignation of former manager, Robbie Garvey, the Fleet fans were hoping caretaker boss, Lee Goodwin, could turn things around with a win against a Maidenhead United side who haven’t played in three weeks. Having earned a point midweek against Bromley, Goodwin’s side had an injection of confidence and motivation going into this fixture against Johnson Hippolyte’s men.

Prior to kick off, die-hard Thurrock supporters voiced their acceptance for Goodwin as he potentially takes charge for the rest of the season “We’re pleased with Lee but we just wish the decision was made sooner, it may be too late now.”

As the rain continued to fall at a constant light pace, Thurrock got the game underway shooting from left to right in their traditional green and yellow strip, whilst the Magpies lined up in their black and white stripes.

The first ten minutes were cagey with neither team having any real clear-cut opportunities, Alex Wall threatened to score the opener, he latched on to a through ball but the finish was high and wide of David Hughes’s goal.

Magpies’ striker, Reece-Tilson-Lascaris, also had an eye for goal in the early stages with a shot from outside the area, but Hughes was alert to the danger.

Thurrock showed promise just after the ten minute-mark, a smart move was rounded-off with a ball into David Knight who laid it back to midfielder, Sam Cutler, but the shot was tame, Billy Lumley was barely tested.

Hippolyte was in full voice on the touchline, which perhaps gave the away side a boost of confidence, a wave of chances came their way in the space of just a few minutes. The first of which fell to young striker, Alex Wall, a through-ball by Manny Williams had the travelling fans on the edge of their seats but as Wall directed the ball goal wards, Hughes was already aware of the threat.

Moments later, Alex Wall continued to cause problems for the Thurrock back four, soft penalty claims were aimed at referee, Mr. Woolford. Wall claimed he was tripped as he tried to get on the end of Manny Williams’ through ball, but the referee wasn’t interested.

As Maidenhead United piled on the pressure, the home side resorted to long ball. The Fleet defense tried to put the ball over the top for Ben Hunt and Ahmed Deen to latch onto, but Magpies’ skipper, John Scarborough was outstanding in the air, winning almost every header aimed towards him.

It began to look doubtful that Thurrock would weather the storm, as a ball was lumped into Hughes’s penalty area, Rob Gillman and Stuart Thurgood went up for the same header, the lack of communication saw the ball fall to Williams who couldn’t direct his shot on target.

After soaking up the pressure in the first twenty minutes, Thurrock completed an attack which any team would be proud of. Starting off at the back, the ball was worked down the left side of the pitch, Nathan Ashton drilled the ball into Hunt but the angle on goal was too tight for the striker.

On the half-hour mark, Ahmed Deen put a low cross into the box which was spilled by Billy Lumley who looked to be in pain, Thurrock carried on though, Hunt laid the ball back for Cutler, who skied the ball into the car park despite Magpies’ number one being lead on the ground. Lumley received treatment from the United physio and was able to resume with his duties.

Just four minutes later, Lumley found himself in the wars again. As the Fleets’ free kick was drilled into the far post, Jamie White connected with the ball, only to miss the goal from a yard out. More luck came Thurrock’s way when Lumley stayed down after being clattered by a group of players during an attack. Whilst being treated for over 5 minutes, the Maidenhead physio signaled to the bench as a substitution was required. Ironically, Maidenheads substitute goalkeeper broke his finger in training in the week, meaning there was no keeper on the bench for the first time all season. Consequently, it was the most peculiar of come-backs from injury for defender, Mark Nisbet, as he was required to play the remains of the game between the sticks.

As the fourth official indicated a minimum of eight minutes added time, Maidenhead midfielder, Jermaine Hinds tripped David Knight on the edge of the area. This was a real chance for Ahmed Deen to test the stand-in goalkeeper. As Deen striked it, the ball guided perfectly over the wall and into the top right corner of the goal, maybe even scraping some of the paint-work off the post in the process, a fantastic free kick by Ahmed Deen. Never mind Mark Nisbet, no keeper would have saved that effort.

Half time: Thurrock 1-0 Maidenhead United

As both sets of players, staff and the officials headed for the dressing rooms, there appeared to be a coming together between some of the players without many of the spectators realising. The officials and staff soon separated the players and calmed the situation.

Substitution for Thurrock at half time, Paul Terry came on to replace Luke L’Anson. Terry is handed the captains armband.

Maidenhead United kicked off the second half shooting from right to left. However, the first corner of the game fell to Thurrock, shortly followed by another. As one of the corners was cleared, Thurrock right back, Warren Goodhind, thumped a freekick into the area which was flicked on to David Knight, but the midfielder could only strike the ball straight at Nisbet.

Thurrock threatened to extend their lead midway through the second half. Goodhind carried the ball down the right side, laid it into fellow defender, Ashton, who drilled it, just too high of the goal.

Dawn was upon us and the floodlights were switched on as a mystery layer of dark cloud advanced towards Ship Lane.

As Thurrock cleared a corner, the counter attack was available; the ball broke to Paul Terry who had plenty of options in support as Maidenhead only had a couple of defenders back. Terry played the worst attempted pass of the afternoon as he scuffed the ball straight to one of the two defenders, much to the home fans frustration.

Just as the Fleet looked more likely to be the next team to score, it was the away side who leveled the scoring. A move from the left side saw Alex Wall in the area, who smashed a shot at Hughes, who could only parry the attempt straight back to Wall, who then rounded the keeper and laid a pass off to Manny Williams, who hit the ball as hard as possible to beat the Thurrock defenders on the line.

Moments later, Thurrock appeared to have gone 2-1 up. Substitute, Lee Boylan, having just come on was played through on goal and neatly finished the move past the keeper but the linesman on the near-side had his flag up before the ball crossed the line.

As both sides start pushing for the winner, the intensity rises. Hinds dragged down Knight off the ball, directly in front of the linesman but both officials wave away the protest much to Knights displeasure. Alex Wall then found himself in the referee’s book for dissent; his continuous back-chat to the referee was eventually too much for Mr. Woolford. Shortly after, Leon Solomon joined Wall in the book for the same reason.

The game livened up as it approached the final ten minutes, and so too did the weather. A burst of rain suddenly hurled down for the remainder of the match.

The home side continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack and could possibly have won the game if Magpie skipper, Scarborough, didn’t wrestle Cutler to the ground in the process. He too was shown a yellow card.

Three minutes were added on at the end, a goal now would surely have won the game. However, the referee was busier than both keepers during stoppage time, dishing out another deserved yellow card for Maidenhead United, this time Jermaine Hinds was the culprit.

Late pressure was installed by Hippolyte’s team but bottom-side, Thurrock were able to weather the storm and add another point to their tally which could be crucial come the end of the season.

Full time: Thurrock 1-1 Maidenhead United  

After the match, Thurrock boss Lee Goodwin said: “disappointed we didn’t take all three points, we’ve had a solid few weeks, were growing and were building as a squad, I just hope we can put enough points on the board to warrant where we should really be.”

Full post-match interview with Lee Goodwin:

Maidenhead United manager, Johnson Hippolyte added “It was a very hard game, our first game in three weeks, it showed at times. With our goalkeeper getting concussed and no keeper on the bench, it nearly cost us. We showed character, we kept going, I think we got our rewards; we deserved at least a draw. A point gained”
Full post-match interview with Johnson Hippolyte:

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Eastleigh V Havant & Waterlooville - Postponed

Eastleigh V Havant & Waterlooville
This south coast derby had plenty of pre-match build up, including anxiety and nerves from both sets of fans, the two sides met just a week before this scheduled fixture, a game which saw both teams cancel each other out to share the spoils.
The home side would have gone into this game with a great deal of confidence despite the recent goalless encounter, having lost just one in their last eight league games.
Havant & Waterlooville would have been looking to improve on their current run of form, having won just one in six league games, keeping them fifteenth in the table.
Eastleigh manager, Ian Baird, would have been without skipper, Tom Jordan, in the reverse fixture, a player who has been consistent from the beginning of the season, featuring in every game so far this campaign.
Baird's opposite number, Shaun Gale, would inevitably have started 35-year-old, Sammy Igoe, who has been an influential midfielder for the Hawks all season long.
Fans waiting for a decision in the rain.
A win for Eastleigh could have seen them rise to ninth in the table, whilst Havant & Waterlooville would require a win to save themselves from a possible relegation battle come the second half of the season.
As the crowds gathered, the rain continued to pour at a constant frequency, fans entered the turnstiles with a re-assuring message 'money will be refunded if the game is postponed'.
Eventually, the officials appeared onto the pitch with the match ball, as the supporters watched nervously the referee rolled the ball up and down the centre of the pitch. A matter of minutes later, the referee shook his head to indicate the game had been called off. A decision which was fair and correct, but incredibly disappointing for both parties involved, who had been counting down the seconds for this match to start since Boxing day.
Waterlogged pitch: Match Officials postponed the match
After the referee's judgement, Spitfires' right back, Andy Forbes, commented "It was never going to be on". Outside the ground, home and away fans discussed the letdown "It's a pain, I've travelled all the way from Dorset, it was a Christmas present", an Eastleigh supporter said.
Both clubs will now have to wait until the fixture is re-arranged, it is likely the game will be played on a mid-week evening in one of the forthcoming days.