Saturday 26th Review – Part One

A very exhausting weekend culminating with a crash and sleep Monday led to me being woken up at 5pm. I am sure I would have slept through until Tuesday! So a little later in the day than I had planned for this review!

5 match reports in so far and whereas it wasn’t until Friday that I managed to get around to Div 2 last week it is where I start this weeks review off and it is testament to Simon Ashby that even though his team are struggling at the moment that he has sent a report in, (this is part of what makes the League different and special. People understand the collective feel of the League but it needs many roots and branches to have an input to make it successful).

Maple Leaf Rovers QMC 4- 2 Hawbush

Well I thought I should contribute a match report even though we sit rock bottom of both divisions without a single point and with plenty of goals conceded.

Sometimes football can be a tough sport! 30 minutes into our opening game against St Michaels it was 0-0 and the season looked rosy. Within the next 20 mins we had three players off through injury (Me included), and a player sent off and that has summed our season up so far.

Saturdays game was much like the previous 4! We have 29 players either signed or available for emergency signing and on Saturday we turned up with 11. Many of those unavailable are currently injured, with some away and some simply unavailable. Sadly for Hawbush as we continue with our ethos of using young lads from the same little community we don’t have the depth of squad to cope with one or two key absences.

So we turn up to now table topping Maple Leaf with our main 6 central defenders all injured or absent and to be honest it could have well been 6-1 to the home team by half time…… BUT we showed massive character to go in 1-1 at half-time after taking the lead with a cross come shot from Tom Wylde. And credit to the lads who played as they were immense! Lee Perks (striker), Jacques Pironnet (Centre midfielder) and Ryan Houghton (Full-Back) doing an amazing job as a back three, trying to withstand the pressure from Maple Leaf. We then had our other striker Tom Wylde at right wing back, with one of key central midfielder playmakers Mitch Pountney at left wing-back and both had very good games getting up and down the flanks all day.

In midfield Ben Holmes, Ross Brookes and Sam Smith did a good job in trying to control the game, with Brett Ball and Brad Smith up front trying to hold the ball up despite both being below 5ft 7! It was very much a makeshift XI so to get a respectable score was quite an achievement.

The second half was better for Hawbush with lots of passion and the two best early chances being created, but it didn’t really get much better than that. Will legs tiring and no subs available, Maple Leaf took control running out deserved 4-2 winners with Ben Holmes grabbing a late consolation for Hawbush with his first goal of the season from inside the box.

So for Hawbush we continue to enjoy the WMCFL journey but this is our third season now and having beaten almost every team at some point last year we were hoping to kick on this season, but as yet things have gone a bit backwards. We hope that as things move towards November we will get a full squad back, some of our invaluable players may return and competition for places will mean some much needed wins!

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So Hawbush, like Chawn Hill Church in Division 1 have yet to get their first point of the season but they do not seem to be lacking in effort and commitment. Hopefully their first point will not be far off as they manage to get players back. As Simon says, football can be tough, sometimes you can graft all day long and get no reward, but then again, my perception as I get older, that just being able to compete and play is reward in itself. So Hawbush sit at one end of the table whilst Maple Leaf carry on with their impressive start to the season sitting top of the table with 9 points from 4 games. Kiran Kellman popped up with another 2 goals on Saturday and now has 8 goals to his name having scored 2 goals in each of those 4 games. I wonder when he will get a hat trick this season?

Only 2 teams have not dropped any points so far, St Mary’s and new boys St Matthew’s Walsall, but having said that, St Matthew’s have only played 2 games so far. However, in those 2 games they have beaten current league leaders Maple Leaf and on Saturday demolished Living Hope Chuch. This was a match that I thought would be closer than it was but with an 8-1 scoreline to the Walsall lads it does look like they may be the ones to finish above if you want to be Champions. Aaron Muffat with their report:

St Matthew’s Walsall 8-1 Living Hope Church

After what has seemed like an age, we finally returned to League action this Saturday with the visit of early season pacesetters Living Hope Church United on what was a perfect morning for football. Showing a couple of enforced changes from our opening fixture, we started the game on the front foot, passing the ball quickly and crisply. It didn’t take long for us to take the lead and what a sweet strike it was from midfield schemer Nathan Hathaway. Some trickery on the edge of the box before shifting the ball onto his ‘weaker’ left foot and rifling home with the aid of a deflection.

Veteran forward Kevin Humpage then gave us a cushion with 2 quickfire goals. His first was after the Living Hope goalkeeper struggled to deal with an over hit long ball, leaving Humpage to tap into an empty net. His second was a much better effort, belying his diminutive frame to climb over his marker and power home a header at the back post after a sumptuous cross from Hathaway. Shortly afterwards, captain Andy Rowley was forced off after jarring his knee in a fair challenge with a Living Hope player.

Living Hope tried to get back into the game but our great use of possession restricted them to very few chances. They forced a couple of corners but these came to nothing and just before half time, we almost finished the game as a contest as Humpage won a penalty under a challenge from the goalkeeper and Aaron Muffett scored from the spot.

Half time 4-0.

The second half started in the same vein as the first with wave after wave of St Matthews pressure but it was actually Living Hope who got the next goal after a swift counter attack from a St Matthews corner ended in a shot which goalkeeper Ben Scragg could only parry straight to the feet of the Living Hope striker Beardsmore who made it 4-1.

Any hope of a Living Hope fightback was quickly put to bed when James Scragg broke from midfield to finish well and restore our 4 goal advantage before Humpage completed his hat-trick for 6-1 with his fifth in 2 games. A man very much in form.

The next goal was arguably the goal of the game. A long ball from Scragg was well controlled by Jack Nixon who spotted the goalkeeper off his line and hit a half volley at goal from no more than 10 yards into the Living Hope half which sailed into the net.

The goalscoring was complete in the closing minutes, another penalty awarded to us after the goalkeeper was penalised for another foul on Humpage. On this occasion it was defensive stalwart Daniel Holmes who stepped up to finish with aplomb from the spot.

Full time 8-1.

Fair play to Living Hope who kept going right until the end. All the best for the rest of the season, apart from the return fixture of course! Good performance from the officials too.

County cup action for us next week so another chance for teams to put some points between us and themselves. Hopefully a positive result from us to reflect well on the League. (edit Neil: we wish all our teams well in their County Cups games)

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So, 2 reports received from Div 2 so far and whilst I have observations to make regarding other results in that Division I will shift the focus to the other 3 reports received from Division 1. I mentioned Si Ashby earlier about the commitment to entering reports, well 1 bloke who again has not let us down is Pete from Rowley, albeit helped from members of Rowley themselves. Football is a passionate game and Rowleys passion shines through for me in their report with just a couple of points that you could easily pass over, (the need to be continually updated on how the game is going followed by 5 minutes of live commentary at the end of the game), top, top blokes in my eyes.

(A big thanks by the way in so much that we are now getting some more weekly reports in as this now gives Pete, (and others),  something to look at as well, but, as always, it would be great to get more reports in with the ultimate aim of every match being reported on. Can we achieve this?)

So, Rowley drew 1-1 with Clarendon and whilst this may seem like a bump in the road for Clarendon it looks like it could actually have been a good point for them against very determined Rowley. I stated in my preview that if Southall played at the back then they may have a chance but reading the report it looks like the lads who played there did brilliantly anyway. Rowleys report:

Rowley College 1-1 Clarendon

For the first time in twenty five seasons I faced the prospect this week of missing two Rowley games in a row (for the best of causes: my younger daughter Molly’s birthday). Nevertheless on the way up to Worcester where she’s just started university I received regular (and in the second half ten-minutely) bulletins from our other old stager Mike Ibrahim. In short it was: close game…they look good…we’re defending well…they look good…we’re 1-0 up…Lee’s playing well…they’ve equalised… Finally I phoned and Mike said: time’s up by my watch, stay on the line. Five minutes later I heard the whistle having had an exclusive radio commentary of us almost snatching it!

All this gives support to keeper Lee Roberts’ summary of the game: “Excellent performance today. We totally deserved a point, had to soak up some pressure and I made to make a couple of decent saves but we dug in and could have even nicked it at the end, their keeper making a great save from Christie”.

He also provided this report:

Here is my take on the game:

After a disappointing result last week against City we came into today’s game against Clarendon who had scored 17 goals in three games before today knowing it was gonna be a tough game, especially missing a couple of key players (Olly at a wedding and Joe and Ben away; Pete). For me personally I haven’t beaten today’s opponents since playing for Rowley and always know I have to be at the top of game if we are gonna get anything from the game.

Clarendon started the game the better and kept possession well as you would expect without really creating any clear cut chances. Former Clarendon man Matt Williams and Chris Staien were defending very well against their very dangerous front men.

We slowly started to get the ball down and play some good stuff and came into the game and took the lead late in the first half. Great pressure from Ben Smith and Tom Cartin led to Roger slicing his clearance from a low drilled cross into the back of the net, giving his keeper no chance.

Winning at half time, South talked about keeping our shape and not making the silly mistakes that have cost us previous weeks. We expected a Clarendon onslaught down the hill and they certainly came out of the blocks early keeping the ball well but our back 4 of Clive, Chris, Matt and Barber were resolute and myself making a real smart save down to my left. That’s why when they did equalise it was frustrating as it came from an own goal from the unfortunate Matt Stanton. A free kick curled in from the left, one of their lads getting a slight touch drawing me into a save with my left hand, with the ball bouncing and a few players going for the ball, Matt has swung his boot at it trying to hook out for a corner only to nutmeg myself and it trickle over the line.

We knew from here that Clarendon sniffed blood and would go for the kill, and naturally we were dropping deep to protect what we had but all of the lads dug in and put in a great shift and defended well restricting them chances wise. I had to make a decent save from a deflected effort and be quick off my line to make a saving tackle near the end. Clarendon may feel hard done by in not getting a penalty after Matt Stanton tumbled with their player, but we deserved that luck after what we put into the game and nearly won it at the end, with Christie curling a great effort only for their keeper to pull off a great save down to right to tip round the post.

After not getting what we deserved from our last two games, we definitely did today, we were more than good credit for our point. Mentions for the back 4 who were amazing today in restricting the best attack In the league in my opinion to very few clear cut chances. Also Ben, Matt S, Tom, Nuni, South, Christie and Brad coming on late on also put in a great shift and worked tirelessly.

A great confidence boost going into our enforced week break

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Some names seem to pop up year after year as goal scorers as in the case of Wednesbury Baptist vs City Church. Ogochukwu Obiakor popped up with 1 for City but to no avail as Wednesbury had Craig Abbey, Karl Lawrence and Martin Woodhall all popping with a goal each in their 3-1 win. (no Falconer on the score sheet though as I had forecast)! Both myself and Andres predicted a home win with me going for 3-0 and Andres opting for 2-1. Another loss for me to Andres but if Obi hadn’t have popped up with his goal it would have been a winning week for me, (ex international players should know better)! Anyway, here is Wednesbury’s report:

Wednesbury Baptist 3-1 City Church

After last weeks 4-1 loss to Connect Sports we wanted to bounce back with a good result and preferably a win but we knew it would be hard against a team who not so long ago were challenging for and winning Division 1.

We started off on the front foot and put City under instant pressure and could have been 1-0 up within the opening 5 minutes but last ditch defending and a good reflex save kept the scores level. The rest of the first half seemed to continue in the same fashion with City being reduced to shots from distance which Obi was more than capable of attempting, luckily for us he could get the distance but not the accuracy! (age old dilemma of power or placement).

Half time 0-0.

The second half started with us picking up where we left and we were now pinning City back resulting in all their players being in their own half. We got our reward for this constant pressure when Webby took a throw in which Craig managed to get his head to and provide a deft touch to send it into the top corner and away from the keeper. We continued to press and should have been at least 3-0 up albeit for some inspired goalkeeping. The ref then awarded a penalty for a fantastic save (this time made by their centre back with his hand) unfortunately for us the keeper once again denied us as he saved from Jacks effort.

City appeared to rally at this point and left me thinking that it was going to be one of those days, the warning sign came when City hit the post rather than putting it into the empty net as Keeper Carl was still getting back to position after saving from the initial shot. City got back on level terms not long after when a corner was drifted in and unsurprisingly Obi outjumped everybody to loop his header over Carl in goal and into the net. 1-1.

As the half continued we created chances but nothing clear cut, we made changes of our own at this point bringing on Martin Woodhall and Karl Lawrence for Webby and Fidell to mix it up a little. The changes paid off as Martin was running their tiring full back ragged and got our 2nd goal which was a superb individual goal taking on at least 3 players before his elegant chipped finish over the on rushing keeper who nearly got back to palm it off the line but Pete was already following in showing his true predator instincts if that had been the case. With about 15 minutes to go we survived another scare with a goal line clearance from Craig which shows how valuable the man on the post can be and also that he is just as important to the team going forward has he is at the back.

We finished the game off with our next attack when Marc ‘Jonah’ Jones continued his impressive start to life at WBFC with an inch perfect cross field path to Karl whose first touch killed the ball instantly and finished it with his second. 3-1 and game over as far as we were concerned as we then dropped Craig into middle and Nick into the back to give us a much more settled and structured look for the last 5-10 mins.

A much needed win after last week’s defeat and huge credit to the young referee today who showed experience beyond his years.

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So Wednesbury get themselves back on track and will be pleased with their start to life in Division 1 currently sitting 3rd in the table. For City though it’s 3 points from 3 games so far but a closer look into their results suggests that most of their games have been very close so far.

I mentioned earlier that only 2 teams had failed to pick up any points this season, Hawbush being 1 and Chawn being the other. Well, Chawn had better improve massively in defence because letting in 16 goals in 3 games is a recipe for relegation. Things were no better for them on Saturday but for their opponents, Zion Athletic, it was another good 3 points which may have looked unlikely prior to the game. Phil Deeley supplies us with Zions report:

Chawn Hill Church 1-3 Zion Athletic

Today we just managed to get a team together with a wedding looming and 2 players having to leave at half time. We managed to turn up with 14. I didn’t know what the formation was or where we were finally put the 2 goalkeepers that turned up, until 15 mins before kick off. We started comfortably but Chawn did a lot of pressing, but having Mike back and Jon Allen at centre backs we held firm and soaked up all pressure, probing and looking like we were going to score. After a period of where we were under some mounting pressure we broke and with cute link up play with Leon and Ethan, Ethan getting the return ball and placing in the net, (a year after this man has had with open heart surgery, an unbelievable recovery).
Chawn then pushed hard towards the end of the half with an old friend of mine Curtis, trying everything, but just didn’t happen. Again we soaked up the pressure then after a few passes in midfield Kit threaded Leon through (though I personally thought he had done to much after the play opening up for a left footed shot ) Brought it back on his right foot and slotted away in the corner for hopefully the first of many for the season. After 2 changes at half time due to the wedding we moved a few players about to keep pressure and keep the ball . Ethan finally was spent on about 55 mins and then our sub was on, then an energetic run from Marshy and an old injury meant we played over 30 mins with 10 men. Chawn threw everything at us trying to reduce the deficit, Chawn had a corner with the following pin ball and shoving in our box box which led to Chawn scoring and made the game interesting for both teams. We again soaked up pressure but we were confident of every mans ability and tried some good passing in midfield. We were again probing, then our man of the moment Kit, who when the ball is at his feet dropped a shoulder and drove up the pitch to thread the energetic Dave to round the keeper and set us home and dry. Although Chawn did try and resolve the score.

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More to follow regarding Saturdays Review and how the Prediction Challenge is going. But for now, it’s a little bit of me time.

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