Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Burridge AFC 1-3 White Horse FC

Burridge went down fighting at home to White Horse on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, it was done amongst themselves.

Somewhere, beneath the twisted wreckage that is currently team morale at Burridge AFC, is a desire to do well for the football club. At present that desire is only able to express itself as it did during the second-half on Saturday afternoon – all too often by bickering with one another. Sadly, this new trait spilled over into the post-match chores of taking down the goal nets, and continued in the changing rooms. This behaviour doesn't reflect well on either the club or the players. Quite frankly, it's a bit of a mess. 

Burridge substitute Dan Allen scores a late consolation goal.
White Horse had travelled in convoy from Totton. They are talkative and boisterous. The majority of their squad are soon kitted up and ready before most of us have even arrived at Burridge. I fill our club bottles up with water from the cold tap of the disabled toilets, trying to make sense of their conversations in the away team dressing rooms. It's not so much what they were saying,  but the enthusiasm in which they are saying it. They are having fun. Yes, it would be later proved they have one or two odious characters within their ranks, the kind you wouldn't be too upset about if they were to suffer some small misfortune, but this is men's football, not the operatic society.

Speaking in the West-End Brewery, Kristian Hewitt recalled a bad spell he had whilst playing for Compton. After another defeat the manager went around each player in turn, asking them to give their opinion on why things were going wrong. A selection of fairly glib answers followed until it was Kristian's older brother, Jamie's turn. Not one to be described as a shrinking violet, Jamie said that the problem stemmed with the manager himself. That manager didn't last much longer. If we were to apply the same logic then I would be out on my ear after only one game in charge.

With Paul Dyke on holiday in Egypt, I am manager. I decide to freshen things up by introducing one or two slight variations to our pre-match warm-up. However, by the looks of some of our players this has the opposite effect. The first-half is fairly equal, with several opportunities for both sides. Ryan Jones makes one save, diving to his left to push a header wide of the post, that draws White Horse's manager to throw his cigarette down in disgust. “Where did you get him from?” He asks me on several occasions throughout the afternoon. White Horse's goalkeeper, although somewhat taller than Jones, looks nervous. Three times he comes to collect a cross and fails to do so on each occasion. Kristian Hewitt is unfortunate to firstly see his lofted free-kick tipped unconvincingly onto the cross-bar, and then not get a corner kick. It was a weakness we failed to capitalise on.

The players come in at half-time disappointed not to be winning. However, such is the level of confidence at present, the game as a meaningful contest is effectively over once White Horse open the scoring from a header in the second-half. One goal soon becomes two, as White Horse begin to enjoy themselves, rattling the crossbar in the process. I decide to play my hand with a double substitution. These plans are slightly jeopardised when right-back, Sam Hewitt signals that he had a knock. I revert to a 3-5-2 formation, but in doing so I hesitate with exactly how I am going to reshuffle the midfield. White Horse's left-back seems to take pleasure in this. “Do you know what you're doing?” He asks. I didn't give him the satisfaction of a reply. One or two other players join in, as I quickly became the butt of their jokes. I had endured a brief glimpse into the daily life of Arsene Wenger, and I didn't care for it.

Jones blots his copy book slightly when he concedes a penalty. A two goal lead has done nothing to White Horse's bedside manner, as they insist Jones should be sent off. He gets a yellow. White Horse then score from the spot. At this stage I'm just hoping we can keep the score down. I give Dan Allen a ten minute run out. He has spent the second-half marooned in the one place substitutes fear above all else - stranded on the far side of the pitch as linesman. His reward is a late consolation goal - following in to hook high into the net. This makes him an unlikely joint top scorer with two. However, the goal brings the mutest of celebrations. This Saturday Burridge travel to Christchurch in the Hampshire Cup.

4-4-2: GK:Jones, LB:Judd, CB:Brown, CB:Hurst, RB:S.Hewitt (Esfandiari), RM:Ingram (Allen), CM:Barnett, CM:K.Hewitt, LM:Pye, CF:Schwodler (Fielder), CF:Rowe

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Bush Hill 10-1 Burridge AFC

Victory against reigning Southampton Premier Division champions, Bush Hill, may not have been widely anticipated, but nor was conceding ten goals in the space of one afternoon, as Burridge go crashing out of the Southampton Senior Cup at Green Park , Millbrook.

My game was over after the first ten minutes of play. Rather embarrassingly, I had twisted my ankle in the pre-match warm up. There were neither any opponents, nor divots in the pitch, on which to blame the injury on. I had simply changed the direction in which I was running in, when my full weight fell upon my left ankle, which I then felt slowly inflate inside my boot like the cheeks of a tuba player. It was what Marc Judd had rather philosophically described as just one of those things. He too had aggravated an injury prior to the game, although Kristian Hewitt was adamant that his hamstring strain was being used to mask the hangover he believed him to be suffering from, having spent the previous evening at a wedding reception at Ford's social club. Despite being picked in the starting line-up he would play no part in the game.

Ali Ingram is generous in his estimations of just how far away my pass to him was.
Five minutes earlier, I had been tipped off about starting the game in the centre of midfield, with strict instructions to try and break up the play of Bush Hill - the winners of the Southampton Premier League for the last three year's running. With equal measures of optimism and enthusiasm getting the better of me, I convinced myself that the problem could be run off. Although just to be sure I peeled down my sock and covered my ankle in repeated blasts of heat spray. It was now cast beneath a lilac shadow. As I recall, my one and only touch of the ball in the game came straight from kick-off, when I decided to make our attacking intentions known by spraying the ball wide to the left. So much so that the ball went out of touch, about twenty-five yards ahead of Ali Ingram. 

None of my team mates seemed to find anything unusual in either my inability to get within five yards of my opposite number, or the awkward running gait that the swelling had left me with. I soon came to realise I was nothing more than a vocal passenger in the game, with no choice but to wave the white flag. Mark Reeves replaced me, with the game nicely poised at one goal each. Ben Rowe had equalised by dribbling around the goalkeeper. Although Bush Hill went into a 3-1 lead by half-time, there was little evidence of what was to come, as we had made frequent visits into the penalty area, getting behind Bush's defence and creating chances on several occasions.

I am in no position to give thorough an assessment on the second-half, as I was I sat in a heap on the floor with an ice pack tied around my ankle with a football sock. Sam Schwodler told me that he was quite happy for me to gloss over details of this game. He stood at the bar shaking his head and whispering ten-one to himself. It is not unusual for players to have angry exchanges after defeats of this magnitude. However, with the severity of this ten goal loss being uncharted territory for the vast majority of the team, it is probably yet to sink in. As a result, the post-match mood in the changing rooms was one of relative calm, although perhaps a more accurate diagnosis would be shell shock. Sam Hewitt text me later in the evening, saying he felt marginally better having watched Osasuna get trounced 8-0 by Barcelona. With manager, Paul Dyke away on holiday next week, I will be making a guest appearance in the managerial hot seat. However, my role will be restricted as a conduit for Dyke's implicit instructions and team selection. Next Saturday's home game against White Horse will provide us all with a much needed opportunity to bounce back.

3-4-3: GK: Ryan Jones, DF: Kristian Hewitt, Ryan Hurst, Sam Hewitt, RM: Dan Allen, CM: Mark Sanderson (Mark Reeves), Martyn Barnett (c), LM: Ali Ingram, CF: Ben Rowe (Paul Andrews), Chris Pye, Sam Schwodler 

NB I have written about my experiences of living on the residential site of what was The Dell - Southampton FC's former home - in October's issue of When Saturday Comes Magazine, which is available in all good newsagents.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Comrades reserves 1-2 Burridge (after extra time)

Burridge needed extra time to reach the second round of the Trophyman Senior League Cup at Wide Lane on Saturday afternoon. This blog was written while getting word that Burridge's Mark Reeves, who played yesterday, had completed his 83 mile bike ride from London to Southampton in six hours.

Paul Dyke has plenty to say at half-time. Dave Williams who is watching, condenses his description of the first-half to one word - gash. We sit on the wet grass, drinking tap water, as Dyke dissects our performance. He has no qualms betraying a confidence in order to get his point across to team captain, Martyn Barnett; who he thinks is having a quiet game. "It's no good texting me saying: skip's up for it today," says Dyke, "I want to see a captain's performance." By this point, Kristian Hewitt is sniggering. That Martyn had been texting his manager, not only in the third person, but in a shortened version of his new title, was the green light for what will surely be a prolonged spell of teasing.

We'd still had our moments during the first-half. Ryan Hurst won just about everything in the air from our corner kicks, and on another day Marc Judd would have almost certainly given us the lead. In the absence of both Lee Fielder and Ben Rowe, Judd was pushed up-front, alongside Sam Schwodler. Judd found himself through on Comrades' goal with only time and space for company. The amount of which at his disposal allowed him to consider the full raft of methods in which to score. Unfortunately, he was unable to reach a decision. What resulted was a combination of lob and strike which went some way over the crossbar. From there on in the service toward him dried up.

The second-half brings few obvious signs of improvement. Comrades then bring on a beanpole midfielder, who opens the scoring with fifteen minutes left. Various opportunities to clear our lines are missed, and the Comrades substitute, who had run from deep, hooks the ball well over Jones' head. By this time, we too had made both of our substitutions - bringing on Paul Andrews and Daniel Esfandiari - and reverting to a back three of Kristian Hewitt, Ryan Hurst and Dan Allen. Despite the change of both personnel and formation, an equaliser seems unlikely. The game is stretched, we looked tired and defeat seems inevitable.

Dan Allen has no shortage of suitors when he cuts in from the left with a little over five minutes remaining. Quite what he's doing outside Comrades' penalty area from his position in the back three is anyone's guess. He then evades the best efforts of two defenders; and, against the general consensus of his team mates, strikes a twenty-five yard right-footed strike that Comrade's goalkeeper doesn't see until it is in his net. Later, over two huge dinner plate of barbecue chicken wings at the West-End Brewery, there would be some debate on whether the 'keeper should have done better in stopping Dan's shot go in. On reflection, it was the speed in which he decided to shoot and the pace on the ball itself that probably beat the goalkeeper, who'd already demonstrated he wasn't clueless by somehow denying Chris Pye what looked certain to be a headed equaliser. Debates and discussions are the last thing on Dan's mind. He runs off, chased by the entire team, including either Mark Reeves or Sam Hewitt, who have abandoned their post as linesman to enjoy this moment.

There's a collective sense throughout our team that Comrades have blown their stack. Finally we have the much needed impetus to go on and win the game. During extra-time Paul Andrews plays a useful cameo up front, making himself a focal point in linking up play between midfield and attack. Barnett then repays his manger's faith, threading a thirty yards pass through to Sam Schwodler, who still has his work cut out when running through on goal. He gives the ball a good thump and sees it nestles in Comrades net. The relief is tangible.

To their credit, Comrades have one last throw of the dice, but much of their energy is put into cod psychology, specifically in their insistence that Kristian Hewitt doesn't want the ball ' back there,' despite various dips of shoulders and side stepping that seem to clearly demonstrate to the contrary in his new position of last line of our defence. There's still time for more goalscoring chances. Chris Pye, who proved a constant threat, is unfortunate to see his lob return into play from the underside of the crossbar. Once again, we hadn't played particularly well. Hard work and a moment of inspiration had got us over the line.

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Other Trophyman cup results can be seen by clicking here. Also, anyone wishing to pass some time during their lunch hour can go to WH Smith, and most other newsagents, to read an article of mine about The Dell, which is published in the pages of this month's When Saturday Comes Magazine.

4-4-2: GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Dan Allen, CB: Sam Hewitt (Daniel Esfandiari) CB:Ryan Hurst, RB: Mark Reeves (Paul Andrews), LM: Kristian Hewitt, CM: Mark Sanderson, CM: Martyn Barnett (capt), RM; Chris Pye, CF: Marc Judd, CF: Sam Schwodler.

This changed to 3-4-3: GK: Ryan Jones, DF: Dan Allen, DF: Ryan Hurst, DF: Kristian Hewitt, RM:Daniel Esfandiari, CM: Mark Sanderson, CM: Martyn Barnett (capt), LM: Marc Judd, CF: Sam Schwodler, CF: Paul Andrews, CF: Chris Pye.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Burridge AFC 1-1 Netley Central Reserves

Burridge kicked off the 2011/12 Southampton Football League season on Saturday 3 September, against Netley Central Reserves, at the Shed, Botley Road, Burridge. This blog was written on the electric daisy wheel of a Canon S200 typewriter, whilst listening to the soundtrack to the film, Inception, by Hans Zimmer.

During the first-half, one of Netley's centre-backs - who had quickly established himself as the game's voice, gave his own unique assessment on our defensive line: "They're awful at the back." His verdict of our defensive capabilities chose to omit any of his own shortcomings, which were later showcased in the sequence of play leading up to our equalising goal. By describing us as awful, I assumed he meant to gee up his attacking players, who looked frustrated at having to make, what they deemed, unscheduled runs deep into their own half to chase after Chris Pye and Dan Jackson. "Keep working," he reassured his players, "we're not going to win ten-nil today." This statement would prove to be the height of his powers of perception.

Our opponents were defending Southampton senior division champions, Netley Central Reserves, who hit something of a glass ceiling by winning last season's championship. This is because the Southampton League does not allow reserves teams in the premier division - its highest level. One of the reasons being that if such a reserve side was seriously challenging for the title, they would be able to field players from its first team, who play at higher standards of football, which would serve only to undermine and compromise the integrity of the competition. Although there's nothing stopping Netley pulling in first teamers this year. So, here we were, a little under five months since we last played each other in a match in which we had snatched a two-all draw.
We were wearing our brand new kit. Manufactured by Nike, and sponsored by the West-End Brewery, the blue and black stripes have been the team's colours since 2003. (Prior to that we wore a very loose fitting red and white hooped outfit.) The blue stripes are a slightly lighter shade than previous incarnations, more in keeping with the Internazionale jersey worn by both Jurgen Klinsmann and Nicola Berti during the early 1990s. I'm happy to report that the thin and lightweight black stockings are a far cry from the thick Norwegian fishing socks that former manager, Colin Barfoot, provided us with back in the club's Meon-Valley League days at the turn of the century.

One of the many clear distinctions between playing for Burridge, in the fourteenth tier of the English pyramid structure, and the higher echelons of football, is how games are officiated. Southampton League games are allocated a referee, but his assistants - which tend to still be called linesmen at this level of football, are volunteers from each team. Usually one of the team's substitutes, and in this case the duty of responsibility fell on me. Once you get over the fact that both of the assistants have hugely vested interests in the game everyone can get on with giving them plenty of grief for making bad decisions, which ironically enough is exactly what seems to happen in professional football.

Our goalkeeper, Ryan Jones, was unhappy about Netley's goal. It came mid-way through the first-half, after an aerial challenge between himself and a Netley striker, who got to the ball fractionally earlier than Jones, who was left in heap, watching in vain as the ball trickled beyond his reach and over the goal line. Jones then made a memorable save as Netley pushed hard to increase their lead. A cross from their left was met by the head of an opposing striker, who as the coaching manuals suggest, headed the ball back towards the side of the goal it had arrived from. It is within these fleeting moments that Jones is in his element. In what looked as smooth as a choreographed stunt, he flung himself to his right, scooping the ball wide with the fingers of his right hand, when it seemed destined for the bottom corner of our net. It was of Netley's opinion that the game should have been dead and buried as we approached the final few minutes.

Dan Allen was partly responsible for our equalising goal. He replaced Dan Jackson at half-time, after the latter's strength had been sapped by the hot afternoon sun. This led Dyke to question if the nineteen year old had spent the previous evening out drinking. Eighty-eight minutes of the game had passed when Allen found himself with the ball on the edge of the penalty area, looking to create space for shot on goal. His attempt was only partially blocked by Netley's centre-back, and Sam Schwodler, who seconds earlier was cursing his luck at Dan's decision to shoot rather than pass, pounced onto the loose ball to score. It was vindication for Schwodler, who left the field during the first-half clutching his ear in pain after getting clattered. A rather drawn out verbal rally of fuck-off had followed between Schwodler and one or two of the opposition, who doubted the severity of his injury.

With the captain's armband pulled up around his bicep, Martyn Barnett, drove us on for a winner, in what was another confidant display in the centre of our midfield, which was dovetailed nicely by Kristian Hewitt, who played alongside him. Running on the fumes of his healthy appetite for goals, Barnett nearly won the game for us, surging beyond Netley's last defender at an angle that still favoured the goalkeeper's hands. His left foot shot looked set for the bottom corner, but sailed narrowly past the far post. A draw wasn't a bad start to the season. We hadn't set the world alight, but showed grit and resilience in the face of defeat with another late goal.

Those who left the West-End Brewery before 6pm missed out on a eye catching spread of food, including two large dinner large plates stacked high with fries and sausages, as well as an intimidating heap of buttered and thickly sliced white bread, which was all served with the best wishes of the pub landlord, who apologised for not getting down to catch the game. Next week we should have a photographer, so it will no longer be necessary to trawl through the club's extensive photographic archive in order to add some much needed colour to these match reports.

Burridge line-up: 4-4-2 -  GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Marc Judd, CB: Sam Hewitt (Mark Sanderson), CB: Ryan Hurst, RB: Mark Reeves, LM: Chris Pye, CM: Martyn Barnett (captain), CM: Kristian Hewitt, RM: Dan Jackson (Dan Allen), CF: Ben Rowe, CF: Sam Schwodler.

Looking back (bringing back the blog)

I haven't posted here since 2012 – that’s five years of not blogging. The blog is/was about Burridge AFC, the football team I played f...