Thursday, 27 October 2011

Goal-Dan touch

Burridge live up to this blog's name once more, with Dan Esfandiari scoring in the 90th minute to earn a 4-4 home draw with a decent Cadnam side.

Ten minutes before kick-off at Burridge. Having completed our warm-up exercises we congregate around the water bottles, fretting over whether or not the referee will turn up. Ryan Hurst looks towards the changing rooms and asks if anyone has seen him.

Manager, Paul Dyke, tells Ryan not to worry, saying, "Concentrate on your job."

Ryan looks a bit put out; "I'm not worried - just asking, that's all."

The referee does arrive moments later, looking like a podgy version of Chris Tarrant. Any anticipation surrounding his arrival is quickly replaced with loud criticism of his refereeing style. So, for the third successive week a referee is held responsible for the outcome of the game. This time by Cadnam, who later mark him 20 out of 100. Like Bishopstoke a fortnight ago, Cadnam will be required to file a report of explanation to the FA. On the basis of this refereeing performance they are going to get used to filing reports. While it could be argued that the referee seemed reluctant to venture too far out of the centre-circle, he had shown leniency to one of his biggest critics, who played in Cadnam's midfield.  His tackle on Ryan Hurst was late and above the ankle, and could have easily resulted in a red card, as opposed to the yellow he was given.

We went two-nil up in a hurry. Martyn Barnett scored a cracker from outside the penalty area - the ball was destined for the top corner as soon as it left his boot. Like Kristian Hewitt, he does tend to score good ones. His contribution to the team will be missed during the coming weeks, having fell awkwardly on the stairs on Sunday and breaking his collar bone. We wish him a speedy recovery. Cadnam had the opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot. Although well hit, Ryan Jones managed to block it; which seemed a pointless exercise, as the ball rolled kindly back into the stride of the penalty taker. If anything the rebound was struck better than the penalty, but Jones regained his footing and blocked again. It was a save that crowned his performances in goal so far this season. In terms of reflexes there can be few better goalkeepers in the Southampton League. We're certainly giving him plenty of practise

Lee Fielder doubled the lead. Sadly, I missed the goal. As substitute, I was spending significant amounts of time up to my waist in the stinging nettles growing from the sloped bank behind Jones' goal, trying to retrieve footballs. I was at least fortunate enough to have a running commentary of sorts, from Kev Willsher's Dad, Alan - who stood at the top of the bank shouting goal. By half-time Cadnam had drawn level, with some good progressive passing football that contributed largely to an exciting game. Cadnam assumed control in the second-half, going ahead with a neat lob over Jones.  

Paul Dyke did what any manager would do with twenty minutes left and the game slipping out of reach -  he brought on Dan Allen, with instant results. Dan made a nuisance of himself on the wing, winning a penalty. Regular taker Kristian Hewitt had already been substituted, and Martyn Barnett, normally so confident, was not up for it, having missed one in pre-season. Up stepped Daniel Esfandiari. It is baffling that someone so tall and muscular can be so terribly ineffective in the air. Not that his game is built on physique, he regularly uses the outside of his right boot for God's sake. Composed and full of neat touches, he was having arguably his best performance so far in a Burridge shirt.

Cadnam's right-back decided to play mind games with Esfandiari; "You'll feel stupid if you miss."
Esfandiari took a moment to consider this, "But what if I score?" Who needs Albert Camus when you have this kind of gripping philosophical narrative? Esfandiari scored, but about five minutes later, so did Cadnam - hitting a long pass over our defence. The striker lobbed neatly over Jones. That appeared to be that for the afternoon. You know the game's up when Ryan Hurst is being deployed as an emergency centre forward. To his credit he went about his business with plenty of hustle and bustle - winning umpteen flicked on headers with his mane of blond hair, but still.

By now Cadnam were keen to establish exactly how much time was left. The referee wasn't all that forthcoming; “Plenty,” he said. This didn't go down well with Cadnam. “I don't actually have to tell you,” said the referee, therefore cementing his lowly score. With the ball at his feet outside box, Esfandiari had little choice but to shoot. A quick shuffle of the hips and a right-footed strike created merry hell in Cadnam's penalty area. Ironically their commitment in closing the shot down became their undoing. The ball took the slightest nick of a defender's slice and slid into the one place the goalkeeper could not reach. There was time only for Cadnam to restart the game.

Are you unable to distinguish between a miscarriage of justice and the referee's decision to give a throw-in to the opposition on the half-way line? Then help is at hand.

I've written for the current issue of Late Tackle Magazine, assessing the task facing the FA's Respect programme in conquering our inner beast. It is available to buy in WH Smith.  

Burridge goalscorers:

Martyn Barnett 1-0
Lee Fielder 2-0
Daniel Esfandiari (pen) 3-3
Daniel Esfandiari 4-4

4-4-2: GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Kristian Hewitt (Mark Sanderson), CB: Kev Willsher, CB: Ryan Hurst, RB: Sam Hewitt, LM: Chris Pye, CM: Marc Judd, CM: Martyn Barnett, RM: Daniel Esfandiari, CF: Lee Fielder (Dan Allen), CF: Ali Ingram.

Click here for the current Southampton League tables.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Referee Assess-ination

Burridge's 5-2 home win over Comrades reserves on Saturday afternoon was watched by a referee assessor.

Burridge on a sunny afternoon in mid-October and not a cloud in the sky. Comrades reserves are today's opponents – a side we beat 2-1 after extra-time in a Trophyman Cup tie earlier this season. One man chooses to watch the game alone, walking slowly around the perimeter of the pitch, stopping occasionally to whisper into his microphone headset. Somewhat conspicuous in a baseball cap, tinted glasses, and despite the heat, a black mac, he fills out various forms attached to his clipboard. He is here to assess the performance of today's referee. Assessors are usually identifiable by a clipboard, a flask of hot drink, and an aloof demeanour. This one hadn't brought a flask of hot drink.

As one of our three substitutes I decided to take the opportunity to ask him about his role. Sadly, he wasn't keen on conversation, which on reflection is probably an occupational hazard, what with the headset. For all I know he could have been in on a conference call with a host of delegates from FIFA's head office in Zurich. This is unlikely though. I would expect an organisation as spendthrift as FIFA to be more generous with the quality of employee trousers. By all accounts Sepp Blatter is a tolerant man, but badly pressed black trousers would not reflect well on FIFA. No, a far more plausible explanation was that his headset was plugged into a cassette player. The assessor would spend his evening listening to the recording in order to write his report on the referee's performance. Let it be said, the role of referee's assessor isn't all glamour.

The first-half was notable for two seemingly clear cut penalties for either team. Sam Schwodler was tackled from behind, then Burridge goalkeeper Ryan Jones brought down an opponent with his arms. Neither side were awarded spot kicks. A busy night of paper work no doubt beckoned for the assessor – had he been anywhere near either of the incidents. One Comrades follower was outraged that his side weren't given a penalty. Burridge manager, Paul Dyke told him that this tied the bad decisions at one-each. The Comrades supporter didn't agree, and the two of them began debating at twenty paces. It was a bit of a stalemate given that the Comrades supporter was similar to Dyke, in being gruffly spoken and forthright with his opinions. Although by the sounds of it the one thing missing from Dyke's opponent was any form of secondary education. So, on reflection, a spilt decision win for Dyke.

We went into half-time leading 3-1, with goals from our younger contingent of twenty-one year olds, Chris Pye and Ryan Hurst, and twenty-year old Ali Ingram. There was further room for refereeing analysis in the second-half, when Chris Pye had a goal disallowed for offside. Chris was extremely cheesed off. Having already accepted the congratulations of his team mates, and back in his own half for the re-start, he could only assume he'd made the score 6-2. Comrades' linesman had other ideas. Dressed in deck shoes, jeans, shirt and a grey Ralph Lauren tank top – naturally, he was quite adamant that the goal was offside, leaving his flag raised until the referee saw it. A long discussion between the referee and linesman followed, presumably one about a brand new ruling meaning two men and a goalkeeper between you and the goal can play you offside. If the assessor really was on the FIFA hotline, this was surely the perfect opportunity to check the rule book and pull rank. He didn't. The disallowed goal had no bearing on the outcome of the game either. Chris Pye later hit the post, then Ryan Hurst, up from a corner, came within whiskers of completing his hat-trick. This is our first league win of the season, and having now scored ten goals in the previous two games, we look to have found some momentum.

Burridge played a 4-4-2:

GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Kristian Hewitt, CB: Marc Judd, CB: Ryan Hurst, RB: Sam Hewitt, LM: Chris Pye, CM: Martyn Barnett, CM: Ali Ingram (Mark Sanderson), RM: Daniel Esfandiari, CF: Ben Rowe (Lee Fielder), CF: Sam Schwodler (Paul Andrews)

Burridge scorers:

1-0 Chris Pye, (tapped in from a right-wing Daniel Esfandiari cross).
2-1 Ryan Hurst, (smashed in the loose ball from a corner).
3-1 Ali Ingram, (low accurate shot from twenty-five yards into goalie's bottom right-hand corner).
4-1 Ryan Hurst, (another corner, another goal – this time arriving on the back post to steer in).
5-2 Sam Schwodler, (walloped the ball against the underside of crossbar and in).


Kristian Hewitt, (ran thirty yards to speak his mind to the referee, who duly showed him a yellow card).


Thursday, 13 October 2011

Burridge AFC 5-4 Bishopstoke (Aet)

Burridge progress in the Trophyman League Cup by taking a tie to extra-time for the third match already this season, leaving defender Dave Williams to suggest this blog should be re-named 120 minutes of Burridge. 

Just five minutes have been played when Kev Willsher gets back to his feet and waits for the referee to send him off. He pleads innocence by putting his arms out by his side; body language that does more to confirm rather than admonish his guilt for bringing down Bishi's centre forward with a late tackle in the penalty area, denying him what would have been a clear goalscoring opportunity in the process. The referee assesses the scene of the crime. With his coiffured hair and full moustache he is similar in appearance to Des Lynam - if Des Lynam was Maltese, with a taste for Black Sabbath records. The handful of Bishi followers have already made their minds up. One jumps out of the wooden farmhouse chair we use as a makeshift step ladder to put up the goal nets with; “Fucking dirty bastard,” he shouts. To his amazement the referee waves play on. Bishi don't forgive the referee, marking him a lowly 25 out of 100 in the match card. As a result, they will have to file a report of explanation to the FA.

Burridge centre-back Kev Willsher wonders what else he can get away with

Bishopstoke play division higher than us in the Southampton Premier; where, if the current league table is anything to go by, they are having a hard time. Without a win in either of their league games, they were also been beaten 7-0 by Queens Keep in the opening round of the Southampton Senior Cup. This after being spared relegation for last season's bottom of the table finish by a league reshuffle, which saw Premier League sides AFC Redbridge, Northend United and Solent WTL pulling out entirely this year. Despite all this, Bishopstoke have talent. Particularly going forward, which they showcased in their 5-3 pre-season victory over us in August. Shame then that they're a bit susceptible to pretty much any ball plonked over their defence.

Bishi do make the brighter start and take the lead. Ryan Hurst is unable to keep pace with their particularly quick centre forward, who makes it one-nil. Marc Judd then equalises with a finely executed left-footed free-kick. It's made all the sweeter by one Bishi follower's ill-conceived habit of shouting 'spoon' almost every time we shoot at their goal. The moment he finishes the syllable the ball is in the net. However, it is Bishopstoke who go into the break leading, reacting first to the scraps of a corner kick and walloping past Jones. Having spent the best part of twenty minutes practising set-pieces during Thursday night's training session, manager Paul Dyke begins showing early signs of a stomach ulcer.

 During half-time I hear Bishi's midfield discussing the merits of our back four; “They're slow as fuck,” says one, before going on to be even less complimentary about the state of his own defence. In the second half they continue where they left of from in the first, perhaps with the goal of the game, from a good twenty-five yards out. When goals of this calibre are conceded on days like this it tends to stifle both the mind's belief and the belly's appetite for meaningful competition. Although not yet inevitable, defeat seemed heavily pencilled in when Ali Ingram was booked, somewhat unfortunately. He retreats from a Bishopstoke free-kick with his back to the ball, which is soon kicked at him. The referee books him for holding up play. Perhaps it was the bewilderment in Ali's eyes that cast doubt over the referee's own judgement, or perhaps he, like many on the field, was prone to making the odd mistake, because minutes later he's giving us a penalty kick. There is an unnecessary and clumsy push on Ali in the penalty area. One Bishi follower can be heard above the silence - “It's a man's game,” he reminds the referee. Although if the true measure of a man's strength is by pushing other men in back, it certainly wasn't featured in Rudyard Kipling's poem on the matter.

With regular penalty taker Kristian Hewitt off with shin splints, Sam Schwodler side foots the kick past the 'keeper's right. Any hopes of a grandstand finish are then seemingly dashed after a mishap in our goalmouth. Several opportunities to clear ball are bungled. Jones then calls the resulting shot on his goal safe and watches the ball nestle in the top corner - 4-2, but still time. Moments later, Chris Pye is almost apologetic for getting one back direct from a left wing cross, to make it 4-3. Then with two minutes left, Lee Fielder arrives on the end of a speculative clearance from Ryan Jones, and goes past Bishi's goalkeeper. With a clear and open goal in front of him it appears Lee is here to save the day; a view which is somewhat compromised the moment he's called upon to kick the football, which he slices wide of the post. But there is still ample time for Dyke to learn more about his players - Lee is obviously far happier when there are lots of things between him and the goal.

With time running out, Kev Willsher plays a long ball behind Bishi's defence. Lee runs onto it, steering a shot past the goalie's right. This means extra-time, in which the winning goal comes late on. Martyn Barnett splits Bishi's defence with a through-ball to Lee, who scores again. Whether or not he's mentally tough when it comes to getting over missing sitters, or he just tends to blow a little hot and cold in front of goal is not abundantly clear. However, it is his two goals that knock Bishi out. They trudge off, disappointed at a missed opportunity to progress in the cup; while Burridge move onto the uncharted waters of the third round.

 Burridge line-up: GK:Ryan Jones, LB:Marc Judd, CB:Kev Willsher, CB: Ryan Hurst, RB:Dave Williams, LM:Chris Pye, CM: Kristian Hewitt (Sam Hewitt), CM:Martyn Barnett, RM:Daniel Esfandiari, CF:Ali Ingram (Mark Sanderson), CF: Sam Schwodler (Lee Fielder)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Christchurch reserves 4-3 Burridge AFC (Aet)

Having conceded 13 goals in their previous two games, Burridge come within five minutes of knocking Wessex League opposition out of the Hampshire Intermediate Cup on Saturday afternoon, which begs the question: why can't they perform to this level every week?

It's pushing thirty degrees in the car. So, what would normally be a half-hour drive down the M27 and A338 to Christchurch, becomes a slog through traffic bound for Bournemouth beach. My ankle is still stiff, so I am here to watch. On arrival I cool off in the shade of the stand, where two men in their fifties are sat a few rows behind me, watching us warm-up. “That them?” asks one, taking a large bite from his hot-dog. The other man nods, then makes an observation; “One or two of them look a bit chunky.” Both men seem to be under the impression we play several leagues higher than we do. “So, if we don't win today?” Asks the first man. The other looks a little irritated he's not focusing on anything other than a comfortable victory, and says; “Lock 'em in the bloody changing rooms, that's what.”

The main stand and far goal at Hurn Bridge Sport Club back onto rows of tall pine trees. It's a picturesque setting. I share this with a man with a northern accent who people in the ground seem to know. He's the club chairman, who tells me they are one of the few Wessex League teams who don't have a budget for players. To put this into context, fellow Wessex Premier league side, Winchester City are rumoured to have £3k a week to pay players with. He asks me how much I think it costs to run the club a season, and imagine I look surprised when he tells me it's £45k. They don't own the ground, making them council tenants in much the same way both Milan and Internazionale are at San Siro. Their focus this season is on developing players their players in the Wessex League - a level that Burnley's Charlie Austin was playing at only a few years ago. So essentially, Christchurch are widely expected to win today, irrespective of our recent form. Our 10-1 defeat to Southampton Premier League champions, Bush Hill may have been a blip, but the arguments during the second-half of last week's 3-1 loss to White Horse suggest today's task could be made even more difficult. I secretly worry that we might take a pasting.

Christchurch take the lead after 15 minutes from a back-post header. Kristian Hewitt leads the appeals for a foul on Ryan Hurst, but the goal stands, confirming my worst fears. Despite this setback there is no downing of tools on our part. Up front, Ben Rowe is willingly mobile, covering stretches of forty yards at a time in both directions. Like the majority of the team, he is unrecognisable from last week. Rowe then picks up possession on the half-way line, wriggles free of a chasing pack of opposition, and slices Christchurch's defence in two with a measured through ball into the path of Chris Pye, who scores. Manager, Paul Dyke goes berserk in the away dug-out.

Christchurch now realise that stroking the ball amongst their back four is no longer a winning strategy, especially as they are now giving the ball away - sometimes under very little pressure. After slicing the ball off for a throw-in, their right-back looks down accusingly at the grass beneath his feet. They are clearly rattled. Their manager, too; who calls Kristian Hewitt a 'fatty' - accusing him of having a hamburger hidden in his shorts. Dyke doesn't appreciate this, and when Hewitt skips free of one or two younger opponents, Dyke makes a point, seemingly for the benefit of Christchurch's manager, by giving Hewitt the thumbs-up and telling him his hamburger will be ready at half-time. I protect myself against disappointment with a dose of half-time realism. Surely we would run out of steam in the second-half. Christchurch choose to take advantage of the heat and have their half-time team talk in the shade of the pine trees behind the far goal. I cannot hear what is being said, but their manager is using his hands to get his point across.

We continue to play progressive football in the second-half. Ryan Hurst steps out of defence, makes a strong tackle on the half-way line, and plays an early ball up to Rowe, who having completed a remarkable seven day transformation from Emile Heskey with a tranquilliser habit, to something approaching Duncan Ferguson, takes the ball in his stride, side steps a defender and drills the ball low past the goalkeeper's left. A man with an enormous camera lens takes lots of pictures. Dyke goes berserk again. (NB You can see photos of the game at Christchurch's website, by clicking here.) The rest of the second-half is end to end stuff. Chris Pye brings the best out of Christchurch's keeper from an eighteen yard shot. Christchurch have their moments too - the ball squirming out of Jones' hands from a corner and fortuitously past the post; Dan Allen then chases and clears a loose ball off line.

There are five minutes left when Christchurch equalise. We're slightly over run at the back and a cross from the right is volleyed past Jones. Their tails are up now and we do well to take it to extra time. Christchurch then take the lead in the opening minute of extra time – getting a run on our defence and shooting low across Jones. Spectators behind the dug-out choose this moment to tell Dyke his team talk did a fat lot of good. Dyke is keyed up, and therefore unable to detach himself from any derogatory comments. He's not quite foaming at the mouth, but every bit the budding Joe Pesci circa Goodfellas, as he gives them a piece of his mind, reminding them of the gulf in divisions between the two teams. His detractors know better than to offer him any more grief, even when it becomes 4-2; an attack is cleared only as far as the edge of the box, the resulting shot is hit powerfully past Jones. Christchurch pay us an unintentional compliment by celebrating the goal greatly. There's now a danger of the score running away from us. Kristian Hewitt pulls the trigger from outside the penalty area. It's not one of his best strikes – hitting a tangle of legs around the penalty spot, but Christchurch fail to clear their lines, and Ali Ingram is quick to tuck the ball away for 4-3. Jones continues to makes it interesting, with a fine reflex save from a corner which draws a round of applause. But there are no further goals.

Christchurch described their win as unconvincing, (click here to read their thoughts on the game). So where exactly did our resolute and enterprising performance come from? Martyn Barnett claimed that large and well maintained pitches, like Christchurch's, suit our playing style better say than Green Park in Millbrook. There is an element of truth to this, but to isolate the quality of the pitch would be to discount a significant part of our performance, namely the team's re-acquired desire for tireless running without the ball. This is a quality that theoretically, could be replicated to any playing surface. Of course, we may have been seduced by the rare sight of rows of plastic seats – some of them occupied, the floodlights, and all the other trappings that come with a higher standard of football. However, having responded well to two different, but equally painful defeats, Paul Dyke will be demanding that today's musketeer spirit of guts and determination will be repeated on Saturday, in a sequence of four consecutive home games.

  4-4-2: GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Marc Judd (Paul Andrews), CB: Kev Willsher, CB: Ryan Hurst, RB: Sam Hewitt (Dan Allen), LM: Daniel Esfandiari, CM: Martyn Barnett (c), CM: Kristian Hewitt, RM: Ali Ingram, CF: Chris Pye, CF: Ben Rowe (Lee Fielder)

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...