Monday, 20 February 2012

Thornhill Health Kicks 3-2 Burridge AFC

This was the first ever meeting between the two teams. Thornhill Health Kicks have made a steady rise up the Southampton League over the last three years. Aside from a disastrous 9-1 thrashing at Cadnam they have had a good season, knocking unbeaten league leaders Netley Central out of the cup.

Today’s game takes place in the eastern suburbs of Southampton, at what was Weston Park School. At present it is undergoing a drastic makeover, and is now known as The Oasis Academy – which is all part of some educational reform that has passed me by. Finding the changing rooms is not straightforward.

Myself, Martyn Barnett, John Rix and Sam Schwodler get lost inside the school grounds. We walk our wet footprints through one of the new white floored developments. This tests the patience of a member of staff, who goes to great lengths in explaining how much effort has been put into keeping them clean. She does at least point us in the right direction, if for no other reason than to shoo us out. A grey 1960’s block stands next to a more recent, bright white building. Mark Reeves points to one classroom in the former; identifying it as the place he had geography lessons. The school’s face lift looks well overdue.

Sam Schwodler disagrees with an offside decision in the background. David Smart feels likewise.

Thornhill wear the Southampton replica strip, circa 2006. The traditional red and white stripes are overshadowed by a black strip of panelling that runs down the shoulders, was worn by such footballing luminaries as Jermaine Wright, Kamil Kosowski and Gareth Bale. The pitch itself has been rolled. It is flat and reasonably big. As we walk out onto it, it starts raining.

Earlier in the season it would not be unreasonable to see Ben Rowe, Kristian Hewitt, Lee Fielder, Daniel Esfandiari, Chris Pye, and Ryan Hurst all in the starting line-up for Burridge. From that list only Chris Pye is involved today, taking his place on the substitute’s bench after a couple of months spent injured. The other names from that list have either taken a step back from playing, or fallen to injuries and work commitments, like Ryan Hurst.

Once again, Sam Hewitt steps in to replace Hurst, alongside Kev Willsher in central defence. It is not a position Sam enjoys playing in, but he goes on to have a barnstorming game, highly influential at both ends of the field. We struggle to leave our half during the first fifteen minutes.

Thornhill impose themselves with a quick passing game and it isn’t long before they take the lead, exploiting space inside our penalty area and hitting a shot in Jones’ right-hand corner. Slowly we ease into their half. Marc Judd and John Rix see plenty of the ball on either flank. The equaliser comes when John breaks free of the offside trap and drills a cross low across the six yard box. Sam Schwodler pounces to make it one-all.

The move that led to the equaliser is surpassed when Sam Hewitt intercepts on the edge of his own penalty area and strides forward purposefully. He plays a one-two with John Rix that takes him deep into Thornhill’s half. He has the presence of mind to bisect a busy penalty area by cutting the ball back to Martyn Barnett, who smashes into the top corner from the edge of box. Martyn is a reliable striker of the ball. This was another goal to add to his fine collection.

Marc Judd goes into the referee’s book for dissent. He is furious that the referee has missed what he considered a hay maker, thrown in his direction. We go in at half-time 2-1 up. Both Thornhill Health Kicks and the referee disappear into the bowels of the school, leaving us outside in the rain to gather our thoughts.

Paul Dyke makes us aware that Thornhill will start the second-half quickly. It’s an accurate prediction. They equalises within minutes of the restart. Although there is some doubt over the legitimacy of the goal. Chris Pye, who was running the line, was man enough to admit that as he wasn’t up with play there will always remain a doubt over offside, but the opportunity as a team to deal with the situation had already been missed.

With their tails now up, Thornhill go for the jugular, committing plenty of bodies forward. Their third goal comes from twenty-five yard. Their captain receives a short free kick, side steps past me and hits a low drive inside Jones’ right hand post. The mini collapse is a test of our resolve. At this stage of the game it is unlikely anyone would have believed there would be no further goals for the remaining half hour. The game is open.

Dan Allen puts in his finest performance in a Burridge shirt at left back, cutting inside and linking well with Marc Judd. Sam Schwodler has serious misgivings with the judgement of Thornhill’s linesman. While he doesn’t doubt every decision, there are one or two he has serious reservations over. Chris Pye, on for Smart, is not given offside when he finds himself clean through on goal. A lack of match fitness robs him of his usual self-belief and the chance comes to nothing.

By now frustration is getting the better of Thornhill. One or two of them seem very sensitive to any criticism. One of their strikers, who has already been booked, pushes his luck with some reckless challenges. He begins arguing the toss over a goal kick with the referee. His debating technique relies heavily on verbal abuse. His surprise at being sent off tells its own story.

We push hard for an equaliser. In the closing minutes we win several corners, but Thornhill stand firm to win the game. They are nestled in third position, while we are ninth. Then comes the straw that breaks the camel’s back. After running around in the rain and mud one comes to expect a shower. We stood expectantly under the showers waiting for a flow of water that never came. In terms of performance, Burridge manager, Paul Dyke, is not satisfied in anything less than 100% commitment. In the absence of any points, sweat would have to do.

GK: Ryan Jones, LB: Dan Allen, CB: Kev Willsher, CB: Sam Hewitt, RB: Mark Reeves (Rob Mills), LM: Marc Judd, CM: Martyn Barnett, CM: Mark Sanderson, RM: John Rix, CF: David Smart (Chris Pye), CF: Sam Schwodler

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Monday, 13 February 2012

Frozen out

Sub-zero temperatures have frozen football pitches across the UK, resulting in Burridge playing just three times so far in 2012.

The snow started to fall when Sam Schwodler arrived at training on Thursday evening. After running a couple of warm-up laps he joined the six of us on the Astroturf. Sam, like many of us, looks forward to the end of session game. That his arrival had only made up the numbers of one six-a-side team got his back up. “This it?” He asked. Paul Dyke explained that the majority of absentees were nursing injuries. Sam swore under his breath and moaned about having wasted his time rushing back from work. He didn’t say where from. Nobody asked him either.

We were playing a keep ball three-a-side game within the confines of the eighteen yard box. Sam replaced Chris Pye, who having not been able to kick a ball for two months because of a hernia, was spent. Each player contributes £3 per training session, which goes towards the running costs of the pitch and the floodlights. Hamble College invoice us in arrears each month, with each session costing £40. Martyn Barnett arrived to make it eight, which meant we had raised £24, £16 short of breaking even.

The cold and wet weather disrupts the season – not just by preventing games from being played – but by eroding the routines that regular games provide. When the weather forecast is dominated by minus temperatures, or heavy rain, players suspect, almost expect, that the following Saturday’s game will not take place. The knock on effect is that football slips lower down the pecking order of priorities. On the other hand, it also gives players the chance to boost their fitness. Kev Willsher has had his application for the Great North run accepted, and Chris Pye has recovered from a hernia.

We were due to play Hedge-End Town at home on Saturday. This game was called off on Saturday morning. With a number of games within the Football League falling by the wayside it was almost inevitable that Paul Dyke would text the news that Burridge, and every other local pitch had been deemed unplayable. The forecast for the coming week is far more encouraging, with temperatures predicted to hit double figures by the end of the week.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Close but no cigar

Hedge-End Town 2-0 Burridge

Burridge failed to score at Greta Park on Saturday 21 January against local rivals Hedge End Town. They haven't played in the two weeks since because of waterlogged and frozen pitches.

Hedge-End Town’s manager walked towards me after the referee’s final whistle with a smile on his face as we shook hands and said: “you boys dominated in the second half.” I nodded. Shooting down the slope it seemed that an equalising goal was only a matter of time. Martyn Barnett’s twenty-five strike had flown off the post with the goalkeeper glued to the spot. This was followed by a long period of the match in which we spent pretty much all our time in Hedge-End’s half. Getting past their defence wasn’t the problem, scoring was.

Lee Fielder may feel the game has left a black mark against his reputation as a goal scorer. He was first to react to another Judd through ball, which he took in his stride on course for goal, but he side footed some way wide of the post. He wasn’t spared by his team mates the following Thursday evening at Hamble Community College, where he was voted the worst trainer of the night. Although at times Lee behaves in a way that could be described as arrogant, one wonders what being promoted as the poster boy for bodged finishing is doing for his confidence.

Both Hedge-End and ourselves drink at the West-End Brewery after games, so bragging rights rested on the outcome of the game. We may well have dominated large chunks of the game, but it was Hedge-End who took the lead mid-way through the first half. Former Burridge striker, Stuart Seabourne, shooting across goal to score. Marc Judd saw his header return into play via the underside of the crossbar, so we had to make do with a 1-0 deficit going into the break.

By the looks of the starred panelling on the match ball it seemed to be endorsed by the UEFA Champions League. It was also a bit on the light side, so every time the wind picked up, which was around every other minute, it took to the skies on a course for France. This wasn’t conducive to a passing game, but on this evidence, nor was playing me in the centre of midfield. I was having one or two problems getting to grips with the basics of the game -passing, shooting, moving etc. This wasn’t helped by my bowels, which during the week had been shedding waste in much the same way a fruit machine spits out coins – at pace and with little prior warning.

My fitness regime has been at the whim of my work schedule, or to be more precise – the sales team I have been holed up with for days on end at a training scheme in a country hotel in Warwickshire. It would not do to refuse their offers of evening drink. I was grateful for small mercies - I was allowed to drink Corona. Hedge-End scored a second on the counter attack in the dying moments of the game. There have been no games that spring to mind in which we have imposed ourselves to such a degree without either taking anything from the game or scoring.


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...