Saturday, 1 August 2015

Birmingham City 2 v Leicester City 3 - PSF

Saturday 1st August 2015
Pre Season Friendly
at St Andrew's
Birmingham City (2) 2
David Cotterill 23,
Demarai Gray 24
Leicester City (0) 3
Rob Huth 59,
Danny Drinkwater 76,
Shinji Okazaki 83
Admission £10. Programme £1.50.
Attendance: 7,026 (inc. 1731 in away end)
Birmingham City:
Kuszczak, Caddis, Morrison, Spector, Grounds, Kieftenbeld (Davis 64), Gleeson, Cotterill (Arthur 83), Shinnie (Toral 64), Gray (Maghoma 72), Donaldson (Novak 78). Subs not used: Legzdins, Robinson, Edgar, Eardley, Arthur, Thomas, Hancox, Brown.
Leicester City:
Schmeichel, Albrighton (Fuchs 72), Wasilewski (De Laet 45), Huth, Chilwell (Moore 45), Schlupp, King, Drinkwater, Mahrez, Vardy (Okazaki 72), Ulloa (Kramaric 45). Subs not used: Schwarzer, Hammond, Lawrence, Simpson, Nugent.
Claudio Ranieri's Foxes, started with a 3-5-2 formation, which for the first twenty minutes or so, saw them enjoying the bulk of the play, until Birmingham knocked them out of their stride with a brace of well taken goals, to give the home side a 2-0 lead, against the run of play.
Tomasz Kuszczak, making his home debut in Blues goal, had already endeared himself to the St. Andrew's faithful twice, with great reflex saves from Danny Drinkwater and Jamie Vardy, before Marcin Wasilewski's foul on Demarai Gray, some twenty five yards from the visitors goal, gave David Cotterill the opportunity to try his luck from the resultant free kick.
Cotterill's precision effort moved around all over in the air, before evading the Foxes wall and Kasper Schmeichel on it's way to bulging the back of the net via the underside of the crossbar.
You don't stop those!
Within a minute, Birmingham's goalscorer became the provider, when he knocked the ball out wide to Gray on the left flank, who cut in, took a couple of steps forward and with everyone expecting him to cross unleashed an unstoppable shot that beat Schmeichel all ends up again.
You don't stop those either!
The Foxes must have been stunned, but it is a stark reality, that if you don't take your chances then any other percentages count for absolutely nothing.
Gary Rowett's side had responded well to being up against it from the off and were now two goals to the good in spite of having to absorb a lot of pressure from the visitors.
Vardy came close to reducing the arrears a couple of times and Jeffery Schlupp put a great chance over the bar, as Blues adopted an all hands to the pumps approach to defending and held out until the interval.
HT: Birmingham City 2 v Leicester City 0
Ranieri switched things around at half time, despite having seen his side dictate the pace for the majority of the opening 45 minutes and the Foxes now adopted a more traditional 4-4-2 system.
The Croatian forward Andrej Kramaric, on at half time in place of Leonardo Ulloa, crashed a shot against Kuszczak's upright, as Leicester continued to look for an elusive opening.
Marc Albrighton, once of Birmingham City's rivals Aston Villa, delivered a corner from the right wing, that Kramaric flicked on into the path of Rob Huth, who forced the ball home from close range to make it 2-1 after 59 minutes.
Blues needed another goal to stop the tide from engulfing them as Leicester began to take on the task of getting back into this competitive and entertaining game by the scruff of it's neck.
Gray came close to netting his second goal of the game following some good work from David Davis.
But the Premier League side were taking control of he game now.
Riyad Mahrez saw his shot crash back off of the woodwork and Drinkwater was on hand to level things up.
76 minutes gone, all square at 2-2 and everything to play for.
Mahrez was proving to be a real handful for Birmingham's defence, and on 83 minutes he powered past Jonathan Grounds and launched a cross into the path of Shinji Okazaki (the all time highest international goalscorer for Japan), who timed his run to perfection and met the ball with a crashing header, to put the finishing touches to a complete turnaround and seal an impressive comeback win for Ranieri's team.
It was tough on the host side, but on the balance of things I don't think that even the most blinkered Birmingham supporter could have argued that an away win was a fair result on the day.
Kramaric (and the Leicester fans in the Gil Merrick Stand) thought he had added a fourth goal to the Foxes tally in the dying moments of the game, but the officials ruled that the ball hadn't actually crossed the line, before the home defence and Kuszczak smothered it and looked across anxiously across at the assistant referee.
From where I was sat, I would have to say I would need to look at it again in slow motion to be sure, but I'm willing to accept that the correct decision was made ;-)
FT: Birmingham City 2 v Leicester City 3
Final thought.
I wonder if Cabrini have a factory based on Tracy Island where they produce football shirts?

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Shirebrook Town 4 v Mansfield Town XI 0 - PSF

Thursday 30th July 2015
at Langwith Road, Shirebrook
Shirebrook Town (3) 4
Blake Owen 10, Richard Mintoft 35,
OG? 43, Jamie Smith 89
Mansfield Town XI (0) 0
Admission £3/£1
Ta very much to Chris Millington
It's not even August yet and I have already visited Langwith Road three times this season.
If that's penance, then I must be repenting for having been really naughty in a previous life.
Although the Stags fielded a youthful line up and it was quite literally a case of men v boys all over the Langwith Road pitch tonight, that shouldn't detract from the result gained by and the performance put in by Shirebrook, particularly in the first half when they built up a thoroughly deserved three goal cushion before the break.
When you are a spritely teenage prospect, who usually pits his wits against similar opposition from the academies of other Football League clubs, then it must be a pretty steep learning curve to come up against a no nonsense 'firm but fair' centre half such as Paul Sykes.
Welcome to the real world of men's football!
Devante Reittie troubled the home side's keeper a couple of times and Louis Danquah almost grabbed a goal for the Stags (and looked to have done from some angles) when he shot into the side netting, but it was Chris Millington's side who were finding their range inside the last third.
The highly rated young Mansfield custodian Sam Wilson, who hereby wins the award for pulling the scariest face seen at a football match in Shirebrook all night, showed again why so many local talent spotters are turning out to run the rule over him, with a string of decent stops, but he could only do so much as Mansfield withstood a lot of pressure from the NCEL Division 1 hosts.
Shirebrook took the lead after ten minutes, when Blake Owen was given a second chance to knock the ball home from close range after his initial effort had been blocked.
Richard Mintoft added a second on 35 minutes when he shot across the face of the goal from a very tight angle out on the right byline.
And just before half time a Shirebrook player (???) at the far end of the pitch from me, unleashed a shot from just outside the box, that took enough of a deflection en route to crossing the line to be deemed an own goal. Nobody has stepped forward to claim the 'assist' so I guess we'll never know, eh!?
As is the norm at this stage of warm up matches during pre season preparations, managers like to give all of the players available to them a run out, so the frequent swapping and changes disrupted the flow and the game became a bit of a scrappy, stop/start affair after the break.
Shirebrook already had the game won anyway and the side Mansfield finished the half with seemed to be content with containing their opponents while leaving one man up front.
Jamie Smith added a fourth goal in the final minute that had a few comedy elements attached to it, with the Mansfield defence all stood ball watching as it rebounded off the post and trickled back towards the field of play, Jamie Smith dashed forward and got to it first before sweeping the ball into the exposed Stags net.
FT: Shirebrook Town 4 v Mansfield Town XI 0
You can only beat what is in front of you and  credit to Shirebrook grafted well for this thoroughly deserved win, while the Mansfield youth side will have learnt a few valuable lessons from being given a bit of a going over... but that is what these games are all about. Aren't they?
The Stags first team have a behind closed door friendly against West Bromwich Albion to look forward to next, while a mixture of experienced players and academy lads head for Heanor Town next Tuesday night. Shirebrook Town on the other hand, have a home friendly against Worksop Town on Saturday.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Retford FC 5 v Walkeringham FC 0 - PSF

Wednesday 29th July 2015
at Cannon Park, Leverton Road, Retford
Retford FC (1) 5
Arron Blakey 4, 68, 89, Luke Tong 75, Paul Middleton 83
Walkeringham FC (0) 0
Admission free.
Given that this was the 'new kids on the block' (who have just moved in 'next door but one' to me's) third game, I figured that it was high time to get around to calling in and welcoming them into the 'hood.
Retford FC are a newly formed Central Midlands League club, who were borne out of last season's Retford United development teams, but who have now gone it alone with their own identity and have signed a good number of 'slightly' older and one or two 'vastly experienced' local footballers, to supplement and enhance their ranks.
A representative from another local club offered me a job tonight, I think he was being tongue in cheek though. Locally everybody knows that when Cannon Park was built, it was no coincidence that it was erected on a site that was halfway from the the town centre to Rampton Mental Hospital, a convenient staging post on an inevitable two part and one way journey.
The opposition for tonight's friendly had changed three times over the past week, with games against both Retford United and Hucknall Rolls Leisure having fallen by the wayside, before Gainsborough League side Walkeringham FC, stepped in the fill the vacancy.
Before the game I had a brief chat with the home side's striker Arron Blakey, who has been sidelined with injury for a while since our paths last crossed at Harworth Colliery FC, it was good to see him getting his touch back this evening. Arron is a confidence player, who's self belief gives him that bit extra in his tank and tonight's match winning performance will have boosted his mojo no end.
'This should be like shooting fish in a barrel' opined a local onlooker before kick off, 'these lot are only Gainsborough League players' but Walkeringham actually gave a very good account of themselves and competed well until Retford turned the screw on them for the last 25 minutes.
Blakey (of course) opened the scoring when he threaded the ball neatly past the visitors keeper after just four minutes, having got free of his marker with a burst of pace through the left channel... and the ensuing 86 minutes must've looked like a daunting prospect for the Sunday side.
But, as things transpired, they hadn't just come to make up the numbers up and a lively and competitive game of football broke out on a 'four seasons in one day' night weather wise.
But once Retford's second goal finally came, in the 68th minute, when Blakey (again) smashed the ball home from 12 yards through a crowded penalty area, it signalled a seismic shift in the game, which from then on in was a case of one way traffic towards the Walkeringham goal.
A Luke Tong free kick from 25 yards out, took a wicked deflection that wrong footed the visitors defence and keeper on 75 minutes and shortly afterwards Phil Middleton killed the game off with Retford's fourth.
Inside the last two minutes Arron Blakey claimed his hat trick to put the icing on his man of the match performance, when he curled the ball into the top corner of the net from just outside the left hand side of the visitors penalty area.
FT: Retford FC 5 v Walkeringham FC 0
For those of you who are wondering, Retford Town FC, who played on Cannon Park last season as well as Retford United, will now play home games on the Oaklands Sports Ground, just off of Caledonian Road, next season. 
Retford is fast becoming a veritable hotbed of football these days.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Basford United 1 v Mansfield Town XI 2 - PSF

Tuesday 28th July 2015
Pre Season Friendly
Basford United (1) 1
Fabian Smith pen 27
Mansfield Town (1) 2
Darren Fletcher 33, Kane Baldwin 86
Admission £5. Att: 189
An entertaining first half basked in evening sunshine and a less than enthralling second, played out under dark foreboding clouds emptying gallons of rain all over Greenwich Avenue, with a twist in the plot right at the end. Provided a compelling enough, if not entirely riveting night's entertainment on the outskirts of the fair city of Nottingham.
Basford United have a new clubhouse on site, inside the ground, where I had almost half a hour to kill on my arrival, so it would have been rude not to help out the local economy by purchasing one or two beers, in the company of the Stags loyals who had made the short journey across.
After which I spent the remainder of the night in the (as always) charming and affable company of my good pal Mr Malcolm Storer.
It was good to catch up with the 'Bearded Wonder' and put the world to rights.
It was also nice to catch up with Neil who works tirelessly for the Basford cause.
A couple of season's ago I visited Greenwich Avenue frequently to run the rule over Wayne Scott's all conquering Under 19s team, but haven't been able to get across as much recently. Though I did manage to see Wayne's similarly impressive Carlton Town Under 21's last season, before he stepped up to manage the Millers first team.
A few of the Mansfield 'heads' in attendance, were a little bit concerned and surprised that there were no more actual (exclusively) first team friendlies planned before the season starts for real, but I guess Adam Murray feels that he has had enough time to assess his newly built squad's strengths and weaknesses now and sees the remaining couple of games as an opportunity for the club's younger players to shine, while his first picks are going through a rigorous regime of double training sessions; in fact he spoke at a press conference earlier today about how some fringe players would now have to up the ante if they wanted to stay in contention for first team places, given the number of new signings he has made, since they broke onto the scene last season.
Right, there was a game as well...
Sam Wilson, drafted in at the eleven and a half(th) hour, to play in goal for this young Stags team, was called into action inside the first twenty minutes, when he got down well to save a penalty from Tyrell Shannon, after Shannon had been upended in the area by Connor Green.
Mansfield were on level terms on 33 minutes, when Darren Fletcher, who had already gone close once, latched onto a defence splitting pass from Drew Gibson, and finished coolly from just inside United's penalty area.
Both goalscorers had chances after the break to put their sides ahead, but Smith skied a great chance over the bar, and Fletcher was thwarted by the Basford keeper Saul Deeney, as was Anthony Dwyer.
With four minutes left on the clock, the game looked to be petering out towards an all square, 1-1 conclusion, but when the substitute Basford keeper, Jake Wood blocked a shot from Dwyer and the ball fell kindly for Kane Baldwin, he made no mistake from ten yards out and won the game for the Stags.
FT: Basford United 1 v Mansfield Town XI 2

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Mansfield Town 1 v Leicester City 1 - PSF

Signmaker required.
Basic literacy skills not essential.
Saturday 25th July 2015
PSF at the One Call Stadium (Field Mill)
Mansfield Town (1) 1  Matt Green pen 26
Leicester City (1) 1 David Nugent 10
Admission £7. Programme £2 (for both home friendlies)
Attendance 4273 inc. 1608 in the away end
 Mansfield Town
Shearer, Chapman (McGuire 77), Pearce, Clements (Jack Thomas 67), Green (Westcarr HT), Benning, Rose, Nathan Thomas (Beardsley 69), Hunt (Marsden 62), Lambe (Trialist 59), Collins (Tafazolli 77).
Leicester City
Schwarzer (Schmeichel HT), De Laet, Chilwell, Hammond, Barmby, Lawrence, Simpson, Moore, Okazaki, Kramaric, Nugent.
Line up after ten substitutions in the 63rd minute:
Schmeichel; Wasyl, Huth, Fuchs; Albrighton, Drinkwater, King, Mahrez, Schlupp; Ulloa, Vardy.
Leicester man cometh!
Claudio Ranieri's Foxes brought a decent away following to the One Call Stadium this afternoon, and with so many Stags fans taking advantage of the £7 admission price, affording them the opportunity to run the rule over Adam Murray's newly assembled squad, against Premier League opposition, it made for a lively atmosphere inside the ground, in spite of the Quarry Lane End being closed for the afternoon.
Talk before the game revolved around two questions:
1) Why don't a few more of these supporters turn out more often for league games against less glamorous opponents?
2) Are Notts County really charging £24 for tickets for their League 2 (Division 4) game against Mansfield Town next month.
The answer to question two is: yes.
Question two therefore becomes the answer to question one.
David Nugent has scored in every single game I have ever seen him play in (Birmingham City take note of the forthcoming fixtures listed to the right of this page) and sure enough, he kept that run intact this afternoon.
He didn't hit his shot from 20 yards out very cleanly after ten minutes, but with the aid of an unsighted keeper, a slight deflection and the presence of his lucky talisman sat up in the upper tier of the West Stand, Leicester were in front from their first venture forward. D'oh!
Within two minutes of giving the visitors the lead, Nugent was yellow carded for clattering into Mitchell Rose while the busy Stags midfielder was on the ground and  caught him in the face with his boot. Rose for his part joined Nugent in the book for kicking out in retaliation.
Hmm, try the match billing on for size guys: Pre Season FRIENDLY.
Rose was in the wars again in the twenty seventh minute when Dean Hammond chopped him down inside the penalty area.
Matt Green dutifully stepped forward, sent Mark Schwarzer the wrong way and put Mansfield on level terms in front of the Foxes travelling support.
It's a goal! Matt Green 26 minutes.
Just before the break, the visitors survived a real scare, when Chris Clements beat Schwarzer with a fierce dipping shot, but saw his effort crash back off the crossbar.
So with honours even at half time, the Stags left the pitch to the sound of generous applause.
They had gone toe to toe with their Premier League opponents, refused to be bullied and showed a lot of good movement on, off and with the ball.
HT: 1-1
The Stags withdrew Matt Green at half time and replaced him with Craig Westcarr, while both teams sent on substitute goalkeepers.
The home side came out of the blocks like an express train and were soon laying siege to Leicester's replacement keeper Kasper Schmeichel's goal.
Apparently the Foxes second half keeper, is the son of a footballer who has played for both Manchester United and City... I'll hazard a guess at Denis Law, because the bloke is the spitting image of him.
Krystian Pearce saw his effort pushed away for a corner by Schmeichel, who then turned a thumping 25 yard shot Nathan Thomas drive onto the post, when the ball found it's way out to the former Motherwell winger.
The Stags were in full flow at this time, but Leicester disrupted the continuity of the game just after the hour, with a lengthy delay while they substituted all ten outfield players. You have to fel a modicum of sympathy for match day announcers at times like these.
Malvin Benning unleashed a free kickthat was half cleared as far a Craig Westcarr who was denied from clinching a win for the Stags by Denis Law's lad late in the game.
FT: Mansfield Town 1 v Leicester City 1
OK, they were only pre-season games, but the Stags have now put in decent back to back shifts against a Championship and Premier League side inside the space of a week.
I am crap at predictions, but cautiously optimistic that Adam Murray's side will finish above/around mid table and will avoid a nail-biting flirtation with the trapdoor to oblivion this time around.
Time will tell!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Grantham Town 2 v Mansfield Town 1 - PSF

Thursday 23rd July 2015
at the South Kesteven Sports Stadium
Grantham Town (1) 2
Gio Carchedi 22, Stefan Bilyk 73
Mansfield Town XI (1) 1
Simon Heslop 38
Admission £5, free teamsheet, no programmes
I've seen told on this here t'interweb information superhighway thing, where we are all supposed to believe everything we read; that tonight's game was a fairly evenly balanced affair.
You what!? You what!?
You what!? You what!? You what!?
Fessing up time folks... I am (massively) biased towards all things Mansfield Town and so are the people I watched tonight's game with, namely: Michael Cook (Retford Stags, lifetime and founder member), Andy Saunders (ex Mansfield Town director and Stags diehard, currently the chairman of AFC Mansfield) and Darren Shaw (Stags fans rep. on the current Mansfield Town board). And we all agreed unanimously that, as the teams went in level at 1-1 after 45 minutes, Grantham deserved to be 4-1 ahead already by that time and should have had a penalty midway through the first half.
Although it wasn't exactly a Rorke's Drift situation, the Stags back four, ably marshalled by Adam Murray, had to adopt a 'self preservation society' approach to defending, to prevent their lively Evo-Stik League hosts blowing their bleedin' doors off.
Ironically, it was the young and highly regarded Stags goalkeeper Sam Wilson who set up Grantham's opening goal when he inadvertently miscued a goal kick straight into the path of Gio Carchedi, who took a couple of strides forward before gratefully rubbing Wilson's nose in it by knocking the ball home from ten yards out.
I won't chastise the unfortunate keeper at this juncture, it is all about learning good habits at his age and these are the sort of games that you need to use to get that sort of thing out of your system. And besides “it looks bad in the newspapers and upsets civilians at their breakfast.”
Want-away Stags player Simon Heslop, equalised with a speculative shot from outside the area shortly before half time, but I hadn't noticed any scouts from other clubs up in the stands paying much attention, so hopefully we witnessed the start of a boom season for the player at the South Kesteven Sports Stadium tonight... for the Stags!
Stranger things have happened y'know.
HT: 1-1
Grantham Town used to play on London Road, they had a cracking little ground there, where I can just about recall seeing the original Retford Town FC play.
At half time I was conversing with an octogenarian Grantham fan who could also remember those halcyon days of yore and seemed to be very knowledgeable about and proud of his local team, but he couldn't recall how his favourite football team acquired the nickname 'The Gingerbreads' when I asked him, “Not a lot of people know that!” he quipped.
The second half was more finely balanced, but Stefan Bilyk scored the goal that gave Grantham the victory their efforts deserved on 72 minutes, when he toe-poked Lee Beeson's deep right wing cross into the back of the Stags goal via right hand upright, demonstrating two things; namely: The Stags development side are vulnerable from right wing crosses into the hole around their own penalty spot... and toepoked is a word that needs to be hyphenated when your laptop has got a decent spellcheck app downloaded onto it.
Finally, the Stags came to life, took the game to their hosts and upped the ante for the final ten minutes, but the Lincolnshire side defended well to repel a series of corners and crosses from both flanks.
And right at the death, Mansfield were denied the goal that would have pulled them level, by a great reflex save from Jake Turner, the Grantham keeper, who somehow kept Drew Gibson's thumping close range volley out.
If I'm being honest... and I really do strive to be when overviewing football matches for this blog... then a draw would not have been a fair result anyway, given the balance of play.
Well done Grantham, good luck for the season ahead and thanks for the warm welcome and friendly (but never hostil banter.
FT: Grantham Town 2 v Mansfield Town XI 1
Footnote:
Dear Highways agency roadworks co-ordination officer. Piss off! And leave the A1 around Retford well alone until after midnight, some of us want to get home at a reasonable hour. Stop it!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Brigg Town 0 v Grimsby Town 6 - PSF

Wed 22nd July 2015
at the Hawthorns
Brigg Town (0) 0
Grimsby Town XI (2) 6
Jon-Paul Pittman 25, 50, 79
Padraig Amond 27,
James Wroot 87, 89
Admission £5, free programme with every £1 raffle purchase
Brigg Town:
Zand, Corlyon, Bedford, Organ, Lee (C), Barden, Rookyard, Mortimer, O'Malley, Wray, King
Subs - Winn, Wilks, Saltmer, Daddy, Mountain, Phillips (GK)
Grimsby Town:
J Pearson; Crowther, Sunter, Sibbick, Hurst, Marshall, Clifton, Venney, Wright; Pittman, Amond.
Subs - Jennings, Wroot, Phillips, Keeple, Hough, Heath-Drury
This friendly, arranged at very short notice, saw Conference side Grimsby Town send a mixed squad across to the Hawthorns, that included a mix of young players, along with Padraig Amond, Jon-Paul Pittman and Marcus Marshall, along with their 41 year old manager Paul Hurst who looked quite spritely for the sixty five spel he spent playing at left back for the Mariners.
The quality of the Conference League first team players out on the park tonight, made a real difference, as a below full strength Brigg battled gamely against the visitors, but struggled to deal with the gulf in class and were chasing shadows at times.
The Zebras enjoyed a few brief flurries forward, but were pegged back into their last third for the majority of the game.
There was never any question that Grimsby were going to score a few tonight and it was always a case of when those goals would come, rather than if.
By the time they broke the deadlock and then doubled the score in quick succession, just before the half hour mark, they could already have been three or four goals to the good, were it not for the efforts of the Brigg Keeper Rob Zand.
Pittman opened the scoring from close range when he took advantage of a defensive lapse in concentration and seizsed onto an under hit back pass and Padraig Amond doubled Grimsby's lead two minutes later, when he nonchalantly poked the ball under the fully stretched Rob Zand two minutes later after Max Wright had played the former Republic of Ireland U21 player in on goal with a defence splitting pass.
HT - Brigg Town 0 v Grimsby Town 2
Rob Zand, for his part, is a decent enough goalkeeper, but he can't play against opposition of the calibre of Brigg Town on his own.
Tom Lee, the home side's captain put in a creditable performance, but the visitors were passing the Zebras out of the game at will and leaving their defence chasing shadows.
It was like watching a gang of big lads nicking the ball off of a gang of infants in a play park and telling them they could only have it back if they played against them and were prepared to take a bit of a pasting into the bargain.
The second half was more one sided than the first, even if the Mariners did need two late goals to chalk up the kind of winning margin they thoroughly deserved.
Pittman added two more well taken goals and Marcus Marshall, who had been tormenting the home side down the right flank all night, provided the bullets for James Wroot to finish Brigg off with a double whammy inside the last few minutes.
Brigg Town will be hoping that they have taken a few lessons out of being given a bit of a runaround tonight and will want to pick themselves back up before they face Teversal at the Hawthorns on Saturday.
And Grimsby Town ought to have been sent to bed early, with no supper, for bullying their little mates from down the road.
FT - Brigg Town 0 v Grimsby Town 6
As always, it was great to catch up with Simon and Tim Harris at Brigg Town, top lads... keep up the good work!