Sunday, 12 November 2017

Oxford United 1-2 Northampton Town, Saturday 11th November 2017

Oxford United 1-2 Northampton Town (att. 8,267)

Welcome to ....

With it being another international weekend (don’t get me started) it was a chance to delve into the lower divisions and tick another stadium off.  Oxford seemed perfect, at least it’s easy to get to from London.  I’d been to the old Manor Ground, twice, but never this new stadium.  I’d heard it was difficult to get to and you get the occasional whiff of sewage from the local works.  The former was certainly true, the latter…well, I did catch a couple of sewery-type smells, 2nd half, but this may have been osmosis.

Nearly there...

For once I had company too.  An old Londontyke mate who lives near Witney came down.  As I was his Best Man once upon a time, I s’pose it’d be rude not to meet up.  And then The Captain came up from Southampton way.  He’s so keen to crack on with his 92 he’s giving Norwich away a miss next week to visit Port Vale.  I wish him luck.

The view from the Car Park End.  Did they have to cut down these trees?

I have no recollection of where Oxford’s old ground was in relation to the city centre, but I do know it can’t have been half the journey of the Kassam (is it still called that?)  After a few pints in town, we jumped into a taxi.  Now, call me pernickety, but if I’m travelling through fields to get to somewhere, that means I’m in a completely different town.  Stu, who knows the area, swears this was the best route.

20 mins later we were there.  OK, we missed kick-off (we heard the minute’s silence!) but we were quickly served at the box office (by a lovely mature lady) and took our seats in the North Stand.  Surprisingly, considering how busy it was in that section, we got 3 seats together.  One £4 pie later, we were sat down.  

Subtle, yet in your face.  I like it.

Northampton isn’t exactly a derby, though the two consider themselves rivals, and at forty odd miles, close enough for the away side to bring a decent contingent, 1300+.  Certainly their end was full.  Perhaps if Oxford had a 4th side to their stadium (will it ever be anything other than a car park?) then they’d have more scope to increase this.

Barriers to prevent us from sticking it to Northampton.

As it is, the Kassam has three well proportioned stands, all cantilever, with the ubiquitous ‘meccano’ roof supports.  The Main Stand has two tiers (upper tier, £28 – for 3rd division action!) while the other two stands have one tier. But where we were was quite steep, and we were very lucky to be seated a fair way up, virtually on the halfway line.  I couldn’t have chosen better.  Thus, an excellent view of the action.

The view from (near) the halfway line.

Northampton scored early, a scrambled effort off a corner, before wasting several opportunities to extend the lead.  Then, with half time looming, an Oxford player ran onto a throughball and drove it into the bottom corner from the edge of the box, a superb finish.  Finally, the home support had something to cheer, as up till then all we heard were crowing Cobblers fans.  How Northampton would regret letting Oxford back into this gam…oh, hang on, the U’s defender has let Northampton clean through…and he’s shot through the keeper into the net.  I should think so too, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Northampton were streets ahead.  (Ironically, had Oxford won, they'd have been i a play-off position while Northampton would be in the relegation zone.  You;d never have thought it from this match.)

You could be waiting a while...

Not much happened 2nd half.  Certainly Oxford showed no sign of equalising, despite sending on all three subs.  From a Barnsley-supporting point of view, it was great to see our loanee Alex Mowatt (reputed cost: £500k) unable to set foot on the pitch from the bench.  If he’s not good enough for Oxford, his career’s in trouble…having played 100 games for Dirty Leeds by the time he was 20, or summing.  At least former Reds' legend Marc Richards (well, he played regularly in the side wot went up from division 3 many aeons ago) came on for the Cobblers.  I dare say he's more of a legend for them, having bagged nearly 50 goals.

Cobblers!

With an 18:01 train to catch, we hopped on a bus to the city centre…which took the best part of an hour…meaning I missed said train.  Did I say this stadium is miles away?  I think on another day, this place could rival the Ricoh Stadium for most miserable matchday experience in English football.  I’ll be back only when Barnsley play here.  Thankfully, I had an overweight bald geezer wobbling his bare belly in the direction of Northampton fans, as well as stewards intermittently taking the (empty) beer bottles of U’s fans to amuse me.  I’m amazed the latter doesn’t happen more often, sneaking beers in from the drinks’ kiosks…but at least the stewards were sensible, not chucking anyone out.

The keeper gathers late on.

The Damage:
£24 ent
£13.40 train
£4 steak and ale pie
£5.60 taxi/bus
= £47

Programmes?  I saw they did exist, but never saw anywhere to buy one either inside or outside the stadium.  Still, spending £4 on a pie (my own fault for being hungry) and £24 to get in was painful enough.  I wasn’t keen to give them more of my hard earned.

The Tunes:
The Digging Remedy (Plaid)
Claustrophobia (Scuba)
Until The Hunter (Hope Sandoval)
Silence (Pete Namlook and Dr. Atmo)

Oxford v Northampton panorama.

Looking towards the Car Park End.

The Main (South) Stand.

The East Stand, home of the ultras.

'Manor Relics'

Word to the wise; calling yourself 'ultras' doesn't make you so.

That minute before Northampton went back ahead.

The Car Park End starts emptying.

A late corner for Northampton.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Shaw Lane 1-3 Mansfield Town, Saturday 4th November 2017

Shaw Lane 1-3 Mansfield Town, FA Cup 1st Round (att. 1,700)

Welcome to .....

Having followed local Barnsley side Shaw Lane’s cup exploits from afar, my fellow Londontykes and I waited with baited breath for the draw to the 1st round; a home affair and we could possibly attend. It would, we concurred, be switched to Oakwell and probably played on the Sunday, the day after the Super Reds played host to Birmingham. How wrong we were.

The home of Shaw Lane AFC too!

Shaw Lane were indeed drawn out the hat 1st, to play Mansfield Town, only it would be held at Sheerian Park (‘San Sheerian’), a local ground heretofore devoid of segregation. Good on ‘em! Even better, it was to be picked for television by Sky Sports, kick-off 12:30 on the Satdy. Hang on a minute. When does our train from London get into Barnsley? 11:30. Perfick. Let’s go.

'Courthouse Reds'...later seen at Oakwell.

Sniffer (a former Londontyke now living back in Barnsley) procured us the tickets. And from a Barnsley perspective, it was a tasty looking proposition; Mansfield were potentially fielding 4 ex-Reds: Danny Rose, a diminutive yet lively centre forward who we thought had potential, Paul Digby, a laidback ball-playing midfielder, who we thought had potential, Kane Hemmings, a forward from Scotland who scored bags of goals (showing how poor Scottish football is) and Jacob ‘ba5tard f***ing’ Mellis, one of our least favourite players of recent years. And nevermind his footballing efforts, even the mark of the man is tainted….slipping out of Oakwell quietly one time, rather than take his place in the Exec lounge to receive his MOTM award, despite being reminded several times. He had a players’ Christmas party to attend in Manchester. Wan*er.

Behind the (home) goal.

At Barnsley bus station, we managed to miss one bus to Athersley North, as a Birmingham fan asked for directions to Wetherspoons. Still, they were every 10 mins, and we boarded for the Barnsley borders. I’ve gotta say, I’m pleased I wasn’t on my own. What a mission. Up hill and down dale, before scraping through council estates on the edge of town and being told we were getting off here. I hadn’t seen hide nor hare of the ground yet. The lack of floodlights didn’t help. (Another reason why Sky switched it to 12:30?)

The teams line up.

We were due to meet another member of our party at the stadium, he having dropped his family at home after returning from New York (the life!) and jumping into a taxi. Me? I needed a p***. Those Franziskaner on the train up were starting to take effect. Thus, I was able to see the teams come out and a man dressed up as a giant duck. Shaw Lane (née ‘Shaw Lane Aquaforce’) are sponsored by a Sheffield Wednesday supporting owner of a local plumbing firm, who, far from the romantic image foisted on the nation this week, have been bankrolled through the divisions and now lie one division off the national league (north). How much money can a local plumber have?

Hi Ducky! (Possibly not his real name)

They share the ground with landlords, Athersley Rec (amateurs in the purest sense); Shaw Lane, home of Barnsley cricket and rugby is not considered scratch enough for the level they now compete. So we have the entrance on one corner. There’s a small covered paddock on the left touchline, as you enter. And for one day only, some scaffolding with seats and tables for tables for laptops. Let’s hope it does rain today – the press will have a mare. To the right as you enter is a one storey building housing the Athersley Rec club shop (they have one???) before a small covered section of seating behind the goal. Aside from the temporary open stand at the other end, housing the visitors, this was the only seating. Meantime, the other touchline had no terrace at all. Either lean against the advertising hoardings, or stand atop the scaffolding with the cameraman. No expense spared for Sky.

The media pack.

A healthy crowd of 1,700 had shown up, or more than 10 times Shaw Lane’s average crowd. Decent vantage points were thin on the ground, as folk crowded around the edge of the pitch, so we took a pitch at the far end, towards the Mansfield fans, most of whom were perched on temporary seating set up just for the game. Needless to say, Barnsley folk are never slow in coming forward when faced by teams from former mining colonies perceived to have let down the ’84 Miners’ Strike. ‘Scabs Scabs Scabs’ was met with ‘You’ll never work again’ from Mansfield. All good fun! And yours truly was able to tell Mellis he’d reached his level…before being corrected: ‘He’s still finding his level’. Yes, there’s still a few rungs he can fall, the former million pound footballer (Sheff Utd to Chelsea as a kid). A classic case of ‘too much too young’ he was one of the laziest footballers I have ever seen don the red of Barnsley FC. (I presume someone else put it on for him.)

Presumably a Sky drone, capturing the action.

Shaw Lane (number of ‘homegrown’ footballers: one – former Barnsley fullback Neil Austin) took a few minutes to get into it, but grew in confidence and went in creditably level at half time, one-all. Mansfield took the lead when a well worked move ended with a cross deflected into the path of Pearce, for a relatively easy finish, while Shaw Lane equalised when Bennett hit home a rebound.

Time to celebrate!

Half time came and I was starting to get the nibbles. Normally, I’d be heading for fish and chips pre-match, but as we were facing a dash to Oakwell after this game, that wasn’t an option. A couple of us gave it 5 mins in the 2nd half before we went hunting food. And what glory awaited! Pie and (mushy) peas, plus gravy, £2.50 all in. Bargain. Though it came at a price: a cheer went up. Sounded like a Mansfield goal to me. My companion nipped into another marquee for a drink. An even bigger cheer went up. A Shaw Lane equaliser? No. All became clear. I’d missed (possibly) the highlight of the game – Mellis had only earned himself a penalty, then missed it. Obviously SHOUTY Stags’ manager Steve Evans hadn’t kept abreast of the latest research, showing a penalty is less likely to be scored by a player who’d won said pen (‘Outside the Box’, by Duncan Alexander).

Close to the action at San Sheerian.

Getting back to my place on the terrace, the game was decided by ex-Red coulda-been Danny Rose. First, he got up above the centre half to head home (not bad for a midget) before delivering the coup de grace….a scissor kick volley from 10 yards. Not a bad way to return to the town he still lives in, and later voted goal of the round. 1-3, done and dusted, much of the home crowd headed to the exit. After our starter, it was time for the main course…and a bus back to Barnsley town centre which didn’t get me to Oakwell in time for kick-off (booo) but did get me there in time to see the Super Reds take a 2nd minute lead. Today was going to be a good day.

Mansfield celebrate the winner.

The Damage:
£10 ent
£1.50 prog
£2.50 pie and peas and gravy
£3.50 bus (A ‘Dayrrider’)
= £17.50

The Tunes:
The Dawn of Psychedelia (Various)


Shaw Lane v Mansfield panorama.

1st sighting of ground...sort of.

No mistaking which way now.

Understated ground sign on a house like my nana used to live in.

Fans entering the ground.

Never forget whose ground it actually is.

Club shop (closed).

The Main Stand?  Well, only one with seats in.

The usual press box.  Capacity: 2.

Will he / won't he deal with it?

BFC 2-0 Birmingham City, Saturday 4th November 2017

‘When’s Christmas?’

Nevermind Dortmund's yellow wall...

You can’t beat a double header, so as the fixtures were kind, why not go and watch Barnsley’s premier non-league team (Shaw Lane) in the FA Cup 1
st round, before legging it out early (after Mansfield bagged a 3rd) to catch a bus back into town?  Perfect timing as well, as I was in Oakwell in time to see us take the lead, a sweet sweet move begun with Barnes, who laid it off to Potts, who delayed the pass, allowing Barnes to run past the fullback and whip a ball across for Bradshaw to tap in.  1-0 up, barely 3 mins in.

1st half action.

Bradshaw!  On the train up, Selwood tempted me into my annual crazy bet.  How many would he bag by Xmas?  I said he wouldn’t get 12 and folk were tripping over themselves to put a tenner on with me.  Except Selwood, funnily enough.  (You don’t get to where he is by gambling the odd tenner).  So you can imagine my relief late on in the match when Bradshaw missed another tap-in.  Course, if he keeps getting supply like he has off Barnes, he shouldn’t fail. By my reckoning he has 8 matches to bag another 3 goals…


The Brummies.  Sounds like a comedy show.  Probably is.

As for the match, Christ, how awful are Birmingham City?  What is it about these ‘big’ teams, come nicking our players then have no clue how to utilise them?  (Hourihane, Bree, Winnall…Marley Watkins).  Where the hell was Roberts meant to be playing for them?  For £3.75m, I’d expect him to be played in his best position.  But what was he?  Right side of a back 3?  He was verging on right back at some points.  I’d have felt bad for him were we not running rings around their sorry arses.  They really were terrible.  A big, big week for us, with wins over Burton and Brum and a draw at Washday…honestly, whisper it, but I think we’re going to stay up!
Isgrove missed another chance on the far post, going for placement over power (great save tho) and the opening half was one-way traffic.  We should have been out of sight, but there was the nagging feeling that surely Brum would up their game 2nd half….

The Big Nobs in the Corner Stand.

I’m not sure if Brum did up their game..or whether we just took our foot off the pedal.  Either way, City never looked threatening and we sealed the game with an inswinging free kick from Fryers which their defender swung and missed at.  As soon as he missed it, I knew it was in, the keeper having moved across.  They really are a poor team, devoid of confidence and anything else which is the sign of a good side.  I hope they keep it up.  Us?  We're not safe yet, but things are looking good.

The Ponty v Brum

*** Yiadom.  A thoroughbred.  If you watched him closely, what a game.  Glided past players with the ball, tackled when without.  A late aberration had him heading back towards the penalty spot for Brum’s only chance, but Davies was quick out to save the day.  Otherwise, majestic.  Will probably be nicked in January a la Hourihane et al.

** Barnes.  Barnes will, indeed, 'tear you apart again'. Unplayable 1st half.  I wish he was ours.  Will probably be nicked in January a la Drinkwater, when he was on loan with us.  Just think, he’s done more in half a dozen games (creating goals) than Ryan Kent all last season.

Williams.  Won everything…then gave it away again.  If this guy could learn how to pass a ball 10 yards square to a teammate, he’d be the new David Batty.
Twitter MOTM: Bradshaw.  ‘Sponsored by Redfearns’.  Do they get extra votes then?

Londontykes' MOTM: 1. Yiadom  2. Fryers  3. Moncur

The pre-match stroll to Oakwell.

Despatches:

I enjoyed the fans ‘bantz’.  Inevitably we were told Barnsley’s a sh*thole and the good burghers of Cotswold village Brumingham would like to go home, but fair play to them, when we were singing how sh*t their team is…they sang how sh*t their team is, with an encore of ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt'.  You know you’re onto something when the opposition are singing that, nevermind getting us back (sort of) with 'It's only one nil. How shit must you be, its only one nil'.  But I do like ‘You’re just a sh*t Aston Villa.’  Imagine.  Aston Villa are sh*t.  You’re a sh*t version of sh*t.  Enjoy relegation, lads.
Running through the team, Fryers looks better and better and his speed helps make us look more like the lightning counter-offensive side we were last season.  Well, him and Yiadom on the other flank.  Nevermind the wingers.  No wonder McCarthy can’t get a game, despite his own excellent start.  Davies had a perfect game, though had little to do save for saving Yiadom late on.  The centre halves were competent, without having owt to do.  It was good to see Potts and Isgrove back, I thought the midfield linked well.  Isgrove even took players on.  And who’s this other fella, flitting about the pitch, setting up attack after attack?  My God, it’s Moncur.  Tracking back too.  Renaissance Man himself.  Can he keep it up?  And Bradshaw was alright really.  Must have got a call about a certain bet…
Drink du jour: A couple of Franziskaner on the way up (no time for a pre-match pub) and a rare and enjoyable excursion to the Sheffield Tap afterwards.  Some unfiltered lager or other.  Yum.  Washed down by JD and Coke and Vodka and orange on the homeward bound.  Party on!  Or do I blame the triple Camden Pale Ale pintage for my Sunday hangover?

Onwards and upwards!

Away: c1,300.  


The Damage:
£26 train
= £26

The Tunes:
Blue Lines (Massive Attack)
Fabric 84 (Mathew Jonson)

Oakwell at dusk.

(Finally, a word from our Londontykes' researcher - yes, he is 'inbetween jobs' - on the comparison of our wingers over the past two seasons)
Film I'm watching is formulaic crap (always makes Jules laugh when I say this, as a big James Bond fan!), but after your comparison of Barnes and Kent, I just had a look at the stats for all our wingers over the past two seasons. Based on minutes on pitch (league games only)...
Barnes - 740 minutes, 8 goals (4 scored, 4 assisted) = a goal every 92.5 minutes (just over 1 match)
Hedges (this season) - 513 minutes
, 3 goals (2 scored, 1 assisted) = every 171 minutes (just under 2 matches)
Isgrove - 175 minutes, 1 goal (1 scored, 0 assisted) = every, er, 175 minutes (just under 2 matches)
Hammill (last season) - 2139 minutes, 5 goals (3 scored, 2 assisted) = every 427 minutes (nearly 5 matches)

Kent - 3141 minutes, 4 goals (3 scored, 1 assisted) = every 785 minutes (nearly 9 matches)

Hedges (last season) - 171 minutes, 0 goals = computer says no

Hammill (this season) - 1112 minutes, 0 goals = computer says no


So Barnes, in the equivalent of just over 8 games, has the same amount of assists as all the others for all of last season and a third of this, or it's taken him 740 minutes to do what the others needed 7251 minutes to do! But he needs to buck his ideas up with his goals, as he is losing that one 9-4, although if Barnes continues at the rate he is scoring, by the time he's played 7251 minutes he should be 39-9 up!


Similarly, whilst he's 13-8 down overall, had he played 7251 minutes he'd be 78-13 up. Safe to say he's our best goal threat from the wings for quite some time. Be lucky if he's still with us by the end of January if he scores any more.

Should he score or assist one more, however, he will have been responsible for the same amount of goals that Kent, Hedges and Hammill got all last season (and you can include Hammill's stats for this season too, I suppose).

Oakwell panorama v Brum.







Thursday, 26 October 2017

Miami Dolphins 0-20 New Orleans Saints, Sunday 1st October 2017

Miami Dolphins 0-20 New Orleans Saints, att. 84,423

Welcome to .....

Many months ago, tiring of slagging off a sport I’d never seen live, I agreed to go to a game, with a couple of American football aficionado friends. It seemed like a good idea at the time – October was a long time away, and, you never know, I might enjoy it. So it was that I was trekking up to Wembley on a Sunday morning when I could have been in bed, to watch a sport I couldn’t care less about, amongst thousands of people who, for whatever reason, think the Yank version of football is better than association.

Every team bar the ones who're playing.

Five of us met up at a cod-South American bar eaterie in the Wembley shopping centre. It was all a bit plastic, but it was nice to have a seat and a beer. After introductions, ‘we’ve told them all about you’, it was off to the match, where Sarah (or was it Jenny?) wasn’t even allowed up the steps to the stadium for having the temerity to have a handbag. So off the ladies trotted to drop off said offending article at a warehouse, while we gentlemen did the gentlemanly thing and went in. We wanted to see the rendition of the anthems, after all!

The teams come out. Yankee Doodle Dandy!

Would these American footballers ‘take the knee’ or would it be a complete non-event? Twas the latter – and I had to stand through our own dirge of a national anthem too. Note to self: miss more kick offs. We waved our free sparkly Dolphins flags (well, I didn’t, someone had thankfully nicked mine) as they were the home team. One good thing I liked though, thousands of fans coming together in the shirts of their adopted team, all in the name of American football. I can see why London will (probably) get their own NFL franchise soon.

Surely everyone should be supporting the Saints???

The action started. Then it stopped. Then it started again. Repeat to fade. I reasoned very early on that this really isn’t a sport worth watching. Why else employ cheerleaders to take your mind off the match? Half time neared and the game was still scoreless. I became hooked. Was I the only spectator hoping for a nil-nil? A scoreline which, the internet told me, had never happened since the modern advent of the Superbowl. COME ON! NIL NIL!

Sadly, I was put out of my glory with half time looming, the Saints hitting a field goal. (Hark at me! A ‘field goal’!) Dammit. Time to go and get a 2nd overpriced beer of dubious quality. I love Wembley.

The Dolphins line up.

Second half was more of the same. The Guardian reported the match as ‘an error-riddled, penalty-strewn, stodgy stinker of a match between two teams the wrong side of average’.  My friends concurred. This was abysmal (even by American football standards?) I was the only one who seemed happy; it was everything I’d imagined. And I’d paid £55, plus a tenner for a programme, for the pleasure. I am an idiot. But you’ve gotta do everything once. (FYI: Horse racing is s*** as well.)

Home time.  Thank god for that.

The Damage:
£55 ent
£10 prog

One fan looks pleased with himself.

And now, for the main event...

They do a lot of standing around in this 'sport'.

The Wembley vista.

What would you rather watch?

More 'action'.

How many idiots can you fit in one place? (Note how many had gone.)

Full time.  Joy!


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