19 June 2016

A Lille Sunshine

Wednesday 15th June 2016
UEFA EURO 2016, Group B
Russia 1-2 Slovakia
Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille
Attendance: 38 989

In case you happen to be passing by, my review of a one-day EURO 2016 experience in Lille is here:

https://stagofherts.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/a-lille-sunshine

7 May 2016

County of Opportunity

Thursday 5th May 2016
Hertfordshire FA Senior Challenge Cup Final
Hitchin Town 2-1 Boreham Wood
The Stadium, Cheshunt
Attendance: 366

NINETEEN years ago Hitchin Town captain Mark Burke was among the scorers as the Canaries defeated Boreham Wood 4-1 in the Herts FA Senior Challenge Cup Final.

Fast forward to last Thursday night, and Burke - now Hitchin's manager - was able to celebrate another cup final win against Wood, who left Cheshunt as beaten finalists in this competition for the second year in a row.

For Hitchin, whose players, officials and fans celebrated raucously after the final whistle, this cup success brought some consolation after relinquishing a two-goal lead in the Southern Premier League play-off semi-final against Hungerford Town.

Wood, on the other hand, were brought down to earth after the euphoria of last Saturday's win at Welling United, a result which had earned the club a second year in the National League.

Despite their struggles this season, Wood arrived at Cheshunt as favourites to win against the Canaries, two levels lower down the pyramid.

Luke Garrard's team took the field wearing their familiar National League squad numbers; Hitchin wearing the traditional 1 to 11.

Last month Wood and Hitchin had agreed to postpone this cup final until after the end of the league season, allowing both teams to concentrate fully on their respective survival and promotion battles.

In the end, this was to leave Garrard with a selection headache.  Loan players Harry White, Clovis Kamdjo, Delano Sam-Yorke and Jamie Lucas had all returned to their parent clubs after the completion of the league programme.

On the flip side, Matty Whichelow and Josh Hill, who had spent most of the season out on loan, had now returned and rejoined the Wood squad this evening.

With Ben Nunn cup-tied and Joe Devera unavailable due to illness, Jack Connors was brought in at left-back, and Garrard nominated himself as one of the five substitutes.

Hitchin were faced with late selection problems of their own.  Two of their intended starting XI, Robbie Burns and Mason Spence, were stuck in traffic on the M25 pre-match and instead named among the substitutes.

For the first time in 13 seasons, this cup final did not take place at the Herts FA's headquarters at the County Ground in Letchworth, a "lack of sufficient infrastructure" the reason cited on Boreham Wood's club website.

Instead, we all made our way to Theobalds Lane, the home of Step 4 Cheshunt FC, located just north of the M25/A10 interchange, for the final of the county's premier cup competition.

My report for Real Footy Talk is here.

4 May 2016

No Eastern Promises

Saturday 30th April 2016
Sky Bet League 2
Leyton Orient 1-0 Mansfield Town
Matchroom Stadium, Brisbane Road
Attendance: 4257 (away support 358)

My summary of this decidedly end-of-season affair at the Matchroom Stadium, published by the Yellow Advertiser:

Mansfield Town fan Colin Perry gives an opposing view on his side’s 1-0 defeat at Leyton Orient
Both teams went into this end-of-season game level on 63 points, having come up just short in the chase for the play-offs.
But while Mansfield are reflecting positively on a much-improved season which has brought ten away wins, Orient skipper Mathieu Baudry used his programme notes to apologise to the fans for his team’s underachievement.
On the pitch, in a mostly quiet game the man in the limelight was O’s striker Ollie Palmer, booed from the start by the travelling Stags fans who remembered his recent uninspiring 18-month spell in Nottinghamshire and his comments on social media when he left the club.
Much to the away fans’ amusement, Palmer wasted a golden scoring chance after just ten minutes, rounding Stags keeper Scott Shearer, but inexplicably hesitating and allowing Shearer to recover and block the ball by his right-hand post.
Palmer was a handful for the Stags’ defence all afternoon though, and – almost inevitably – it was he who scored the only goal of the game just after half-time, rising highest to head home Lloyd James’ free-kick.
Despite running half the length of the pitch in the general direction of those fans who had been giving him stick, Palmer managed to resist the temptation to gesticulate and cause any further bad feeling.
For the underachieving O’s, eighth place is still up for grabs next week. Mansfield, meanwhile, could find themselves finishing anywhere between ninth and 14th, depending on results elsewhere.