Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Exmouth Town vs Ottery St Mary (19/02/11)

Match 108

Ground #: 75

Ground: Southern Road

Competition: Southwest Peninsula Division 1 East (Level 11)

Kick Off: 3:00pm

Cost: £3

Programme: With Admission

Attendance: 72

Exmouth Town 4

Moore 43’, Plater 63’, Watts 71’, O’Connor 89’ 

Ottery St Mary 1

L.Easton 17’


Inadvertently, it was midway through the 2nd month of 2011 and I still hadn’t seen a league game this year. Cup fever had well and truly hit and so I decided to get back to the league campaign and take in a club who I had seen only 2 months ago in a, cup game. That day Exmouth Town had been absolutely slaughtered by Level 12 side BOCA Seniors in the Devon FA Premier Cup by 7 goals to 1 and I asked the question, how bad are Exmouth Town? Considering they were at home, I took the journey down to the Jurassic Coast to find out.


Exmouth is a seaside resort in East Devon, situated on the mouth of the River Exe. (Imaginative name then eh?) Exmouth can date itself back to Roman times most likely as Byzantine coins dating back to around 500AD were found on the beach in 1970. However the town has only been recently known as Exmouth (probably pre-1800s) as an area of land called Pratteshide which over time became what the place is known as today. The town only really began to establish itself during the 18th Century as tourists could not visit France due to the unrest there would visit Exmouth for the views and medicinal salt waters which were then so fashionable. Once the railway line was built into Exmouth, high class tourism was replaced by mass tourism as people flocked to Exmouth. Today, the town is still a popular with tourists but is also a high commuter based town thanks to good rood links and the Avocet Rail Line from Exmouth to Exeter Central and St Davids.


A short walk from Exmouth rail station is Southern Road, the home of Exmouth Town and it is a smart looking and well built up ground for Level 11. With a covered stand behind the dugouts (picture above) and a seating stand on the other side of the pitch with the ground (picture below), hardstanding and railed around, this is a decent ground. The main reason for that though is Exmouth Town were a Western League side not too long ago. They were even in the Western Premier at the start of the 2005/06 season before they resigned half way through and had their record expunged. Now down in the SWP Division 1 East, the heady heights of Level 9 seems miles away as last season they finished a disappointing 8th and were going into this game 9th (out of 16) and a massive 16 points behind leaders Liverton Town. Should Exmouth win this league, they should be accepted no problem into the SWP Premier given the ground at Southern Road has good facilities and has floodlights. Those days seem a long way away though…


For their opponents in this game, their Western League days seem an eternity ago. I am always surprised to hear of tiny, maybe even obscure SWP teams who have had spells in the Western League and higher up the Pyramid. Ottery St Mary are one of these sides. Hailing from a small town just outside Exeter, the Otters were up in the Western League (albeit in Division 1) last in 1993/94 before finishing bottom and joining the Devon County League and the subsequent merging into the SWPL. A promotion challenge for them seems a tiny pipe dream though as after finishing 2nd bottom last season (only 1 point ahead of Bickleigh who were playing their first ever season at this level) they were down in 12th, 3 points behind Exmouth but having played 2 games more. They also had the worst defence in the league having conceded 55 goals, 3 goals more than bottom side Axminster Town – who only have 9 points all season!


As the game kicked off, Exmouth showed why Ottery had let in so many as their defence parted like the Seas with Moses and the Seasiders created some good early chances. Otters goalie Neil Sargeant kept the away side in the game as he made some great saves. Exmouth also had the ball in the net (or very nearly – it was down the other side of pitch) but the chance was ruled out for offside. It was as if this was a wake up call for the Otters as they came smashing right back into the game and should have taken the lead on 11 minutes when a free header in the 6 yard box was amazingly cleared off the line, just by a defender. There was no stopping the Otters though and they took the lead on 17 minutes when they won a free kick just outside the area. Lance Easton strode up and curled the ball towards goal and all it needed was someone to get a touch. In the end nobody did and the ball curled straight in over Adrian Pullin who IMO, was partly a fault for that going straight in. Ottery St Mary became Spain-like in their red kit and attacking force as they begun to pick Exmouth off at will. As well as Pullin making up for his error by making some top saves to keep Exmouth in the game, the Otters struck the woodwork twice. Firstly from a deflected cross that could have went anywhere but bounced onto the bar and away to safety and then on 40 minutes through a fantastic passing move that found an Otters striker through on goal on the left side and his curling, first time shot cracked off the far post and was again cleared to safety. You would have thought Exmouth would just be delighted to be 0-1 down at HT, but amazingly they went and equalized on 43 minutes when a cross on the left from David O’Connor was hooked in (the ball seemed to be in the air for ages!) by Jamie Moore. Unbelievably it was 1-1 at HT!


Otters started the 2nd half like the first as they forced Pullin into another top save to keep the scores level and then a shot from outside the area beat Pullin but rolled onto the post and away to safety as the Otters had hit the woodwork for the 3rd time in this game. You wondered if Ottery St Mary would regret all the chances they had failed to convert and lo and behold a double salvo in 8 minutes from Exmouth all but finished the game off. Firstly Dan Plater picked the ball up and took on a couple of weak challenges before unleashing a fantastic shot outside the area into the top corner. Boom. Have that. One of the best goals I had seen this season. Ottery were clearly reeling from this and conceded another one after a free kick found Chris Watts all alone in the box and he easily converted. By this time, the Otters had lost the plot in their shape and tactics and were beginning to lose some discipline as some tasty (and late) challenges began to fly in. It didn’t help that the Otters manager, Dane Bunney could only be described as “angry” and screamed at his players, even when they were playing well. I don’t know about the 11 on the pitch for Ottery, but if I were one of them I would have lost all motivation from him and would have been sick of his screaming. Maybe its just me. Dave O’Connor added a 4th late on with a turn and shot to give a scoreline that looked impossible at half-time.


How bad are Exmouth Town? Well not that bad actually. The 1-7 drubbing I saw was clearly an off day. They also had 9 players missing for this game (according to conversations I overheard) so there is the foundations for a decent team there for Exmouth. A top half finish should be in order for the team as they try and haul themselves back up the Pyramid. As for Ottery, it was really clear why they have the worst defence in the league (SWP 1 East) as for all their pressure, the goals they let in were nothing special (except the wonder shot). Those Western League days seem Millenniums ago. This was a good game with some good attacking play and played (for the majority) in good spirits. Another SWPL team I’d urge you to visit!

Photos from Exmouth Town vs Ottery St Mary


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (good entertainment)

- Value for money: 8/10 (appreciate the £3)

- Ground: 6.5/10 (nice setting and good stands)

- Atmosphere: 5.5/10 (not much apart from “angry man”)

- Food: 6/10 (decent enough cheeseburger for £2.50, like the sweetie bags though)

- Programme: 6/10 (was free and had the info you’d need – fair enough)

- Referee: Adrian Bond – 6/10 (shaky start, but improved)


Friday, 18 February 2011

Torpoint Athletic vs Billingham Synthonia (12/02/11)

Match 107

Ground #: 74

Ground: The Mill

Competition: FA Vase 5th Round

Kick Off: 3:00pm

Cost: £6

Programme: £1

Attendance: 449

Torpoint Athletic 1

Grant 18’

Billingham Synthonia 0


By February every season, all the leagues and cup competitions are coming to the “business end” when there will be winners and losers. In the league fans will be wondering if their team can continue their promotion push or will end up losing their battle against the drop. In the cup competitions, especially the FA National ones, regionalisation has gone and so it can throw up some very tasty ties. Down in Cornwall was one such tie as SWPL side Torpoint Athletic were trying to reach the QFs for the first time in their history against Northern League crack side Billingham Synthonia. Having got some cheap rail tickets to nearby Plymouth, it was off to see if Torpoint could make history.


Torpoint is a small town on the Rame Peninsula directly opposite Plymouth on the River Tamar. It is unusual in the fact that Torpoint is a planned town having been commissioned in the 18th Century. The presence of Devonport Dockyard on the other side of the Tamar and HMS Raleigh located on the Western side of Torpoint has also increased its population and importance. One noteworthy person who was born in Torpoint is John Langdon Down who later described the condition now referred to as Down syndrome. I’ll be honest, the reason I had left Torpoint for so long is because its an absolute bastard to get to from North Devon. I had heard great things about the club and once this FA Vase tie had been drawn, I bit the bullet and planned a trip. Getting some cheap advance rail tickets to Plymouth, then getting a bus to Torpoint (going via the Torpoint Ferry) and arriving at the ground in good time.


Torpoint’s ground The Mill is the complete opposite to what I’d seen last week at Teignmouth. The actual ground is very spacious yet can still provide good viewing points from any part of the ground. One seated stand right on the half-way line was completely full by the time I came out of the clubhouse. Next to that stand is an area of covered standing that was also being put to good use while the rest of the ground was uncovered, hard/grass standing. The clubhouse is slightly detached from the pitch but is still quite nice and after witnessing Rooney’s “shinner” goal vs Man City I was right up for a good game of football. Torpoint to get to this stage of the competition have had a rollercoaster ride right from their first game in the Preliminary Round. After a routine 3-0 away win over Wadebridge Town, they cruised through the 1st Round with a 4-1 win over Western League side Radstock Town. Then in the 2nd Round started the craziness. 0-2 down away to Bristol Manor Farm, they ended up winning 7-3 to reach Round 3. There, they beat Wessex League side Verwood Town 5-2, again behind. Before in the last round they again pulled a win from the mouth of defeat with a 3-2 win over West Midlands League side Bloxwich United. This was the furthest that Torpoint had ever been in the competition equalling their best run since 1995/96 when they reached the 5th Round before a 2-0 defeat to UCL side Raunds Town ended their run. Considering this was only their 8th ever FA Vase campaign, to reach this stage again is a great achievement.


I had a chat with the Torpoint Chairman Paul Whitworth (a great guy and someone you can follow on Twitter here) who thought that the game would be a close one and a tough one to call. The opposition had travelled some distance as its a nice 380 mile journey from Billingham in County Durham to Cornwall as the fantastically named Billingham Synthonia from the Northern League had come down to try and continue their recent good FA Vase runs. I would finally be seeing a Northern League side in action, although it was strange to hear the NE twang of accents down in Cornwall! The Northern League is regarded as one of the strongest (if not THE strongest) Step 5 League in the country and so this would be a tough game for Torpoint. Billingham Synths had dispatched of Newcastle Benfield, Bishop Auckland, Stokesley, Westfields (AET) and Tadcaster Albion to reach this stage. One positive for Torpoint was that Billingham were only down in 17th (out of 22) and 8 points off the drop zone. They did have games in hand over some teams, but not too many. As they had travelled down the previous day – they were clearly taking this game seriously and with an FA Vase QF tie to play for, a massive crowd in force – this could be some game.


As the game kicked off, Billingham looked very comfortable on the ball up front and were not afraid to run at Torpoint and try some nice passing moves. However, at the back they showed why they were down in 17th as they looked nervous and not part of the same team that their forwards were from. This was immediately proven when an early Torpoint corner was curled into the 6 yard box and nobody got a touch on it as the ball drifted out. A let off for Billingham. They came forward often early on and looked quite decent especially on the ball. As their #11, Nathan Jameson looked like the NE tubby David Ginola. Great on the ball, but once too often tried a little trick that ended up going wrong and Torpoint could clear. He had forced a great save from ‘Point goalie Martin Piper before the hosts went up the other end and scored. Billingham switched off from a throw in on the right and Josh Grant took the ball to just outside the penalty area and has low shot rolled just past Josh Moody and into the far corner of the net. 1-0! Billingham as you would have expected came right back into the game and Piper again needed to be on top form to deny crosses from Billingham getting into dangerous areas and a shot from Chris Burton. Right on HT though, Torpoint were denied a blatant penalty after good work down the right from a winger was ended with a crude challenge and although most of the 400+ crowd saw it, the referee played on. Quite incredible as it really was quite blatant.


For the 2nd half I switched to the other side of the pitch and stood near the goal that Billingham were going to be attacking thinking that most of the action was going to be taking place here as the Cornish Alamo was about to happen. In the end, I was wrong. Billingham did attack yes but Torpoint’s defence dealt with pretty much everything that the NE side could throw at them. On the rare occasions that Billingham got past this brick wall, Piper again was on hand to make the save or smother the ball from a cross. The only real save that Piper had to make (from memory) was a header late on from Abel. It was actually Torpoint who kept the majority of the ball late on as the confidence seemed to seep out of Billingham every minute ticking down to the final whistle. Adam Carter could have wrapped up the tense cup tie in injury time as he burst into the box but his powerful drive just went wide. In the end, Torpoint more than managed to hang on and were through to the QFs for the very first time.


As I left the ground I quickly congratulated Paul on his side’s excellent achievement before letting the team and the proper fans (not these one dayers like myself! ;) ) begin their celebrations. I watched as I saw one of the most heart-warming sights I’d ever seen in football as the team came of the field to a guard of celebration from officials, fans and the like. This little Cornish team were now in the Last 8 of a national FA competition, not only breaking new ground for themselves but for the Southwest Peninsula League who had never had a team reach this far since their formation in 2007. As for Billingham, I dunno. They clearly didn’t perform on the day and can’t really argue about the result. As the Northern League have had superiority over this competition for a while (the last two winners) it could be a new winner this season. (Or it could be Whitley Bay, again). Torpoint in the QFs have a toughie, away at Wessex League side Poole Town who are too good to be playing in the Wessex League but until this season had been denied promotion because of their ground. Now a ground-share has been decided, Poole should be in the Southern League next season and therefore FA Trophy land. Can Torpoint carry on this amazing run? Who knows…

Photos from Torpoint vs Billingham Synths


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (tense cup tie)

- Value for money: 5/10 (normal for this round)

- Ground: 7/10 (I like it, hopefully one day will play host to higher level football)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (was ok)

- Food: 7.5/10 (top notch bacon cheeseburger, only £2.50 and really hit the spot)

- Programme: 6.5/10 (good effort)

- Referee: R Ganfield – 3/10 (schoolteacher approach doesn’t work when you get it wrong)


Image (2)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Teignmouth AFC vs St Blazey (05/02/11)

Match 106

Ground #: 73

Ground: Coombe Valley

Competition: Throgmorton Cup 3rd Round

Kick Off: 2:00pm

Cost: £3

Programme: £1

Attendance: 134

Teignmouth AFC 2

Wilkinson 57’, Blackburn 71’, Baxter s/off 68’

St Blazey 3

Higman 12’, 45’, Reski (pen) 69’, Zalick s/off 89’ 


Earlier in the year (my 1st game of 2011 in fact) I watched the Royal Marines dispatch Witheridge and reach the Throgmorton Cup Quarter-Finals. (The SWP League Cup competition) They were drawn against the winners of Teignmouth vs St Blazey who’s tie was postponed on the 3rd Jan and to be played at a later date. For some reason that rearranged game was now more than a month later and with Teignmouth not yet visited by myself – the game was too interesting to miss.


Teignmouth is a small town in South Devon situated on the North bank of the estuary mouth of the River Teign. In 1690, it was the last place (currently) in England to be invaded by a foreign power – although they probably took one look around and hopped back on their ships! (I’m joking Teignmouth) It grew into a popular Georgian period seaside resort and grew even further through the opening of the South Devon Railway in 1846. Being a costal town, its main industry through the ages has been fishing with its Quay still in use today and an RNLI Lifeboat Station opened in 1990 still there too. Famously, Teignmouth is also the origins of rock band Muse whose members, Matt Bellamy, Christopher Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard, lived there and attended Teignmouth Community College. They even performed two special gigs called “A Seaside Rendezvous” in September 2009 just before they toured around the globe with their “Resistance Tour”. Below is a “sound of Teignmouth” to wop on while reading this – get a taste for the South Devon life.

The town’s football team, do struggle as they are competing against a very popular rugby union team in the town and easy to get to Football League clubs at Exeter and Torquay. That being said, Teignmouth AFC still are a decent outfit and after finishing 11th last season (out of 18) in Southwest Peninsula Division 1 East, they are riding high up in 6th last season and only 10 points off top. (With games in hand over some teams around them). Their ground Coombe Valley is a smashing little venue cut into a valley which gives excellent views of the residential side of Teignmouth above it. Spectator facilities are limited, but this just adds to the homely feel of the ground. Behind one goal is a covered standing area with the tea bar in there too – the tea bar was also selling videos it appeared?! Then running down half of one side of the pitch was an open standing area which because of the staggered steps meant, you could get a very good view on the top of this, which is where some Blazey fans stood for the game. Being steps you could also sit here, although the rain put many people off that for this game.


I had seen St Blazey earlier in the season, when they let slip a 2-0 lead at Buckland Athletic to lose 2-3 which could have serious implications in the race for the Championship at the end of the season. Since then, they crashed out the FA Vase after a 2-1 3rd Round defeat to Wessex League side Bemerton Heath Harlequins and have only played two league games since then a draw and a win over rock bottom Wadebridge Town. This left them in 12th in the SWP Premier – but they have played the least games in the league and have a massive 9 games in hand over other teams such as 6th place Penzance. More worryingly for the Cornish side is that possible cash problems for St Blazey have meant their playing budget has been slashed considerably meaning that players were probably free to leave and other playing constraints put on the management team headed up by Glynn Hooper. So far only 1 player has left, Sam Cooper to Liskeard Athletic which shows how close this group of players are to the Blazey and hopefully they can pull through.


With a cash crisis, coming to a ground with an awful pitch (an admission made by the Teignmouth management when I was in the clubhouse) and being the favourites this could have been a very painful and embarrassing day for the club, but from kick-off they put in a backs against the wall performance and took the game to Teignmouth instantly. They should have been 1 up within three minutes when a St Blazey striker put a 1 on 1 chance wide of the goal. Despite that miss, they kept going and had nearly all of the possession. They did finally take the lead on 12 minutes, albeit by a fluke. An excellent throughball put Josh Higman through on the right and he curled a ball in that looked far too near the goalie to be any danger. However the ball sailed over Nicky Moyse and nestled into the side of the net. 0-1. If I’m being critical then Moyse should really have dealt better with the cross but Blazey deserved this early lead. Instead of collapsing, Teignmouth then just went gun-ho and should have had an instant equalizer when a rebound pinballed around the box but the finishing touch could not be applied. Then the home side had a shot cleared off the line from a corner, but the St Blazey brake nearly caught the home side out, but a striker dithering over the ball cost him the chance. Teignmouth kept going though and only two excellent saves from Blazey goalie Tom Blackler kept it at 0-1 firstly from a free-kick and then another missed 1 on 1 chance. Towards the end of the half came a major talking point when Blackler rushed out of his area and beat a Teignmouth striker to the ball and clearing the ball out the ground. When I then looked back at Blackler after I was guilty of ball watching he was in the floor with Blazey players angry at the challenge that had been made on him. As I said, I didn’t see it so can’t comment, but the Blazey fans around me were adamant that it should have been a red (the striker was awarded no card at all) and Blackler was lucky to still be able to walk. Blackler carried on, albeit limping and unable to take goal kicks and this must have angered Blazey to go up and score again which they did right on half time as Teignmouth couldn’t clear a corner, despite having several attempts to do so and Josh Higman fired home a rebound to make it 0-2. A scoreline a few minutes earlier seemed unlikely.


The 2nd half began with basically the opposite of what we had all just seen, with Blazey well on top. They had a shot cleared off the line straight from kick-off as they rampaged forward, before Moyse made an excellent save to keep it at 0-2. Teignmouth needed something and they got it on 57 minutes. An excellent run was halted outside the box which they were given a free kick for and while Ian Wilkinson’s free-kick was on target, it wasn’t well struck but Blackler managed to let the ball squirm underneath him and roll over the line to get the home side back in it. The game was turning into a cracker and both sides were now having decent spells of possession in trying to find the killer goal or the equalizer. When Blazey broke down the right, a run was ended abruptly in the box and Blazey had a penalty, although when the lino had his flag up for offside presumably, that penalty looked in doubt but referee (correctly) over-ruled him and the penalty was given. It got worse when Scott Baxter shouted “You f**king c**t” which the ref overheard and promptly sent him off. (He stood near me after getting s/off when he told Teignmouth officials what had happened) After all of this mess, Chris Reski kept his nerve and fired St Blazey to a 3-1 lead. Teignmouth came straight back into it and only 2 minutes later pulled a goal back when Blazey couldn’t clear a free-kick and finally Alex Blackburn fired home. Teignmouth properly went for it now and should have equalized to send the game into Extra-time when some excellent work down the right found a Teigny striker all alone in the area and he blasted over from around 6 yards. It wasn’t as bad as this beauty from Marlon de Jesus, but getting there. After this scare, Blazey then kept ball for most of the remainder of the game to take the sting out of it, but we still had time for a 2nd red card, for Blazey’s Danny Zalick seeing a 2nd yellow for getting in the way of a free kick (it was kicked at him) in injury time. Teignmouth couldn’t create a final golden chance though and St Blazey were the ones through to face the Royal Marines, just.


This was a cracking game, my best so far this season as both teams played some good football with a blood and thunder attitude. St Blazey didn’t deserve to win in 90 minutes, but they took their chances and Teignmouth didn’t. I would have happily watched another 30 mins of extra-time in this game but sadly I’ll probably get lumbered with it at some 0-0 borefest in the future. Coombe Valley is a smashing little ground, another favourite this season and every member of the Teignmouth committee I spoke to were extremely friendly and happy to help. Go visit! St Blazey were well supported as usual and can look forward to a QF at Cullompton Rangers against the Navy’s finest at the end of February.

Photos from Teignmouth vs St Blazey


Match Ratings:

- Match: 8.5/10 (excellent cup tie)

- Value for money: 8/10 (£3 is great value)

- Ground: 7.5/10 (lovely setting, excellent character)

- Atmosphere: 5/10 (decent enough)

- Food: 6/10 (not much, had a steak pie – extra point for being served by some cute blond)

- Programme: 2/10 (19 pages of ads, in a 28 page programme)

- Referee: Graeme Martin – 4/10 (some strange decisions, but tried)


Sunday, 6 February 2011

Road to Wembley 2010/11 (4th Round)

For Swansea, the team that I was currently “following” through the Rounds of this season’s FA Cup, it appeared that they had been given another kind draw. After dealing with Colchester in Round 3, they had another home tie against a League 1 side in Leyton Orient.


In my previous “Road to Wembley” post I made the prediction that Swansea should cruise through this game as they were challenging for promotion to the Premiership while Leyton Orient were floating dangerously close to a relegation battle in League 1. Also, for reasons beyond me this game was a 12:30 KO, but not on TV to my knowledge? In the end, this game should have been as Orient ripped up the form book and produced the first shock of the day as they beat the Swans 2-1. Orient took the lead when Jimmy Smith beat ex-Hibee goalie Ma-Kalambay (or Ma-Calamity as we called him) to a freekick. When Cedric van der Gun fired home on the stroke of HT, you felt that Swansea would recover from the early set-back but an inspired performance from Orient goalie Jamie Jones kept them in it and with just 2 minutes to play a low cross from Paul-Jose M’Poku was diverted into his own net by Swans captain Alan Tate and Orient were through to Round 5!


The reward for Orient was a home game against Premiership high-flyers Arsenal in Round 5. An excellent draw for them and a full house should be there at Brisbane Road for this rarely seen London derby. Will Orient be worried? Just look at Jonathan Téhoué. No they won’t.

ROAD TO WEMBLEY 2010/2011:

EXTRA PRELIMINARY ROUND: Elmore 1-5 Hamworthy Utd (Horsdon Park, Att: 247)

PRELIMINARY ROUND: Hamworthy Utd 2-2 Sherborne Town (County Ground, Att: 122)

PRELIMINARY ROUND Replay: Sherborne Town 3–0 Hamworthy Utd (Raleigh Grove, Att: 154)

1ST QUALIFYING ROUND: Wimborne Town 1-3 Sherborne Town (The Cuthbury, Att: 226)

2ND QUALIFYING ROUND: Sherborne Town 1-2 Hungerford Town (Raleigh Grove, Att: 138)

3RD QUALIFYING ROUND: Swindon Supermarine 4-0 Hungerford Town (Webb’s Wood Stadium, Att: 365)

4TH QUALIFYING ROUND: Swindon Supermarine 0-0 Bath City (Webb’s Wood Stadium, Att: 551)

4TH QUALIFYING ROUND Replay: Bath City 3-4 Swindon Supermarine (Twerton Park, Att: 665)

1ST ROUND: Swindon Supermarine 2-1 Eastwood Town (Webb’s Wood Stadium, Att: 1,159)

2ND ROUND: Colchester United 1-0 Swindon Supermarine (Colchester Community Stadium, Att: 3,047)

3RD Round: Swansea City 4-0 Colchester United (Liberty Stadium, Att: 7,005)

4TH Round: Swansea City 1-2 Leyton Orient (Liberty Stadium, Att: 6,281)

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Torquay United vs Crawley Town (29/01/11)

Match 105

Ground #: 72

Ground: Plainmoor

Competition: FA Cup 4th Round

Kick Off: 3:15pm (delayed kick-off)

Cost: £13 (student)

Programme: £2.50

Attendance: 5,065

Torquay United 0

Zebroski s/off 60’

Crawley Town 1

Tubbs 39’, Tubbs m/pen 60’, McAllister m/pen 67’, Howell s/off 82’


Although I would like to follow my “Road to Wembley” article all the way through to the final – lack of funds and geography (its a fair bit to get to Swansea!) meant that I would have to stay local. Luckily, a great FA Cup story was building up near me on the English Riviera as Torquay United were trying to get through to the 5th Round for the very first time. As I hadn’t been to Torquay Utd before, I popped along to take in the game.


Torquay is a tourist resort town in South Devon and is part of the unitary authority area of Torbay. The economy of the town was originally based on fishing and agriculture but during the Victorian age Torquay became a fashionable seaside resort which the top lot (the “rar rars”) of Victorian Britain as the town’s fame spread. People such as Agatha Christie were known to reside there giving the town more fame and an Agatha Christie Mile is also available to walk for Christieites. Today, the town is to my eyes when I went, a forgotten seaside resort that is still decent enough but just not many people here. The growing problem of binge drinking (not helped by two JD Wetherspoons within about 100 metres of each other on the quayside) has been curbed due to a police presence and notable people from the area today include Miranda Hart, Peter Cook and Helen Chamberlain.


The town’s football team, Torquay United are going through a renascence after spending some time floating towards the bottom of League 2 and going through to the non-league trap door in 2007. Since then, under the management of Paul Buckle, they have progressed along nicely and were promoted back into League 2 in 2009 after a 2-0 Play-Off Final win over Cambridge Utd. After a comfortable 17th place finish last season, they were going into this Cup tie in 13th place on 33 points, a nice 7 point gap over Barnet in 23rd place and a 7 point gap to Gillingham in 7th. Therefore the next few weeks could define their season as would it be a play-off push or a battle against the drop? (Of course, they could have a non-2011 and float around in midtable for the rest of it). The current team were also on the verge of history trying to get into Round 5. This was their 4th FA Cup game of the season having previously dispatched of Mansfield Town, Walsall and Carlisle Utd (all 1-0 wins). With a big crowd and the potential for a lot of money to be made, this was a big day for Torquay.


It was also a big day for Crawley, a club that thanks to one of the biggest scumbags in football was really on the up. They had already created history by reaching the 4th Round and unchartered territory. However, it is sort of the same way Hitler created history when his armies invaded unchartered territories during the Second World War. This is because Crawley are managed by their own mad dictator themselves in Steve Evans. A criminal, for forging accounts while at Boston United and then jumping ships to Crawley just as they were about to be relegated once the scam payments had been found out. (Boston were then promptly relegated twice to the Unibond Premier after his mess – they are just starting to recover) Evans is also a “passionate” manager after being sent off from the dugout time and time again and even was given a 10 game suspension for his misdemeanours. A Grade A Tosspot then. Despite him, I had been pre-warned about the rest of his team for being a team of scumbags, playing every trick in the book and others to get an unfair advantage. Despite this, I had given them a chance when I went.


It also has to be noted that despite Crawley Town were only 2nd in the Blue Square Premier (2 points behind AFC Wimbledon, but with 4 games in hand) and looked good to be coming into the Football League for the first time next season, they are for all intents and purposes, a Football League club already. Backed by unknown investors, “Project Promotion” is fully underway. With a budget bigger than every side in League 2 and a fair amount in League 1 as well, Crawley have spent silly money such as £275,000 for York City’s Richard Brodie, £100,000 for Peterborough Utd’s Sergio Torres and £70,000 for Salisbury City’s Matt Tubbs. Unbelievable amounts of money to spending as a non-league club. As I write this, I listened to the Jeremy Vine show on BBC 2 which Vine states jokingly, “in football you learn not to ask questions!” (about the £50m Torres transfer) Surely with Crawley, who get an average attendance of around 1,500, you need to ask where is the money coming from? And will it be a matter of time before Crawley end up like Boston? (In the matter of fairness, the Conference officials have stated they found no problems with Crawley’s finances.)


Torquay’s big day could not have gotten off to a worse start when due to crowd congestion (many people had to pay on the turnstiles, like myself) the game was delayed by 15 minutes. Then Crawley’s assistant manager Paul Raynor got into a heated argument with a groundsman over something towards the side of the pitch they were warming up on. (Raynor is always given a “warm welcome” to Torquay due to an incident when he played for PNE against them in 1994) The atmosphere that the 5000+ crowd had managed to build up before kick-off had all but evaporated by Crawley’s early tactics. For example, their goalie Michel Kuipers timewasted over a goalkick, in the 1st minute. After that moment the crowd knew what sort of game we were in for as Torquay’s bemusing 4-5-1 came up against Crawley’s anti-football. Despite having most of the ball early on, Crawley began to get back into it as Torquay’s lone striker in Elliot Benyon was having zero service put to him and nobody in their midfield was bothering to go and support him. As a Torquay fan near me said, “its like we’re the away team!” This game was plodding along to half-time when on 39 minutes, Torquay paid a heavy price for sitting so deep. As Bulman lofted a long ball forward, Torquay’s central defence parted like the sea and Tubbs ran through and finished over Scott Bevan to give the “non-leaguers” a 1-0 lead. It stayed that way till HT as Torquay needed to reshape and reorganise desperately.


To my surprise, Torquay were unchanged for the start of the 2nd half as this played right into Crawley’s hands as they easily soaked up the pressure that Torquay were throwing at them. That being said, Torquay nearly snatched an unlikely equalizer when Chris Zebroski was sent down the right and Stephens was so close to meeting the cross and finding the net. Up until that point Zebroski’s only contribution to the game had been tripping over the ball in the 1st half. After that cross he was very quickly the centre of attention when he first gave a free kick away for a fair challenge on Dean Howell which the Crawley player made the most of. The Zeb was booked but when the free kick was planted in, he for reasons beyond everyone in the ground leaped to handball it and was promptly shown a 2nd yellow and Crawley had a penalty. Matt Tubbs had the chance to put Crawley 2 up and a man up but his penalty was guessed by Scott Bevan who made a fantastic save to keep it only at 1. Crawley though were given another chance from the spot only 6 minutes later when Jamie Cook burst into the area and went down quicker than a pornstar when Lee Mansell made minimal contact with him. Off the ball, Tubbs and Craig McAllister nearly came to blows when trying to decide who would take the penalty. In the end, McAllister won and dispatched his spot kick to the opposite side that Tubbs did. Too obvious. Bevan saw it and saved his 2nd of the game as Torquay gained a lot of heart from still being in this game. Crawley still continued to cheat, dive, timewaste and foul their way through this game as their plan to stifle and generally pee off Torquay was working. Finally, Crawley were sent down to 10 men on 82 minutes when Dean Howell was stupidly booked with Torquay’s Billy Kee after Kee had accidentally fouled a Crawley player going for a header and Howell took exception and started a brawl. Pablo Mills was also lucky to be on the pitch as the Crawley captain is a strong player, but up against someone with any pace whatsoever, he is caught out and can only hack them down to stop them going further. As Billy Kee found out. Torquay’s final chance of the game was a 25 yard volley from Kevin Nicholson which cracked the bar, but Torquay never created a golden opportunity and Crawley’s anti-football won the day and were into Round 5.


Crawley then were in dreamland as in Round 5 they were drawn away to Manchester United – unbelievable. Even an inevitable 5-0 win for Utd won’t dampen the Crawley players and fans who surely cannot be proud of their team’s antics? Crawley are the biggest bunch of scumbags I have seen, and with a financial model such as theres, surely in 5/6 years time, Crawley will crash and end up in the Southern League or lower, a la Boston. Project Promotion was continued on transfer deadline day was emphasised when Crawley signed Dunfermline’s Willie Gibson for an undisclosed fee. (They had a £120,000 bid rejected in the summer). Torquay on the other hand lost two of their best players on Deadline Day as Elliot Benyon went to Swindon and Nicky Wroe went to Shrewsbury with Jake Robinson coming the other way on loan. They then crashed to a 3-1 home defeat to lowly Hereford Utd as it looks like Torquay will be looking downwards rather than upwards for the rest of the season. A final note to all FL clubs, a new team will be joining you next season, shame they are utter scumbags.

Photos from Torquay vs Crawley


Match Ratings:

- Match: 4.5.10 (poor football vs anti-football)

- Value for money: 6/10 (blagged a student price again, can’t last surely?)

- Ground: 6/10 (decent enough, needs a new grandstand)

- Atmosphere: 6/10 (all gone by kick-off, shame)

- Food: 6/10 (had bovril and mars bar at ground - £1.50 – other things were ok priced)

- Programme: 5/10 (ad fest – one of the poorer FL programme)

- Referee: Darren Deadman – 1/10 (the weakest referee I have seen)


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