Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Where you when you were good?

Looking through my programme collection, I came across this one from 2000 when Stockport County were in Division 1, now known as the Championship. One of the curious things about the programme is that there is no league table, but I know that Charlton won 3-1 going four points clear at the top of the table. Andy Hunt, 'the man up front', scored a hat trick.

Stockport finished the season 17th with two late wins keeping them safe from relegation. Attendances weren't great averaging 7,178. They can get half that attendance today in the National League North.

Curiously David Blunkett made a half time appearance, but without his dog, to the disappointment of many. Legendary mascot Vernon the Bear appeared and pretended to urinate against what would be the Stockport toilet in the second half.

The programme is a full and interesting one. One odd feature was an analysis of the Charlton coach proclaimed to be 'one of the finest coaches in the game'. Apparently it was a 'recently converted 1996 Scania K113 Van Hool Alizee with 35 seats.' The jewel in the crown 'was the demountable sunken toilet which has to be one of the finest examples in the country.' I would be quite happy to give it (the programme, not the toilet)to a serious collector.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A long, hard season

Brakes went down 2-0 at Kidderminster Harriers last night. I had hoped to get to Kiddy, but was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday.

In the second half the hosts were awarded what some who were thought was a soft penalty, possibly even diving. Then later Breeden went up for a corner and Kiddy seized their opportunity and scored from 40 yards.

I enjoy watching Tony Breeden, he reminds me of my boyhood hero Sam Bartram who was also a bit of a showman who liked to play out of his goal, but I think that Breeden needs to calm down a bit.

Leamington are now 17th. I think the one hope this season is that there are a few weaker sides in the division. Village team North Ferriby United are still on zero points after four games.

Unofficial Brakes commented, 'Just as you'd expect. We worked hard, hard to break down, never looked like scoring. We HAVE to sign a goal scorer, else we will go down. Simple as that.'

Courtney Baker-Richardson came on for Swansea City in the Checkatrade Trophy and provided the assist that led to the winning goal.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

A step above

Leamington lost 0-1 at home to Southport today and it was clear that there is a big difference between the third and second tiers of non-league football, from the standard of play to the refereeing. We even have a mascot: Lemmy the Lion. I would say that the National League North looks better than when we were last in it.

Brakes might have got a goalless draw, but were denied a point by unforced errors.

The main lesson I drew from this game is that you have to be quicker to the ball, otherwise you will be denied it. The other side are not going to stand around waiting for you, the pace of the game is simply quicker. You mustn't go too deep, as we did particularly in the early stages, and you can't give the opposition too much space.

All credit to Southport's well organised defence and in particular their capable keeper Iain Turner who made one brilliant save to deny Brakes.

We looked rather nervous at the start of the first half and were forced back a lot by the confident visitors, although Junior English had a good early effort. We gradually got into the game more and could have scored if Turner had not made a great one handed save in play following a free kick.

The second half started rather quietly and Southport made their first substitution after about ten minutes (announced as being for Southampton who my son-in-law was watching), eventually using all three. Leamington were starting to play with more confidence. Joe Magunda had been having a good game, but then failed to get rid of the ball while Breeden rushed out from his goal, allowing the visitors to score.

Brakes made a double substitution, although Stefan Moore did not make a great difference. Leamington showed more urgency and tried to push forward, but the skill wasn't there to break down the defence.

Attendance was 711 and one dog, fewer than my forecast of 752. The Sandgrounders didn't bring that many, their main crew was made up of about a dozen rather bafflingly yelling 'yellows' and 'yellow army'.

Referee James Oldham was better than we are used to. He kept the game flowing. He was rather fond of over long lectures to players, but eventually gave a yellow card to Southport persistent offender Adam Dugdale.

My man of the match was Ahmed Obeng.

Leamington are now 12th in the table.

So, farewell then, Courtney Baker-Richardson

His departure is a big blow, although I understand that he has to take his chance. Here is the Coventry Evening Telegraph report: From non-league to Premiership

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Fresh squad makes flying start

Saturday's visitors, Southport, are currently 2nd in the National League North, having beaten Bradford Park Avenue 2-1 away on Tuesday night. This followed an opening day 4-0 win against Boston United. This was in spite of having to assemble a squad from scratch following relegation with only one player remaining.

The Sandgrounders are one of the former Football League clubs to visit this season. They joined in 1921 and were the last club to be voted out under the re-election process in 1978: Southport

The club places particular value on 33-year old attacking midfielder Steven Schumacher. He is combining playing for Southport with a coaching role at Everton.

However, he was injured against Boston after sending a 25-yard free kick into the top right-hand corner of the goal.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Home defeat

I had hoped that Tamworth at home was one match Leamington could win, but the Brakes went down 1-2 at the Phillips 66 Community Stadium tonight. We didn't deserve to win the match. There were far too many aimless long balls. Possession was surrendered too easily.

We went behind on four minutes to a rather fluke own goal which bounced down off the crossbar. Tamworth's No.9, charm merchant, Reece Styche, was establishing himself as the pantomime villain and did eventually get a yellow card later in the game.

Junior English drew Leamington level on 24 minutes, taking advantage of a corner. Tamworth continued to threaten, a fierce shot from distance coming off the post.

Both teams had chances in the second half, but Tamworth looked more of a threat. Leamington seemed to spend most of the time clearing their lines and it was no surprise when they sneaked the ball into the net on 74 minutes. A double substitution for the Brakes, featuring Walsall loan player Milan Butterfield, made no real difference.

Obeng had a good game.

I didn't hear the attendance, but it looked like a good crowd for a wet Tuesday night.

Paul Okey has tweeted that Courtney Baker-Richardson's move to Swansea City is just awaiting for the result of heart scans. Apparently, there should be a decent cash sum in it for Brakes.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Holleran salutes 'fanastic fanbase'

Brakes boss Paul Holleran describes the National League North as like an 'old League Two' in an interview in The Non-League Paper. 'We are aware we are a small club, but we are run very well and have a fantastic fanbase, so we have to try and be competitive. It's a strong league with some fantastic clubs.'

Talking about the relegation back to the Southern League after two seasons in the Conference North, Holleran said: 'It's such a tough division - some good sides get stuck at that level by just missing out on the one promotion spot - so it was such a blow to be back at that level. We all looked at ourselves after being relegated, and to be honest I was ready to hang up my boots, but after 17 or 18 years in management I didn't want to end on my only relegation.'

Holleran puts the club's relegation down to his own inexperience and the club losing some of its key players, but this year confidence and experience is far higher going into the season. 'We will need to be at it from the word go. We don't have massive squad depth, so we need all our players to be at their best for every minute. We have to make sure we are competitive and reach 45/48 points as quickly as possible.'