Saturday, 18 April 2009

Manchester City vs Hamburg SV (16/04/09)

Match 46

Ground #: 21

Ground: City of Manchester Stadium

Competition: UEFA Cup Quarter Final – 2nd Leg

Kick Off: 7:45pm

Cost: £5

Programme: £3

Attendance: 47,009

Manchester City 2

Elano (pen) 17’, Caicedo 50’, Dunne s/off 75’

Hamburg SV 1

Guerrero 12’



With an Easter double over I was determined to get in at least another game after Tiverton to wrap up my season. With exams in May, its extremely unlikely I would get a chance to get to a Cup Final of any sort to wrap up my season, so I am looking at Carlisle Utd vs Millwall on the 2nd May which could well determine Carlisle’s and Millwall’s future and that game could see them going in different directions. Yet, during the Easter break whilst reading the greatest website in the World, BBC Sport, I stumbled across the news that Man City had reduced prices for their UEFA Cup match against Hamburg to £5 so I jumped right aboard this £5 bandwagon and me, the missus (!?) and Jonny (a uni friend) made our way to Eastlands.

Man City are now officially the richest club in the World after being bought in the summer by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is now the majority shareholder at the club and can outspend anybody, although their spending ‘might’ has not been flexed yet, although a ridiculous £100m bid for AC Milan’s Kaka was made in January which very nearly saw the Brazilian move to Manchester. Yet despite this money they are still seen as Manchester’s “2nd club” by most, as Manchester United *spits* are the more successful, although are not actually based in Manchester and neither are most of their fans. Since City’s return to top flight football in 2002, they have rarely flirted with relegation and in those 7 years have seen an amazing transformation. Even at the start of last season with Thaksin Shinawatra as owner and Sven in charge, compared to today with Mark Hughes (who is under pressure himself) currently as manager. City also have played at the City of Manchester Stadium (or Eastlands) since 2003 when they took over after the stadium was used in the 2002 Commonwealth Games and was tinkered with by City such as building a North Stand and removing the running track around it.


City’s UEFA Cup run was all they had going for them now this season as a mid-table finish beckons and no domestic cup competition involvement means that City’s only chance to get into Europe it seems was to be winning the UEFA Cup. Their campaign had started back in July with victory over EB/Streymur of the Faeroes and although they had some hairy moments against Aalborg in the previous round, they had made it here. Their UEFA Cup opponents were Hamburg SV who under boss Martin Jol were having a great season and were going for trophies on 3 fronts, the Bundesliga (currently 2nd going into this game), DFB Pokel Semi-Finalists (German FA Cup vs Bremen) and of course the UEFA Cup. Hamburg is a city in the North of Germany which I may be going to visit in the summer (I can barely remember my previous visit when we lived in Germany) and the club have not won anything since their 1987 German Cup win. So this was a big game for them in a very good looking season. Hamburg the previous week had won the 1st Leg 3-1 at the Nordbank Arena, despite going 0-1 down after 30 seconds when Stephen Ireland scored, but goals from Mathijsen, Trochowski (pen) and Guerrero gave Hamburg a merited victory.

I was slightly concerned that Eastlands would be another new, soul-less stadium that lacked any sort of atmosphere but I could not be more wrong. The ground is very modern and shiny looking still, and we made our way to the North Stand behind a goal with already a cracking atmosphere and this was only 7pm. As the ground filled up, it was clear that this would be City’s biggest European attendance of the season (currently 26,018 vs Copenhagen) and with inflatable bananas, lots of flags, City fans were right up for this one. A mention must also be made to the Hamburg fans who it seemed took many City fans by surprise, my 13 years in Germany meant their support was not surprising, with a mass bounce, flares, giant artwork and constant singing it wet my appetite for a possible summer trip to Germany even more.


The game started off quite franticly with both teams trying to settle down and City needing an early goal. The game got a goal after only 12 minutes, however it was Hamburg who stormed into the lead when Jonathan Pitroipa crossed during a counter attack, Dunne could only divert the ball to Guerrero who finished well past Given and stunned the home fans. Silence apart from the 3000 Germans going mental behind the other goal. It means City still needed 3, although this would only take the match into extra time. City needed a quick response and got it, 5 minutes later when Trochowski was judged to have handled Elano’s shot and he scored the resulting penalty. Given that it was at the other end of the pitch I had no chance to see a clear view on whether it was a penalty or not. This rocked Hamburg and City looked to up the pressure and try to find the two more goals they needed, although Hamburg looked comfortable on the ball, defensively they did look shaky and Elano was so unlucky to see his freekick crash off the bar with Frank Rost beaten at half time. So at 1-1 at half time, City had reacted well to going 0-1 down and a big 45 minutes lay ahead of them.


City came out all guns blazing and got the 2nd goal only 5 minutes into the 2nd half when a shocking clearance only found Ireland at the edge of the area he played it into Caicedo’s path as Hamburg defenders missed the ball or slipped, he skipped past his marker and slotted low past Rost, could they do it?! They should have had the 3rd when another Elano freekick again beat Rost but cannoned off the post and was cleared for a corner. From this corner, poor defending again allowed Caicedo an open goal from close out but the ball bounced in front of him and he skied it over. Had that gone in, I believe Hamburg could have collapsed and City would have got the 4th goal they needed to go through outright. City kept pressing though and Robinho had two shots brilliantly saved by Rost, Caicedo had a goal ruled out for offside after he rounded Rost and Hamburg were being pushed further back. The pressure dropped on 75 minutes when City Captain Richard Dunne who was booked in the first half (after this booking me and Jonny both agreed he would be lucky to survive the 90 minutes) stupidly brought down Petric and was sent off for a 2nd yellow. Hamburg had two good chances of their own as Given saved well as City looked to readjust. In injury time both Sturridge and Richards had good chances but Hamburg held on to win the tie 4-3 on aggregate.


I think City will know they missed a great opportunity here, they deserved extra time at the very least and had Hamburg rocked for the majority of the 2nd half, but Hamburg held on and the players were celebrating with the fans well after the final whistle had gone as they set up a Semi-Final meeting with fellow German side Werder Bremen who drew 3-3 with Udinese in their 2nd leg to go through 6-4. I was extremely impressed with Eastlands and the City fans and someday will make a return visit. The 92 Football League teams are a target a lot of people like to hit, this ground meant I was on 7/92, so a long way to go yet! I would try to get one more game in this season at least with a tasty date at Brunton Park hopefully on the horizon. Hopefully.

Photos from Man City vs HSV


Match Ratings:

- Match: 7.5/10 (great entertainment featuring some top quality players)

- Value for money: 9.5/10 (£5 for a European Competition Q-F!?)

- Ground: 7/10 (great ground that will only improve in time)

- Atmosphere: 9/10 (both sets of fans were fantastic)

- Food: n/a (didnt eat at the ground but they seemed to have a wide choice)

- Programme: 10/10 (less of a programme and more of a book, this 98 page prog featured very few adverts and some great articles)

- Referee: Nicola Rizzoli – 7/10 (no idea about the penalty decision, seemed to get everything else right)

Citeh vs HSV prog

Citeh vs HSV ticket

Monday, 13 April 2009

Tiverton Town vs Chippenham Town (13/04/09)

Match 45

Ground #: 20

Ground: Ladysmead

Competition: Southern Premier League (Level 7)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £7.50

Programme: £1.50

Attendance: 301

Tiverton Town 1

Knighton (pen) 32’

Chippenham Town 2

Adams 15’, 35’, Allison s/off 34’


The 2nd part of my Easter double saw a drive to East Devon to visit Tiverton Town of the Southern Premier League in the hope that their game against Chippenham today was far better than the Good Friday dour fest at Bideford. Tiverton is the major town in Mid-Devon (although to me its East) and has seen a recent expansion and development, firstly with the North Devon Link Road that runs just past Tiverton and also the regeneration of much of the town. The main football team in the town are Tiverton Town who currently play in Level 7 of the English Football Pyramid having been promoted from the Southern Division One West league in 2001. They welcomed Chippenham Town to Ladysmead which brought a wry smile to my face when I was planning what fixtures to go see whilst I was down. The reason for that smile is because I lived in Chippenham for 22 months from 2005 so I know the place extremely well. However for some reason or another I had never got round to visiting a game at Hardenhuish Park – the home of Chippenham – so a visit there is on the cards but not in the near future.


This was the first game I had actually parked my car at the ground and so me and my Dad who chummed me to this game managed to get a good look round Ladysmead. The ground itself I really liked, behind both goals is covered terrace with a snack bar behind the goal nearest the main road, running down one side of the pitch is a covered stand for seating which cost an extra £1 to sit in and at the opposite end is another covered standing section with the entrance to Tiverton’s clubhouse here too. The clubhouse is great with Setanta Sports News on when I was in there reporting on Leicester’s 1-0 win over Leeds to all but give them promotion from League 1. Tiverton were in midtable coming into this game 12th place out of 22. Chippenham had been play-off contenders in most of the recent seasons and had a small chance to sneak into this seasons play-offs until they were deducted 3 points last week for fielding an ineligible player at their win at Yate Town. It now meant that they had to win to keep their small hopes alive and hope the sides above them lost today.

The game kicked off as we stood behind the goal Chippenham were attacking with their fans giving some banter to Tiverton goalkeeper Steve Book (ex Cheltenham Town and Swindon Town player) and Tiverton captain Nathan Rudge (ex Chippenham player) were responding well. However 10 minutes in, Rudge then proceeded to kick a Chippenham player off the ball and only received a yellow card, much to the disbelief and anger of the ‘Nam fans. Tiverton then went a bit mental as the game boiled up and could have been two men down as another two shocking challenges came in before Rudge then clattered ‘Nam striker David Pratt off the ball as he looked last man. Had to walk! No, not even a yellow card shown. This only 15 minutes in. From this free-kick, Chippenham took the lead as a great cross was headed in by ‘Nam captain Ross Adams to make it 0-1. It was all Chippenham as they looked to attack down the wings, yet Tiverton broke down the right and a striker was bundled down to give them a penalty and Tom Knighton crashed it down the middle to make it 1-1. Then Chippenham lost the plot as another bad tackle on a ‘Nam player got them a free-kick and winger Samuel Allison ran over, grabbed the ball off a Tivvy player and then elbowed him in the face. What an idiot and Chippenham were to play with 10 men for around an hour. It didnt matter as they retook the lead from this freekick after Book had made a great save and Pratt hit the bar only for Ross Adams to drive a lot shot into the bottom corner for 1-2. Both teams had chances at the end of the half but Tiverton still felt they were in this match with a one man advantage.


The second half began with Chippenham’s tactic plain to see; defend while trying to hit Tiverton on the break with them being a man down. It allowed Tiverton to come at them and they did with some great crosses being put towards the ‘Nam’s goal including one that resulted in ‘Nam goalie Chris Snoddy having a cut to his head and a long stoppage. Play continued in the same way with Tiverton attacking and Chippenham trying to hit them on the break which they should have done with Seavill missing two 1 on 1’s to put the game beyond Tiverton. Towards the end of the game only some last ditch blocks stopped Tiverton getting a draw that their direct play maybe merited. The final whistle blew with Chippenham winning 2-1, a decent game but the 1st half was clearly better.


Chippenham’s win meant that they play-off hopes were still there unless Hemel Hempstead Town beat Hitchin Town. They won 4-2. So Chippenham will remain in this league for another year along with Tiverton with both teams feeling that a better challenge for promotion could be made next season. They will be joined by two teams that the fans were talking about today at the ground, firstly Team Bath could make the drop into this division after pulling out of the Conference South, the student team which has split opinion were given a full page article in the programme on their impending demotion or folding altogether. The other team which will be joining the division after being confirmed Champions today will be Truro City which would bring a collective moan from most teams in this division as a 100+ mile trip to Cornwall is on the cards. The game itself was highly enjoyable and although the 2nd half didn’t match the 1st it was still a good day out in the warmth and sunshine (!?) Ladysmead has won the “best kept Non-League ground” award before and it is no surprise as it is a cracking ground with easy access and I plan to make a return next season in the summer.

Photos from Tiverton vs Chippenham


Match Ratings:

- Match: 6.5/10 (1st half was great, but a good day out all round)

- Value for money: 6/10 (sadly no student discount here, but £7.50 is still not bad)

- Ground: 8/10 (great, tidy ground full of a character)

- Atmosphere: 7/10 (good banter with Chippenham fans and Tiverton got right behind their team too)

- Food: 6/10 (nice burger and a great selection but needed more soft drink options)

- Programme: 5/10 (fair enough effort but too many adverts really)

- Referee: J.Amey: 2/10 (oh dear, how this game only had 3 yellows I will never know)

Tiverton T vs Chippenham T

Tiv vs Chipp ticket

Friday, 10 April 2009

Bideford AFC vs Barnstaple Town (10/04/09)

‘North Devon Derby’

Match 44

Ground #: 19

Ground: The Sports Ground

Competition: Western Premier League (Level 9)

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £5 (concession ticket)

Programme: £1

Attendance: 515 (looked more)

Bideford AFC 1

Densham 84’

Barnstaple Town 1

Squire 8’


With being on holiday currently from uni (if you can call revision a holiday), the need to visit more grounds was high. No game for over a month meant an Easter double for me in Devon. The first game, playing on Good Friday was a derby between Bideford AFC and Barnstaple Town. Bideford is a small town in N.Devon on the estuary of the River Torridge. Bideford, I must admit is probably my favourite town in North Devon, for its lovely river (sorry, estuary) running through it which can provide some nice views. Bideford AFC currently play in the Toolstation Western League Premier which is on Level 9 of the English Football Pyramid. Despite winning this division lots in recent years, the club have never applied to play in the Southern League (they last played there 1974/75). In the programme it mentions that the cost of travelling to clubs 000’s of miles away is not appealing and with clubs like AFC Hayes and Uxbridge (both in London) playing in the league they would join, it is understandable. The club play their home games at The Sports Ground which is on the main road that runs through Bideford which is opposite a Morrisons. The ground is in a great location and is quite a nice ground with standing all around the pitch, apart from a long covered section running down one side of the pitch with both seats and stands and on the other side a smaller but taller stand for seating only.


Today’s visitors to Bideford today was Barnstaple Town, who are only 10 miles away to the East. A local Good Friday derby it was then, with the added spice of Barnstaple in relegation trouble, trying to avoid the drop to the Western 1st Division and playing mighty giants such as Shepton Mallet and Wells City next season. Going in to this game, Barnstaple were in 20th position, out of 21, and 4 points behind 19th place Chard Town, but with two games in hand. Bideford meanwhile, were having a great season and recent unbeaten run had seen them leap up to 2nd place in the league, 5 points behind leaders Bitton, but have played 4 games more. With promotion a no, but 2nd place a possibility, this game should have enough in it to be a classic. Another spice to this, was the return of Barnstaple manager Owen Pickard, and players Darren Hawkings and Kevin Squire to Bideford. Hawkings in particular was given a heated reception by the people standing next to me.


Having arrived at the ridiculously early time of 1:25, and in the ground by 1:45, I took a few pictures (some are the wrong size due to me peeing about with my camera) and was quite astounded at the quality of Bideford’s programme. A full colour, glossy number which puts many league clubs to shame and cost only £1. The ground filled up to a strong number as is expected with this game being an annual, Boxing Day/Good Friday fixture, and 635 attended the return fixture in Barnstaple over Christmas – the highest attendance in this league this season. The game kicked off to a strong wind and it was clear from the start Barnstaple were up for the fight and playing towards a strong wind in the ground. A few feisty challenges happened early on as both teams struggled to pass the ball to each other regardless of how close teammates were. The opening goal came out of nothing, absolutely nothing. A Bideford throw in had nearly reached the half way line down by the touchline nearest to me, when Barnstaple defender Darren Hawkings, who height wise can only be described as big, smashed the ball towards the goal in a clearance. However this ‘clearance’ hit the post and Kevin Squire was on hand to head the ball home. 0-1. Barnstaple then sat back on this surprise lead and let Bideford take the game to them. The passing got even worse however as both teams resulted to hoof-ball back to each other as this killed the contest and the atmosphere as the game began to be horrible to watch. Bideford thought they were level on 44 minutes when Hawkings headed a cross straight into his own net, yet the referee had judged a push on the defender. Half time, 0-1 and a hope that the game got better. A lot better.


It didn’t. The 2nd half was one of the worst 45 minutes of football I had seen with Barnstaple still defending well and killing the atmosphere as the 515 (although 600+ seems fair) crowd wondered what on earth they were watching. Bideford had another goal disallowed on 68 minutes when Densham volleyed home after a great passing move (probably the only passing move of the game) but he was offside according to the assistant, I wasn’t so sure. Bideford did get a deserved equalizer on 84 minutes when a free kick out on the far side was hooked home by Densham to wake the crowd, and although they pressed on, Bideford could not find a winner.

A point apiece will not please either side, although deep down Barnstaple would have probably taken that before the game. Very very few players impressed, but the standout for me was Barnstaple’s Darren Hawkings who won every header he went for and played a generally decent game in defence. The Sports Ground is a nice venue and may be back quite soon, although a trip to Barnstaple’s Mill Road is a must first. Also, due to the strange fixture list, this was Bideford’s last home game of the season with 4 away games in a row to complete the season. Barnstaple next have another derby against N.Devon’s Ilfracombe Town on Easter Monday. If I had known about this game I would probably be going to that but instead I next travel across to East Devon on Easter Monday and hope the game at Tiverton is a far better game than this.

Photos from Bideford vs Barnstaple


Match Ratings:

- Match: 3/10 (not good)

- Value for money: 6/10 (cant complain too much for £5)

- Ground: 6/10 (quite nice ground in a town I like, very good facilities)

- Atmosphere: 3/10 (none really)

- Food: 6/10 (I ate a pretty decent burger and they had a lot on offer)

- Programme: 9/10 (this is how to produce a match programme!)

- Referee: Robert Greenwood – 7/10 (I thought he had an ok game, Bideford manager Sean Joyce would disagree with me)

Bideford vs Barnstaple 08-09