Saturday, 23 June 2018

Tonbridge Angels U21 6 GC Academy 4

Match 01/18/1594 - Saturday, 23rd June 2018 - Pre-Season Friendly

Tonbridge Angels U21 (2) 6 Toussiant 6,45 Lambert 73 Dylan Jones 87,90+2
GC Academy (2) 4 Cosgrove 32,53 Foxley 41 (pen) Unley 87
Headcount: 25
Played at K Sports

Admission: Free
Programme: None
Mileage: 30/30

Following the shortest ever close season, just two weeks after the CONIFA Final, the 2018/19 pre-season got underway.

The World Cup might be barely a week old but it was time for Chris Wye’s Under-21 squad to embark on their preseason schedule. The opposition was a team made up of young professionals who have been released from senior clubs such as Millwall, Charlton, West Ham and from as far north as Aston Villa. Each pre-season, Gary Clancy (GC) brings together lads that have had the heartbreaking news that they are not to be offered contracts to give them the opportunity to attract the attention of another club.

The game was played at K Sports but on the adjoining grass pitch.

The GC Academy might be a scratch team but they were quickly on the front foot and it took a fine saving tackle from Lekan to deny George Brown.

After the early scare, it was the Angels that took the lead when a through ball found Dominic Toussiant, who confidently scored with a shot into the bottom corner.

The game was very open from the first whistle with Luciano Osbourne and Toussiant going close before Aaron Cosgrove, who surely can do a job for somebody, cracked a shot against the outside of a post.

It came as no surprise that GCA levelled the score soon after a mid-half water break. Prior to the break the Tonbridge goalkeeper, Tommy Taylor, had made good stops from Darren Foxley before Cosgrove was sent clear to slot home after 32 minutes.

A fine effort from 30 yards by Jacob Wright struck the bar, but four minutes before the half-time break Lekan brought down Foxley, who dusted himself down to slot home the spot kick.

Tonbridge quickly replied to go into the break on level terms when a surging run and cross from Sam Jones set up Toussiant for tap-in.

Early in the second half, a nice bit of control from Osbourne preceded a shot that went over the top before GCA re-took the lead when Elliott Capel set up Cosgrove for a tap-in.

A raft of substitutions saw 16-year-old Jacob Lambert introduced and after 73 minutes he took a pass from Dylan Jones to fire into the bottom corner for the equaliser and to delight his Grandfather stood on the sidelines!

This was the first of a trio of top quality strikes that eventually gave the Under-21s their win. After 76 minutes, Osbourne curled a shot into the top corner for 4-3 with the game being made almost safe in the 87th minutes when Dylan Jones rounded the goalkeeper to make it 5-3.

Late goals from a close range back heel from GCA’s Joe Unley brought the game to 5-4 and Unley might well have had a equaliser but for a top stop from Taylor. But the last word went to Dylan Jones with a exquisite shot into the top corner that would have been worth the entrance fee had anyone paid.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Northern Cyprus 0 Kárpátalja 0

Match 143/17/1593 - Saturday, 9th June 2018 - CONIFA World Cup Final

Northern Cyprus (0) 0
Kárpátalja (0) 0
Kárpátalja won 3-2 on penalties
Estimated attendance: 2,500
Played at Enfield Town

Admission: £12
Mileage: 120/9,233

The CONIFA World Cup Final brought the curtain down on season 2017/18 and, almost predictably, after a tournament that has been well received by those that have attended several games, a rather dour final was goalless before Kárpátalja’s goalkeeper, Bela Fejer Csongor, produced three fine saves to win the shoot-out.

The occasion brought a vibrant atmosphere with most of the regions that have competed in the competition adding their own colour. The flares that came from both sets of supporters assembled behind the goals might have been frowned upon by UEFA but here as the smoke at times obscured the goal it was just treated as part of the fun. Mark Clattenburg on one occasion just delayed the taking of a corner for a few seconds whilst the breeze took away the cloud of smoke.

The geography lesson for the day was that Kárpátalja are representative of the Hungarian ethnic minority of western Ukraine.

Both defences restricted opportunities to virtually zero in the first half, the best of which saw a scrambled Kárpátalja effort cleared from the line.

The second half threatened more goalmouth action when Csongor produced a brilliant, one-handed save to deny a header following a Northern Cyprus corner.

As the game continued to be dominated by defences into the closing stages the Cypriots changed their tactics and went for a more direct route that brought chances to snatch the one goal that had become increasingly obvious would win the game.

Ahmet Sonmez headed wastefully over following a free kick with 15 minutes remaining and with just two minutes left on the clock, the Cypriot main man, Billy Mehmet planted a header into the ground with the ball bouncing over the bar.

Simon Baker, who was on his third game of the day had gone 86 games this season without seeing a goalless draw but saw his record fail to make the season’s end with the giant Cypriot striker's glaring miss.

The first two Cypriot penalties were saved from Mehmet (it really wasn't his day) and Yasin Kurt leaving the Kárpátaljians with a 2-0 lead before their most creative players, Zoltan Baksa hit a post and Sandor Istvan saw his effort saved by Hasan Piro. Alex Svedjuk made it 3-2 for Kárpátalja before Halil Turan saw his shot brilliantly saved to spark the Magyar celebrations.

As a tournament the CONIFA has brought a delightful end to the season and would be welcomed back any time. They have definitely missed a trick or two, the lack of senior concessions was a personal irritation whilst having to buy separate full priced tickets for double headers would have put off many a groundhopper. Farewell CONIFA, hope to see you soon.

The good photographs are by Chris Coolbear, the others are not!

Lifetime match total: 2,843
Number of grounds: 323

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Northern Cyprus 3 Padania 2

Match 142/17/1592 - Thursday, 7th June 2018 - CONIFA World Cup SF

Northern Cyprus (1) 3 Mehmet 36,84 Turan 80
Padania (2) 2 Ravasi 30 Innocenti 45+2
Estimated attendance: 600
Played at Carshalton Athletic

Admission: £11
Mileage: 93/9,113

A really good game of football replaced the politics that saw my adopted team, Ellan Vallin, walk away from the competition. This semi-final brought together two sides, Northern Cyprus and Padania, from the northern regions of Italy, who both displayed a standard that, from the matches I had seen, Ellan Vallin would have struggled to live with anyway.

The CONIFA World Cup, dubbed “the little World Cup” in the few mentions it got in the national press, had a fascination and a uniqueness that began with a geography lesson and ended with a disappointment that their rule book was also unique.

The fall-out that followed Ellan Vallin’s withdrawal has ended with the Manx IFA being thrown out of CONIFA and facing a social media tirade of sour grapes. With my Manx hat on, and in the everyday world of football administration, they had every justification to be outraged by the governing body’s decision to rule that Barawa, who beat them in the final group match, did not break any rules by fielding a player that had not been included in their squad submitted before the competition began, or indeed been in their squad for their opening game in which they beat Cascadia 4-0.

The argument seems to centre on the statement that the tournament rules allow the organising committee to amend or alter the rules where circumstances require and to this end they had allowed the competing teams to change their squad line-ups after submission. But after the tournament has begun? That does not sound right to me.

Okay, once more with my Manx hat on, perhaps they should not have withdrawn from the competition in the manner in which they did leaving the organisers to throw into the ring a couple of teams to fulfil the placement matches but the whole scenario had left a bad taste in the mouth for all concerned.

Back at Carshalton, and the first semi-final, the large Turkish contingent following Northern Cyprus made up the vast majority of a crowd around the 500 mark (as somebody who likes stats, the absence of an official attendance at any game is a criticism).

The first half-hour was a slugfest with neither side gaining a dominance, the two best chances falling to the Cypriots with Kenan Oshan finding himself clear but shooting over and Halil Turan seeing his near post header clawed away from the line by the Padania goalkeeper Marco Murriero.

On the half-hour mark mark, and marginally against the run of play, Padania opened the scoring when Giacomo Innocenti pulled a pass back from the bye-line for Riccardo Ravasi to score from around 12 yards.

The Italians joy was short-lived with the Cypriots equalising six minutes later following a fine move involving Oshan and Turan down the left opening up an opportunity for Billy Mehmet that he was not going to miss.

The match seemed poised to go into the break on level terms when Padania re-took the lead in time added with another pulled back pass from the left, this time finding Innocenti who shot into the bottom corner.

The second half was largely dominated by the Cypriot side, but that Italian stubbornness in defence was apparent in the Padania side that was also aided by some profligacy from their opponents.

As the time ticked on, the Turkish following refused to be subdued but the were getting distinctly worried until, 10 minutes from time, a corner was headed goalwards but brilliantly saved by Murriero only for the rebound to be headed home by Turan. Cue, undiluted celebration from the bench and supporters alike.

Perhaps the Italian’s resolve had been broken as, three minutes later, a surging run from Ugur Naci Gok set up Mehmet to sweep the ball home. Now the joy verged on hysteria!

The game should have been put to bed when a powerful run from his own half by Salih Say saw him race clear only for his attempted lob to fall comfortably into the hands of the goalkeeper.

A stupid bit of frustration saw a Padania player see red in the closing seconds before the referee’s final whistle allowed the Cypriot party to begin.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Ellan Vannin 2 Tamil Eelam 0

Match 141/17/1591 - Saturday, 2nd June 2018 - CONIFA World Cup

Ellan Vannin (0) 2 Whitley 47 Caine 57
Tamil Eelam (0) 0
Estimated attendance: 400
Played at Carshalton Athletic

Admission: £6 Senior
Mileage: 93/9,020

The game did not have the stunning goals of Thursday’s opener but the day was still a very good one for Ellan Vallin. Not only did they produce a solid performance to defeat a tigerish Tamil Eelam (pun intended) but a defeat in the first game of the afternoon at Carshalton for Barawa leaves the Islanders in command of Group A, wanting just a point from their final game to qualify for the quarter final as group winners.

On a hot afternoon, in the midst of a congested schedule that sees the group stages completed tomorrow, it was not surprising that the game failed to reach the heights of the opening day.

A clash of heads within the first minute saw Ellan Vannin lose Darren Cain with a cut forehead. The first half unfolded with the Manx side firmly in control of the game but the final pass was found wanting on too many occasions.

Ellan Vannin were denied a lead after 13 minutes when the Tamil’s goalkeeper, Robert Osman produced a blinding one-handed save to thwart Ciaran McNulty.

Whilst they offered very little going forward, Tamil Eelam thrilled their boisterous following with their combative efforts.

An early second half defensive slip in the centre of the Tamil back line allowed Stephen Whitley to stride clear and shoot past Osman for the opening goal.

Four minutes later, the Tamils hit a post as Quinthan Navaneethakrishnan lobbed the Manx ‘keeper Dean Kearn only to see the ball cleared to safety after the ball came back from the woodwork.

After 57 minutes, my man of the match, the surging Ellan Vannin full back Sam Caine turned smartly on the edge of the box to fire into the bottom corner.

To their credit, Tamil Eelam worked hard to give their supporters something to cheer but the Ellan Vannin defence were more than their equal.

Unfortunately, I now have to watch from afar and hope that Ellan Vannin make it to and through the quarter finals, allowing me to pick up their progress in the semi-finals on Thursday.