27 May 2013

Ebbsfleet United v AFC Telford

The following is my article I wrote for the home game against AFC Telford in April:

Season 2012/13 has certainly been crazy as far as Ebbsfleet United are concerned.  Admittedly there have been more lows than highs which has meant that for next season the Mighty Fleet will be plying their trade, hopefully, in the Blue Square South.  The defeat at Hyde United effectively sealing our fate.

Discussions about what went wrong this season will no doubt take place after the final whistle has blown.  However, for this article I thought it would be good to look at some of the highs of the season.  Believe it or not, there have been a few!

A highlight was the first game of the season where the Fleet came out on top of a 9 goal thriller at Nuneaton.  Despite going 2-0 down early the lads fought back to take the lead and come out eventual winners by 5 goals to 4.  So after the first game we were equal top of the Blue Square Premier.  Oh how we miss those days…

Another highlight actually happened in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying round.  Having not won an away game since the season opener, the Fleet travelled to Woking looking to get back on track.  A last minute goal by Ashikodi saw Ebbsfleet through to the First Round proper of the FA Cup.  Hopes were high for a local game, perhaps against near neighbours Gillingham, or a plum tie against a team like Portsmouth. 

The draw was unkind and the team was pitted against League 1 Carlisle United.  More than two hundred fans made the long trek to Cumbria to cheer the players on.  By all accounts the team played superbly and were praised by the Carlisle management and fans for their battling spirit despite losing 4-2.

During March the Fleet needed to put in a strong performance to help in the survival push.  Southport were the visitors to a very chilly Stonebridge Road and were sitting safe in mid-table.  Despite this the Fleet turned on a great performance to win the game 4-1! This gave the team impetus for the next few games including the 1-1 away draw against Cambridge United.

The players have certainly given their all, every single one.  Anyone who plays under Liam Daish always gives 100% and nothing less.  A few players deserve to be singled out for a special mention.  Preston Edwards, England C’s number one, has had a fantastic season.  Despite the results this season, Preston has made many fantastic saves to keep the team in the match.  He has certainly contributed to the points tally with his shot stopping.

Nathan Elder too has had a great season.  As at today Nathan had scored 16 league goals.  Not too shabby for a striker playing in a struggling team! There are certainly a number of teams in this league that would love to have a striker scoring that many goals.  I would also like to mention Moses Ashikodi who has missed a large part of the season with injury.  Despite this he did become Ebbsfleet United’s second International player, having played World Cup games for Antigua and Barbuda.  A fully fit Ashikodi could have made a huge difference to the Fleet.

Finally, a special mention too for Joe Howe. Last year’s runaway player of the year has had another solid season and continues to be one of the backbones of the team.  He has even managed to score a few goals as well, which is always appreciated!

So it has not all been doom and gloom as you may believe!  In a few month’s time a new season will start and we can begin afresh with new challenges and the quest to return back to the Blue Square Premier League!

Ebbsfleet United v Forest Green Rovers

The following is the article I wrote for the home game against Forest Green Rovers at the end of March:

The last couple of weeks have certainly been crazy to say the least.  The lads had a fantastic 4-1 victory over Southport and were 10 minutes away from a stunning away win at Cambridge United.  However, in the scheme of things a draw was a very creditable result.

Then came the wasted journey to the North West of England to Barrow.  The heavy snow meant that the game was called off.  The players then had to face a long journey back to Kent with the prospect of a future Thursday night game against Barrow, to be followed less than 48 hours later with another game!  As our International goalkeeper, Preston Edwards, stated on Twitter that surely now the Football Authorities should consider extending the season by a week.

This view took on further credence following the postponement of the mid-week away game at Luton Town.  This time due to a waterlogged and frozen pitch.  Hopefully today’s game against Forest Green Rovers will go ahead as scheduled! One thing is certain though.  There will be a lot of football played between now and the end of the season.

Given the recent spate of bad weather I thought that I would not mention that finally in Sydney we are experiencing a period of hot and humid weather.  I thought that for this article I would take the opportunity to try and describe what it is like to play football Down Under in temperatures far different to what are experienced in England.

Aside from the A League (the Premier League equivalent) which is played throughout summer, most football is played from March until Late August.  The friendlies and the first handful of league games are played in temperatures ranging from 26C up to 36C with high humidity.  Needless to say that after 15 minutes or so the game has to be played at a slower pace, due to the energy sapping heat.  After a season or two, expats, like myself, learn to adapt to the conditions.

The weather generally stays warm around the 20C mark until June.  Then for the last few weeks of the season the temperature drops to the mid-teens, and that is when playing the Beautiful Game becomes enjoyable. The pitch conditions can vary too.  From rock hard, where the ball at times bounces around like a beach ball, to soft and wet.  I should say that one of the main issues playing here is the occasional artificial cricket pitch located in the centre circle! Sometimes when the ball hits the edge of the pitch it can go in any direction! 

So as you can see, playing football Down Under is a different experience to that played in the Old Country.
Today we take on Forest Green Rovers who are having a great season and are just outside the play off zone.  It should certainly be a great game today as both teams will be going all out to win and gain those precious three points.  Hopefully, from our point of view, we experience a home win and a step closer to safety.

This weekend is also the Easter long weekend.  Aside from the religious aspect, Easter is also a time for a family get together and chocolate! I hope that you all have a great time and don’t feel guilty about eating too many chocolate eggs!  For myself, I will settle for 2 Ebbsfleet victories and a Cadbury Crème Egg! 
Enjoy the game and remember to sing your hearts out for the lads.


Ebbsfleet United v Southport

The following is the article that I wrote for the home game v Southport in March:

As we reach Mid-March we are certainly coming to the pointy end of the season.  The pre and post Easter period is certainly a make or break time for most football teams the length and breadth of the country. This is the time to stand up and be counted – regardless of whether you are a player or a fan.  We all have an important role to play from now until the end of the season.

 With just over 10 games to go, there are three distinct groups of teams in the Blue Square Premier League.  There are those teams that are vying for promotion to the ‘Promised Land’ that is League 2, those that are comfortably sitting in mid-table and are tentatively thinking about next season, and then there are those battling to save themselves from the dreaded drop to a lower league.  Unfortunately for us, Ebbsfleet United fall squarely in the last group!

The fixture list shows that we have many battles ahead with our fellow strugglers.  To use a worn out cliché, these are the six pointer games.  Now would be a great time to go on an unbeaten run!  Liam and the coaching staff will be doing their utmost to ensure that the Fleet are able to compete for another year in the top non-league.

Today we welcome Southport who are one of those teams who find themselves in mid-table.  For them there is not the worry of a relegation scrap.  Hopefully they will not be at the top of their game and the Fleet can gain a valuable three points.  Only time will tell – well ninety minutes actually!

Being a big fan of trivia I thought I would trawl through the World Wide Web and find out some interesting facts about our opponents today, or I should say the town itself. 

Did you know that the BBC football pundit and ex-Liverpool star Alan Hansen lives in Southport? No, neither did I!  Marc Almond, the lead singer of Soft Cell was born in Southport.  For those retro fans in the crowd today, who can ever forget the classic ‘Tainted Love’.   Creative geniuses, the Reverend Marcus Morris and Frank Hampson created the Eagle comic and Dan Dare character respectively.

The name Rimmer is certainly one that has become synonymous with this seaside town.  To date there have been two well-known footballers with the surname Rimmer (Jimmy and Stuart).  Jimmy went on to represent England in one international in the 1970’s.  Stuart made his name as a goal scorer with Chester City.  Michael Rimmer is an 800m athlete who has represented Great Britain at athletics.  Finally there is the renowned composer from the 19th century, William Rimmer. 

Not to be outdone the Ebbsfleet area (well Gravesham) has had its fair share of notable people too.

The Native American princess Pocahontas is actually buried in Gravesend.  There is a statue of her in the grounds of St George’s Church.  The chemist and Nobel Prize winner Derek Barton was born and bred in the area.  One of the greatest writers of all-time, Charles Dickens, lived locally for a number of years.

Whilst writing this article, my wife has reminded me that she also grew up in Southport.  This one happens to be about 12,000 miles away in Queensland, Australia!!

Enjoy your afternoon’s entertainment.  Let’s hope it’s a great game of football!