Predatory Bridges Snatches Promotion From Falcons’ Claws, Right At the Death
Alcester Town 3-2 Boldmere S&S Falcons
I know that opinions about this important encounter will differ from both camps, once the dust and pent up emotions have settled and the competitors’ lives return to the mundane. However, I have to report the game as it happened and from what I saw. In no way do I wish to be controversial but the views expressed here really are simply gathered from what I witnessed at the time and then from various video clips to support my words.
|DANNY FLEMING: "ARE YOU THE REFEREE?"|
REPLY: "NO, I'M INCONSISTENT..."
The referee was culpable in making the match bitty, untidy and lacking any real flow, and from a disciplinary point of view, his inconsistency was annoying even to independent viewers. His tactic of writing the names of cautioned players into his notebook, whilst standing on one leg like a basking flamingo was infuriating and then he made it tough to work out who had actually been booked by his abject and unclear lifting of a yellow card. He awarded an added-time penalty to the hosts from a very deep position and to be fair his assistant couldn’t possibly have seen the incident, as the offending player’s back would have been masking any possibility of him gauging whether a hand had been used to block the ball.
|GIBSON BEGINS THE GAME...|
It seemed a harsh decision but in truth, Boldmere were rather disappointing on the day and were rarely able to create any clinical offense. Smart winger James Clarke was even replaced during the second period, leaving a hurt Reece Gibson to shoulder the majority of the attacking responsibility and he was generally kept quiet by a mixture of strong defending by Dean Hay and Courtney Sowe, plus some inaccurate service by his own team-mates. Both of Town’s other goals were headed in by the smallest player on the pitch, Chris Mills, a truth which is damning for the Boldmere defence, even though some of Mills’ leaps during the game were actually rather spring-like…
|WILLIAMS & WILLIAMS...|
Gibson and Peter Bannister struck two quick goals in the second period to nullify Mills’ first-half opener and it really did seem that Alcester’s charge for promotion was all but lost, until Mills’ last minute header and Bridges’ last gasp spot-kick took the runners-up spot chase to the final Thursday and Saturday of the league season for these two teams.
|BRIDGES: SO INSTRUMENTAL IN THE ALCESTER VICTORY...|
The opening half was a tough watch, as both teams conceded free-kicks and misplaced final passes, resulting in very few goalscoring opportunities. Lewis Marston, who was so influential in the Romans’ midfield committed two or three early fouls but the main official failed to take any action and this would become a foundation to a really ugly second-half confrontation between a number of players, whereby Captain Falcon, Danny Fleming appeared to lose his self-control. He was cautioned for his shove on an opponent, although home right-back Kieran Donnelly had been the instigator of the playground scuffle. Donnelly was fortunate to escape a caution to be fair, then shoved Matt Lewis over the touchline late in the game, like a Green Bay Packers cornerback forcing a Jacksonville Jaguar over a sideline in the NFL. No action was taken after that incident either… Donnelly and Marston, backed up by Luke Williams, were so effective for Alcester though, usually overshadowing the Falcon pair Mike Williams and Chad Duggan.
|HAY POSES, MARSTON SCRATCHES HIS BELLY & DOWNEY PLEADS...|
Home ‘keeper Alex Gretton’s punts were often huge and the first one bounced over everyone, including Bridges, who was then soon in possession offensively and threatening, although he lacked support and the chance was gone. Boldmere then broke forth with a Clarke run on the left but Gibson moved just before the winger passed to him and the connection misfired. A Danny Fleming corner from the left was headed too high at the far post by Duggan, who had escaped marker Marston but then the game deteriorated into niggling fouls, bad language and poor refereeing. Three of Marston’s early challenges were adjudged to be fouls but the official seemed happy just award free-kicks but then it appeared that Town skipper Keiran Downey was seemingly cautioned, perhaps for complaints made about the referee’s interpretation of an incident.
|THE BOSSES CAN ONLY LOOK ON...|
A move on the right by the hosts brought a welcome and not undeserved goal and it was Marston’s switch from right boot to left which led to his cross being leapt for by Bridges but goalkeeper Gough had started to leave his goal-line, realised he wasn’t going to get to the ball and was thus left stranded as Bridges’ deft header bounced past him for Mills to nip in and convert from close in with his forehead.
|MILLS (LEFT) THE SCORER...|
Matt Fearon and Matt Lewis then tangled in midfield in an unpleasant eruption, after which both appeared to be cautioned and their names were written in the referee’s thigh-book. Again the game had been interrupted therefore, with neither team getting going but it was becoming clear that Falcons Gibson and Clarke were being well marshalled by the Romans and with Lewis playing nominally as a left-back, there was so little width on the Boldmere attacking left. A long centre, merely going to the goalie by Lewis caused gloveman Gretton a real problem because of the sun shining directly at his face. He had real difficulty in dealing with the ball and managed only to palm it down, before diving upon it. No Falcon was anywhere near the Roman custodian…
|NO IDEA WHAT THE REFEREE DECIDED UPON HERE...|
I wondered whether Boldmere would try to exploit that phenomenon of sun in the ‘keeper’s eyes but any deep free-kicks seemed to be lifted beyond the right upright, hoping that Duggan would nod the ball across goal. The tactic brought no reward. A low shot by Gibson trundled past the left upright then a smart move by Alcester nearly brought a second goal. Mills did well on the left, his low pass inside was served smartly into the path of Marston by Bridges but the midfielder drove his angled shot into the side-netting. An error in possession by Boldmere right-back Yousef Semlali saw Ryan Watson get the run of the ball and burst past wholehearted Falcon defender Alex O’Connor but as Gough advanced from goal, Watson’s low shot was well saved by the goalie, diving down to his left.
|AH, THE NAME OF LEWIS IS WRITTEN IN THE REF'S THIGH-BOOK...|
The half ended then and looking back over the above, the only real threat by Boldmere had been the awkward cross by Lewis which caused Gretton all the stress of an impending chemistry exam, whilst Alcester had scored, powered a shot into the side-netting and forced Gough into that save. Town deserved to be in front, whereas Boldmere had been rather uninspiring…
|GIBSON & CLARKE: REDUNDANT LIKE THEIR TEAM'S OFFENSE...|
An early poor back-pass by Boldmere in the second-half led to Gough’s clearing kick rapping against Bridges, looping goalwards but landing upon the roof of the net. That would not be the first time that Gough’s kicks would get him into trouble. Bannister was cautioned for a cynical trip on Donnelly who had beaten him following a fine piece of defending, before a free-kick by Hay saw Sowe leap and head the ball across the face of the Boldmere goal and Semlali nearly turned it over his own goal-line, just managing to avoid a touch. Gough’s poor kick flew straight to Mills, who flunked his subsequent shot way off target, a shot by Mike Williams for Boldmere was blocked on the 18 yard line but with things failing to improve for the visitors at all, both Mike Williams and Clarke, surprisingly, were withdrawn, for the introduction of Sam Fitzgerald, a cultured left-back and also Sean Rhodes, a thoughtful midfielder.
|BANNISTER (7): BOOKED FOR A FOUL ON DONNELLY (2)...|
Bridges drove the ball left-footed across the Boldmere penalty-box, another poor Gough kick fell to Bridges, whose delivery dropped behind the goal-frame, Semlali, now playing further forward for the Falcons, nearly capitalised upon a Town error, before the guests stole a goal. Lewis made ground to the left byeline and crossed left-footed, Gibson moved towards the near post and beat both Gretton and Sowe aerially to glance a fine header into the far corner of the net.
|GIBSON (9) THE SCORER...|
Donnelly then got away with a rough foul on Lewis as things began to sour even more on the pitch and in truth around the dugout areas too, where unsavoury and unnecessary comments were being made at opposition players. Eventually Danny Fleming became inflamed, unless his acting is up to the standard of ‘Homeland’ and was thus simply winding up his opponents. His push on an Alcester player earned him a caution but despite advice from his bench-men and the team’s coaches, he rambled on. And on… Until a yellow card was shown.
|FLEMING IGNORES THE REF BUT NOT DONNELLY...|
|...& IGNORES THE REF AGAIN...|
|OK, GAME ON AGAIN...|
The visitors then snatched a second goal which was executed using three right-booted lobs. It stemmed from a lob forward by the unhurried, experienced Danny Fleming, Bannister latched onto it centrally and lifted the ball left with a short lob over both Sowe and goalie Gretton, who had strayed a long way from goal in true Bruce Grobbelaar style. From 19 yards, Bannister then lobbed the ball gently and on the bounce into the empty net. Frustrated and totally lobbed off, Alcester must have felt mugged on a night out in Brum’s Broad Street…
|BANNISTER'S LOB SHOW...|
Dan Mumford replaced Watson for the Romans, Mills’ far post header from a Bridges corner on the left struck colleague Sowe, Ellis Kalach replaced Fearon, as Alcester became desperate and Ash Bunn appeared as a substitute for Hay. Semlali sauntered from the pitch to waste time and was relieved by Ant Lynch, before the visiting bench complained that one of their own players had NOT kicked the ball to Gretton after a Roman had received treatment on the pitch, for the Falcons’ player had meanly booted it out of play. Boldmere must surely have thought that the point they had needed to be promoted was so safe, even if Alcester should grab a last gasp equaliser. Then Donnelly’s two headers, both from Bridges’ late corners went first to Gough and then off target but with just two minutes remaining according to the referee’s audible reply to a request from a player, the hosts launched a fine and exciting comeback.
|BANNISTER, 7, MUST HAVE THOUGHT THAT HIS GOAL HAD WON IT FOR THE FALCONS...|
First a run from left towards the right by Mumford led to a pass for Bridges in the inside-right channel and his cross flew over Gough, poised at the near upright and was dived for by Mills, who couldn’t miss and his header powered into the empty net from 3 yards.
|MILLS, SECOND LEFT HAS MADE IT 2-2...|
And then Kalach threatened inside the 18 yard box for Town, it appeared that Mike Fleming challenged him at very close quarters and the ball had struck the Boldmere defender. I wasn’t close enough to see exactly what had happened but on the video clip, it does appear that a penalty award for the use of an arm or hand might perhaps have seemed harsh to the visiting fraternity. Bridges calmly rapped the spot-kick low into the right corner of goal past Gough, whose experience on this hot, sunny day at Alcester hadn’t been a happy one.
|3-2: BRIDGES THE SCORER...|
The game ended and Boldmere’s promotion celebration had been taken from them by Alcester’s brave, if late, late finish. Few scoring opportunities had been created by the visitors throughout the match and considering that statistic alone, Alcester would feel that they had earned a deserved victory.
|SLIGHTLY UNWILLING HANDSHAKES...|
In truth, one could not disagree…
|BOTH TEAMS REMAIN IN THE HUNT...|
ALEX GRETTON, KIERAN DONNELLY, KEIRAN DOWNEY (CAPT), LUKE WILLIAMS, DEAN HAY, COURTNEY SOWE, RYAN WATSON, LEWIS MARSTON, LOUIS BRIDGES, MATT FEARON, CHRIS MILLS.
ASH BUNN, ELLIS KALACH, DAN MUMFORD, DANNY JANES, LEE HEATON.
BOLDMERE S&S FALCONS:
MATT GOUGH, YOUSEF SEMLALI, MATT LEWIS, MIKE FLEMING, ALEX O’CONNOR, DANNY FLEMING (CAPT), PETER BANNISTER, MIKE WILLIAMS, REECE GIBSON, CHAD DUGGAN, JAMES CLARKE.
SAM FITZGERALD, ANT LYNCH, SEAN RHODES, CHRIS BRATT-ROSE.