Month: April 2008

AFC Wimbledon 3-1 AFC Hornchurch

It would probably be fair to say that, for AFC Wimbledon, this season has been a story of “two steps forward, one and seven-eighths of a step back”. It started with quiet optimism that, having stalled in the Ryman League Premier Division for the previous couple of seasons, this year would be the year in which they finally took another small step on the road to fulfilling what a sizeable proportion of their supporters regard as their destiny – winning back the Football League place that was swept away from under their feet by a three-kangaroo court appointed by the FA in May 2002. In the previous six years, however, a feeling of optimism has started to be replaced by the altogether more familiar feeling of frustration that the club has, in some ways, under-achieved. Last season, they briefly led the table during the spring before fading towards the end of the season and eventually losing 1-0 at Bromley in the play-off semi-finals. AFC Hornchurch, meanwhile, were formed in 2005 after Hornchurch FC closed down. The original club had been bank-rolled by the a double glazing company whose own sudden closure, with the team playing for promotion from the Conference South, left themin serious financial difficulties. The new club started again in the Essex Senior League, winning their way quickly back into the Ryman League, where they won the...

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Tuesday Night Fever

The Premier League has two weeks to play and the Football League finishes next weekend, but for the semi-professional clubs that make up the sprawling pyramid of the non-league game, the normal league season has already ended and the play-offs are about to start. First introduced in 2004, the non-league play-off system has been highly successful, pushing up crowds towards the end of the season, increasing mobility between divisions (many divisions only promoted their champions beforehand, most now promote two now) and provide a useful little cash bonus for clubs hosting matches at the end of each season. The play-offs start this week, with matches being played on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night. For the purposes of clarity, I’ll be using the sponsors’ names this evening, for once. The Blue Square Premier: The BSP plays it slightly differently to the other leagues, in that the semi-finals of its play-offs are played over two legs, rather than as one-off matches. The matches are to be played on Thursday and Friday night of this week, and Monday and Tuesday of next week, with the final to be played at Wembley on Sunday 18th May, with a place in the Football League at stake. The first match is between Burton Albion and Cambridge United. Since appointing Nigel Clough as their manager in 1998, Burton have made steady progress up the non-league...

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The Hype Factory

Such, it would appear, is the level of antipathy between Manchester United and Chelsea at the moment that the Manchester United players are now incapable of warming down on the pitch after a match at Stamford Bridge without some sort of fight breaking out. The arguments over who did what to whom and who threw the first punch aren’t particularly edifying, and took the gloss off what was otherwise a Good Day At The Office for Chelsea, who are continuing to chip away at Manchester United’s lead at the top of the Premier League Table. On the pitch, it was all surprisingly entertaining stuff (although the BBC’s Jonathan Pearce did himself and the journalistic reputation of the corporation no harm by claiming that a global audience of a billion people were watching – a claim that seems far fetched to say the least), with Chelsea deserving to win the match in spite of not playing terribly well. It was a bad day for United, and in particular for their reputation for being terrible, terrible losers. Alex Ferguson’s claim that the absolute stonewall penalty that won the match shouldn’t have been awarded (it’s hardly as if United concede a penalty every week now, is it?) and Rio Ferdinand apparently accidentally kicking a female steward in the tunnel after the match were, if nothing else, symbolic of the way that the...

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Lewes 3-0 Weston-Super-Mare

It has probably been the strangest seven days in the history of Lewes FC. The club won the Conference South last Saturday in front of a crowd of 1,700 and it must have felt, to their regular supporters, as if the sky was the limit. The events of the last week, however, have plunged the club into something approaching a crisis at what should be the happiest time in their history. Last Tuesday night they went to Hampton & Richmond Borough for their penultimate league match and inexplicably lost 6-0, but the bombshell came on Friday morning, when rumours from the club started to circulate that manager Steve King had been sacked. The club didn’t move to quell the rumours and, by Saturday morning, and with the supporters’ message board practically on fire, there was open talk of invading the pitch in protest at the decision. Eventually, the club released a statement that would have set no-one’s worries at ease. The Dripping Pan itself has had to have a significant amount of work done to it over the last two or three years or so, and has had a terrace put in behind each goal as a new main stand. The club has estimated that the cost of this work at approximately £1m, and has recently been looking for new investment. The rumour mill currently has it that new...

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Bluebirds Into Europe?

It was always likely to cause something of a shit storm, and now it’s likely to get completely out of hand. All of this is happening, as well, whilst the likelihood of it even mattering is still arguably less than fifty per cent. The fact of the matter is that Cardiff City will start the 2008 FA Cup Final as underdogs, but the small issue of whether they should be allowed to enter the UEFA Cup next season is already threatening to completely overshadow the match itself, which conveniently overlooks the fact that they have still got to beat Portsmouth in order for it to become a reality. To the casual observer, it may seem pretty obvious. The winners of the FA Cup should play in the following season’s UEFA Cup. Cardiff City, although Welsh, play within the English league system and enter the English cup competitions, so why should they not be allowed to take what would appear to be an automatic right? The answer, you’ll probably be unsurprised to hear, is administration. Although Cardiff City (along with Swansea City, Wrexham, Newport County, Merthyr Tydfil and Colwyn Bay) are fully paid-up members of the English league system, their registration lies with the Football Association of Wales, and UEFA rules state that clubs can only qualify to play in the European competition of their country of affiliation. The decision...

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