Disappointing End After Encouraging First Half
By Kim Miles
Formby’s once-more depleted resources coped well at Brooklands up to half time, but their resistance was fatally wounded when Connel Capper received a second yellow card, and Sean Friday bizarrely managed to injure himself during a break in play!
For the first time for many years, Formby took the field without either Giles Hampson nor Will Miles, respectively injured and abroad, but they started positively and a Friday steal in the home circle produced an illegal attempt to recover, so Formby had a short corner in the opening minute. With the main protagonists absent, it wasn’t altogether surprising that the injection wasn’t optimal, and Capper had trouble controlling the ball, which was lost without any attempt on goal.
It was several minutes before the home side managed to penetrate the Formby rearguard, but after some weak defending gave up a chance at the top of the circle, they failed to find the killing pass, the ball passing harmlessly wide of the post. They soon found some space on the Formby left, and a Harry Williams
boot broke things up, but at the expense of a penalty corner. The Formby runners blocked the goal attempt, managing to deflect the ball wide right.
They continued to invite pressure on the left and were pleased to see Sam Birtles
out quickly to block. He was soon in action again as some more less than effective defending allowed a close-range shot, which he batted away with his left glove.
Mike Davis and Tom Gooding then showed the appropriate level of patience to retain possession as they worked the ball out of defence and upfield to James Long
, whose diagonal run towards goal from wide on the left was interrupted by an unfair challenge on the home 22. Josh Birtles took the free hit, dropping it off to Davis. His pass into the left of the circle found Andy Wright, whose turn and progress along the left baseline was unfairly blocked, and Formby had another penalty corner. Capper’s drag-flick was better this time (in that it happened!) but was deflected wide by a runner’s shinpad. This brought a re-award, from which Capper and Birtles swapped passes before Capper got in a flick that appeared to strike a defender on the body. The ball certainly lost most of its momentum and the keeper, a yard or so behind the defender concerned, but not originally in line, managed to knock it away past the left post.
It seemed that the umpires had to determine whether the decision should be a stroke (if they thought the ‘keeper wasn’t in position to reach the ball, had it not been touched the defender) or another corner (if not). The discussion between them lasted a good minute, at the end of which the decision was……….a long corner! This was somewhat bizarre (if they though it had missed the defender that shouldn’t have taken them more than a couple of words to sort out, surely).
Unsurprisingly, Formby made nothing of the long corner, and were soon thanking their ‘keeper, who was well-positioned to get his stick to a long through-ball just ahead of the attacking player. Some decent, patient transfers between Formby’s backs then worked a position for Capper to deliver a long-range aerial bomb to Ste Wright
. Capper’s launch cleared the only defender and Wright’s control was quick and precise, allowing him to advance into the circle from the left and plant the ball in the goal past the ‘keeper’s right hand.
Formby continued to look threatening when they retained possession, and Williams made a powerful run on the right side before passing forward to Friday in the circle, but his shot was blocked. Williams must have been a bit puffed by his efforts, as a minute later he put in a tackle judged illegal, and earned himself a 2-minute rest. The resulting free hit caused some concern in the Formby Circle until Birtles pounced on a loose ball and booted it into touch around half-way on the left.
Williams was soon back in the action, and Birtles timed a tackle well to win the ball in his own circle and send Long forward, to be fouled on half-way. From the free hit a Capper pass was intercepted via what appeared suspiciously like a back-stick, but Long tracked back to win the ball and clear in his own circle.
Another Capper aerial gave Long the chance to attack the Brooklands circle, but the ball was knock off his stick for a long corner. Formby conceded possession from this alarmingly easily, and only a great tackle from Williams broke up the resulting central attack, before a loss of balance resulted in a foot and penalty corner. The Birtles clan was not in the mood to concede a goal as Josh blocked the first effort and Sam saved the shot from the rebound.
With 4 minutes to half-time, Capper was, somewhat harshly, yellow-carded for contacting a stick in his effort to win the ball (it was certainly no worse than many tackles put in by both sides up to this point, which had attracted neither warning nor card from either official – in fact, shortly before this Capper had nearly had his face rearranged by a carelessly raised stick, which the umpires didn’t notice). The crowd (over-)reaction certainly didn’t appear to help Capper’s cause! Formby held out until half-time without many alarms.
Capper was back on the pitch after just a minute of the second half, just in time to see Gooding make a neat run out of defence, but he held it too long and was dispossessed; fortunately the Brooklands passing let them down. Ste Wright
then received a green card for another tackle of the type previously ignored by the officials, but Formby kept the ball at the Brooklands end for most of his 2-minute penalty.
Then the match was turned on its head in the space of a couple of minutes. First Gooding had a blind spot when transferring the ball round the back and instead transferred it onto the centre forward’s stick at the top of Formby’s circle. He produced a finish that gave Birtles no chance.
A minute later Formby were reduced to ten men for the last 28 minutes as Capper, running towards his goal, was tripped from behind when his opponent kicked the back of his leg (it appeared inadvertent, but nonetheless left him on his face). Capper went down and, with no decision coming in his favour, made a frustrated swing with his stick, but a good 5 metres from any opponent. When the ball next went out of play, the umpire awarded him a second yellow, and then a red card (for two yellows in the same category).
Once more, Ste Wright
was penalised for an attempt to win the ball in his own 22 (possibly he’s a congenitally bad tackler – many forwards are!) with a penalty corner. Brooklands completely foozled the injection – so badly, in fact that it was difficult for a Formby man to get near the ball before an opponent. Nevertheless, Formby managed to block the pass into the circle, at the expense of a long corner. This produced something of a melee in the goalmouth, which ended with the ball bouncing up off Birtles’s padding for another home penalty corner. This time, they managed an attempt on target, that Birtles got to, but was a bit unfortunate to see the ball deflect onto the inside of his right post and trickle over the line to give Brooklands the lead.
Formby’s 10 men tried manfully to exert pressure on the home defence, but achieved little. With 15 minutes left, a Williams challenge conceded a penalty corner, but the defenders managed to block the first attempt and Sam Birtles
got in the way of the rebound, giving Friday the chance to seize the loose ball and bring it clear, assisted by Messrs. Gooding, Birtles and Felipe Davis-Guzman
Birtles and Tom Hickson
combined nicely to engineer a shooting chance but the ‘keeper manged to deflect the ball away for a long corner. Brooklands played the ball out to their right where Harry Pike
produced a well-timed challenge to win the ball cleanly around halfway and he turned swiftly and advanced up the left side. The man he’d dispossessed pursued him and his initial attempt to win the ball consisted of a shove in the back (sending him into another defender). Pike lost control of the ball and was barged off the pitch in his attempt to regain it, which resulted in a clash of sticks, for which the umpire penalised Pike.
As he made to get back onto the pitch, Pike made slight contact with the original Brooklands player who said something to him (nothing like a polite “Excuse me!”), and squared up quite aggressively to Pike, who reacted by standing his ground. The Umpire intervened, instructing Pike to move away, which he did, backing off. The Brooklands man quite deliberately followed him at very close range, gesturing that Pike wasn’t moving away. This was clearly provocative and, unsurprisingly, the umpire didn’t buy this claim and summoned him for a chat, which he had to be persuaded by his team-mates to attend. He then spent the time of his ticking-off spreading his arms whilst his coach, behind the umpire, continually indicated to him to think about what he was doing.
At the end of all this, quite surprisingly, no further penalty was imposed (the player was still making facial and hand gestures, behind the official’s back, clearly indicating that he didn’t agree with the umpire and considered himself mortally offended by all parties). Why he wasn’t invited to sit down for a few minutes is baffling.
While this was in its final throes, Friday decided he’d had enough and was seen lying on the ground, evidently in some pain! He’d been running gently back for the resumption of play, turned to see what stage that had reached, and managed to go over on his ankle. He had to be helped off the pitch and took no further part.
There was just time for Brooklands to secure their win with a third goal as they got into the Formby circle on their right and the pull-back from the goal line was tucked into the far corner. They had a final penalty corner when an attempted reverse-stick clearance was lifted, but fired it wide of the left post.
It is very rarely the case that one side commits all the card-worthy offences in a game, as most intelligent sides (as both these are) generally tend to play to what the officials are allowing (or not). Inconsistency in decision-making can result in an imbalance in the extent to which each side is penalised, and that is what happened in this game. There was little foul play beyond mistimed tackles, yet Formby received two green and two yellow cards, while their hosts received none at all.