2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 7 – Tuesday 27 August 2019: Rochdale v Carlisle United

Matchday programme cover

Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised that as an only child I started reading because dad had control of the telly, which was good on the occasion there would be sport on, especially football. But I didn’t read novels, my main reading material were encyclopaedia, history books, football books and annuals. I later added the music press to my reading list. As you’ll appreciate, these sort of books are essentially facts and figure based, and I loved reading and absorbing them, even to the point of getting my dad to test me on what I could remember. At one stage I knew all the countries in the world, their capitals, their national flag, their currency, major towns and cities etc and in terms of my football recall, I knew all the winners of the First Division, FA Cup, League Cup, European Cup, UEFA Cup, Cup Winners Cup and of course the World Cup, along with goal scorers, home grounds, colours, and individual honours like caps and goals. Sad, I know, but that answers a lot of questions for a lot of people about me!

Anyway my dad used to test me, and we were doing football grounds this particular day. He started off easy-ish with First and Second division clubs, but he would always throw in an obscure one, and on this occasion, he asked, “Rochdale?”, immediately I said “Spotland”. “How the hell do you know that?” or words to that effect was my dad’s response.

Rochdale had perked my interest from being in one of those pub-quiz football questions, Name six clubs in the league whose name ends with “e”? (The others being, Crystal Palace, Plymouth Argyle, Port Vale, Morecambe, and Stevenage). I also have a penchant for teams with one name, Chelsea, Fulham, Stenhousemuir. Additionally, I like the history of teams with the suffix United as it usually means the formation from two teams, with Wanderers usually having an interesting history and I like the unusual ones like Wednesday, Alexandra, and North End. The other Rochdale connection was that there was also a song in the charts called It’s hard being a Cowboy in Rochdale, by Mike Harding, so I have always wanted to visit Spotland or the Crown Oil Arena as it is now called.

My chance came with a Carabao Cup (the League Cup in my youth) Second Round tie with Carlisle United. ‘Dale had progressed after a First Round victory over Bolton Wanderers 5-2 at home, with Carlisle United impressing in a 3-0 win at Championship side Barnsley. As is the norm for the League Cup, the game was midweek, giving me a fix of walking to a ground of an evening with floodlights in the distance drawing the fans to the ground.

Team handshakes before kick-off

Of the game itself, ‘Dale began brightly with Stephen Dooley seeing an effort saved after jinking past two defenders and they were ahead after eleven minutes when Aaron Morley struck a stunner past Adam Collin. Morley was prominent for the home side and was involved in a move five minutes later which saw him pick out Callum Camps, who nodded down to Done, but he could only drag his shot wide from outside the area. Rochdale doubled their advantage just after the half hour mark. A ball forward wasn’t cleared by the United defence, with the wayward clearance falling to Done who did well to break into the Carlisle box, finishing calmly into the bottom corner in a one-on-one situation with ‘keeper Collin. Into the second half and ‘Dale had the better chances with Morley and Dooley having efforts to further extend the lead. Carlisle made a double-substitution on fifty-three minutes which sparked the visitors into life. One of those, Harry McKirdy got Carlisle back in the game when he won a penalty with nineteen minutes remaining, which was converted by Bridge. This gave United the impetus going into the final period of the game and Sanchez in the Rochdale goal had to be at his best on a couple of occasions to keep the visitors at bay. However, ‘Dale hung on and earned a lucrative Third Round tie at Old Trafford against Manchester United, where they weren’t disgraced, going out 5-3 on penalties after the game ended 1-1.


Tuesday 27 August 2019

Carabao Cup – Second Round

Rochdale 2 (Morley 11’, Done 31’) Carlisle United 1 (Bridge 71’ pen)

Venue: Spotland

Attendance: 1,974

Rochdale: Sanchez, Matheson, O’Connell, Magloire, Keohane, Ryan (Pyke 63’), Morley, Dooley (Rathbone 68’), Camps, Done (McLaughlin 86’), Andrew

Unused Substitutes: Norrington-Davies, Delaney, Lynch, Henderson

Carlisle United: Collin, Elliott, Webster, Knight-Percival, Iredale, Bridge, Jones (Carroll 53’), Scougall, Thomas, Olomola (Sorenson 64’), Hope (McKirdy 53’)

Unused Substitutes: Mellish, Gray, Branthwaite, Loft


Steve Blighton

Book Review: Cup Football An Exploration by Neil Cotton

Author Neil Cotton is a self-confessed Cup-fanatic, which came about from the first ever football match he attended, which was a 1994 Coca-Cola League Cup at The Dell between Southampton and Huddersfield Town.

Cotton’s proof of this love affair opens his book, Cup Football An Exploration:

“Alone on Platform One of a deserted Fratton Station isn’t a place I’d ordinarily choose to be at 10pm on a weekday night. It’s cold…and salvation in the form of my train home is forty minutes away. Why am I here? The blame lies squarely at my love of cup football in all forms. This was the impulse which brought me to Portsmouth’s Fratton Park to see Gosport Borough taking on Sholing in the Final of the (2014/15) Hampshire Senior Cup, an occasion few football fans – even of the clubs concerned – would cross for.”

This authors dedication and fascination with the cup format comes across in this informative, well researched and thought provoking book. Whilst there will other books which offer definitive guides and records to cup competitions, this is an interesting view across the cup spectrum whether that be County Cups or World Cup Finals.

In the early parts of this book, Cotton talks about the significance of the early County Football Associations and the importance of the County Cups and the World’s most famous competition, the FA Cup, before the formation of the Football League. He also interestingly highlights the social importance of the numerous Hospital Cups that took place, some of which have survived to this day.

As well as detailing the introduction of the League Cup, Cotton also touches on competitions from the 70s and 80s which saw companies such as Texaco and Watney’s become early sponsors of new cups. There are also looks at formats such as the Anglo-Italian Cup (in both its professional and non-league guise), and the Anglo-Scottish Cup, which will be remembered by fans of a certain age.

The study though isn’t confined to these shores, as the author looks at the significance of a post-war Europe and the introduction of the various club competitions, the European Cup, European Cup Winners Cup and Inter-City Fairs Cup and how these have changed in the modern era.

Cotton finishes the book with a chapter titled, The End? It is an interesting conclusion to the book and this review won’t detail here his suppositions, and hope instead that readers will but the book to discover them for themselves. This is a recommended read for anyone interested in the game looking for an overview of the development of Cup Football.

Note: Self-publishing is a brave and sometimes costly enterprise. However, it can lead to some issues with respect to the amount of time attributed to things such as the area of proofreading. In the case of Cotton’s book, a more detailed proofread would have picked up on the typos and, from a personal perspective, the overuse of the semi-colon. In addition, the inclusion of a chapter index and a reference section would have been beneficial.


2015/16: Capital One Cup Fifth Round – Manchester City v Hull City

Manchester City moved into what was, pre-sponsorship by Etihad, the City of Manchester Stadium for the start of the 2003/04 season. City had spent 80 years at Maine Road prior to that and fans down the years would have had their pre and post-match rituals down to an art, a tradition passed down the generations – same place, same time, same friends and family.

In moving ground losing those rituals for some City fans would have been unbearable and for those businesses that relied on match-day trade in Moss Side, financially catastrophic.

Those days getting to the ground amongst the back-to-backs in south Manchester have been replaced with a journey whether on foot, tram or car to a vast expanse called Sportscity, which includes City’s ground, a velodrome, an athletics stadium, the National Squash Centre and a link to the Etihad Campus (housing City’s Academy Facility).

It is an impressive site, yet what has this meant for the fan experience? With City drawn at home to Hull City in the Capital One Cup Fifth Round, it was an ideal opportunity to see for myself.

The Etihad Stadium sits to the east of the city centre and is easily reached by tram; tonight a £3 ticket provided a return ticket from Manchester Piccadilly to the Etihad Campus. It was then a short walk up a flight of stairs up to the exterior perimeter of the ground.

Given the space available, Manchester City have created various buildings and areas allocated with certain functions. So for instance, fans have the choice of the club shop, food and drinks outlets as well as City Square around the ground. This last space has a stage and is dedicated to providing pre-match entertainment, with interviews, competitions and live bands, which are beamed out on big screens around the stadium.

With the game being played on 01 December, it was a chance for the club to start the countdown to Christmas and had even installed an ice-rink outside the Etihad. Having arrived early it was a chance to experience the entertainment and facilities on offer. It was evident that City have put a great deal of time and effort into making sure that those arriving early are engaged, whilst of course ensuring they are spending money.

It may be a very different pre-match routine to that which many City supporters from the Maine Road era remember, but the reality is that for a new generation of fans, this is the norm – something the West ham faithful will have to come to terms with once they move to the Olympic Stadium next season.

Once inside the ground, you are struck by the fact that the concourses are bright and roomy with plenty of food and drink outlets and various television screens to continue the countdown to kick-off. As you would expect in a modern stadium, the seats are comfortable with plenty of legroom and a view free from any obstruction. They are facilities that are a lifetime away from those encountered in my early years of watching football around the country. However, there still remains a question as to whether these fine amenities in our fleet of all-seater stadiums have lessened the atmosphere in the game today.

On the pitch, it was Manchester City who triumphed 4-1 over Hull City in a score line which flattered them. When Wilfred Bony slotted home after twelve minutes, one wondered if the game was going to be killed off by the Premier League side quickly. However, despite David Silva making his first start since early October and Belgian international Kevin de Bruyne being in the side, chances were few and far between in a low-key game.

With just ten minutes remaining The Citizens were still ahead by a single goal as a few people started to head for the exits. Those leaving early missed four goals – on eighty minutes substitute Kelechi Iheanacho finished Raheem Sterling’s cross for City’s second and a third goal followed just two minutes later from De Bruyne. The Belgian added his second of the night on eighty seven minutes from a free-kick, which just left time for Andrew Robertson to score a consolation for The Tigers in time added-on.

At the whistle the 38,246 crowd dispersed into the cold December Manchester night, satisfied with a City win and progress into the Semi-Final. Whatever grounds have in terms of experience and facilities for fans in the future, some things they want will never change – a winning team.

2015/16: Capital One Cup Fourth Round – Sheffield Wednesday v Arsenal

For my last Capital One Cup game at Fulham talk was of how it felt unlike a match-day with a trek across London during rush-hour to witness a game in a ground less than half full.

This certainly couldn’t be levelled at the fixture I attended tonight as I took my place amongst a full to bursting Hillsborough for Sheffield Wednesday against Arsenal.

The Owls had reached this stage after a First Round 4-1 win over Mansfield Town, a Second Round 1-0 victory Oxford United and a giant-killing 2-1 win away at Newcastle United. Given their European commitments Arsenal only entered the competition in the Third Round and had beaten North London rivals Tottenham 2-1 at White Hart Lane.

Sheffield station was buzzing, with fans arriving from London mingling with the Wednesday faithful into the damp South Yorkshire night and as a result the trams making the short journey out to the ground were packed.

Wednesday fans were in a confident mood as their team had made a good start to their Championship campaign and “Hi Ho Sheffield Wednesday” rang out loudly as the trams rattled their way to the Leppings Lane stop.

There was a hint of fog in the night sky which swirled in the Hillsborough floodlights and added to the feeling that it might be a night to remember. A quick beer was had and then it was into the Kop, with the crowd, noise and anticipation levels building nicely.

The Owls made just two changes from their last outing at Rotherham, with goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith replacing Keiren Westwood and winger Jeremy Helan coming in for the ineligible Fernando Forestieri. Arsenal had some familiar names in their 18 man squad for the evening, but had six players who didn’t appear in the programme team listings – Glen Kamara, Alex Iwobi, Ismael Bennacer, Krystian Bielik, Matt Macey and Ben Sheaf.

By kick-off the crowd was pumped and ready to give the Londoners a loud and intimidating South Yorkshire welcome.

Arsenal had plenty of possession from the off but were forced into a change after five minutes when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was substituted for Theo Walcott. The Gunners were then hit with another injury blow on nineteen minutes when Walcott had to depart, to be replaced by 17 year old Ismael Bennacer.

Despite seeing plenty of the ball, Olivier Giroud was not troubling the Wednesday defence and the home side took heart from this.

Then on twenty seven minutes the ground erupted as The Owls went ahead. Barry Bannan played the ball to Daniel Pudil on the left and the Czech full back squared the ball to Ross Wallace. The Scot running onto the cross struck his shot into the bottom corner with Petr Cech rooted to the spot.

With the crowd behind them Wednesday started to rampage forward and were unlucky not double their advantage when Wallace curled a free-kick just over. However, the home team weren’t to be denied long and five minutes before the break had a second goal.

Lucas Joao ran at the Arsenal left flank before cutting in and forcing a save from Cech. From the resulting corner an unmarked Joao cleanly headed in with Cech once again flat-footed.

008Hillsborough was delirious at the half-time whistle with discussions at the break centring on the fact that surely this was a lead that Wednesday couldn’t throw away.

They needn’t have worried as with six minutes of the restart Wednesday had a third goal. From a free-kick, Bannan fired it to the right where Tom Lees volleyed in a centre which Sam Hutchinson bundled over the line from close range.

The game was up for the Gunners and they should have been 4-0 down when an unmarked Joao headed wide from just eight yards out. As Wednesday eased off, Arsenal for the first time in the evening created a couple of chances. First Per Mertesacker headed against the bar from inside the six yard box and then Joel Campbell volleyed just wide from the right, but it was not to be for the Gunners.

It had indeed been a night to remember for the Wednesday faithful and it was a noisy journey back into the city centre with the jubilant Owl hordes. This had been an evening of atmosphere and passion and even the defeated Arsenal fans must have felt they had been part of something special.

Postscript: It was only after reflecting on the games that I’ve attended so far that a strange link became apparent. The four games so far all have a link to Fulham’s journey to the 1974/75 FA Cup Final.

First Round: Carlisle United v Chesterfield. Carlisle were beaten 1-0 by Fulham in the FA Cup Sixth Round at Brunton Park.

Second Round: Hull City v Rochdale. Fulham played Hull in the Third Round and went through 1-0 in the 2nd Replay at Filbert Street.

Third Round: Fulham v Stoke City. The link is about Fulham and the Cup run.

Fourth Round: Sheffield Wednesday v Arsenal. Wednesday’s ground, Hillsborough, was the venue for the Semi-Final game between Fulham and Birmingham City.

2015/16: Capital One Cup Third Round – Fulham v Stoke City

My League Cup adventure had taken me to two new grounds in the previous rounds – Carlisle United and Hull City – but today it was a return to much more familiar territory, that of my own team Fulham for their Third Round tie with Stoke City.

Stoke had come through the Second Round after beating Luton Town 8-7 on penalties, whilst Fulham had reached this stage of the competition after a First Round 1-0 win at Wycombe Wanderers and a Second Round 3-0 victory over Sheffield United.

With the League Cup games played in midweek it was a dash after work to catch the train from Leeds down to London. Attending games ‘suited and booted’ always has a strange feeling and this sensation was reinforced arriving at Kings Cross in rush-hour and blending in with the other ‘suits’ in travelling on the tube to  Putney Bridge.

It really didn’t feel like a match-day as I emerged into Bishops Park for the walk to the ground with very few others making their way to Craven Cottage. Indeed it was a very subdued atmosphere in the stadium as I grabbed a beer and watched the sunset over The Thames.

By kick-off time just over 9,000 fans had congregated for this game with the travelling contingent from Stoke making themselves heard from the first whistle.

As is the trend these days in the cup competitions, Premier League Stoke made wholesale changes to their line-up with experienced squad players Shay Given, Steve Sidwell, Peter Odemwingie and Peter Crouch getting a rare first-team start.

The opening half-hour produced very little in terms of real opportunities for either side. Fulham were neat in possession but had no cutting-edge in the last third, whilst Stoke were reduced to an effort that Odemwingie dragged well wide of the Fulham goal.

On thirty three minutes Stoke made the breakthrough although there was a touch of fortune about it. Crouch collected the ball and looked to play a one-two with Odemwingie, as the Stoke player looked to make the return pass, Fulham’s Ben Pringle made the challenge and diverted the ball back into the path of Crouch who coolly finished past Lewis.

The goal provoked a response from the Whites and the crowd rallied as Pringle had an effort on goal and Burn hit the post from a header, although it was flagged offside.

Stoke led 1-0 at the break in what had been a pretty tight opening forty five minutes.

During the interval there was time to wander back out to the riverside amongst those queuing for half-time refreshments and take in the sights, sounds and smells. Reassuringly, these never seem to change, with optimistic talk of a second-half comeback floating in the air, mingling with the steam of hot drinks and the smell of fried onions.

Soon though it was time to return to our seats with a chilly wind following us from the Thames.

Fulham started brightly in the second period with an early effort from Pringle whistling over the bar. As the half continued, Stoke continued to be resolute at the back, but began to concede a number of free-kicks in and around their penalty box. However, McCormack could not make them count, with his efforts striking the visitors wall.

Just past the hour mark Fulham looked to ring the changes with a double substitution as Kacaniklic and Woodrow were replaced with Tunnicliffe and Dembele. Still they continued to press and create chances with McCormack unable to convert a Pringle cross and Dembele volleying over.

As the game entered the last fifteen minutes, Stoke were still clinging onto their slender lead and should have sealed the victory as Odemwingie was played into the box after Affelay had broken down the left, but the Nigerian international contrived to fire over the bar.

Fulham made their last substitution with eight minutes remaining in what was to prove a dramatic finale. First Christensen produced a long range lobbed effort from a poor clearance from Given, which ultimately dropped wide. Then with ninety minutes on the clock, Fulham were unable to clear and Stoke substitute Arnautovic with plenty of time and space curled his effort wide.

The fourth official indicated five minutes time added on and the Stoke faithful howled derisively. Fulham threw everything at the Potters, with Given making a great save from Christensen. Then with barely seconds left a header from Burn caused havoc in the Stoke defence and after a ricochet eventually came back to him, this time he crashed a shot against the bar. It had been a grandstand finish from Fulham, but Stoke had survived to progress 1-0.

Given that it was a small attendance tonight the exit was swift from the ground and within minutes walking back through the park along by the river the crowd had thinned and once again the feeling that it didn’t feel like a match-day returned. Across the river, the bright lights of the Star and Garter dazzled and voices enjoying an evening drink echoed over the water.

Back on the underground I was just another a weary looking commuter, although this one still had the delights of the last train North and arrival in the early hours in Leeds to navigate.

2015/16: Capital One Cup First Round – Carlisle United v Chesterfield

League Two Carlisle United beat League One Chesterfield 3-1 in extra time at Brunton Park in the Capital One Cup first round.

Jabo Ibehre was the hero for United scoring twice. The first came from a header with just 15 minutes remaining. However, Emmanuel Dieseruvwe levelled for the Spireites to take the game into extra time.

Dieseruvwe though was sent off seconds into extra time for an elbow before Ibehre put the Cumbrians ahead with a right-footed volley.

With time almost up and as Chesterfield pushed for an equaliser, Kevin Osei confirmed victory in injury time with a curling effort

Chesterfield came out of the blocks fastest with Gboly Ariyibi an early threat which resulted in a Spireites corner in the opening minute.

This bright start continued in the opening six minutes as Chesterfield created three great opportunities to take the lead. First, Armand Gnanduillet fired against the post and moments later a second chance fell to captain Sam Morsy who forced Carlisle keeper Mark Gillespie into an excellent save to his left. The last of the trio of efforts on goal for the Spireites saw Gnanduillet round the keeper only to see his goal-bound effort blocked.

At this stage Chesterfield totally dominated the home side and Dan Jones and Ariyibi were combining to great effect.

With ten minutes on the clock Carlisle made their first real threat on the Chesterfield half with Patrick Brough and Steven Rigg combining. Indeed it was this pair who fashioned United’s first chance with Rigg’s header going wide and marked a change in momentum.

Just three minutes later Tommy Lee had to be at his best to save from Rigg and then almost immediately stop an Alexander McQueen attempt on goal.

As the game entered the midway point of the first-half the pace settled with Gnanduillet and Ariyibi continuing to work hard upfront, prompted by Gardner and Jones.

Carlisle though grew in confidence as the half progressed and Chesterfield were grateful to their keeper Lee to keeper out a curling effort from Angelo Balanta on thirty six minutes and from a Grainger free-kick seven minutes later, as the Chesterfield custodian leapt high to palm over the strike.

Even as half-time approached Lee was called into action once more, having to punch away a stinging free-kick from Grainger with Spireites skipper Ian Evatt booked for the initial challenge which conceded the foul.

As in the first-half, Chesterfield started strongly in the second period and Gillespie had to be quickly out to stop Ariyibi as he bore down on goal. Gardner also caused the home team problems from midfield in the opening exchanges.

However, in a repeat of the opening half, Carlisle came into the game and gained in confidence. With McQueen dangerous from the wing, Chesterfield were grateful to see a header from Charlie Raglan drift wide of their own goal.

As the hour mark passed, Carlisle made a double substitution. Charlie Wyke was replaced by Jabo Ibehre and Patrick Brough made way for Kevin Osei. The change proved to be inspired for Carlisle.

Chesterfield continued to press without creating any real opportunities although Jay O’Shea worked hard to drive the Spireites forward at every opportunity.

With twenty minutes to go the pace dropped and Chesterfield made their first change with Gnanduilet replaced by Mani Dieseruvwe.

The deadlock in an entertaining gamed was broken on seventy five minutes as a cross whipped in from the right-hand side was flicked home by Carlisle substitute Ibhere inside Lee’s left-hand post.

With ten minutes left Chesterfield made a change with Ariyibi taken off and Jake Orrell introduced to the action. And it was a case of the substitutes who combined to get the Spireites back in the game with six minutes left.

Orrell worked hard to retain possession and his intelligent ball to his right was swept home by Dieseruvwe for his first senior goal.

Chesterfield finished in the ascendancy but couldn’t fashion a chance as ninety minutes passed or indeed during the four minutes of time added on

Extra-time commenced in explosive fashion as Spireites goal-scorer Dieseruvwe was sent-off with twelve seconds for what appeared to be an elbow.

Carlisle looked to take advantage of the numerical advantage, as two minutes into extra-time Hery drove at the Chesterfield back four before his shot which went high and wide.

In order to provide some fresh legs, Chesterfield made their last change five minutes into extra-time when Banks was replaced by Michael Onovwigun.

However, chances proved to be at a premium in the remainder of the half with Osei having a strike for Carlisle straight at Lee, whilst Jake Orrell worked hard up front on his own for the Spireites.

Two minutes were added on at the end of the first period of extra-time and Osei had the only effort which was easily gathered by Lee during that period for United.

Substitute Osei proved to be a threat at the start of the second period of extra-time with an early shot from within the box which went comfortably wide and also latched onto a through ball which Lee saved bravely at the feet of the Carlisle striker.

This early pressure was the precursor to the Carlisle taking a 2-1 lead as within three minutes of the restart Grainger crossed and Ibehre hooked in his second of the night.

The Spireites responded almost immediately as O’Shea had a shot for Chesterfield which was deflected for a corner just a minute later.  Shortly after Gardner had a free-kick opportunity but it was high and wide.

Lee, who was Chesterfield’s man of the match, was in the wars when he dived at the feet of Rigg who earned a booking for his late lunge at the keeper.

Despite being a man down, the Spireites continued to create half-chances as Gardner miskicked from a good position and Morsey had a curling effort just wide.

However, Osei continued to be a threat for United and with the last two minutes of time added on nearly up, he broke down the left and curled into the top corner past the unfortunate Lee and condemn to Chesterfield to a 3-1 defeat.

2013/14: Capital One Cup First Round – York City v Burnley

One of the features of the early weeks of the new season is the start of the League Cup. 2013/14 is no exception as August will see Rounds One and Two completed of what is the Capital One Cup. It’s a chance for some early ‘giant-killing’ and as Bradford City proved last season it can be the start of an unexpected and lucrative adventure.

My choice of game in Round One is that between York City (from League Two) and Burnley (of the Championship) at Bootham Crescent. This destination is influenced by the fact that as well as taking in the game, it is an opportunity to meet and chat with Dan Tait the author of Keep the Faith, a book about his years supporting and watching York City.

Burnley warm-up

The Minstermen opened their 2013/14 campaign with a 1-0 win over Northampton Town, as debutant Ryan Harris grabbed a last minute winner. For the visit of The Clarets manager Nigel Worthington made just two changes to the side from the opening day, with Jamal Fyfield replacing Ben Davies and Ryan Bowman coming in for veteran striker Richard Cresswell. Burnley also started the new season with a home fixture, but had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Lancashire rivals Bolton Wanderers. Danny Ings scored on twenty two minutes to put Burnley ahead, but this was cancelled out after thirty six minutes by a strike from Darren Pratley. For their visit to York, manager Sean Dyche kept the same side, showing his commitment to securing a win and progress in the competition.

York City warm-up

Burnley dominated from the off with Junior Stanislas prominent and the side from Turf Moor were nearly ahead on two minutes as a Sam Vokes header hit the woodwork. Vokes had another chance just two minutes later, but this time Ingham saved well. York were not in the game as Burnley were slick going forward and winning a number of early corners. The visitor’s pressure paid off when on twelve minutes David Jones was first to a Wallace corner which was steered home. However, despite the hammering City had endured in the opening fifteen minutes they slowly got back into the game and on twenty one minutes Sander Puri had an attempt on the Burnley goal. It was however his last contribution as he pulled up injured and was replaced by Michael Coulson. With the City crowd now finding their voice, Ashley Chambers was threatening more for York and looking dangerous out wide. The game was now a more even contest as Coulson and Clay had efforts on the Burnley goal, with The Clarets continuing to be a threat on the counterattack. At the half-time whistle, Burnley went in 1-0 up, with York grateful that it wasn’t more after the battering of the opening fifteen minutes of the game.

At the start of the second-half, Burnley were back in the ascendency with Stanislas once more proving to the chief tormentor of the York defence. But just as they had in the opening half, The Minstermen worked their way back into the match with Chambers leading the charge. However, the game was effectively over on sixty one minutes, when York gave away possession in their own half and from a Danny Ings cross, Junior Stanislas stroked home to double the Burnley advantage. Both sides made a number of changes as York searched a goal to get back in the game and Burnley looked to protect their lead. With the second-half approaching the last ten minutes, The Clarets struck on the counter with Danny Ings breaking down the right. His cross into the box rebounded back to him and Ings was able to slot home for a third Burnley score on seventy eight minutes. Ings turned provider just four minutes later as Burnley again broke quickly on the counter allowing substitute Scott Arfield to comfortably place his shot home for a fourth goal. The visitors had shown their class in their clinical finishing and all-round approach play, but the final score line of 4-0 didn’t reflect the contribution York had made at various times in the game.

York City: Ingham, Oyebanjo, Fyfield, Platt (Montrose 67), Smith, McGurk, Puri (Coulson 22), Clay, Jarvis (Fletcher 70), Bowman, Chambers

Subs not used: Kettings, Parslow, Allan, Coates

Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Lafferty, Marney, Long, Shackell, Stanislas, Jones (Edgar 70), Ings, Vokes (Stock 80), Wallace (Arfield 62)

Subs not used:  Cisak, O’Neill, Treacy, Noble

Attendance: 3,922

After the game, there was the opportunity to meet up with Dan Tait who along with his colleague Paul Walton, provide commentary of games at Bootham Crescent for York General Hospital Radio. Discussion quickly turned to the game we had just watched and how York would fare in the coming season. Like many City fans, they reflected that an untroubled mid-table finish would be more than welcome after the last day trauma that was endured last season. The events of the return to the Football League and that dramatic game at Dagenham & Redbridge are well documented in Keep the Faith and Tait expanded how the departure of Gary Mills whilst sad given what he had achieved, was necessary in March 2013. With a much changed squad under Nigel Worthington, the club will hope to maintain their League status as they work towards a new era once the new stadium at Monks Cross is completed. For this season though, The Minstermen’s dreams of League Cup progress were over after one game, but for those surviving it was one step nearer to playing in the Final under the arch at Wembley come March next year. Just another six games to win then…

2012/13: (Capital One) League Cup 1st Round – Leeds United v Shrewsbury Town

Saturday 11 August 2012 (10:00)

For clubs, managers, players and fans alike the Football League Cup has always been the ‘ugly-sister’ of the domestic cup competitions. Whilst the FA Cup can boast a history stretching back to the 1871/72 season, the League Cup is a young whippersnapper having only come into play in the 1960/61 football calendar. This is the 53rd season of the competition which has new sponsors and is to be known as the Capital One Cup (or rather unfortunately COC).

Later today I’m off to Elland Round to watch a First Round game between Leeds United and Shrewsbury Town, but my mind is drawn back to the first League Cup tie I saw forty years ago in August 1972. The game was at Craven Cottage as Fulham took on Reading. At that time, the League Cup was not sponsored and as with the FA Cup, back then, there was no limit on replays. The game, which took place on 23 August, was in fact a First Round replay, as the original game at Reading ended in a draw. If I’m honest I remember very little about the game, other than it also ended 1-1.

Five days later on the Bank Holiday Monday, I went with my dad to the  Second Replay at Elm Park when Fulham won 1-0 with a goal from Barry Lloyd. My abiding memory? Strangely, it was of the terrace roof which was in need of some repair. On any occasion on which the ball landed on the roof, those below were showered with a rusty deposit and lead to the christening of ‘The Royals’ as ‘rusty Reading’ by my dad.

The League Cup also holds a sentimental memory for me in relation to another First Round game. This one took place on 27 August 1991. By then the League Cup was sponsored by Rumbelows and the First Round fixtures were played over two-legs. Fulham hadn’t quite hit the low-point that the early nineties brought to SW6, but it was a club in decline, with Craven Cottage in a sorry state. In the First Leg, the Whites had gone down 4-2 to an exiled Charlton Athletic who were playing at Upton Park, so it was more in hope than expectation that I joined a crowd of 3,543 for the Second Leg encounter. Fulham battled but a 1-1 draw meant an aggregate loss of 5-3.

However, the real significance of this game was that it was the last game I saw at the Cottage before moving to Leeds in September 1991. As I watched the game that evening, I tried to take in the views and all the quirky nooks and crannies that this patch of West London had to offer and commit it to memory…because I didn’t know when I’d next return. Like the team, the ground was in a desperate state, but despite that, it was home, it was were my beloved Whites played and I had spent 19 years going week-in, week-out. That night it may have been an inconsequential League Cup game, but for me it is one that will always have meaning.


Prior to today Leeds and Shrewsbury had never met in the League Cup, although there was one FA Cup fixture between the clubs back in the 1964/65 season. It was an Fifth Round tie that took place at Elland Road and ended in a 2-0 win for the home team. Leeds went on to reach the Final before losing 2-1 to Liverpool. Would today be the start of a Cup run for the Yorkshire side that would see them end up at Wembley?

It had been another strange week for Leeds, as on Thursday it was announced that the planned investment/takeover (delete as appropriate), was now off. It sparked unsurprisingly a massive reaction on the various Leeds United websites and blogs, with all sorts of rumours and speculation. However, by this morning it was reported that a deal was back on. So the saga continues.

Leeds warm-up prior to kick-off

Elland Road was bathed in sunshine as a crowd of just over 18,000 gathered to witness a reshaped Leeds United team. As the players warned up, another signing was introduced to the fans, that of El Hadji Diouf and it brought a very mixed reaction. Neil Warnock has rebuilt this squad and so it is very much his team, with the Grayson side pretty much dismantled.

However as the game kicked-off it was the visitors who looked the better balanced team in the opening exchanges. Shrewsbury had the first shot on target just three minutes into the game from Mark Wright, which was held by Kenny in goal for Leeds. The Shrews neat passing and build-up also lead to two other good chances in the opening fifteen minutes for Paul Parry and Jermaine Grandison, but both were off target. Leeds were struggling to get into the game, but all this turned around in a six minute period. First on twenty minutes, Jamaican international Rodolph Austin unleashed a shot which Town keeper Chris Weale could only parry, as the defence tried to clear Luciano Becchio was quickest to react and tucked the ball away to give Leeds a lead they hardy deserved. Shrewsbury responded with a well-worked effort from Marvin Morgan which was saved and held by Kenny. However, on twenty six minutes, Shrewsbury again contributed to their own downfall with poor defensive work which allowed Ross McCormack through on goal, who was able to square for Luke Varney to put into an empty net. Instead of being 2-0 up, Shrewsbury were stunned to find themselves 2-0 down. Leeds with the cushion at last started to dominate and play with some confidence and Becchio was unlucky with a header just after the half-hour mark. In the last ten minutes the game lost shape and a number of free-kicks were conceded by both teams. Half-time 2-0 to Leeds and perhaps rather fortunately so.


Shrewsbury free-kick

Into the second-half, the 1,000 or so Shrewsbury fans tried to get behind their team. However the opening fifteen minutes brought no reward for Town as Leeds were more comfortable in possession. On the hour though, Kenny spilled a Parry shot which fell to Marvin Morgan who somehow put it over the bar, although it wouldn’t have counted anyway as the flag was up for offside. Leeds upped the tempo and just as they had in the first half struck twice in quick succession to completely kill off the game. On sixty five minutes Luke Varney rose high to head the ball down for David Norris whose scuffed effort somehow found its way into the net. Five minutes later Michael Hector was adjudged to have handled as Paul Green lifted the ball over the defender. McCormack coolly finished from the spot and Leeds were cruising at 4-0. With the game safe and fifteen minutes to go Neil Warnock changed things around with a double substitution, with Dominic Poleon replacing  Paul Green and El-Hadji Diouf on for Ross McCormack. Diouf had a mixed reception and there boos from the stands whenever he touched the ball. Graham Turner rang the changes for the Shrews as well, but he knew it wasn’t going to be his day when a late effort from Morgan was clearly pushed round the post by Kenny, only for the referee to award a goal-kick.

4-0 to Leeds at the whistle, but in all honesty, that was a flattering score-line. Whilst not denying that United were the better team over the ninety minutes and had taken their chances well, the opening twenty minutes were a very bumpy ride for Leeds. The team is undoubtedly still bedding in, but nobody should be fooled that this was a perfect display. Kenny, whilst comfortable with his shot-stopping, also gave evidence (with the spill in the second-half and his flapping at corners), that he will cost Leeds points this season. Peltier looked the pick of the back four, whilst Austin looked solid enough. For many of the others, they only really came into the game once Leeds had the two goal advantage. Shrewsbury played some nice football and looked useful in midfield and going forward, however at the back they were far from convincing and that will be a worry for manager Graham Turner.

“…Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be…we’re going to Wem-ber-lee…que sera, sera…” sang a group of fans behind me as we exited the ground. Don’t you just love the optimism at the start of a season. Football is back…

2010/11: The history of the World according to the League Cup

villaIt’s the ugly sister of the domestic Cup competitions, the bastard creation of the then Football League Secretary Alan Hardaker, which sprang to life in 1960/61. The Football League Cup, which has gone through the following incarnations: Milk Cup (1982 to 1986), Littlewoods Challenge Cup (1986 to 1990), Rumbelows Cup (1990 to 1992), Coca-Cola Cup (1992 to 1998), Worthington Cup (1998 to 2003) and Carling Cup (2003 to present) – is back with us this week as the 1st Round ties take place.

After the opening day defeat, Leeds United are back at Elland Road tonight to take on Lincoln City. For older Leeds fans the 1-0 win over Arsenal in 1968 saw the Whites lift a trophy at Wembley for the first time. Younger fans recent memories of a League Cup Final will be less pleasant as in 1996 Leeds capitulated 3-0 to Aston Villa.

As a competition, the League Cup has caused controversy since its inception and in the inaugural season Arsenal, Luton Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur, West Bromwich Albion and Wolves all refused to participate. Various teams dropped in and out until 1967 when the Final was played at Wembley for the first time. The lure of European football for the Cup winners was also added in an attempt to give the competition a higher profile.

Critics still argue that it’s an unnecessary addition to the fixture list (but it’s okay to go on friendly tours during the season?) and clubs from all divisions now use it as a means to play youngsters and fringe players. Now me I’m a bit old fashioned. I want my club to compete to the best of its ability in whatever competition it is playing in. Winning is a habit. Sending out your strongest team will provide the best chance of achieving this. Winning creates in a confident squad, hopefully brings in fans, ensures progress into the next round and so generates more income which keeps the Chairman and the Board smiling.

However, this week some Manager’s will question that logic and justify wholesale team changes on the basis of “I need to look at all my squad” (sorry, isn’t that what you use pre-season friendlies for?) or “we’re not going to win it, so what’s the point” The point is that fans pay good money to support their side. The point is after losing the opening League fixture of the season, it would be good to get a win under the belt and boost the confidence of the players and all those associated with the club. The point is, it can be another game unbeaten. What is to be gained from getting beat after fielding a weakened side by a lower division team?

The competition has also seen clubs reduce prices for the early rounds. Of the 34 ties this week, 24 clubs are offering on General Sale an adult ticket for £15 or less. A special mention for Swansea City, who for their game against Barnet are allowing OAP’s and Under 16’s in for a £1. MK Dons and Norwich City should also be commended for £1 entry for Under 16’s. I’m all for lower prices to encourage youngsters to attend and get the bug of watching their local team, they are the foundation of any clubs future support.

So here’s hoping for good crowd numbers for the ties in Round One, all the way to Wembley!