Monday 6th July 2009

Alton 4 Bradley 6
Wayne Tarbard Memorial Cup First Round
At: Alton Village Hall Ground, Hurstons Lane
Kick-off: 7-30 pm
Attendance: 23 (headcount)
Weather: Mostly cloudy with some sunny spells and showers
Duration: first half: 45:59; second half: 48:00

The destination tonight was the village that puts the ‘Alton’ into ‘Alton Towers’!

This first round tie in the Wayne Tarbard Memorial Cup could have been described as ‘holders versus league leaders’. Alton are the current holders of the Wayne Tarbard Memorial Trophy, after beating Coach Rangers 1-0 in last August’s final, while current league leaders Bradley were the 2007 winners. The competition is named in memory of Wayne Tarbard, who I believe was a local man killed on active service during the Falklands War.

I think I’m correct in saying there is only one current Summer League club with a total Staffordshire connection – this evening’s hosts Alton. One other club, Mayfield, also plays home games in the county on the Staffordshire side of the River Dove but lists Ashbourne’s Ye Olde Wine Vaults as their HQ which is in Derbyshire.

Alton’s ground was described as ‘Alton Playing Fields’ and located in the village behind the village hall close to the junction of Uttoxeter Road, Lime Kiln Lane and Hurstons Lane. The entrance was off the latter road. The car park and pitch are hidden behind the village hall.

I got to the ground around 7 pm and not long after I arrived a car containing Aggedor, Over the Top (worried about his missing wallet) and Graeme. We opted for a position on the near touchline around the halfway line with the village hall behind us. The guys had come well prepared with fold-up seats. The Bradley ‘bench’ was also on our side with Alton opting for the far side by the row of houses.

From the car park, the pitch (orientated north-east to south-west) ran widthways and was very narrow due to the shape of the land in which it sat. Like all Summer League I’ve been to (apart from Osmaston), the pitch was unroped. There was a strip of concrete behind the right-hand goal which could be described as hardstanding though it would be a strange place from which to watch the game! The land dropped away beyond the far-right corner. Also to the right were views of Alton village and turrets of Alton Towers castle amongst the trees in the distance. Behind the left-hand goal were trees with Lime Kiln Lane on the other side.

With a light rain shower falling, Bradley (wearing grey shirts, black shorts and black socks) got the game underway attacking the Lime Kiln Lane end in the first half – right to left from my vantage point.

Alton got off to a perfect start by taking a 9th-minute lead. Skipper Chris Rowe got the sniff of a chance and planted a low-foot shot into the bottom right corner of the net.

The visitors quickly won a corner and Alton keeper Dean Avery did well to turn over an on-target right-foot shot from Mark Sellers. The resulting corner was cleared to Richard Gage who hammered a shot wide of the right-hand post.

Church bells started to peel out from the village midway through the first half, before Alton almost doubled their advantage. A deep diagonal cross from the left fell to Mark Geal who sent a volley heading for the opposite top corner until Bradley keeper Ollie Maudling pushed the ball to safety.

In the 29th minute, a long-throw by Jay Twemlow set up a chance for the visitors and Ewan Ritchie’s shot was blocked by a defender. The ball went out for a corner which was delivered from the right by Wayne Archer for Glynn Sellers to force a downward header over the line to score the equaliser.

Despite the narrow pitch, the quality of football was superb. Mark Sellers twice got forward to first fire straight at Avery and then shot wide of the target.

However, Alton (wearing yellow shirts with green sleeves, black shorts and black socks) regained the lead within three minutes of losing it. Simon Pounder, a prolific Summer League marksman, saw an initial shot blocked before knocking home the rebound at close range.

Bradley weren’t unbeaten league leaders for nothing and bounced back again to level things up at 2-2 in the 40th minute. Jay Twemlow played a delicious diagonal ball from the left towards the far post where Jez Oborn slid in to score his 37th goal of the season.

During the first half we got chatting to a young lady with Bradley who is due to get married in a few weeks time. As a football fan, she couldn’t resist naming tables at the reception after grounds she and her fiancĂ© had visited.

I opted to walk round the pitch during the interval, partly to sample the view down to the village, and was over the other side when Geal attempted to score straight from the kick-off. Stood in the centre circle he hit a long-range lob which dropped just over the bar. It would have been a sensational start to the second half had the ball gone in!

Bradley quickly got forward and took the lead for the first time 100 seconds into the second half. Jez Oborn met Ritchie’s left-wing cross and gave Avery no chance of keeping out a stunning close-range volley.

Now it was Alton’s turn to play catch up and the duly equalised two minutes later. Geal chipped the ball into the Bradley area for Robbie Hollins to nip in and fire low into the bottom-right corner of the net.

Chances continued in his high-quality absorbing encounter. Rowe sent a shot flashing across the face of the visitors’ goal while Avery produced a diving save to keep out Jez Oborn’s header from Gage’s cross.

The church bells started to peel again and the diving Avery again did well to hold onto Mark Sellers’ free-kick hit from just outside the area.

Alton were determined to prolong their defence of the Wayne Tarbard and, in the 59th minute, took the lead for the third time in this amazing game. Pounder showed why he was Alton leading scorer last season by bursting down the inside right channel into the area and powering a low right-foot shot into the opposite left corner of the net.

Showing great battling qualities, Bradley won a corner in the 63rd minute. Ritchie delivered it from the right and Glyn Sellers powered home a free header to make it 4-4.

The visitors made a first change in the 72nd minute with the introduction of Richard Coates in place of Karl Grocott.

Once again Alton responded and almost took the lead again. Pounder, on the left inside the area, fired across the face of goal only to agonising see the ball beat Maudling and hit the far post.

There were still more twists around the corner as Bradley took the lead yet again in 80th minute and what a spectacular strike it was. Jay Twemlow hit a long-range drive which simply thundered into the bottom right corner.

Bradley doubled their lead three minutes later to make the score 6-4 with what turned out to be the evening’s tenth and final goal. Glyn Sellers broke into the area down the right and slotted home through the keeper’s legs.

The visitors made a change in the 85th minute – Nick Stubbs replaced Mark Sellers – before they were awarded a penalty in stoppage time. Richard Coates was brought down by Neil Walker but Avery produced a five save to keep out Jez Oborn’s penalty. Alton’s Chris Rowe was booked for protesting the decision.

What a cup tie from which Bradley progress into the second round.

Alton (yellow shirts with green sleeves / black / black): 1. Dean Avery, 2. Neil Walker, 5. Dave Wheeldon, 4. Paul Carnwell, 3. Gareth Rowe. 7. Chris Prince, 6. Wayne Beardsmore, 11. Chris Rowe (capt), 10. Robbie Hollins, 8. Mark Geal, 9, Simon Pounder. Subs: 12. Michael Brown, 15. Daniel Kilgallon.

Bradley (grey/black/black): 1. Ollie Maudling, 9. Mark Sellers (capt), 6. Mike Tremlow, 4. Simon Oborn, 11. Ewan Ritchie, 7. Glyn Sellers, 15. Wayne Archer, 12. Richard Gage, 3. Jay Twemlow, 8. Jez Oborn, 14. Karl Grocott. Subs: 2. Nick Stubbs (for Mark Sellers, 85), 10. Richard Coates (for Grocott, 72).

Referee: Rob Massey.

1-0 Chris Rowe (11)
1-1 Glyn Sellers (29)
2-1 Simon Pounder (31)
2-2 Jez Oborn (40)
2-3 Jez Oborn (46)
3-3 Robbie Hollins(49)
4-3 Simon Pounder (59)
4-4 Glyn Sellers (63)
4-5 Jay Twemlow (80)
4-6 Glyn Sellers (83)