Clifton 3 Real United 0

Saturday 17th March 2012
Clifton 3 Real United 0
Windsor Foodservice Central Midlands League Black Dragon South
At: Norman Archer Memorial Ground
Kick-off: 10-10 am
Admission: Hop ticket (£3); Programme: £1 (A3 folded to A5 size)
Weather: cloudy, weak sunny spells
Attendance: 267
Duration: first-half: 45:00; second-half: 45:00

The ninth Central Midlands League Bonanza commenced last night at Bilborough Pelican and continued with this early 10-10am kick-off, the first of four staggered kick-offs today to attract hoards of groundhoppers. A decent crowd of 267, which included numerous familiar faces, saw Clifton eventually get the better of a well-organised Real United with three unanswered second-half goals.

I made a late decision to purchase an advance ticket, which organiser Rob Hornby posted to me even though I missed the deadline by a day. As the Welsh hop organiser recently wrote in a email to me: ‘One day - one day - you are going to get a ticket well in advance.....!!!’. I’ll try!

My plan today was to watch two Bonanza games – this one at Clifton and the last one at Glapwell – and pick my own 3-00 pm kick-off while the hoppers visited Basford and Dronfield.

I’d visited the Norman Archer Memorial Ground, albeit briefly, once before in May 2004 when the ground was simply named ‘Green Lane’. That Saturday afternoon, Clifton’s home Notts Alliance Senior Division game was abandoned after just 25 minutes due to a serious injury which required the attendance of an air ambulance.

The ground, located to the south-west of Nottingham city centre, was fully railed off with a stand down one side to provide covered standing. At the moment there are no floodlights.

As with most hops there were plenty of familiar faces in the crowd and before kick-off there was time to chat with the likes of Laurence Reade, 'Stourbridge Tim' and Mike Greaves (aka Ancient Wolf) who told me he didn't want a lift to Basford after all. During the first half, I spotted 'Fareham Splodge' being interviewed by a Norwegian TV camera crew!

Going into the game, Clifton (7th with 38 points from 22 games) and Real United (13th with 20 points from 23 games) were separated by 18 points. Clifton were certainly in good form and last Saturday’s 7-1 win at Blidworth extended their current unbeaten run to seven league games. Walking around the ground before kick-off, I overhead the Real manager encourage his side with the fact they were “five matches unbeaten on grass”. True as their last away defeat came back in October at Newark.

“Nice and vocal, we need it today,” were the final instructions to the home side from the dugout and it was visitors Real who got the game underway to the shout of “from the off”. The visitors attacked the clubhouse end in the first half.

Clifton (in all white) made a bright start and could have taken the lead during the opening 12 minutes. Michael Evans, who according to the programme has scored 99 senior goals for the club, sent a 30-yard free-kick straight at Real goalkeeper Dan Argyle who gathered at the second attempt. Argyle produced a diving save to keep out a shot from Chris Atkins and, in the 12th minute did very well to save Will Heath’s header from Craig Anderson’s cross (photo right, Heath wearing 11).

Real’s first chance came on the quarter hour but Kieron Whalin fired a free-kick into the wall.

Though Clifton were the better side, they found Real’s defence well organised and were frequently caught offside, prompting one comment on the half-hour of “boys, how many times are we going to be offside”. When the flag stayed down, Heath shot over the bar from 20 yards out.

Now attacking the changing rooms end, Clifton finally broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute. Heath’s left-wing corner, played deep, was headed back towards goal and Atkins headed home his fifth league goal of the season (photo right, note the ice cream van behing the goal).

Real could have equalised five minutes later when substitute Blake Anderson started and finished a move by firing straight at Clifton goalkeeper Joe Parlatt from the edge of the area.

Clifton doubled their lead just after the hour mark through captain Craig Anderson. From 12 yards out near the left corner of the area, he lifted a shot up into the air which dropped into the far side of the net (photo right).

Lively Real substitute Remi Horda forced a save out of Parlatt, and in the 70th minute, saw another shot blocked by a defender.

As the game became littered with free-kicks - Real's no. 11 Whalin picked up a booking for a couple of fouls in quick succession - Ben Richardson dribbled past several Real defenders into the area but couldn’t get in a shot. The announcement of the winning raffle ticket doesn’t usually excite me with my record – today my ticket was a narrow three away from the winner!

In the closing stages, Real tried to reduce the deficit and set up what would have been an exciting finale. Dalton Stephens ended a run into the area by driving over the bar and Alfa Gray fired straight at Parlatt.

There was another goal … and it went to Clifton with just about the last kick of the game. Andy Davies fed Ben Richardson who sidefooted home from 8 yards out (photo right).

Overall, an especially good morning with the camera and a photo of all three goals! The hoppers headed for Basford for the second leg of today’s ‘four in a day’ and Mike quietly headed for Attenborough, though I’d not seen him since before kick-off. I decided to leave Basford for another day and instead headed straight for M1 junction 26 and onwards to the M18, with Appleby Frodingham my preferred destination.

Clifton (white/white/white): 1. Joe Parlatt, 2. Michael Bannister, 3. Lee Torr, 4. Stuart Robinson, 5. Vaughan Harvey, 6. Jake Richardson, 7. Ben Richardson, 8. Craig Anderson (capt), 9. Chris Atkins, 10. Michael Evans, 11. Will Heath. Subs: 12. Dorian Miller (for Atkins, 59), 14. Ryan Stark (for Evans, 71), 15. Michael Holtham (not used), 16. Andy Davies (for Heath, 72), 17. Alex Haughton (not used).

Real United (grey/grey/grey): 1. Dan Argyle, 2. Jake Edwards, 3. Jonathan Ventrella, 4. Justin Pinnock, 5. Matt Ottley, 6. Jamie Charlton, 7. Anton Daniels, 8. Marcus Bulk, 9. Germayne Hunt, 10. Dalton Stephens (capt), 11. Kieron Whalin. Subs: 12. Hisham Cromer (not used), 14. Alfa Gray (for Whalin, 81), 15. Remi Horda (for Hunt, 62), 16. David Smith (not used), 17. Blake Anderson (for Daniels, 53).

Referee: G. Lawson.
Assistants: L. Turner and M. Massingham.

1-0 Chris Atkins (52)
2-0 Craig Anderson (61)
3-0 Ben Richardson (90)

Clifton: Michael Evans (YC, 67)
Real: Kieron Whalin (YC, 77)