What the Butler Saw – Cricket, Football & Meat

The weekend just gone can be remembered for three things from my point of view. Cricket. Football and Meat, a whole pile of meat. Not only did I consume one of the greatest BBQ’s I had ever laid eyes on, I was treated to three separate forms of football and also had time to watch the England cricket team grind out a win when they weren’t firing on all cylinders.

For those who will be wondering, the BBQ was very traditional and I consumed a few of everything. Oh yeah, I was then treated to what can be describe as “unreal steak” on Sunday for dinner. For a guy who loves his meat, it was a dream. But anyway on to the burning issues in sport for this edition and lets start with the football.
Firstly, on Sunday morning I was on my way to small village outside of Reading called Mortimer for their new team (I think it was their 3rd team) playing a friendly. My friend Josh Orwin was the goalkeeper for the Morts and in his uncomfortably tight looking green top was one of the more promising signs in what ended in a 3-2 defeat. To be fair, the opposition had been relegated from Division 2 into Division 3 and this Mortimer side play in Division 4. In only their second friendly as well I believe so to be beaten by such a narrow margin is a positive result. As the manager said “These friendlies are more about getting fitness, and already I am seeing improvement.” In my opinion, I only found out about the gap in divisions after the game, but as the game was unfolding in front of my eyes I wouldn’t have guessed that these two sides were in different leagues.

In regards to Josh’s performance, it was a mixed bag. He won’t need me to tell him that his kicking was inconsistent but to defend him, a few times the kicks were good but the attacking of the ball just wasn’t there. He made a couple of great saves, most notably one from a corner where the header was zoomed in low, into the ground and he managed to get down and turn the ball away from his goal. Top stuff. He also claims he made a ‘worldy’ of a save but for me the shot that came in from a good 30 yards hit the bar, there was no fingertip magic.
Disappointingly for him he was beaten by one of the best goals I have seen at amateur level. Picture this, right hand side, corner of the box and the guy has taken the ball down onto his left foot and hit a shot that swerved and dipped into the top corner. No chance for Josh at all, as soon as the guy hit it me and Josh’s brother Stephen said “It’s in.” Absolute postage.

That was about as good as the quality of football got. Not to say it was bad, it was just scrappy and fairly typical of Sunday League football. One comment was that not only was it a Sunday League game but it was a friendly, but yet the referee was going on like it was the FA Cup Final. Quite hilarious to watch him running about and even threatened to book a player for ‘shirt holding’ no wonder referees in this country get torn to shreds.

Moving on, and it was time to slump in front of the television and watch the most exciting spectacle of the season, the one everyone looks forward to, the Community Shield!!! What a bore that was! Pretty predictable, United score early and the game goes flat. Wigan get back into it slightly before half time to give the monotonous and boring Adrian Chiles to get excited about at half time. Then United come out and squeeze the game, score a second towards the end and there we go. United win the community shield and David Moyes has his first trophy in professional management. He is tipped for great things at Old Trafford but in all honesty he won’t win a trophy any easier. The game was that boring I flicked over to the cricket just to up the tempo.

England did a traditional Manchester United, winning when not firing on all cylinders. England gifted Australia serious momentum and initiative through poor batting for a number of top and middle order batsmen and were left thanking another Ian Bell century as well as contributions from bowlers Tim Bresnan (45) and Graeme Swann (30) to set the Aussies a target of 299 to keep the Ashes flame burning until the winter. And after Australia’s openers Rogers and Warner put on a 100+ run stand for the first wicket the pendulum was swinging firmly down under. At tea Australia were only one down and no one could imagine that England were going to take 9 wickets in the next 3 hours or so. But they did, and how. Broad again grabbed a 5for and showed that when he gets it right, boy does he get it right. England somehow find themselves 3-0 up in the series, meaning the Ashes outright belong to England, for now at least.

Whilst the Miracle on Chester-Le-Street was unfolding I was at the Madejski Stadium in Reading to see Reading vs Newcastle United in the first U21’s league game of the season. And what a game that proved to be. It was a Desmond after 15 minutes, that’s right, a Desmond! Reading started well and went close from a couple of set pieces before Gozie Ugwu got clear on the left wing. His run was determined enough for him to keep the ball even after a couple of challenges came in. He then unleashed a bending rocket past keeper Jak Alnwick to give the young Royals a deserved lead. The lead however, was short lived. After a penalty area scramble the ball bounced up and hit Reading defender Jake Cooper on the arm, penalty to the visitors. A penalty that was cool struck home off the post by Gael Bigirimana – Newcastle’s best player on the night.

Adam Armstrong found space in the Reading box to give the Magpie’s a 2-1 lead before that man again Ugwu danced his way past two defenders on the right hand side of the box before cutting back and bending a left footed shot passed the hapless Alnwick on the quarter hour mark. That’s how it stayed till 13 minutes from time when Jordan Obita – another man who impressed on the night, found some space on the left wing and squared for Lawson D’Ath to put the Royals back in front. Ugwu tried and tried to grab a well deserved hat-trick but showed composure, class and team ethic when he broke clear in the final moments and after his shot was saved by Alnwick he rolled the ball to fellow striker Dominic Samuel to grab a goal that he also deserved.

On the night the stand out performers for me were the Reading front three in Jordan Obita, Dominic Samuel and Gozie Ugwu as well as a solid second half performance from goalscorer D’Ath and Aaron Tshibola who ran the midfield like a general for the 70 minutes he played. He was very impressive and at the heart of everything Reading did both up front and at the back, the plaudits will go to two goal salvo Ugwu but Tshibola was impressive indeed.

To end this week, an announcement that for the first time in weeks I shall be joining the two Matt’s for the Severn Sport show on Radio Winchcombe on Friday night. It will be recorded on Thursday and I will be joining in through the magic of Skype. What a time to be alive.

Ryan Butler

(@abaconButtee)