Yesterday I began ranking the first 50 games that I have covered for Severn Sport since the start of the pre-season tour back in July. You can read numbers 50-11 here http://severnsport.co.uk/?p=6810. Today is the day where I reveal the top 10 and ultimately the number 1 game of the season.
Just missing out on the top 10 was Longlevens’ 5-1 win over Fairford in the FA Cup, Slimbridge’s dramatic Desmond (2-2) with Taunton back in October and a comprehensive display by Gloucester City U18s in their 6-0 demolition of the Bishops Cleeve U18s. So, what does make it into the top 10? Let’s take a look.
10. Cirencester Town 0-1 Evesham United (Southern League West – 26/9/17)
Don’t let the 1-0 scoreline fool you, this was an unbelievable game. The quality on display from both sides was of the highest level. Leroy Odiero scored the winner and was imperious throughout the 90 minutes. As well as Odiero, two Cirencester players (Mason Lewis & Mateusz Wieczorek) made their way into the September Team Of the Month on the back of their performances on the night. I genuinely love watching football at Cirencester Town on that new pitch. The standard of football and quality of game for a neutral/journalist is delightful. This was my first taste of that level.
9. Gloucester City 2-2 Hereford (Pre-Season Tour – 31/7)
This is the best Gloucester City match I have seen this season. The atmosphere for the game was electric due to the sheer number of Hereford fans. It honestly felt like an away game for City. In the second half myself, Matt & Kelsey all stood with the Gloucester fans and I think this heightened my experience. Hereford took the lead when ex-City man Jack Deaman nodded in for his new club. City new-boy Karnell Chambers equalised before Lance Smith; a man who knows how to score at the Jubilee, converted from the spot. Joe Parker began to run Hereford ragged and the game was at fever pitch. Hereford’s Garyn (must be a fake name) Preen was sent off. IN A FRIENDLY! It was a horrendous tackle mind. But it looked like Hereford would win the game until Will Morford leapt like a salmon to head in a deserved equaliser. A great game!!
8. Cirencester Town 1-2 Wimborne Town (Southern League West – 11/11/17)
I will be completely honest. To a lot of people this wouldn’t make the top 10 but I love a good defensive performance and when a defence/goalkeeper are on form it brings me a lot of joy as a football fan. Thom Jonkerman for Cirencester had up until the last minute the best goalkeeping performance I have seen this season. I still label it as such despite the winning goal. It’s 1-1, about 89 minutes gone. Jonkerman is rounded and Wimborne are going to win it. But wait, Mason Lewis somehow blocks the shot off the line with his hip and Jonkerman dives on it. The draw beckons. But Jonkerman rolls the ball down to kick it without seeing the Wimborne striker behind him, the ball is squared and hearts are broken. The drama. The heartbreak. Jonkerman had saved a penalty earlier on and without him Cirencester could have let in 5 or 6. He will learn from this experience but what I learned was that Thom Jonkerman is one hell of a keeper!
7. Tuffley Rovers 3-3 Cirencester Town (Pre-Season Tour – 18/7/17)
The highest ranked game from our pre-season tour. And for me, rightly so. Ben Whitehead and Felipe Barcelos were incredible for Cirencester and they guided a very open and even game to a 1-3 scoreline with about 8 minutes to go. But a Sam Hill header and what can only be described as a gorgeous, gorgeous side footed strike into the top corner by Shayne Bradley saw Tuffley claim a very credible and deserved draw. This was my first trip to Glevum Park and after seeing a game like this I was hungry for more! The first taste of a club that provides a great matchday experience. Plus it also showed me three things, 1) that Macaulay Herbert is as good in 11-a-side football as he was during 7-a-side matches we played with colleagues at work, 2) the hype I heard about Shayne Bradley was very much justified & 3) Sam Hill…what a player!
6. Brimscombe & Thrupp 3-0 Royal Wootton Bassett (Hellenic Premier -14/10-17)
Now in the rankings some of the more one sided games have been marked down for being so one sided that as a neutral its not a game that sticks out as a stand out game. But some of them, like this fixture stand out for other reasons. This game is so high because I left The Meadow so impressed with how Brimscombe controlled the game and suffocated the life out of a Bassett side who at the time had won 9 league games in a row. Sam Blackie was sensational, scoring two well taken goals. His first came inside the first 90 seconds and the second just before half time. The third was turned in by Elijah Simpson at the death meaning Brimscombe scored three goals at the start of a half and the end of both halves. How clinical can you get? An incredible performance and the blueprint for why Brimscombe are where they are in the league.
A side note on this one. Luke Kavanagh (Longlevens centre half) joined us for the very first time in the gantry for the game. He did incredibly well and after a successful debut I am sure his voice will be heard on Severn Sport more going forward.
5. Tuffley Rovers 2-1 Oxford City Nomads (Hellenic Premier – 3/11/17)
Friday Night football. No wonder Sky Sports love it! What a game I witnessed at Glevum Park at the start of November. Both sides played their part. Tuffley were sensational, especially when you remember they were on the back of a bad spell. This game was the catalyst that sees them 8 games unbeaten in the league! Eric Edge in goal is a revelation for Tuffley and he highlighted why he made the October Team of The Month with some eye catching saves. An own-goal by and a deflected equaliser for Oxford City Nomads saw the game finely poised at 1-1. Both sides went for the win to their credit and Nomads were so dangerous on the counter but it was a glorious 90th minute winner for Tuffley that sealed it. Again Shayne Bradley gets a mention for a late goal but what about the ball from Alex O’Leary? The composure and technique to put it right on the money. Class!
4. Longlevens 4-3 Brackley Town Saints (Hellenic Premier – 12/8/17)
This match stands out for a few reasons. Firstly, it was a 7 goal thriller. Secondly, I saw my first hattrick of the season – scored by Brackley forward Charlie Bowden, and thirdly Shaun O’Connor scored an absolute wonder goal. So. It all began with what was not only a glorious team goal but also a tremendous finish by Jonty Welch as he volleyed the ball from the edge of the box across the keeper into the far corner. It was such a gracious finish! Dave Merrick, the wonderful player that is, then went on a counter attacking run deep on the left, had limited options so cut the ball back to Shaun O’Connor who was a good 35/40 yards out. One touch and bang. 2-0 and two incredible finishes. Bowden pulled a goal back before O’Connor (the man of the match on the day) set up Brad Martin to extend the lead. 3-1 became 4-1 soon after as O’Connor headed in at the back post. It was an exciting end though with Charlie Bowden pulling two back for Brackley. It was a good that never stopped and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. It also meant that the four games I had seen at Saw Mills were 1-5, 1-1, 5-1 & 4-3. Incredible.
3. Ardley United 2-4 Longlevens (FA Vase – 9/9/17)
Saturday 9th September 2017 is a date etched in the history of Longlevens AFC. It will be forever known as the first time they secured a victory in the FA Vase. And such a historical landmark of a game lived up to expectation, from both sides. Going into the game Longlevens were nervous but doing well in the league, their hosts, were played 10 won 10 and were flying. We arrived at Ardley who have a lovely set up, a nice stand and lovely people. It rained about an hour before kick off for 25 minutes or so and that aided Longlevens. It was wet and windy and Longlevens were kicking up the slope in the first half. The game was cagey to begin with as all big cup ties are, but it soon became an open affair with both sides looking to get onto the offensive as quick as possible. A deflected Brad Vanstone shot flew in on the stroke of half time, the deflection off Shaun O’Connor no less. It was the break Longlevens deserved and needed as they went in at the break 1-0 up. O’Connor and Dave Merrick added two further goals either side of an Alex Feaver strike for Ardley. The lively winger Connor Harris pulled a further goal back for the hosts before a superb Jay Kennedy strike sealed the tie and the moment of history.
Off the back of this display a lot of the Longlevens players made the team of the month and I still feel justified in doing so. They deserved it for this performance alone.
2. Gloucester City U18s 1-2 (AET) Oxford United U18s (FA Youth Cup – 2/11/17)
The first thing to say about this game is that it went to extra time. 120 minutes of football for these young men to play on a cold Thursday night in Tuffley. Both sets of players produced some exciting and entertaining football on the night and served up a winter warmer that left everyone in attendance in awe and appreciation for their efforts. Gloucester’s U18 side are schoolkids in essence. They go to school or college or in some cases work and are limited in their training opportunities. Their Oxford counterparts however, are academy players. They get the opportunities and facilities to expand their footballing knowledge and ability on a more regular basis. Did the game play out that way? To some extent yes. For example, Gloucester City did a lot of defending throughout the 120 minutes and ground out every opportunity no matter how limited they may have been. But Oxford found it difficult to almost cope with such a gulf in class, and I use that phrase “gulf in class” not to suggest the Gloucester players were inferior but to merely show how good an outfit the Oxford United players were in terms of game management and fitness levels. The two centre backs for City, Elliot Roberts & Shay Lyons were exceptional. They cleared almost everything and they lead the team from the back and by example. Left back Logan Roach actually put City in front, with their first shot of the game, right on half time. A swift counter attack from an Oxford corner saw the left back on the edge of the opposite penalty area and he arrowed his strike into the very top corner. An equaliser was inevitable as the second half went on and after an early goal in extra time it felt like the City players were running on empty. They can hold their heads high after playing their part in such an enthralling game of football.
So there we are. 50-2. There is only one game left to rank, the best game I have seen this season. I changed my mind many times as I began ranking them (hence why the rankings haven’t been released til a week after the landmark). Sometimes there occasions that you won’t forget and in this position with Severn Sport I have experienced a number of these occasions. These occasions involve the long hours, the miles covered on the road to witness moments of history and memories that will live on. And the number one game covers that. The result didn’t go the way I wanted but I won’t forget the day in a hurry….
1. Sevenoaks Town 2-1 Longlevens (FA Vase – 21/10/17)
The FA Vase game against Sevenoaks will be remembered as a history setting occasion. Not only was it the 1st Round proper but it was the furthest Longlevens had got in the competition. Also, it has set the record as the longest trip Longlevens have made to play a match of football. It was such a big occasion that manager Mark Moore had the job to cut only two players from the squad. But, we set off at about 0930 in the morning and spirits were high. Naturally I felt proud as we glided down the M4 and Junction 12 appeared, for those who don’t know Junction 12 is the Junction for Reading West. A tear to the eye as we proceeded beyond my hometown and we began to negotiate our route down to Kent and Sevenoaks. On commentary I was joined by James French, ex-Longlevens manager. He was a great c0-commentator for two reasons, firstly he knows a lot about Longlevens and their players due to his involvement with the club and secondly, due to his association with Cirencester Town he knows a lot about artificial pitches and their affect on a game of football. Sevenoaks’ 3g pitch allowed for the game to be fast paced, open and unpredictable. And both sides played their part in what was a sensational game of football. I will go as far as to say this match is up there as one of the best games I have witnessed covering Severn Sport. It was like a story being told in front of my very eyes, a story I was trying to upmost to re-tell on commentary.
Sevenoaks (like Ardley earlier on) had gone into the game with incredible form in the league and Longlevens were still reeling after being pulled apart on an artificial pitch by an Oxford City Nomads side the week before, so the wounds were still fresh. But both sides left everything on the pitch and it was a dramatic FA Vase encounter. Sevenoaks had a fluid front three and caused all sorts of trouble. They went in ahead at the break after a lovely ball in from the left was chested down and knocked beyond Ash Wintle by Sevenoaks forward, Byron Walker. The second half started as frantic as the first had finished with tackles flying in and both sides slugging it out, whilst both looking dangerous on the offensive.
When I commentate I see things I metaphorically tick off the bucket list (still on the list, a penalty shoot out) and I was able to tick off a ghost goal. Sevenoaks substitute Tom Youngs cut it from the left and bent a low shot beyond Wintle and it appeared at first glance as hitting the net and flying back out. Sevenoaks celebrate but Longlevens are encouraged to play on by the officials, the only people in the ground (aptly named Greatness Park by the way) who thought it hadn’t gone in. Credit to French on commentary who saw it straight away and gave an insightful description at the time. The Sevenoaks’ players heads went and I still think to this day their captain, Corey Holder, was the reason they kept going and actually managed the game to get the winner. Before the winner we needed the equaliser though. It came in the 88th minute from the left boot of Brad Vanstone. He was a constant thorn in the side of Sevenoaks and after he worked some space on the left corner of the box he shot across goal, it deflected off the boot of the defender trying to close him and flew over the despairing hand thrown out by the keeper. All I knew was 1-1. Game well and truly on.
You could say justice was done in the end after Tom Youngs scored a stoppage time winner for Sevenoaks who you’d say, deserved to go through on the balance of play. But what a game!! What a game and what a season we have had so far here at Severn Sport. A big thank you to all of the clubs for allowing us to learn and expand by covering their games and thanks to all of you for listening, for reading and for enjoying everything we do here at Severn Sport. It has been an incredible half century of games and if the two since have been anything to go by, we are in for a great second half of the season.