Sunday, December 04, 2011

New Additions

Mrs Wife bought me an aquarium for Christmas:

And it now has its first four inhabitants - thankfully not the kind that require a trip to a professional that has attended one of the many schools for a vet tech:

Names still to be decided but suggestions include:

Quinzel, Bane, Nigma and Cobblepot

Laudrup, Gascoigne, McCoist and Hateley

Boyle, McNally, Hegarty and Tosh

Sausage, Egg, Beans and Chips

Brian, Gary, Dave and Nigel

Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and Wolverine

All other suggestions welcome...

FAO Ken Fit Like

FAO Ken Fit Like - I've circled myself in yellow!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Season 2011/2012: Match 12: Montrose 1 Alloa Athletic 1 (Irn-Bru Division Three)

I'm back in the Arctic tundra known locally as Angus, and so I found myself back in the familiar surroundings of Links Park rather than The Emirates or White Hart Lane this afternoon.

It was absolutely freezing even before kick-off today - I'm sure I saw a polar bear queuing to get in the concessionary turnstile at 2.30pm, then think better of it and head home. The pitch was already in shadow by kick-off, and both of Montrose's strikers were wearing gloves - although Scott Johnston was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, which seems to have defeated the purpose of donning handwear somewhat.

Alloa are a good side by Division Three standards, and are rightly considered amongst the favourites for promotion. Paul Hartley (a more dapperly-dressed manager than we're used to in Division Three) (and one with a few more Scotland caps than Ray Farningham) has the side playing well, with a core of good ball playing midfielders (and Darren Young) allied with the experience of Robbie "All this was fields when I were a lad" Winters and the emmm "imposing physical presence" of Armand One (that's Oh-Nay, not Wun).

Montrose made a few changes to the team from recent matches, Saaaaaaandy Wood making his first competitive start of the season in the sticks, behind centre backs Paul "Lurch" Lunan and Jonathan "Baggio Beckenbauer" Smart and full backs Sean "But I'm a centre back" Crighton and Dougie "Kneeheid" Cameron.

Stephen "Macca Macca Reyna" McNally was moved to central midfield alongside Terry "The Destroyer" Masson and Jamie "Of course I can shoot, it's only 75 yards" Winter. Montrose's attacking options were Martin "Have Barcelona called yet?" Boyle, Scott "If Martin's going so am I" Johnston and Lloyd "Who?" Young.

(I spent the first 10 minutes thinking Lloyd Young fronted The Commotions. But that was Lloyd Cole. Lloyd Young doesn't even front Montrose).

Montrose took the game to their high-flying opponents, and deservedly took the lead after 11 minutes when Boyle missed Masson's corner at the front post, only for the ball to fall in front of Johnston, who knocked the ball across the line with a diving header.

It was an end-to-end encounter, and both sides could have had a few goals throughout the course of the match. McNally, Boyle and Johnston were the main threats for Montrose, while Winters and Kevin Cawley created most of Alloa's chances.

Montrose were looking good for a surprise win until 10 minutes from time, Ben Gordon nodding home from a McCord corner. But Montrose could still have won it, Boyle using his pace to stretch the visiting defence a few times as the match came to a close. There was even a late penalty shout, one of Alloa's defenders appearing to handle a Cameron corner at the back post.

All in all, a draw was a fair result. Montrose can take credit from a strong showing against one of the division's better sides, while Alloa can take credit for continuing to push for an equaliser until late in the day.

Congratulations also to the Montrose groundstaff for managing to get the knackered floodlights working again at half time - abandoning the match when winning 1-0 against Alloa would have been unthinkable.

Man of the Match: Another good team performance in which no-one was disgraced. The midfield was solid and generally passed the ball well, and was perhaps more disciplined than in recent matches. That was out of necessity, as pouring forwards en mass would have been suicidal against the slick Alloa passing. Masson and Winter in particular looked reliable in the middle.

Defensively Montrose were strong, with no major errors to report. Up front, Boyle was his usual tireless self, and on another day might have had a hat-trick. But my man of the match was Scott Johnston, tricky on the ball, creative in attack, diligent in tracking back and in the right place at the right time to score Montrose's goal.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Season 2011/2012: Match 11: Tottenham Hotspur 1 PAOK Salonika 2 (Europa League Group A)

So from The Emirates on Tuesday night to White Hart Lane on Wednesday.

I thought that the Spurs match might be a sell-out, given that it was a European clash between two teams both in with a shout of winning their group, but there were a significant number of empty seats.

Most of the noise was coming from the sizeable away support, who didn't let up from the time I entered the ground almost an hour before kick-off until long after I left.

The ground itself seemed remarkably tight, probably because I'd been to The Emirates the night before. Even sitting in the top deck, it felt like I was right on top of the pitch, making it feel like a bigger version of Tynecastle.

Like Hearts' ground, White Hart Lane has seen better days, but what it lacks in the sparkling newness and glamour of its North London rivals' ground, it makes up in feeling like a traditional football ground, one where history has been made and the stands have stories to tell.

I've always had a soft spot for Spurs, ever since I was a boy and the teams of Gazza, Gary Lineker, Jurgen Klinsmann and Ilie Dumitrescu. Even today, I like more of their players than is the case with most of the English clubs - Bale, Modric, Defoe, van der Vaart and even Aaron Lennon all try to play attractive football. All of that group besides van der Vaart played today, with Bale introduced as a second half sub.

By that time, the match had unravelled for both teams, albeit to different degrees. Spurs were a mess at the back (more of that later) and PAOK (which I only discovered today is pronounced "Powk" and not "Pee Eh Oh Kay") raced into a two-goal lead inside 12 minutes thanks to a Salpingidis header and a back post slide from Athanasiadis.

Spurs found a way back into the match when Stafylidis was sent off for handling the ball on the goal line, Modric stepping up to stroke the resulting penalty into the net.

But that was it for Spurs. They had the ball in the net twice again, but both times the goal was ruled out, once for offside and once because Contreras was lying on the goalline injured as Defoe netted.

The match descended into a series of petty squabbles and niggly fouls, and Spurs couldn't find the goal they needed, with Bale, Defoe and Lennon all going close.

For me, the biggest villain on the night was William Gallas. Supposedly Spurs' most experienced and mature defender, he spent the majority of the match wandering around in what appeared to be a disinterested huff, making little effort to actually defend (he was at fault for PAOK's first goal) and found frequently out of position. When he did finally show an interest, it was when he moved himself up front to act as an auxiliary striker for the last five minutes. A petutlant, spoilt bastard of a player, who should do everyone a favour and retire gracelessly.

Gallas' poor showing masked Steven Pienaar's, but only slightly. Pienaar is useless. Absolutely useless. He did nothing good tonight, misplacing passes, getting caught in possession, losing the ball and wasting chances. A truly horrendous display.

All in all, another good night out, spoiled by the result (I was rooting for the Spurs).

Man of the match: Salpingidis gave the Spurs defence a tough time and took his goal well, before getting into a barney with Kyle Walker before and after the final whistle. Aaron Lennon was pacy but couldn't do anything with the ball in the final third. Pulling the strings today was Luka Modric, the hub of everything good Spurs did against a team of 10 men intent on sitting behind the ball and frustrating the home side.