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Sunday, 28 October 2012

Match Report: Basingstoke Town 0-1 Dover Athletic

Dover Athletic won a tight encounter at a cold Camrose, leaving the hosts Basingstoke Town, fighting at the bottom of the table.

The goal that separated the two sides came early as after just 3 minutes, striker Ben May pounced when Stoke couldn't clear Daryl McMahon's free kick, poking in to the bottom left hand corner. Goal given, despite shouts of handball from the home defence.

It was almost 2-0 soon after as Billy Bricknell weaved his way past defenders Douglas Bergqvist and Robbie Rice before seeing his left footed drive beaten away by goalkeeper Ashley Bayes before being cleared.

The Dragons had their first real chance after 15 minutes when Shaun MacAuley let fly from 20 yeard but saw his effort well held by Mitch Walker in the Dover goal.

Tim Sills missed a guilt-edged chance ten minutes later; Walker dropping a high ball, Sills however smashed a shot embarrassingly over the bar.

The home side were getting on the ball more but had to be wary of a potential counter attack from their opponents - showcased when a May flick on sent Bricknell away. Fortunately for Stoke, 40 year-old Bayes was off his line quick enough to clear the danger.

Basingstoke had another chance on 34 minutes; firstly, MacAuley's shimmy helped the midfielder find space but his effort was once again straight at Walker.

On the stroke of half time, Sills' hook found his strike partner Delano Sam-Yorke whose shot was kept out by Walker, Jordace Holder-Spooner's follow up was blocked before another Sam-Yorke effort was quickly hacked away by Ian Simpemba.


The home side came out quickest for the second half and 5 minutes after the interval a Holder-Spooner cross from the right was on a plate for Sills who hit wide of the left-hand post.

After 53 minutes, a Jay Gasson back post header from an ouswinging corner was brilliantly kept out by Walker, keeping the score at 0-1.

Sills missed again after 64 minutes, his header whistling just wide from a Rice cross.

The visitors were struggling to get McMahon on the ball but had a chance to make the game safe on 70 minutes; Ricky Modeste's superb ball into the box flicked off the head of Gasson, Bayes reacting wonderfully to stick out a big right hand and flick away from danger.

A succession of substitutes soon ensued with Bricknell, McMahon and May made way for Jamie Smith, Dean Rance and Calum Willock respectively. Stoke bringing off Stuart Lake and Holder-Spooner for Callum McNish and Stefan Brown.

One final chance fell to the home side to find a last gasp equaliser as after a weaving run from Sam-Yorke, the big striker hit a fight footed shot only to see Walker keep the scores as they had been for the last 87 minutes.

BTFC: Bayes (c) Rice, Warner, Bergqvist, Gasson, Lake (McNish 81), Daly, MacAuley, Sills, Sam-Yorke, Holder-Spooner (Brown 86)

UN-USED: Nathan Campbell, Simon Dunn, Chris Paterson

DAFC: Walker, Sessegnon, Wynter, Thomson (c), Simpemba, Webb, Modeste, McMahon (Smith 76), May (Willock 86), Bricknell (Rance 76), Cogan

UN-USED: Shane Huke, Lee Hook


Dover rise to 7th, Basingstoke drop to 20th.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Warren meets... Wilfried Zaha

It's been quite a journey for a man, or, at the age of just 19, a boy who many tip for the top. Wilfried came down to my second home, Southampton for a chat on "Black History Month". I went down there too and managed to catch up with the Crystal Palace and England under-21 attacker.

WL: Wilfried, you've been at Crystal Palace your whole career and were taken on at Selhurst Park at 10 years of age. How were you spotted?

WZ: Basically, I went to a school called Whitehorse Manor and I played for the school team. We used to get entered for a number of different tournaments. We had a really good school team and we used to win most of them. One day, one game, a Crystal Palace scout came to watch us, liked what he saw and from then three of us got selected. When we got selected, out of the three of us, I was the only one who managed to stay on. I had to put in so much work - on my own, at home, practising in the back garden so yeah, I managed to stay, come up through the ranks and get to where I am now.

WL: Any ideas who the scout was that helped you seize your chance?

WZ: I can't really remember his name.... Dave... I think his surname was Webber... yeah, Dave Webber I think.

WL: The other two who didn't make it, do you remember their names?

WZ: I actually don't know what their doing really. One of the others is still a friend. His name's Adrian Thomas and I think he's still in education. I still keep in contact with him quite a bit but the other one, I don't know his name and I haven't a clue what he's doing.

WL: Of course, Palace have a very good reputation of bringing through youngsters such as you and Nathaniel Clyne, are you looking to follow in his footsteps and play in the Premier League, possibly with Palace?

WZ:  Yeah, definitely. That's my goal, that's where I want to be. I'm really enjoying it at Palace but anyone at my age will have the same goal and the Premier League is definitely a level I want to reach looking to the future.
CLYNE: Now playing for Southampton 
WL: You obviously know Nathaniel well, I take it the both of you still keep in touch?

WZ: Yeah, we do. Before a game, he'd send me a message saying "Good luck" and of course, I'd return the favour by wishing him the best of luck before any game that he plays. We're both friends and we constantly keep in contact all the time because we were both really close when he was with me at Palace.

WL: I can't not ask you about the Manchester United match last season. I've been there as a fan but playing there, walking out and getting the win must have been incredible!

WZ: It was sensational! No words can really describe what it felt like to be honest with you. To play at Old Trafford, against those players - who I looked to as role models and watching them on Match of the Day every Saturday night was unbelievable. To get the result as well was just mind-blowing. It was crazy!

Zaha (yellow) sheilds the ball from United right back Rafael
WL: You're a very highly rated footballer who many, myself included, believe are one of the best players in the Championship. When you're booed by opposition fans due to being a good player, does that motivate you to perhaps play a little bit better in a way?

WZ: It does. Because of all the grief I get from "bitter" fans, it motivates me more. I'm here for a reason and fans like to say I'm over-rated so I like to show them that I'm here because of what I've done, I'm not lucky to be picked, I've earned myself the right to be playing.

WL: Dougie Freedman (Palace manager) has left the club to join Bolton Wanderers, is that something that surprises you?

WZ: I'm dissapointed to see him go. I first met him when I was 14 so he's always been around the place in some key years for me. He's a good man and I've sent him a message saying goodbye and wishing him the best.
FREED: Zaha is sad to see his manager leave
WL: Let's talk about your international career now and looking in from the outside, I can see there are some very good players such as Tom Ince and yourself in the England under-21s. What are your views on the squad from inside the camp?

WZ: Being able to play with some of the best young players in England altogether is something that's difficult to explain.... There's not one player in the squad who isn't good if you know what I mean?! Players like Raheem Sterling for example who has got loads of tricks and lots of pace - playing with these guys just motivates you to play better with all the talent that you have around you really.

Sterling has broken through the Liverpool ranks this season
WL: Of course, we must talk about the unsavoury incidents in the Serbia game last week. You played in the match. It was shocking wasn't it?

WZ: It was just disgusting to be out there and to be treated in that way. The good thing was that Stuart Pearce (England under-21 manager) just told us what to expect. He told us not to react and just to have a professional mindset out there to do the job of getting to the European Championships and get it done. We already had a plan in our mindsets - we had to take it in and not let it affect us. It was ridiculous really to get that level of abuse.

Zaha leaves 3 players in his wake during the "disgusting" game
WL: Do you get that level of abuse over here in any of the games you have played in the Championship?

WZ: I got it once.... It was against Millwall. I don't let it affect me really. I go there to do what I have to do on the football pitch and then leave when the game is finished. I don't have to get into anything like arguments with any of the fans. To tell you the truth it doesn't get to me and at the end of the day, I'm only there to play football.

WL: You mentioned the Euro's earlier, what can England achieve from that tournament? Is the sky the limit?

WZ: Literally, the sky is the limit with the players we have. When you look at the quality in the squad then I really don't see any reason why we can't go there and win it.

WL: In the future, do you have any interests in playing abroad? Would someone like a Barcelona or Real Madrid be something that would interest you?

WZ: Definitely. That's one of my goals as well. I'm still young but playing for one of those teams is something I'd like to do - they're two of the best teams in the world.

WL: So Spain is the aim?!

WZ: Definitely. Spain IS the aim!

Many thanks to Wilfried for taking the time out to speak to me.

Some photos courtesy of The Sun, TalkSport & Zimbio

Warren meets... Craig Mackail-Smith

I was due to interview another Peterborough player on Saturday in Craig Alcock. Unfortunately, he didn't travel down with the squad however, I did see another Craig; Brighton forward Mackail-Smith lurking around after watching his former team mates play and I managed to grab a few words with him.

WL: Craig, you started your career kicking around in the non-league game, how were those experiences?

CMS: Yeah, it was fantastic, I think I've worked hard to get to where I am today and non-league kind of shaped my career and built me as a player. It taught me a lot about appreciating the game and, as I say, I wouldn't be the player I am today without my non-league background.

THE BOY'S GONNA BE SPECIAL: Craig during his Arlesey days
WL: So it's fair to say, playing at non-league grounds galvanised you to make sure you made it as a pro?

CMS: Yeah, definitely, I've been to some tough grounds and played some tough teams and tough defenders so yeah, it shapes you as a person and as a man. It introduces you to the men's kind of football and I always look out for the teams that I used to play for.

WL: You went to Dagenham & Redbridge, John Still brought you in, along with many other players from the lower leagues, how much of an influence did he have on you?

CMS: He was fantastic, he game me the opportunity taking me from Arlesey Town and changed me from a winger into a forward. He allowed me just to play my natural game and, as you say, he's brought on some great players like Paul Benson and Sam Saunders so it shows he's got an eye for talent in the non-leagues. He's done fantastically well with his Dagenham side.

WL: You then moved to Peterborough, you took a while to stamp your mark and had to bide your time there but soon struck up a brilliant partnership with Aaron McLean. It must have been great to suddenly get loads of games and bang in lots of goals?

CMS: Yeah, I think someone said that we couldn't play together because we were too similar and then I think we both ended up scoring 100 goals between us so, it was a fantastic partnership and we complemented each other so well on the pitch and got on well off the pitch so it was great to play together. I had a fantastic time at Peterborough, have great memories and I always try and get to games when I can.

DEADLY DUO: Craig celebrates yet another goal with Aaron McLean
WL: You scored 35 goals in your last season at Posh which triggered your move to Brighton, how big a transfer was that for you in terms of moving away from that area where you had played for a while?

CMS: I'd been at Peterborough for almost five years so it was a big change. Brighton had just moved into a new stadium, were a club on the up and were looking to push on into the Premiership. I felt it was a club that matched my ambitions to push on and Gus (Poyet) obviously sold me the club, sold me the vision and I moved there. I felt that I had a pretty good season but not fantastic; I felt I could have maybe scored a few more goals last season but it was a good place to start and hopefully this coming season, I can push on and
score a lot more goals.

WL: I think it was a record transfer at the time and still is, did that put pressure on you to succeed?

CMS: Yeah, it probably put a little bit of pressure, maybe more pressure than I put on myself; I should have just gone out there, played my natural game and enjoyed myself. Sometimes things are made a bit difficult and you go out there trying to justify your price tag, maybe that didn't help me and maybe I didn't score as many goals due to that. However, I have learnt from that and this season I'm just going to relax and enjoy!
RECORD BREAKER: Move could rise to £3.5m
WL: Previously, you've played for England C, from there you've then gone on to play for the full Scotland national side, that must have been a great experience as well?

CMS: Yeah it's been fantastic. I wanted to play for Scotland for a long time and it didn't come around when George Burley was in charge but Craig Levein (Scotland manager) gave me the chance about a year and a half ago and I love it. Everytime I pull the shirt on I wear it with pride and I love representing Scotland.

WL: So you made your debut against Brazil of all teams, that must have been an eye-opener!?!

CMS: Yeah it was fantastic to play against the world champions and unbelievable world class players in my first international game and it's certainly given me the appetite to get more and more caps and of course to play against better teams.
Craig meets Barcelona right back Dani Alves!
WL: Finally Craig, your in your prime at 28 now, where can we expect to see you in five years time... maybe at the Broadfield!?

CMS: (Laughs) Hopefully still in the Premiership. Hopefully I'll get to the Premiership, play there a few years.  You never know, once I get that little bit older I'll see where I go from there; maybe a bit of coaching or a bit of management. We'll see what happens!

I would like to thank Craig for taking the time out to speak to me.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Are QPR really too good to go down?

"They're too good to go down" - This, readers, is a quote you read/hear every season. It was said  during the season Newcastle United plummeted into Championship abyss, likewise when West Ham United suffered the same plight 2 seasons ago. This season, it's QPR's turn.

Newcastle had the likes of Jonas Gutierrez, Kevin Nolan, Jose Enrique and Michael Owen as they slipped through the trap-door. Similarly, West Ham couldn't rely on Demba Ba, Scott Parker and Mark Noble as their fate was sealed with defeat at Wigan Athletic.

HAMMERS CON-DEMB-ED: Ba couldn't save them
QPR's manager, Mark Hughes, simply had to strengthen his side that only just survived in the Premier League last season on the last day - you know the one, that boring game against Manchester City.

Looking in, it appeared as if he had some decent players coming through the door - Junior Hoilett was a highly rated winger at Blackburn Rovers who a number of clubs were looking to snare on a free transfer.

Esteban Granero also made the move from one capital city to another as the Spaniard swapped Real Madrid for a stint at Loftus Road for a fee believed to be around £9 million. A bright spark in a dismal campaign for the Rs so far.
Another high profile capture was the signing of Julio Cesar from Inter Milan. The goalkeeper who many believed was one of the best in the world in his position had somehow agreed to join Hughes' new revolution in west-London.

Despite the slightly better players arriving, Hughes has also added the odd shocker, splashing a reported £5 million on 31-year-old Ji-Sung Park isn't good business in my book, a player who just runs around a lot. I've never really understood that "he plays in the big games" dross that comes out of some peoples mouths. If your QPR and don't really have any "big games" then it's a pretty pointless signing.

Another was Andy Johnson. Injury prone most of the time (he's on the treatment table at the moment) who should give company to Kieran Dyer in the physio's room. Released by a mediocre Fulham side, who finished above QPR last season. Thumbs up for that one Mark.

DOWN AND OUT: Johnson (blue)
Admittedly it seems a good mixture, however, for every Esteban Granero, you also have a Shaun Derry.

I suppose one positive for the team was getting rid of British football's Mr. Controversial in Joey Barton as the midfielder headed to France to join Marseille on a season-long loan with Stephen M'Bia coming the other way.
Hughes won't have been helped by the dreaded "vote of confidence" from the club's Chairman, Tony Fernandes, nor the fact that Harry Redknapp seems to be constantly linked to the Hoops' hotseat.

The next two games arent bankers either with in-form Everton at home and Arsenal away, I fear that Hughes' time in charge could be numbered - hard to believe he was snooping on the vacant Chelsea job not so long ago.
Is time running out for Hughes?
Images courtesy of Zimbio, Atomic Soda and The Sun.