David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘FA Cup’

Dreaming of the Arch

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

StuartGraySWFCSince I last wrote a blog the fortunes of Sheffield Wednesday have changed quite significantly; for the better.  Even taking into account a 3-0 defeat at home to Wigan, which somewhat flattered them, we can be happy with our current situation.  We have created a gap between ourselves and the bottom three.  Whilst there is still work to do, I am now more than confident we will secure another season of Championship football.

First and foremost we must praise the man who has led the turn around.  I don’t think there were many people who would have picked Stuart Gray as our next permanent ‘Head Coach’ following Dave Jones’ dismissal.  I’d go as far as to say more than a few didn’t want him at all.  I’m not keen on people now slating Jones for things he said and did as our manager.  He’s in the past now, we don’t have to look back and think I told you so.

It’s interesting when you look at the difference Gray has made to the team.  We’ve seen a change in the style of football we play.  There is definitely more intricate passing and keeping the ball on the ground.  Chris Maguire returned from a loan spell and is finally fulfilling his potential.  He’s scoring goals and producing good performances.  He has proven to be a key player in our recent good run.  Being brought in from the wilderness he seems re-invigorated and his confidence is there for all to see.  His injury time winner against Barnsley was testament to how he has worked hard and taken his chance.  I sincerely hope he pushes on from here, as he is clearly a talented footballer.

Liam Palmer is playing consistently well and has made the right back birth his own.  Personally, I think he has got to grips with physical side of the game as the season has progressed.  Lewis Buxton will have a tough task to regain his place in the team.  It’s a blow to lose Jose Semedo to injury as he has been playing the way he did in our League One promotion campaign.  It finally seems he has found his feet at this level.

The defence has looked better, despite numerous changes of personnel at the back.  It’s worth mentioning Joe Mattock too, another player who has played very little football since joining the club however he has recently shown his worth.  If we can get a settled partnership at the heart of the defence it will only serve to improve us further.

The biggest change for me is the confidence the players have.  Granted the wins have fuelled this, but the turnaround from before Christmas has been dramatic.  Beating Leeds 6-0 also helped!

We now have a break from the rigours of Championship football and entertain Charlton in the FA Cup.  It’s a very winnable game; Charlton will feel that way too.  The winners of this tie will be rubbing their hands, and will be one game away from Wembley.  With one other Football League team guaranteed a place in the final eight, possibly our cross-city rivals, and the Premier league top four facing each other, this is our best chance yet of making our first visit to the national stadium.

We’ve had a while in the doldrums and outside the elite of English football.  Since relegation in 2000 we haven’t faced any of England’s top clubs.  We played Manchester City in 2006 but that was a very different prospect to the team they have today.  Even if Wembley isn’t to be, playing against Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool would certainly be welcomed

Some people say the semi-finals shouldn’t be at Wembley.  If you go regularly you may feel that way, but for me and the rest of our support, we dream of heading under the arch for the first time.  We would sell our allocation without question and offer a nice reminder that there is life outside the Premier League.  The magic of the cup will always exist.  It may not be as prominent as in the past, but in certain circumstances it will come to the fore.

Before any of that, there’s the small matter of Charlton.  An expectant Hillsborough will need to remember that they are on a par with us and will be equally motivated to advance.  We will need to get behind the team and hope they can keep the Wembley dream alive.

It’s a long time since we had some national recognition in a cup competition.  2014 could see that happen

Written by Carl Mullooly, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield Wednesday blogger

Carl tweets at @MulOwl

Too many symmetries

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Deja-vu, something that seems to be striking Cheltenham fans more than most this season. This time last year Cheltenham Town lie in the top 7, pressing the top 3 and with a plum FA Cup tie to look forward to against Premiership opposition after the festive period. This season, bar the fact we are now actually in the top 3 we lie in exactly the same position!

Hereford Untied were/are the ultimate definition of a bogey side. No home win vs the Bulls since 1969 and no win against them since 1999 illustrates this so when we drew them in the FA Cup you couldn’t blame fans for thinking “here we go again” – add then to the fact Everton were drawn out the hat before a ball had been kicked, the prize was just too big to miss out on. Everytime we play them we claim it’s our best chance yet, and everytie they somehow raise their game whilst we seem to lose ours.

After drawing the first game at Whaddon Road that same sinking feeling struck again after Hereford pulled level despite Shaun Harrad’s clever 16th minute flicked opener. Had we blown our chance at home? Not quite, as a memorable 2-1 extra time victory at Edgar Street made everything oh so worth it, a night that will go down in the memory for the thousand or so travelling army whether that be for simply just seeing us actually beat Hereford or for the £250k prize and Everton that await in January, when the ESPN cameras come to town once again.

In terms of league matters only a rampant Gillingham and a Tom Pope inspired Port Vale lead the Robins. What is more pleasing is that most fans believe the side has barely hit top form yet. Take Marlon Pack for example, one of the top 2 central midfielders in League Two last season according to the Team of the Year, yet this season the cultured midfielder looks a shadow of his self last season. Whether that be due to arrival of a similarly styled Darren Carter or the loss of the combative, non stop Luke Summerfield is something we can only speculate. Although moments of genius have still transpired the general feeling is he hasn’t come anywhere near to hitting last seasons quite brilliant heights.

Many felt the wheels were starting to fall off after two heavy away defeats in a row, first a 4-2 reverse at Rotherham that saw the defense go AWOL after 4 consecutive clean sheets beforehand, and then an even more woeful 4-1 defeat at Chesterfield – easily the Robins poorest display of the season so far. The 1-0 home win that followed at home to then bottom of the table Barnet did little to boost confidence. It took a stroke of genius on 80 minutes from Jeff Goulding to win it and Barnet were oh so unlucky not to claim a point or more having missed a penalty and hit the post.

Thanks to consecutive away wins at Northampton and now Hereford in the Cup morale has been raised hugely once again and we head into this weekends top of the table clash with Port Vale hoping to emulate a similar game last season when we welcomed Southend to town at the start of December – two teams flying high at the time. Cheltenham ran out emphatic 3-0 winners and the league sat up and took notice of Cheltenham Town. A performance on a similar scale this weekend could well spark a similar reaction, let’s just hope all eyes are not on January 7th when the Toffees of Everton come to town!

Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger

Maxi tweets at @maxihobbs

Consistently inconsistent Brighton look set for mid-table

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

How would I describe Brighton & Hove Albion’s season so far? In two words – consistently inconsistent. Losing to bottom of the table Coventry one day, and then beating top of the table Southampton the next seems to epitomise our first season back in the Championship.

Games such as that Coventry debacle sum up why we are not yet ready to push for a place in the Premier League. The Sky Blues were there for the taking, but a totally inept Albion performance resulted in a great opportunity to push for the top six going to waste.

Forty-eight hours later, things could not have been more different. Local rivals Southampton rolled into town and, if I’m being completely honest, I thought we’d get stuffed. How wrong could I be?

The Saints were well and truly beaten into the dirt as we romped to a stunning 3-0 victory. Jake Forster-Caskey was the star of the show and scorer of the opener – it is only a matter of time before the big boys start chasing the 17-year-old if his recent performances are anything to go by.

That superb win had the whole club on a high ahead of the FA Cup visit of Conference leaders Wrexham. The Albion have a bit of recent history when it comes to cup ties against non-league opposition, having been taken to replays by Woking and FC United of Manchester last season. This was to be no exception.

I have to give Wrexham a lot of credit. Their fans were fantastic – taking over 2,000 fans all the way down here is a brilliant effort, and the noise they made was better than any away following at the Amex so far.

On the pitch, they deserved their chance to take us back to North Wales. Gus Poyet’s decision to rest most of the first team backfired, and has left us with a tricky task on Wednesday night.

That’s not to say that some of the youngsters wouldn’t have been playing anyway. The number of injuries and suspensions that we have had in recent weeks has been truly staggering, and has stretched the squad to the limit.

It has been well documented that our disciplinary record is the worst in the Championship, so maybe this is influencing referees when they make their decisions on the pitch – who knows….

Some referees we have had this season have been abysmal. First, there was Peter Walton’s display in the away game against Southampton, but even that performance was blown out of the water by what happened against Burnley just before Christmas.

Craig Pawson was the referee that afternoon, and is a name I will not forget for a long time. Albion found themselves reduced to nine men after just 12 minutes following two highly questionable decisions.

Firstly, Romain Vincelot was dismissed for an off the ball incident. I must confess that I didn’t see the incident, nor was it picked up on camera, but those who did see it have said it was an extremely harsh decision.

If that was bad, what happened seven minutes later when Ashley Barnes joined Vincelot in the changing room was staggering. Barnes was the victim of a two footed lunge from Chris McCann, which he successfully managed to hurdle. In doing so, he landed on the Burnley man, which Pawson somehow saw as a deliberate stamp. The official duly sent Barnes off instead of McCann, and nearly sparked riots in the home stands.

The remaining nine could, and maybe should, have still rescued something from the wreckage, but eventually slipped to a 1-0 defeat.

If the players show that much heart in every game, 2011/12 could still be a season to remember. If we beat Wrexham in the Cup replay, Newcastle United will be next, and who knows who could follow after that. There is also the small matter of a trip to Selhurst Park at the end of the month as well, where revenge will be on the menu after Crystal Palace’s win at the Amex back in September.

Written by Liam Dawes – We Are Going Up’s Brighton and Hove Albion Blogger

Daggers ready to take on the Lions

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Dagenham and Redbridge haven’t done too badly in this season’s FA Cup; they have beaten Bath City and Walsall, both after drawing the first games. Walsall was another penalty shoot out success, which John Still’s men seem to be very good at this year, but I can’t see it going anywhere near to penalties on Saturday.

Reward for the Daggers’ cup endeavours is a home tie against Millwall. Not who I would have liked to get if I’m totally honest, their reputation precedes them and with our closeness to West Ham United it’s certainly not ideal, but I would have loved a Premier League side. No disrespect to Millwall but every club at our level hopes of getting a Manchester United or Liverpool at home, don’t they? We are no different and why should we be.

The FA Cup holds special memories for me, I remember the days when anyone could win it, not just the top four as its been for the best part of the last decade, another knock-on effect of the Sky era and Champions League money. I remember watching Coventry beat Spurs, Wimbledon stopping Liverpool doing the double, Wrexham beating Arsenal with Mickey Thomas getting a last minute goal, and the Daggers own exploits down the years – Charlton, Ipswich, and who says they cant beat Millwall?

They have a punchers chance, the guy who gets written off but has that one almighty knock out blow in his arsenal, he stands there getting battered round after round, and then when his opponent thinks he’s moving in for the kill, he lands the blow that shocks a nation. That is what the FA Cup means to clubs like mine.

It’s us, the underdog, against the big boys. A team made up of journeymen and young lads, fighting against teams with four times the fan base and money, who may, just may be able for one day live like kings and sip at the cup of glory.

There will be a few changes to the side which has played so well in the league in the last few weeks, and especially at Christmas. Injuries have forced two of them with Peter Gain and Kevin Maher both being out for up to six to eight weeks, although Abu Ogogo will return from his suspension. I would expect Christian Montano, the West Ham loanee, to miss the game as his loan is due to end soon. He’s been an excellent signing for since he’s been here and I would love him to stay for the season, but unfortunately I can’t see that happening.

Mark Arber has recently played his first game since his hernia operation but Saturday will be too early for him, a shame because the side will needs his experience sooner rather than later. Michael Spillane has joined on an 18 month contract; a great bit of business by the club once again as it adds to the overall strength of the squad. Spillane has been bought in to cover the absence of Arber and has played superbly at centre half alongside Scott Doe. However, the quicker the captain returns with his experience the better I’ll feel.

Up front Brian Woodall has to start – he’s hit a very good run of form, scoring goals and is very humble about the whole thing. Coming from as far down the non-league scale as he did, he took a while to settle which was to be expected, but since scoring against Bath in the First Round he’s been on fire. Another John Still gem.

I would expect a line-up like this -  Lewington; Femi, Doe, Spillane, Rose; Green, Bingham, Ogogo, Nurse; Woodall, Scott. That side will give an out of form Millwall a real go on Saturday, and who knows we may even win to taste the magic of the cup for just a little longer.

Written by Anthony Hodgson, We Are Going Up’s Dagenham & Redbridge Blogger

Anthony tweets at @ahodgson72

Into the Liver Bird’s nest

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

In many ways last Thursday morning was a microcosm of life as a Latics fan. A 6:30am alarm call saw me at Boundary Park for 7:00, where I, along with over a thousand others, queued for hours in the interminable wind and rain to get my hands on a ticket for Friday’s FA Cup third round game at Anfield.

Oldham Athletic supporters, indeed football supporters in general, are the worlds sickest masochists. Who else would put themselves through the weather conditions this corner of Lancashire can throw at you in December – causing two supporters to leave the queue with hypothermia – to ensure their presence at a game all and sundry will assure you is to end in emphatic defeat?

This madness is all part of the pursuit of fleeting moments of joy, such as this weekend’s late win over Notts County. After Boxing Day’s dire showing in the 1-0 defeat to then-managerless Hartlepool United one could have been forgiven for thinking Latics would struggle to score, let alone win for the rest of the season. Yet Paul Dickov’s side responded well to their festive setback, with Filipe Morais and Zander Diamond grabbing the goals that turned the Magpies’ 2-1 lead into a 3-2 home win.

This is not the first time Dickov’s side have bounced back in this manner. It has been a sign of the excellent never-say-die spirit in the Boundary Park changing room that following this season’s most disappointing set backs there have been positive results. A 4-1 thumping at Colchester United prompted a run of four games unbeaten, two consecutive defeats to Brentford and Exeter City were followed by unexpected victories over Scunthorpe United and MK Dons, plus a 2-0 home reverse to Bury was the catalyst for an unbeaten six game run featuring four victories.

So back to Anfield, where this spirit will be required in buckets – nay, tankers – when Latics travel along the M62 on Friday to meet their illustrious Premier League opponents. Whilst Oldham’s recent form has been patchy and key midfielder James Wesolowski is a doubt for the game Liverpool are due to welcome back their own midfield powerhouse Steven Gerrard. Whilst usually one would expect the Reds’ inspirational leader to sit out a game against lowly League One opponents it seems likely he will start in an effort to get minutes under his belt to prepare him for the second half of the season.

A look at the names on the team sheet the last time Liverpool played League One opposition earlier in the season at Exeter indicate that Gerrard is unlikely to be the only big name facing Dean Furman and his colleagues on Friday. Pepe Reina, Charlie Adam, Maxi Rodrigues and Luis Suarez all played that night, so it seems reasonable to expect Oldham to face a similar line up.

This may all seem rather daunting, but it is worth remembering one thing – on Friday some bookmakers had Blackburn at 20-1 to win at Old Trafford, with Latics at 14-1 to come away from Anfield with a win. As Rovers proved the bookmakers aren’t always right. Liverpool may be welcoming back Steven Gerrard, but Dickov can call upon Shefki Kuqi, Chris Taylor and Dean Furman with a sell-out 6,100 away following to spur them on. Whatever the result, it should be a night to remember.

Written by Christopher Platt, We Are Going Up’s Oldham Athletic Blogger

Chris tweets at @chrisbradman

Talk about a game of two halves

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

That’s how the old adage goes isn’t it? For Cheltenham Town 2011 has without doubt been a year of 2 halves, a quite bizarre turn of events from this very day last year. Our yearly record is a very modestly average Played 54 Won 22 Drawn 11 Lost 21. However, the story is a slightly more bizarre one. If you split this into their various seasons between January-May then August-December you get this:

January to May: Played 26 Won 5 Drawn 7 Lost 14

August to present day: Played 28 Won 17 Drawn 4 Lost 7

Could you ask for a bigger swing? So what’s changed? Going by the team line-ups, on New Year’s Day of this year just 3 of the line-up remain in first team contention. Another overhaul in the summer of 2011 was needed (not quite so to the extent of the season before but still necessary); there was a basis there but this needed building on, and how Mark Yates has so far succeeded.

My monthly updates are starting to become a tedious love-in for Gloucestershire’s only Football League club, but as I stated a month ago, When times are good, SHOUT; we still are don’t worry about that. Not only that but we have one of the most exciting days in our history to look forward to on January 7th 2012. A day that will live long in the memory of all Cheltenham Town fans no matter what the scoreline, for the scoreboard at White Hart Lane (or as us Chelties have decided to rename it due to the hefty nature of the away support, Ruby Hart Lane (see Twitter #rubyhartlane!)) will show the visitors as being Cheltenham Town. After winning impressively at Tranmere, we eventually negated our way past an impressive Luton side at Kenilworth Road who never gave in. Thankfully, our quality shone but Luton can proudly boast to being one of Cheltenham’s sternest opponents all season, proving just how tough the Blue Square Premier is to get out of. Having led twice, Aaron O’Connor twice levelled for the home side only for 2 of Cheltenham’s midfield trio to strike and seal the Hatter’s fate. Luke Summerfield scoring a measured effort from the edge of the box and Russ Penn bagged his first Cheltenham goal having stepped away from his man before curling into the top corner. The draw awaited, and we got our reward.

After the draw for the FA Cup 3rd round was made obviously all eyes went straight onto planning the day, or even weekend out. However, the players and management had to immediately switch focus to the following game; a blockbuster home clash with the then league leaders Southend. A true test to how far Cheltenham had come, could we match the big boys? You bet. Yet another scintillating display of pass and move had the Cheltenham faithful purring and the eventual final score of 3-0 was thoroughly deserved. Key players such as Marlon Pack, Daryll Duffy, Jack Butland and Sido Jombati, already writing themselves into Cheltenham folklore with many fans believing the current squad as a whole being the best we’ve ever had in terms of quality.

Can we keep them all together in January? This remains to be seen. With success comes interest and there is no doubt scouts from clubs in the three higher divisions will be sniffing around our prized assets however the current squad togetherness seems at an all time high. With the winning nature and mentality of this squad only silly money or a big club could tempt our stars away.

After winning manager of the month in November, Cheltenham fans were all too aware of the curse that followed… not this time. Another unbeaten month with 3 wins and 2 draws in all have lead the Rubies to just 3 points off the summit and already 5 points INTO the automatic promotion spots and even more impressively 9 points into the play-offs.

Mark Yates has also moved quickly to sign impressive loanees Jimmy Spencer and Luke Garbutt on extended deals and the jury remains out on whether England U21 goalkeeper Jack Butland will return. There will no doubt be business in January, not excessive, but the sending out of fringe players on loan seems inevitable, and the inclusion of maybe 2 more new faces could be on the agenda but providing this squad remains together and untouched come February 1st, the sky’s the limit and the unthinkable, may just become a real possibility.

Who knows, by the time the next post comes along Cheltenham could well be in the hat for the 4th round of the FA Cup… Okay, getting ahead of ourselves a bit, but what’s that about the magic of the FA Cup?

Written by Maxi Hobbs, We Are Going Up’s Cheltenham Town Blogger

Maxi tweets at @maxihobbs

Burton a bonus as Hereford relish the dogfight

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Hereford United’s last three games do not make for great reading; a good point at home to high-flying Crawley Town was sandwiched inbetween being dumped out of the FA Cup against Yeovil Town and losing 2-0 at Torquay United. Saying that, previous to the defeat against the Gulls, Hereford had won three on the spin and perhaps more importantly, those successes came against the teams around them at the bottom end of the Football League.

In order to stay in the Football League, Jamie Pitman and his Hereford side are going to have to continue to beat the teams keeping the Bulls company around the danger zone. Three successive wins, including a home victory against Bradford City, have lifted the Bulls away from the dreaded drop and left teams like Barnet struggling behind them.

The draw against Crawley was almost a surprise, and that is meant in the nicest possible way. On Saturday, Pitman and his team entertain Burton Albion – another team pushing for promotion; albeit via the play-offs. To any fan stood in the sacred Meadow End, the thought of beating the promotion chasers is a welcome distraction from the troubles Hereford really face, but Pitman will know all too well that these aren’t the games that really matter.

In any game at home Hereford should really be looking to take points, but the reality is that teams will come and take points away from Edgar Street. Confidence is key and although every point will help in their bid for survival, should Hereford walk away empty handed after 90 minutes from games against the likes of Burton, they shouldn’t be too disheartened as long as they’ve given their all, of course. Games will come thick and fast and the Bulls must keep their confidence for the up and coming fixtures against the likes of Crewe Alexandra, who sit just two points ahead of Pitman’s men.

Frustratingly for both fans and indeed everyone involved with the club, Hereford are hindered by the fact they struggle to get a settled side. A club of Hereford’s stature rely heavily on short-term loans. On the other hand, the signings of Nathan Elder and Steve Leslie have been inspired and they both have played a part in the recent upturn in the clubs fortunes. Supporters await with baited breath what the latest acquisition – Sam Clucas, a product of the established Glenn Hoddle academy – can add to the ranks.

By no means does this mean fans should give up games before kick off, but staying in the football league is the ultimate aim. To achieve this, Hereford must continue to defeat the teams around them – anything else is a bonus. Burton at home is certainly not out of their reach, but the club have to make sure they are prepared for vital encounters against Crewe away and Plymouth Argyle at home.

Recent results would suggest Pitman has adopted this attitude and long may it continue. Well, for the rest of the season, at least.

Written by James Ireson, We Are Going Up’s Hereford United Blogger

James tweets at @joino