Live games have been very few and far between in recent weeks. A combination of hospital visits (both my Dad and daughter) and various other commitments, has meant that this is the first match blog since Shepshed Dynamo in mid-November.
This weekend also saw BotP venture into the Sunday League arena for the first time. The reasoning behind this venture was twofold. Firstly, circumstance had once again meant that a midweek game was out of the question but secondly, and even more importantly, I was fascinated by the social media work being put into a certain Sunday League side. A concerted media campaign that had a new kit design competition, a new badge competition, a poll to decide on a club nickname and a growing Twitter following that has already surpassed the !k mark. All of these efforts had grabbed the attention of football enthusiasts, not only in England, but across the world, including Italian giants AS Roma who made the club their Twitter Team of the Day a few weeks back.
All that having been said, the club in question is Caversham United - The Billy Goats (as decided by Twitter), who play in Division Four of the Reading & District Sunday League. So it was, the day after a bit of a Christmas party, I headed off to deepest, darkest Berkshire on a fresh but bright Sunday morning to watch a Reading & District Sunday League J Lusted Cup & Shield Quarter-Final between Caversham United and the wonderfully named Borussia Teeth. Both sides were coming into the game on the back of big league victories last week. Teeth putting 7 unanswered past bottom side Calcot and The Billy Goats hitting 15 (fifteen) away from home against second-bottom Coley Park Reserves.
Arriving at the Mapledurham Recreation Ground I was greeted by a traditional Sunday League scene. Both teams were out on the pitch warming up and, on the sidelines, we had two piles of bags and assorted clothing. None of this leaving stuff in the changing rooms at this level. The pitch and surrounding ground was quite wet after the recent bad weather but it was certainly easily playable and, overall, it was a great morning for football. Borussia Teeth, in their yellow and black stripes, were kicking towards the car park end of the ground in the first half.
In a fairly even opening 15 minutes, Caversham probably just about edged it possession-wise but neither side really stretched their opposing keeper.
This changed on 16 minutes when the referee awarded a penalty to Borussia after what appeared to be a fairly innocuous challenge in the box. To be fair, although I didn't have a completely clear view, there did seem to be some contact and, despite some protestation from the offending United player, there didn't seem to be too many complaints from the home side at the time. Borussia's Number 3 strode up and slotted the spot-kick home to make it 0-1.
The goal gave the away team added energy and they set about redressing the possession imbalance. They almost made it 2-0 on 25 minutes when a snap-shot from inside the box came back off the underside of the Goats bar before being hacked clear. However, scare over for the home side, and they gradually began to dominate the ball again without, it has to be said, making too many in-roads in the last third.
Just before the half-hour mark Caversham were forced into a substitution when word came through on the sideline that one of their players was about to become a Dad.
The game had developed into an entertaining encounter with Caverhsam still having the lion's share of possession but having to be cautious about pushing up too far and getting caught out by a Teeth forward line that still looked dangerous when they did manage to get the ball.
HT Caversham United 0 Borussia Teeth 1. United certainly had more of the possession but a well organised Borussia defence kept chances to a minimum. When Teeth managed to break forward they looked quite dangerous. Note to self. Don't try to stretch for a ball going out of play on a wet park. You will slip, you will end up covered in mud and it will hurt. Still, it was some added entertainment for the subs and supporters.
To make matters worse for Caversham they were reduced to 10 men on 66 minutes after Jack Tapscott got a straight red for an off the ball incident. The less said about it the better but suffice to say that we have all reacted in the heat of the moment. Not the players finest moment, I'm sure he will admit, but that's football and I'm sure his team-mates will have already 'thanked' him for making their morning's work even harder.
Things looked completely black for the home side just 7 minutes later when Borussia launched a rare attack and, despite Higginson producing a very good save from the initial effort, Teeth's number 11 followed up to slot home the loose ball. 0-2 and only just over 15 minutes remaining.
On 79 minutes, however, The Billy Goats found a foothold on the mountain that they were trying to climb when, after a long throw-in, one of their players went down in the box. There were so many bodies in there that it was very difficult to see the offence but the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Up stepped Sam Foster to send the keeper the wrong way. 1-2.
Five minutes later and the 10 men were back on level terms. A glorious defence splitting, cross-field pass found Foster running free into the Teeth penalty area. he calmly slotted home past the keeper to make it 2-2.
With 2 minutes left of the 90, Caversham almost managed to grab a winner when Foster was put through again. However, with the hat-trick waiting to be taken, the Borussia keeper managed to spread himself and make a good block.
FT Caversham United 2 Borussia Teeth 2. What a game and what a comeback from the Billy Goats. We head into extra-time and a nightmare scenario for yours truly. Having already made assurances that I would be back the Midlands by 2pm, I had to commit the cardinal footballing sin of leaving before the end of the game so the remainder of this match blog comes courtesy of various Twitter feeds
Into extra-time and Caversham get their noses in front with a goal from Josh France to make it 3-2. Then substitute Zac Dellow sneaked in at the back post to make it 4-2 from a corner.
The 10 men then held on, despite Borussia getting another one to make it 4-3, and progress to the semi-final.
FT (aet) Caversham United 4 Borussia Teeth 3
With such an enthralling end to the game, it seems a travesty that I can only must two sentences to describe it. All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed the 90 minutes of football that I did watch. Both sides gave it everything and it really was an entertaining game to watch as a neutral. The question is now, do I make Sunday League a permanent fixture on Base of the Pyramid? I think there is every chance that this could become a more regular feature.
Best of luck to both sides for the rest of the season and if anyone from Borussia wants to fill me in with names, I'll be more than happy to update an re-publish the blog.
Caversham United: Higginson, Foster, Frost, Smith, Webb, Tapscott, Sadiq (c), Gutteridge, France, Hales, Sturgess. Subs: Slowe, Dellow, Outhwaite, Fitton, Swift
Ground Number: 173