Friday, 30 November 2012

In Brendan we trust: Why Liverpool fans should look forward to the future

A couple months ago I wrote an article on the youth at Liverpool and why they are so key to the success of the football club. Now in November, Liverpool find themselves mid table and ten points away from the top four. Despite this, as a fan, I feel there have been plenty of signs over the last couple of months to be positive about where the club is going under the reign of Brendan Rogers.

Having only won three games this season, it's far too easy to criticise and complain about the manager. Look at Chelsea, despite winning the FA Cup and the Champions League, Roberto Di Matteo was sacked only 6 months into the job just because of a few poor team performances.

With Liverpool and Rogers, progress is being made. The input of young players has had a big impact on the team and has shown that the football club has a very bright future. Looking back over the past couple of seasons, it has been hard to watch a team struggle to make any impact on the top half of the league. Big signings were made and these players didn't perform.

As mentioned, we have only three league wins this season which could well be doubled based on a number of games. Having lost to Spurs on Wednesday, Liverpool's eight game unbeaten run came to an end. Despite losing this game, looking back at the highlights of the game, we should have easily come out with a draw, maybe a win. Last season's fixture at White Hart Lane saw the home side win 4-0 in a resounding performance  One season on we were unlucky to suffer a 2-1 defeat. The difference in performances is obvious, we looked stronger, quicker and competed much better with a very strong Spurs outfit.

What I am trying to get at is the progression in the small amount of time under Rogers. Not just in the Spurs game but in general over the beginning of the season. Yes we didn't get off to the best start to the season, but the unbeaten run showed what a good side we can be. The draw against Swansea last weekend was one which should have been a win. The same can be said for the Everton game where we were denied a clear winner. Now it is easy to say 'we could have won that' but having witnessed these games it was disappointing to come out with just a point.

The form of Luis Suarez is one I could not miss out and but for him, yes we would be a lot further down the table. Rogers has put a lot of faith in the Uruguayan and he has repaid that with some excellent form and some superb performances. This is where my only criticism of Rogers comes in. His signings in the summer lacked another forward, it's been clearly made in the media and the football world and I'm very sure he regrets that now. January will be massive for Rogers and bringing in another striker to aid Suarez is vital. There have been mentions of a number of forwards but with Darren Bent out of favour at Villa, signing him I believe would be an excellent addition.

The form and performances of the younger players in the squad is a massive positive that I can take out of the season so far. In particular Jonjo Shelvey, Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom and Suso have taken to the Premier League excellently and have proven their selection by Rogers. These performances have been rewarded and noticed at national level seeing Shelvey and Sterling called up to the England national squad, and Wisdom and Suso called up to their respective national under 21 teams.

The faith Rogers has shown to these youngsters is great to see from a fans perspective and have proven a good decision. If performances continue the way they have been over the past couple of months then there is a lot to look forward to for the fans of Liverpool. For me Rogers is proving to be the right man for the job and as long as he is given the backing, Liverpool will eventually get back to where they once belonged.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

FA Vase: Peterborough Northern Star 1-3 Dunstable Town

17/11/12- FA Vase 2nd Round
Peterborough Northern Star 1-3 Dunstable Town

Two goals from Dunstable striker Lee Roache was enough to take his side through to the next round of the FA Vase after beating Peterborough Northern Star 3-1.

Picture by Steve Sharman: Star scorer Billy Smith
The former Barnet man put in a man of the match performance to guide his side past last year’s quarter finalists Northern Star at Chestnut Avenue.

Two headers from Roache and a strike from winger Tony Burnett saw the Spartan South Midlands Premier League side beat Star whose only goal came from a Billy Smith penalty.

The game got off to a slow start with both teams struggling to break each other down creating little at either end.

It was the visitors though that opened the scoring in the 29th minute as Roache headed home from close range from a Newman Carney corner.

The goal spurred Dunstable into life and they continued to pressure their hosts throughout the rest of the half but failing to add to their advantage.

The second half began as the first had ended with Dunstable looking for a second goal. The goal nearly arrived as Tony Burnett’s run and shot from the right was well saved by Star keeper Nick Conroy.

Burnett was once again in the action as he doubled Dorchester’s advantage with a well struck shot. Good work on the wing from Roache saw his cross pulled back by Wayne Mills for Burnett to strike the ball in off the post.

The goal spurred Star into life as they tried to create their first real opportunity in the game having been pegged back for much of the game.

Picture by Steve Sharman: Action from today's game
Dunstable though wanted to close the game and came within inches of doing so as Jon Cooper’s low shot was somehow blocked on the line by Roache.

Having been let off moment before, Star responded instantly with a goal of their own. A weaving run down the left from substitute Adam Scotcher saw the striker tripped in the box, giving the ref with no option but to award a penalty which was expertly despatched by Billy Smith.

But it was Dunstable who responded immediately by scoring next and closing the game as Roache scored his second of the game, heading in unmarked from another Newman Carney set piece.

The striker could and should have had his hat trick moments later after an excellent run saw him evade three defenders and the goalkeeper only to see his effort roll agonisingly wide of the post.

The goal had given  supporters hope of a comeback for Star, who were denied another penalty after a Dunstable defender seemed to handle the ball in the box.

Star had one more chance to pull a second goal back as Scotcher raced through one on one with the keeper only to see his effort saved by the legs of Paul Taylor.

The victory takes Dunstable through to the third round of the competition and continues their unbeaten run in all competitions this season.

PNS: Conroy, Challinor, Wason, Morris © Kilby, Cox, Balde, Stain (Moore-Papworth), Smith, Furnell (Kerrison), Davey (Scotcher)

Dunstable Town: Taylor, Mills, Pickering © Mead, George, Olaleye, Cooper, Carney, Francis (Frater), Burnett (Junior), Roache

Friday, 16 November 2012

What a hit! Some of football's great strikes

Having witnessed an unbelievable overhead kick from Zlatan Ibrahimovich this week for Sweden, we have put together a few of the best goals scored in England or by English players over the past few years. Enjoy!

1. Joe Cole v Sweden (WC 2006)
Joe Cole scored a sensational volley against Sweden in England's final group game of the World Cup in Germany. Cole took the ball on his chest and volleyed home superbly from 35 yards to give England a lead after 32 minutes. The game went onto finish 2-2 with Steven Gerrard scoring the other goal for England. The draw meant England progressed through to the round of 16 where they played Ecuador.

2. Peter Crouch v Man City (24/03/12)
Peter Crouch scored a stunning volley in the Premier League clash between Stoke and Manchester City last season. Crouch received the ball from Pennant on the right side of the box and expertly volleyed the ball over Joe Hart into the far side of the net.

3. Papiss Cisse v Chelsea (02/05/12)
Newcastle centre forward Papiss Cisse scored a wonderful half volley against Chelsea as his two goals meant Newcastle recorded a rare away win at Stamford Bridge. The Senegal striker collected the ball from a Demba Ba header and half volleyed home from the left edge of the box, watching the ball loop over Petr Cech and in off the bar for one of the goals of the season. 

4. Steven Gerrard v Middlesbrough (30/04/05)
Steven Gerrard has scored many a screamer but not many better than his wonderful volley against Middlesbrough. Gerrard received the ball from John Arne Riise 40 yards from goal, and after taking the ball down and letting it bounce twice, Gerrard struck an amazing strike that swerved into the top left corner of the goal. 2005 turned out to be an excellent season for the Liverpool skipper as he captained his side to Champions League glory.

5. George Boyd v Huddersfield (23/10/12)
Peterborough United's George Boyd scored a stunning 50 yard effort this season in a 3-1 home win against Huddersfield. Boyd received the ball in the centre circle and unleashed a stunning hit that looped over the Huddersfield keeper to score one of the current goals of the season. 

FA Cup: Second Round Draw

We saw a cracking beginning to the FA Cup first round this month, with cup upsets and plenty of drama in the ties. The second round of the competition will see 11 non league clubs all within a shout of getting a third round tie where the Premier League clubs enter the fray.

The first round of the competition threw us goals, upsets and controversy. Chelmsford City upset the odds when they beat League One side Colchester United by three goals to one. A double for Donovan Simmonds and one for Jamie Slabber was enough to see the Blue Square Bet South side to the second round. Despite financial problems in the club, Conference side Hereford had something to cheer about as they came out on top beating League Two side Shrewsbury Town by three goals to one. They have been drawn away from home to Cheltenham Town in the second round.

Alongside Hereford and Chelmsford were Dorchester who completely upset the odds coming out 1-0 winners in the televised home clash to Plymouth Argyle. A goal early on in the second half from former Plymouth man Jake Gosling saw the Blue Square Bet south side progress to the second round of the cup.

Macclesfield also upset the apple-cart as they beat League One high flyers Swindon Town 2-0 away from home. Harrogate Town joined them in the second round as they caused a shock of their own beating League Two side Torquay United 1-0.

The second round of the cup through up a few tasty ties. MK Dons will face AFC Wimbledon in the tie of the round. AFC Wimbledon were set up in 2002 by the supporters and will face the Dons for the first time.

There are four all non league ties in the second round meaning that there will be four non league sides guaranteed a place in the third round and the chance for a tie against one of the big guns in the Premier League. Chelmsford's reward for beating Colchester in the first round is an away trip to League One side Crawley Town.

All ties will be played over the weekend of 1st and 2nd December. Hereford's clash with Cheltenham Town will be played on Monday 3rd December due to the tie being televised on ESPN.

FA Cup second round fixtures:

Accrington Stanley v Oxford United
Barrow v Macclesfield
Bradford v Brentford
Bury v Southend Utd
Carlisle v Bournemouth
Coventry City v Morecambe
Crawley Town v Chelmsford City
Crewe Alexandra v Burton Albion
Fleetwood Town v Aldershot Town
Harrogate Town v Hastings Utd
Lincoln City v Mansfield
Luton Town v Dorchester
Oldham Town v Doncaster
Preston North End v Gillingham
Rotherham v Notts County
Sheff United v Port Vale
Tranmere v Chesterfield
MK Dons v AFC Wimbledon
Alfreton Town v Leyton Orient
Cheltenham v Hereford

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Capital One Cup: Quarter Finals

The fourth round of the Capital One Cup saw some of the best League Cup games in its existence. The eight games saw a total of 37 goals scored in some enthralling encounters.

The stand out game of the round saw Arsenal make a remarkable comeback away at Reading in front of the Sky cameras winning 7-5. It all looked rosy for the home side after 35 minutes, as Brian McDermott's men lead 4-0 through Jason Roberts, Noel Hunt, Mikele Leigertwood and a Laurent Koscielny own goal. Despite an awful first half display Arsenal went in at the break with one goal to their name and a slither of hope as Theo Walcott chipped home after through on goal.

The second half of the game started as the first half finished. Arsene Wenger brought on Olivier Giroud who made an immediate impact to head home a Walcott cross and to make the scoreline 4-2. As the half came to a close, it looked like Reading had withstood the Arsenal comeback but in the 89th minute Koscielny made amends for his own goal as he headed home another fine Walcott corner. It was the winger though that completed a remarkable game as his 95th minute shot crept over the line despite the efforts of Nicky Shorey to stop the strike.

The equaliser took the game to extra time, and the 30 minutes did not disappoint as the Gunners went ahead for the first time in the game as Marouane Chamakh drilled home from outside the box. Chamakh's goal had looked like it was to be the vital goal to take Arsenal through but Reading had other ideas. As extra time neared the end, Pavel Pogrebnyak popped up to head home their fifth from a Chris Gunter cross. The game looked set for penalties but it was Walcott again who blasted home from six yards after Andrey Arshavin's cross was blocked to complete his hat trick. Chamakh lobbed home in the dying moments to end a remarkable game and one that will be remembered for a long time.

The drama on Tuesday night continued on Wednesday as Chelsea faced Manchester United at Stamford Bridge for the second time in four days. Like Arsenal, this game was in front of the Sky cameras and didn't disappoint either as Chelsea won 5-4 after extra time. Goals from David Luiz, Daniel Sturridge, Eden Hazard, Ramires and Gary Cahill were enough to overcome a reletively inexperienced United side whose goals came from the boots of Giggs (2), Hernandez and Nani.

The cup wasn't completely dominated this week by the goal fests but with a shocks too as both Wigan and Sunderland were beaten by lower league opposition. Sunderland fell down to Championship side Middlesbrough 1-0 at the Stadium of Light as Scott McDonald's goal was enough for them to win the Wear-Tees derby. Wigan were embarrassed at home as League Two Bradford City beat them 4-2 on penalties to take them to the quarter finals. Both Liverpool and Spurs were eliminated from the competition as Brendan Rogers side were beaten by his former side Swansea 3-1. Spurs were beaten 2-1 away at Norwich with Spurs' Clint Dempsey missing a penalty in the dying moments of the game to end their involvement in the competition.

The quarter finals saw the 'bigger' teams avoid each other and will see Chelsea travel to Leeds who have already deposited of Everton and Southampton in the competition so far. Bradford's reward is a home tie to Arsenal while Middlesbrough face an away trip to Swansea. In the final tie of the quarter finals, Paul Lambert will face his former side as his Villa team will travel to Norwich City.

All games will be played the week commencing the 10th December whilst Chelsea's game at Leeds will be played on 19th December due to their commitment to the Club World Cup which they will play in after their Champions League success.

Quarter Final ties:

Bradford v Arsenal
Leeds United v Chelsea
Swansea v Middlesbrough
Norwich City v Aston Villa