|Sunday football was back at Commonedge Road this weekend after recent poor weather. In Division 2A we had a top of the table clash between promotion rivals Little Fat Jacks FC and Visualise North FC. The first fixture between the two finished at 1-1 earlier in the season. Which side would come out on top this morning?|
After last week's complete washout it was good to see Sunday football back along the Fylde Coast this morning. There were a number of important fixtures at Commonedge Road today and none more so than the Division 2A top of the table fixture between Little Fat Jacks FC and Visualise North FC.
The league table at start of play showed the top three six points clear of West Coast Tackle in fourth. Currently, the impressive Ward Heating are top of the tree on 30 points three points ahead of Little Fat Jacks in second and four points ahead of Visualise North in third. Both LFJ and the Viz had a game in hand on Ward Heating and with the leaders not in action today this was to be it.
John Walker's Little Fat Jacks finished third in 2A last season behind the Gardeners and Blackpool Rangers. They just came up a little short late season and therefore missed out on promotion to Division 1. I tipped them as my pre-season favourites for the 2A title and thus far they haven't disappointed. Eight wins, three draws and a solitary defeat have given them a great platform for the second half of the season to kick on and win promotion. Their only defeat came in November against the rapidly improving Claremont Cons.
In the Gledhill Cup a first round defeat by new side FC Eden ended their interest early. Just before Christmas they beat the Squash FC to reach round 2 of the Division 2 Cup. They still have Ward Heating to play twice so their destiny is still in their own hands. At start of play they were unbeaten at home but with visitors Visualise North being the top scorers away they knew that this was going to be one of the key fixtures of the season.Visualise North are going well after being promoted from Division 3B at the end of last season.
Going into the new year Mark Kelly's and Joe Hulme's team are still handily placed for a second successive promotion charge. The side have racked up eight wins and two draws along with two defeats during their short career in Division 2A. Unlike LFJ they're playing many of their opponents for the first time and the unknown quantity is always going to be difficult. The two defeats have come against the Squirrel and West Coast Tackle Postal.
They too have leaders Ward Heating to play twice as well as Blackpool Catholic Club so they were well aware that today's game was massively important in determining their final finishing position. After a first round win against Pump & Truncheon Celtic they went out of this season's Gledhill Cup to bitter rivals Cash & Carry Kitchens FC. In the Divisional Cup they received a first round bye and next week they'll play West Coast Tackle Postal in Round 2.
I managed to see the last twenty minutes of the first encounter earlier in the season. The Viz had equalised to make it 1-1. Both sides had good spells during the game but LFJ finished the stronger and were only denied a late winner by the width of a post. Defeat today would be very disappointing for either side although a draw looked to be the favourite result taking into account current form.
The wind had eased a little from yesterday and thankfully it was dry and not too cold. A tough fixture for any referee this one and the man in charge this morning was top Alliance whistler Mark Hughes. At 11:03 a sharp blast of his whistle got proceedings underway with Visualise North in the raspberry kit attacking the sea end with the wind directly in their faces.
Little Fat Jacks FC 2007/08.
Visualise North FC 2007/08
Dave Whitmore (Left) and Marlon Bradley with ref Mark Hughes.
On six minutes LFJ took the lead. The ball fell to the edge of the box where John Walsh was left with enough time to fire in a deflected shot that gave Greg White no chance in the Viz goal no chance. 1-0.
John Walsh (12) shoots Little Fat Jacks FC into the lead.
A contingent from Quilligans form part of the good sized crowd after they were stood up by Additions FC.
Marcus Cole (Right)
Visualise North keeper Gregory White.
Ward Heating FC manager Mick Hutchinson (Left) was another interested spectator at today's game.
The wind was making things difficult for Visualise North as they struggled to get any quality ball up to Kinley and Gardiner in the opposition third of the field. Little Fat Jacks were largely in control and they were putting the Viz defenders under a lot of pressure especially from corners and the long throws of Peter Clarkson. As the half progressed the game become more bad tempered. The tackles were flying in and niggles were developing.
An early flash point.
Jacks go close once more from a corner.
Clarkson enters referee Hughes' notebook.
Jay's in the book despite protestations.
Gavin Hughes patched up after an early clash of heads.
More pressure on the Visualise goal.
Agony for Fat Jack Jamie May as he just couldn't connect with the cross ball.
Gavin Hughes (On the ground), in the thick of things.
As half time approached tempers completely boiled over. After something of an innocuous challenge LFJ's Marco Cobb saw the red mist and thumped Gavin Hughes in the above picture. It's easy to say that players should then stand back and let the referee take actions but emotions run high and predictably people dive in to take retribution themselves. When the dust had settled Marco Cobb was red carded for LFJ along with Wayne Gardiner (Retaliation), and Danny King, (Foul and abusive language) both for the Viz.
I could say more but I'll leave that to the referee's report and besides a number of the committee had a clear view of what went on. I watch a lot of Sunday games and such poor behaviour is thankfully a rarity.
Referee Hughes wisely gave both teams a few minutes to restore order and finally the game continued.
An early bath for Danny King.
The committee not best pleased with unfolding events.
Towards the end of the half Visualise North had two strong claims for a penalty but on both occasions referee Hughes waved them away.
Half time score : Little Fat Jacks FC 1 – 0 Visualise North FC.
Mark Kelly rallies the troops at half time.
Kara New out watching the Shovels FC on the adjoining pitch.
LFJ keeper Mark Arrowsmith.
Tim Kinley (Left)
Despite the numerical disadvantage it was the Visualise North FC who were making the early running in the second half. Just as Jacks had done in the first half it was now the time of the Viz to put the ball under the opponents bar. LFJ were reduced to the occasional foray on the break. Kinley was working hard on his own up front and good hold up play allowed others to join him. Thankfully for us all the fighting appeared to have blown itself out and the referee was having an easier time of things.
The fella in the background prepares to go bog snorkling.
The pressure builds on the LFJ goal.
On 70 minutes Visualise North FC made the breakthrough. Marcus Cole was delivering some great corners into the danger area and on this occassion he got it just right as his wicked and swerving delivery deceived Arrowsmith and flew straight into the net. 1-1.
Cole's corner flies directly over Arrowsmith's desperate grasp and into the top corner.
Two minutes later and Viz were in dreamland. Great work by Gavin Hughes on the right. He beat one man to the tackle, beat another and whipped in a great cross two yards in from the touchline. The ball caught on the wind and went in off the far post. Arrowsmith no chance on this occasion. 1-2.
The galloping welshman has the shirt off in celebration.
Viz right back Rogerson tries to keep tabs on Peter Clarkson.
The veteran begins to feel it as a touch of cramp sets in.
As the clock ticked down Viz decided to hold on to what they had. Kinley dropped back to help out his other eight team mates who were understandably tiring. Jacks had nothing to lose and began to push bodies forward.
Into injury time and Glen Rogerson tripped the Jack's defender on the edge of the box. Referee Hughes waved play on and Jack's went close but the ball was cleared for a corner. The crowd were whistling.
With 91 minutes on the clock the corner was delivered. There was a scramble, a blocked shot and then the ball fell to Jason McCuish. He scuffed his shot but young keeper White was committed to his dive. The soft shot bobbled a couple of times before beating White's outstretched hand and going into the net. We had drama. 2-2 and wild celebrations from Jack's players and supporters.
Heartbreak for Greg White as he's beaten for the late equaliser.
Please swallow me up.
There wasn't too much more action before referee Hughes blew the whistle on a very eventful game.
Handshakes all round after a bruising encounter.
Final score : Little Fat Jacks FC 2 -2 Visualise North FC
This game had everything this morning and perhaps encapsulated the good, the bad and the ugly of Fylde Coast Sunday morning football. It was packed with incident from start to finish and if you chose to watch this match as a neutral then overall it was a good decision.
However, it was far from a good game of football. Both sides were very poor against the wind and the vast majority of chances created with the wind were from set pieces such as corners and throw ins. A gusty wind, a deflection, two keeper errors and a fluke resulted in a 2-2 scoreline. It was gutsy and very committed if a trifle indisciplined at times. Both sides desperately wanted to win and avoid defeat at all costs. As with the first fixture a hard fought draw was the end result. It now looks as though the Division 2A title winners will come from one of the current top three sides. The four games between these two and Ward Heating will go a long way in deciding who will finish as champions.
For LFJ Clarkson remains a class act. As for Visualise North there was good performances from Bradley and Cole. My man of the match goes to Gavin Hughes who put in one of the best overall performances I've seen in amateur football all season. He covered every inch of grass, maintained his discipline under extreme provocation, won almost evey tackle, hardly misplaced a pass, never stood still and purposefully bent in a wonder goal from the corner flag.
Another man under pressure was referee Hughes but as one of our most qualified Alliance referees he's handled a lot worse. He'll be as busy as me tonight writing his report and will no doubt be requesting a new notebook.
Roll on next Sunday!
Man of the Match Hughes sports the wounds of battle.