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Football Match Reports 2007-08

The webmaster wishes to record his grateful thanks to Edward Wyatt for the photographs and to Michael Wyatt for the reports on the matches.


North Cheltenham Churches Football Team
Sponsored by Selim Smith & Co

North Cheltenham Churches Football Team 2007-2008
Our team just before the game on 9 September 2007

 

2007-8 Results and League Table             Latest report


Fixtures and Report Index

Cotswolds Churches League
North Cheltenham Churches

Fixtures 2007-2008

    NCC- Opponents Home/Away   Venue
Wd 22 Aug 2007: Friendly   St Matthews   (away) Balcarras Astroturf
Sat 01 Sep 2007 Friendly   Bredon Vets (home) Stade de Prestbury
Sat 08 Sep 2007 League 0 - 4 Ecclesiastical FC (away) KGV
Sat 22 Sep 2007 League 2 - 3 Gloucester Community Church   (away) Plock Court
Sat 06 Oct 2007 League 2 - 6 St Matthews (away) Stade de Prestbury
Sat 13 Oct 2007 Cup 8 - 4 Trinity Panthers   (away) Newlands
Sat 20 Oct 2007 League 2 - 0 Tewkesbury Trinity Tigers   (home) Stade de Prestbury
Sat 03 Nov 2007 League 4 - 0 Cambray   (away) The Burrows
Sat 10 Nov 2007 League 5 - 4 Cheltenham Trinity   (home) Stade de Prestbury
Sat 17 Nov 2007 League 3 - 1 Cornerstone Utd   (away) Evesham High School
Sat 24 Nov 2007 League 2 - 2 Diamonds FC (home) Stade de Prestbury
Sat 01 Dec 2007 CCL Trophy 0 - 4 Cambray   (home) Stade de Prestbury
Sat 15 Dec 2007 CCL Plate 0 - 6 Diamonds FC   (home) Stade de Prestbury
Sat 05 Jan 2008 League 2 - 4 Ecclesiastical FC (home) Stade de Prestbury
Sat 26 Jan 2008 League 2 - 5 St Matthews (home) Stade de Prestbury
Sat 02 Feb 2008 League 2 - 2 Tewkesbury Trinity Tigers (away) Tewkesbury School
Sat 09 Feb 2008 League 0 - 2 Cambray (home) Stade de Prestbury
Sat 23 Feb 2008 League 1 - 3 Diamonds FC (away) Naunton Park
Sat 08 Mar 2008 League 0 - 5 Cornerstone Utd (home) Stade de Prestbury
Sat 15 Mar 2008 League 5 - 2 Cheltenham Trinity (away) Newlands
Sat 29 Mar 2008 League 3 - 4 Gloucester Community Church   (home) Stade de Prestbury

Matches – All Kick-Offs 10.30am (Please be at the ground at least half an hour beforehand if possible)
 
The links on the dates in the list above take you to the match reports.

 

 


A Review of this Season

Dad and I have looked back over the NCC’s second season, and, with delight, note a tremendous improvement in their results of six wins, including a cup win, and two draws, with 10 defeats, scoring 35 goals, compared with 20 during the previous season. Leading scorers were Andrew Murton (16) and Andrew Elvidge (9).

We felt the fifth game, against Tewkesbury Trinity Tigers, was the season’s turning point, resulting in a first-ever league win. With the NCC under great pressure, and their goalkeeper well beaten, and well outside his area, the Tigers appeared to be heading for the opening score, as depicted in this photograph. One defender thought otherwise, and in his desperate run managed to clear the ball off the line, epitomising the never-say-die determination the team has shown throughout every game. Well done to all concerned!

Michael Wyatt

 

A line from the NCC Captain

As NCC stepped onto the pitch for the last game of the 2007/8 season against Gloucester the feeling of expectation rather than hope that was amongst the players surely summed up what a vastly improved campaign it had been. Victory would have secured 4th spot for the Undertakers – a far cry from the solitary point gained in the previous season leaving the team bottom of the league. Unfortunately a typically spirited effort from all the boys went unrewarded as Gloucester sneaked a last minute winner.

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed on and off the pitch this season – our position once again at the top of the fair play league speaks volumes. Bring on next season!!!

Andrew Murton

 

A line from the NCC Manager

Well, what a season! The summer saw steady activity in the transfer market. We lost two regular players (Grant and Graeme) and gained some new faces (Aj, Duncan and David). Our youth system continued to produce with James Radburn becoming an established member of the side. But the core of the team remained the same and regular training sessions throughout the summer meant we were well prepared for the new season.

Despite an increasing confidence within the team we had the most disappointing of starts – three straight defeats. Then something just seemed to click and we went on a record-breaking run of five victories and one draw in our next six games. We were majestic – our defence was assured, our midfield fluent and our attack potent as we beat the best the Cotswolds Churches League could offer. Then, unfortunately, Christmas arrived and the mid-season break saw a turn in our fortunes. A combination of injuries and bad luck meant that the second half of the season couldn’t live up to the early promise.

It’s a measure of how far we have come that in the end we are slightly disappointed in our final position of seventh. The team has vastly improved in the past twelve months. Whereas last year we concentrated on defending and keeping the score respectable, this year we have felt confident of beating any side in the league. Although most players have been called upon to play in multiple positions, there is now much greater coherency to our play, and a good understanding of the strengths of other members of the team. Whilst there have been many memorable individual performances during the season, they have been spread throughout the squad. All our players have improved during the season both personally and as a team.

Finally whilst it’s true to say that we have become more competitive, with some tense, hard fought games, we have still played the game in a sporting manner. So, whilst it is good to have started winning games, we haven’t lost sight of the main purpose – to have an enjoyable game of football.

Tim Rudge

These reports appeared in the May 2008 edition of the Prestbury Parish Magazine

 

 


 

Game 19: League Match:  North Cheltenham Churches  3 - 4  Gloucester Community Church   29 March 2008


Andy Elvidge about to open the scoring
 

For their last match of the season the NCC were host to the Gloucester Community Church. There was a strong and gusty wind, with rain clouds speeding in, as Gloucester kicked off proceedings, and immediately began to attack. Fortunately for the home team one early attack saw the ball rebound off a post for a goal kick. Gloucester dominated play, and exerted an almost continuous bombardment on the NCC goal. Their slick passing movements and full use of the field saw them entrenched up-field for much of the opening half hour. During this time Tim RudgeTim Rudge saves (left) was made to work almost non-stop, and made some outstanding saves, including a superb reflex one from a close shot, a wonderful one handed save which was sent over the crossbar and another where he threw himself parallel to the ground and plucked the ball from the air, with his arms at full stretch. Although the NCC defence was unable to prevent Gloucester from advancing they too worked well in denying the opposition at every opportunity. Despite this blistering onslaught the Hoops managed a few attacks of their own, and came into the game much more after twenty minutes. They even put the ball into the opposition net, only to see it disallowed for an offside infringement. Now followed an exciting period of play, which saw the ball moved rapidly from one end of the field to the other. Each side created several chances, which were fired wide or well saved by the defending keeper. Five minutes before half time a Gloucester player launched a shot, with the NCC keeper well beaten, and some way out of his goal. Fortunately the ball rebounded off another Gloucester player, lying on the ground and sped away to safety! Then, five minutes before half time, an NCC attack saw Andy Elvidge (above) beat a defender to the ball and slot it past the advancing goal keeper, before it ended up in the far corner of the net, to open the scoring. Both teams had further chances to score, with shots coming at either end. In time added on a Gloucester player shot from the right wing, and watched with delight as the ball sped under the body of the despairing Tim, to finish up in the net. Thirty seconds later it was half time!


Chris Rudge passes the ball to ...


... Duncan Cameron-Mitchell to head into the net   3-3

The NCC attacked from the start of the second half, forcing the Gloucester keeper to make some fine saves. After five minutes the visitors sped down their left wing, and scored, when a shot beat a diving Tim Rudge to end up in the far corner of the net. For the next eight minutes play pulsated from one end to the other, before Andrew Murton found himself in front of the goal, with only the keeper to beat. Calmly he slotted the ball into the far corner of the net, for the score to be tied yet again. This remained the position until some five minutes before the scheduled end, both teams played some smart football, despite the squally conditions, and the game seemed to be destined for a draw, which would have been a fair result. However, the final five minutes were full of drama and excitement. First Gloucester scored, after being allowed several stabs at the ball. Three minutes later the Undertakers were awarded a free kick on the left wing, just inside the Gloucester half. Chris Rudge (above left) sent a high ball into a gaggle of players on the right, where Duncan Cameron-Mitchell (above right) sent a thumping header into the net, to level the scores for the fourth time in the match, and so register his first goal for the team. Three minutes to go, but disaster was coming. Immediately from the kick-off Gloucester attacked down their left wing, and within thirty five seconds of losing their lead they had regained it, for the third and final time. Two minutes later the dismal faces of the losing team reflected the weather, and left them pondering on what might have been.

A wet and gloomy Michael Wyatt reporting from a soggy Stade de Prestbury.


Game 18: League Match:  Cheltenham Trinity  2 - 5  North Cheltenham Churches   15 March 2008

In this penultimate game, against Trinity, a game which created two more first time events, the NCC team kicked off and attacked down a distinct slope. Within the opening minutes they were dominating play and won two corners. Their attacks paid off when, after seven minutes, Andrew Murton sent a fine cross into the box, which was met by Martin Eccles who flicked a delicate looping header into the corner of the goal (below). Soon after a poor clearance from the Trinity keeper almost led to a second goal but the shot was just wide of the target, with the keeper struggling to get back. Then the home team started to get into the game more, with some penetrating attacks of their own. From one, a long shot from a free kick, the ball just went over the crossbar. Trinity kept up the pressure and forced some excellent saves from goalkeeper Paul Bennett. One, from a corner, saw Paul return the ball up the field, where, after several players were unable to force it home, Paul Broekman succeeded, and so scored his first ever goal for the NCC (below). This was some twenty seconds after that corner was saved at the other end! 

Martin Eccles scores the first goal from a header

Paul Broekman scores his first ever goal for the NCC

Five minutes before half time three Trinity attackers split the NCC defence and one slotted the ball past the advancing keeper, who could only watch as the ball rolled into the net (below), despite the valiant efforts of a defender. Amazingly, within twenty seconds the NCC team had scored their third goal, when a good attacking movement found Lee Bradley calmly shaking off a defender, before slotting the ball into the net (below). In the closing minutes before half time Trinity had a shot sail high over the visitors’ cross bar. When the half time whistle went the Undertakers were happy with the way they were playing and hoping for more of the same in the second half.

Five minutes before half time the NCC defence is split. 1-2

Lee Bradley calmly shakes off a defender and
slots the ball into the net for 1-3

The opening thirty minutes of the second half saw some exciting football, as play moved from end to end, forcing both keepers to make some brilliant saves. Although it was pulsating, Cheltenham Trinity posed the greater threat, but resolute defending (below) from a set of determined players prevented the ball from being passed as much as the attackers would have wished for, the home side even swapped their goalkeeper in an attempt to have another penetrating forward. Then, with about fifteen minutes to go, Andrew Murton made a proficient run to his left, and calmly slid the ball past the despairing dive of the desperate keeper, to score (below).

NCC successfully defending Andrew Murton makes it 1-4

Almost from the kick-off Trinity had a free kick, outside the box, following a foul. The resulting kick saw the ball shoot into the bottom right hand corner of the goal (below), making the last ten minutes a tense period, with the score standing at 2-4. In the following minutes it was all Trinity, who created a number of dangerous attacks down both wings, forcing several fine saves from Paul Bennett. Following one save it was thirteen seconds later that the ball was rolling into the Trinity net, after a good long kick spilt the Trinity defence, enabling Andy Elvidge to hit a volley (below), giving the keeper no chance, and so score a wonderful decisive goal.

Trinity score from a free kick  2-4 Andy Elvidge volleyed the ball to the net   2-5

The excitement continued to the very end, with near misses and fine saves at both ends. As the final whistle sounded the North Cheltenham team had won their first game since 17th November, but it had also recorded their first-ever league double. Well done to both teams for an exciting match, played with a wonderful sense of commitment.

A most happy and delighted Michael Wyatt, reporting from Newlands


Game 17: League Match:  North Cheltenham Churches  0 - 5  Cornerstone Utd   8 March 2008

In this antepenultimate game of the season, against Cornerstone United, the North Cheltenham team kicked off, and immediately mounted an attack down the right wing, but the resulting cross eluded everyone. Then the away side attacked down their left wing, forcing a diving save from Tim Rudge, who was playing in goal for the first time since October. The Undertakers had a great chance to score when they spent time in the opposition’s goal area, but Cornerstone’s defence came to their rescue. Then Cornerstone had a sustained period of attack, using both flanks, and firing in several shots, forcing Tim to make some exhilarating saves. Following another NCC attack the visitors sped up their right wing before sending in a cross from near the corner-flag. This was met by an attacker, waiting eagerly in front of the post, who stroked the ball in for the initial goal (right). There followed a period of play during which each side appeared to attack and defend in turn, but Cornerstone always looked the more threatening. During this period they had a free kick narrowly pass over the cross bar, another shot was even closer to the left-hand post and several others forced good saves from Tim Rudge, one being a full-stretched acrobatic aerial save to his left. Even so, the NCC made some attacks of their own, but good work from a solid defence denied them on every occasion. From one such attack, on the half-hour mark, the Cornerstone keeper caught the ball; within twenty-five seconds the ball was in the NCC’s net, as Cornerstone scored their second goal, following quick work and a shot from outside of the box, with the home defence caught unawares. Following this goal the Undertakers spent some minutes deep inside the opposition’s half, but this was followed by almost continuous pressure from Cornerstone until the half ended. Again Tim made some fine saves, and saw another shot, from a cross on the right wing, fly past his far post. The strong wind and drizzle, aiding the opposition, did not help matters. Resolute defence, if at times dangerous, kept the opposition out, although one such act gave away a corner, following a clearance which saw the ball sail high over the cross-bar. The home side survived this pressure for the last fifteen minutes, and must have thought the conditions would favour a second-half revival.

Ajmal on the attack A fine save from Tim Rudge

 

As Cornerstone kicked off the second half, into a gusty wind, they were destined to spend much of the opening twenty minutes defending their goal against a spirited NCC attack. Their keeper made a few saves within the opening minutes, with many more to follow, but the team was able to cope with everything. The NCC fired a shot over the bar, but always found their opponents’ defence marking every position. In this period the number of attacks made by Cornerstone could be counted on one hand, but they were dangerous attacks made on a break by determined players able to utilise space, skill and speed to their advantage. As the weather improved so did the football from Cornerstone. After twenty-four minutes one of these rare attacks saw the lead increase after a run down their left wing, followed by an angled shot at goal, with two other forwards, unmarked, waiting by the far post. Despite this upset the NCC created two further chances, both going wide of the goal, and continued to spend more time in the opposition’s half. Despite this they conceded another two goals in the final ten minutes; the first, after 82 minutes, saw a repeat of the previous goal, a run down the left wing followed by an angled shot, and the final goal, five minutes later, came after a delicate chip was lobbed high over the outstretched hands of a despairing Tim, who could only hear the salutes of his opponents informing him where the ball was. In between these goals Tim kept out two shots, fired in as many seconds, only to see a third shot graze the bar as it sped over.

A disappointing result, from a new Uncle Michael Wyatt, reporting from the Stade de Prestbury


Game 16: League Match:  Diamonds  3 - 1   North Cheltenham Churches   23 February 2008


A shot from just outside of the box crept under the body of
the diving Pete Sexton to give Diamonds the perfect start.

On a cold day Diamonds kicked off this rearranged match. Within the first five minutes each side had at least two good chances to score, but they were saved by the opposing goalkeepers. Then Diamonds had another attack, and fired a shot from just outside of the box, which crept under the body of the diving Pete Sexton, to give Diamonds the perfect start. The home team started to create more chances but fortunately for the Hoops the ball was either saved or just went wide of the goal. In a ten-minute period of intense pressure Diamonds won several corners, following some penetrating attacks, but through good fortune and stalwart defending the Undertakers denied their every opportunity. Then North Cheltenham had a half-chance but the ball went wide of the left hand goal post. Diamonds continued to dominate the NCC goal with another series of penetrating corners fired into a packed defensive area, but good defending kept them out. Then a rare attack from the away side saw one shot saved by the keeper, and a further cross, from the left hand side, was too high for the in-coming player.


North Cheltenham Churches defending their goal

Soon after the Diamonds won yet another corner; somehow the ball was cleared off the line. Despite this pressure the NCC managed a few attacks, and there was a period when the play was more even. Then, five minutes before half time, a good through ball found Christopher Kyle, in mid-field. With great coolness he dribbled the ball to his left, and outpaced the two defenders. From wide of the post he fired a low shot, which eluded the keeper, both defenders and a third player running to help. Going into half time all-square the NCC was full of hope for a better second half, with both the slope and wind in their favour.


From wide of the post Christopher Kyle fired a low shot which eluded
the keeper, both defenders and a third player running to help.

Some ten seconds into the second half Diamonds almost retook the lead when a charge up the field saw the ball sent high over the bar. After that scare the North Cheltenham team had an attack but the home defence cleared the ball, and mounted another attack, which saw the ball go out for another corner, successfully cleared by the NCC defence. NCC came into the game more, attacked the home goal but good defending and goalkeeping kept them out. For the next twenty minutes the ball was moved from one end of the field to the other, with both sides demonstrating good ball control and use of space. In this period Diamonds forced two good saves from Pete Sexton, one at head-height; in turn their keeper was made to make several saves, a couple from desperate dives.


An attacker coolly took the ball towards the right-hand post
 with two defenders trying to close him down.

The final ten minutes of the match was pretty tense as each side tried to find the winner, either with a bit of marvellous skill or a defensive error. Both sides were creating chances in a thrilling period of football; Diamonds defended well and were fortunate not to concede a goal as their area was crowded with a dozen eager players. In the 89th minute Diamonds made yet another attack, up the right wing. The NCC defence lost the ball, which was crossed to a Diamonds attacker who snapped a shot towards the goal. Unfortunately this sped through the gap between the diving keeper and the left post, Diamonds were back in the lead, there seemed no way back for the Undertakers. Yet there was time for each side to make two more attacks, before Diamonds regained the ball. An attacker coolly took the ball towards the right-hand post, with two defenders trying to close him down. Neatly propelling the ball with the inside of his right boot he watched with glee as the ball shot past everybody, to end up firmly in the far corner of the net. This was in the fourth minute of time added on; the NCC had capitulated so suddenly during the final minutes of a pulsating game. A great disappointment for them.

A stunned Michael Wyatt from Naunton Park


League : game 15:  North Cheltenham Churches  0 - 2  Cambray   9 February 2008

On a lovely spring morning a minute’s silence, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Munich air crash, preceded NCC’s home game against second-place Cambray. Concerning the team colours it was reminiscent of a game between Yeovil Town and Forest Green Rovers. Cambray attacked immediately from the kick off, and won a free kick, which was put wide of the goal. In another attack a shot was punched away by James Walters. This was indicative of the game, with Cambray dominating play, and having several shots at goal. After ten minutes Cambray had the ball in the net but the result was disallowed in favour of an earlier infringement. Cambray played some skilful football, and their speedy forwards were able to move the ball across, as well as up, the field of play. They had a chip shot, and a corner, both went narrowly wide of the goal. Despite this the Undertakers had some promising attacks, against a defence packed with players, at one stage ten, and created two good chances to score, one went over the bar and the other was wide of the goal. Approaching the half-hour mark a Cambray attack sped down the right wing before the ball was crossed to a waiting attacker. Calmly he side-footed the ball into the left hand corner of the net, past the diving keeper, to put the visitors into the lead.


James Walters makes some fine saves

The home side came into the game more, and in one attack Aj had a wonderful opportunity to score, but was denied by the quick response of the keeper. Although both sides made repeated forages more shots came from the Cambray team, and forced James Walters into making several saves. One important save saw him dive in front of a rampant forward and push the ball beyond the reach of his boot. In another attack six NCC players appeared to be chasing one Cambray player with the ball, rather than playing to position, ready to receive his cross. Shortly before half time North Cheltenham had a few penetrating attacks; one was denied by good defensive work followed by a fine save, and another, a free kick, sped across a packed goal.

In the second half Cambray again attacked from the kick-off, immediately forcing Paul Bennett, now in goal, to demonstrate his skills; a gallant dive knocking the ball away. Although Cambray did not show their first-half dominance their play demonstrated their authority on the game. However, one still felt that the Hoops could score with a successful attack, despite the opposition’s well-managed defence. Cambray won series of corners, which the home side bravely defended, and from one Paul Bennett again saved well. Just past the twenty-five minute mark the Hoops had an attack down their left wing which might have been more fortunate on another day. The ball was kicked towards the net, and seemed to cross the line before it was somehow saved, on the line!

Within a minute Cambray, following an attack up their left wing, made a high cross. As the ball descended it was guided into the goal by a quick Cambray forward who got between the two defenders. Two goals scored, and a quarter of an hour remaining. Almost immediately the home side had an attack and a fierce drive from Aj just went past the right hand upright. In the final ten minutes NCC had two free kicks. From the first the ball was chipped in, past a packed defensive wall, but the headed follow-up was easily saved, and from the other, the last kick of the match, the keeper made the save look easy. In between Cambray managed a few more attacks, unsuccessful, rather like the NCC’s display. At the final whistle statistics showed this was the seventh game without a win; which includes games against the top three teams.

A disappointed Michael Wyatt from the Stade de Prestbury


League game 14:  Tewkesbury Trinity Tigers  2 - 2  North Cheltenham Churches  2 February 2008

First goal  :  Where were their defenders?

On a cold day Tewkesbury Trinity kicked off this match, allowing North Cheltenham to attack down the slope. Within the opening minute the NCC team was awarded a free kick, which was easily headed out by the home defence. Maintaining their pressure the away side had another shot, which went wide of the goal. Both sides mounted attacks, as play flowed up and down the pitch. The home side started to create more pressure by winning two corners, both following good runs down their right wing. However, after ten minutes, Andrew Murton collected the ball on the right wing, dribbled past a Tiger defender before crossing the ball. Here an unmarked Paul Bennett, balancing on his left leg, was able to side-foot the ball past the outstretched hands of the diving keeper, to put the NCC team into the lead. The home side again created some chances, especially by gaining corners, making Tom Parker pull off two fine saves. The green and whites had a chance when a through ball put Andy Elvidge in a good position but a well-timed tackle stopped him, and the ball went out for a corner. From this resulting corner the ball was hit high over the crossbar. Soon after another chance to penetrate the Tigers’ lair was halted by a fine diving save by their keeper. Then, on the twenty-five minute mark, a good run saw Andrew Murton cruise past the Tewkesbury defence. As the keeper dived so Andrew (below) cleverly lifted the ball into the back of the net; 0-2. Soon after the Tigers attacked down their right wing. A good cross saw Tom Parker catch the ball above his head, whilst balancing on one leg, in front of an attacking Tiger. Two further attacks, which put NCC players in good scoring positions, were well saved by the keeper and his defence. For the remainder of the half most play took place within the Tigers’ den, with a string of chances being created, but none was put away. The home side were most threatening when they took another couple of corners. At half time the Tigers were fortunate to be trailing by only a couple of goals, the margin could have been greater.

NCC started the second period, against a resurgent Tiger team, whose manager must have growled harshly at them during the break. As the half unfolded so the words of his pep talk began to work wonders. The Tigers began in a confident mood, within five minutes two chances were well saved; the second shot was deflected by an NCC defender, but straight into the path of their keeper. Following another NCC attack a mistake, in the Tewkesbury defence, almost allowed the Undertakers to increase their lead, when an over-hit back-pass was goal-bound, but the keeper managed to clear the ball in time. On the hour mark the home side had a good chance to score, but the ball went wide of the post. This was followed by a corner, the resulting shot past just over the crossbar. The Tigers battled and forced yet another corner, from the left wing, which saw the ball hit the post. Yet another attack was mounted by a solitary Tiger, but valiant keeping from Tom Parker, who, running out to meet his opponent, used his feet to clear the ball, before the attacker could score. North Cheltenham, having survived this pressure, had two more chances to score, but the keeper saved both. Then, with about twenty-five minutes to go, the home side had another attack, which went behind for a corner. Sixteen players crowded around the goalmouth, nearly half of them were Tigers. As the ball descended so the NCC keeper, unsighted, was surrounded by a quartet of tigers, and the ball ended up in the net. In the next fifteen minutes Tewkesbury pressed home relentlessly, so much that the NCC could only mount two attacks, one bravely saved from the feet of a visiting attacker. With about ten minutes to go the home side won yet another corner. Again the goal area was packed, with eight players. The corner produced another descending ball, which appeared to be headed in by a defender! The scores were level, and the final ten minutes was nail biting. Tewkesbury filled the visitors’ goal area in a desperate attempt to score the winner; this area was also full of the NCC players, what a finish! The home side nearly won at the death, but the last kick of the game, a snap shot, whistled through a mass of players and just went wide of the right hand post. As the final whistle was blown a draw seemed a fair result.

Michael Wyatt reporting from inside the den of Tewkesbury Trinity Tigers


League game 13:  North Cheltenham Churches  2 - 5  St Matthews  26 January 2008

Early in the day conditions had looked near perfect, but just before kick off the wind picked up and this was to play a significant part in the game.  NCC lost the toss and kicked off into the wind.  After a few early exchanges a Saints corner came in from the right – a mixture of bending delivery, slightly askew goal posts and the gusty wind resulted in the ball finding its way into the NCC net.

 

For most of the rest of the half NCC were on the back foot, defending doggedly; often struggling to clear their lines against the stiff breeze. The stand in goal keeper James Walter made some brave saves as the visitors started to become frustrated. NCC always looked dangerous on the break however, with their pacey attacking line. Saints had a wake up call when Aj narrowly missed the goal following a great burst from Elvis. A firmer connection from Paul Bennett could also have led to an equaliser from a great Andy Murton free kick. A sharp break from Justin Gooding saw the ball squeeze into the NCC goal and Saints went in 2-0 up at the break.

The second half saw a revitalised NCC come out of the starting blocks raring to get back into the game. The wind appeared to have dropped dramatically compared to the first half, so any advantage NCC hoped to gain appear to have been lost.

A lifeline was handed to the home team when a scramble in the St Matts penalty box resulted in a fortuitous penalty being awarded to NCC. Up stepped the Captain, Andy Murton and kept his nerve to coolly slot home past the keeper for 2-1 to St Matts. At this point NCC began to pressure St Matts who kept their resolve and responded with a well constructed third goal to take it to 3-1 to St Matts

A good period of play by both sides followed, with NCC pushing hard to get something out of the game and St Matts continuing to defend well and exerted a deserved dominance in midfield. After a NCC attack down the left a cross and a flicked header put the ball in the St Matts box ended with a scramble involving Elvis, Andy Murton and finally AJ to slam the ball into the onion bag from 2 yards – an easy goal for someone with the silky skills of AJ!  3-2 to St Matts.

Gaps then started to appear across the pitch as NCC pushed on to try to level the game, this allowing St Matts to further exert a further dominance on the game. Stout defending from both sides and some excellent claims from the replacement, second stand in NCC keeper, Paul Bennett meant that the great chances made by both sides were duly stubbed out before they came to fruition.

St Matts made some timely and useful substitutions, bringing on fresh legs to mix things up in midfield. They continued to create the better chances and deserved the brace of well executed goals to take the score to 5-3 and beyond the NCC reach to leave them sick as the proverbial parrots.

As ever when NCC and St Matts meet, the game was played in an excellent, enjoyable spirit with both sets of players showing a mutual respect and deserved respect to the referee. It is easy to see why St Matts are serious title challengers yet again this year, and the improvement since last year in NCC was also.

Well played NCC and very well done to St Matts!!

Andy Macauly and Martin Eccles      Pictures from Matt Allison
(the usual reporting team were away on important family business)


League game:  NCC v Gloucester Community Church  12 January 2008   POSTPONED owing to waterlogged pitch


Game 12:  League Match:  5 January 2008:
North Cheltenham Churches  2 - 4  Ecclesiastical


An NCC attack forces a corner

On a sunny morning the North Cheltenham Churches football team took on Ecclesiastical, in their home fixture against the runaway league leaders. Despite the heavy rain, which left puddles in the centre circle and goal area, the soft pitch was quite playable. NCC started the better side, and, within the first five minutes, had created several good opportunities. Not to be left out the visitors had an attack, which saw an unsuccessful corner. Another NCC attack forced two corners, both being cleared. The game took on the familiar end-to-end pattern, with both defences clearing their lines very well. Just beyond the quarter-hour mark an attack from the Hoops lead to a mix-up, between the visitor’s goalkeeper and a defender, and an alert Andrew Murton scored by lifting the ball into the roof of net. Ecclesiastical attacked from the kick-off, and gained another corner. Then, having cleared their area, the Undertakers attacked, gaining a corner, and having two pulsating shots saved. One, from Martin Eccles, was a thumping volley, from near the half-way mark, which thundered off the top of the crossbar. Following this the home side played some marvellous passing football, demonstrating a skill rarely shown by them. It was a wonderful spectacle, which created several good chances, but alas, did not result in any goals. Then, for the final five minutes of the half, the visitors moved up a gear, and magnified their vociferous and forceful approach to the game. At half–time the home side must have rued the poor profit from the number of chances they had created.


An alert Andrew Murton scored by lifting the ball into the roof of net


More action from the Undertakers

The Undertakers started the second half well but it was Ecclesiastical who began to dominate. They packed their defence, sometimes by six players, and their attacks were more aggressive, frequent and potent. They forced a series of well-taken corners, and twice the ball hit the crossbar, early warning signs, and from another the ball was headed just wide of the upright. NCC had a few attacks of their own. After twenty minutes one such attack saw a good run from Chris Rudge down the left wing. This was ended when he was brought down inside the penalty area. Unfortunately the resulting kick was, to use a crude analogy, hit high, wide and handsome, with the keeper prone. This was probably the turning point in the game. Within two minutes the visitors had won a penalty, following a foul inside the box. Tom Parker saved the initial kick, but unfortunately the rebound was knocked in, for the score to be tied. Five minutes later Ecclesiastical took the lead when, moving the ball quicker than the defence was able to react, hit a shot into the corner of the net. North Cheltenham must have felt the game was slipping away, especially after four of their attackers had failed to outpace just the keeper and two defenders. Despite this there was a period when played moved from one end to the other. The visitors still maintained a packed goal and relied on the pace and talent of their forwards. Their third goal came from a poor clearance; the visitors must have spotted the ball was always kicked down the right wing. From one such clearance it was a relatively straightforward job to hit the ball back, past the stranded keeper, for it to finish in the back of the net. With about five minutes to go a good run, and cross, down the right wing, was met by Andrew Murton. Skilfully he slotted the ball past the standing keeper, to score his second goal of the game. Within a minute Andy Elvidge had a good chance to equalise, but the shot just went past the post. Shortly before the end the away side made another attack, in which their lone forward unleashed a superb volley, from just outside the penalty area. This sped past the hapless keeper, to wrap up the victory. In the closing moments they could have added more, but were denied by a goal-line clearance and a fine save from Tom Parker, using his feet well. With the full time whistle came the revelation that this was their first league defeat in six league games. As a bonus it was nice to see some followers present to support the team, before they return to university.

A disappointed Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury


Game 11:  Cup Match: 15 December 2007:
North Cheltenham Churches  0 - 6  Diamonds

On a bitterly cold day North Cheltenham fielded a depleted side for their match in the plate trophy. Diamonds attacked from the start, and for much of the game their attacks seemed to go on for ever! After five minutes they scored, when a shot, fired from outside the box, sped diagonally past static defenders, into the far corner, giving Tom Parker no chance. Then followed a period of some twenty minutes when play was fairly balanced. Although North Cheltenham mounted a series of strikes they lacked the numbers to break through a well-organised defence. One chance was deflected for a corner and another just went wide of the goal. A third saw James Walters whip in a cross, which the keeper knocked out. Unfortunately another NCC player could only hit the ball onto the post, and behind for a goal kick. In their turn Diamonds pressed hard, and from one raid the ball was sent low, just over the bar. With less than seven minutes to half time the Diamonds keeper sent the ball up their right wing. It was crossed to an attacker, who coolly glided the ball into the far corner, past both a solitary NCC defender and the keeper, boxed in the wrong corner. A few minutes later Diamonds could have increased the lead but their header, from a crowded goalmouth, went high over the crossbar. In the ensuing minutes the away side created two more opportunities, one was narrowly wide and the other was well saved by Tom Parker. North Cheltenham also had a chance but the visiting keeper was up to it.


 

Diamonds were again on the attack from the restart, and maintained their brilliance for most of this half. An early North Cheltenham attack saw a shot from Chris Rudge well saved. Soon after the visitors had the ball in the net, but it was ruled offside. Diamonds continued to attack the Hoops’ goal, and fired two shots, one went over the bar and the other was well saved. Then, nearing the ten-minute mark, a Diamonds shot was fired towards the left hand post. Fortunately for them the ball hit the inside of this post before speeding across the goal line, with the keeper wrong-footed. The away side maintained their ruthless pressure, with a couple of attempts going wide. Five minutes later they scored a fourth goal when a shot, fired from the left, managed to beat half a dozen defenders and the goalkeeper. Diamonds then spent the next fifteen minutes firmly camped in the NCC’s half, and bombarded their goal, with shots going wide or being saved by an extremely busy keeper. There was a period when ten of the NCC players were defending, from within their goal area. North Cheltenham had a rare excursion, but their chance was well saved. Diamonds confidence was brimful, and they kept the home players on the defensive. Although creating several openings they failed to score, one chance hit the post, and many were well saved by the home keeper. The NCC was fortunate when a defender’s attempted clearance, with a header, rebounded off the upright, for a corner. Ten minutes before the end Diamonds scored goal number five. An attacker neatly sidestepped a lone defender before hitting the ball diagonally across the goal, into the corner. Soon after Tom Parker made another fine save. The North Cheltenham team never gave up, and created another chance, which unfortunately went wide. A Diamonds effort was well saved when the keeper tipped the ball over the bar. Just before the end, Diamonds were awarded a penalty. The resulting kick was sent skimming into the right-hand corner of the net, which concluded the scoring.

Our cup dream is over for this year, and so it is back to the league, on the 5th of January, with a difficult home game against the leaders, Ecclesiastical.

A frozen Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury.


League game:  Diamonds v NCC  8 December 2007   POSTPONED owing to waterlogged pitch


Tom Parker saves

Game 10:  Cup Match: 01 December 2007:
North Cheltenham Churches  0 - 4  Cambray

On cold but sunny day Cambray kicked off this cup fixture, on the Prestbury Road side of the Stade de Prestbury, whilst on the other side St Matthews were playing. Cambray had changed their strip to black and white stripes, and for the spectator it was like watching Celtic play Newcastle United! Although Cambray spent about two thirds of the first period in their opposition’s half, the NCC displayed some stubborn football, through which they were fortunate to end the first half on level terms. Cambray attacked from the start, and in the third minute won a corner on the right. Already Tom Parker, in goal, had made two saves. The resulting corner was cleared, and the ball sent up the field. Immediately it was returned, as Cambray had another assault denied. The home side made an attack up the left wing, which was defended successfully. Tom kept the visitors at bay by using his area, as well as his hands and feet, to deny them. Having won a free kick, just outside the goal area, Cambray wasted this opportunity when the resulting kick was hit high over the cross bar; and so far only ten minutes had passed! The North Cheltenham team made some penetrating attacks, and most reached the goal area, where they found a solid defensive black and white wall. On the half hour mark Cambray had another great chance to score, but the ball went harmlessly into the side netting. As the half drew to a close Cambray still continued their attacks, and it was mainly due to some important saves from goalkeeper Tom that the score remained deadlocked.


The Undertakers on the attack

From the start of the second half North Cheltenham attacked, and looked dangerous for those opening minutes. A shot, from outside the box, was blocked, and so the attack was cleared. Then Cambray began to get back into their stride, and put the Undertaker’s defence under pressure again. Their second foray resulted in a goal, when an attacker neatly side-stepped the defenders and slotted the ball home, past a wrong-footed keeper. Although NCC had the occasional run into their opponent’s territory they spent the majority of this half again defending their goal. Cambray were quick on the break, but brave defending prevented them from scoring. Approaching twenty minutes NCC were fortunate when a shot flew low over the right hand side of the cross bar. Within five minutes Cambray had scored twice more. The first goal came when an effort eluded both the keeper and defender. Another quickly followed, when a long ball through the middle beat the NCC defence. As the keeper went to the edge of his area the attacker reached the ball first, and, despite a valiant chase, Tom could only watch as the ball sped into the right hand corner of his net. By now the sky was becoming darker, to match the mood of the game, from the NCC’s point of view. North Cheltenham had a good chance to score when a chip shot went just over the bar. This was balanced by a Cambray counter-attack, when their effort was well caught by the goalie. Then Cambray had a couple of shots, which were sent wide. The weather worsened, and heavy drops of rain began to fall from a very black sky. Although the NCC managed a few attacks during the final twenty minutes it was all Cambray, but determined defensive work denied them time and time again. Following a corner Cambray moved the ball from player to player, before it was fired high over the bar. A second corner was successfully gathered into the arms of the home keeper. Then, with about five minutes to go, Cambray were awarded a penalty, after a foul. The resulting kick, sent towards the top left hand corner, gave the keeper no chance, even though he went the correct way. In the gathering gloom Cambray continued to pile on the agony, and almost scored a fifth, but the attempt went wide of the woodwork. As the full time whistle sounded the NCC side, depleted, were well beaten, their first defeat in seven games, stretching back two months.


Cambray fail to score from a corner

So NCC are eliminated from the main cup competition, and now they enter the plate competition, decided between those teams knocked out in the early rounds.

A cold and wet Michael Wyatt, reporting from a gloomy Prestbury Playing Fields


Game 09:  League Match: 24 November 2007:
North Cheltenham Churches  2 - 2  Diamonds

On a raw day, made colder by a very stiff wind, Diamonds kicked off this league game. North Cheltenham had Mark Bennett in goal, their fifth keeper this season. The teams started in a positive mood, and play alternated between each end of the field. Although the away side had the first real chance, a header which went close, NCC spent a few minutes pressing hard, a header of their own went just wide. Then Diamonds began to create real pressure, and had a couple of great chances to score. Soon after, on the twenty-minute mark, a Diamonds’ attack saw a shot fired towards the keeper. Unfortunately he could only parry the ball, which fell straight into the path of a quick forward, who placed the rebound into the bottom left hand corner of the net (below left), and so opened the scoring. Each team continued to move the ball into the opposition’s goal-area, but Diamonds were the dominant side. They used the wind to their advantage, and made some delightful passing movements, which brought out some fine saves from Mark Bennett; one saw the ball sailing over his crossbar. Thirty seconds later, and some ten minutes before half time, Diamonds had a corner, from the left. The ball was lobbed up, and as it descended into a fairly crowded box, it was chested past the helpless keeper (below right), for the sharp Diamonds to double their lead. NCC spent most of the rest of this half in the other end of the field, and created several good chances to get back into the game. They kept the keeper busy, but he was up to everything hit at him. Aj was unfortunate when a header, taken on the rise, was placed wide of the goal. Would it be one of those days when the ball would not go into the net?

Diamonds open the scoring from a rebound : 0-1

 Diamonds score from a corner : 0-2

   

Aj attacks, assisted by an own goal : 1-2

Andrew Murton's gentle kick : 2-2

For much of the opening ten minutes of the second half NCC made most of the running, and spent some time in the Diamonds’ half of the pitch. Andrew Murton had a great chance to score but the keeper made a brave save, diving at his feet, to retrieve the ball. Another chance was missed, when, following a corner, Paul Bennett made a valiant attempt but the ball was headed high over the crossbar. Diamonds were very quick on the break, and in one such attack the ball was taken across the home side’s goal, but this attack was blunted, and a great chance to score was missed. With twenty minutes of the second half gone Aj was taking the ball towards the opposition’s right hand post. He was met by a lone Diamonds defender, who tried to head the ball clear. To his horror, and that of the goalkeeper, he could only watch as the ball fell towards the corner of the net (above left). Although the goalkeeper dived full-length, in his endeavour to keep a clean sheet, he was too late, much to the delight of Aj and the NCC team. There was hope. From the resulting centre the Diamonds, somewhat dejected, attacked. Having denied this the NCC sped up the field, and their attack brought a fine save from the keeper. However, almost immediately, Andrew Murton took a shot, more in hope than expectation, and this gentle kick rolled between all of the players, including the keeper (above right). To everyone’s amazement the ball ended up in the back of the net, the score was tied. The final ten minutes were pulsating, and nerve-racking. Both sides had at least a couple of great chances to increase their lead, and play moved from one end to the other. Andrew Macauly made a great tackle, and the whole team defended well, especially after Aj went off injured for the closing minutes, and even mounted a couple of attacks. Following the final frantic few minutes neither side deserved to lose, and a draw was a fair result. Thus the NCC’s run of not losing increased to six games, well done.

An animated Michael Wyatt reporting from a cold Stade de Prestbury.

Paul Bennett dives but the ball goes high Andrew Murton's shot is saved Paul Bennett takes to the air
after his shot is saved

 


Game 08:  League Match: 17 November 2007:
Cornerstone  1 - 3  North Cheltenham Churches

On a cold and cloudy day NCC kicked off this league fixture at Evesham High School, their furthest distance travelled so far. Almost immediately Cornerstone forced an early corner, which was successfully dealt with by James Walters, goalkeeper for the game. For a quarter of an hour play ebbed up and down the field, with both sides attacking and defending well. Cornerstone fired a shot but it went over the bar. Then the Undertakers created a chance, when Andrew Murton ran down the left wing. Even though he slipped he managed to get in a cross, but the resulting shot was well saved by the keeper. On seventeen minutes a good run from Aj found Paul Bennett waiting in the penalty area. He stroked the ball past an incoming defender, and beyond the reach of the keeper (below left), to put the Undertakers into the lead. For the next few minutes the North Cheltenham side were camped in the red and black goal area, where another chance went just wide of the goal. Then it was their turn to defend, but again good work by the keeper and the backs denied Cornerstone. Just before the half hour mark NCC made another attack, down the right wing, which found Lee Bradley. He volleyed the ball, from way outside the box, and watched it, as it dipped and rocketed into the back of the net (below right), with the home keeper rooted to the spot. This was great work from the visitors, two goals up. The home side spent much of the rest of the half attacking NCC’s goal, in a sustained period in which they dominated play. Again confident goalkeeping, including the ball being punched out, and stalwart defending from the Hoops, together with a lack of cohesion from the home side, kept the NCC goal intact. During this period NCC managed a few attacks themselves, and were unlucky when a shot from Aj hit the post. NCC held firm. As the half-time whistle was blown they had a deserved lead.

Paul Bennett beats the goalie : 0-1
 
Lee Bradley volleys the ball into the net : 0-2
 
An own-goal from a corner increases Hoops' lead : 0-3 A left-footed kick beats Undertakers' goalie : 1-3

Although the home side attacked from the start of the second half play was again from end to end, with NCC the more threatening. Cornerstone had a couple of chances to score, one was hit high over the bar, and the other one went behind, harmlessly, for a goal kick. In their attacks the NCC were denied by some good goalkeeping, including one save when the keeper jumped high to grab the ball from beneath the crossbar. North Cheltenham kept up their pressure with series of corners, and, from one, a defender deflected the ball into his own net (above left). Three up with twenty minutes to go! This was a wake-up call to the home side, who began to create a few chances of their own. Although some were cleared the Cornerstone pressure played off when, three minutes later, a cross from their right wing found an unmarked player in front of the goal. Being left footed he was able to place the ball beyond the reach of the advancing keeper, to open their account (above right). Now it looked as if the last fifteen minutes were going to be tense. Five minutes later NCC could have increased their lead when Andrew Murton, who was some distance from the goal, unleashed a thunderous volley, which crashed against the crossbar, with the keeper well beaten. The reverberations were audible all around the pitch! While both sides continued to create chances the NCC still had the edge, but were unable to put away another opportunity. With two minutes to go Cornerstone were awarded a free kick, from just outside the box. The resulting shot was high, wide and handsome, their game was lost. With the final whistle NCC had continued their winning streak, and had reduced their goal difference to zero.


Some of the fine saves successfully dealt with by James Walters, goalkeeper for the game.

An exuberant Michael Wyatt reporting from Evesham


Game 07:  League Match: 10 November 2007:
North Cheltenham Churches  5 - 4  Cheltenham Trinity

Cheltenham Trinity open the scoring

A minute’s silence preceded the start of this game, against last season’s runners-up, now surprisingly bottom of the league. On a cloudy morning, with a cold wind, Cheltenham Trinity kicked off, and attacked at once. In the second minute a Cheltenham attack was well saved by the keeper, and this pattern of attack and counter-attack continued, until the twelfth minute. Then the visitors had a long throw, which, aided by the wind, created confusion in the box, and ended up in goal (right). This was the first goal North Cheltenham had conceded in nearly two hundred minutes, but more were to follow. Within the space of a minute the Undertakers appeared to have scored, but the goal was disallowed for offside, very unlucky for the home side. Play was exciting, as each side strove hard to gain an advantage, resulting in much excitement, and anguish, for the spectator, and both goal-keepers were made to work hard. A rare breather came to the teams when the ball was retrieved from the adjacent main road and when the referee changed his top, because of a colour clash. Just after the half hour mark NCC created another attack, and Andrew Murton (below left) managed to squeeze the ball between the keeper and an upright, to equalise, despite the goalkeeper getting his foot to the ball. In the five minutes leading up to half-time both teams forged several attacks, and play ran from end-to-end. Then, with less than a minute left, a Cheltenham Trinity forward fired a lob, more in hope than expectation. This went into the bottom right hand corner of the net, with Tom Parker only able to watch in disbelief (below right). Trinity had taken the lead for the second time. As the half time whistle was blown the NCC team looked puzzled, and wondered how they could be losing with all the chances they had made.

Andrew Murton about to score the first equaliser A lucky lob makes it 1-2

The home side started the second half, with warm sunshine on their backs. Within four minutes their attack created an equaliser, when Andrew Murton powered a shot past the keeper (below left), as he came out to meet him. Then, in less than a minute, North Cheltenham took the lead when Andy Elvidge sped through the opposition’s defence, eluded the keeper, and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right hand of the net (below right).

Andrew Murton powers a shot past the keeper : 2-2 Andy Elvidge slots the ball in the net : 3-2

The Hoops increased their pressure, and five minutes later were awarded a corner. The descending ball caused a mix-up between the keeper and a defender, and was only partially cleared, to be returned goal-ward. Before all of the ball could cross the line it was partly cleared yet again, but then a diving Martin Eccles forced the ball into the back of the net with a very slick header (below). What a start to the half, three goals in the space of six minutes.

Martin Eccles heads home after a corner : 4-2

North Cheltenham continued their attacks, and were unfortunate not to score when the ball crossed the face of the goal, and eluded everyone. Slowly, but surely, the visitors fought back with increasing confidence, and began to dominate play. Within ten minutes a cross found one of their forwards waiting in front of goal, unmarked. Coolly he stroked the ball beyond the reach of Tom Parker, and into the far corner of the net (below left). Cheltenham Trinity had scored their third goal. With twenty minutes of the match remaining Andrew Murton sped through the visitors’ defence and, despite a valiant attempt by the keeper, slotted the ball past him, to complete his second hat trick of the season (below centre). This appeared to inspire the opposition, who increased their pressure. They packed their defence and made a series of penetrating runs, resulting in several corners and throw-ons near their opponents’ goal. With ten minutes left Trinity scored again, when a shot from their right eluded the defenders, and, rolling over the goal, finished up in the bottom-left hand corner of the net (below right).

Beyond the reach : 4-3 Andrew Murton gets a hat trick: 5-3 Trinity score again: 5-4

They were only trailing by a single goal, what a final ten minutes to come! Tom Parker managed a magnificent save when he palmed the ball onto the crossbar. The rebound came to an attacker who headed straight into the hands of the keeper. The whole NCC team was defending, so frenzied was the situation. Even so the pressure was relieved by the occasional charge up field, into the Trinity half, and North Cheltenham had a couple of very good opportunities to score, especially a free kick taken by Andrew Murton, which went over the bar. When the final whistle, of this nine-goal nail-biting thriller went, the NCC was highly relieved; they had won four games on the trot, including three league matches in succession.

An exhausted Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury


Game 06:  League Match: 3 November 2007:
Cambray  0 - 4  North Cheltenham Churches

The ball passes the static keeper for the first goal

On a warm and sunny morning at the Burrows Playing Fields Cambray, the current league leaders, kicked off this fixture. Within a minute Cambray were taking the centre again, not because of any infringement, but the result of a magnificent start by the NCC, who had scored! Andrew Murton had collected a loose ball, and, after running through the Cambray defence, coolly and calmly slotted the ball past the static and bemused keeper (right). What a start! The home side, dumfounded, immediately launched a series of penetrating attacks, including a long-range chip, which went close to the goal. All of these attacks were contained by confident goal-keeping and solid defensive work. During this period the NCC made a few attacks of their own, which came to nought, although one chance was headed over the bar. The Undertakers weathered this storm for about twenty minutes, and then the play became more even. On the half-hour mark the hoops had an attack and gained a corner. From the left hand side the ball was delivered over the heads of the nearest Cambray defenders, and continued to the far side of the goal. Here it was met by Martin Eccles, who calmly headed the ball between two more Cambray defenders (below). Sensationally the NCC were leading by two clear goals.


Martin Eccles scores the second goal

A thunderous volley from Martin Eccles for the third goal

Play moved from end to end in this pulsating game, with each side creating a couple of good chances. Then, about five minutes before half time, North Cheltenham mounted another attack, in which a good pass from the right found Martin Eccles, who was waiting some twenty yards out. Immediately he struck a thunderous volley, which ended up in the back of the net (right), before the keeper was able to react. Unbelievable; the NCC were leading 3-0, and away to last season’s league champions! On the stroke of half time NCC scored their fourth goal, when Aj was able to collect the ball and waltz around a couple of defenders, and the keeper, lying stranded on the ground. Calmly he selected his spot and stroked the ball over the goal-line, to score into the empty net (below). As the half time whistle went the Undertakers did deserve to be in front, but this margin was cream on the cake. Would they be eating it at the end of the game? 

Aj selects his spot and strokes the ball over the goal-line: 0-4

For the second half Cambray changed their goalkeeper, and he produced an effort more in keeping with their high position. From the start both sides created chances, and each keeper made a good save, for his Tom Parker turned the ball away from his near post for a corner. At the other end Martin Eccles had his header, from the edge of the area, well saved by the new keeper. Although much of the play during the first part of this second half was even the home side created the better chances, one shot going perilously close, with the NCC keeper out of sight. For the final quarter of the match Cambray dominated, and spent the majority of that time within the NCC’s half of the field. Try as they did the opposition’s defence held firm, and denied Cambray every opportunity to score. The current league leaders fired several shots wide of the goal, or over the cross-bar; the rest were saved by the keeper or cleared by his resolute defenders. Every now and again the Undertakers made a rare forage into the Cambray half. In one Huw Roberts was unable to convert a fine solo run when the Cambray keeper met him on the edge of the area. In the closing minutes Cambray had every player in the opposition’s half, except their keeper, so desperate were they to score at least a consolation goal.


The Undertakers survive an early attack

When the final whistle was blown the NCC had broken more team records; they had recorded their first away league win, had kept two successive clean sheets, and had scored three victories on the trot. The final minutes were very sporting from all concerned, with the Cambray team forming a tunnel, to honour their opponents. We look forward to the next fixture, on 10th November, by which time the team’s cream cakes should have been digested!

Michael Wyatt reporting from the Burrows.


Game 05: League Match: 20 October 2007:
North Cheltenham Churches  2 - 0  Tewkesbury Trinity Tigers

A cold and sunny morning saw the North Cheltenham Churches field a depleted squad, due to half term and other events, in their first home game of the season. Tewkesbury Trinity Tigers kicked off and almost immediately had an early shot, which was well saved by Tim Rudge in goal. Then the home side had an attempt, which went wide of the goal. Throughout the first half the game flowed from one end to the other. Although both sides made attacks I reckon the Tigers made about twenty-five, twice as many as the home team. Tim Rudge made a series of brave saves, often diving to scoop the ball off the feet of opposition players, or coming out to meet them and narrow their angle. Nearing the half-hour mark NCC had a good chance to score but it was well saved by the Tewkesbury goalkeeper, who dived to reach the ball. Two minutes later a Tiger hurried down the right wing. With a graceful turn of speed he went around the keeper and sped towards the goal. Believing that he had eluded the defence, he decided into which part of the net he would place the ball, and pondered as if he had all the time in the world to score. As he was selecting his spot Stephen Murton, who had made a most determined run, put the ball out for a corner, and denied him a score. The resulting corner was headed wide. This was most encouraging for NCC, as it kept them in the game, but a great disappointment to the ravenous Tigers.

Good defending by NCC
 
Magnificent save from Tim Rudge
 

For the rest of the half play ebbed up and down the field. Although the Tigers made many penetrating runs it was often by a lone player, who was successfully hounded by the dogged NCC defence. As the half time whistle went the home side had managed to deny an opposition who not organised themselves to suit the match conditions.

Andy Elvidge scores!  1 - 0 Andrew Murton scores!  2- 0

The Tigers began the second half in an attacking mood, and soon forced a corner, which was hit wide of the goal. NCC had two chances to score, the goalkeeper saved one and the other, shot from outside of the penalty area, went just wide. For the next twenty minutes Tewkesbury continued to apply great pressure on the home side with a series of shots on goal. In a three-minute period, approaching the half way mark, Tim Rudge made four crucial saves; in one the ball was taken off the head of a Tiger and in another he jumped to push the descending ball over the bar. A Tewkesbury player was heard asking the goalkeeper what he had to do to score. Then there followed a period of fifteen minutes when the Undertakers took the play into the den of the deflated Tigers. As Andy Elvidge was dribbling outside of the goal area the keeper came out to meet him. Delicately Andy side-footed the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs. Time appeared to stand still until the ball had rolled over the line. A goal! Within four minutes Andrew Murton doubled the NCC lead when his shot, outside of the area, took a deflection and finished in the back of the net. This was a period of great play from NCC, who grew stronger as the game got longer. They could have had a third but were denied by quick action from the keeper. Fantastic play. In the last ten minutes Tewkesbury tried hard to salvage something. All they saw was Tim Rudge making three more great saves. As time ticked down the Tigers were awarded a free kick just outside of the area. Like clockwork Tim dealt with it successfully. Soon after the final whistle went, and great was the jubilation of NCC, as they had recorded their first ever league win, and their first ever clean sheet. What a trophy to hang in the clubhouse! Well done team!

Michael Wyatt reporting from Prestbury Playing Fields


Game 04: Cup Match: 13 October 2007:
Trinity Pilgrims  4 - 8  North Cheltenham Churches

On a cold damp day North Cheltenham kicked off this cup game against a new team, Trinity Pilgrims, and played at a new ground, Newlands, near to Bishops Cleeve. Both sides had early chances, which were saved by their respective goalkeeper. The play was evenly matched, one attack by the Undertakers was caught offside. Then, after just five minutes, Trinity Pilgrims had a free kick. Only partially cleared this was fired home, for the opening goal. Within two minutes some good midfield play saw the ball passed to Andrew Murton, waiting on the right wing. Skilfully he slotted the ball into the right hand corner of the goal, past the goalkeeper and a defender, to equalise. The home side had made another attack, which the defence cleared. The ball was sent up field, and was received by Andrew Murton, in acres of space. Moving sweetly, with surety and composure, he surged across the goal and delicately placed the ball into the right corner, to put the North Cheltenham churches into the lead. In the next the two minutes the home side had two attacks. Although the first one was well saved the other resulted in an equalising goal. Two each after a quarter of an hour.

1 -1 1 - 2

Now it was all North Cheltenham, who created several attacks, which were cleared. Just before the twenty-minute mark a good through ball from midfield sent Andy Elvidge on his way. With no defence he was able to lift the ball pass the stranded keeper for his first goal of the match, and NCC were leading once again. During the next fifteen minutes each side missed chances, and both goalkeepers performed splendidly. Pete Sexton made a good save when he punched the ball out. Subsequently North Cheltenham had an attack where the ball was crossed from the right. Despite the efforts of both goalkeeper and defender, the ball was scrambled in by Andy Elvidge, for his second goal. In the next five minutes, during which North Cheltenham scored their fifth goal, it was mainly one-way traffic, but the Pilgrims keeper did make some good saves. Then Andy Elvidge beat the goalkeeper to a neat through ball, and completed his hat trick when the ball rolled into the empty net. Although both sides created good opportunities to score in the next ten minutes their defences held firm. As the half time whistle went NCC were leading by three clear goals, a position they had been in once last season, from which they lost. Could things be different, and the team achieve their first win of the season?

2 - 3 2 - 4 2 - 5

Trinity Pilgrims began the second half and immediately were under pressure. NCC forced an early corner, which was headed over the crossbar. North Cheltenham continued this pressure, and made several more attacks. From another corner, after eight minutes, Martin Eccles headed the ball, which dipped below the bar, past the heavily guarded goal, and into the net. Although the keeper got a hand to it he could not prevent North Cheltenham increasing their lead. Almost immediately the home side had a chance but Pete Sexton made a good save. Even though both teams were attacking it was the away side which was the most threatening, with several opportunities to score. After twenty minutes a shot from Andrew Murton sped past two defenders, only to be partly saved by the keeper. Although three defenders prevented Aj from scoring, the ball was crossed and fell to Andy Elvidge, who finished with a neat header, to score his fourth goal of the match.

2 - 6 2 - 7 2 - 8

Unbelievably NCC was leading by five clear goals, with about twenty minutes to go. While both squads were making attacks it was the home side which was now creating the greater pressure. Despite this Andrew Murton, with a fine solo effort, completed his hat-trick. Then the NCC relaxed, which allowed the home side to score a brace of goals within the space of two minutes, to peg back the NCC lead to four goals. As the full time whistle went the NCC players were delighted to record their first win of the season. Lets us look forward to more wins in the coming season. Well Done!

Michael Wyatt reporting from the Newlands playing fields.


Game 03: League Match: 6 October 2007:
St Matthews  6 - 2  North Cheltenham Churches

On a cloudy day at Prestbury playing fields NCC kicked off their away fixture against St Matthews. From the start St Matthews attacked and forced Tim Rudge, in goal for this game, to make a couple of good saves, following two corners. After just four minutes the pressure paid off, when St Matthews passed the ball up their right wing, and a wonderful volley, fired from outside the box, gave the goalkeeper no chance as it sped into the top right corner of his goal, with the defence missing. Following the restart North Cheltenham produced a period of great attacking football, and had two good chances of scoring. Then a throw-on found Paul Bennett, who ran past his marker, and, shooting on the volley, saw the ball speed into the back off the net, to level the scoring. In ten minutes the game had produced two goals, with the promise of many more.

NCC take the lead: 1-2

The next twenty minutes saw both sides creating several good chances, with St Matthews having the better play. Two solo runs down the left wing produced several near misses, with one shot going over the bar, and a good save. The undertakers defended resolutely, at times most of their players packed the goal area. In turn NCC made several attacks of their own, creating chances to score. During this entertaining period of play the ball was changed, after the original ball disappeared over the hedge, and bounced out of sight off the roof of a bungalow. On the half-hour a good cross from an NCC player saw Andrew Murton out-jump the keeper, who failed to gather the ball. For the first time this season NCC was leading. Due to injuries and lost balls there was another fifteen minutes of play before half time. Although both sides had more chances North Cheltenham created the best opportunity to score, but unfortunately the ball went past the upright.

St Matthews kicked off the second period, and, trapping the NCC in their own half, created a couple of good chances. Their intense pressure saw them awarded a penalty following a foul. Although Tim dived the right way he could not keep out the ball from a well taken penalty. After this equalising goal NCC had few attacks, before the opposition moved into overdrive and demonstrated their running skills and awareness of their team-mates. From a corner St Matthews scored with a downward header, for them to regain the lead. They had scored twice in the space of seven minutes.

NCC attack St Matts score their third goal

Twenty minutes of end to end of activity saw both goalkeepers make several good saves, during which the NCC missed a great opportunity to score. An opposition forward surprised everybody with an acrobatic overhead kick. Entering the final quarter of the match St Matthews hit the bar from close range but the rebound was put wide. So far the game had been a five-goal thriller, but then NCC ran out of steam. However, St Matthews’s attacks paid dividends, when they scored a fourth goal, despite a brave attempt from the goalie. A fifth goal came ten minutes later, when a downward header was forced past the goalkeeper, despite half dozen defenders being around the goalmouth. Just before the end St Matthews had another corner, to the left of the goal. The ball was crossed and headed against the post. The goalkeeper, wrong footed, was unable to prevent the rebound from crossing the line, for the sixth and final goal, scored in time added on. Although the NCC team had been hit for six, and the penalty has taken its toll, they did produce several great opportunities to score. Who knows what might have happened if one of them had gone in.

Michael Wyatt reporting from the Prestbury Playing Fields

NCC so nearly score
 
4 - 2
 
5 - 2
 
6 - 2
 

Game 02: League Match: 22 September 2007:
Gloucester  3 - 2  North Cheltenham Churches 2


NCC defending well

In a sporting gesture a member of the NCC team played for the depleted home side, even their manager had to stretch his legs! On a humid day at Plock Court Gloucester kicked off, and immediately attacked. This was cleared before North Cheltenham attacked. A slow back pass, by a Gloucester defender, almost found its way into the net. After this scare the home side pressed hard and forced two corners, fortunately the second one was deflected into the keeper’s hands by a North Cheltenham defender. An NCC attack was caught offside, and for much of the half the contest was evenly matched. North Cheltenham fired a shot just over the bar, and solid defensive work denied other chances. In their advances Gloucester had a few attempts just wide of the goal, or well saved by the keeper. The home side increased their dominance of the game, and this pressure paid off eight minutes before half time when a Gloucester player shot towards the goal. Although the ball was parried by the keeper it fell into the path of another Gloucester player who scored the opening goal of the match. As the half time whistle went the North Cheltenham team looked disappointed that they were trailing 1-0.

NCC kicked off the second half, determined to get an equalising goal. However, in the opening minutes Gloucester made most of the running, forcing two corners and dominating the play. A Gloucester attack resulted in them being awarded a penalty, following a foul in the box. The keeper made a valiant attempt to save the ball, but unfortunately it went by his outstretched hands. After five minutes Gloucester had doubled their lead. For most of the next half-hour play flowed up and down the pitch, which each side having corners, free kicks and throws-on. North Cheltenham had a shot which just went over the bar, and Gloucester failed to capitalise on their several free kicks. With a quarter of an hour to go we were wondering whether this would be the third league game in a row in which NCC failed to score. Then the sun broke through, and livened up the match.


NCC concede a penalty goal

NCC defending well

This final period was one of great excitement, beginning with a third goal for the home side when they cleared their line and booted the ball up-field. The charge caught the NCC defence asleep, and they were unable to prevent a score. The final ten minutes were pulsating, as North Cheltenham attacked with greater determination and domination. The home side were resting on their laurels when NCC forced a corner, which the keeper was unable to gather cleanly, and quick reaction from Andy Elvis put the ball in the net. Great excitement. Gloucester woke up, and made a couple of dangerous forays, but great defensive work kept them out. Then NCC made another brave attack, which again forced a corner. In a crowded goalmouth Chris Rudge jumped above everyone else to reach the ball first and power it into the back of the net; 3-2 with a couple of minutes to go. These final minutes were nail-biting, as each side made a determined attack. First Gloucester attacked, but their corner was cleared, and then NCC also had a corner cleared. As the final whistle went NCC looked disappointed that they could not find an equalising goal, which would have been a wonderful comeback from being 3-0 down. However, the team must be looking forward to their next match, third time lucky!


Chris Rudge heads home from a corner to make it 3-2

Michael Wyatt reporting from Plock Court.
 


Game 01: League Match: 8 September 2007:
Ecclesiastical FC  4 - 0  North Cheltenham Churches

On a cloudy day, with a cold wind blowing across the King George V playing fields, North Cheltenham Churches started the new season with a match against Ecclesiastical. This game was brought forward due to the forthcoming weekend at Sidmouth. Although Ecclesiastical is making its debut in the league the team is not new to football, having won both the 5-a-side and 9-a-side competitions in the summer.

North Cheltenham kicked off and were soon putting pressure on the home side. In an amazing opening twenty minutes for NCC they missed two excellent opportunities to score, hit the post twice and had a goal disallowed, following a foul. However, it was not all one-way, and the home side were getting into the game more. They made several penetrating runs, some forcing NCC to concede free kicks. Cheltenham’s defence held firm, and many good tackles prevented Ecclesiastical from scoring. Approaching the half-hour mark the home side mounted a succession of attacks, and fortunately for NCC a delicate chip bounced off the top of the cross-bar, a warning! Three minutes later a similar performance saw the ball fall behind the keeper and into the net; 0-1.


NCC miss the Ecclesiastical net ...

... and moments later are busy defending their own

Within two minutes North Cheltenham, making another attack, again hit the post, with the keeper well beaten, and a minute later the ball was passed across an empty Ecclesiastical net! Although attacks were made at either ends the NCC were unable to profit from both the space and pressure they were creating in the opposition half. A good header, from a well-taken corner, was cleared off the home side’s line. Then NCC attacked again and for the fourth time hit the post, how unlucky can one get? Five minutes before half time the home side doubled their lead after an attacker was allowed too much space, space which ought to have been controlled by the defending side. The half-time score was a not a true reflection of the game.


NCC attacking

Everyone looking for the ball

Following the start of the second half North Cheltenham made the first of several attacks, which the home side saw off. Although Ecclesiastical had a chance it was all North Cheltenham, and their pressure resulted in a penalty after one of their players was brought down. This was a chance to get back into the game, but unfortunately the kick, aimed at the right-hand corner, was put wide, with the goalkeeper beaten. Cheltenham continued to be the dominant side, but without success, as the home side defended resolutely. North Cheltenham was awarded an indirect free kick, but the Ecclesiastical wall maintained its stubborn defence. Then the home side started to create more chances, gaining several corners, although the NCC team continued to produce chances. With twenty minutes to go Ecclesiastical were awarded a free kick, from which they scored, as the ball went straight into the back of the net. The home side created several more chances as the North Cheltenham defence was tiring and accommodating team changes. They missed an easy chance to increase their lead, and minutes later hit the bar following yet another lob. Amazingly the woodwork was hit about half dozen times in this game. Although both sides were still attacking North Cheltenham were unable to score. The last five minutes were full of excitement, as Ecclesiastical had the ball in the back of the net, but it was disallowed after an offside infringement. A minute later the home side was awarded another free kick, just outside the penalty area, and the ball was lifted over the defensive wall and into the net, for the fourth goal of the game. North Cheltenham continued to try to score, without success. When the final whistle was blown the team looked disappointed that they nothing to show for all of their hard work. Even though there is room for improvement this was a promising start, and one which ought to bring success in the coming season. It was very nice to see the supporters who had made the effort to come and cheer on the team.

Michael Wyatt reporting from the King George V playing fields.

 

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