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The webmaster wishes to record his grateful thanks to Edward Wyatt for the photographs
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Game 22 :  Charity Award :  9 April 2011 :
North Cheltenham Churches  0 - 8  Cambray

On a barmy spring morning a depleted NCC, already trailing by two goals from the first leg, hosted Cambray, in this Charity Award tie. Immediately from the start the visitors had the ball in the net, but the goal was disallowed for offside. In the following fifteen minutes NCC held their own, having a couple of shots shaving the woodwork, but Cambray had twice as many misses, as well as two shots saved by Ryan Adams. Following a quick attack up the left wing Cambray gained a corner. A high ball was sent over, towards the NCC penalty spot. Here it was met by an unmarked attacker, who leapt and headed the ball hard, over the heads of all, including eight home defenders, to fly past the outstretched arms of Ryan Adams as he jumped in his futile quest to prevent the ball from entering the top of the net, for the opening goal.

The ball flies past the outstretched arms of Ryan Adams as he jumps in his futile quest to prevent the opening goal

In the next five minutes the home side could not get out of their half as Cambray pushed hard for further goals. They were denied by brave work from the keeper, as he ran out to clear the ball, or else punched it clear or held a Cambray shot. After twenty one minutes a good ball up the right wing found another unmarked forward. He was able to outrun at least three defenders, to reach the penalty area. From here he sent the ball past the keeper, by now at the near post, and an NCC player, nearing the scene of the action, too late. The ball sped diagonally across the goal, to end up in the far side of the net.

On 24 minutes NCC are defending hard, losing 2-0, but have a bit of good fortune as the ball goes wide

For much of the remainder of this half Cambray continued to dominate play. Periodically NCC launched some desperate runs down to the other end, but this hardly caused a disturbance to Cambray’s resolute rhythm. They came up both wings with regularity, and outstripped the defence with ease; only their over-enthusiasm and sterling work from Ryan Adams denied them further goals. From a well taken free kick Cambray sent in a hard high volley, only to see it rebound down, off the bar, and back into play, with a resounding thud. Graham Price worked very hard on the left wing, ably supported by Adam Cox. In the final five minutes of the half Quincy Quayson had two shots saved by the Cambray keeper, and another was sent wide of the goal. Then, just on the stroke of half time, Cambray came up their left wing, and threaded the ball through a lethargic defence, to end the half with three goals.

NCC try to score from a corner kick

Within minutes of the restart the ball was flighted into the NCC goal area. As Ryan Adams came out to meet it he found that a quicker forward had reached the ball first, and had lifted it into the net. Then, after a brief respite of ten minutes without further goals, there followed the completion of NCC’s destruction. During this period of respite the hosts had a rare attack, gaining a corner, which was sent behind for a goal kick. In their turn Cambray saw the home keeper make another great save, had two well-taken corners and also fired the ball wide of the goal. Then came ten minutes of horror during which Cambray scored four goals, to endorse their superiority. The first saw the ball poked through the narrow gap between the upright and the keeper; this was followed by what amounted to a penalty shot involving a one-on-one with the keeper, in each goal the defence was wanting. Cambray’s seventh came from a corner which saw the ball again squeezed through a narrow gap, and the final goal followed a run down the right wing with a long range shot which dribbled over the ground, eluding all players and ending up in the net.

Action in the NCC goalmouth

Already 8 down NCC continue to defend resolutely

Then Cambray was gifted countless more chances to score as many of the home players appeared to have given up, leaving the keeper with a lot of work to deny them further. NCC was let off when the ball hit a post twice in quick succession, and twice more when Cambray sent both a free kick and a penalty wide of the goal. At full time the team had suffered their worst defeat of the season. For me this was the worst game that NCC has played for a long time. Graham Price, showing great determination throughout the match, was named man of the match.

In the dying minutes Cambray have a penalty : the ball goes wide as Ryan Adams dives the wrong way

A passionate Michael Wyatt, feeling let-down, reporting from Stade de Prestbury

Game 21 :  League Match :  2 April 2011 :
North Cheltenham Churches  3 - 0  Tewkesbury

On an overcast day NCC kicked off their final league game of the season, and, with more players available, was hoping to bounce back from the mauling inflicted by the Tigers in the previous week. Much of the game was a scrappy affair, and affected by the wind. During the opening ten minutes play flowed up and down the pitch, as each side alternated in attack and defence. The visitors had a good chance to score but Ryan Adams sent the ball out for a corner, which was cleared with relative ease. In turn the NCC attacks were well led by Adam Cox and Ian Jones. After a brief period, when the NCC spent a few minutes in the Tigers’ lair, they were defending another raid, which saw Ryan Adams make a fortuitous sprawling save when he stuck out a boot to deflect the ball. The hosts gained three quick corners, which were put wide or headed over the bar, and had a free kick. A more penetrating Tewkesbury attack gained them a free kick and a corner, which was rather wasted as it was sent in too high.

Then, on the half hour mark, this game, which was unfolding at an express rate, and seemed to be going nowhere fast, came to life with one amazing kick. Emlyn John, standing just inside his half, spotted that the keeper was beyond his right hand post. Receiving the ball he immediately sent a high lob towards this unguarded net. To the utter amazement of all the players, and even the embarrassment of some, the ball sailed over the static defenders before dipping, to plunge into the empty net. This goal goaded the Tigers to respond, and they created a series of several short snappy attacks, which brought Ryan Adams into play, or else the ball was shot well wide of the target. From a corner he did very well to punch out the ball, as he jumped and reached up higher than the forceful Tigers. In these closing minutes NCC was the more determined, and tested the defences of their opponents as they spent time inside the Tigers’ den. From a corner Chris Dagnall sent the ball over the bar as he tried to beat a group of defenders, and Andy Macauly was active at both ends of the field.

Ryan Adams clears the ball after a Tewkesbury attack ....

.... and soon after the Tigers' goalie makes a save

The Tigers began the second half, which heralded an exciting third quarter, as NCC built on their dominance, and put the match out of the Tigers’ reach. In these early stages each team had a chance to score; Adam Cox had a shot easily caught by the keeper and then the visitors fired wide. On fifty two minutes NCC came down their left wing, and the ball fell to Andrew Murton. In a delightful move he sent it forward, where it was collected by Ian Jones. His beautiful flighted pass sent the ball towards the goal area, where a defender was unable to collect it. Reading the situation with crystal clarity was Emlyn John, who was having a wonderful match. He ran into space, and as the ball approached him he was able to prod it through the gap, beyond the reach of the defender’s desperate outstretched leg, and past the keeper, now heading into the vacant area in which he anticipated the ball would reach.

Emlyn John prods the ball through a gap and scores the second goal

The excitement continued as NCC dominated; Ian Jones had his effort ruled out for offside, and almost immediately had a header skim the bar as he jumped so gracefully, with the keeper helpless and the defence missing. Following a brief interlude, which saw the Tigers visit the other end of the field, it was NCC again on the attack. Andrew Murton collected the ball from the middle of the pitch, and dribbled it down the field, hotly pursued by a teasing Tiger. Outstripping him he was able to send a diagonal shot towards the goal. Incredibly the keeper missed what appeared to be a straightforward save, and as he fell and turned he was able to see the ball bulge the netting on the far side of his goal. After a brief but potent rampage by Tewkesbury Tigers, in which they caused Ryan Adams to produce a great save at full stretch, gaining them a corner, NCC was again threatening. A shot, from the left, saw the ball hit the underside of the visitors’ cross bar, and continue across the goal, where Andy Macauly was denied as the Tigers’ keeper made a brave challenge.

Ian Jones' header skims the bar as he jumps so gracefully, with the keeper helpless and the defence missing

Following this onslaught the hosts seemed to go off the boil. Although they continued to create attacks these were often under-manned, and thus were easily defused. However, when the Tigers came up they provided a greater threat, one which increased as time was running out for them. Although they gained several corners, and had shots go wide, they were unable to get a consolation goal. This win allowed NCC to climb above Tewkesbury, on goal difference, and to gain their highest points tally since joining the league; Well Done!

3-0 down, the Tigers strive hard to gain a consolation goal

An impressed and reinvigorated Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury

Game 20 : League Match :  26 March 2011 :
Tewkesbury  6 - 1  North Cheltenham Churches

On a murky morning, even distinctly foggy, NCC kicked off their last away game of the season. Their team selection was unusual, as many of the squad were still nursing injuries, and Karl Hemming had nobly volunteered to be goal keeper. In the early minutes he responded well to the opening visits from the Tigers, made before NCC created their first foray, which saw them spend several minutes deep inside their opponent’s lair. Having conceded a corner NCC was again on the attack, and went down the right wing. A pass from Guy Speedie found Tom Parker who fired, but his shot passed wide of the goal. After a quarter of an hour NCC had two fine chances to break the deadlock. The first came from a corner but the ball hit Guy Speedie and rebounded wide of the post before he could control it, and the other chance came when Matt Allison sent over a soaring ball, with which Ian Jones shaved the bar. Then followed a period where play took place around the centre of the field, punctuated by a series of runs towards goal, mostly from the Tigers. In this see-saw first half the balance swung back in favour of the visitors, who managed several shots, one going wide and the others were well held by the keeper. Following several unsuccessful Tiger raids NCC had another Ian Jones shot go over the bar. After the mid period of this half Tigers found their feet, and then began to stamp their authority on the game. They won several corners but were denied by good fortune, solid defensive work and alert keeping from Karl Hemming, who had kept a clean sheet as the half-time whistle blew.

NCC taking a corner

It's behind you ....

Within seconds of the restart Tewkesbury nearly scored, but were denied by an athletic aerial save by Karl Hemming. Following a short but stiff NCC attack, which gained them a corner, the Tigers again ventured out in their hunt for a goal, but sterling work by the keeper denied them time and time again. Just before the hour mark Tewkesbury sped down their right wing, and the ball came to a solitary Tiger player surrounded by the Red defence. With sheer bravado and self-confidence he swung his right leg, and hooked the ball into the far corner of the net. After the goalless first half this heralded an action-packed second half, with a goal scored on average every five minutes.

Chris Dagnall, out of picture, takes a corner for NCC, sending in an almost horizontal shot on
 a low trajectory. The ball just grazed the field side of the cross bar, and continued to cross
the area of play, finishing beyond the side line for a throw

Shortly after this goal Tewkesbury volleyed the ball over the bar. Then NCC had a rare attack which gained them a corner. Taken by Chris Dagnall the ball sped towards goal in a low trajectory, and, with everyone beaten, grazed the bar, before going on to cross the far side-line for a throw-on. The Tigers tested the NCC defence with a prolonged blitz, before they were driven off. In the sixty-sixth minute another quick move from the hosts brought them their second goal, as the NCC defence, standing on tired legs, was left to watch the ball disappear into the corner of the net. Minutes later NCC missed a great opportunity when Ian Jones was thwarted by two defenders and a fortunate keeper. In the seventy-first minute Tewkesbury had a corner. A high ball was sent into a packed goal mouth, and a tall voracious Tiger out-jumped all to nod in a neat header. Within seconds of the centre Ian Jones, with cool composure and awesome alacrity, had dribbled the ball up the left wing, where he promptly pulled a goal back; 3-1. For a few minutes it was all NCC, as they mounted a series of attacks, which gave them two corners and saw a header from a leaping Ian Jones skim the bar and a Guy Speedie shot sent wide of goal.

Karl Hemming, Man of the Match, makes an instinctive reflex save
by sticking out a boot/foot/leg and saves a certain goal.
Andy Collins is upended!

The excitement increased during the final ten minutes. Man of the match Karl Hemming instinctively stuck out a foot to put the ball out for a corner, which was cleared. However, he was unable to prevent the final mauling as the Tigers scored three more goals, although he brought off another brave save when he denied a solitary attacker. The fourth goal came a minute later, after a partially cleared corner. Then, following another brave clearance, came the final goals, both too hot to handle. Goal number five saw the ball drilled past the keeper, and then a tremendous volley was rifled through the defence, to complete the rout. Karl Hemming wasn’t alone in hoping that the team would be fully fit for the home fixture in a week’s time.

NCC defend a corner but the action leads to a fourth goal for Tewkesbury

A depressed and tormented Michael Wyatt reporting from the Tigers’ lair

Game 19 :  League Match :  19 March 2011 :
Cambray  7 - 1  North Cheltenham Churches

This game was held on the Saturday following the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival, which had provided such an uphill task for the winners. That was not the case here; for Cambray (the current runaway league leaders, played twelve, won twelve) the game was a canter in the warm spring sunshine.

Cambray win a corner in the first minute

From their kick-off the hosts showed pride and passion, and immediately attacked, gaining an early corner which saw the ball fly over the bar. NCC was penned in their half as Cambray advanced up the left wing. Here a cross was met by an unmarked player, eagerly waiting near the far post, who headed a fierce shot into the net. A minute later Cambray came up the other wing, where another attacker fired a powerful drive, which saw the ball rocket past the desperate keeper, and again end up in the net; and this was after just four minutes! For the next ten minutes the home team was camped in the NCC half. They created a series of chances which resulted in some spectacular misses, but also saw some impressive saves from Ryan Adams; one saw the ball rebound off both him and Karl Hemming, who was marking the left hand post. In this passage of play Cambray gained a further four corners.

After fifteen minutes NCC mounted their first attack, down their right wing, from which they gained a corner, which was headed over by Simon Trew. NCC remained in this half for a good five minutes, and then they won a free kick, from near the right hand touchline. The well-taken cross, from Chris Dagnall, found Ian Jones, waiting on the far side. With the speed of a greyhound and the agility of a gazelle he ran through the Cambray defence like a hot knife through butter, before firing the ball into the corner of the net; to score his fiftieth goal for the NCC. Well done Ian! This was probably the pinnacle of NCC’s effort for the day, thereafter they were run ragged by a highly professional team.

Chris Dagnall takes a free kick which finds Ian Jones (out of picture) who scores

The Reds created a couple more attacks, during which Andy Macauly fired a shot wide of goal. Then, approaching the half-hour mark, another Cambray attack came up their right wing. The NCC defence, what little was available, was facing the wrong way, but in a good position to see the ball volleyed past the unfortunate keeper. For the remainder of this half the Blues created several further chances, but without success. One of these chances, hit from point blank range, was well parried by Ryan Adams, and then finally cleared with the help of Alex Wilkins; another shot sped past the post. NCC had some rare attacks which twice saw them send the ball over the bar.

From the restart the duo of Ian Jones and James Stevens were immediately on the attack, but, following an acrobatic defensive display, the resolute Cambray defence saw them off. Over-enthusiastic shooting, solid defensive work and some brilliant saves from Ryan Adams kept out a succession of Cambray inroads. North Cheltenham had a shot narrowly rise over the bar. Just before the hour mark they gained a corner on their left. The home keeper ran to the very edge of his area and pushed the ball out. As he turned he saw that Chris Dagnall had returned the ball, but his volley descended onto the roof of the net. Then a long goal kick landed inside the NCC half, again devoid of players. Here an attacker was able to run through the hurriedly returning defence, to score.

The home keeper ran to the very edge of his area and pushed the ball out. As he turned he saw that
Chris Dagnall had returned the ball, but his volley descended onto the roof of the net.

On sixty-seven minutes Cambray launched another attack by sending the ball into an empty half, to score goal number five. Three minutes later it was déjà vu, but more calamitous as many of the visitors were static, and Ryan Adams was given no chance as he ended up sprawled across the turf. Surely this was the nadir of the half, as far as NCC was concerned. Immediately Cambray had another solo attack, which, thankfully, was dealt with properly. Then NCC, in the appearance of Ian Jones, had a couple of rare attacks, and the team gained two free kicks, one was blasted way over the bar. With eight minutes to go Cambray again came down their right wing, and entered the virtually empty NCC half. Although the prolific Tim Wallace was denied he was able to cross the ball, for the high-flyers to score a magnificent seventh goal.

With eight minutes to go Cambray again came down their right wing, and entered the
virtually empty NCC half for the high-flyers to score a magnificent seventh goal.

In the minutes remaining the home side, still hungry for more goals, was denied by Ryan Adams, who made two good saves. Just before the end Cambray had a goal ruled out for offside. Guy Speedie, who was exemplary in his efforts, was named man of the match. The sound of the final whistle announced NCC’s heaviest defeat of the season.

A lachrymose and displeased Michael Wyatt reporting from a sunny Burrows.

Game 18 :  Plate Match :  12 March 2011 :
Trinity & Quedgeley  2 - 1  North Cheltenham Churches

On a beautiful spring morning North Cheltenham kicked off this plate match. The home side started well, and their dominance allowed them to create several chances, although most were wasted by inaccurate shooting. The hosts, using both wings and the slope well, met solid resistance from the NCC defence, which saw a defender head a high cross over the bar for a corner. In this period of play the visitors had some attacks, marshalled by Ian Jones; one was fired over the goal and another into the arms of the keeper. In the fourteenth minute T&Q came down their left wing, and play hovered near the corner. Suddenly the ball was hoicked magnificently towards the goal, a brilliant long-range shot, which ended up in the bottom corner of the net, for a deserved opening goal.

T&Q's keeper saves an attempt from Ian Jones ...

... and within a minute NCC defend a corner kick

Trinity came down with the regularity of a pendulum, but were denied continuously by a combination of constant defence and glaring misses. After some twenty minutes NCC, having had difficulty in raising a team, lost Paul Mills to a knee injury, and were thus forced to play out the rest of the game with ten men. In the remainder of the half Trinity & Quedgeley made many penetrating forays, mainly down the left wing, but all were fruitless. At times the ball was blazed high, wide and not so handsomely over the NCC goal, at other times it skidded past the uprights, but mostly the ball was controlled by the North Cheltenham defenders, and sent back up the field. NCC, often through Ian Jones, did penetrate the T&Q goal area, but too frequently he was denied by a vigilant goalkeeper, alert and active to every threatening situation. As the half was about to end Ryan Adams brought off a brilliant save when he caught the ball above his head, and in front of the heads of three attackers, all poised to strike, like cobras. NCC had fought with great determination and success throughout this half. Although their defence was solid their attack was invariably a one-man show; this was demonstrated by the statistics which showed that T&Q had four times the number of attacks made by the Hoops.

Man of the Match, Ryan Adams in goal, saves the ball from three T&Q attackers

In the opening ten minutes of the second half T&Q continued with their run of dominant attacks, but these were peppered with a more potent and slightly rearranged NCC; they had an extra man up front. Ian Jones was exemplary as he continued in his quest to score, at one stage both he and the keeper ended up on the ground, and at another his shot was well headed out by a jumping defender as the keeper ran to cover his empty goal. At this time play was ebbing and flowing at a rapid pace, with new boys Matt Mountney and Simon Trew performing gallantly. Then, just past the fifty minute mark, a good through ball from James Stevens found Ian Jones, waiting at the edge of the penalty area. He powered past both his marker, and the keeper, who had come out to meet him, before gliding the ball beautifully into the far corner of the net.

T&Q appear dejected as a jubilant Ian Jones levels the score

During the next twenty minutes Trinity & Quedgeley created numerous chances, they had several shots fly past all parts of the woodwork, gained a series of corners and had other attempts saved by the NCC keeper or else cleared by his defence. In between NCC played their part, and had three good opportunities to score, one was well denied by the home keeper. Then T&Q came up their right wing again, where man of the match Ryan Adams made a brilliant reflex save, which saw the ball fly over the bar. Action flowed at a fast pace as the Hoops made a run down the pitch, before T&Q came up on the other wing. Another brilliant parry followed, but alas the ball flew out towards the right wing, where it was volleyed into the opposite corner of the NCC net.

Martin Cookson skilfully controls the ball

Play still moved up and down the field, but at a slower pace. T&Q had another great chance to score, with a one-on-one with Ryan Adams, but he came out and made a brilliant stop as he dived and smothered the ball. At the other end the keeper ran out and kicked the ball clear when facing a similar situation. The game was a delight to watch, played with great determination and passion; the under-manned visitors gave their all, but lost to the better team on the day.

An insouciant Michael Wyatt reporting from a sunny Sandalwood Drive.

Game 17 :  League Match :  5 March 2011 :
North Cheltenham Churches  6 - 2  Cirencester

On a cold and overcast day NCC played bottom of the table but an-improving Cirencester. It was the visitors who made the initial running, and gave their hosts a fearful fright in the second minute when they mounted an attack up the left wing. This found an unmarked forward who was able to send the ball across the goal mouth, where another player sent a shot just wide of goal. Ten minutes later Cirencester had another shot fired wide. However, for the first quarter of an hour it was the NCC who dominated play. Their forays, averaging almost one a minute, resulted in two corners and almost half a dozen shots, which narrowly missed the goal, with close attempts from Martin Eccles, Ian Jones, and Alex Wilkins. After seventeen minutes NCC had a throw-on, which was taken from the right wing, deep into the opposition’s half. Andrew Murton passed the ball to Ian Jones; as he ran in Ian cleverly lifted the ball over the head of the hapless keeper, and watched it finish up in the bottom corner of the net.

NCC have the Blues marked

The Blues came back into the game during the next ten minutes, and created two good scoring opportunities, which were both squandered. NCC continued to threaten, and still created more chances than their opposition. They had a couple of shots go wide, including a Martin Eccles header. A round of excitement occurred when a Cirencester defender, in his attempt to clear the ball, could only watch in abject horror as the ball sailed towards the goal. Imagine his relief when it bounced off the cross bar, and into safety. Then, on the half hour mark, the ball arrived at the feet of Chris Dagnall, waiting on the left wing, just in from the touchline, and just inside the Cirencester half. His powerful kick sent the ball goalwards, and, to the amazement of all watching, the ball continued, past the helpless players and past the bamboozled keeper, rooted to his spot, to finish in the back of the net.

This incredible kick heralded an exciting final fifteen minutes to the half, which saw four more goals. Two minutes later NCC gained two successive corners. From the latter a high ball was sent in, towards Martin Eccles, waiting on the very edge of the penalty area, and surrounded by a body of defenders. Leaning forward he propelled the ball with great precision, and saw it loop over all, before dipping below the bar and entering the net. Then, two minutes later, it was the visitors who attacked, during which they were awarded a free kick, and almost immediately a penalty. The resulting kick was sent past Tim Rudge, as he dived to his left.

From a corner Martin Eccles propelled the ball with great precision, and saw it loop over all,
before dipping below the bar and entering the net.  3-0

Two minutes later the visitors were awarded a free kick, and almost immediately a penalty.
The resulting kick was sent past Tim Rudge, as he dived to his left.  3-1

For the next five minutes much of the play centred round the middle of the pitch, with alternate attacks breaking out as players charged towards their opposite ends. Ian Jones sent a good pass towards Andy Murton, waiting just below the half-way line. Outstripping his marker he sped towards the Cirencester goal, and threaded the ball neatly past the keeper, who appeared to have misjudged its movement. This goal gave Andrew Murton the distinction, probably unique amongst the players of this church league, of scoring against every team, both past and present; well done Andy! The final goal of this spell came two minutes later, when another good ball from the Reds again found Ian Jones, who was waiting on the edge of the penalty area. With poise he melted through the opposition, and sent a delicate shot to the left of the keeper, by now sat on the ground, and so into the net. The final minutes of this half was all one-way traffic. Although more chances came they all went a-begging, and I wondered what the second half would bring.

In the opening twenty minutes of the second half Cirencester were the more dominant; whether the hosts relaxed or whether the visitors upped their game is debatable, probably a bit of both. Early on the Blues had two quick shots, but they went wide of the goal. In rapid succession each side had a free kick; NCC’s was headed clear but that from Cirencester was sent across the NCC goal area, before it was put out for a corner, which was cleared by their defence. The opposition had another free kick, a tremendous shot which was sent behind for a corner, this was easily caught by Tim Rudge. North Cheltenham had an attack of their own, and gained two successive corners, before Cirencester paved the way for another attack. Then, on sixty-five minutes, the visitors had a free kick, on the right wing. The resulting kick was mesmerising, it was sent high before it started to dip, where it passed over the head and upraised arms of the keeper, to tumble into the net; a goal which Cirencester richly deserved.

NCC have a corner but Ian Jones misjudges a time to jump

Soon after this the home side had another foray, which gained them a free kick. Emlyn John delivered a well struck ball, which was parried by the keeper as the trio of Guy Speedie, Lee Bradley and Martin Cookson charged in, only to be thwarted by dashing defending from a Cirencester player, who calmly booted the ball behind for a corner. Even then the visitors nearly conceded, before NCC headed the ball out for a goal kick. In the next quarter of an hour the NCC slowly came back into life, although this did not prevent the Blues from creating several more attacks. From one of these the ball hit the top of the cross bar, before rebounding back into play; another was caught by Tim Rudge and yet another was well headed out by Man of the Match Matt Allison, sporting his new boots. Ian Jones was prominent in the efforts made by NCC in their endeavours to emulate their first half brilliance.

NCC trio thwarted by dashing defending from a Cirencester player, who calmly booted the ball behind for a corner

Then, with less than ten minutes to go, a high-quality ball was sent up the left wing to Ian Jones, waiting outside the 18-yard box. He ran through the stretched Cirencester defence and then drilled the ball home with cool precision, to complete his second hat trick within a month. Following this goal NCC increased their determination to score more by creating a series of electrifying attacks, with several chances to score, but somehow these failed. Cirencester did well to deny them, and in turn this rubbed off onto them, as they almost match NCC in ferocity and frequency, a good omen for their future, especially for the evenly matched second half display.

An ebullient Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury

Game 16 :  League Match :  19 February 2011 :
North Cheltenham Churches  2 - 2  Diamonds

This match against Diamonds was moved to Newlands, as the Prestbury ground was waterlogged, following the rains of the past week. On a cloudy morning the visitors started the game, but it was the NCC who began the better, and made most of the early running. Several penetrating attacks were made, which saw Andrew Murton and Ian Jones denied when in good scoring positions. Although Diamonds were lack-lustre in this period they managed a couple of stabs at the home goal, but these were easily dealt with. NCC gained a free kick towards the right, which was taken by Emlyn John. The keeper did well to push the ball behind for a corner, and this saw a mix-up in the Diamond defence which the hosts were unable to exploit, as the ball went behind for another corner. Despite the muddy conditions, which inhibited flowing football, an NCC charge down the right wing enabled Andy Macauly to send over a delicate cross. This was met by man of the match Paul Mills, waiting by the right hand post. His header looped over the players, and hit the crossbar, before rebounding back into play. Then it was met by an alert Ian Jones, who, with the keeper stranded across his goal, was able to head the ball into an empty net, to put NCC into a deserved lead.

Ian Jones heads home a rebound off the crossbar, from Paul Mills, while the goalie is stranded   1-0

The home team kept up the pressure and had an Emlyn John special speed wide of the goal. Although Diamonds were slowly coming back into the game, particularly in getting their defence better organised, NCC was still getting through. Andrew Murton’s pass found Ian Jones, and as he advanced goalwards a good tackle from the defence saw the ball go out for a corner. From this the ball almost entered the top corner of the goal, before it was cleared. Diamonds had a chance to level the score when a potent attack nearly beat Tim Rudge. Although NCC continued to mount a series of forays, invariably solo efforts from Ian Jones, they became bogged down by the stubbornness of the defenders, now beginning to shine. NCC tested the opposition defence with more sharp corners, which were well cleared, and another long range shot from Emlyn John, which the keeper easily saved. In the last ten minutes of this opening half the visitors showed greater determination, as they made some incisive runs. One was dealt with by Matt Allison, as the last line of resistance, and others were cleared by the defence, including a free kick, which took us to the interval. The NCC would rue their lack of success following their greater domination of this half, as the slope would favour the opposition in the second period.

In the opening ten minutes of the new session Diamonds were the better team, immediately gaining a corner and forcing Tim Rudge to make a diving save from the toes of a nimble forward. Then Jon Craxford had half a chance as he chased the ball across the goal with a lone defender and the keeper. At the other end Diamonds gained a corner, which was sent narrowly wide of the post by a beautiful glancing header. The ensuing goal kick was immediately controlled by Diamonds, who moved forward. Tim Rudge was confronted by five players, all advancing towards him. Alex Wilkins, the middle of these players, now with the ball at his feet, was positioned between two Diamond forwards, with two more NCC players beyond them. In the inevitable clash the keeper, and a player from each side, were lying in a heap on the ground, allowing the other Diamond attacker to demonstrate a brilliant bit of opportunism, and poke the loose ball into an empty net. The visitors nearly scored again when a shot, parried, fell into the feet of another attacker, who fired over the bar. Diamonds continued to apply pressure until NCC managed to head up the left wing and cross the centre-line, to create another threatening opportunity. Diamonds came down their left wing, and forced three chances in rapid succession, two being saved and the third going behind.

Seven minutes into the second half and Diamonds almost score with a glancing header

The home side was starting to adapt better to playing uphill on the tacky field, and spent time in the Diamonds goal area. They created several half-chances, and eventually, on seventy minutes, were awarded a corner. A cross came in from the left, and was partially cleared, but only as far as James Stevens. Jumping, he managed to head the ball over the heads of the adjacent defenders, but unfortunately it hit the cross bar, and rebounded down, where a trio of players shielded the ball until the sharp keeper grabbed it. NCC continued to dominate the game at this stage, but was unable to capitalise, although Andrew Murton made a great effort as he sent the ball towards a corner. Now Diamonds came down, and won two successive corners, the last was directed close to the goal, but to an area devoid of their players!

James Stevens jumped and headed the ball onto the crossbar for it to rebound down
where a trio of players shielded the ball until the sharp keeper grabbed it

Then, with about fifteen minutes remaining, a well-worked movement up the left wing saw Paul Mills send the ball to Andrew Murton. His well-directed pass found Ian Jones, just outside of the goal area. Even though four defenders were in front of him Ian was able to fire the ball past them, and past the advancing keeper, and gleefully watch the ball bury itself in the far corner of the net. The final minutes were frantic, as the visitors created several efforts, often down their left flank, but good defending from the Reds kept them out. The home side nearly scored again but Ian Jones had his snap-shot cleared after it got stuck in the mud, with the keeper prone. Emlyn John fired a free kick wide of the goal, with nobody able to reach it.

NCC defend a corner, carelessly kicked to an area devoid of Diamonds

In the final five minutes it would appear that NCC had become tired, or careless, as their attacks lacked numbers and their defence was becoming ragged, with glaring gaps appearing. The visitors made several penetrating forays, in numbers, massed across the pitch. In time added on Diamonds had a free kick, deep on their right wing. The hosts, who had not covered either goal-post, had let three opposition players stand almost on their goal line. A fast low ball was sent in, which bobbled around in the mud, and as it beat the keeper so it presented the easiest of chances for any one of five unmarked players to tap in, for Diamonds to equalise. As NCC restarted the game so the final whistle went, signalling the end of a frustrating game for the team.

In the final 5 minutes NCC were tired and watched the ball pass the top of the net

A disconsolate Michael Wyatt reporting from a quagmire at Newlands

Game 15 :  Trophy Cup match :  12 February 2011 :
Cambray  6 - 3  North Cheltenham Churches

On a beautifully sunny morning NCC were away to Cambray, in a semi final match for the Cotswold Churches Trophy. It was always going to be a difficult game, and from the start the NCC was under pressure, as their hosts launched a couple of attacks, before it was their turn to defend. The Reds gained a corner, and were unfortunate when James Stevens was unable to propel the ball into the net. Immediately NCC gained another corner, but was denied when the keeper held a good catch above his head. Following further incursions from each side it was Cambray who struck, in the eighth minute. They made an attack up their right wing, and sent over a high cross; a mix up between the keeper and a defender allowed a forward to pop the ball into the net.

NCC defending in the opening minutes

The home side continued to press forward, and gained a corner, which was sent wide, as was a brace of speculative shots. Although NCC made several visits to the opposite end it was Cambray who were more likely to score. They were denied when several chances went wide, after some woeful finishing, and by Ryan Adams, who made some very good saves. In the twenty fifth minute, after another run up the wing, a Cambray player got between the goalie and two defenders, to double their score. There was plenty of action at each end, NCC saw a shot just cross the Cambray bar, and Ryan Adams made another brilliant save when he tipped the ball onto the bar.

In the final five minutes of this half NCC brought the game to life, and ensured the second period would not be one-sided. The Reds had a free kick, just inside the Cambray half, and close to the right-hand touchline. Emlyn John sent a delicate floating ball towards the left-hand post, and Paul Mills, running in, was able to put the ball into the back of the net. Within two minutes déjà vu, as the NCC was awarded another free kick, from almost the same position, but slightly further in. Again Emlyn John delivered a high ball, but this time towards the other post. Waiting was Ian Jones, who leant back and performed an outstanding outlandish overhead kick. Despite an adjacent defender, and the Cambray keeper standing on the line behind him, the ball was directed towards the opposite corner, and the reader can only imagine the ecstasy for NCC as the score was tied. Half time soon followed; a pause to allow each side to regroup for the remainder of the match.

Emlyn John sent a delicate floating ball towards the left-hand post, and Paul Mills, running in,
was able to put the ball into the back of the net    2-1

Emlyn John delivered a high ball. Waiting was Ian Jones, who performed an
outstanding outlandish overhead kick into the opposite corner    2-2  !!

The outstanding outlandish Ian Jones

In the opening twenty minutes of the second half NCC was able to create a handful of attacking movements, but thereafter it was one-way traffic. A procession of forays down both wings penned the visitors inside their own half. During this period Cambray was averaging almost one attack every minute, and Ryan Adams saw his goal peppered with shots; at least three passed over the bar, two barely missing it, and at least four sped past the post, a brace missing it by millimetres. The surprise was the length of time the home side took to go in front again; the goal, when it came, was very straightforward. A lone forward was able to outpace the NCC defence, and reach the six-yard box before the goalie came out to narrow the gap. Coolly the Cambray player sidestepped Ryan Adams, and, as the latter dived, he guided the ball home, watched by the NCC defenders who, by then, were haring down the field.

Almost immediately Cambray volleyed a shot over the goal, and repeated this with a header. In between Ryan Adams, near his left-hand post, made a most spectacular save when once again he was the last line of defence; an occasion when it was harder to miss than score! This was followed by a great team effort in denying Cambray further efforts, and then NCC made a rare visit to the other end. Ten minutes after their last goal Cambray got a fourth, following another quick attack from which they gained a corner. Even though NCC had their goal area packed the ball, not cleared, was lobbed over the players, to descend into the back of the net.

Having weathered the next storm NCC, spurred on, created a string of attacks and spent several minutes at the other end of the field. This pressure resulted in success when Emlyn John sent in a great shot, which went past the keeper, and his defence, to end up in the middle of the net. Ten minutes remained, could NCC catch up?

Emlyn John sent in a great shot which went past the keeper to end up in the middle of the net  4-3

NCC come under pressure

Cambray ensured the answer was negative, and gained yet another corner; they had eight corners in this half compared to none by NCC. Although the Reds came up, and gained a free kick, their magic was spent. Meanwhile, at the other end, Cambray continued to attack and scored two goals within two minutes. The first was a shot which went through Ryan Adams, and the second was a volley from inside the penalty area, which sped past a valiant effort from Andy Macauly. The excitement continued at each end, and we saw Ian Jones fire a final shot, which went over the bar. Ryan Adams, who must have emerged from the game shell-shocked, was declared man of the match.


A mortified and disconsolate Michael Wyatt reporting from The Burrows

Game 14 :  League Match :  5 February 2011 :
Trinity & Quedgeley  3 – 3   North Cheltenham Churches

On a blustery day, with drizzle being constantly blown along by a strong wind, NCC travelled to Hempsted, a new ground to them, to play third placed Trinity and Quedgeley. T&Q started the match by playing against the wind, and up a slight slope, and were immediately on the attack. In the opening ten minutes they came up both wings, and looked very dangerous on their left. Here they gained two corners, one following a great cross. In these opening attacks Ryan Adams, in goal, made a couple of fine saves; one where he caught a high lob just as an opposition forward came barging in. With parity in the frequency of attacks, but not potency, NCC had a free kick, which Guy Speedie sent straight at the keeper, who was able to make a straightforward save. In the next ten minutes the visitors mounted bold attacks down both wings, which gained them two corners. Then Emlyn John, chasing down on the left, sent in a low volley, which was desperately, almost fortuitously, saved by the home keeper, as he dived and smothered the ball. One particular and forceful T&Q attack saw another high lob eventually caught by Ryan Adams, but this nearly eluded him as it was held up by the wind; yet another attack saw a shot go wide of goal.

Early in the game NCC are on the attack

Approaching the twenty minute mark Guy Speedie, on the edge of the box, passed the ball to his left, to Ian Jones. With composure and skill Ian cleverly lobbed the keeper, who had come out too far, and, with immense delight, saw the ball enter the far side of the empty net. Almost immediately T&Q came up their right, and a tremendous low volley was blasted towards the NCC goal. Eluding their defence the ball thudded against the top corner of the cross bar, and rebounded, to be safely secured by the NCC defenders. After twenty six minutes the marauding T&Q number seven came up on the left, shrugged off the defence and crossed the ball. This good pass was met on the right, and sent past Ryan, whose frantic dive was not enough to prevent the ball entering the net, to tie the score.

Game continues as Guy Speedie is helped to his feet

Then came a period when NCC made most of the running. During this period they had two shots sent towards the goal. Neither was gathered cleanly as the T&Q keeper was left sprawling on the ground, but no NCC player was able to follow up for the tap in. Trinity and Quedgeley attacked, and fired a shot over the bar; another attempt was denied by solid work from both Andy Macauly and his keeper. Ten minutes before half time James Stevens sent a good cross to the left wing, which found Ian Jones, unmarked. He shot and the ball eluded the dive of the keeper, to end in the bottom corner of the net, and so restore the NCC lead. Each side continued in their quest for more goals as the half drew to a close, with the hosts the more threatening. From one foray they gained a free kick, which was heading into the bottom corner until Ryan Adams managed to push it behind for a corner. This saw the ball drilled over the by-line, narrowly missing the far post in the process. Another T&Q shot, from the right, again hit the crossbar, and rebound into play, before it was fired wide. As the half time whistle went the NCC must have been delighted with the scoreline but disappointed not to have used their advantage of wind and slope more.

The visitors began the second half, and mounted a series of short attacks, which saw the T&Q keeper make a good save to deny Ian Jones; another attempt saw the ball just cross the bar. Then the home side came down the left wing, ran through the NCC defence, and volleyed the ball into the far corner of the net, to ensure parity again. Soon after this Ian Jones nearly scored again but his shot went wide of the goal. Following a T&Q corner NCC had a five minute spell when they made a succession of incursions up both wings. During this dominant period they gained a corner, had Emlyn John shoot wide and saw both Graham Price and Ian Jones presented with opportunities. An attempt, up the right wing, was only saved by brave keeping, as the T&Q goalie came to the edge of his area to smother the ball. This was followed by some strong T&Q forays, in which they gained a corner and had a threatening attack through the middle denied.

Then, after sixty-four minutes, a good header from Emlyn John found man of the match Ian Jones, waiting outside the 18 yard box. With cool courage and spellbinding speed Ian ran up the sticky slope, holding-off the determined defender to his right, and neared the goal. As the keeper dived, too early, Ian shrugged off his resolute rival and sweetly threaded the ball through the narrow gap presented, to watch it end up in the corner, enabling him to complete his third hat trick for the NCC, and at the same time become its leading goal-scorer.

Man of the Match and hat trick scorer Ian Jones conjuring up some of his magic

In the next twenty minutes the home side attacked, almost constantly, in their desperate attempt to gain yet another equalising goal. In creating numerous chances they rained in many shots, most going wide, but some were saved by the NCC keeper, including one very brave effort when he was the last line of defence. T&Q won three corners, including two in quick succession, and saw the NCC captain almost score a spectacular own goal when he deflected the ball over his own cross bar. During this period the visitors created one opportunity of note, when the home keeper caught a shot as he jumped to gather the ball.

NCC defend a corner on 77 minutes.  Who of our players is missing from the photo?

Then, with five minutes to go, Trinity & Quedgeley repeated another attack down their left wing. A low long range shot took a slight deflection, enough to guide it through a narrow gap betwixt goalie and post, and into the net, with the NCC keeper rooted to the spot; once again T&Q had caught up. Soon after this NCC had a rare attack of late, when Ian Jones ran up the left wing and crossed the ball to Guy Speedie, who could only head it wide of goal. In the final few minutes T&Q had two more chance to win; one went wide and the other was saved by Ryan. As the final whistle went the draw seemed a fair result, although the hosts may feel justice was not done, considering their greater pressure throughout a hard-fought game, one played in a good spirit in spite of the difficult conditions.

An enraptured Michael Wyatt, reporting from a wild and windy Sandalwood Drive.

Game 13 : League Match : 29 January 2011 :
Cornerstone  3 – 0  North Cheltenham Churches

On a very cold day Cornerstone kicked off this match against NCC, who were playing in their changed strip (green hoops). The home side started the game well, gaining an early corner on the right, which was cleared, and also having a shot saved by Tim Rudge, back in goal. Then NCC created some attacks, gaining a free kick in the process, but these were either cleared or saved by the keeper. Each side traded attacks, which came to naught, although those from Cornerstone were more threatening. NCC seemed to be getting back into the game; Guy Speedie made a gallant run, and the team spent some time creating a series of attacks when they seemed to be camped in the opposition area. Just after twenty minutes NCC managed to win a free kick, which was taken by Chris Dagnall. His terrific shot crashed off the crossbar, despite the keeper getting a finger to it, and ended up for a corner, which was cleared. Then disaster struck; as the visitors were ruing a golden opportunity the home side immediately attacked in numbers down their right wing, and scored, when an unmarked player fired the ball past the desperate attempt of the hapless keeper to smother it.

From a free kick, Chris Dagnall's terrific shot crashed off the crossbar, despite the keeper getting a finger to it

Almost immediately Cornerstone attacked again, allowing an attacker to run through the NCC defence and shoot, but this was partially saved by Tim Rudge, appearing to lose little of his old magic, and tidied up by Alex Wilkins, man of the match. Alex made some good clearances, and did well to send the ball up the field of play. Much of the play was concentrated in midfield, which forced both teams to attempt some aerial football, before they returned to running attacks. NCC forced Cornerstone to work hard, and then the hosts went up a gear, and their sequence of attacks was only denied by a combination of some resilient defending from the visitors, good keeping and several shots going wide. Then, with just three minutes of the half left, a good through ball found a Cornerstone attacker free, and almost in front of the NCC goal. With only the keeper in the way he was able to send in a well struck shot, waist high, which rocketed into the net. Those final minutes saw the visitors on the attack; they gained a corner, and forced a good take from the keeper.

The Cornerstone goalie has an easy save

  Matt Allison heads the ball, watched by Man of the Match Alex Wilkins (29)

From the start of the second half Cornerstone were in control, and managed many more attacks than the NCC. They roamed down both wings but were unable to break the determined resistance of NCC’s defence; on the several occasions when this failed Tim Rudge was there to make half a dozen saves, including a well-caught free kick which had sailed over the wall. The difficult conditions, of a hard pitch and the cold, were mastered better by Cornerstone, who exhibited their good organisation. They gained a couple of corners and won another free kick. Always there was Tim Rudge, ready to deny anything really threatening which had passed the NCC defence. It was not all one-way play, and gradually the visitors clawed their way back into the game more, and mounted some penetrating runs which the home keeper must have enjoyed since it allowed him to warm up a tad.

Tim Rudge makes some fine saves

However, the hosts resorted to a better use of the space, and began to make a series of dangerous attacks up their left wing. This led to several shots and the winning of corners. With seven minutes to go another attack enabled them to score their third goal. A cross from this wing found a lone forward, and, despite a valiant effort from Tim Rudge, the ball eluded him, and ended up in his goal. Soon after NCC nearly scored when Alex Wilkins fired a wonderful long range high lob shot. This sped past everybody, and appeared to be heading towards the top of the goal. A crash told those who missed the flight that the ball had rebounded off the crossbar; unfortunately nobody was there to have another attempt; shortly after this another effort was fired wide. In the final few minutes the home side had three more good chances to score, two were parried and the other was fired wide of the NCC goal. Although NCC had their chances they found it difficult to penetrate a well organised team.

A cold and disappointed Michael Wyatt reporting from Evesham High School

Game 12 : League Match : 22 January 2011 :
North Cheltenham Churches  2 - 2  St Matthews

On a cold day, tempered by a slow-thawing frost, North Cheltenham kicked off this league match, with fond memories of the victory gained last November. The visitors started the game well, and made a series of penetrating attacks down their left wing, eventually gaining a corner. This resulted in a fast ball coming in at head height, which cannoned off the post and back into the field of play, where the NCC defence managed to clear the ball. This enabled NCC to mount a run up the same wing, where they won a corner, and saw Martin Cookson send the ball to Ian Jones. He shot, and the ball just went wide of the right hand post; we had only seen three exciting minutes. After another attack from St Matthews play hovered around the centre circle, before NCC went up field. The keeper saved two shots from the hosts, including one from a free kick. The Reds were containing their visitors, who were finding it difficult to penetrate into the other half.

Two minutes into the game and St Matts are on the offensive

After the opening quarter of an hour St Matthews were again attacking, again down their left wing. A shot gained them a corner, another high one close to the bar, but this was headed wide of goal. In quick time they mounted two more attacks, down the right wing, which saw them almost score, but resolute work from Martin Cookson and Andrew Murton kept them out. Then we nearly had a spectacular own goal at the other end, when a defender fired the ball back to his keeper, who sliced his kick behind for a corner. NCC made two very strong attacks, but was denied by a packed goal area; in turn St Matts managed two runs down their right wing.

Then, after twenty one minutes, NCC had a free kick, awarded just outside of the penalty area. The ball was well held by the keeper, who immediately booted it down the right wing. The home defence had come up too far, allowing a speedy solitary striker to gain possession of the ball, and continue in his quest. From just outside of the area he sent forward a high lob; which caught Ryan Adams in two minds. Wrong footed, and out of position, he could only watch as the ball descended, to end up in the back of the net.

After 21 minutes St Matts open the scoring as Ryan Adams is caught wrong footed

In the next ten minutes play rotated to and from each end. The attacks created by St Matts were wide, and easily dealt with, but NCC produced two good efforts. The first came from a free kick, taken from the edge of the centre circle, which was cleared at the second attempt. Then the Reds had a corner, from the left. This resulted in a high ball coming in, and both the keeper and Ian Jones jumped in their respective attempts to win the ball; Ian jumped the higher, almost two feet off the ground! Just past the half hour mark the visitors had a free kick, from the edge of the 18-yard box. An elevated and well struck shot came high over the assembled players, all waiting eagerly within the area, and continued, past the outstretched hand of the desperate jump made by Ryan, and so into the back of the net.

The luck was not going their way, as NCC saw Ian Jones go off injured, with a recurrence of his hamstring injury. Full credit to the opposition, they were now playing some beautiful football, stringing together a series of delicate passes where the ball was allowed to run up their boot or was pushed on with a delicate back-heel. Again St Matts got behind the home defence, but were unable to score. They won a corner on their right, and then immediately had another from the left. NCC mounted a series of attacks, one, on the stroke of half time, saw John Craxford unleash a right-footed shot, but straight into the arms of the keeper.

The visitors restarted the game, and were immediately on the attack, coming up their right wing. Within two minutes they were awarded a free kick, from the edge of the 18-yard box. NCC defended with a four-man wall, and St Matthews endeavoured to repeat the success of their first half effort. The ball was very well struck; its parabolic arc was misjudged by all. The home defence could only turn, in time to see Ryan Adams beaten, but they expressed a huge sigh of relief as the ball thudded off the top of the left hand post, and go behind for a goal kick. Another shot was parried by Ryan, the ball fell to another attacker who mis-kicked it, allowing the NCC defenders to clear their line.

The home defence expressed a huge sigh of relief as the ball thudded off the top of the left hand post,
and go behind for a goal kick

Then NCC darted down to the other end, where they created a series of efforts. James Stevens came close, the keeper ran out and kicked the ball away, but it struck young James and nearly rebounded in. Martin Cookson had two good efforts, including one which crossed an empty goal area. The visitors still posed dangerous threats, one penetrating attack was denied by the brilliant work of Matt Allison, but other attacks were easily caught by Ryan Adams, on the edge of his box. Having reached their nadir the NCC was slowly becoming potent. After one third of this half they managed a couple of prolonged attacks, winning two corners, and seeing the ball bouncing around inside the goal area. Man of the match Martin Cookson fired a long range shot, which the keeper did well to save.

Two minutes later the visitors were awarded another free kick, from near the centre circle. Sent up the right, and crossed, the ball eluded the home keeper before being stabbed into the net. Fortunately for NCC this was ruled out, for an off side infringement. This was followed by a five-minute spell which saw brief activity at each end, although NCC was applying the greater pressure. Then, with twelve minutes to go, Martin Cookson led an attack down the left wing. His cross found Andrew Murton, who, with great aplomb, lifted the ball over the advancing keeper, by now on his knees, and watched with delight as the ball finished up in the far corner of the net.

Striving so hard for an equaliser NCC have a corner

Having worked hard to get this lifeline the home side was sparked into action, in their attempt to get another; so was St Matts, which provided a final ten minute thriller. It began with the visitors winning a couple of free kicks, and a corner, but all were safely cleared. Then NCC was down at the other end, where they gained a corner. This was sent into a tightly packed area full of tense players. Partially cleared the ball bobbled about, before being sent across the edge of the area. An alert Andy Macauly hared in and volleyed a shot, but the ball sped across the field, and out for a throw-on. The pressure was still there. Another NCC shot was well gathered by the keeper, above his head. As soon as the ball reached the NCC defensive area it was sent to the opposite end. The minutes ticked by as the visitors appeared to be holding out. With three minutes remaining, the relentless NCC pressure finally paid off, when Martin Eccles, on the edge of the D, sent in an aerial volley. Although watched by the keeper, who jumped in his effort to cover this, the ball still ended up in the net. In the dying minutes the NCC continued their onslaught, and gained three successive corners, but was denied by good last ditch defending. As the final whistle went I felt the draw was a fair result.

Watched by St Matt's keeper, who jumped in his effort to cover this, the ball still ended up in the net

We were then treated to a nerve-racking penalty shoot-out, to decide which team would hold the Grant Bayliss Cup. Following some clinical shots NCC ran out victors, by 4-2, to retain the cup, hitherto an unheard of event; well done to all concerned, including St Matthews, for a hard fought game played in a sporting manner.

A relieved Michael Wyatt reporting from a very cold Stade de Prestbury

Game 11 : Charity Award : 15 January 2011 :
Cambray  2 - 0  North Cheltenham Churches


On a windy day Cambray kicked off this Charity Award game, to be played over two legs. For much of the first half NCC was defending the numerous attacks created by their opposition, but the majority lacked domination and were readily cleared by a resolute defence, a half which saw the NCC players unwavering in their commitment, well done.


A corner kick was pushed away by Tim Rudge as he jumped up, demonstrating
that none of his skills has been lost since his last game, in the previous season!

Cambray charged down from the kick off, winning a corner, which was pushed away by Tim Rudge as he jumped up, demonstrating that none of his skills has been lost since his last game, in the previous season! In this opening quarter of an hour Cambray gained a series of corners, but none posed a real threat. Tim Rudge made a succession of saves where he grabbed the ball and held it close to his body. With the wind behind them Cambray resorted to some long range shots, most sailed on well over the cross bar, but a couple did pass perilously close to the NCC woodwork. It was not completely one-way traffic, the visitors did manage some attacks of their own, perhaps the best being a solo run from Mark Broekman, up his left wing. Unfortunately, against both wind and slope, and lacking support, it all came to naught.

Everyone watches as NCC take a corner

In the next fifteen minutes the game continued in the same vein, with the hosts making twice as many attacks as the NCC. With the NCC defence closely packed Cambray found penetration difficult, but there was one period when the ball bobbled about in this area before NCC was able to clear it. Continuing with the aerial route Cambray saw two shots pass near to the top corner of their target. In turn the visitors had one attack where they narrowly missed the left hand side of the goal.

Resolute NCC defending, they were marvellous throughout this opening half

In the last fifteen minutes of the half both teams upped their game. Again Cambray tested NCC with several spectacular shots, but these cleared the bar, or were coolly caught by Tim Rudge. He pulled off a spectacular save, when, as last man, he caught the ball and so prevented an almost certain goal. In the melee following one corner Paul Broekman made a brilliant save as he booted out the ball. Perhaps the best attempt came when Cambray had another corner. This saw a high lob cross the goal, in an attempt to use the wind, but the NCC keeper reached it first as he made another spectacular jump. The attacks created by NCC saw them advance in greater numbers; they even gained a free kick. As the half closed full credit must go to the NCC, and doubtless they were planning the second half, with the wind and slope in their favour.

The second half started disastrously for NCC, as they conceded a brace within the opening ten minutes. Early on Cambray sped up the right wing, where an unmarked attacker fired a low ball past the diving Tim Rudge, and into the net; an inevitable lead considering the continuous pressure Cambray had exerted since the start of this match. Two minutes later it was almost déjà vu, as Tim came out too far, but the low shot passed wide of his goal. Then, four minutes later, a solo attacker, with acres of space devoid of players, was able to stab the ball home in a one-on-one situation with the keeper. Moments later Cambray were up again, gained a corner which was sent wide. After this NCC was able to make a couple of forays, one saw the ball pass high over the Cambray bar.

After fifteen minutes of this half the wind had dropped, and play revolved around the middle of the field. Mark Broekman, seeing the keeper coming out of his area, tried to lob him. Unfortunately for the Cambray keeper the ball hit his upper arm, resulting in his dismissal. NCC, awarded a free kick, could have made better use of it. Then Cambray created a series of penetrating and persistent attacks, resulting in two great saves in succession by the NCC keeper, one at each post.

The final quarter of an hour saw exciting and exhilarating play at each end. NCC made some penetrating attacks, which saw both Ian Jones and Lee Bradley come close, the latter saw a defender boot the ball up field from under his nose, almost literally. At the opposite end Tim Rudge continued with his sterling work; one particular attack saw him take off and push the ball away. As he fell to the ground the ball narrowly missed the post, as it sped behind for a corner. No wonder he was judged to be the man of the match, and well done to the Cambray players who applauded this splendid effort. NCC was superb in defence during the opening half, but ought to pay greater attention to their defence and attack, throughout the game, if they are to progress in the return leg. This was the first game this season in which the NCC has failed to score.

Man of the Match, Tim Rudge takes off to push the ball away.
As he fell to the ground the ball narrowly missed the post

A cold Michael Wyatt reporting from a chilly Burrows playing field

Game 10 : League Match: 8 January 2011 :
Cirencester  3 – 7  North Cheltenham Churches

After a seven week lay-off, due to the bad weather and Christmas, NCC began this game at Deer Park School, a new venue for them. Under the watchful eyes of the nearby statue of Queen Anne (see photograph below) both sides started well, but it was the home side who were the more penetrative, and they brought out some excellent defending from the visitors. Then Guy Speedie made a determined attack for NCC; his solo run down the right wing needed a last ditch tackle to prevent any score. In this opening ten-minute spell the NCC was easing into a dominating position by creating more attacks, but that elusive first goal did not come. Then events unfolded at a pace, as NCC scored three in a three-minute spell.

After twelve minutes NCC had an attack down their left wing, and gained a throw-on. Chris Dagnall sent this to Mark Broekman, who headed the ball back to him. Then Chris Dagnall sent a fast high ball, which shot past the static home keeper, who could only turn and see the ball bulge the net. NCC had gained a deserved lead. Within a minute another attack, down the right wing, lead to a delicate ball sent goalwards. Despite the presence of half a dozen defenders James Stevens rocketed forward and hammered the ball into the net. Two minutes later NCC took a corner. Beautifully flighted by Emlyn John the players saw Mark Broekman out-jump four others, and head the ball past the desperate lunge of the keeper, and on past his two static goalpost defenders, who could only watch in horror as the six-yard header ended in the net.

James Stevens (No 8) celebrates the third goal headed in by Mark Broekman from a corner kick

Although the home side kept going and mounted some attacks, one gaining them a corner, they seemed unable to take advantage of the wide spaces available. In the next fifteen minutes NCC had several attacks, but failed to capitalise on poor defensive work; large areas of undefended territory were available. Then, approaching the half-hour, Mark Broekman made a good solo run down his left, and fired a striking blast which sped over the ground. The home keeper did well to reach the ball, which he could only parry, leaving a grateful James Stevens the pleasure of ensuring that the rebound finished in the net, for his second goal of the game.

Mark Broekman and James Stevens outwit the home side

In the final quarter of an hour of this opening half NCC continued to press forward, notably through James Stevens, in his endeavours to get a third. We saw him attempt a speculative overhead kick! With eight minutes of the half remaining Cirencester gained a free kick. Although this was parried an alert attacker was able to nip behind the wall and stab the ball in, to pull a goal back. In the last few minutes Cirencester were showing both better positional play and use of their large field, but NCC ended with a couple of shots going wide of the goal.

Just before half time an NCC attempt goes wide of the goal

Cirencester started the second half in a more determined mood, and were soon awarded a couple of free kicks; the first was sent wide and the second was cleared. Despite a couple of attacks of their own NCC seemed to sit back on the score line, indirectly encouraging the hosts to use the slope to their advantage. After seven minutes of the half Cirencester had another free kick, which saw a well directed ball headed into the net by a vigilant Cirencester attacker. Five minutes later another attack resulted in a high lob entering the net. Cirencester had pulled back three goals within twenty minutes, albeit either side of half time; an exciting final half-hour was coming.

The players and Queen Anne enjoy the sunshine

In the next five minutes NCC created several attacks but good defending kept them at bay. Then an attack up the left wing saw Chris Dagnall demonstrate that his first goal was no fluke by emulating it, to the apparent amazement of all watching. The final twenty minutes would be nerve racking. The mounting excitement continued at both ends. Cirencester had several long range shots, without success, and also gained two successive corners, the second one just missing as the ball sped behind for a goal kick. In turn NCC had a couple of forays well defended. And so we come to the final five frenetic minutes of end to end excitement.

This began when Ian Jones attacked up the right wing, and threaded a delicate pass to Mark Broekman, who fired a ten yard shot into the goal. In turn Cirencester’s counter-attack saw the ball successfully caught by Ryan Adams. Immediately he booted the ball up field, where man of the match Mark Broekman was again waiting. With serenity and dexterity he eluded four defenders and completed his first-ever hat trick, as he slotted the ball home. Cirencester’s ultimate attack saw the ball cleared up field by the defence, where NCC nearly scored again but the ball was well caught by the home keeper. The final attack saw the ball speed tantalisingly close to the visitors’ goal; in a way epitomising this exciting game of many misses, despite a tally of ten goals.

A delirious and euphoric Michael Wyatt reporting from the Deer Park School.

Game 09 :  League Match :  20 November 2010 :
North Cheltenham Churches  2 - 5  Cambray

NCC on the attack early in the game

On a dank and murky morning NCC hosted Cambray, the league’s runaway leaders, who had won every game played. In the opening minutes both sides had early attacks, Cambray had a shot go wide and for NCC Chris Dagnall sent a good ball which found Martin Eccles, whose effort was well saved by the visiting keeper. Then, after five minutes, Ian Jones sent a perfect ball down the left wing, to James Stevens. As he collected the ball James noticed that the keeper was coming out to met him, so he coolly fired the ball past him, and saw it bulge the far corner of the net. What a dream start for the team! NCC was playing well, and was matching their visitors in the mid-field area. Immediately from the restart Cambray let fly a highly speculative shot from the half way line, which went very wide of the target. In the next ten minutes Cambray began to find their feet more on this tacky surface, and forced a good save from Ryan Adams, the home keeper. The Reds matched them, and their shot sped high over the boundary hedge. Then, on seventeen minutes, the visitors had an attack up their left wing, which gained them a corner. From this the ball was crossed, before it was headed goalwards, to roll past the desperate dive of the keeper, and so into the net; all square.

NCC defending

During the next ten minutes the NCC’s amount of possession fell, allowing Cambray to dominate play with increasing frequency. When the home side mounted an attack it lacked sustained pace, allowing Cambray, who defended very well, and in great depth, to regain possession. Despite this the enterprising duo, of Ian Jones and James Stevens, saw a great opportunity snuffed. Cambray created several opportunities, one shot went wide of a post, another sped over the bar, and Martin Eccles headed out from a well-taken corner.

NCC defending a corner kick

In the final fifteen minutes of this half, an exciting one from a spectator’s view, the wheels began to fall off the NCC’s wagon. It began when a Cambray attack saw a good cross headed goalwards. A relieved Ryan Adams saw the ball bounce off the top of the bar, a fortunate miss. Then he held a couple of good catches before Cambray came up again, outstripping the home defence. As they arrived they were unable to prevent a Cambray player from sliding the ball past the keeper, despite a good diving attempt to prevent the ball from entering the net. NCC continued with their attacks, including one long range shot from Emlyn John, which went wide. Cambray gained another corner, again well headed clear by Martin Eccles, before they made another foray on the right, where an attacker was able to flick the ball into the net; two goals within the space of three minutes.

NCC attempting to score from a corner kick

With five minutes remaining NCC was making another attack, which saw Martin Eccles fire a shot on target. A Cambray defender, as the last line of defence, did the inevitable, with the predictable result, thus awarding the hosts a penalty. The resulting penalty, from Ian Jones, was saved by the keeper, as he dived to his left. In those last few minutes the NCC upped a gear, as they attempted to take advantage of their extra man, and dominated possession, with a series of attacks. On the stroke of half time Chris Dagnall met a high ball, which, with great gusto, he sent over the head of the advancing keeper, to set up an exciting second half; NCC was only 2-3 down against the invincible leaders.

The opening minutes of the second half were electrifying, as NCC strove to equalise. They thought this was achieved as Chris Dagnall headed a superb shot into the Cambray goal; sadly this was alleged to have been offside. Almost immediately Cambray, resilient in both attack and defence, gained a corner. Despite nine NCC players defending the area a Cambray player was able to out-jump everyone, and divert the ball, so delicately, across the goalmouth, and on into the far corner of the net, to widen the gap to two goals.

Despite being down to ten men Cambray was able to smother all of the NCC attacks throughout this second half. Tom Hardcastle tried hard when he came on at half time, but the NCC forward play lacked numbers and conviction. Individuals did their best; Martin Eccles had a shot well saved, Ian Jones was caught in two minds but their dominance in numbers was wasted. Even when they were threatening the opposition Cambray was able to adjust, as demonstrated when their keeper punched the ball out, following a corner, in a most emphatic way.

A few tumble

On the other hand, or boot, Cambray, when they attacked, made a series of penetrating runs, which saw Ryan Adams make some brave keeping, from one he collected the ball from beneath the feet of a rampant forward. During the final ten minutes he made several more superb saves. With five minutes to go a lone speedy Cambray player was allowed the space and freedom to dribble the ball towards the goal, from the centre of the field. With apparent simplicity he eased past players, and sent in a shot. This was parried by Ryan Adams, allowing another alert forward to send the rebound past him, to score their fifth and final goal. In the remaining minutes the excitement continued at both ends, as each side created several further opportunities. Cambray, scoring at both the start and finish of the second half, showed why their run was extended to eight wins on the trot. Andrew Murton was named man of the match; his defensive play and clearances were exemplary.

A despondent Michael Wyatt report from the Stade de Prestbury

Game 08 : Cup Match : 13 November 2010 :
North Cheltenham Churches  2 - 1  Cirencester Athletic

Under blue skies, but with advancing cloud, NCC played Cirencester for the second time in a non-league fixture; earlier in the season it was a Plate Match but today it was the turn of the Cotswold Trophy Match. For the opening twenty minutes play was quite evenly balanced, and continued at a fast pace, as each side alternated in attack and defence. Cirencester was the first to attack, with a series of threatening runs into the NCC half. These resulted in several near misses; one saw the ball rocket over the bar and another saw Ryan Adams make a good save. The visitors also gained a free kick, which was sent past the right hand post. Having weathered this initial storm the casual spectator saw a passage of play resembling table tennis, with attack and counter-attack, ensuring that none should sleep. Guy Speedie made a challenging run up the right wing, and had his header, from near the goal area, cleared.

Under blue skies NCC attack

After twenty minutes the nature of the game changed dramatically; it was Cirencester who was the more dominant, keeping twice as much possession as NCC, monopolising play with a succession of exquisite short passes. They made four consecutive attacks, finishing with one down their left wing which saw an attacker outstrip the home defence and send in a shot; unfortunately, for them, this hit a post and rebounded behind for a goal kick. Ian Jones led a counter-attack, but was denied by the visiting keeper’s brave dive, to smother the ball from beneath his feet. In the last quarter of this opening half NCC was kept in the game by some wayward shooting, one being a high lob well off-target, and a couple of diving saves from Ryan Adams, one being pushed behind for a corner. As the half time whistle went NCC was fortunate that they were still on level terms.

Cirencester started the second half, and continued their run of determined attacks. The second, up their left wing, saw a shot, from a most narrow angle, cross the goal mouth, and go behind Ryan Adams. To his horror the ball hit the far post, and rebounded back across the goal, wrong-footing him, and he could only watch as the ball crossed the line and entered the opposite corner of the net, to give the visitors a deserved lead; this was their zenith in the game. Controlling the midfield better NCC slowly came back into the game. Both Ian Jones and James Stevens got themselves into good positions, but were unable to break down a stubborn Cirencester defence, and their efforts went wide. At the other end Cirencester had a couple of attacks, one was saved and the other was shot wide. On the hour mark NCC was awarded a free kick, which went out for a goal kick; Cirencester followed this up with a couple of good runs, but they came to naught.

NCC’s growing dominance clearly frustrated the visitors, who conceded a couple of free kicks. During a five minute spell the referee stopped the game three times as the visitors’ anger threatened to boil over. Their outrage seemed to have a devastating effect on the team, and following the third altercation, all within the space of five minutes, the hosts had a glorious spell of scoring two goals, within two minutes, from two free kicks. The first was on their right wing, sent down by Matt Allison. The ball was beautifully weighted, and as the goalie had come out too far this enabled Ian Jones to send a perfect volley into the near corner of the net, to score a wonderful equalising goal, with twenty minutes of play remaining. Following this NCC was again attacking in this right hand corner, when James Stevens sent down an equally well-flighted ball to Ian Jones, again waiting expectantly. Majestically he performed a combination of a vertical pirouette with a cartwheel, to utter perfection, as demonstrated when his right boot connected with the ball, to send a devastating shot down, into the near corner of the net.

Ian Jones (10) perfects the pirouette and cartwheel to score

Immediately after these goals NCC was unsuccessful in their next attack, which allowed the visitors to mount a series of threatening attacks. However, their high and wide shots failed to penetrate a densely packed NCC goal area. Then, just before the end, Ian Jones received the ball on his left. He set off towards the opposition’s goal, with only the keeper to beat, but defenders sped back, and he was thwarted in his attempt to score a hat-trick. As the final whistle went a huge sigh of relief permeated the ranks of a lacklustre NCC, who scraped through to the next round of the cup. Ian Jones was named man of the match, his exemplary performance and two very well executed goals took the game away from a sorry Cirencester, who only had themselves to blame!

A relieved and chuffed Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury.

Game 07 :  League Match :  6 November 2010 :
St Matthews  0 - 2  North Cheltenham Churches

St Matthews kicked off this game in damp conditions, with light rain threatening, and were immediately on the attack. The opening five minute spell was played at a furious pace, and St Matthews seemed determined to have the game sewn up within this time. In the first three minutes they had a high lob pass over the bar, another shot was cleared, and, following a corner, the descending ball was headed along the goal line. After this onslaught the visitors, the NCC, managed an attack, before St Matthews sent in a long and high throw, only for Andrew Murton to out-jump everyone, as he made a splendid clearance. In the next two minutes the sides were able to mount three more attacks each; St Matthews were not going to continue this pace for long.

NCC defend a corner kick.  The ball crosses the goal mouth, and is then cleared up field

Ian Jones made a good run, initially up the left, before taking the ball across the goal area, where it was lost. St Matthews had another chance to score but Ryan Adams pushed the shot behind for a corner; the resulting kick was headed across the goal before it was finally cleared up field. Then the NCC had an attack, which got them a corner, but this was headed wide. There was plenty of mid-field action, and this was admirably won by NCC, with inspiring performances from Andy Macauly, Alex Wilkins and Tom Hardcastle. On their next attack St Matthews nearly scored when a header hit the top of the bar, and bounced over; this followed an earlier shot which hit a post. NCC had come right back into the game as St Matthews were running out of steam, and made several promising runs up their right wing. From one Adam Cox fired a long range shot, which went straight into the arms of the keeper.

The NCC now played some determined football, demonstrated by a series of attacks, and well supported by the trio of Ian Jones, Martin Cookson and Adam Cox; the latter had another superb shot saved. Approaching the half-hour mark Martin Cookson spearheaded an attack which led to the NCC gaining a corner. Jon Craxford sent the ball into the middle of the box, where it was received by Andrew Murton. He headed a high ball over the assembled players, and watched with delight as it came down behind the jumping keeper, and continued under the bar, to finish in the net. In the last fifteen minutes of the first half the home side had a couple of shots which were both sent wide. North Cheltenham Churches created several further opportunities; Andrew Murton headed just wide and Ian Jones had his effort sent behind for a corner, which was well caught by the keeper. This was followed by the NCC gaining two more corners; the first was again well saved by the keeper, diving to his right, as he conceded the second corner. As the half closed the visitors were playing some of their best football I can remember.

Andrew Murton headed a high ball over the assembled players, and watched
with delight as it came down behind the jumping keeper to finish in the net.

St Matthews began the second half in a dominant mood, and created a series of attacks. They gained two successive corners and a throw-on, but could only shoot the ball over the bar. Not long after a free kick went the same way. Although hard pressed for the first quarter of an hour the NCC came back into the game, and managed some penetrating attacks themselves. One saw the home keeper make a fine catch as he intercepted a cross from the right wing, and this was followed by Ian Jones sending the ball over the bar.

NCC enjoy the sunshine at the start of the second half

Although play ebbed and flowed there were few serious threats. NCC controlled the mid-field, and were looking out for each other very well. As the game entered its final fifteen minutes NCC had an effort, from the left, which crossed an empty goal; eventually they gained a throw-on. Emlyn John, who had come on some five minutes earlier, received the ball and sent down a high speculative lob, from thirty metres out. The descending ball was missed completely by the St Matthews keeper, as he stood all alone between his posts, utterly bamboozled. To his horror he saw the ball end at the back of the net; just over five minutes remaining, surely NCC was making history. Each side had two more attacks of substance, Andrew Murton leapt to clear one with a well judged header. NCC had a great chance created by Ian Jones, jumping well, and the final kick of the game saw them send the ball just past a post.

Alex Wilkins goes flying

As the final whistle went the NCC had gained their first-ever league win over their local rivals, very well done! This result saw them regain the Grant Bayliss Cup, now in its third season. It was a difficult choice to make but Tom Hardcastle was named man of the match with his all-round performance.

The winning side with the Grant Bayliss Cup

An elated Michael Wyatt reporting from a thrilling Stade de Prestbury.

Game 06 :  League Match :  30 October 2010 :
North Cheltenham Churches  2 - 3  Trinity & Quedgeley

On a beautiful sunny morning, with the hills radiant in their autumnal colours, NCC kicked off this match. At once they attacked, and James Stevens had an early shot which went straight to the keeper. Immediately after this the visitors announced their arrival by gaining two quick corners; the first saw a high dipping ball safely cleared by the home defence, and the second saw Ryan Adams make a good save, as he pushed the ball behind for another corner. NCC was trying a new formation, and this appeared to be working as they made a series of attacks, which saw them running down both wings. From one of these Andrew Murton fired in a low volley, from the right, and the ball sped past the prone body of the T&Q keeper. Unfortunately the ball rebounded off the far post, but not into the path of two waiting NCC forwards, but back from whence it came. Having had a most fortunate let off the visitors began to impose their presence on the game.

In the middle period of this opening half play ebbed and flowed, exciting for any neutral spectator. In this passage of play NCC had two good shots at goal, one by Emlyn John, which went wide, and the other by Andrew Murton, which went for a corner, with the T&Q keeper a long way out of his area. At the other end T&Q sent a thundering header, which passed safely high and wide of the goal. Then Ryan made a good save as he jumped and pushed the ball over the bar. From the resulting corner a T&Q forward leapt above everyone else, but could only head the ball high over the bar, and beyond the players in a tightly packed goal area.

NCC defend a corner

NCC created a chance when the ball was crossed from the left wing, but was headed over by Andrew Murton. Seven minutes before half time the visitors had another of the several highly-profitable free kicks they were awarded during the game. From just outside of the goal area this was sent forward, where an unmarked player, lurking in a spot devoid of NCC defenders, was able to trap the ball and triumphantly volley it past the lonely figure of Ryan Adams, and so open the count. The remaining minutes were full of excitement as both sides created more opportunities to score. Two came from NCC, one passing high over the goal, and a brace came from Trinity & Quedgeley: one Ryan clutched to his body as he jumped on the edge of the area, and the other went out for a corner. On the stroke of half time Ryan, as the only line of defence, made another great save, right on the edge of his area, and from under the nose of a rampant T&Q forward.

In the 49th minute NCC gained a corner, from which the T&Q keeper caught the ball
 high above his head as he out-jumped all around him

The visitors, who started the second half, were immediately on the defensive, as NCC made two early attacks, in what was to become an electrifying opening five minutes. The first of these attacks, from James Stevens, saw his shot speed wide of the goal, and the second gained NCC a corner, from which the T&Q keeper caught the ball high above his head as he out-jumped all around him. Immediately Trinity and Quedgeley created a very quick attack down the right wing. Here a good through ball found an unmarked player, who promptly put the ball into an empty net; fortunately for the hosts the apparent success was ruled out for offside. On fifty minutes Jon Craxford led an NCC attack up their left wing. His exquisite low cross found James Stevens, who ran onto the ball and skilfully threaded it through the defence, and past the keeper, to equalise.

For the next twenty minutes the pace quickened as each side sped up and down the field, in the quest for further goals. Chris Rudge had a great solo run, which went for a corner, but it was T&Q who spent more time attacking. One attack, down their left wing, easily outpaced the static NCC defenders, and only a brave effort from Ryan, who sped out to meet the ball, saw the over-eager forward narrowly shoot wide, rather than cross the ball to better placed players. Just past the hour mark, after a ball change, NCC launched an attack. This led to a throw-on, and a neat header was flicked to Emlyn John. His volley saw the ball thud into the net, to put the home side into the lead for the first time in the match.

This galvanised Trinity and Quedgeley into action, their frantic efforts earning them a yellow card. For some ten minutes the home side was hard pressed, and only good keeping by Ryan Adams denied them; one shot he grasped at the second attempt. Then, with twenty minutes to go, they had two free kicks in quick succession, the second from the edge of the goal area. As NCC had nobody in close defence this allowed the ball to be sent directly to a T&Q forward, who had the simplest of jobs to push it past the despairing dive of the home keeper, to equalise. This would have been a fair result, but worse was to come. Within two minutes another T&Q attack came down their left wing, the ball was crossed and a shot fired. Unfortunately this attempt was only parried, resulting in the ball rebounding up into the air. The keeper, flat on his back, could only watch with abject misery as the descending ball hit the ground, and tantalisingly spin back into the goal; such cruel luck.

In the 74th minute NCC can only look on as the ball spins into the back of the net
 and becomes the winning goal

Now it was the turn of NCC to pile on the pressure, and as the final quarter of an hour passed the hosts made over a dozen attacks, as they strove to break down the solid Trinity & Quedgeley defence. James Stevens had a shot well parried by the keeper, the ball going out for a corner, and Chris Rudge, now up front, had another fine effort denied. In the dying seconds the NCC had three corners in quick succession, and despite Ryan Adams helping out in the box, the team could not find that elusive goal. Emlyn John, scorer of the NCC’s second goal, was named man of the match for his excellent all round performance.

In the 91st minute even the NCC goalkeeper joins the desperate play for the equaliser

An irritated and vexed Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury

Game 05 :  Plate Match :  23 October 2010 :
North Cheltenham Churches  4 - 0  Cirencester Athletic

On a murky morning NCC hosted Cirencester Athletic, a team new to the league, in a rearranged plate competition match. NCC dominated the opening twenty minutes; in the first minute a descending ball almost brushed the top corner of the goal. Gaining successive throw-ins they saw a defender head the ball over his crossbar, for a corner. Following another corner Ian Jones, defeated by the bounce, fired his shot wide of the goal. In this passage of play Cirencester had a rare attack which got them a corner. However, good defending by NCC, and poor positional play by the visitors, led to an easy clearance. Mark Broekman created a couple of good opportunities as he came through the centre, before Cirencester made another incursion down the field. The home side attacked again, gaining another corner, which was headed over the bar by Tom Hardcastle. Keeping up the pressure Chris Dagnall fired a shot, resulting in a corner, which was well caught by the keeper high above his head. Then, as the NCC was queuing up, James Stevens had a shot sent wide of the goal. Following a second free kick Ian Jones narrowly failed to make contact with the ball, as he jumped in front of the keeper. After that, déjà vu, as another attack, up the left wing, saw a high cross sent over by Tom Hardcastle. The descending ball passed over and behind the keeper, where an eager Ian Jones headed it into the net from close range; finally NCC had taken a well deserved lead, after 28 minutes.

Mark Broekman and Ian Jones on the attack

NCC on the defence

Within a minute the home side had won another corner, which was taken by man of the match James Stevens. The ball was cleared but bobbled about on the edge of the goal area, where Chris Dagnall volleyed it into the net, to double the NCC lead. The visitors had settled more as the half wore on, and had tightened up in both defence and attack. Despite this it was the NCC who created the better chances, and as the half drew to a close there was a series of near misses, especially in the final two minutes. Martin Cookson created a brace of opportunities and Paul Mills fired his shot wide of the right-hand post. As the half closed the fleeting glimpses of the sun vanished, but prospects for victory appeared to be rolling on, even if it was a laborious process.

A near miss

NCC started the second half as they began the first, totally dominating play. In the first fifteen minutes the home side created a succession of attacks, which resulted in shots going wide and NCC having some corner kicks. In this period Ian Jones limped off with a recurrence of his hamstring injury. Approaching the hour mark a good through ball was gathered by James Stevens. As the Cirencester defence stood watching he dribbled the ball past them, and sent it beyond the keeper, to score his first-ever goal for the team. North Cheltenham Churches continued to dominate during the remaining half hour, as they had throughout the match, but were unable to turn this authority into goals. NCC had two corners which were cleared by the desperate defence, and shortly after they had another good chance to score when Martin Cookson saw his shot rebound off the post. Another solo run by James Stevens came to nought. In between Cirencester continued their intermittent pressure, credit must be given to them for not giving up; their introduction in this league has been difficult.

James Stevens, man of the match, scores his first ever goal for NCC

With four minutes remaining a great ball found Martin Cookson, who fired it into the goal. Cirencester had their best chance to score but a good finger-tip save onto, and then over, the bar, by Ryan Adams, saw the ball go behind for a corner. Encouraged Cirencester mounted another quick attack, again winning a corner, which was also cleared. Just before the end NCC had another shot which was saved. As the final whistle went the NCC had kept their first clean sheet of the season. James Stevens was named Man of the Match for his good battling performance and ubiquitous play, in both attack and defence.

A joyful Michael Wyatt reporting from a chilly and murky Stade de Prestbury

Game 04 :  League Match :  16 October 2010
Diamonds  6 - 2  North Cheltenham Churches

Guy Speedie and Lee Bradley, captain, tussling for the ball

A three minute horror show half-way through the first half effectively ended any hope NCC had of bringing some points home from Naunton Park. Three goals were conceded in that time, leaving the visitors at the wrong end of a 5-0 scoreline, and that after just half an hour! What a nightmare! Although the team showed great character to battle to the end there was no way back.

There had been no hint of the disaster to come in the opening exchanges of the game. In fact NCC looked the team most likely to score on an unusually fine Naunton Park pitch. Guy Speedie and Ian Jones were paired up front and they combined well from the start, Ian being unlucky not to open the scoring when his pace and power took him clear. It was against the run of play when Diamonds took the lead, an excellent finish from a ball over the top, which caught the NCC defence square. North Cheltenham rallied and continued to press but suffered another blow when an accurately-placed free kick found the corner of the net. Buoyed by their success the young and skilful Diamonds team began to play some attractive football, leading to three exceptional finishes in those three calamitous minutes, to put them out of sight. NCC were shell-shocked but refused to lie down – Karl Hemming fired in a shot from distance, Chris Dagnall saw a goal-bound free-kick blocked by a defender, and both Ian Jones and Guy Speedie were constant threats. It was no more than the visitors deserved when Paul Mills pulled one back on the stroke of half-time, firing home from an acute angle.

NCC on the attack, from which ...

NCC take a corner

Manager Andy Murton rallied his troops at half-time, with tactical advice supplied by Ian Jones, and NCC had by no means given up the game as lost. An early goal was needed, but, despite a much stronger performance, it was not forthcoming. Cruelly it was Diamonds who scored again, with another superbly placed free-kick. Andy Murton re-organised his side and one bright spot in the afternoon was the very welcome return of Andy Macaulay, replacing the hard-working Lee Bradley. With Graham Price switched to the left of midfield, and Andy Macauly to the right, NCC began to threaten again; Adam Cox, and man-of-the-match Martin Cookson, providing strength and guile in the centre. A trademark surging run from Andy Macaulay, and an exquisite combination with Guy Speedie, resulted in a low cross, which needed some fine defending by Diamonds to clear the danger. Although it was no more than a consolation NCC did at least have the satisfaction of closing the scoring, Ian Jones deftly chipping a beautifully flighted ball from Adam Cox over the keeper, and into the far corner of the net.

NCC defending early in the second half

On this showing Diamonds will be a handful for any team this season and thanks are due to their manager Pete Cowley for taking over as referee when the appointed official did not appear.

Matt Allison, reporting from Naunton Park, deputising for the usual correspondent

Game 03 :  League Match :  9 October 2010:
North Cheltenham Churches  2 - 2  Cornerstone

The hills were shrouded in mist as NCC, again sporting their new kit, hosted the visit of last season’s league champions, Cornerstone; one of three teams with a one hundred percent record this season. Once the visitors had started the game the few spectators saw lots of action, as play flowed up and down the field, with each keeper making an introductory save. After four minutes Emlyn John fired a long range shot, which appeared to be heading towards the top corner of the goal, before the keeper jumped across, and acrobatically pushed the ball away, for a corner, which was cleared by the defence.

NCC was playing very good football, and working like a well-oiled machine, and countering each attack as it was made. Even when a player burst through Ryan Adams was solid in goal; one save was made when he clutched the ball high above the head of an attacker. At the other end Mark Broekman was ubiquitous; his young legs saw him outpace three defenders before his cross eluded Ian Jones, waiting expectantly near goal. Soon after Emlyn John sent a long high ball through the middle, which also found Ian Jones. Although Ian out-jumped the keeper he could only put the ball wide of the goal.

NCC had dominated much of the play for the first quarter, but then Cornerstone started to get on level terms, and was awarded two free kicks in quick succession; the second going behind for a goal kick. The NCC defence was magnificent, denying the opposition on many occasions, as they blocked, closed down and made a series of successful tackles. Again Ryan Adams made a superb deflection from a lone raider who had sped past the defence. NCC was rampant at the other end; it was good to see several players backing up the partnership of Ian and Mark, and even attempting to score themselves. One shot was saved as the Cornerstone keeper jumped and clutched the ball to his chest. As this goal-less half drew to a close the host team had put on a most creditable performance.

Ian Jones about to score

The second half began in fine style for NCC. After two minutes another through ball from Emlyn John found Ian Jones. Skilfully he outpaced three defenders before stroking the ball sweetly past the keeper, who had come to meet him, and over the goal line. The goal was scored despite a great sliding effort from a Cornerstone defender who could only push the ball into the corner of the net. NCC continued their commitment, in defence and attack, where both Lee Bradley and Jon Craxford were threatening to score. Cornerstone had a free kick, which went wide, and then gained two corners; the second saw the ball heading towards the goal before Matt Allison managed to clear the line. Then Cornerstone came down their left wing, outpacing the defence, before a low shot sped tantalisingly across the empty goal mouth, past the prone body of Ryan. Almost immediately this action was repeated, this time with success, as the ball was volleyed past the keeper, ending up in the bulging NCC net. Within two minutes Mark Broekman, waiting on the edge of the penalty area, received the ball and sent a long high speculative shot, which flew past the dumbfounded defenders, and on into the net, to restore NCC’s lead, with half an hour remaining. This was a great demonstration of seizing opportunity from this talented young player.

NCC launch another attack

NCC on the attack

NCC defend an indirect free kick

For the next ten minutes each side traded attacks, which saw NCC threaten, when Guy Speedie made a good run down the right wing and passed to Ian Jones, but his header was easily saved by the goal keeper, and, in turn, Cornerstone sent a shot high and wide of the goal. Cornerstone moved into overdrive, and applied continuous pressure for ten minutes. However NCC held firm, at one stage Ryan Adams made a good save which saw him kneeling. Unfortunately he took too long before releasing the ball, which resulted in the bizarre instance of Cornerstone having an indirect free kick within the NCC goal area. Moments later NCC nearly scored, when Ian Jones saw a chip almost shave the post, and then Cornerstone saw another chance go wide of the goal. In the eighty-ninth minute Cornerstone came down the field yet again, and managed to send in a shot which eluded the NCC keeper, allowing them a creditable equaliser. Ryan Adams was named man of the match for his solid performance in goal, with several important saves against the champions.

NCC's final attack

A disappointed, but nevertheless ecstatic Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury.

Game 02 :  League Match :  25 September 2010:
Trinity  4 - 2  North Cheltenham Churches

On a sunny autumnal day, tempered by a cold northerly wind, the teams met for the second successive Saturday. NCC wore their old familiar green and white stripes. In the opening minutes NCC were most dominant, and made several threatening runs from every direction, resulting in a corner and sending the ball into the side netting. After seven minutes another sharp NCC attack went down the left wing, where a cross found Ian Jones. Although crowded out by several defenders he was very alert to the situation and instantaneously initiated a gentle back heel. This was met by Martin Eccles, who fired the ball into the back of the net, giving the keeper no chance.

For the next five minutes NCC created as many attacks; one hit the bar, another resulted in a corner and yet another was saved. Trinity’s visits into the other end were few and far between, such was the NCC command at this stage. After thirteen minutes an NCC attack saw the ball cleared to their right wing. This was immediately returned by Huw Roberts, who sent a high speculative lob which saw the ball fly over the goal keeper and into the net; the first-ever goal Huw has scored. What a beauty! At this stage the team was playing exceptionally well, demonstrating dexterity, commitment and passion; little did they know that this was the acme of their dominance in the match.

Now Cheltenham Trinity began to get into their stride more, and for the remainder of this first half began to dominate both ball and pitch; they were to make twice as many forays as their visitors; the latter would rue only two successful strikes from their earlier total control. Even though the home side created an attack, resulting in a corner, it was the NCC who pressed the harder for the next ten minutes. They saw a shot from Martin Eccles cleared by the defence, won themselves two corners, and nearly scored when first James Stevens was presented with a break, and then again when Ian Jones was offered a great opportunity through a one-on-one chance with the keeper, which was saved.

For the remaining quarter of an hour, in a reversal of form, Trinity was increasingly in control. They created a dozen opportunities following great movements up both of their wings. About half a dozen were saved by Ryan Adams, who was being made to work hard; one shot he just managed to push over the bar, whilst other chances sped wide of his goal, or narrowly crossed the bar. In between this onslaught NCC created two chances, one was missed when Ian Jones was unable to turn and shoot, the second was shot wide. The half closed with Trinity gaining two successive corners. Their confidence was growing, aided by the return of one of their better players and the advantage of the slope for the second period of play.

Tom Hardcastle defends a Trinity corner in the 44th minute

Following a wake-up talk during the interval NCC began the second period. Immediately the team was on the defensive, as Trinity began this half in the way they had finished the first. In this opening five minutes the hosts had three attacks, and gained a corner. Then another attack saw a trio of both attackers and defenders by the left hand post. The latter failed to clear the ball which an alert Trinity forward jubilantly prodded into the net, still 1-2, but now we had a game on our hands!

For the next twenty minutes the passage of play was more balanced, but Trinity was reading the game better, and reacting accordingly. Some of their attacks saw the ball being crossed repeatedly over the NCC goal area, they were making better use of the field of play. When Trinity gained a couple of corners the visitors failed to fill the spaces behind the players, and in front of the far post. NCC made several attacks during this period, but often they lacked numbers, and thus penetration, and the home side packed their defence; at times eight players were in the goal area. James Stevens was outstanding in his determination, and too frequently was seen as a lone striker; on one such run his long-range shot was comfortably dealt with. Yet NCC posed problems; both a corner and a free kick saw the ball headed over the bar. Then, with twenty minutes left, another Trinity attack led to Ryan Adams parrying a shot. In so doing he fell down and the ball lobbed up, allowing a Trinity player to advance and stab the ball into the net, for a well deserved equaliser.

In the 76th minute, with the score at 2-2, NCC strive hard for a third goal

Now both sides strove hard for the winner, and NCC came back into the game more. During the next quarter of an hour they had a good corner, which was headed over. Soon after this Tom Hardcastle fired a shot, which went wide of the goal, and then James Stevens made another solo effort. Even when the NCC attack saw them outnumber Trinity the home keeper saved the day. At the other end Trinity gained two corners, both going behind for goal kicks, and Ryan Adams pulled off a good save. The match had become tense for both teams.

With five minutes of the game left everything went horribly wrong for the visitors. A Trinity attack was mounted down the right wing. A low cross followed, which somehow confused Ryan Adams, who was left prone, allowing a forward to lift the ball over his body, and so into the net. Worse was to follow: NCC made an attack of their own, even gaining a corner, before Trinity ran down the field, and in turn gained a corner. Well flighted the ball eluded all for a few tantalising moments before a Trinity player capped their victory with a fourth goal, to double their lead, and make their game safe.

In a beautiful autumnal setting, with blue sky and vivid colours, the NCC make their final attack of the game

Immediately Trinity nearly scored again but was denied by a good save from Ryan. Towards the end the Hoops had two good chances to grab another goal; the first saw Ian Jones have his shot well saved and then James Stevens sent his shot over the bar. Adam Cox was made man of match for his all-round performance. As the final whistle went the NCC team was utterly dejected at the events which had turned victory into defeat.

A woeful and despondent Michael Wyatt reporting from Newlands Park

Game 01 : League match : 18 September 2010:
North Cheltenham Churches  4 - 2  Cheltenham Trinity

On a bright day NCC kicked off the season wearing a new football kit, of red shirts with black shorts and socks. The opening minutes saw both teams make a series of attacks, with NCC proving the more threatening, but being denied by the vigilant Trinity goalkeeper. Consistently throughout the game he was to deny the home team, and soon they saw him make a particularly good save by jumping up to clutch the ball high above his head. On the quarter of an hour mark NCC spent some time in the opposition goal area, winning a corner and shooting wide. The hosts had a fine and balanced attack; it was good to see more players up, supporting Ian Jones, who had an early shot well saved by the keeper.

Then Trinity made a determined run, initially by a lone forward. As help arrived, for both defenders and attackers, the visitors spent some time threatening the NCC goal. Having seen off this threat NCC were up at the other end, and saw the keeper make another great catch, to save an Ian Jones special. Approaching the half-hour mark another NCC attack, up their right wing, led to a throw-on. This was met by Paul Broekman, who crossed an aerial ball to an alert Paul Mills, who headed the ball home, past the despondent keeper.

NCC about to open the scoring

Trinity had a shot pass wide of the goal, and a corner which was cleared by the resolute NCC defence, ably marshalled by Andrew Murton. However, the NCC continued pressing forward; Ian Jones was denied yet again by the brave goalkeeper diving on the ball from under his nose, and then saving a Mark Broekman shot. Mark and Ian continued their partnership, to gain success with two minutes of the half remaining. Mark sped up the right wing and sent over a delicate cross. Ian was able to beat the keeper to the ball, and side footed it into the net, for a well deserved NCC second goal. In the minutes remaining Trinity gained a corner, which the NCC cleared, and then saw a shot go wide. As the half-time whistle went Trinity was demonstrating that they were still a potential threat.

The second half started with each side making probing runs into their opponents’ half. Then, after five minutes, Cheltenham Trinity came up their left wing. This initial attack was only partially cleared before a good cross found an unmarked Trinity player, who put the ball into the middle of the NCC net. Despite their half time warning the hosts were caught napping once again at a crucial stage of the game. Four minutes later an NCC attack sped down the right wing, where a well flighted cross found Martin Cookson waiting in front of the goal. He smashed the ball past the diving keeper, to restore the home side two-goal lead.

Martin Cookson makes it 3-1

This exciting game, especially for any neutral spectator, continued to create excitement for the next fifteen minutes, as it ebbed and flowed up and down the pitch. The warm autumn sunshine highlighted the commitment from each team, in this the opening match for both sides, clearly exemplified by the Trinity keeper, who pulled off yet another great save. With just under twenty minutes of play left Trinity came up their right wing, and gained a free kick. Although this was kept out the ball bobbled about in the home goal area, before it was sent towards the right wing. Being returned quickly the ball eluded the defence, many players were caught out of position, before it fell to an unmarked forward who volleyed a thunderous shot into the roof of the net, the ball thudding off the underside of the bar. This goal heralded an exciting final twenty minutes.

Man of the Match: Chris Dagnall  takes a corner in the 60th minute

Spurred on, Trinity dominated the next ten minutes with a series of attacks, which brought off some good saves from Ryan Adams, perhaps his busiest period of the game. On ninety minutes a speculative shot saw Ryan throw himself to his left, airborne, to push the ball behind for a magnificent save, a truly match winning performance. The resulting corner was cleared, and then the ball was sent speeding down the field. It was collected by Ian Jones, who dribbled the ball nonchalantly through the Trinity defence, before waltzing around the keeper and sliding the ball between his prone figure and the upright, to score NCC’s fourth goal. There was time for further excitement at each end; Mark Broekman had a fierce shot parried high over the bar, as NCC pressed forward, and then great defensive work kept the ball out at the other end.

Ian Jones about to round the keeper, and score the team's fourth goal, and his second

As the final whistle went NCC was a deserved winner, with a solid performance. Due to the quirk of the fixtures the teams play again next week. Chris Dagnall was named Man of the Match, for his all-round performance, but several other players could have been so rewarded.

A jubilant Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury

Match reports from 2009-10 season

Match reports from 2008-09 season

Match reports from 2007-08 season

NCC win Cotswold Churches League 9-a-side Plate, 14 July 2007

Match reports from 2006-07 season

Match reports from 2005-06 season

Our Football Team

From humble beginnings under the care of Fr Grant Bayliss and Andy Macauly the Prestbury football team had its first game in December 2005 and now, officially registered with the FA as North Cheltenham Churches, plays in the Cotswolds Churches League

Results – you can follow the results from across the league and cup competitions at the FA website (impressive or what!). 

Good luck and come on NCC!


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