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The Parish of Prestbury

St Mary and St Nicolas



North Cheltenham Churches Football Team
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Results and League Table

For info and team selection details contact

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

Game 22 : League Match : 10 May 2014 :
Cornerstone  6    North Cheltenham Churches  4

In a repeat of last year’s final game of the season NCC went to Evesham, to play Cornerstone. Under gentle shadows created as the sun peeped through a vibrant but threatening sky the hosts took centre, and charged upfield in force and with ferocity, which would set the seal for the remainder of the match, with NCC always playing catch-up. This early foray was cleared, but at the end of the opening minute Cornerstone took the lead when a shot, from outside the box, threaded through a crowded field, to rest in the middle of the visitors’ net. Then the Hoops built two attacks, the second followed a good run down the right by Charlie Davidson, and both resulted in corners. The latter saw Ian Jones rise above all in his attempt to guide the ball home. Cornerstone continued to press relentlessly, and moved both men and ball with pace and accuracy, as they continued to fabricate a series of chances; even hitting the underside of the bar with a ferocious crack. NCC was penned deep inside their own half, but with grit and determination denied their opposition, and successfully cleared a series of corners taken from both sides of the pitch. A brief visit to the other end saw the home keeper make a save before the hosts again ran up their right. It was déjà vu, as the same attacker melted through the NCC defence, what little there was, before replicating a similar shot which sped along the ground and into the net. NCC was two goals down inside the opening quarter of an hour, and against last year’s champions this posed a very tall order.

Ian Jones out-jumps all in his attempt to score

Immediately the visitors launched a raid which saw them get behind the home defence, where their keeper made a diving stop to his left as he gathered the ball. After another attack from Cornerstone was denied NCC sent an effort wide of goal, as play began to rotate from end to end. A further prolonged effort from the hosts was seen off before NCC sped downfield; or rather just Ian Jones. The lone keeper charged out to meet him; although they collided he managed to save the day. Then, as he reached to his right, he pushed out a low effort for a corner. As NCC sent a high descending ball behind, so the hosts continued to enjoy their two-goal lead. Success came for NCC when Barry Styman went down his right, and won the ball. Turning, he took it across the field of play, on the edge of the box. As three defenders converged so he unleashed a great effort, which flew towards the keeper’s right-hand post, and continued beneath his diving body, to nestle in the back of the net.

NCC defend a corner successfully

NCC had a player booked but the ensuing free kick was rather optimistic. Moments later the hosts were awarded another free kick, some three yards beyond the box. Another hopeful shot, propelled towards the keeper, was safely gathered as three red forwards came charging in. NCC had a prolonged attack, from which they gained a corner but the ball was sent over the bar. With three minutes of the half remaining the hosts made a further effort, and the Hoops were deceived by the speed and fluency of this movement which had got behind their defence. A cross, from the left, allowed another player to volley an effort from a narrow angle. This broadside sped past Aaron Brown at waist-height but his spectacular pirouette on his left leg was unable to prevent Cornerstone from entering the break with their initial two-goal cushion restored. The final effort of the half saw NCC take a free kick, near the right-hand corner of the box, but the ball sped by the far side of the post.

NCC began the new half with exhilaration and hope as they came up their right in a charge led by Barry Styman. His perfectly placed diagonal pass beat two defenders, as well as the advancing keeper, and fell nicely for Ian Jones. Although he had a brace of defenders rushing in he kept a cool head and forced the ball home, to give both teams something to play for. NCC had another player booked, forcing Aaron Brown to make a late parry as he pushed the resulting free kick out for a corner. Although cleared this set the scene for the next fifteen minutes when NCC conceded three goals, two in three minutes, but only achieved one in this high-scoring game. The first saw an individual Cornerstone player get behind the advancing NCC defence, forcing Aaron Brown to rush to the corner of his area, where he lost the ball. The hosts were able to pass nearby defenders and scored when they sent a long lob into the middle of the goal; 4-2. Some of the NCC players were rattled, and their frustrations allowed Cornerstone to propel a beautiful ball towards the unguarded right hand post. Rushing in number-seven was presented with the easiest of tasks to score; 5-2. The next incursion saw the visiting keeper pouch the ball before NCC made another trip up-field, and again play flowed sweetly over the green grass. On the hour the Hoops came up their right, and the ball was crossed to Ian Jones, waiting in front of goal. His effort was blocked by an errant hand, Ian was upended and a penalty resulted. The keeper stood slightly off-centre, and through this gap Ian propelled the ball with apparent ease; NCC was again two goals behind.

Ian Jones scores from the penalty spot

In the next five minutes Cornerstone created two attacks to the one made by their opposition. They came down again as the NCC defence tried to recover ground. Aaron Brown ran to the very edge of his area and looked up; over his head flew a high lob, which continued into the back of the net as it passed just under the bar. NCC had been hit for six, the first time since 2011.

NCC busily defending

NCC saw off three more attacks before they mounted a further threat, where Barry Styman ended up on the ground. Another NCC effort saw the home keeper reach up on one leg and prevent a low dipping shot from entering his net. At the other end Aaron Brown made a superb diving stop, resulting in a corner. NCC was awarded a free kick from outside the box, but the keeper made a great save as Barry Styman was ready to pounce on one side, and Ian Jones on the other. Then NCC came at them again, and gained three successive corners. The first, a beautiful delivery parallel to the goal-line, came over, but was headed out. Then Barry Styman delivered a high ball, which was again sent out. Now the referee re-positioned himself, and went behind the goal, an astute reading of the game. Another high ball descended into an area where the NCC players were positioned closer to the line. As the ball descended so the home keeper waited, arms aloft, but Ian Jones out-performed him by jumping. His superb meeting guided the ball down, towards the back of the net, before the ball was then propelled forward. However, as the accompanying photograph shows, the referee had noticed that the ball had crossed the line, and so awarded the goal; great work all round! What a wonderful way for Ian to complete his eighth hat-trick, and now he ends the season with twenty-four goals and a career tally of ninety-nine; roll on September! We were treated to a fast and furious final seven minutes, but the magnificence had finished and that remained the final score, eventually a ten-goal thriller which left one speculating What if?

Ian Jones jumps to be the first to reach a high descending ball from a corner and heads into the goal : 6-4

A mystified and baffled Michael Wyatt signing off for the season, from Evesham High School

Game 21 : League Match : 3 May 2014 :
North Cheltenham Churches   6      Trinity & Quedgeley  1

On a beautiful sunny morning NCC kicked-off this match wearing their alternative strip of green and white hoops. The game began at a fast pace, with attacks being denied at both ends, mainly by the respective keepers who gathered the ball. NCC created two good chances; the first, from Ian Jones, was saved by the keeper and the other saw an attempted lob, by Charlie Davidson, cross the bar. It was a treat to see players from each side covering for one another, and credit must be given to the respective defences, especially to Andy Macauly; he was ubiquitous. After twenty minutes Mark Broekman, hurt in a stiff tackle, limped off, to be replaced by Aaron Batchelor.

Just after twenty-three minutes NCC had another offensive up their right, which led to them having a corner. Barry Styman sent over one of his superb deliveries, which crossed the goal, as far as Harry Wilks, waiting by the far post. A firm nod saw him head the ball into the net, leaving the keeper on his back, inside the goal. Four minutes later the Hoops, having seen off a couple of attacks and showing more confidence following their score, charged up their left. From near the half-way line Cain Thomas sent in a long-range effort. This sped past players from both sides, and continued, beyond the desperate dive of the frantic keeper, to rest in the corner of the net; 2-0.

Now Trinity & Quedgeley created a series of attacks in their effort to pull back a score. This began with the ball being crossed in front of the home goal before it was sent over the bar, and continued with Ted Guest making a couple of saves and parries. The pressure was relieved as Oliver Lynott-May had a good run up his left before his effort was blocked by the keeper. As the ball flew up into the air it fell kindly for Ian Jones but his shot went wide of the post. Soon after this the Hoops had another chance to score but the effort was well saved by the keeper. Approaching half time a great ball found Ian Jones, just outside the box. Dribbling through the static defence he continued, rounded the onrushing keeper, and gently guided the ball into the empty net, to give NCC a comfortable lead going into the break.

NCC created the better opportunities as the new half began, but their two-man attack was eventually nullified by a fighting defence of eight, and a shot sped over the bar. Following the award of a free kick NCC had two successive corners; both were successfully dealt with by the visitors. Then T&Q mounted another series of forays, punctuated by brief visits from their hosts. This brought out some superb saves from Ted Guest, as shown, and saw some glaring misses by both teams. The visitors maintained their pressure with several corners, and then, in the seventy-first minute, NCC increased their lead. A good run by Barry Styman saw him enter the extreme left of the penalty area, and almost reach the goal line as the keeper came out to intercept. With astounding cool and amazing skill Barry propelled the ball beyond all, and from this acute angle was able to watch it roll into the far corner of the net.

Ablaze T&Q came at NCC and began with a missed shot, and then followed up with another chance when a player fired the ball from outside the penalty area. The NCC keeper was able to get half a hand to the ball, enough to divert it onto the bar. From here it the ball rebounded nicely to another forward, who sent it into the left-hand corner to score, beyond the lop-sided keeper. Moments later they sent another effort wide of this post and then were denied twice as Ted Guest had to jump above a mass of players to keep the ball out.

Approaching the final ten minutes NCC mounted yet another potent threat, and went down their left. Again the T&Q keeper sped out, missed the cross and was stranded, but the subsequent effort was very well cleared by a defender. NCC managed two more attempts before the keeper was, at last, able to gather the ball, which he sent up-field. Waiting, some thirty-five, or more, yards out, was man of the match Cain Thomas. He was able to post a return lob, and watched ecstatically as the ball entered the net, a result missed by many, including the surprised keeper!

After this the visitors were unlucky not to score when a long-range diagonal volley narrowly missed. This was followed by successive corners which saw a leaping NCC keeper defuse the initial danger and the home defence clear the second. Then Cain Thomas was denied a great chance to complete a hat-trick, which would have been a perfect way to celebrate the opening of his NCC account. Continuing the attack Ian Jones sped down the left and attempted to emulate an earlier goal as he drove beyond the advancing keeper; however the ball rolled by the far post. Then, with a minute remaining, Barry Styman scored the final goal as he crossed the empty T&Q box and cleverly chipped the keeper who had rushed out too far once again. This was an assured performance from the team, who had bounced back from several disappointing results of late.

A joyful Michael Wyatt reporting from a vibrant Stade de Prestbury.

Game 20 : League Match : 26 April 2014 :
North Cheltenham Churches   1      St Matthews  2

On a bright morning, with a threat of rain, NCC played local rivals St Matthews, in their antepenultimate game of this extended season. The visitors kicked off and were the first to defend as NCC made three quick surges; each was gathered by the keeper. St Matts were awarded a free kick which saw the ball skim the bar as the effort was propelled goalwards, and further chances went begging at each end, before the visitors wasted a couple of corners. In the fifteenth minute NCC mounted an attack up their right, and took a throw-on. Here Mark Broekman headed the ball towards the left-hand corner of the goal where Ian Jones, waiting by the post, nipped in and prodded home from close range. A minute later Ian Jones had a great chance to double the lead but his shot was sent wide as a defender rushed in.

For the next ten minutes play flowed up and down the field with neither side creating any clear-cut chances. Then Ian Jones sped up his left and approached the goal diagonally. His right-footed effort was well met by the advancing keeper and rebounded into safety. At the other end St Matthews, sporting their smart dark-blue kit, advanced, and sent an attempt high over the bar. Moments later Ted Guest, the NCC keeper, gathered another stab at goal as a brace of players from both sides rushed in.

Warm sunshine emerged and brightened the play as each side alternated in their attempts to create further scoring opportunities. Now St Matthews manufactured greater frequency, and intensity, with their efforts, and, in the thirty-third minute, gained a corner on their right. As a high ball was sent towards the edge of the six-yard box NCC was negligent with their defensive positions. Only Andy Macauly was marking a post and the remainder of the home defence had circled the keeper as he rushed out and jumped in his attempt to reach the ball. Sat on the ground he was able to see an opposition player swivel and connect with the ball a micro-second before Tom Mangan. With great alacrity the ball was sent into the back of the net, through the gap which should have been covered by a man on the far post!

Barry Styman delivered a beautiful and delicate free-kick into the box. Here Mark Broekman was just beaten to the ball by the keeper, who was able to push it clear with his outstretched fingers. In the following attack Oli Lynott-May found Harry Wilks, on the right, who crossed the ball to Mark Broekman. His shot, delivered in front of goal, was saved by keeper, who allowed the ball to hit his body before his hands clasped it safely to his chest as he fell backwards onto the sanctuary of the turf. St Matthews created a great opportunity when they got behind the home defence, but Ted Guest, already on the ground, was able to reach out and grab the ball as he rolled over to smother it. As the final minute of the half approached so disaster struck. The dark-blues advanced down their right, and won a throw-on. An attacker was able to shrug off the solitary NCC defender, and conjured a chance as he slotted the ball into a completely unguarded net; to gift St Matthews, as it turned out, the winning goal! NCC mounted one final determined attack of the half, but was unable to find a way past a goalmouth packed with the opposition team!

A much more determined NCC began the second half, one in which greater punch was exhibited, with extra men up front, but also more deliberate and controlled passing. We saw an action-packed opening five minutes, totally dominated by a rampant NCC. This period began with Mark Broekman sending a shot wide of goal, and then continued with four quick corners. The second corner led to the third after a defender had jumped and headed the ball over his bar, much to his team’s relief. Jon Whitlock saw his effort beat the defence only to speed a foot beyond the post. In the melee which followed the fourth corner Harry Wilks headed the ball against the bar, only to see it rebound straight down, and then sent out to comparative safety.

It came as a surprise when, after ten minutes, St Matts created a determined attack, and followed this up with successive corners, one from each side. Another home effort saw the ball cross an open goal before any NCC player was able to reach it. Further NCC action resulted in two players from each side jumping simultaneously in a determined attempt to gain control, but the ball eluded all as it crossed the goal harmlessly. NCC created a succession of potential chances, certainly half-chances, but, despite having three-quarters of the play, Lady Luck was not smiling on them. Ian Jones saw his low header go wide of the right-hand post and a cross eluded Mark Broekman as the ball continued beyond the far post, towards Jon Whitlock, with the keeper in hot pursuit. The resulting shot flew over the jumping keeper, arms outstretched and his body arched backwards, and continued, to graze the bar, for a corner. Then a high descending ball, struck by Oli Lynott-May, nearly caused the keeper grief, as he pushed it away before ending up on his back, with considerably less elegance than that shown by the large kite flying serenely overhead just then.

Coming into the final ten minutes of the match NCC continued their dominance, creating further attacks, but all to no avail. Mark Broekman was denied as he soared over all in front of goal and moments later the ball crossed an empty opposition area before any near-by NCC player could reach it. A rare solo incursion from St Matthews saw both player and the home keeper sprawled on the ground as the effort was stopped. As the clock ticked down so NCC missed further golden opportunities; Harry Wilks sent the ball way over the bar, and on the stroke of full time Ian Jones, just outside the right-hand post, sent the ball wide of the other post.

A frustrated Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury

Game 18 : League Match : 5 April 2014 :
Trinity & Quedgeley  2     North Cheltenham Churches  1

On an overcast day NCC visited Quedgeley where this match got off to a blistering start as they created half a dozen opportunities in the opening two minutes. Their first attack, within seconds, saw Ian Jones receive the ball, but he was unable to keep it down, and so the ball sent over the bar. During this period both the home defence, and keeper, denied NCC a potential score, and kept the hosts in the game. Ten minutes later Aaron Brown, at the opposite end, had his first touch of the ball! NCC continued to press hard, going down both wings, but inevitably encountered the defence; when they tried shots the keeper read the ball to perfection. Occasionally NCC gained a corner, or even successive corners; then a high ball was sent towards the back of the crowded goal-area, but the hosts had their line covered by a brace of stalwart defenders.

On twenty minutes the T&Q keeper, kneeling on the turf a foot inside his line, just managed to push the ball behind, for a corner. Moments later he sped to the edge of his area and cleared the ball as Ian Jones came charging down; this was replicated a minute later, and yet again when Barry Styman came down. In turn Quedgeley chose to have a lone forward, sometimes two, trying to force a way through the centre, but invariably Oli Lynott-May was on hand to foil the effort. Around the half-hour the hosts manufactured a series of runs towards the NCC goal-line, mainly up their right wing. During this period the whole NCC defence held firm, and cleared the danger with a proficient confidence.

NCC began the final twenty minutes of the opening half with a concerted series of intense attacks, but often the ball travelled quicker than players from either side, and this left a solitary T&Q keeper tidying up the efforts. Ian Jones made one such-run as he neared a post, but the keeper was able to deny him. Barry Styman sped down the left, and, as a defender came out to meet him so Barry unleashed his effort, but straight into the arms of the keeper. I counted half a dozen attempts in a three-minute period. T&Q created a great opportunity but Aaron Brown made a brilliant block as he pushed the ball away to his left, for a corner, which fortunately went behind for a place kick. Play flowed up and down this delightful setting of blossoming bushes and trees sporting fresh leaves. Ian Jones sent a diagonal effort beyond the lone keeper, but alas, it continued wide of the near post. Man of the match Mark Broekman saw his effort fortuitously ricochet off the knees of the keeper, as he was sat on the ground. Then, three minutes before half time, another NCC attack won them a score when a high ball, from Oli Lynott-May, was headed into the net by a home defender as Barry Styman was charging in. Moments later the same player had an attempt go wide of both goal and keeper as Ian Jones was running in.

The new half began at a pace, as NCC saw off two attacks, before it was their turn. Ian Jones came up the wing, where he was able to surge by the keeper and two defenders, and gain a corner. Adam Slade delivered a low ball, almost parallel to the bar, where both Ian Jones and Mark Broekman, waiting at the back of the post, jumped but could not control the ball. After seven minutes of this second half the home side had a free kick, level with the half way line. NCC had no one standing near their posts, and as their keeper came out to meet the ball, a long low delivery, it was met by an unmarked striker, who was able to nod it into the vacant net, to level the score.

NCC replied with a determined run up their right, which earned them a corner. Again the ball went towards the back of the box, where a trio of hooped players was waiting, but against twice that number of defenders the attack was cleared. T&Q won two successive corners, and from this a shot skimmed the bar as Aaron Brown jumped and raised his outstretched arm. Then the hosts were awarded another corner, but this posed no real danger to NCC. Much of the play occurred around the middle of the field, with teasing and probing runs emanating from this controlling generator. One saw Oli Lynott-May speed down the right wing, and gain a corner, which was cleared; another saw Ian Jones and Barry Styman closed down in a two-on-three situation.

Then in the closing stages of the match NCC had three good scoring opportunities. The first came when Ian Jones went up the left. Evading one interception he continued, and prepared to cross the ball where two players were waiting in unmarked positions. Unfortunately he was met by another challenger, with the keeper not too far behind, and the ball sped harmlessly over the line. The second opening came after NCC had seen off two further endeavours from the opposition. Awarded a rare free kick Harry Wilks propelled the ball into the top right-hand corner. Here Mark Broekman saw his effort, partially blocked by a defender, balloon up but out of reach of Barry Styman. Finally a great dipping volley, from Ian Jones, crashed against the crossbar, and rebounded away to safety before any of the NCC players could reach it.

Seven must be T&Q’s lucky number; with seven minutes remaining they gained the ball, from inside their half, and prepared to create an attack. Approaching the half-way line a player sent a speculative high ball downfield, towards the NCC goal, where Aaron Brown was standing very near to, and just inside, his near post. Caught out by the descending ball Aaron could only attempt a belated movement in which he tried to cover all angles, as he ended up curved, balancing precariously on his left leg, one arm up and the other down. A stunned NCC could only watch with abject horror at the ecstatic jubilation exhibited by the triumphant opposition; they had nicked the winner with a fluke!

The home side nearly scored a third following a short and low corner, but they rifled the ball over the bar. In the final few minutes NCC created several more openings, the ball was headed over the goal and then Barry Styman sent his attempt wide. As the final whistle went NCC knew they should have won this game in the first half when they created so many chances, but failed to take any; after all T&Q did score all the goals!

An appalled and dispirited Michael Wyatt reporting from Sandalwood Drive

Game 17 : League Match : 29 March 2014 :
North Cheltenham Churches  4     C3 Dons  0

NCC defend an early attack from the Dons

On a beautiful spring morning NCC hosted bottom of the table but much improved C3 Dons, confident after recording a first win in their previous match. The visitors made the early attacks; a shot was hit over the crossbar and Aaron Brown was able to tidy up another when he collected the ball on the edge of his area. NCC created a promising start when Barry Styman crossed to Mark Broekman, in the middle of the pitch, but his onward pass was well stopped by the opposing keeper, the alert Joseph Cowley. Although Mark Broekman and Ian Jones posed a threat they were denied by the vigilant defence of the visitors. C3 Dons then came down their left, winning a throw-on and a corner. From this an attempted header saw the ball cross the goalmouth before a Dons attacker sent it over the bar. Then, on ten minutes, a good ball found Ian Jones. As he was weaving his way delicately through the defence he was upended, for a penalty, and Adam Slade stepped in to take the spot kick. Although not struck with his usual skill, allowing Joseph Cowley to get his fingers to the ball, it was not enough to deny NCC the lead.

Adam Slade scores a penalty

Joseph Cowley cleared as Ian Jones was running in and then bravely swooped to scoop the ball from off the boots of Mark Broekman. The visitors had a corner from which a high ball went behind for a goal kick. An NCC attack, up their left, beat the opposition defence, enabling the ball to be crossed to an unmarked Ian Jones. However, the ever-alert Dons keeper sped across his goal, and denied the effort. Following a free-kick a Dons player threaded a path through the home defence as he demonstrated his ball skills, culminating in a shot from the edge of the box which landed on the far side of the bar. Play flowed up and down the pitch as both teams were enjoying the sunshine and warmth of the play. The stalemate of much of the first half resulted in NCC struggling to get past the stubborn Dons defence and the visitors having only brief forays to the far end. One such foray gave them a corner which was headed out by man of the match Harry Wilks.

Harry Wilks heads the ball away after a corner

Towards the end of this opening half the Dons created a series of attacks, winning a brace of free-kicks and corners; one free kick was driven directly into the capable hands of Aaron Brown. NCC had a clear chance but the cross flew the wrong side of a post and another opportunity saw the ball taken by the diving keeper. Moments later Ian Jones was denied by the knees of Joseph Cowley, and Jon Whitlock, having passed the keeper, was intercepted by a defender who conceded a corner. Here the ball was calmly taken as the keeper stood his ground, with Mark Broekman running in. Ian Jones was denied again as he came up the right and the Dons demonstrated their speed over the ground, as half time came.

Having got behind the determined opposing defence NCC fail to score from the cross

A more-determined NCC was seen as the second half got under way, and the team mounted a series of attacks. The first was led by Jon Whitlock, then Mark Broekman had his shot blocked by the keeper and Andy Macauly saw his attempt whizz behind the net. Further efforts saw NCC come down both wings where a strike was taken by the keeper running out to meet the ball, another was posted over the bar and a third was held by the leaping keeper. On fifty-five minutes NCC came down again when Mark Broekman had his header sent out for a corner. Barry Styman delivered a delicate ball a few yards in front of the goal. The keeper jumped, moments later Ian Jones also jumped but his experience awarded him the goal as he headed the ball beyond both keeper and the man on the near post. The Dons were stunned and bewildered, and stood around in absolute disbelief. After a few more incursions at both ends NCC, or rather Ian Jones, came down the right. As Ian approached the box he saw the keeper advancing and so he lifted the ball over his head and watched it crash into an empty net. Two goals in five minutes had guided the Dons onto a familiar route which led to another defeat.

The Dons keeper misses the ball and Ian Jones is about to head home

In the next quarter of an hour NCC raised the tempo and created several more scoring opportunities. The first occurred when Joseph Cowley ran out to meet the ball, but the ensuing lob continued over the bar, moments later another shot soared over the left-hand post. Tristan Undy volleyed the ball straight at the keeper, who was unable to hold the catch, and the ball went behind for the first of two successive corners. A rare Dons attack saw Aaron Brown take the ball with deft ease, after waiting for it to descend.

During the final fifteen minutes Ian Jones lobbed the keeper as he ran to the edge of his box, (where was his defence) but the ball rebounded off the far post; thirty seconds later Mark Broekman saw his effort ricochet off the other post! The Dons had what must have been their best opportunity in a one-on-one situation, but Barry Styman was able to win the ball, and so deny them this chance. Then, with less than ten minutes remaining, another attack saw NCC score their fourth goal. The hard-working Mark Broekman had his strike blocked by the keeper’s legs but its return fell nicely for Tristan Undy to deliver a thunderous drive into the net, with the Dons keeper rooted to the spot. Unfortunately for the Dons this brought up a century of goals conceded this season. In the remaining minutes NCC missed a multitude of chances, and twice the ball crossed an empty net. The Dons had a free kick but it was wasted when they sent the ball high over the bar, and Mark Broekman had another shot saved by the keeper. As the final whistle went NCC had recorded their first win of the new year.

A delighted Michael Wyatt reporting from a sunny Stade de Prestbury.

Game 16 : League Match : 22 March 2014 :
North Cheltenham Churches  1     Cheltenham Trinity  2

On a cold morning NCC kicked off against Cheltenham Trinity, but it was the visitors who made the initial forays, with a quick dash up each wing. The second incursion saw Trinity spend some time inside the NCC box, but eventually their defence was able to clear the danger. NCC manufactured a couple of potential threats but these were quickly nipped in the bud. Immediately a more dangerous run saw Nigel Hearn pass the ball to Barry Styman. His strike, from outside the left hand post, crossed the goal, but passed the wrong side of the far post. Trinity sped up their left, where a speculative shot was initially fumbled by Aaron Brown, but he was able to tidy up as he smothered the ball with his body. Moments later Adam Slade saw his effort cross an empty goalmouth; and all of this in the opening five minutes! Each side tightened up their respective defence, and much of the following play was centred in the midfield; even so, a few threatening attacks did reach the far ends. Perhaps the best saw the visiting keeper jump up high, his mint-coloured kit shimmering in the sunshine as he plucked the ball from out of the air, way above his head.

NCC attack the Trinity goal

Trinity gained a corner, and a high-descending ball was taken by the home keeper. Then Trinity produced a dominating period of football, their best of the match, and constantly came at NCC. Aaron Brown was forced into a series of saves; one saw him jump up and push the ball away when in front of a dozen excited players. From the resulting throw-on a Trinity forward was able to drive the ball through ten players, and watched as it beat the desperate dive of Aaron Brown, to finish in the corner of the NCC net. Thus, after twenty-three minutes, Cheltenham Trinity had opened the scoring. Trinity continued to press, but the home defence remained firm, and denied them frequently. Then, as the weather improved, and half-time beckoned, so did NCC. They sped downfield, where Barry Styman saw his header denied, and then the Trinity keeper was able to clear the ball before he held yet another attempt by his near post.

NCC defend their goal after a corner

Cheltenham Trinity restarted the match, and their early expedition was seen off. Then NCC came up their right, and won a throw-on. A long throw, taken by Tristan Undy, sent the ball towards the players massing on the edge of the box. This was met by Nigel Hearn, who was able to show great dexterity as he jumped and headed a powerful effort beyond the keeper, to tie the score. NCC’s delight was very short-lived. Within two minutes Trinity attacked and gained a corner. This was partially cleared but Trinity had a second stab, which saw them awarded a penalty. The strike sent the keeper the wrong way, allowing Trinity to restore their lead.

NCC beat the Trinity keeper but the defenders save the goal

The visitors had a great chance to increase their lead but were denied by Aaron Brown as he dived to his left and palmed the ball away for a corner. Trinity maintained their domination as they gained a free kick, as well as successive corners, and then ended their fruitless pressure by hitting a post! NCC managed a few attacks, but most saw a two-man strike, occasionally three. When they had a corner, taken by Barry Styman, the extra man increased the pressure on Trinity. Here the ball narrowly missed the post, for a corner, with their keeper sat on the ground. An extra NCC player joined in, and the ball went behind for yet another corner, put out after the ball had passed the Trinity keeper, and was heading towards the net. All good things come to an end, but NCC was soon on the attack again, the keeper holding an effort as he knelt on the turf. Following a brief foray down their right NCC returned, and Ian Jones had his shot coolly taken by the keeper. This was replicated at the other end, when Aaron Brown held a header in front of goal.

Foiled as the Trinity keeper poaches the ball from a jumping Ian Jones

NCC controlled most of the final play. They had a corner, which saw the ball delivered towards the back of the box, and then it was sent towards the target, only to miss the post by a few feet. Then NCC had a free kick, and the ball hung around the box before it was posted downfield. There Aaron Brown took a header with great aplomb, especially as it was sent straight at him. The colourful Trinity keeper exhibited his skills as he held a high ball which descended from the sunshine; moments later he took another effort, this time from Harry Wilks. Following a couple of sorties downfield Nigel Hearn saw his attempt roll across an empty box, beyond the kneeling keeper and beyond the far post. Moments later another NCC shot, from a corner, whizzed by the post, and such was this endeavour that the Trinity keeper ended up enmeshed in the netting! Entering into time added-on saw a frenetic period, mainly from the hosts. One effort was denied, with Ian Jones on his knees, another was headed clear by a defender, also on his knees. Then a header from Harry Wilks was taken by the keeper as he jumped, and reached up, to take the ball from above a leaping Ian Jones. Finally a cross, having passed the keeper and was probably going in, was headed out by another player as he too jumped above a packed Trinity goalmouth. In between there were a few ventures to the other end of this pulsating match, a game which NCC will feel aggrieved at losing, especially with their second half showing. Andy Macauly was named man of the match with his all round performance.

In the dying moments of the game a defender nods the ball out to deny NCC a draw

A demoralised Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury.

Game 15 : Plate Match : 15 March 2014 :
St Matthews  1    North Cheltenham Churches  1

On a fairly sunny morning NCC visited St Matthews, for a match in the plate competition, a tournament involving teams eliminated from the earlier cup contest. Before kick-off the teams decided to go straight to a penalty shoot-out if the game ended all-square.

St Matthews took centre, and were immediately on the attack. Ian Jones spent a few minutes at the other end, and Simon Trew also had a good run up the wing; both times the keeper was not troubled. Each team was awarded a free-kick; that from Tom Mangan saw the home keeper punch away a high ball, rather than catch it, leaving his defence to tidy up. Then Barry Styman sent over another free-kick; this eluded all and bounced out of play. NCC came into the game more, and had much of the play, and was awarded two free-kicks. On twenty minutes St Matthews created a four-man attack, resulting in a header being sent straight into the arms of Aaron Brown. Minutes later a smaller foray, down their left, saw another effort easily pouched by the NCC keeper.

As we entered the second quarter of the match NCC was defending well, and controlling much of the centre. It was in attack where they were deficient; too often a solitary player was dispossessed. St Matthews demonstrated skill when they did reach the bottom end; men were positioned around both posts. NCC’s spirit rose when Barry Styman created a dash up his left wing, and delivered a strong pass to Ian Jones. Men were up but the ball was over-run, and easily gathered by the keeper. Then, as the match neared the forty-minute mark, St Matthews came down the middle and entered the box. In a two-on-two situation the opposition maintained control of the ball, and was able to push it through. The effort was parried by Aaron Brown but the alert duo was able to send the rebound into the net. In the closing stages of this opening half each side gained a corner before NCC put in a final spurt. The opposition had most players in defence, making life difficult for NCC, and themselves, as a defender headed the ball away, and watched in horror as it cleared his crossbar. The final act saw a lone Ian Jones unable to reach a cross, which bounced behind, with the keeper lying prone, as he too had failed to reach the ball.

NCC on the attack following a corner

For the opening ten minutes of the second half both keepers had very little to do, as play was rotated by two balanced sides. Then St Matthews came up, and posed a great threat before the ball was sent wide of the NCC goal. Soon after this they gained a corner, which was well-cleared by the hard-working visiting defence. Approaching the hour NCC manufactured an attack down their left, and then replicated this in a delightful sequence of fast-flowing precision football, as Ian Jones delivered a pass into the bottom right corner. Collected by Andy Macauly the ball was crossed, eluding both Tristan Undy and Ian Jones, as it was partially cleared. This resulted in Barry Styman being in a perfect position to lift the ball over all, and deliver a high descending shot. The keeper appeared to have it covered as he stood some five yards from his line; all eyes were on him, and the ball, as he misjudged the situation. All eyes followed the ball as it fell into the back of the net. It was a deserved equaliser, which set up a nail-biting final thirty minutes.

Barry Styman is about to lift the ball over all to score for NCC


St Matthews have set themselves up for an awarded indirect free kick

Five minutes later St Matthews were awarded an indirect free-kick. Much time and trouble was spent in setting this up, with players from both teams jockeying for positions. A well-directed shot came over, but was sent behind for a corner. From this the ball was beautifully flighted, and an opposition player rose and headed a powerful effort towards goal. Immediately Andy Macauly leapt up, and whether his head hit the ball, or the ball hit his head, is unclear; but the result was there for all to see, a magnificent clearance. A few minutes later NCC was defending another corner, but Simon Trew jumped, and with great composure, headed the ball away. With some five minutes remaining Ian Jones made a great attempt as he soared above the far post, moments later he was denied again as the ball was pouched by the keeper. Then NCC had a corner, which was cleared by the keeper since he could reach up higher than Ian Jones could jump. As the sun finally stayed out so the game ended, and we advanced into the penalty shoot-out. First up was Ian Jones; his hard struck effort was diverted away by the outstretched fingers of the keeper’s hand. Thereafter each penalty-taker scored; for NCC success came from Barry Styman, Tom Mangan, Guy Speedie and Aaron Brown. Thus St Matthews go on, to contest the semi-final; while NCC may rue the day now they can concentrate on consolidating their league position.

With the scores equal, Simon Trew is on the ball in the dying minutes of the game


Ian Jones takes a penalty shot for NCC

A despairing Michael Wyatt reporting from an enthralled Stade de Prestbury

Game 14 : League Match : 8 March 2014 :
Cambray  1      North Cheltenham Churches  0

After the recent diluvian weather NCC played their first league game since Christmas, which involved a trip to The Burrows, home of Cambray, the runaway leaders. The opening fifteen minutes belonged to the hosts, who dominated about eighty percent of this play. They created a series of attacks, which were cleared with true grit, and also fired a couple of long range, but innocuous, shots, which sped high, and wide, for goal kicks. NCC had a rare attack when Barry Styman crossed a high ball to Ian Jones but a Cambray defender tidied up this run with calm and composure. Perhaps the best effort from the home side came at the end of this opening period when an attempt skimmed the right hand corner of the NCC goal. Although Aaron Brown had it covered he jumped to ensure there would be no danger. Players from each side held their hands on their heads as the ball continued its flight to safety. Full credit must be given to the NCC defenders, who worked tirelessly as they denied Cambray on every front; they were ubiquitous!

A solitary Cambray player tries to take advantage from a corner

NCC had much more possession during the next fifteen minutes, and fell just short of parity with Cambray, who were still denied every time they mounted an attack. Much of the play took place around the middle of the field where the teams were able to demonstrate their football skills and ability to read the game. Aaron Brown was the busier keeper; shown as he fielded a trio of deliveries beyond his right, and then skilfully held a header, but the hosts only other effort was a long-range shot which sailed way over the bar. Ian Jones created another run, on his left, before he was up-ended, forcing the referee to have a few well-chosen words with the chastised culprit. A well-directed NCC free kick bobbled around the edge of the box before Cambray managed to get the ball away. Cambray’s grandiosity was revealed as they took a corner, only one attacker was on hand to poach the high-descending ball; he was so easily denied by the stalwart NCC defence.

Cambray began the final period of the opening half with a strong run down their left, which resulted in a fierce drive being struck from the edge of the area. This sped over the bar, causing the keeper to almost overbalance as in vain he tried to cover his goal. Jon Whitlock and Ian Jones were well placed as they crossed the half-way line, with a vast empty space in front of them, but the lone defender was up to the task, and so their endeavour was stopped; a later NCC attack, from a free kick, was easily cleared. At the other end Oli Lynott-May showed his agility as he jumped to head the ball away, moments later his left boot sent the ball speeding up field. As the half ended NCC, playing against both wind and slope, should be pleased with their excursion, a creditable scoreless period of play.

The NCC team have a half-time pep talk

Restarting the game NCC was immediately on the attack, and sped down their left. Although the home keeper came out NCC managed to by-pass him, but the ball ran down the slope, and continued behind for a goal kick, before Barry Styman was able to gather it. Following this Ian Jones saw his attempt taken just beyond the far post. Then a packed Cambray goalmouth denied NCC, and two further cracks were sent wide as the visitors began their fruitless domination of these opening fifteen minutes. Cambray mounted some determined efforts, one forced Aaron Brown to grab the ball at the second attempt, another saw the ball pass just wide of the post, and a third gained a corner, which was easily overcome. Perhaps the best chance of the whole game came as we approached the hour mark. Tom Mangan, out on the left, fired a long-range drive, which beat the keeper, and bounced off the crossbar and back into play, before anyone could reach it.

Aaron Brown makes sure of a save

Play continued to flow up and down the large pitch. Although NCC had more possession neither side was able to dominate, and it seemed that a single goal would decide the result, perhaps coming from a moment of inspiration. Cambray appeared short in numbers when attacking in this half, and so their opportunities were denied; Tristan Undy barred one and another sped beyond the post, and so behind. Then Cambray, in defiant mood, came up their left, and a high cross sped behind rather than continue parallel to the bar; at the other end NCC was unable to connect with a cross as it sped by the goalmouth, and over the line.

Then, in the seventh-fifth minute, the home side created an attack up their right. Following a handball Cambray was awarded a penalty, a moment of desperation, rather than inspiration. The kick, sent in low and hard, passed just beyond the outstretched hand of the diving keeper, and continued into the net. Spurred on, NCC came at their opponents, and was unlucky when Ian Jones posted the ball beyond the keeper, and watched it continue by his prone body before Aaron Batchelor was able to reach it. In these final five minutes NCC missed a series of good chances; one was sent over the bar, another sped across the goal, as the keeper momentarily lost balance, and then, in the final act of the game, Ian Jones, jumping up, headed the ball beyond the reach of the outstretched keeper, but over the bar.

Ian Jones jumps high to head the ball, but it goes over the bar

Oli-Lynott-May was named man of the match for his unstinting efforts as he covered most of the pitch. And so, for the fourth league game in succession against Cambray, NCC had lost by an odd goal; a disappointing result when the team had matched their opposition for the game taken as a whole.

A forlorn Michael Wyatt reporting from the Burrows

Game 13 : Cup Match : 25 January 2014 :
Cheltenham Trinity  2     North Cheltenham Churches  1

Following the incessant recent rain NCC was playing their first game for over a month, and travelled the short distance to Newlands Park, for their cup semi-final against Cheltenham Trinity. The visitors created the opening attacks when they went down their left a couple of times, and then tried the other wing. Trinity had a free kick, which saw the ball bobble around near the NCC goal, before Oli Lynott-May, sporting a beautiful pair of new blue boots, christened them with a deft clearance. NCC continued to press, and Ian Jones was crowded out by the determined home defence. A good ball from Andy Macauly found Guy Speedie, who ran along the wing, and gained a corner; which Simon Trew headed straight at the keeper, who took a simple catch on the edge of the goal-area with apparent ease, knowing that two defenders were behind him if anything went wrong.

After fifteen minutes we had a frenzied five-minute spell, which culminated with the referee admonishing a few players. This period began with the home side creating three quick attacks, one effort went wide of the post and another was held by Aaron Brown. At the other end Tristan Undy was denied when in front of goal and Guy Speedie was dispossessed on the very edge of the box. The hosts had a low shot held by the NCC keeper, and then they were awarded a free kick, just outside the area. Here a lone attacker was allowed lots of space, as he weaved around the visiting defence, before numbers finally took their toll of him. The Hoops had a quick response when Guy Speedie passed to Ian Jones, whose headed effort was parried. The ball was moved around, and again Tristan Undy was denied by the keeper, now on the ground, before further efforts came to nought. Trinity was able to advance in both width and depth, and made a most determined effort, which saw the ball crossed, and re-crossed, before a sharp snapped stab was well held by Aaron Brown.

Oli Lynott-May attempts a juggling act!

NCC sent over a high tantalising ball, which was carried by the wind, and forced the keeper to move to his left, resulting in a corner being conceded. Although safely cleared by Trinity their opposition was again on the attack and Andy Hill out-jumped all in his effort. Following a brief visit by the hosts Ian Jones went down his left as the keeper hared out to meet him. The goalie lost the ball and ended on his back, as Ian, the ball and defenders all converged into the area; a lone forward against a trio was too much, even for the maestro! Following a rough tackle a Trinity player was booked. Another effort saw an Ian Jones shot partially saved by the keeper, only for Ian to have his follow-up cleared.

As the final quarter began NCC was on the attack, coming down wide on the left. Another high NCC ball was safely gathered, and a throw successfully defended as Trinity packed their goal area with most of the team. Then the Hoops were awarded a free kick but the ball continued to rise until it had crossed the bar. Trinity was awarded a set piece, on their left; and a well-worked move sent a beautiful dipping ball towards the far post, which continued beyond the reach of a defender and attacker, both waiting by this upright. The visitors continued to press forward, and had three corners in succession. The first saw a sharp ball, parallel to the goal, descend into the centre of the box, where a defender put it behind. A repeat had the ball delivered further out, allowing it to be sent in, before the home defence tidied up. This resulted in a Trinity attack, where a lone forward saw Aaron Brown gather the ball before the attacker could reach it.

Cheltenham Trinity over-hit their free kick, which eludes all and passes out, harmlessly

As forty-five minutes ticked by so Cheltenham Trinity was awarded another free kick, immediately within the NCC half, and opposite their right-hand post. With only the keeper inside the six-yard box a high ball was sent over, as before, towards the NCC left-hand post. It was caught by the wind, and then whipped across the face of the goal, but the alert Aaron Brown was able to palm it behind, for a corner. Trinity gained two successive corners, the second saw a well-flighted ball again whisked across the goal, where Aaron was able to punch it out. Then the ball, returned, was collected by the keeper, who sent a tremendous clearance way down field. As the ball landed so it bounced over a defender before it was trapped by Ian Jones. Moving precariously in the mud-pool he skated around the keeper, who was coming out, before slotting the ball into the empty net, to give NCC a deserved lead, as the interval beckoned.

NCC attack, and the Cheltenham Trinity defenders will put the ball behind for an NCC corner

A more determined Cheltenham Trinity took the field for the second half, and nearly scored when Aaron Brown, who had come out too far, lost the ball and could only watch as it was lifted over all, and just crossed the bar. Almost immediately a solitary forward was denied by Aaron, as both fell in front of this goal, and both watched as Tom Mangan, given the man of the match accolade, was able to tidy up. After an NCC attack Trinity sped down their right wing with apparent ease, two forwards passing five defenders, before the ball was eventually cleared. Following more words from the referee, directed at NCC, Cheltenham Trinity was awarded a free-kick. A superbly struck ball, probably aided by the wind, which was growing in strength, was sent towards far the left-hand post. Opposition players had penetrated the aggrieved NCC line, and one, in plenty of space, was able to leap and head the ball down, goal-wards. In desperation, but without success, Aaron Brown jumped, but failed to prevent the equalising goal, this on fifty-two minutes. NCC left wide open gaps in their defence as they tried to attack, had one effort whizz by a post, and, after plenty of midfield action, another came close.

Aaron Brown, in NCC's goal, is just about to punch out the ball, following a corner

Around the hour mark NCC conceded a free-kick, just outside the box. A well-taken delivery passed over the heads of the four-man wall, and continued towards the far corner, where the NCC keeper, kneeling on the muddy field, collected it. Ian Jones, making a solo effort, was denied before Trinity was back down the other end. They were perfecting the delivery of a ball sent through the middle of the field, and this was catching out the visitors with regularity. Some of the NCC players were beginning to lose their cool, and the referee was again forced to have words. Almost immediately, after two NCC players, as well as a home player, were up-ended, a tense situation arose. Play was held up for over five minutes as a couple of NCC players were booked, and the hosts were awarded a free kick.

NCC mounted a few and rather lame efforts, but Trinity was growing in strength, and was coping with the difficult conditions better. One volley sped by the far, and unmarked, post, almost at once another was sent over the other post, whilst a third was pouched by the visiting keeper. Cheltenham Trinity maintained their withering attacks, and had another effort go wide. On seventy-six minutes a high ball was propelled goal-wards. Aaron Brown, all alone, and standing about a yard in front of the goal line, watched as the ball descended. To his, and NCC’s horror, the falling ball penetrated the small space between his body, and the bar, and grazed the underside of this before entering the net; the winning goal! After Trinity had seen off another effort from their opposition Aaron Brown was again in action, making two rapid saves, the second nearly saw the ball slip through his hands. The home keeper made a great save as he dived to his left and held the ball with arms outstretched. Trinity mounted further visits downfield, and sent a free kick into the gloves of Aaron Brown, and another effort way over the bar. NCC, awarded a free kick in front of goal, and about twenty yards out, could only direct the ball straight into the opposition wall. Then, after much play in time added-on, the final whistle put NCC out of their misery, and denied them a positive result after so much promise, and pressure, in the opening half.

After the game the players create a tunnel (of Respect) through which each team walks

A downhearted Michael Wyatt reporting from a sunny but soggy Newlands Park

Game 12 :  League Match :  14 December 2013 :
North Cheltenham Churches  2    C3 Diamonds  3

On a cold and windy morning NCC hosted C3 Diamonds, the second-placed team. In an atmosphere of subdued expectation NCC kicked off, but quickly lost the ball as a speedy forward shone in a solo run towards goal. Recovering well NCC penned the visitors inside their own half, and Andrew Murton was able to deliver a snapped effort, but straight into the hands of the keeper. Three further attempts followed, including a shot which went out for a corner; eventually the ball missed the post by a whisker. On ten minutes NCC, maintaining their pressure, gained a throw-on, about level with the penalty spot. This found Andrew Murton, who swivelled on his right foot and volleyed the ball into the net, with the goalkeeper diving too late.

Mark Broekman attempts to head the ball home following a corner

This spurred on the opposition, who came up their right as they mounted their second attack of the game, when they began a brief spell in which the hosts, in turn, were contained in their half. Then Mark Broekman tried an audacious long-range lob, which hit a defender, before going out for a corner. This was cleared as a couple of players jumped for the ball. Diamonds pressed hard up their left, almost too hard as they had a player booked and conceded a free kick. The NCC trio of Andy Murton, Cain Thomas and Mark Broekman endeavoured to weave their way through a maze of sharp Diamond defenders, but found the going tough as the visitors’ defence dug in. NCC gained a corner, but with few players up their effort was easily cleared. In bright sunshine they made the Diamonds appear lacklustre, but, as they failed to take advantage of the situation, the same maxim could be levelled at them. With hindsight it could be argued that it was in this passage of play that NCC threw away their chance of victory, especially as Diamonds appeared brighter as they increased their efforts later.

In these final ten minutes of the opening half the visitors had most of the possession, and created several strong attacks. Then, in the thirty-seventh minute, Diamonds came up their left and won a corner. As a good cross was delivered, some three yards from the line, several players, including a couple of defenders, all advanced towards the ball. Others jumped but it was a Diamonds’ head which struck, and the ball flew past all, to finish in the NCC net; although well taken it was a bit of an early Christmas gift from NCC! Recharged, Diamonds sped up the other wing, and gained another corner. This traversed the goal area, being missed by everyone. NCC created a rapid advance down their left, but with only three players attacking they were easily contained, although the resulting effort came close as it sped over the line. Diamonds used the width of the field to better advantage than NCC, and from one such effort gained a free-kick, about twenty yards from goal. An astounding effort saw a high ball come down, like a mesmerising meteorite, and drop behind Aaron Brown, to end in the net. Two goals conceded within five minutes; this was the goal which denied NCC at least a deserved draw, and resulted in their second successive disappointing result. NCC was fortunate that Diamonds failed to capitalise on the recriminations being posted in the home defence when a player took the ball over the line, as the opening half ended.

NCC concede an equalising goal

Diamonds took centre and made the initial attack, which saw Aaron Brown arch backwards and stretch up, skilfully guiding another dipping volley over the bar, for a corner. Thereafter it was sustained but fruitless NCC pressure, as they were continually denied by a series of narrow misses and brilliant defence; before the final five frenetic minutes concluded the game.

For the next half an hour NCC had the lion’s share of attacks; in fact they had well over eighty percent, with Aaron Brown inactive for much of this period. Nearly half of this action saw the Diamonds’ keeper gather the ball, either at the edge of his area or in front of goal. On one occasion this tall keeper was forced to stretch up on one leg and gather the ball from below the bar, and two or three times he made a sprawling save as he threw his body along the ground; at times his catching was fumbled, but nevertheless successful. Several NCC players, including Cain Thomas, Andrew Murton and Mark Broekman saw their efforts narrowly pass the posts. A quarter of NCC’s attacks were seen off by the defence; they forced Simon Cozens to move across goal as he fought to hold onto the ball. At times NCC did not aid the cause; for example, when a lone player tried to plough through the centre of the field. It was an interesting spectacle for the independent viewer, and the statistician. In between all of this Diamonds could only manage a handful of attacks; the best gained them a corner, and another saw a powerful diagonal kick dealt with by the equally determined NCC defence.

Then we came to the final ten minutes, and it seemed as if Diamonds had suddenly woken up. As play moved rapidly from one end to the other Diamonds saw an effort pass wide of the NCC goal, although their keeper was stationed by the post. Having seen off another NCC effort, created up their left, Diamonds moved down the same wing. Here a loose ball was collected near the corner of the six-yard box, and a diagonal volley was sent over. This dipped below the bar and entered the far corner of the net, with the keeper rooted to the spot; 3-1 to Diamonds. Six minutes, plus time added-on, remained, and NCC was shocked, shattered and shakened. Having weathered another brief attack NCC came up the field in numbers, aided by two free kicks. Then it happened, the ball was in the net, and NCC had pulled a goal back, with only a few minutes remaining. In the excitement, and havoc created by the attackers, Diamonds had put the ball into their own net; it had squeezed by the hapless keeper.

The home side almost grabbed a much deserved late equaliser when Barry Styman sent in a long-range shot, which hit the bar, rebounded, then bounced off the keeper and fell behind for a corner. This corner was put out by a defender, missing the post by the narrowest of margins possible. It could be argued that the second corner should have had more players crowding the six-yard box, rather than spread further away from goal; in the end the ball was sent over the bar for a goal kick. NCC had one final attack which saw the ball cross the goal before Mark Broekman or Barry Styman could reach it. As the final whistle went C3 Diamonds had completed a league double over NCC, and, rather fortuitously, had cemented their place as number two in the league for the New Year.

In the dying minute NCC strive desperately for an equalising goal.
NCC take a corner on their right, and a high ball is sent over .....

A dejected Michael Wyatt reporting from a disconsolate Stade de Prestbury

Game 11 :  League Match :  7 December 2013 :
Tewkesbury  2      North Cheltenham Churches  2

On a raw day NCC was playing Tewkesbury Trinity Tigers, at Northway, and bottom but one in the league. The game took place at their new ground, a large and spacious area set amidst houses and factory buildings. NCC created the opening attack, which was stopped when their hosts were awarded a free kick. Much of the play took place on their right, as NCC again surged up this side and saw the ball descend behind their players, although well positioned they were on the wrong side of goal. The Tigers replied with several runs as they roared down both wings, one saw Oli Lynott-May deny a lone predator in a one-on-one situation. The next NCC visit up-field saw the keeper divert the ball, one of a succession of saves he would make as the match unfolded; another occurred moments later as he dived to his left. At the other end the Tigers gained a corner, and then saw Aaron Brown collect an effort head-high, as a pair of Tigers was roaring in.

A new and large pitch for both teams

Then, on seventeen minutes, a poor NCC goal kick was intercepted by a predator just beyond the D. Despite the presence of a couple of defenders, although they were too far up-field, he was able to advance before delivering a low right-footed volley, which sped over the ground, and continued past the diving keeper, who could only watch as the ball rolled into his net. NCC was stunned, but successfully defended two more Tiger attacks; one saw Aaron Brown take another catch head-high, before Mark Broekman advanced up the NCC left. His superb pass was met by Ian Jones, who headed it, with great dexterity, across the face of the goal, and into the far corner before the keeper was able to move. All square after just twenty-one minutes.

Ian Jones headed a great pass from Mark Broekman into the net to level the score 1-1

The visitors were defending in depth, and with greater frequency, as their opposition hurried down the field, using the large pitch with apparent ease. Andrew Murton and his fellow-defenders were kept busy, as NCC conceded a corner. This was headed clear by Andrew, as he rose above all; moments later Aaron Brown made a save as another effort was sent in. Awarded a free kick NCC could only send this straight into the arms of the Tigers’ keeper as he waited in an area completely devoid of NCC players. In this period it seemed as if Barry Styman was the only NCC player up front. The Tigers were awarded a free kick, and a dangerous diagonal effort was headed out by Mark Broekman, as he waited near the edge of the six-yard box, and out-jumped an opposition player. NCC’s next advance, up the right, saw a good effort stopped by the keeper; moments later another shot whistled across the face of his goal. NCC, attacking with few players, was constantly denied by a pack of Tigers who were well-spaced across the full width of the field, thus able to see the area of play better, and so control much of the action. The visitors raised their hopes when Ian Jones raced through the home defence, but he could only send the ball over the bar as the keeper advanced. NCC gained a corner, few were conceded throughout the match, but the ball eluded all as it hastened across the face of the goal and into an area not marked by any players. As the half drew to a close NCC created several promising moves, especially when they passed the home defence, which was often too far out. Ian Jones made another of his special runs before a plucky defender performed a sliding tackle, to deny him the ball. Then a good effort was parried as the Tiger keeper, instinctively, stuck out his left foot, and so the disappointing half ended.

Andrew Murton out-jumps a Tiger

It was a different NCC at the start of the second half, a chastised team which played with more aggression and conviction. Winning an early corner the ball was headed over the bar, soon after this Ian Jones just headed wide of a post as he out-jumped a home defender. Two Tigers tormented NCC as they tore up the left, initially with total freedom, before they lost possession. Then NCC, in the form of Andrew Murton and Ian Jones, came down the left. On the very edge of the box Andrew delivered a low right-footed shot, which completely deceived the home keeper, whose diving effort was in vain, and NCC took the lead in the fifty-third minute.

All eyes on the ball as NCC take a corner

Both sides were playing good football, and the Tigers knew they were shining, with the disastrous results of their last two fixtures becoming a distant memory. There was a period when Tewkesbury created a series of runs up both wings, but the NCC defence, better placed, was up to the task of denying the hosts possession. NCC made several forays down their right, and Andrew Murton had an effort, sent from the edge of the box, pass close to the far post, with the keeper beaten. Mark Broekman tried to weave his way through, and NCC gained a corner. Then things went wrong, as the Tigers won the ball from inside the centre circle. A couple of passes on their left saw a long low shot speed through the static NCC defence, heading towards the far corner of the net. Aaron Brown dived, and with his left hand managed to palm the ball out, not far, but into an area totally unguarded by his defenders. However, there were already three Tigers ready to pounce, and so it happened, one had the simplest of tasks of poking the ball into the empty net, to tie the score for the third and final time.

The last dozen minutes of the match were pulsating, and produced the best, and most passionate, football of the game. NCC had a twice-taken free kick, but the ball was delivered straight into the hands of the keeper. Moments later another free kick, from the same spot, was again cleared by the opposition. There was a brief interlude as Tewkesbury made a fleeting visit up-field, but NCC had learnt their lesson, and the defence was ready and waiting. NCC continued to increase the pressure, winning a corner and having Mark Broekman hitting the right-hand post so precisely that the ball rebounded along the same path, straight into the hands of the twice-lucky keeper; the second time occurring as he fumbled but fortunately, for him, the ball went behind. As the NCC drive continued so he took a perfect catch, and made two reflex saves as he dived, first to his left, and pushed the ball clear, and then took the ball from off the boots of Ian Jones. The Tigers had eight or nine players packed inside their box, and they weathered the NCC storm, to gain a most creditable draw in a game in which NCC must rue their disappointing play.

In the final frantic minute the Tigers keeper has made a great save

A frustrated Michael Wyatt reporting from the Gould Playing Fields, the lair of the Tigers

Game 10 : League Match : 23 November 2013 :
St Matthews  2     North Cheltenham Churches  5

St Matthew makes the opening attack, which was easily cleared.
Harry Wilks is winning the tussle of heading the ball

On a frosty morning, with the nearby hills shrouded in fog, St Matthews kicked off this crucial game, important as the sides are level on points, although NCC has a better goal difference. St Matthews, the hosts, created the opening attack, after a run down the left wing. Then Andrew Murton sped up the left, which resulted in Tim Aldred making the first, of two saves in quick succession, followed by Jon Whitlock sending a parry by the keeper over the bar. As NCC continued to attack the ball just whizzed the wrong side of a post, with the keeper beaten. A brief visit from the hosts preceded another prolonged NCC foray, before play rotated yet again. Here the Saints saw the ball cross the empty NCC goal, and then had an effort go wide of the post. Then, in the twenty-first minute, NCC, who had looked the more likely to score, opened their account. Ian Jones created an enterprising run up the left, with players from both sides running into the box. Moving with surety and composure he unleashed a great drive, which saw the ball beat the keeper, standing at his near post, and continue into the net.

Soon after this goal the visitors had a free kick, from which the ball was fed to Andrew Murton, but his shot on target was again saved by Tim. In the twenty-fifth minute Ian Jones exhibited a move of familiar fluency, as he sped through the middle of the field like a greyhound unleashed. Hotly pursued by a solitary defender Ian accelerated towards Tim Aldred, waiting to pounce once the path of the ball had been worked out. The maestro, demonstrating his ability to appear in Swan Lake, waltzed to his right before turning left, where he propelled the ball into the far corner of the net in one decisive movement; a brace in four minutes.

For the remaining twenty minutes of the half NCC moved up a gear, and dominated both play and possession. Following a brief visit to the other end by each team NCC gained a corner. The Saints packed their box with all but two of the team, and were able to deny the visitors further chances. The NCC mid-field, and their defence, also built a solid barrier, which the hosts found difficult to pierce. NCC’s two forwards were denied as each came up a wing, and saw Jon Whitlock sky an effort over the bar. Andrew Murton lifted the ball over a defender when he spotted the keeper off his line, but saw him retreat and pluck the ball out of the air. Then, just on the stroke of half time, another NCC attack saw the ball fall nicely to man of the match Ian Jones. Surging into the box he stroked a lifting ball between the keeper and a defender. As both fell to the ground they had time to turn, and see the ball, also descending, land in the back of their net. This enabled Ian to complete another hat-trick for NCC, and set his team up for a further victory, in their good run of six games, undefeated. Before the half ended each keeper made a catch, and NCC had an effort go over the bar.

Ian Jones speeds up and pushes the ball between two players and completes his hat trick

Aaron Brown reaches up nonchalantly to gather the ball

From the restart St Matthews started well, and had a shot go wide. In turn NCC was denied twice by the Saints keeper, once when he took a catch and again when he dashed beyond the edge of his box to clear the ball. NCC had a great opportunity after Jon Whitlock had passed the ball to Andrew Murton, whose effort was parried by the keeper, and descended towards Ian Jones, waiting in front of goal. Not believing his luck he could only head the ball over the bar, a fortuitous outcome for the Saints. Almost immediately the hosts, advancing in numbers, were awarded a free kick, near the edge of the box. It was poorly taken, and the ball struck the wall, allowing NCC possession, and the chance to clear their end. Much of the play rotated throughout the length of the field, and it appeared everyone was awaiting the final whistle. One attack from St Matthews’s saw them gain three consecutive throw-ons, which were successfully dealt as they moved up field. The match sprang back into life during the final quarter, a period in which each side scored a couple of goals.

St Matts take a free kick, away on their left wing and waste it by sending the ball straight into the NCC wall

The sun shone for the final 20 minutes or so and as NCC attack they win a corner. Barry Styman delivers a high ball.  As they defend St Matts wait in two lines, like some military regiment

In the seventy-seventh minute another NCC attack saw Andrew Murton and Ian Jones working together, outstripping the home defence in front of goal. Assailed on his right by an advancing defender Andrew moved to his left, an action mimicked by the keeper, as he covered his goal. Now Andrew threaded a needle delivery beyond the keeper, whose dive was too late; both players watched the ball enter the far corner. Then St Matthews set up a series of pulsating attacks, coming up the wings in force. After five minutes they won a corner, and a high ball was sent over, to descend into a six-yard box packed with over a dozen players. Suddenly a St Matthews player was flat on the floor, and they were awarded a penalty. The NCC keeper, standing off-centre, made the task easier for the opposition, and so the three-goal cushion was restored.

This goal seemed to lift the home side a little as they fired two further efforts wide. Then, in the eighty-seventh minute, NCC was awarded a free kick, on their right and near the edge of the box. Barry Styman delivered a perfect descending ball, which flew over the head of the opposition players and continued its parabolic path towards two unmarked NCC players. Tall Andy Hill got there first, and with a delightful twist of the neck and flick of his head sent the ball into the goal. Ian Jones was denied yet again by Tim Aldred, as the latter rushed out to take the ball. The sun shone on St Matthews, as they began their final attack, and swarmed up the right. In less time than it takes to write about these events, a looping ball was sent in, where Aaron Brown pushed it out, but only as far as a forward waiting near the post. Following his header the ball rebounded off the post, a lucky bounce which fell in the path of another Saint. Demonstrating great skill he was able to reach the ball, and then control it, before sending it into the net. One final effort from the Saints signalled the end of an intriguing match, a game St Matthews never looked like winning, but one which gave NCC a few anxious moments, but allowed them to retain possession of the Grant Bayliss Cup.

A fascinated Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury

Game 09 : Cup Match : 16 November 2013 :
Trinity & Quedgeley  2     North Cheltenham Churches  3

On a cold and overcast day NCC travelled past picturesque trees, bedecked in their autumnal colours, to Quedgeley, for their quarter final cup match. Trinity & Quedgeley created the first chance but Aaron Brown made a good stop as he conceded a corner, which was easily cleared. Then, in the fourth minute, NCC went down their left, where a good ball found Andrew Murton, waiting just outside the box. In one amazing and stunning movement he swivelled, and unleashed a long range volley, which rocketed into the bottom corner of the net, to open the scoring and cheer the NCC hearts.

Following this T&Q came at their visitors, and won a free kick. The well-taken effort forced Aaron Brown to put the ball behind, for another corner. At the other end Ian Jones came close as his shot sped over the far post, and Guy Speedie had two good runs down the left, with his diagonal attempts blocked by the keeper, alone in his goal. The hosts had ample possession and at the end of the opening twenty minutes they won two successive corners, their most potent threat so far; another attack saw Aaron Brown make a successful block. In turn NCC also gained two consecutive corners, but with nine or ten players inside the box it was difficult to achieve success. Soon after this the T&Q keeper made a save as he sprawled near the edge of his box, with Tom Surgenor rushing in. Andrew Murton and Ian Jones advanced in tandem, which saw a great pass just elude Ian as he rushed towards the empty net. Later Andrew Murton saw his attempt cross the goal, and Guy Speedie was denied as he tried to better a trio of defenders.

NCC are on the attack

Quedgeley appeared to rely on solo runs from their players, and most were denied by the well-organised NCC defence; one such effort was prevented as the player threw himself horizontal in his great attempt to reach the ball. Both sides were leaving wide open spaces in their respective halves, forcing their keepers to be alert and agile, as Aaron Brown demonstrated when he flung himself to his right to divert the ball for a wasted corner. A long-range effort was demonstrably saved by the T&Q keeper, as he knelt on one knee, with his body behind the ball. With five minutes of this half remaining Ian Jones, with Andrew Murton, sped down the left. Showing great skill Ian rounded the keeper, who had come to the edge of his area, and then offered a diagonal cross which rolled by the empty goal. Unfortunately a fleet defender reached the ball before Andrew Murton, and was able to send it behind. Two minutes later the same player took the ball down the other wing, easily outpacing the sluggish defenders, who had advanced too far. As they neared so he sent a beautifully weighted low ball across the face of the goal. Pounced on by Ian Jones this was volleyed into the corner of the net, with the keeper, and his defence, powerless and motionless. NCC had one final attack before the interval, which went out for a goal kick.

NCC are defending, and admiring the gymnastic prowess of the boy in blue


Having seen off a T&Q attack Tristan Undy leads NCC, as they begin a break out

Although NCC started the second half it was against a revitalised T&Q, expressed as they burst out of the traps and saw an early chance go wide. Soon after they took two corners and then forced Aaron Brown to make a couple of good saves, the first was held head-high, as he jumped to take a lofted strike, and then he made another catch as a lone forward advanced. In the seventh minute Andrew Murton came up the right wing. Noticing the keeper standing by his near post he fired a long low shot towards the opposite corner. This struck the post at such an angle for the ball to rebound along the same path, into an area devoid of players, thus allowing the fortunate keeper to gather. Within a minute T&Q scored, and then I wondered whether this auspicious let-off could be the turning point of the match.

The home side created a quick break and sent the ball forward, into the vacant NCC defensive area. Both an attacker and a defender went for the ball, and as the defender attempted a clearance so it ended up in his own net. The two sides, realising the importance of this goal, moved up a gear. The hosts missed a couple of opportunities but it was NCC who was sharper, but they could not beat the keeper as he pulled off a finger-tip save, to guide the ball over the corner of his goal, and then hold another effort as he reached up. Opportunities were created at both ends, with parity, but none was put away. Then, in the sixty-fifth minute, Trinity & Quedgeley came down their right, and won a corner. The ball fell nicely for a T&Q player to drill it between the NCC keeper, and two defenders, to tie the match and set up a nerve-wracking final twenty-five minutes; surely the next goal would be the winner.

T&Q score, despite NCC filling their defence with many players

Although T&Q sent an effort over the bar most of the action was created by the visitors, where Tristan Undy saw his free-kick well taken by the keeper. Then déjà vu, as the unfortunate Andrew Murton saw another effort rebound into play from the same post, again with only the keeper defending, and sat on the ground as he was well-beaten. After some near squeaks at both ends it was NCC who struck, and they had always looked the more likely to score. In a melee outside the box Andrew Murton gained the ball, and passed to Ian Jones, waiting to his left, and totally unmarked. Moving further left Ian judged his effort to perfection, and stroked a sweet ball just out of reach of the keeper, who flayed his right arm in a desperate rearguard action as he descended to the ground. The final ten minutes were frantic, with half-chances at both ends. T&Q wasted an effort which sailed across goal, but they had no-one in position. With about two minutes left Ian Jones nearly completed his hat trick as he sped goal-wards, hotly pursued by a couple of defenders, but the keeper managed to palm the ball away, for a corner. As T&Q mustered their final attack so the valiant and vigilant NCC defence held firm, until they were relieved by the full-time whistle; their reward is a semi-final place in this Cotswold Cup Trophy. Man of the match was awarded to Ian Jones; without his experience, knowledge and skills the result may well have been different.

Ian Jones scores the winning goal.  There are no defenders on the goalie's right

A lyrical Michael Wyatt reporting from Sandalwood Drive

Game 08 : League Match : 9 November 2013 :
North Cheltenham Churches  6     St Andrews  1

On a wet morning NCC kicked off this game against St Andrews, a game switched from Prestbury, where the playing field was deemed unsuitable, to the astro-turf at All Saints Academy. In the opening ten minutes NCC created as many scoring chances, but the ball was either sent wide, or the opposition keeper made some good saves, or parries, often coming out to gather the ball. In contrast the visitors only created two chances of note; the first was a fierce drive which was well-taken in front of goal by man of the match Aaron Brown, and the other, from a powerful corner, was pushed out. Then, in the twelfth minute, and completely against the run of play, the visitors had a quick attack on this fast surface, and a solitary player sliced through the empty NCC defence, its members being too far up-field. With only the keeper in front of him he selected both time and spot, and proceeded to lift the ball over the unfortunate Aaron Brown, and watched it descend into the back of the net. During the ensuing ten minutes NCC created another plethora of scoring opportunities but unfortunately took none. Jon Whitlock sent in a dipping shot but the visiting keeper calmly held another fine save, Ian Jones was denied twice in rapid succession by a defender as he jumped for the ball, a corner sailed across the box and Andy Murton saw his powerfully struck kick just miss the top corner.

Everyone tries to enjoy playing in the rain

Then, in the space of four minutes, the game was overturned. In the twenty-second minute another attack saw the hosts awarded a free kick, just outside the box. As the opposition keeper waited by his far post so Barry Styman sent in a potent dipping delivery. En route the ball took a slight deflection, enough to be redirected beyond the keeper, who could not prevent it entering the goal, to level the scores; if fortuitous certainly deserved. Another NCC attack, down the right, saw Andy Macauly pass to Tom Surgenor, positioned outside the right-hand post. With great dexterity he turned and propelled the ball past three players, and into the net, and so opened his account for NCC.

NCC dance on air as they attack

The visitors then created a series of determined attacks, their most threatening of the match. These saw Aaron Brown divert a high-descending ball and Andy Hill head another clear, following a corner. A further brace saw the home keeper come out beyond his area and clear the ball, which had been pushed forward too far. This was capped by two well-taken corners, but the NCC defence was able to weather the storm, and then we entered the final ten minutes of the half, in which the hosts dominated play and possession. Three consecutive forays, all down the right, saw Tom Surgenor, Andy Hill and Andy Murton denied. Ian Jones just failed to reach a cross from Andy Murton, as the pair worked in tandem. Fast and furious football saw Simon Trew’s header held and a corner was sent behind by a defender. St Andrews were holding on, despite taking a hammering, and mounted the odd foray themselves. From one they gained a free kick, then a powerful volley was well held by Aaron Brown as he crouched and got all of his body behind the incoming effort. Two more attempts from Ian Jones, and a corner headed out by a jumping Simon Trew, brought the rapid opening half to a close.

In the early stages of the second period the two sides alternated their attacks, as they adapted to the ever-wet conditions. After six minutes another NCC effort, up their right, led to Andrew Murton giving his side a two-goal cushion as his diagonal shot sped into the far corner, with the visiting keeper rooted to the spot. Then Ian Jones dashed into the box where the keeper, falling backwards, was able to divert the ball across his goalmouth; it almost grazed the far post as it sped behind. Moments later his next foray was denied when the keeper pouched the ball by the same post, followed by another take held in front of the uprights. At the other end the occasional visit from St Andrews was brief as NCC was becoming dominant on all fronts.

Andrew Murton (partly hidden) shoots into the far corner to make it 3-1 while Ian Jones(9) looks on

In the fifty-seventh minute Ian Jones took the ball through the middle, and into the box. Shrugging off a defender he stroked it beyond the keeper, who had come out, and watched the ball roll into an empty net, to give the hosts a near-insurmountable 4-1 lead. So well struck was the ball that it broke through the netting, and came out on the other side! Ian Jones was in overdrive as he tried to force his way through time and time again. Little was happening at the other end, although Aaron Brown had to remain alert to any rapid change in play. Just past the hour St Andrews had a free kick, to the left of the penalty area. This effort was wasted, allowing the hosts to regain possession once more. The ball was run up the right, and collected by Ian Jones. One of the three defenders in front of him blocked his effort but ended on the ground. Andrew Murton, following up by the penalty spot, was able to direct the ball past the keeper, to score. Three goals in a ten-minute spell had virtually ensured victory, with less than half an hour remaining. The St Andrews keeper, with his prowess and ability to read the game, prevented NCC from scoring on many occasions, so this advantage demonstrated their authority.

NCC defend their goal and Oli Lynott-May heads the ball out for a corner

The visitors had a brief period in which they threatened, and had a well-taken free-kick put out for a corner. This was squandered as it crossed the area, allowing NCC another attack up their right where Andrew Murton’s shot brought a good save from the keeper, as he reached up on tiptoes. New boy Aaron Batchelor created havoc as his solo run left him, and a defender, prone on the wet surface. At the other end St Andrews had a great chance but the ball was put behind, for a well-taken corner. Then, with eight minutes remaining, Ian Jones led a charge up the middle, outstripping the defence, and giving us a euphoric and comical finale. Approaching the advancing keeper he was able to pass him, leaving him sat on the ground. Then Ian neared the corner of the six-yard box, with an empty goal in sight. By now the keeper, who had recovered, and two defenders, were all guarding the net. Still with the ball Ian attempted to go around the keeper again, but somehow the ball ballooned up, enabling Ian to send a powerful header towards goal. A defender, standing on the line, was unable to read the flight of the ball, and his attempt at a header came too soon; and as he bent his head so the ball sped behind it, to end up in the net. As the ball fell down viewers saw this defender follow suit, to join the keeper, and then another defender, all down as NCC had demonstrated their victory in a glorious fashion; St Andrews had been hit for six. There was still time for further efforts at each end before the final whistle signalled the end of a scintillating display by NCC.

Ian Jones scores his second goal of the game, as NCC hit St Andrews for 6

A wet and jubilant Michael Wyatt reporting from a buzzing All Saints Academy

Game 07 : League Match : 2 November 2013 :
C3 Dons  0     North Cheltenham Churches  5

On a morning which started sunny NCC kicked off this match against C3 Dons, who are languishing at the bottom of the table. This was quite a different prospect from last week’s opponents, the current champions; thus both extremes being played in successive fixtures. The game was played at the Dons’ new home, a delightful setting beneath a colourful curve in the Cotswold Hills.

At the start of the game the sun was shining

For the opening fifteen minutes NCC created a series of attacks but the Dons’ defences held firm, exemplified by a series of saves pulled off by Pete Cowley in goal. One brave effort saw him rush across the goal to catch a header from an off-balance Tom Mangan, another had him deny Ian Jones a few feet in front of a post, although a corner was conceded, and a third saw him take a strike from man of the match Cain Thomas. In the warm sunshine both sides appeared to be enjoying the contest, with the possible exception of the home keeper, who was the busiest man on the field. Then, in the sixteenth minute, the NCC pressure paid off when a good ball found Barry Styman, free from his marker. He strode through the goal-area and sent the ball past a diving keeper, and into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

NCC attack the goal packed with eight defenders

In the next quarter of an hour NCC mounted several more attacks, creating half a dozen chances. Some went wide of the goal, by a whisker, but the majority were held by the agile keeper. Perhaps the pick of the chances was that made by Simon Trew, who passed the ball to his right within shooting distance of goal. At the other end the Dons made their presence known, and manufactured some shots on target. One was headed out by Harry Wilks, well-positioned by his left-hand post. On the half-hour mark, as the weather became gloomier, so did the prospects of the hosts. Another penetrating sortie, down their right, enabled Jon Whitlock to score NCC’s second goal as a long diagonal effort pierced a crowded field.

Playing 'neath the curve of the Cotswolds

From the restart NCC came down in force, and gained a corner, on their left. Although both Mark Broekman and Jon Whitlock made valiant attempts to head the ball home it was the keeper who eventually emerged with the ball. Having seen off a visit by the Dons NCC was once more on the hunt, and won a corner, on the other side this time. Jon Whitlock whistled in a high hard curling ball, which spun just out of the reach of Pete Cowley, probably positioned too far away from the goal. Both he and the ball moved in parallel, to finish up inside the netting. NCC had scored twice in two minutes. In the final quarter of the opening half NCC shone in the drizzle with more promising attacks but again was denied by a combination of poor finishing, good goal keeping and determined defensive work. At least five or six good opportunities came to naught as the visitors penned the hosts in their own half; another chance went begging just before the half time whistle blew.

For the opening twenty minutes of the new half NCC was the dominant force, and generated three, or even four, forays for every one made by the Dons. Pete Cowley made half a dozen saves, twice a shot from Mark Broekman was grabbed at the second attempt, with the keeper lying full stretch on the ground, and another was taken as Ian Jones rushed forward to control the rebound. Other efforts were posted wide as NCC failed to capitalise on their superiority in every position. Occasionally the Dons got into the box, once an effort crossed the bar, as did a long-range volley, but generally the NCC defence was hardly troubled.

Then, in the sixty-eighth minute, another strong charge led NCC to have a corner on their left. Barry Styman delivered a high ball, and Harry Wilks did the rest as he headed it into the net, watching the ball pierce the home defence and catch the keeper off-balance. It was good for the opposition to create the odd attack; perhaps the young legs would find using the full width of the pitch more advantageous. Continuing with the praise the Dons never gave up, and later in the game the defence was able to deny a goal with their keeper out of position. With a quarter of an hour remaining NCC came up their left again. Here Simon Trew, positioned outside the D, unleashed a stunning twenty-five yard diagonal effort. The ball rocketed goalwards, and sped through the narrow gap between the post and the keeper, whose best effort could not prevent the strike from finishing up in the back of the net.

Harry Wilks heads the ball and pierces the Dons defence, catches the keeper off-balance,
and enters the net, score 4-0

The Dons had one more penetrating foray, in which they attacked in numbers, but eventually the ball was sent wide. Moments later a couple of fleet forwards were easily denied by Aaron Brown, as he came out to meet the advancing ball before them; this was repeated when the speedy number nine attempted a death-or-glory run. At the other end NCC had another effort almost graze the bar as it flew just the wrong side of the woodwork. Then a corner was sent over; this continued across the goal, being missed by everyone. Despite the murky weather above, and the slippery conditions below, both teams still continued to play flowing football. It could be argued the Dons played some of their best football in these closing minutes. Just before the end the home side had a free kick. This was sent in hard and low but Aaron Brown stuck out a foot and diverted the ball behind for an unsuccessful corner. As the final whistle went the Dons ought to be pleased of their performance, especially from their keeper, as they must have denied NCC well over a score of chances.

NCC have a corner and as it crosses the goal everyone misses it!

An effervescent Michael Wyatt reporting from a damp Priors Field

Game 06 : League Match : 26 October 2013 :
North Cheltenham Churches  5     Cornerstone  1

On a typical late-autumn morning NCC kicked off this match against last year’s league champions. They started in dominant mood, and created the opening moves; one from Andrew Murton was bravely intercepted by the opposition keeper as he came out to the edge of his area. On six minutes the visitors forced an attack up their left wing, and won a throw-on. A long ball descended towards the goal where an NCC defender miscued his kick, and the ball went to the right of Aaron Brown, and entered the net; an own goal! From the restart NCC advanced, and a valiant effort, from Andrew Murton, was dealt with; in turn Cornerstone was denied as the home defence held firm. In the ninth minute NCC came down their right, where Andrew Murton curled in a shot, which beat the keeper as he stood near his left-hand post; all square within the opening ten minutes.

Cornerstone was closed down on two occasions before Mark Broekman led another dash down the right. His delicate low cross was met by Jon Whitlock, adroitly positioned just beyond the post. With great composure he nudged the ball beyond a defender, and the keeper, and saw it enter the goal. Shortly after this the visitors had the ball in the net but the attempt was ruled out for offside. During the next fifteen minutes a well-taken NCC free kick was denied and then the champions, coming up their left, saw a long-range effort bounce off the NCC crossbar. After another endeavour NCC conceded a corner, which was headed clear by the solid home defence. NCC, through Ian Jones, launched two rapid and enterprising runs down the right wing. The second saw him deliver a well-flighted ball which sped across the goal, and beyond four defenders. Waiting by the far post, and completely unmarked, was Andrew Murton. With deft skill he guided a low volley beyond the outstretched arm of a desperate dive by the keeper, to give NCC a well-deserved two-goal cushion within the opening half-hour!

Andrew Murton is about to make the score 3-1

For the next ten minutes play alternated up and down the field, where each keeper made a successful clearance from a determined attack. The visitors were denied after a corner was defended, with most of the home team packed in the area; then their free kick sailed over the bar. The champions were looking very lacklustre as NCC came down the right, but the keeper held the effort from Andrew Murton. Minutes later Mark Broekman sent the ball to Andrew, whose low diagonal shot bounced just the wrong side of an unguarded post.

Aaron Brown, and the solid NCC defence, see off another Cornerstone attack, with apparent ease

Seven minutes before half time Ian Jones, waiting just beyond the centre-circle, received the ball. He sped down the right before turning towards the near post. As the keeper advanced so Ian skilfully flicked the ball over his head, and into the net, as players from both sides ran in; 4-1. Cornerstone was being totally out-manoeuvred, and, as the interval approached, their prospects were looking bleak. Rampant NCC charged down the right where Oli Lynott-May sent over a fierce cross towards waiting players. This was put behind, for a corner, and, despite the best efforts of both the keeper and a jumping Ian Jones, resulted in a second corner. This was pushed out as the keeper failed to make a catch from off the head of a leaping Tristan Undy. After the champions had taken another corner NCC swarmed down the pitch but was met by an intrepid keeper, who came way up-field in his efforts to clear the ball. The result was an NCC corner, which eluded all, and then came the half-time whistle.

The Cornerstone's keeper saves from another another NCC corner

In the opening ten minutes of the second half NCC dominated both ball and play, and advanced on all fronts, but in the end had nothing to show for it. A long range effort from Andrew Murton was partially blocked by the keeper, as he reached up and failed to hold a clean catch just below the bar. It was a delight to see the way NCC was operating, a sight witnessed in short glimpses in the past but rarely with such continuity and dominance. After a couple of brief visits to the other end of the field Cornerstone was again soaking up an NCC assault. Both Ian Jones and Tristan Undy had efforts blocked, others were denied by the keeper, as he held shots or dashed out to take the ball. Tristan Undy, spotting the keeper way off his line, had a shot, from just outside of the area, well saved by a solitary defender. Minutes later Andrew Murton replicated this, from the left hand side, but saw his effort cross an empty goalmouth; then the visitors changed their keeper. Slowly Cornerstone tried to crawl back into the game, winning a corner and holding NCC deep inside their own half. Twice a persistent solo run down the left reached the six-yard box before it was contained by the determined home defence. When this failed, as it did, Aaron Brown was on hand to complete the clearance. It was a joy to see the hosts spread out and covering the field, as well as each other. This was the only period of Cornerstone control, and they were denied on all fronts, especially from the defensive trio of Adam Slade, making a welcome return, Simon Trew and Tom Mangan. Andy Hill jumped to head clear as the champions made one last determined effort. The final fifteen minutes were all NCC, as they roamed the field at will.

NCC, leading 4-1, have just taken a corner

This period began with NCC taking a couple of corners before Cornerstone was closed down by a packed home defence. Then Mark Broekman sent the ball wide, to his left, where it was collected by Barry Styman, near the edge of the box. He unleashed a devastating long-range volley, which sped past the dive of the keeper, and continued, to rest in a totally unguarded net. Greg Hart-Brown was dispossessed as the keeper came out to make a brave save. NCC had players everywhere; it seemed as if they had two teams on the field. Praise must be given to the champions, although defeat was staring them in the face, for the second successive match, they did not give up, and prevented many further NCC efforts in their attempt to get half a dozen. Barry Styman had another long-range effort pushed behind, and Andy Hill headed the resulting corner over the bar. Cornerstone was penned in their bottom half, and credit must be given to the home keeper for maintaining his concentration with so little to do! Another NCC free kick was palmed over the bar, and Ian Jones headed the resulting corner just wide. Almost the last act of the game, and it must have been a relief for the visitors when the final whistle was blown. This was only the second NCC victory over Cornerstone, and the first at Prestbury. As the team had performed so magnificently no individual could, or indeed should, be singled out, and so the whole team was awarded men of the match. NCC’s performance was sparkling, outstanding, lustrous, indomitable and dedicated, in fact solid!

An enthralled Michael Wyatt reporting from a blustery Stade de Prestbury

Game 05 : League Match : 19 October 2013 :
Cheltenham Trinity  3      North Cheltenham Churches  3

On a cloudy day NCC kicked off this match against Cheltenham Trinity, and launched the initial, but brief, foray into their opponent’s half. The hosts counter-attacked, and for the next five minutes NCC was under the cosh as Cheltenham Trinity came at them, relentlessly, down both wings. In this period they sent the ball over the bar and wide of the right hand post twice, as well as seeing other openings stopped by the visiting defence. Then, after six minutes, Trinity created another attack, straight through the middle. Several players, all unmarked, were hovering in a crowded patch outside the penalty area, and one, with a clear shot at goal, was able to drill the ball past Aaron Brown, to open the scoring. Cheltenham Trinity continued their persistent attack, and had shots go wide, twice had successive corners and also saw a free kick just elude a lone forward running through a crowd of NCC defenders. Then, after fourteen minutes, another attack saw the ball sent out of play, to give NCC a goal-kick. This kick was sent way up field, towards the right, where the ball reached Andrew Murton. Outpacing a quartet of defenders he delivered a low diagonal volley, which sped beyond the static keeper, and continued, to rest in the far corner of the net; all square.

Simon Trew leads a NCC attack

Play became more balanced as the action was rotated from end to end. NCC was awarded a free kick, which was missed by all as it curved away to the left. Moments later Andrew Murton looked threatening as he came up into the top-right hand corner, outstripping his players, and so the opportunity passed. Shortly after he repeated this move, but the keeper was able to palm the ball behind the empty net, to concede a corner. Then it was the turn of Cheltenham Trinity to have a corner, where the ball was eventually sent beyond the far post. Minutes later a shot skimmed by the other post, as NCC was living dangerously, leaving large empty spaces in their defence. We had a period when Trinity was master of the mid-field, and began firing salvoes towards the NCC goal. The hosts took a breather as NCC mounted three or four threatening attacks, in rapid succession. Then, just after the half-hour, Cheltenham Trinity came down the field again. Here an opportunist delivered a long-range strike, and saw the ball speed through the air. As if in a time-warp all the players stood, motionless, and watched the ball continue into the top right-hand corner of the net. Aaron Brown was petrified, and stood rock-still for several moments before he retrieved the object of his horror.

NCC are up against a hard wall of defenders

NCC followed this with a penetrating attack, made in width and with numbers, but was denied by a similar defensive set-up. Andrew Murton appeared to be the only player able to bamboozle the opposition, as again he led by example, and weaved his way towards goal, where he saw his effort pass the left-hand upright. NCC had a corner, delicately flighted by Tristan Undy. As the ball crossed a well-guarded goal-mouth so it was headed clear by a defender, one of many in a densely-packed area. Around this effort play belonged to Cheltenham Trinity, who spent most of the remaining period inside the NCC domain. On the stroke of half time Trinity took another corner. Although partially blocked the ball was crossed by Trinity, towards the touchline, whence it was returned. The in-coming ball was met by one, of two unmarked players, waiting in front of an empty goal, apart from the keeper. A high ball was sent into the net by a powerfully struck header, to give Trinity a taste of victory; it was long way back for NCC as the half time whistle was blown.

NCC defend but 'Where's the ball?'

The second period presented quite a different phase. For its opening half an hour no side was dominant. Cheltenham Trinity began with a couple of runs up-field before NCC began to impose themselves. They won a corner, which finished with both keeper and man of the match Barry Styman on the ground, as yet another corner was conceded. NCC had a free kick, which saw Tristan Undy deliver a high ball into the box, but none of the Hoops could get a touch, and so it sped narrowly wide of the far post. Cheltenham Trinity was awarded a free kick, just outside the goal-area, and almost opposite to the left-hand post. A well struck delivery sped over the four-man wall, and then dipped into the safe hands of Aaron Brown, as he reached up on tiptoe, to take the catch just below the bar.

Aaron Brown takes a great catch as a dipping free kick was about to enter the top of the net

In the final ten minutes NCC resurrected their game, helped by some decisive and penetrating runs up front from Barry Styman and Andy Ritchie, and backed up by Simon Trew, Andrew Murton and Oli Lynott-May, with other players also doing their part; a whole team performance at the end. Andrew Murton came down the left and repeated his first half shot, a low volley being sent beyond the keeper, standing all alone outside his right-hand post; now we had a game. Surely all the hosts needed to do was defend successfully to gain the three points? In a display of aggression they conceded a free kick. This was directed towards the top of the net, where it was well-taken by the keeper, as he jumped fully stretched to push the ball over the bar. In another attack Andrew Murton was unable to reach the ball before it was held by the keeper, and then NCC had two free kicks, in quick succession, which did little to tax the opposition. Trinity mounted some spirited attacks, from one the ball was sent high over the crossbar. Their keeper made a great save as he rushed to the edge of his area, jumped, and grabbed the ball as Lee Bradley was coming in.

Then we came to the last minute of the match, and Oli Lynott-May, a lone green and white player in a sea of black and red, posed a commanding figure as he dashed down the right wing, winning a corner. Barry Styman delivered the ball into a crowded goal area, packed with almost the whole of the opposition team. Simon Trew sent the ball goal-wards, away and beyond the keeper, only to see it returned by a lone defender deliberately positioned on the line. It came towards by James Stevens, and with great presence of mind he was able to push the ball forward, between two defenders and a desperate dive from the keeper, and so on into the net.

James Stevens about to control this return and then push the ball beyond two defenders
and the diving keeper, to tie the score at 3-3

Trinity must have felt aggrieved, they had played better than NCC for long periods of the game, but much of the match was enacted below par until the final ten minutes. It might be argued that each side thought they should have won, and so a draw seems to be a fair result for this match.

A jolly chirpy Michael Wyatt reporting from Newlands Park

Game 04 : Cup Match : 12 October 2013 :
North Cheltenham Churches  10      Upton Cornerstone  1

On a murky morning, tinged with drizzle, NCC kicked off this Cotswold Churches League Trophy match against Upton Cornerstone, a burgeoning team from Upton on Severn, who are hoping to join this league. The game was switched from Prestbury to the all-weather surface at All Saints Academy. In the opening minutes the visitors made the initial forays, and Aaron Brown had the first touches of the ball. Unfortunately, for the visiting keeper, his first touch was to retrieve the ball from the back of the net, and this after three minutes. A good run from Mark Broekman found Barry Styman, a new player. From the edge of the box he fired a diagonal shot past the keeper, and opened NCC’s account; an effect which did much to calm the nerves of the hosts following two successive defeats.

Undaunted the visitors had some good runs down the wings, and gained a corner, which was sent over the bar. The challengers continued to peg back NCC in their own half, winning a free kick, which Aaron Brown dealt with as a lone forward came charging in. Then, on eight minutes, NCC was on the attack again, and Mark Broekman sent a low diagonal shot towards the far post. A diving keeper just got a hand to it, to concede a corner. The incoming ball was well-met by Harry Wilks, who sent it past the keeper, to score his first goal for NCC. Within two minutes another attack from the Hoops found Mark Broekman, playing only his second game this year. Coolly he took the ball towards the penalty spot before unleashing a high ball into the top right-hand corner of the net; to put NCC three up after ten minutes. In the next ten minutes Upton Cornerstone created six or seven attacks, and also had a well-taken free kick, which was pushed behind for a corner, as they continued to put pressure on NCC. When the Hoops sped up the left wing a pleasing series of passes saw the ball arrive at the feet of Jon Whitlock, unmarked towards the far side of the goal. His attempt was well stopped by the keeper, and then play took place at the other end of the field, where Upton won a corner and a free kick, which was put out, to concede another corner. The NCC defence held firm, and then, on twenty-one minutes, play moved up field. Mark Broekman received the ball and drilled a volley which sped beyond the outstretched hand of the keeper, to finish in the back of the net.

NCC prepare to defend a free kick

Upton Cornerstone manufactured another series of attacks; one saw Aaron Brown boot the ball clear from a crowded goal area as a predatory attacker was running in. Shortly after this Upton volleyed an effort which sped high over the netting surrounding the artificial pitch. NCC scored two quick goals: the first by Tom Mangan and then Tristan Undy, another debutante, drilled a low ball between the keeper and the post. The plucky opponents were under the cosh, six down in the opening half an hour. In between these goals the opposition created a period of brief pressure, winning a corner and forcing the hosts to make several clearances. Up to half-time the action alternated between the opposite ends of the field, and produced periods of drama; excitement for the visitors and tension for the hosts. As the break came NCC had done sufficient to allay any fears of defeat.

The game plays on in the drizzle

Although Upton started the second half it began in dramatic style when Ian Jones immediately took the ball down the right. Entering the edge of the box he noticed the inexperience keeper was way outside of his goal, so Ian calmly chipped the ball. As defenders rushed back to plug the chasm they were too late, and could only watch helpless as the ball descended, for NCC to notch up a magnificent seven. After NCC had seen one of their efforts pass wide of goal the novices built up another attack. Initially they won a free-kick, from the edge of the box, and just in from the goal line. Their number fourteen hit a long range volley which dipped, rapidly, beyond the reach of Aaron Brown, to pull back a deserved goal; and then the sun came out!

NCC defend a corner as the sun comes out of the dark clouds

Encouraged by this the visitors moved up a gear, and came up their right. Here an effort was sent beyond the home keeper, and was heading towards goal; fortunately for NCC the vigilant man of the match, Andy Macauly, was alert to the danger, and saved the situation.

In a ten minute period NCC created almost a dozen attacks, but all were successfully dealt with, although many were wasted because players endeavoured to walk the ball into the net, rather than attempt shots. Barry Styman was unlucky as his header, sent when well-positioned in front of goal, was pouched by the substituted keeper, moments later he missed another chance, as did Mark Broekman and Ian Jones.

Then, on seventy two minutes, the home side gained a corner. Jon Whitlock delivered a high-descending ball towards the edge of the six-yard box. Here three players all rose; the visiting keeper, Harry Wilks and Mark Broekman. The latter made contact and thundered a superbly-struck header, whence the ball rocketed into the middle of the netting, too fast for the lone defender to do anything other than watch in admiration as Mark completed his deserved hat-trick, and also scored his twentieth goal for the team.

Mark Broekman heads the ball from the corner into the net to make the score 8-1

The visitors were demoralised as Ian Jones took the ball into the area, where Jon Whitlock was able to add to the growing tally of goals, as the ball sped into the far corner. Now it was all NCC, a free kick was denied and the Upton keeper made a fortunate save as he knelt to receive, with thanks, the ball dropping from the cloudy sky. Soon after this Ian Jones enabled NCC to reach double figures when his effort, initially parried by the keeper, was then completely missed as the keeper waved an outstretched arm in a forlorn hope of contact. Minutes later NCC had the ball in the net, but was denied a further goal for an offside infringement. Aaron Brown spent the final minutes away from goal, when Oli Lynott-May wore the number one jersey. After the final whistle was blown NCC was comfortably through to the quarter finals, where they will travel to play Trinity & Quedgeley, a much tougher encounter.

Upton Cornerstone prepare to take a corner.  NCC's Aaron Brown is out of goal for the last 10 minutes

An invigorated Michael Wyatt reporting from the astro-turf at All Saints Academy

Game 03 : League Match : 28 September 2013 :
North Cheltenham Churches  1      Cambray  2

On an overcast day NCC kicked off this match against second place Cambray, hoping to have a much better performance than that shown last week. Cambray opened with a ferocious onslaught, forcing Simon Trew to head a clearance after a few seconds. We were still in the opening minute when Cambray came up their left again, but stand-in keeper James Stevens was able to hold the shot with great assurance, as he stood near his right-hand post. The few efforts NCC produced were very quickly nipped in the bud, enabling Cambray to continue their forays with renewed vigour. They won three consecutive corners, which were successfully cleared, quickly followed by another, which was headed away by Ian Jones. Moments later James Stevens held another catch, by the far post; and followed this up with another taken in front of a rampant forward, as he charged in.

NCC are busy defending a corner

NCC survived the opening quarter of an hour, during which time Cambray had exhibited three-quarters of the possession and play. Now we were treated to a rare NCC attack, led by Guy Speedie, which penetrated the Cambray goal area. A good cross was sent over but was headed back, by an alert defender, before Ian Jones could reach it. However, the ball bobbled about within the opposition area before it was eventually cleared. NCC continued to press forward, and gained a corner, before their momentum was stopped when they conceded a free kick; albeit wasted as it sailed high over the bar. Cambray nearly scored from a cross, but James Stevens managed to get all of his finger tips to the ball, as he reached up on tiptoe, and diverted it onto the far post, where it rebounded with a resounding thwack, before being cleared.

James Stevens jumps up to divert the path of the ball

For the remainder of this opening half Cambray lost their domination, although they still produced many threatening forays run deep into the home territory. NCC was showing greater cohesion, especially in the midfield area, from which they could launch attacks. On twenty-eight minutes a lone Cambray forward, almost opposite the post, received a delicate pass, and threaded his way forward, to put the ball into the net; only to see the flag up for offside. For some minutes most of the play occurred in the midfield. Then, ten minutes before the break, Cambray created a quick rush up their right, and delivered a delicate pass to Richard Maskell, positioned opposite the near post. Despite the valiant effort of Simon Trew the ball was propelled, with tremendous ferocity, through the narrow gap between James Stevens and his post, to finish in the net. To gauge the intensity of play I noted that in the period remaining before the interval each side made ten attacks, averaging one every half minute. In this time Cambray had a corner, saw the opposition keeper pouch an effort and sent the ball wide of goal on three occasions; in turn NCC had a free kick, saw Ian Jones denied twice, as he went down both the left and the middle, and also had Quincy Quayson stopped twice, both times on the right. It was fast furious flowing football.

Although Cambray restarted the second half it was the home side who showed greater determination. Guy Speedie had another good run up the right wing and sent the ball to Ian Jones. As defenders approached from both sides his header was sent wide of the post. Having seen off a concerted Cambray charge, which saw Andrew Murton prone, it was NCC again on the attack. A wonderful solo effort from Quincy Quayson saw him hare up the right flank, hotly pursued by a couple of the opposition, only for the ball to be sent out of play for a poorly-taken corner.

All eyes to the ball as NCC take a corner

Cambray gained a couple of quick corners and demonstrated a rare example of imagination when a high descending ball fell behind the goal. Cambray won yet another corner, which, like its fellows, followed a proven formula, when a high ball was sent into an empty space. Although the NCC defence had ample time to read the path of the ball, it was an opposition player, along with Ian Jones, who reached the ball, which was knocked over the bar for a corner. There was a brief period when played flowed fluently up and down the field. During this phase Ian Jones took the ball up the left in a dazzling demonstration of power, skill and determination. Shrugging off a defender he surged forward, to be met by the advancing keeper. With his years of practised skill coming to the fore Ian propelled the ball beyond the keeper, and as he ended up on the ground he was unable to notice the ball roll into the middle of the empty net. All square, after sixty-four minutes of a pulsating game.

Captain Ian Jones (9) marshals his men as Cambray prepare for a free kick

This was almost followed by a repeat performance but the keeper pouched the ball long before Ian could reach it. After further efforts from Ian Jones, when one questioned where the rest of the forwards were, Cambray turned the screw. Having had a corner on their right, which was cleared after the ball spent a period bobbling around, NCC took the ball up field. Here its movement was reversed and a well-flighted pass was sent towards the far post, into an area devoid of players. Cambray’s speedy number seven, Tim Wallace, nipped in to meet this descending delivery. With amazing skill, perhaps tinged with some good fortune, he was able to rifle an unstoppable volley through the extremely narrow gap between James Stevens and his post. Heartbreak for the spirited NCC, and only six minutes after the score had been tied.

NCC are defending a corner. Number 16 Simon Trew has jumped, but the ball has passed him,
  Ian Jones (9)  and the Cambray player (4) are both about to jump

The visitors began pressing for further goals, and won more corners. From one a high cross was met by three jumping players, but the ball ended behind for a goal kick. This was followed by a shot, which sped beyond the post of a goalmouth deserted by all but the keeper. At the other end NCC attacked in numbers, but was denied as more Cambray players sped back to plug any potential gaps. Then the brave visiting keeper took the ball from in front of the heads of Ian Jones and a defender; exciting stuff! Perhaps NCC was fortunate when a player got behind their packed goal area, only to direct the ball behind. Cambray had another corner, poorly taken by their standards. A low flighted delivery was sent across the goal, an area packed with half a dozen defenders but only a brace from the opposition. At the end of the match NCC was awarded a free kick, but this fell nicely for the Cambray keeper to collect, and as the ball was cleared so the contest ended. For the third successive game against this classy team NCC had lost by the odd goal. As Cambray is a team whose players demonstrate great skill, speed and understanding of the game so NCC can feel proud of their plucky performance, especially as the team has lost several experienced players from last season. The man of the match accolade was awarded to Tom Mangan, for his good all-round play, but a special mention must be made of the shining performance shown by the stand-in keeper.

An entertained Michael Wyatt reporting from a pulsating Stade de Prestbury

Game 02 : League Match : 21 September 2013 :
C3 Diamonds  4     North Cheltenham Churches  0

On an overcast day NCC, missing many of their regular players, kicked off this game, playing up the slope. In the opening five minutes Diamonds began to shine, and their speedy forwards mounted a succession of attacks down both wings, and through the middle. These were cleared by the NCC defence, with man of the match, Harry Wilks, making his presence felt from the outset. Against this NCC managed a couple of short-lived visits to the top of the field. Then, on five minutes, Diamonds delivered the ball to their right, where an attacker was able to beat the defenders and send a low volley between Aaron Brown, waiting in front of his left post, and the brace of NCC defenders scurrying towards the middle of the goal. In the next ten minutes the home side created a series of strong attacks but few penetrated into the box; and these were cleared by the defence or else taken by the keeper. At the other end Ian Jones was unable to break out of the top corner.

Diamonds nearly score from a free kick

Approaching a quarter of an hour the hosts were awarded a free-kick, on their right wing, and just outside of the box. The ball, delivered with a low trajectory, sped towards the right hand upright, to a player waiting just beyond it. With only the keeper to beat the ball was headed wide of the NCC post, as all the players stood on and watched. Immediately Diamonds followed this up with an effort, more in hope than venom, which was easily held within the empty NCC box, and a corner, wasted as it was headed down too far out, with only the keeper to beat. Then NCC had a short series of attacks, generated as they came up the left wing; the first ended when Ian Jones headed over the bar, then the ubiquitous Harry Wilks emulated this. Another attempt was pouched by the tall home keeper, bedecked in his dazzling outfit. After this brief period of intensity from NCC their opponents kept up with their forays, readily beating the over-stretched defence. One effort, made down the left, saw a diagonal shot speed beyond the prone body of Aaron Brown, and carry on beyond the far post. Diamonds continued to dominate, gaining another free kick, before they doubled their lead, after twenty-five minutes. In a déjà vu situation the speedy number nine came down the left, totally unchallenged, and sped towards goal as defenders rushed back to plug the hole. Approaching the goal he was able to poke the ball between the keeper and the post, to heighten the mountain which NCC was now facing.

NCC successfully defend a corner

Following scrambles at each end Diamonds nearly scored again when the ball was sent over the bar. This was followed by NCC successfully defending two weakly-taken corners. Then NCC had another visit up-field with a solo run from Ian Jones; but without support he was dispossessed, and finished up-ended as the ball was cleared. NCC created two more runs into the top corner; the first resulted in the keeper holding a shot, and the second gained them a free-kick. Well-taken by Tom Mangan the ball descended into a packed goal area, but eventually it was sent wide of the marooned keeper, and also wide of the post. In the last ten minutes of the half the home side demonstrated their superiority, but failed to take any of the many opportunities they created. One saw the ball cleared off the line by a defender and another saw a long range attempt pass wide of the target. NCC had a great chance from a corner; again taken by Tom Mangan. A beautiful delivery was met by Simon Trew, but his header was directed straight towards the keeper, who was able to take the ball, with great aplomb, above his head. The final few minutes saw an upsurge in pressure from the Diamonds, who created a whole series of dashing runs, winning a corner but also demonstrating their lack of polish, or possible over-eagerness.

New boy, and man of the match Harry Wilks, just heads the ball wide

It was a more determined NCC in the second half, and for the opening fifteen minutes they held their own. Although Diamonds initiated the opening attack play rotated up and down, and NCC had a shot pass wide of goal. In another effort an assured defender headed the ball into space, for the fearless home keeper to collect in front of Ian Jones. The home side had a shot well saved by Aaron Brown in front of goal and another sent wide. Then, in the sixty-fourth minute, Diamonds made another sparkling move which led them to score. Moving up their right they switched play to the left, and the ball fell to number nine, Richard Hartley, positioned in front of the post. Controlling the ball he was able to guide it between the keeper and the far post, with the three NCC defenders behind him completely powerless, as was the unfortunate James Stevens running in too late. Within two minutes the home side was awarded a penalty, following a push, and so created an unassailable lead, although over twenty minutes of the game still remained.

Awarded a free kick the effort was saved by the Diamonds’ keeper, jumping up in front of the far corner. It was now that we saw the best football from NCC, who created several half-chances, one which resulted in both Harry Wilks, and the home keeper, lying on the ground. Some of the players from both sides got overheated, resulting in two members of the NCC team being booked. Although NCC had players in depth they were not quick enough to catch two fleet forwards, but fortunately for the visitors the ball was sent behind, for a corner. Then NCC was down at the other end, where the endeavour was held by the colourful home keeper. Back up the field a trio of Diamonds saw their effort saved, perhaps fortuitously, by Aaron Brown. Packing the goal area NCC was able to see off this attack, before another visit down-field enabled Diamonds to come at them again. A series of corners were denied, and a long-range attempt went wide. Then NCC gained a corner which resulted in Oliver Lynott-May sending his effort over the bar, allowing the hosts to venture up to the other end. Here Richard Hartley was denied by the NCC defence, and his undertaking sped just wide. NCC had two further chances to score; James Stevens saw his enterprise saved and Ambrogio Coletti sent his shot wide, and the game ended. Despite the shortage of regular players I think this was one of the most disappointing performances from NCC which I have seen in quite a long time.

NCC defending

A depressed Michael Wyatt reporting from Naunton Park

Game 01 : League Match : 14 September 2013 :
North Cheltenham Churches  6        Tewkesbury  1

This game began in persistent drizzle, but as it progressed so the sun made an appearance, to brighten up a winning start by NCC, and give a thrill to the new players on debut. The team played their opening game of the new season against Tewkesbury Trinity Tigers, who had re-entered the league after a year out. The Tigers took centre but it was NCC who made the early attacks, and Andy Hill had a good run which saw the ball put out for a corner; the corner was headed behind for a goal kick. Soon after this Ian Jones sent a shot scurrying along the ground, and all watched as it rolled, tantalisingly, by an empty goalmouth, and continued, to finish on the wrong side of the post. Sandwiched between this, and at the other end of the field, the Tigers sent an effort over the bar. After ten minutes Andy Hill made another good run up the right wing, and passed the ball to Ian Jones. Pursued by two predatory Tigers he continued straight towards the middle of the goal area, where his shot was parried by the keeper, kneeling forward to make contact. This allowed an alert Ian to follow up, and send the rebound forcefully into the back of the net, and so open the scoring.

An alert Ian Jones sends a rebound ball forcefully into the back of the net, and so open the scoring.

In the next ten minutes NCC had several more penetrating attacks, with Andy Murton having a great effort closed down in front of goal by the brave keeper. Winning four successive corners play hovered around the Tigers’ goal area. Then the fourth corner was taken and a high diagonal ball was delivered with great precision towards Ian Jones, standing towards the edge of the six-yard box. As the ball descended so Ian rose, to send a perfectly timed header beyond all, and into the net. From the restart the ball was taken downfield, allowing the opposition a brief visit to the other end. As NCC was on the attack again so the Tigers’ keeper made two great saves in rapid succession, from Jon Whitlock and Andrew Murton. Then Andy Hill had a shot which rebounded off the legs of the keeper, rather fortuitously, back to Andy, who was alert enough to shoot the rebound into the net. Although the Tigers made brief visits into NCC’s half, they were unable to keep control of the ball as the hosts packed their defence with players, at times half a dozen filling the danger area.

NCC defend their goal

In the last twenty minutes of the opening half NCC created further chances, including a long range effort from Andy Hill, which was well held by the keeper, and another which sailed serenely over the bar. Shortly before half time Peter Vaughan-Shaw made a dazzling solo run, outstripping two defenders, and was denied twice; firstly when his initial shot was pushed away by the keeper, and then as he sent the rebound skimming over the bar with the keeper down on one knee. Moments later Peter was stopped again as he sped up the right wing. On the stroke of half time another NCC attack, again up the right, gained a throw-on. The ball was met by Jon Whitlock, waiting at the corner of the six-yard box, and he delivered a stunning header which propelled the ball high into the net, with the opposition players rooted to the spot. As the whistle went so NCC was sitting on a comfortable lead against an inexperienced team.


The second half was a much quieter period, but it began in a bizarre way. NCC started the play and passed the ball between their players, before a back-pass was sent towards the keeper. Inexplicably he missed the ball and so had the embarrassing job of retrieving it from the back of the net! Playing down the gentle slope NCC had a diagonal shot run past the keeper, who was again down on his knees and so helpless as he saw the ball speed beyond his post. Then the situation was quite different as NCC scored twice in the next ten minutes. Andrew Murton scored first, when his diagonal effort, from just outside the penalty area, bulged the corner of the net. Then Peter Vaughan-Shaw running down the right wing shrugged off a defender and rifled a high ball towards goal. It arched over the keeper and landed in the far corner of the net, a fair reward for his earlier hard working efforts.

NCC clear the  ball

NCC miss an opportunity to score

Now the visitors created a series of more penetrating attacks, winning a corner and having a shot well saved by Aaron Brown. In the next fifteen minutes NCC had several more chances but was denied by the opposition keeper, who continued to make good saves or else sent the ball behind for a goal kick. NCC did have the ball in the net but the effort was disallowed for offside. In the last quarter of the match each side had several attacks although these did not produce any real chances. Ian Jones, man of the match, came closest on a few occasions as he strove hard to complete what would have been a well-deserved hat-tick. The closing minutes saw the most exciting play as the teams switched from one end to the other. The only difference was the skill of the Tigers’ keeper, who had an exemplary game with a succession of fine saves. As the final whistle went NCC had done more than enough to make a winning start to the season but the Tigers can take heart from their plucky performance as well.

Once more NCC are on the attack

A jolly-happy Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury

Match reports from 2012-13 season

Match reports from 2011-12 season

Match reports from 2010-11 season

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!


New players are always welcome

The Parochial Church Council of the Ecclesiastical Parish of St Mary and St Nicolas Prestbury Cheltenham - Registered Charity No 1130933

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Last modified: 29 January 2015