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North Cheltenham Churches Football Team

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

We review the 2014-15 season

We have been asked to write an article for the Prestbury Parish Magazine, and so we have been reminiscing and collating some interesting statistics. Michael started reporting on NCC from their very first game in the Church Football League, on 9 September 2006. Since then NCC has played 188 matches; of those we have missed twenty, which gives us an attendance record just shy of 90%. During the past nine years we have written well over 150,000 words and taken over 58,000 photographs; both records do not include those most thankful contributions from team-members who have covered for us when we were unable to report on games.

Since September 2014 we find that NCC has used 37 different players, demonstrating the difficulties of fielding a consistent team; this is reflected in the results. The total playing time for all of NCC’s 24 matches amounted to 2211 minutes; and nine players were on the field for at least half of this time. Harry Styman achieved the longest playing aggregative by clocking up just over 87% of the total time, closely followed by Charlie Davidson (85%) and Tom Burns (82%) as the top three.

During the past season we have visited Cheltenham, Evesham, Tewkesbury, Upton on Severn, Cirencester and Quedgeley, clocking up over 200 miles; thankfully much of this was shared with Stephen Murton. Further fascinating data arise; in the league NCC has never beaten Cambray here at Prestbury, and only once away. Of the eighteen games played against both Diamonds and St Matthews one in three have resulted in draws; but only one game has been goalless; away to Cheltenham Trinity in 2012. A 4-4 draw has been achieved three times, and eight games have seen ten or more goals scored, a veritable feast for the neutral spectator.

Commenting on the two dozen matches played since September 2014 we feel the worst result must be the 6-0 defeat suffered at Quedgeley; albeit with a somewhat mixed team. Not far behind must come the defeat at then-bottom of the table Tewkesbury Tigers, worsened by a team member breaking his collar-bone and another taking him to hospital. However, to end on a happier note, we feel NCC’s best result was taking a point at the run-away leaders St John’s, Cirencester; the first home game they did not win. Topping this, as the season’s best match, must be the 7-1 victory over Diamonds. NCC was in a never to forget mode, the team was superior in all departments throughout the match; a game for which we run out of superlatives! Matches are won by both scoring and stopping goals, and to finish we offer a selection of four which we consider were the season’s best. In fourth place are four volleys, all spectacular long-range efforts from James Stevens, Patrick Gardner, Andrew Murton and Harry Styman. Third place was a toss-up between a lob from Ian Jones, which flew over the keeper’s head, and a header from Patrick Gardner, as he leapt clear of four defenders, to beat the Diamonds keeper. However, a clear winner and top of our list is the wonderful goal scored by Ian Jones, at Cirencester. Here his initial effort was well saved by the diving keeper but from the ensuing corner Ian out-jumped everyone to nod home a devastating effort.

We say well done and thank you to all concerned with NCC, wish a happy holiday to all and look forward to another season of Nippy Controlled Class.

Michael & Edward Wyatt

Game 24: League Match: 25 April 2015:
NCC  1     Upton Cornerstone  3

This is a brief report of the match as the usual reporters were away, and no one has provided the promised write-up!

NCC see off a resolute attack from Upton Cornerstone

NCC hosted Upton Cornerstone in their final match of the season. This was an exciting game with play switching from one end to the other, allowing the respective keepers little time for rest. In a ten-minute period, either side of the half hour, NCC conceded a brace of goals; thereafter the team was always playing catch-up.

James Stevens sends an effort to Andrew Murton

NCC’s hard work paid off early in the second half when Andrew Murton pulled a goal back. Given encouragement by this the hosts made a series of penetrating runs, and threatened on several occasions. However NCC was always going to find scoring difficult against the packed defence of Upton Cornerstone. Several aerial attempts were made by the home team, most notably by Simon Trew. At the other end Kyle Hopper made one brilliant save as he reached up and parried the ball with his right hand, and so diverted it from the head of a rising opposition player. Upton Cornerstone sealed victory ten minutes from time, leaving NCC looking at a sad score-line.

Another hard pressed NCC attack is thwarted

Simon Trew and an Upton Cornerstone defender both jump for the ball, watched by the eagle-eyed ref

Kyle Hopper jumps up to make a brilliant one-handed save

Game 23: League Match: 18 April 2015:
North Cheltenham Churches  2     St Matthews  1

NCC deliver the ball, following a free kick, into the St Matthews goal area

On a beautiful sunny morning capped by a blue sky, but marred by a stiff chilly breeze, NCC hosted local rivals St Matthews on the ground they share, in their penultimate game of the season. In the opening fifteen minutes play was evenly distributed in a match which rotated at a fast pace, and both keepers were kept busy. The St Matthews keeper held two chances and saw a further NCC effort go wide; in turn Kyle Hopper jumped to make his first save and followed this by gathering the ball at the edge of the six-yard box. In another move the visitors, pushing the ball to their left, gained a free kick on the edge of the area. A rather weak and low shot beat the four-man wall but was well saved by the keeper as he stooped to collect the ball. In the ensuing fifteen minutes NCC saw the opposition keeper take several efforts, including one from long-range and then NCC spoilt a corner by conceding a free kick. At the other end Kyle Hopper made at least three saves, and was well supported by the NCC defence.

Under a blue sky St Matts are about to launch an attack

In the final part of this half St Matthews created a prolonged attack which saw them come down in numbers, and, in a tightly-packed goal area, a valiant header crossed the corner of the post before a loose effort was easily taken by the keeper. Ian Jones was denied twice in quick succession, the second time after his solo effort was pushed out as defenders rushed back, resulting in his shot going wide. Approaching the interval Harry Styman was felled, and NCC gained a free-kick from just outside the area. Harry sent over a beautiful flighted ball, which sped towards the empty corner, evading the badly positioned six-man wall. To a man they were able to turn, and watch their keeper, alert to the situation, move rapidly to his right. Then he dived and stretched out his right hand, to push the ball behind; a brilliant finger-tip save. After this corner was headed out so the goalless half came to an end; a second successive game which saw a blank half.

The St Matts keeper moves to his right and pushes the ball away

NCC restarted the game and a long ball was sent into the area behind the St Matthews defence, which had come up too far. The ball was well controlled by Ian Jones, who saw the keeper hovering along his line. Ian sent over a high delivery which descended rapidly beyond the transfixed keeper, and crashed into the back of his net. This after thirty seconds; a sensational start, and just the tonic NCC needed.

Ian Jones lobs the keeper who could only watch the ball hit the back of the net    1-0

For the next twenty minutes NCC dominated the game, and mounted a series of attacks down both wings, with several attempts going wide. The team could have caused more havoc if their attacks had greater fire-power; too often they were undermanned. The visitors made only brief visits to the other end, and one of these was wasted as they conceded a free kick. Again NCC sped down their right, catching the Saints’ defence out of position. Déjà vu, as Harry spotted the keeper, all alone and standing at the edge of his six-yard box, almost opposite the post. Coolly Harry lifted the ball and watched its parabolic arc traverse all, as it sped towards goal. The ball passed over the keeper at great speed, and height, to continue into the back of the net. Another well-taken goal, made easier as the visiting defence had gone walkabouts!

NCC have their corner defended and cleared by St Matthews

NCC created a string of attacks, with several shots aimed goalwards. The busy Saints’ keeper took one at the second attempt, booted another up-field and saw a further effort swamped by his defence. St Matthews were struggling to make any real attack as their runs to the other end were few and far between. The visitors, usually favouring their left flank, came up the other wing. In this passage of play the ball, not properly cleared by NCC, was moved to the left. As players went to take possession a high ball was nodded behind the home keeper, rushing out to intercept, and fell into the empty NCC net. This led to a nerve-racking final quarter of an hour.

In a crowded goal area St Matthews denied NCC, and then Kyle Hopper took a catch as play rotated at a fast pace again. NCC had a great chance when a shot from Steve Cipriani, sent from outside the area, was pushed away by the keeper, who then managed to grab the ball before Ian Jones could pounce. NCC seemed to be able to thwart the Saints at every opportunity, as exemplified when Cain Thomas, sat on the ground, was able to poke the ball away from beneath the feet of a brace of opposition players. In the final minutes St Matthews created some strong attacks, and won three quick corners. From one they had everyone up, including the keeper, but the ball was sent behind.
When the final whistle was blown NCC had recorded their first-ever home win against St Matthews, although the away statistics show a balanced three wins, three draws and three defeats.

A delighted Michael Wyatt reporting from a sundrenched Stade de Prestbury

Game 22: League Match: 11 April 2015:
Cambray  2    North Cheltenham Churches  0

Players in the opening minute - just look at the trees

On a beautiful spring morning spoilt by a cold wind NCC visited Cambray for their antepenultimate game of the season. Cambray kicked off and was immediately on the attack as they sped up the left and then crossed the ball. Despite the NCC defence getting into a bit of a tangle the chance was well held by Kyle Hopper. This was followed by another attack before NCC went down the left and saw their ensuing shot pushed behind for a corner; eventually tidied up by the home keeper. Then the hosts managed to get behind the NCC defence but their effort was caught by the opposition keeper. Cambray mounted two more quick breaks which were denied as NCC defended in numbers. The visitors were awarded a free kick, from about halfway, but this was wasted as the long-range effort was delivered into the opponents’ goal area before any attacking players could arrive, and thus was cleared so easily. Cambray created a series of attacks but all came to nought as they shot over the bar or had their efforts taken by Kyle Hopper; one catch was made as he reached up, balancing on his right leg. The wind created a few problems as Cambray found when their corner went direct into the side netting.

NCC on the attack but the keeper had the ball covered

After the initial thirty minutes the play became more open and rotated from end to end. The hosts defended well, and in depth, and from one NCC attack their keeper was able to reach out and coolly take a catch. Then a lone Cambray forward penetrated the thin NCC defence, circumvented both defender and keeper, and saw the empty goalmouth yawning in front of him; inexplicably his effort missed! Cambray had a second corner which was also sent behind, again probably due to the strong breeze. NCC made several visits downfield; one saw a strike from Calvin Langdon-Bates saved as Ian Jones was rushing forward. Another NCC shot was well caught by the keeper as he jumped and reached up to grab the ball with Ian Jones again rushing towards the empty net. As the opening half drew to its goalless conclusion Cambray had another corner. NCC was fortunate as the cross saw a valiant effort headed behind, narrowly missing the post; but the visitors had put up a brave performance.

NCC have a corner and send the ball high

In the opening five minutes of the second half NCC was under siege as Cambray unleashed a relentless series of blistering attacks. Two efforts were cleared by the boot of Kyle Hopper and another shot just passed above the right-hand corner of the NCC goal. Then the visitors managed a break to the other end, and gained a corner. In a tightly-packed area the delivery sped beyond the attackers, and the chance was easily cleared by the hosts. NCC made a couple of further attempts before Cambray regained possession, charged down the left and then sent a cross towards the far post, where a solitary forward awaited. In a bizarre sequence he defied three NCC defenders, each rushing in after the other. All the time their keeper was unsighted, and by now poorly positioned when the shot was made; enabling Cambray to take the lead. Although NCC made several attacks most were quickly stifled when the few players were swamped by superior numbers. Cambray demonstrated the potential of a quick break when a diving header was sent towards goal, but Kyle Hopper was alert to the situation. NCC had two free kicks, the second saw the home keeper instinctively stick out a boot and so divert the ball behind for a corner. Although the six-yard box was packed with a dozen players only four were attackers. Influenced by the wind the quickly-taken corner struck the side-netting, the third time in the game from this position.

General play

Entering the final quarter of the match Cambray created a great chance as they attempted to back-head the ball into the net, but the NCC defence remained solid, and cleared the effort. The visitors nearly conceded a goal when their defence almost lost the ball to an opportunistic hunter who charged in for the kill. NCC had one shot cross the bar and another, from Andrew Murton, was blocked by the keeper’s legs. Play rotated rapidly as we witnessed end to end football, but Cambray was becoming more assertive. One effort, down their left, saw Kyle Hopper gather the ball from under the noses of a couple of forwards, and then Cambray stopped a nascent NCC attack. With six minutes remaining Cambray again had their goalscorer in front of the right-hand post. As he controlled the ball an NCC defender chased back and Kyle Hopper sped forward to meet him. Eluding both he had the straightforward job of pushing the ball into the now-empty net, to seal a decisive victory for the hosts. There was time for each side to mount another attack; that from Cambray was sent over the bar. Thus ended the match; a game in which Cambray triumphed following their better use of both players and positions.

NCC defend successfully an attempted header from Cambray

A woeful Michael Wyatt reporting from The Burrows

Game 21: League Match: 4 April 2015:
St Andrew's  5    NCC  4

This is a brief report of the match as the usual reporters were away, and no one has provided the promised write-up!

NCC successfully defend a corner within the opening five minutes

Moments later NCC are on the attack

Cain Thomas attempts to head the ball backwards to a solitary NCC attacker in the box

NCC visited Innsworth to play St Andrews on their beautiful tree-lined pitch. Unfortunately they lost a high-scoring thriller by the odd goal in nine; this after an exciting and pulsating game when the lead changed four times. Andrew Murton opened the scoring inside the first ten minutes, but this was followed by a difficult period when the hosts scored twice in a four-minute spell. On the half hour Steve Cipriani restored parity but then St Andrews managed to take a half-time lead.

The second half is underway beside fine silver birch trees

Five NCC attackers and nine defenders line up for the corner taken by Harry Styman

Almost from the restart Andrew Murton scored his second goal of the match, and again the score was tied, at three each. Within ten minutes the hosts had scored two further goals, and their defence ensured NCC was kept out; at least for twenty minutes when Aaron Batchelor opened his account for the visitors, and this set up an exciting finale for the game. Try as they might NCC could not snatch a draw although they created one brave effort in a goalmouth tussle which saw the box packed with a dozen players.


Game 20 : League Match : 28 March 2015 :
North Cheltenham Churches  2     Trinity & Quedgeley  3

On an overcast morning, punctuated with persistent showers and encouraged by a blustery and strong wind, NCC kicked off their 150th league game. Under fire from the beginning the team got off to a bad start, in the fourth minute. After surviving a succession of determined attacks T&Q came down and a forward drove a long low effort towards the keeper, the solitary defender at the back. Despite a desperate dive the ball eluded Kyle Hopper, and continued on its path into the NCC net. In the ensuing ten minutes NCC dominated proceedings with two shots going wide and another held by the keeper. Quedgeley also had a shot headed wide, and another taken by the home keeper. Approaching a quarter of an hour NCC sped up their left, where the ball fell to Patrick Gardner, positioned just inside the opposition half. Here he unleashed a tremendous right-footed drive, which flew through a crowded bunch of players, and continued, past the keeper, until stopped by the back of the net; a tremendous volley to level the score.

Patrick Gardner unleashes a superb volley to pass through all and enter the net to make the score 1-1

For the next ten minutes the two teams maintained parity, as each side tried to play good football under difficult conditions. NCC sent one effort wide and Andrew Murton was denied as the defence forced him to move to his right. T&Q saw an attempt pouched by Kyle Hopper before NCC witnessed the unsettling experience of déjà vu. Again the visitors came down their right, again Kyle was the solitary defender, as others tried to rush back in vain. With little option the keeper came out, only to see a low volley speed past him and continue into the far corner of the net.

NCC defend a corner

NCC had the better of the twenty minutes of the half remaining, beginning with Ian Jones having his effort saved by the keeper standing by a post. T&Q had two efforts saved before they mounted a persistent occupation of the NCC area; eventually Alex Gray booted a clearance up-field. The hosts had two efforts go behind, including an Ian Jones speciality, the overhead kick, and another nodded back into play. Strangely NCC did have the ball in the net, but, as it was direct from a throw-on, it did not count; if only! They were pressing hard, from both sides of the field, when the ball fell nicely for Andrew Murton, waiting outside the penalty area. From there he unleashed a stunning volley, which flew high before dipping behind the late leap of the keeper. His jump was in vain, but he was able to land and turn, just in time to see the ball crash into the far side of the net. This was the best goal of the game, and came a minute before the interval, thus setting up an interesting second half.

Kyle Hopper attempts to stop the ball

For the opening thirty minutes of the new half NCC was under the cosh as Trinity & Quedgeley monopolised play, and created more than three-quarters of the attacks. NCC did well to survive this onslaught as they saw off a withering offensive; with just a few short-lived jaunts down to the other end themselves. T&Q had several shots which narrowly missed both posts and the bar and another was nimbly saved by Kyle Hopper as he jumped and reached up, diverting the ball with his finger-tips. As he landed so he caught the descending ball with much aplomb and great dexterity. The visitors won a free kick, which was well cleared, enabling NCC to mount their best attack of this half.

All watch as the NCC keeper juggles with the ball

As we entered the final ten minutes so Trinity & Quedgeley won a corner, out on their right wing. NCC had numerous players inside their six-yard box as the ball was delivered about knee-high. It came to the edge of this box, where the visitors had more players. Three NCC team members ran to the solitary attacker who had the ball, and these players all tussled for possession. It was T&Q who triumphed, enabling the attacker to break free, find space and shoot. The ball rocketed by all and crashed into the far corner; a stunning blow as the visitors took the lead for the third, and final, time. Then followed a series of attacks at each end, and NCC strove much harder, but without success. They had a series of threatening assaults, the last saw the keeper push the ball away as he crouched down, and then the final whistle was blown.

NCC's enthusiasm allows T&Q time and space to poach the winning goal

A speechless and slightly damp Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury.

Game 19: League Match: 21 March 2015:
St John’s Cirencester  1    North Cheltenham Churches  1

On an overcast day tempered by a cold wind NCC kicked off this match against the current league leaders Cirencester, unbeaten all season. From the very start St John’s tore down both wings and converged on the NCC goal. Here they were met with determined resistance from Tom Burns and Simon Trew, and the resultant poke towards goal was easily saved by James Stevens, as he had his first touch of the ball. Almost immediately Ian Jones led an attack up the NCC right, bursting through a quintet of players strung parallel to the length of the field. Again Cirencester endeavoured to steamroller through the NCC defence, and a weak effort was held by James, ever-alert and standing by the far post. Another gallop down the left was followed by a wayward effort sent behind. More scampering down the wings was manufactured by the hosts, determined to stamp their mark on the game one way or another. NCC produced individual brilliance as Steve Cipriani moved the ball around with great skill and Alex Gray constantly harassed the maroon marauders as they burst down the field. St John’s won a corner on their left and sent over a low hard cross. This was headed clear in a masterly fashion as Simon Trew out-jumped two attackers, both were left standing! Accompanied by loud appeals and noisy protestations Cirencester was awarded a second corner, from the opposite side. Amidst a goal area crowded with at least sixteen players the ball was cleared. NCC was able to create very few, and only fleeting, attacks in this early stage of the game. After a further advance was seen off Steve Cipriani led a great solo run up the right, and the ball was passed to Alex Gray. The clearance was booted downfield where a trio of Cirencester players sprinted behind the NCC defence and headed towards goal. They were denied by a cool save from James Stevens, who held the ball in front of a lively player. NCC made a rare run up the left, but lost the ball in a brief period when each team had possession. Then the maroon marauders had a free kick, a few yards beyond the penalty area. This was wasted as an audacious effort sailed way over the bar. James sent the ball up field but the NCC effort was held by the home keeper. He sent the ball to his left and a trio of fleet-footed forwards hurtled down field, left, right and centre, outpacing the NCC defence. The ball was crossed and re-crossed, and subsequently headed down into the right of the NCC net. With self-adulation from the scorers NCC was rather stunned as their opponents had taken an early lead, on fourteen minutes.

From the restart play flowed along the NCC right, and St John’s won a corner. A lofted ball was sent out, for a new corner from the other side. A high ball was sent to players waiting on the edge of the six-yard box. A sharp header was sent towards the goal, but James Stevens made yet another brave save as he out-jumped a Cirencester player and coolly grabbed the ball as he reached up. Kiko Silva weaved his magic as he dribbled across the field, delightfully and skilfully eluding the outstretched left leg of an opposition team member. Play hovered amid the centre before an enthusiastic run and speculative shot from outside of the area saw James Stevens make a well-taken save. At the other end Ian Jones saw his solo effort denied as the keeper reached the ball first, and then Steve Cipriani sent a shot over the bar as NCC began to open up more. In a fast-moving game it appeared that both Ian Jones and Andrew Murton were impeded as play hovered around the far side, and the hosts gained another corner. Amid pushing inside the box NCC was able to clear the corner as a very high ball was sent in.

Andrew Murton and Calvin Langdon-Bates were denied after they had broken through the home defence, before another NCC effort was aptly booted out by a solid defender. NCC launched a further attack, and with parity in numbers Ian Jones sent his effort over the bar. Cirencester gained a corner and had a long-range boot of the ball into space easily collected by James Stevens, the lone defender. Play continued to rotate up and down the field, mainly on the right-wing of NCC. Cirencester seemed to be relying on rapid individual breaks, but their early efforts were well pouched by the visiting keeper. NCC had one free kick, where the resulting shot again cleared the bar, as did another from deep inside their half. St John’s mounted a further effort whence a low volley hit the NCC post, and rebounded back into play before going behind for a corner. Their consecutive corners were denied by the ebullience of the NCC defence. A minute before the interval NCC launched a run up their right. With attacking players to his left Ian Jones flowed through a crowded goal area. From opposite the right-hand post he unleashed a fierce low drive, but, down on his knee, this was diverted behind by the home keeper as he made a wonderful save. The area was packed with players, eight from each side, all strung in a line at right-angles to the goal. The corner, taken by Calvin Langdon-Bates, saw a beautifully-directed curling and rising ball sent over. Tom Mangan and an opposition player both jumped, but the ball eluded them. However, further back, standing on the edge of the six-yard box, was Ian Jones. Although surrounded by defending players he rose above all like a rocket. Then, at his apogee, we witnessed an explosive demonstration of timing and power as he reached forward and propelled the ball downwards. With the speed of an Exocet the ball flew between the man guarding the far post and the keeper, who thought he had all the angles covered. As the keeper was still rising, right hand reaching up even higher, the ball was already bulging the back of the net. This made Ian the only NCC player to have scored against each of the current teams in this league. Really this was no more than NCC deserved, and it set up a thrilling second half.

Ian Jones weaves through a packed defence


Ian Jones unleashes a diagonal shot only for the keeper to deflect it with his fingers for a corner


Calvin Langdon-Bates is about to send over the ensuing corner


Ian Jones jumps higher than anyone else and sends a well-timed header towards the goal


Ian Jones was so quick, the ball is already bulging the net and the keeper is still rising

Cirencester restarted the new half but lost the ball as NCC mounted a determined attack, when the hosts gave away a free kick, as Steve Cipriani was felled. Again NCC sped down the wing and got behind some of the defence, but no one was able to put away the delicate cross, and so a bit of a let-off for St John’s. Successive attacks, one from each side, were stopped early on, before the maroon marauders gained a corner. A dangerous delivery, about head high and close to the goal line, was sent narrowly over the bar. For some minutes NCC dominated the game, aided by the hosts giving away a number of needless free kicks for what could be described as over-zealous play. From one such free kick Kiko Silva delivered a beautiful low diagonal ball, which dipped the wrong side of the bar, a bit to one side would have resulted in a stunning score. Stung into action a lone forward sped up the left, but was harassed by Simon Trew and denied as James Stevens ran out to take the ball.

In the next fifteen minutes NCC continued to have much the better of play; again helped as the hosts were losing their heads and gave away a number of free kicks and stepped up their aggressive complaints for almost every decision. Unfortunately NCC wasted the majority of these free gifts! One from Tom Burns was deflected across an empty Cirencester goal area and sped behind. The resulting corner saw the hosts put under some pressure before a shot re-crossed the area and went out. NCC came down the right and entered the goal area again but the shot from Calvin Langdon-Bates was denied. The visitors charged down the other wing where a cross was held by the keeper as he jumped off the ground, taken just before Ian Jones arrived. NCC won a free kick and Calvin Langdon-Bates posted an excellent ball into the edge of the area. With only the keeper guarding his goal Ian Jones unleashed a volley but the goalie made a brilliant diving stop to deny him. We did see St John’s advance and break through the middle of the NCC defence but the resulting shot was well-saved by James Stevens. NCC won another free kick but this was delivered directly into the hands of the keeper, as was an effort from Ian Jones moments later. They gained a corner but, in the excitement of the game, the resulting effort was misdirected, and sped behind the goal.

As the teams entered the final fifteen minutes so the match came back to life as the hosts realised their one-hundred percent home record was in danger. Play flowed vigorously from end to end, and Cirencester had players assembled for a quick break. One such occurrence was seen off, but only after two NCC defenders were on the ground, with an attacker gesticulating fiercely for a foul! It was not all one-way traffic but NCC advanced with reduced manpower, even though wide open spaces were available. St John’s fired a long range shot which grazed the crossbar as it went behind for a goal kick, and James Stevens made four good saves in quick time, one when he took the ball at the edge of his box. A three-man NCC attack was denied as they spent too long in an attempt to get into a good shooting position. The final throw of the game saw the hosts take two consecutive corners, but they were cleared successfully; the first saw Patrick Gardner cover with a powerful and demonstrative header.

As the full time whistle was blown the NCC players must have felt the euphoria of the dramatic result; it was a marvellous battling performance under difficult conditions, but for the spectators the game was marred by the attitude exhibited by several in the St John’s team.

An overjoyed Michael Wyatt reporting from the Kingshill Skate Park.

Game 18: League Match: 14 March 2015:
North Cheltenham Churches  0      St Andrews  5

On a chilly morning, exacerbated by a tantalising cold wind, NCC kicked off this match, hoping to bounce back from last week’s disappointing cup result. In the opening fifteen minutes play was evenly balanced as both sides alternately attacked and defended. During this period NCC gained two corners, but neither posed any real threat, and had a phase when their opponents’ area was filled with more than half of the players on the field! On the other hand, or foot, St Andrews attacked in both numbers and pace, reminiscent of a high-speed express. They came up each wing, as well as through the centre, and had two shots sent high and wide of the target. Then St Andrews mounted another fast flowing attack, and had a throw-on. A quickly-taken ball was received by an attacker who dribbled up the middle, beating a few players en route, before shooting a low effort past James Stevens in goal; prone, he could only watch as the ball ended in the far corner of the net.

NCC are on the attack

Following this goal the hosts created a series of unsuccessful attacks, and perhaps could consider themselves unlucky when one of their diagonal efforts hit the head of a defender; unwittingly he made a great block! Then, for a brief period, St Andrews produced a succession of probing runs, forcing James Stevens to make one good save and then they sent another attempt wide. NCC sped down-field, but was forced out towards the touch-line; nearing the corner they sent over a low shot but it passed behind the goal. A later attack saw an NCC effort returned by a defender in yet another tightly packed area of play. Then the hosts won a free kick, but this was delivered too wide for anyone to collect. On thirty-five minutes a good pass sent an opposition attacker clean through, and he sped towards an empty goal area. With only one option James Stevens came out, but the forward demonstrated his talent as he dribbled round the NCC keeper and slotted the ball into an empty net.

NCC are pressing hard in the opposition's goal

In the remaining ten minutes of the half NCC was stagnant, especially in attack, with only Ian Jones endeavouring to manufacture something. In one solo effort he entered the six-yard box and tried to power a shot as he turned; the effort narrowly going by the post. Almost immediately he slipped on a wet patch near the goal line and was then crowded out in another busy goalmouth scramble. Between these efforts the visitors scored again when another run outpaced the NCC defence, and a cross was coolly volleyed beyond the hapless James Stevens; 0-3. As the half drew to a close another foray saw James confronting an attacker in a one-on-one situation. Standing his ground James waited, and then reacted like greased-lightning as his opponent lifted the ball upwards. With his body arched backwards James reached up and grabbed the ball, and then proceeded to clutch it to his chest as he maintained his balance and composure; a fantastic reflex save!

Ian Jones tries a shot at goal

In the opening five minutes of the second half St Andrews scored twice, to transform their impregnable lead into a certain match-winning one. A forward sped down the right, and as the home defence was rushing back a long low diagonal ball was sent in, and ended in the near corner of the goal. Having seen off a brief NCC visitation the opposition replicated this move, and set up a second quick break, again down their right, where another long low diagonal ball traversed a vacant goal area and entered the far corner of the empty NCC net. Now St Andrews was rampant, and dominated the next ten minutes, sending two shots over the bar and another past the upright. A further attack was denied by solid defensive work and James Stevens stopped the next with his boots. NCC’s only effort of note saw a shot go wide of the visitors’ post.


The middle third of this half saw fewer attacks, but those created were of a longer duration as the ball was moved around the field of play more; this was a period in which NCC dominated, just, but good defensive work against a depleted home attack cancelled this out. Ian Jones and Andrew Murton tried to manufacture some shots and Calvin Langdon-Bates had a couple of probing solo runs, but all were denied by the depth and skills of the defence. At the other end the visitors again had a shot sent over, but they were denied twice by the sterling efforts of James Stevens. The first attempt was possibly rather fortuitous as a lone speedy attacker, faced by the lone static keeper, sent in an early effort. As James fell the ball was caught by his knees, and he was able to hold it as the attacker sped by. A second great save was made as James was lying on his left side, just beyond a post, where he grabbed the ball from off the boots of an attacker who had got behind the home defence.

NCC defend a corner

As we entered the final fifteen minutes of the game St Andrews had another effort sent wide. In turn NCC posted a high shot, and Ian Jones endeavoured to chip the keeper, but this too crossed the bar. Then St Andrews spent some four minutes camped inside the NCC box. They gained a corner from their right, and then two more from the opposite side. Unable to clear the ball NCC conceded a fourth consecutive corner, before the danger passed, when the ball was cleared up-field. NCC was unable to capitalise on a free kick, and it was left to St Andrews to have the final stab, the ball being sent behind. On such a cold day it must have been a relief all round when the final whistle was blown, ending another disappointing performance from NCC; for whom the game was over by half time. Let us hope the team improves before their next match, against runaway league leaders and new-boys of St John’s, Cirencester; next Saturday.

Man of the match Adam Slade shows his versatility as he attempts to head clear another attack from St Andrews

A despairing Michael Wyatt reporting from Stade de Prestbury.

Game 17 :  Plate Match : 07 March 2015
Upton Cornerstone 2     North Cheltenham Churches 1

On a beautiful spring morning NCC travelled north, to Upton upon Severn, to play in the quarter finals of the plate cup. This competition involves those teams who were knocked out of the opening round of the main cup tournament. Although Upton Cornerstone kicked off NCC mounted the initial attack as the game set off at a fast pace. This was followed by a series of quick probing runs from the hosts; the first saw James Stevens collect the ball from the edge of his area before NCC defended a trio of corners, taken in quick succession. Then NCC gained a free kick and a corner, and Patrick Gardner had a shot whizz past the upright as NCC created some pressure. The visitors had another free kick; this time from the right-hand edge of the opposition’s box, and the ball was sent into the goal area where Harry Wilks made a great attempt to head home. NCC spent some more time attacking before Upton again sped along a wing. Winning a corner the ball was eventually cleared by NCC, who then had a speculative stab sent high and wide. Another NCC effort went down the right where Tom Mangan had his endeavour taken by the keeper as he came to the edge of the box. Approaching the twenty-fifth minute NCC was awarded a free kick, from inside the centre circle. Harry Wilks delivered a beautiful ball into the six-yard area. Barry Styman headed the ball, which went towards the top corner of the goal, with the keeper moving to intercept. In the confusion the ball, keeper, a brace of defenders and Charlie Davidson all moved towards the centre of the net; in the ensuing melee Charlie stroked the ball into the far corner, and NCC had taken the lead!

Charlie Davidson is about to score from the rebound

NCC defend a corner in a packed goalmouth

Almost from the restart NCC had another free kick; déjà vu. Again Barry Styman was waiting just in front of the goal, but the opportunity was denied by the keeper. Upton mounted another assault along the other wing, where James Stevens made a determined save as he came out. Then the hosts had another corner, on their left. Initially this was controlled by a forward before James Stevens smothered the ball as he threw himself on top of it, to make yet another brave save. Upton Cornerstone mounted a series of determined attacks as the interval beckoned. Tom Mangan did a sterling job as he won the ball from another forward, this after a desperate tussle in the top left-hand corner of the pitch. NCC spent little time at the other end, when they did they conceded a free kick. The resulting shot, and another almost immediately after, were both safely gathered by James Stevens as he clutched the ball to his chest. NCC found the going tough as their attacks were easily denied, allowing their opponents to speed to the other end. In quick succession James had to snaffle three efforts all directed towards his goal, and other attempts were tidied up by Jack Guest and Matt Brisley. NCC did manage two further attacks, including one penetrating stab from Calvin Langdon-Bates. However, the Severnsiders had the final move of the half, resulting in another take safely gathered in the hands of James Stevens. When the interval whistle was blown NCC still maintained their slender lead in this evenly balanced encounter, although the hosts just tipped the balance in their favour, and would have the benefit of both slope and the sun on their backs after the break. Can NCC hang on and reach the next round of the cup? It will not be easy.

NCC are on the attack

Immediately following the restart James Stevens was the busier keeper as he collected the ball from a couple of attacks. Then NCC, going up their left, saw an effort from Steve Cipriani speed wide of the left-hand post, with the home keeper caught off his line. Moments later, as NCC replicated this, the ball was heading towards the waiting hands of the keeper. However, after a juggling act, he dropped it and the ball bounced towards the line. Eventually turning he grabbed it quickly, leaving me wondering whether the ball had crossed the line! During this period NCC created several attacks, which, although they got behind the Upton defence, were cleared. Following another brief incursion, and the award of a free kick, NCC again came up their left, but the keeper made a successful take as he came to the edge of his area.

Then Upton Cornerstone increased their pressure, and started to dominate proceedings. This began when James Stevens stooped to gather a tentative shot, with his defence left standing. Then they came down the left, and a couple of forwards appealed long and loudly as they were deprived of the ball. Soon after this the hosts were awarded a free kick, from just inside the NCC half. The descending shot was well read by James Stevens, who called for the ball as he ran out to take a successful catch. NCC was awarded a free kick, which the keeper took as he knelt on both knees to ensure no disaster befell him. Then, approaching the seventy-minute mark, another attack from the hosts saw a lone forward get behind the NCC defence. Jumping, he was able to head a high cross diagonally over the inrushing NCC defence, and level the scores, to set up an exciting final twenty minutes.

Upton Cornerstone head home the equalising goal

Following the restart the Severnsiders had a free kick, where a high descending ball was well-taken by James in front of an avid attacker, ably supported by two others, with the NCC defence positioned either side of goal as well. Barry Styman had another shot saved by the keeper as he knelt on both knees near the right-hand post. Upton came down the left and won a corner. Although the ball crossed the area it was safely cleared by Tom Mangan. Charlie Davidson was denied as the keeper, ably supported by another player, grabbed the ball, and at the other end the hosts sent a volley way over the crossbar. Then, in a role reversal, NCC had an attempt sent over the bar and James pouched the ball in front of a rampant forward. Upton Cornerstone had two consecutive corners before Barry Styman had an effort pushed away by the keeper, who finished flat on his face as the ball rolled behind the line. With ten minutes of the match remaining the hosts had another corner. As the ball came over James was ready to take it but the ball was pushed away by a defender. In the resulting melee NCC was alleged to have fouled, resulting in their opponents being awarded a penalty. As the taker lined up his shot so James moved to his left, leaving a wider gap on his other side. It was through this that the ball was sent, ending up in the corner of the net, and potentially sealing a dramatic win for Upton Cornerstone.

NCC defend a corner

The final minutes produced some fast-flowing end-to-end football as each team tried to secure another goal. NCC had an attack headed clear as the home defence rallied before Patrick Gardner, from the edge of the box, sent a powerful volley over the bar. At the other end Upton gained a corner and also sent an effort way over. This excitement continued unabated as NCC pressed hard, winning a corner. Then James Stevens, waiting by his post, made a great parry before the follow-up shot was hit wide, ending the match. In a close encounter this was a disappointing result, especially after last week’s display, but Upton Cornerstone was, arguably, just in front by the narrowest of margins.

A dejected Michael Wyatt reporting from a spring-like Upton upon Severn.

Game 16 : League Match : 28 February 2015 :
North Cheltenham Churches  7     C3 Diamonds  1

Cain Thomas (out of picture) opens the scoring by sending an unstoppable shot through the defence

On a dull morning NCC got their match against Diamonds off to a brilliant start by scoring twice in the opening four minutes! The visitors took centre and sped down their right, but then lost the ball. NCC gained a corner and Barry Styman sent over a high cross towards the edge of the six-yard box. Waiting was Cain Thomas, whose previous game was also against Diamonds. With clear precision he drilled the ball through the keeper and four defenders, to give NCC a dream start. From the restart the ball bobbled around the centre circle, and was sent up-field before it was partially cleared. There, just inside the half, was Francesco Silva, who returned a long lob which, catching the keeper off his line, flew over his head and into the net. This was Francesco’s opening NCC goal, and endorsed the team’s incredible start. Approaching ten minutes the visitors came down their right, and a high descending effort was well taken by James Stevens; this being his first touch of the ball. Moments later they had another attack, this time in numbers, but the resolute NCC defence soon regained possession. NCC forced Diamonds to concede a corner, and then a long low diagonal cross, or was it a shot, sped by the isolated keeper, who had advanced too far; logical as he had no defence. The ball rolled beyond the empty net before Ian Jones could reach it. Then Ian came up the left, and as he entered the box he passed to Andrew Murton. The latter was able to score with a precision strike which flew head-high, beyond the outstretched arm of the hapless keeper. Three-up in thirteen minutes, lucky for some! NCC was able to manufacture attacks at will, and thread their way into the opposition half with regularity; but their final effort was denied by a stalwart defender or the effort of the keeper or by sending the ball wide. This was exemplified when Andrew Murton weaved a diagonal path through the few defenders before turning and lining up his effort. Unfortunately the angle had narrowed, and the ball just sped the wrong side of the upright, watched by the static keeper and his resigned defence.

Cain Thomas thumps the ball home after the keeper failed to hold a free kick,   4-0

Approaching the twenty minute mark NCC had a free kick, from just inside the opposition half. The Diamonds keeper reminded me of Horatius standing on that bridge over the Tiber; for he too was alone, standing by his left-post, but with consternation in his mind. From here to the touchline was a void, a green sward empty of players. It seemed, like in the poem by Macauly, that his support had fled. In front of the keeper, waiting expectantly for battle on the edge of the area, was a three-man wall. All watched as Steve Cipriani sent the ball over; it performed a beautiful-flighted parabolic-arc. As the keeper moved to his right the ball, descending face-on, fell to his waist, where he grasped at it with both hands. The two movements failed to coalesce, and the ball was then shifted to the left as he continued to his right. Desperation loomed for the stranded keeper as he looked up; there was Cain Thomas powering in. Reaching the ball first Cain duly thumped it high into the net, thankful for the undeserved gift which was skilfully accepted; such is the game of football!

Patrick Gardner unleashes a tremendous volley to beat the keeper but the ball rebounds from the bar into play

NCC continued to monopolise the match, breezing through the opposition but often sending the final ball wide. One sweet passing movement flowed up the field but the finishing effort sped high over an empty goal area, another was flawed with the visiting keeper kneeling on the ground and then a stunning volley, from Patrick Gardner, rebounded off the bar with a deafening thwack! Ian Jones demonstrated his athleticism with a valiant diving attempt to head a low ball goalwards. A rare attack from Diamonds resulted in a delay following an injury as two of their players collided in mid-air. Five minutes before half time Patrick Gardner rifled home a deserved shot from the edge of the six-yard box, to take the total to a high-five, and all-but wrap up victory. Surely NCC could not throw-away this wonderful lead gained after an exhilarating half. NCC did have one final attack, but it was safely gathered by the keeper. It was to be a different game in the second period.

NCC started the new half, and continued from where they left off. On two occasions an effort was crossed over an empty goal area. Then, after four minutes, another NCC attempt sped towards the right hand post. Both the keeper and Cain Thomas chased after the ball; Cain won but his effort was blocked by the keeper, and the ball flew out. In an incredible piece of luck, bad and good, both Diamonds and Cain Thomas were hit for six as the ball rebounded off the face of the latter and ended in the net, with both players down on the ground. This fluke enabled Cain to complete his first-ever NCC hat-trick, and gained him the man of the match accolade. Four minutes later Barry Styman posted a good ball into the opposition half, empty of all bar the keeper. Three players immediately chased after it, but Ian Jones, in the middle, sped like a greyhound, leaving the opposition watching his disappearing form. As the solitary keeper stood by the near-post Ian, with shrewd skill and the practised eye of a past-master, slotted the ball into the far corner of an empty net; NCC had notched up a magnificent league seven, for only their fifth time.

Cain Thomas completes his hat trick when his effort is pushed out by the keeper, onto Cain's face, only to rebound into the goal

After the hour-mark we witnessed a dramatic double-change in the proceedings; NCC appeared to switch off and Diamonds moved out of second gear. Seizing their chances to advance the visitors created a procession of attacks, up the left, right and through the middle. Their initial efforts were denied but suddenly they were taking shots at the NCC goal, and only just missing the target. Then another charge, up the left, saw a lonely James Stevens leave his empty goal; what else could he do? Inevitably the ball was aimed towards the netting, this time with success, and Diamonds had scored; a deserved goal after their recent blitz, and more indicative of their true performance. Surely Diamonds could not come back and win! Barry Styman led a rare and depleted (at this stage of the game) NCC attack allowing the keeper to make a successful take. Play reverted to normality and NCC had another effort pushed away by a jumping keeper. Although Diamonds changed their keeper this did not change their luck. They advanced in numbers, at times six or seven players were entrenched within the NCC box; they had at least two efforts narrowly miss the left hand post and two more hit the other post. As the full time whistle blew NCC had completed an emphatic win, largely due to their first-half efforts; the match was virtually won before the break. Although Diamonds did improve later in the second half, and gave NCC a bit of a scare, it was too little too late.

The Diamonds keeper out-jumps all to clear another NCC attack

An engrossed and invigorated Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury

Game 15 : League Match : 14 February 2015 :
Cornerstone  2    North Cheltenham Churches  4

On a cloudy but brightening day, following a rather wet night, NCC travelled to Evesham to play joint third-placed Cornerstone. The hosts took centre and made the initial foray as they came up their right, but soon NCC manufactured a counter-attack, and gained a corner. As the ball came over so Ian Jones jumped as he attempted to head it home. His athletic prowess was watched in admiration, and ultimate relief, by the nonet of mesmerised home defenders. On eight minutes Cornerstone again sped up their right, switched and then re-switched play, before a fierce effort was sent over from just inside the 18-yard box. This resulted in the only defender lying prone on the muddy surface, allowing the lone John-Paul Lawrence to sidestep him and flick the ball back, behind James Stevens, and on into the now empty net.

Ian Jones mesmerises the defence as he jumps to head the ball

During the following twenty-minutes play was rotated at a rapid rate, as the action moved up and down the field. Cornerstone came up the left but James Stevens made a valiant clearance as he booted the ball beyond the advancing forward; moments later he made another fearless save as he smothered the ball. At the other end Stephen Rawson made several takes as he ran out towards the edge of his area, or gathered a series of shots on target. In quick succession NCC had a corner and a free kick; this saw Stephen gather the ball from a daring effort as Ian Jones attempted to connect. Approaching the half hour the pace of this exciting period of play dropped a gear, but we saw a doubling of shots aimed at the target; NCC having twice as many efforts as their opponents, perhaps the team was adapting to the conditions better.

However, this next period began when a lone attacker came up the left and moved towards the goal, guarded by the stalwart James Stevens waiting confidently by his near post. Pursued by a duo of chasing defenders the Cornerstone player unleashed his low effort. The ball sped over the muddy surface and passed the static keeper before rolling, tantalisingly, across the empty goal and continuing a foot beyond the far post. Then the opposition had a free kick, which crossed the bar by inches. A few minutes after this Cornerstone created another attack, or rather a solitary forward sped up the right. As he neared the post, pursued by Matt Brisley, the visiting keeper came out to meet him. James Stevens was left supine in the mud, but he had done enough to delay the attacker, who now turned to cross the goal and so move beyond the keeper, still being followed by Matt. In the ensuing chaos the ball had gone too far, allowing the NCC defence time to tidy up. In turn the home keeper demonstrated his agility as he jumped to gather one effort, and then knelt as he collected another, shielding the goal with his body.

NCC has seen off an attack and are creating one of their own

Now it was the turn of NCC to score. Following another attack from the hosts NCC quickly switched play down field. In a delightful movement, which saw players from both teams spaced equally across the field, the ball was moved to the NCC left. Although he had three opposition players in front of him the ball fell nicely to the feet of Andrew Murton who was able to dispatch a long low effort towards the far post, and the unguarded net. Chased by a hapless defender the ball sped into the corner, enabling NCC to score a deserved equaliser, with some five minutes of the half remaining. The team followed this with a series of potent attacks; one effort from Charlie Davidson grazed the bar, after brushing the fingers of the keeper, and went out for a corner. In turn the hosts had a corner, and delivered a high descending ball into an area packed with seven NCC players but only a couple from Cornerstone. Partially cleared the ball went straight up, where it was missed by all, and then fell behind for another, but wasted, corner. As the half ended Charlie Davidson had a chance sent behind, and Matt Brisley again defended courageously.

Andrew Murton's long low shot sped into the corner of the unguarded net

NCC restarted the game by mounting a charge, and the opening ten minutes were played at a fast and furious pace. From one attack NCC created sustained pressure as the ball was moved inside the box before it was eventually cleared. James Stevens, the man of the match, was busy as he came to the extreme edge of his area to take the ball, and moments later he sped across the empty goal in an effort to reach a shot which had been aimed at the far corner. It could be argued that, on the muddy surface, he was lucky to stop the ball with his boots, without any ricochet off them, or the post. Then NCC made a run up their left where Charlie Davidson passed to Ian Jones, who calmly slotted home, to give NCC what turned out to be a short-lived lead. The hosts increased their tempo, and spent a few minutes entrenched inside the NCC half. A loose ball rolled beyond the penalty spot, and a forward gave chase. James Stevens was powerless, but did his best to close down the attack, resulting in both players sprawled on the ground as the ball trickled into the far corner of the net; all square at 2-2 after one hour.

Slowly but surely during the next quarter of an hour NCC increased their pressure and superiority, and demonstrated this by taking a greater proportion of the attacks created. After Cornerstone had sent one effort over the bar, and another wide, Ian Jones advanced towards the keeper, deep inside the 6-yard box. Holding his ground the keeper ended up in the mud and was very fortunate that the ball, bouncing off his back, was gathered by him before the NCC player could reach it. Enjoying the warmth of the late winter sunshine both teams continued to make attacks and counter-attacks. Then, on seventy-five minutes, Steve Cipriani advanced on the keeper, again deep inside the box and by the right-hand post. The challenge was met successfully as the ball was parried, but it bounced towards the other post. We had the keeper rushing in from the right and a defender rushing in from behind but Barry Styman, also rushing in, but from the left, reached the ball first and slotted it home; to set up a tense last fifteen minutes.

James Stevens moves into empty space to trap the ball after a Cornerstone corner

This final passage of play was totally dominated by NCC, as they maintained possession and created a lengthy succession of attacks, with the opposition virtually penned inside their own half. The home keeper was able to deny NCC on several occasions; collecting the ball from off the boots of Ian Jones, gathering an effort from Charlie Davidson and another from Barry Styman. NCC posted two efforts wide, and had a Barry Styman cross elude all as it sped by harmlessly. After a few innocuous efforts Cornerstone made one final attempt and came down their right. A great strike was pushed behind by James Stevens, as he knelt by the post. The resulting corner led to a throw-on, and eventually this attack was ended as James took a dangerous descending ball from above the head of a ducking Harry Wilks and in front of an advancing attacker. In the final minute of normal play Ian Jones thickened the icing on the NCC cake when he advanced towards the goal-line, and slotted the ball through the narrowest of angles, beyond the keeper, and watched it end up in the middle of the net.

Man of the Match, James Stevens, kneels as he parries a drive from Cornerstone

I felt this was a magnificent result achieved by the team, and followed a stirring performance which grew in both strength and confidence throughout the match, enabling NCC to make and take chances which rewarded them with a second win here seven years after the first. Andrew Murton, the only player to participate in both games, must be over the moon!

A rapturously ecstatic Michael Wyatt reporting from Evesham High School.

Game 14 : League Match : 31 January 2015 :
Cheltenham Trinity  4     North Cheltenham Churches  0

On a bitterly cold morning NCC, following an unbeaten run of four matches and playing in their strip of green and white hoops, visited Cheltenham Trinity. The hosts, taking centre, were immediately on the attack, but conceded a free kick. Trinity soon regained possession and had a free kick themselves, which just went wide despite a valiant attempt to head home by an airborne attacker. In turn Francisco Silva led a surge downfield, only for the ball to be sent out of play. Another NCC attack resulted in the home keeper collecting the ball on the edge of his area. After ten minutes the hosts mounted a series of attacks, mainly up their right wing. They created a couple of determined inroads near the NCC right-hand post, and won another free kick. This was sent towards the D, where a quintet of defenders gained possession. At the other end an NCC effort was taken by the keeper. NCC made a fine run with players well-spaced over the wide field, but the cross was controlled by the Trinity defence. The visitors won a free kick, from just outside the penalty area, but this was wasted as the shot was hit high over the crossbar.

NCC see off a Cheltenham Trinity attack

In the twenty-third minute the hosts had a quick break, and got behind the NCC keeper. A good cross found two unmarked attackers, and, despite a defender on the goal-line, he could not prevent them scoring. This was followed by some good football, not easy on the tacky surface; each side made a series of attacks, all of no benefit. It was noticeable that Trinity defended in depth, often having twice as many players on offer as NCC. The visitors had a player booked, and conceded a free kick. Taken from the left edge of the area it was sent towards the far side, to a bunch of ten players, all huddled together for warmth! It was NCC who triumphed, and delivered the ball downfield, but the attack lacked depth, and was easily stopped. Cheltenham Trinity won another free kick, but this was ruefully wasted as a high ball was sent way over the bar. However, the hosts came up again, and a duo sped along the left wing with three NCC defenders all heading towards them, leaving the back of the box devoid of any defence. Fortunately the cross was misdirected, and the danger passed. Not for long, because within a minute a lone attacker took the ball towards the NCC right. He was caught between two defenders, and the keeper, who was waiting at the edge of his six-yard box. Then followed a piece of individual brilliance as the ball was lifted over both the near defender and Aaron Brown, and continued into the net; putting the hosts in a handsome position, with half time beckoning. This, I believe, was the best goal of the match. NCC did have one final attack before the interval but the ball went behind for a goal kick.

At the start of the second half NCC had to see off a couple of attacks, not made any easier as several of their players were again bunched up. NCC, when they attacked, tried route one, whereas their hosts were more adept at using the full width of this pitch, and forcing the NCC defenders to back-peddle as they endeavoured to play catch-up. Then, in the space of twelve minutes, Cheltenham Trinity put the game out of reach as they doubled their tally. They won a corner, and sent over a high ball. With nine men in defence, marking five attackers, they seemed to have the ball covered, especially as Aaron Brown was poised to collect; hands up ready and legs spread to maintain his balance. Then it would appear that Lady Luck smiled on Trinity; as the ball descended so it curved beneath the bar and bulged the netting. NCC was stunned. Shortly after this the hosts had another corner and then a diving header sent the ball over the goal. Little was happening at the other end, where NCC sent one effort behind, and had another caught by the home keeper. Then a fast forward sped down the NCC left, leaving their defence standing still. As he entered the empty box he was pursued by a hapless defender. With only the keeper to beat it was a question of selecting his spot, as he demonstrated Cheltenham Trinity’s more professional approach to this game.

As the ball descended so it curved beneath the bar and bulged the netting

The hosts had a player booked, and conceded a free kick, before NCC manufactured a couple of great opportunities, their best of the game. First Ian Jones was unable to push the ball beyond the keeper, as the latter knelt down to lower the angle, and then the keeper made a sprawling save as Ian Jones and Barry Styman were hemmed in by a couple of defenders. Cheltenham Trinity had another free kick, from midfield, but Aaron Brown took the dangerous dipping ball with nonchalant ease. Then Barry Styman made a valiant effort to score, as NCC attacked in numbers, but he was denied as the hosts defended, also in numbers. As the half was ending so NCC attacked again, but this time there was style and purpose as the team tried to get behind their opposition, but it was all too late. When the final whistle was blown Cheltenham Trinity had claimed a league double over NCC. I felt this was one of the poorest games that NCC had played all season.

A cold and mournful Michael Wyatt reporting from a freezing Newlands Park.

Cheltenham Trinity take a free kick which is sent straight toward Aaron Brown

NCC make a determined effort to score

At the end of the game all participate in a tunnel of praise and thanks


Game 13 : League Match : 24 January 2015 :
North Cheltenham Churches  4     Tewkesbury Tigers  1

After three postponed games NCC hosted bottom of the table Tewkesbury, surprise winners of the earlier fixture. On a chilly morning, albeit one with some welcomed sunshine, the visitors kicked off, and made the opening attack. This was followed by a series of inroads from NCC, which saw them create three good scoring chances. The first came when the ball was crossed in front of an empty goalmouth. Then NCC took a corner, on their right, and the ball was headed on by Harry Wilks. Here the Tigers were fortunate when their keeper eventually gathered the ball by the near post, with his back to play, and after the ball had almost bounced between his body and the post. Soon after this Andrew Murton spotted the keeper had come out too far, leaving the goal area totally devoid of defenders, but his effort just sped beyond the far post. The Tigers were awarded a free kick, and then won a corner, but the NCC defence was hardly troubled by these set pieces.

The Tigers are attacking but Aaron Brown takes the catch with apparent ease

Tewkesbury made two consecutive runs at NCC, the second saw them unleash a weak long-range attempt which Aaron Brown gathered with ease. Following an NCC effort which sailed over the bar the Tigers made a series of runs at their opposition, the only possible danger was the high ball taken by the home keeper as he faced the glare of the sun. The Tigers continued to pose a potential threat, and had one shot go wide of an empty goal and another won them a corner. This was wasted as a high ball was sent over a solitary Tiger, waiting within the six-yard box, and his opposition defenders, and bounced harmlessly away.

Then, with just under ten minutes before half time, Patrick Gardner led another home attack down the right wing, accompanied by a trio of defending Tigers frantically returning to defend their lair. From the corner of the box Patrick unleashed an unstoppable volley, which flew over the keeper before nestling in the folds of the net, to alleviate the exasperations of NCC. Following this goal the Tigers created a series of attacks, mainly up their left, but these posed little trouble for the home defence. In turn NCC had another chance but it went wide of goal.

Patrick Gardner opens the scoring with a long-range volley

NCC started the second half, and for the opening minutes play was evenly balanced, and no real threats were posed at either end. Then Tewkesbury created a brief scoring opportunity; with only the keeper to beat man of the match Harry Wilks was on hand to tidy up. The Tigers wasted a throw-on, taken from near the corner flag. As the ball came over it was aimed wide, enabling Tom Mangan to send a massive clearing kick up-field. NCC, shooting towards the hills, had an effort clear the bar more akin to a rugby conversion, although another shot missed the post by a whisker. The hour mark came, and went, and with no side able to add to their score a fairly balanced game was in progress, although the hosts had more possession. Then, in a twelve-minute spell, four goals were scored in rapid succession. NCC scored their second, following a corner. As a high-ball came over, and descended out of the sun, the Tigers had all of their players at right angles to the goal, with none further back. The ball was missed by the visiting defence but not by the ever-alert Harry Wilks. Waiting towards the far side of the box he had a free run into the large empty area, and was able to drill the ball into the net, beyond the keeper and his defenders marking both posts. Within two minutes the Tigers pulled a goal back as they delivered a fine cross which a waiting Tiger prodded home.

NCC take a corner,  Harry Wilks runs forward ....

.... and sends the ball into the net

Following attempts from both teams it was NCC who controlled the next passage of play, as they spent time in the opposition half. Patrick Gardner had one effort go behind, and was then denied another. However, the ball found its way towards the right wing, where Oliver Lynott-May was waiting. He returned a cross, which, to his delight and everyone’s amazement, bamboozled the keeper, and ended in the net! This was Oliver’s first goal for NCC, well done. The Tigers sped downfield, but their effort was safely gathered by Aaron Brown. Then Patrick Gardner was denied yet again, but the ball bobbled around on the left. Alert to the situation Barry Styman sealed victory as he drilled the ball into the net, past the desperate dive of the keeper. Undaunted the Tigers came at NCC again, and had one shot headed clear by Oliver Lynott-May and another, following a free kick, collected by the home keeper. The final minutes were frantic; NCC had two long-range efforts go wide, and the Tigers won a free kick, which was pushed away by Aaron Brown, as he reached up on one leg. The ball went behind, for a corner. NCC defended this with nine players, and as Charlie Davidson headed clear so the game ended.

The last touch of the game - Charlie Davidson heads away Tiger corner

Michael Wyatt, reporting on The Taming of the Tigers, at a cold but pulsating Stade de Prestbury.

Game 12: League Match: 20 December 2014:
North Cheltenham Churches  12      C3 Dons  3

On the last Saturday before Christmas NCC played their final fixture of the year, hosting near-bottom of the table C3 Dons. Following recovery from injury this game saw the return of Andrew Murton and James Stevens. In line with the seasonal tradition of goodwill NCC loaned the depleted visitors one of their players. On a chilly winter morning the Dons took centre but it was NCC who made the opening forays; a period of one-way traffic. They created a chance-a-minute; Andrew Murton, twice, Charlie Davidson and Ian Jones were all denied by some great work from the defenders and the keeper. In this opening spell Andrew Murton had another effort cross the bar, and Ian Jones had two further shots go wide; the team also gained a free kick and a corner. Then, in the tenth minute, NCC was awarded another corner. Partially cleared the ball fell to Barry Styman, waiting on the left, and some twenty yards out. He sent a high ball towards the target, with the keeper standing all alone in his six-yard box, and just in front of the line. This descending ball was completely misread by the keeper; unable to reach up for it he could only follow its flight, between the back of his head and under the crossbar, to finish in the net.

Someone enjoys the moment of NCC scoring their third goal

In the next five minutes NCC continued to dominate the game, having a shot go over the bar and another just miss the left hand post as both Ian Jones and Charlie Davidson were stopped when deep inside the box. Then Andrew Murton, running towards the edge of the area, received a good pass, enabling him to drill a low volley into the far corner. After the Dons had created a rare attack Ian Jones was denied by a pair of stubborn defenders. NCC had another attack ended as the visitors packed their defence with at least eight players; it was good quality football to watch. In the twenty-third minute the Dons mounted another sortie, leaving their home area empty of all but the keeper. Andrew Murton, collecting the ball, was able to drill a long-range endeavour way beyond the stranded keeper, and watched it bulge the middle of the net.

Ian Jones makes a valiant effort to head home

The Dons managed to build another attack, and gained a free kick. It was not very creative and so NCC was again in possession. Once more the Dons had vacated their half and NCC snapped a long-range shot, which saw the keeper sprawl along the ground in a vain attempt to reach the ball. Fortunately for him the ball rebounded off the left-hand post, a lucky let-off for the under-dogs; this was repeated a few minutes later! Just before the half hour another good ball found Ian Jones; he was able to slip between a defender, rushing in on his left, and the keeper, rushing out on his right, and then slide the ball into the corner of the net; 4-0. NCC continued to pile on the pressure, but the Dons, when they worked as a team, and defended in numbers, were able to close down their hosts. Ian Jones had an attempted header sail over the bar, and Barry Styman was denied. At the other end the Dons mounted their best attack of the half, and gained a corner, where a well-flighted delivery was eventually headed over the goal. The half ended after NCC had taken a corner, sent into an area packed with ten defenders.

NCC began the new half where they had left off, on the attack. Firstly the ball was sent over the bar, and then they gained a corner. Defending in depth the visitors could not prevent an aerial duel between their keeper and Dan Cipriani, but the keeper eventually made a fine save under pressure.

The Dons successfully defend a corner

The Dons came up in strength, and mounted a good attack which NCC nullified as they too defended in depth. For some five minutes we saw flowing competitive football, as each side attacked and defended; then this was followed by a goal glut as eleven, in total, was scored in the final half-hour! It began in the sixty-third minute, and followed two consecutive NCC corners. Barry Styman sent over a delicate low cross, which eluded four defenders. The ball sped between the keeper and a near-by defender, and continued across a now-unguarded net. Hastening in by the far post was Ian Jones, who managed to propel the ball forward, into the roof of the net, to give NCC a five-goal cushion.

Ian Jones connects with a cross, from the left, to score NCC's fifth goal

Then, in the space of six minutes, the Dons scored a brace. The first came after a misunderstanding, between a defender and the home keeper, allowed an attacker to lob James Stevens. The visitors upped their game at both ends. After their defence had made two excellent clearances so the forwards played their part, and put in a series of determined efforts. Within five minutes they, and Sam Catlow-Hawkins, had scored again when he spotted that much of the NCC goal was undefended, and delivered a spectacular volley with great success. The way the Dons had been playing sent shock waves through the system, were we to be witness to an incredible fight back? This remote possibility was rapidly removed when Patrick Gardner hit a long range attempt past the hapless keeper, to be followed by Ian Jones also guiding the ball beyond him, and so complete his hat-trick.

Ben Jilbert demonstrates his prowess and athleticism even when floored

This goal-scoring feast turned into a frantic frenzy, as NCC notched a further five in the final ten minutes, and the Dons collected their third. After a fine run from Dan Cipriani the ball fell to his brother Steve, who slotted it beyond the keeper, to score goal number eight. James Stevens made a fine save by his near post, and delivered the ball downfield. The visiting keeper, with no defence around, had ventured to the edge of his box, allowing Ian Jones a free run towards the net, and score with a simple tap-in. Dan Cipriani sped down the right and, shaking off a spirited tackle, sent in a hard volley, to match his brother in scoring, and take NCC’s tally into double figures; their first in a league fixture. After two further fine saves, one from each keeper, man of the match Andrew Murton completed his hat-trick when he dribbled past two players and calmly pushed the ball into the corner of the net. Two minutes later another rare Dons’ attack allowed Sam Catlow-Hawkins to complete, in the context of the game, a very well-deserved hat-trick, as he sent a high volley into the home net. The final goal of this glut, and of the match, came when an alert Ian Jones drove home a fumble by the keeper. As the final whistle went NCC had achieved their biggest-ever win, and their first for three months; and guess who was vanquished then?

An euphoric, ecstatic and elated Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury

Game 11: League Match: 29 November 2014:
C3 Diamonds  1    North Cheltenham Churches  1

NCC successfully defend a free kick

On a sunny morning NCC visited Naunton Park, to play Diamonds. Although NCC took centre it was Diamonds who stormed off at a great pace, and created a series of attacks down the slope. One, delivered from the right, saw a lone forward receive the ball, with only the keeper in front of him. However, his effort hit the join of the bar and upright, before being put out for a corner. The resulting corner involved two headers; the second, directed straight at Aaron Brown, was saved with ease, which took the shine off this bright opening five-minute spell from the hosts. Then NCC got into gear, and, for a ten-minute spell, played some determined attacking football. Patrick Gardner was stopped by a smart clearance from a defender and Calvin Langdon-Bates and Charlie Davidson made several determined efforts to get behind the home defence, as they sped up both wings. Amongst this Barry Styman was denied as the keeper smothered the ball by his post, and, sprawled along the turf, clutched it to his chest. Moments later another staunch effort saw his shot glance off the post, and go behind, as NCC also hit the woodwork. NCC was working as a team, with great skill and purpose, but in turn their hosts were up to it, as they matched them move for move. Diamonds gained a free kick which man of the match Adam Slade returned up-field with a resolute clearance. A rapid run along their left saw NCC send over a dangerous dipping ball, which the alert keeper put behind for a corner.

NCC take a corner but with no joy!

Then, in the twenty-fifth minute, NCC had a free kick, just inside the opposition half. An extremely delicate and skilful kick saw a beautiful flighted delivery curve as it descended towards a group of players eagerly awaiting its arrival, all jostling at the edge of the goal area. Patrick Gardner was there, neatly hemmed in by a quartet of Diamonds defenders, but watching that ball with great resolve. There was only one way to go, and so Patrick, timing his leap to perfection, rose above all, like a salmon. Despite having his back to the goal he gained his target, and input another graceful parabolic path to the ball. Both Patrick and the ball descended in unison, but he reached the ground first, still facing downfield. With equal elegance he was able to turn, and see the ball end its graceful arc over the keeper, and finish in the back of the net, a superb kick and a dazzling goal!

Pat Gardner, hemmed in by four Diamond defenders, watches the ball as it descends.
He jumps and heads the ball over the keeper's head and into the net

As play rotated throughout the length and breadth of the field so the players were leaving ever-increasing gaps, not too wise an event on this tacky surface! NCC was still creating most of the chances, but a single goal was only a narrow lead. After NCC had two further chances the ball was swiftly sent down the right wing, towards a lone attacker. With great skill he reached the ball first, hotly pursued by two NCC defenders, with a third attempting to close the gap nearer the goal. Approaching the corner of the area he lifted an unstoppable volley. This flew above and behind a static Aaron Brown, who could only watch in sheer disbelief as the ball flew, with great speed, into the empty net. After thirty-four minutes this pulsating game was all-square.

Buoyed by this goal Diamonds increased their pressure, gaining a free kick and seeing Aaron Brown pouch the ball from off the boots of two attackers, and then they sent two further efforts over the bar. NCC finished the half the stronger, with a series of fine attacks; in one the home keeper grabbed the ball as he fell full-length along the ground to deny Barry Styman. Moments later another NCC attempt sped beyond the beaten keeper, but also past the far post, and then the keeper barred the ball with a nimble use of his right leg, whilst balancing on the other, as the interval beckoned.

Diamonds attempt some magic as they deny another NCC attack

NCC managed to create more attacking positions at the start of the second half, but none was really threatening as the home defence stood firm, not too easy on this muddy pitch. After five minutes the first potent threat saw Aaron Brown hold the ball after a Diamonds player had taken a quick shy at goal. This was followed up by another attempt, taken almost effortlessly in front of goal. Then NCC mounted a series of efforts, initially through the middle but then down the left wing; the end of this passage saw the ball sent behind. Approaching the hour Diamonds delivered a low looping ball which Aaron Brown eventually parried over the bar as he balanced precariously on his left leg in the mud.

The second quarter of an hour began with a lapse by the NCC defence. With their keeper marooned the ball fell to a predatory attacker whose effort shot by the far post. Then Barry Styman sped down the right and struck a low volley through the vacant home defence. The ball was safely gathered by the keeper going down on one knee to make sure of his save. A similar effort at the other end saw Aaron Brown take the ball with more grace. Another NCC endeavour, again down the right, saw a cross met by the trio of keeper, defender and attacker; Patrick Gardner. This resulted in the ball going up and over the bar, and both home players going down, to end, respectively, prone and supine in the mud. Following this NCC created two further opportunities, but neither really penetrated the home defence.

An alert NCC stop another attacking move from their opposition

Entering the final fifteen minutes NCC had an opportunistic long-range effort sail high over the bar, watched vigilantly by both keeper and home captain. Oli Lynott-May tried to weave some magic on the right, and then NCC gained a corner as the home keeper saw his glancing deflection roll, fortunately for him, by the far post. The resulting corner was cleared, taking play up-field before it was returned, where the home keeper pouched the ball cleanly; an event he repeated several times during the following minutes as NCC endeavoured to notch a winner. Before the game ended each keeper was forced to make one final save, and so ensure a draw; a fair result I think. NCC attacked very well but Diamonds defended with equal skill.

A perky Michael Wyatt reporting from an effervescent Naunton Park

Game 10: League Match: 15 November 2014:
Upton Cornerstone  3    North Cheltenham Churches  3

NCC defend a corner conceded in the opening minutes of the game

On an overcast day NCC travelled to Upton upon Severn, to play Upton Cornerstone, another team new to the league. In the opening twelve minutes we witnessed a fast and furious session of play, with each side exchanging a series of attacks up and down the length of this tricky pitch. Upton Cornerstone mounted the initial assault, and gained successive corners, but the visitors effectively guarded their goal with numbers. The hosts created several fast runs up their left wing with NCC punctuating these with their own efforts; that from Patrick Gardner was headed over the bar. Then the Severnsiders again charged up their left and a teasing high ball came over. Against the odds two attackers bettered a trio of NCC defenders, resulting in the ball being poked into the net, beyond the best efforts of Aaron Brown.

For the next twenty minutes NCC fought back well as they sought to gain an equaliser. This began with a free kick where the ball sped to the right of the pitch, and NCC set up a wonderful scoring opportunity. Although the keeper stood by his near post, the only defender near the goal, NCC had two players overlapping the keeper but neither was able to reach the low cross as it came over. Moments later a defender was able to clear the ball in front of Ian Jones and then Barry Styman was unable to force it past the keeper. NCC’s continued dominance rattled the hosts, who had a player booked, but the resulting free kick was caught by the keeper. Upton Cornerstone almost doubled their lead when the speedy winger took the ball from Aaron Brown, went past him and almost scored in the empty net but was denied by a desperate last-ditch tackle as both Adam Slade and Alex Gray rushed in to plug the gap, conceding a corner. NCC had a free kick which resulted in a descending ball being headed in from the outstretched hands of the keeper, but was ruled out when the linesman flagged for offside; a cruel act. Each keeper caught an attempt with aplomb, before NCC cleared a free kick taken from just outside of the box, and near the right-hand corner.

The fast action continued with Barry Styman’s low cross eluding the reaches of Ian Jones, and then the hosts gained a corner and sent a shot straight into the hands of Aaron Brown, alone in his goal. Just past the half-hour NCC was awarded a free kick, out on their right, and beyond the corner of the box. Poor defending saw Upton Cornerstone create a wall but left their goal-area empty. A superb effort, well hit by Steve Cipriani, was delivered, which sped by all concerned, including the diving keeper, to bulge the far corner of the net; a well deserved equaliser. NCC almost took the lead when a long range shot from Charlie Davidson cannoned off the crossbar before the home defence tided up. In the second minute of time added-on Upton Cornerstone created a speedy flowing attack up their left. The fast forward outstripped the NCC defence and passed the ball to another player waiting inside the area. Partially cleared the ball was regained and a fierce attempt was sent beyond Aaron Brown, whose effort came too late to prevent the hosts taking the lead as the interval approached.

Steve Cipriani delivers a long-range effort from a free kick to bulge the corner of the net:  1-1

NCC made most of the running at the start of the new half, and a good attempt was denied following an NCC free kick, with another shot going straight into the hands of the keeper. Then, after five minutes, it happened; the NCC keeper, who had come to the edge of his area, collected the ball and sent it up the left wing. It was received by Patrick Gardner, who volleyed home a left-footed effort from a narrow angle, with the keeper rooted to the spot; all square as NCC had equalised for the second time in the match. This galvanised Upton Cornerstone to increase the pressure, and they mounted a series of attacks, which saw Aaron Brown pull off about five or six successive saves before NCC went to the other end. There a snapped-shot nearly caught out the keeper, who managed to divert the ball behind, for the first of two quick corners gained by NCC. Both sides missed an opportunity; that by the hosts was well taken by Aaron Brown, after two attackers had burst through following a free kick.

NCC mount another attack. under the glare of the pepper pot

On sixty-four minutes NCC conceded a free kick, on their left, and beyond the box. An elevated shot came over all the players, and headed towards the corner of the goal. Aaron Brown was mesmerised, and reacted too late as the ball curved and finished inside the corner; an extremely soft gift and totally unexpected by the opposition. NCC played some powerful football as they endeavoured to draw level for the third time. Harry Wilks made a brave attempt to head home as the Severnsiders conceded a corner. Cain Thomas jumped in his effort, and Upton Cornerstone was lucky as the ball rolled by the post, for yet another corner. The ball came into a crowded goal area, and both Patrick Gardner and Harry Wilks were denied, and I’m still working out how the hosts survived. NCC was fortunate when a high ball was not taken cleanly, by both keeper and attacking players as it came down. Upton Cornerstone had another free kick, just outside the corner of the box, where another descending ball, sent into a small area packed with players, bobbled about dangerously before NCC eventually cleared it up field. Shortly after this a fifty-fifty ball, missed by both keeper and an attacker, fell antagonisingly near to the home post before it bounced out of play.

NCC have a corner and fail to score

NCC lost a wonderful chance when Ian Jones fired his attempt, taken at full speed, over the cross-bar, and then Patrick Gardner put a right-footed effort just wide. The final five minutes were fast and furious; Upton Cornerstone had a shot saved by Aaron Brown before NCC put another good chance over the bar. Then, well into time added-on, Ian Jones made a solo effort which was denied by the keeper, by now kneeling but able to reach out a hand to collect the ball. Moments later, in the third minute of stoppage time, the ball was collected by Ian Jones as he sped in near the edge of the box. The keeper was waiting by his near post, and three defenders were rushing back between him and Ian. The latter struck a sweet low diagonal volley, which pulsated across the turf and finished in the far corner of the net. NCC had left it very late but a draw was a fair result for this lively match, a game each side thought they could have won, but that would have been a travesty.

Ian Jones(9) speeds to the edge of the box and unleashes a low diagonal volley into the far corner of the net: 3-3

A relieved Michael Wyatt reporting from a tumultuous Upton upon Severn.

Game 9:  League Match:  1 November 2014:
North Cheltenham Churches  2     Cheltenham Trinity  5

Ian Jones (no 9) scores inside 17 seconds.   What a start!

On a barmy November morning NCC hosted Trinity, and got off to another incredible start, by scoring inside seventeen seconds. With deft skill, using both head and feet, Ian Jones took the ball down the right, outstripping three defenders, and just outside the line of the post. Eluding both trailing defender and tardy keeper Ian selected his spot with cool authority and scintillating success, to put NCC one up. Cheltenham Trinity then mounted an attack up their left, and we were shown some good football as NCC, defending in depth, saw off their opponents. Each keeper made a save, both within empty goal-areas, before Trinity was up again, winning a corner. Now both teams were leaving wide open spaces in their respective defences, as players seemed to be coming out beyond their means. Both Oli Lynott-May and Alex Gray saw off lone predatory runs from fleet opposition forwards, and for the opening fifteen minutes NCC looked fairly comfortable.

But from now on things fell apart for NCC in a disastrous twenty-minute spell, when the team conceded four goals. It began with the visitors gaining a free kick, a few yards beyond the goal-area. A well-struck aerial ball was delivered to the very edge of the six-yard box, where it was met by a trio of players. Two NCC defenders rose, in their endeavours to head the ball away, but a solitary attacker also rose, and stretched his head forward, connecting with the ball, and so nodded a powerful shot into the net. NCC responded with Charlie Davidson running down the right, and sending over a shot, which was held by the keeper as he waited by his post. Trinity won another free kick, in a similar position to their previous one. Employing the same tactic, but over-hitting the ball slightly, they won a wasted corner. Now Trinity made several solo sprints, and gained another corner; in a crowded area this was also seen off when NCC packed in nine defenders.

On twenty-five minutes Trinity scored the first, of two goals inside two minutes. A brace of players sped up the left, easily outstripping two NCC players. With no defence in place Ted Guest was forced to come to the very edge of his box. Showing exemplary skills the Trinity two swept past his outstretched body, and continued successfully through the vast empty area in front of the home goal! Straight from the re-start the opposition came up again, and the ball was slid into the middle of another empty net; 1-3 A brief lull in the scoring saw efforts from both teams; one from Trinity was posted over the bar of a totally vacant goal-area. Just past the half hour Cheltenham Trinity weaved diagonally up-field, first to their right, and then switched to the left, where they had another free kick. Abysmal marking allowed two players total freedom right in front of the NCC goal. Over came another beautifully-flighted ball, obviously a well-practised move, and continued into the empty space, where one of these unmarked players nodded home, and virtually ensured victory.

Slack marking has allowed one, of 2 unmarked players, to head home

NCC had no answer; their attack lacked speed and punch, and was easily smothered, and the occasional long-range effort was low and gentle. Towards the end of this half Trinity created two more good chances; the first saw the ball sent wide and the other had Oliver Lynott-May clearing the ball off the toes of an attacker after a shot was parried by Ted Guest, by then prone. On the stroke of half time Oliver Lynott-May saved a certain goal as he chested away a descending ball, in front of a trio of an empty net, a back-pedalling forward and sat keeper. The final moves saw Trinity denied when the ball flew harmlessly over the middle of the bar.

Cheltenham Trinity manage to clear an NCC attack

Trinity restarted the match, but it was NCC who made the initial foray, when their effort was saved by the keeper at his second attempt. Then, in the forty-sixth minute, Trinity launched an attack down their left, whence, following a throw-on, they switched play to the right. Despite two attackers being encircled by six home defenders one was able to turn and twist before sending a high effort into the top corner of the net, out of reach of the desperate rush across goal by the keeper. For twenty minutes there was evenness in the match, although NCC left wide open spaces through which Cheltenham Trinity flowed like the in-coming tide. Without marking men and milieu the hosts made life extremely difficult for themselves. Ted Guest took one effort over his head, as he jumped up, facing the sun, and aware of two poachers behind him. The hosts had rearranged their team, and, too late, had shored up the rickety defence. Scoring opportunities was left to a few, and NCC was beginning to create, and exploit, open spaces in the Trinity defence.

Barry Styman about to unleash a left-footed volley and pull back a goal

Then, with just over twenty minutes remaining, NCC pulled a goal back. An attack put Barry Styman in a position where he unleashed his favourite left-footed shot; a well placed effort which sped beyond the keeper and into the unguarded far corner of the net. Almost immediately NCC had half a chance when James Stepney tried to reach the ball as it sped across goal, past the kneeling keeper but shielded by a defender. Another attack saw NCC send up half a dozen men, but the crowded goalmouth was packed with all the opposition players bar one! Following a brief visit by Trinity the hosts had a corner, but again were denied by the performance of a nonet. Trinity had one long-range effort which continued well beyond the corner of the NCC goal, but it was NCC who created most of the half-chances available. As the final whistle went so NCC’s nightmare ended; after a superb start their defence again fell apart and once more allowed too many soft goals. Oliver Lynott-May was named man of the match for his energy and effort, his effervescent performance did much to keep the score down, especially in that torrid first half.

A forlorn Michael Wyatt reporting from a sunny Stade de Prestbury

Game 8: League Match: 25 October 2014:
Trinity & Quedgeley  6    North Cheltenham Churches  0

NCC playing in their green and white away strip

On an overcast and blustery day, with the sun trying to break through the large cloud-cover, NCC visited Trinity & Quedgeley, resplendent in their new kit of bright orange shirts and jet black shorts. NCC, fielding a rather-scratch side, kicked off, and for this opening half had the benefit of the slight slope. Immediately they launched three attacks but were denied by the keeper, who dashed out and gathered the ball, launching the first of a succession of exemplary saves, and, ultimately producing a match-winning performance. When T&Q began their attack it sped up the right, and they gained a corner. A high ball was sent over and as its target, the head of a jumping forward rose, so Aaron Brown delicately reached up as he balanced on his left leg, and stretched his right arm to punch the ball away. Although the ball ballooned up he was able to catch it as it descended, and boot it down field. Then NCC posted the ball just wide of the left-hand post, and had another effort taken chest high by the T&Q keeper, as he sped across an otherwise empty goal, before Charlie Davidson, running down his right, delivered a cross straight into the arms of the keeper. At the other end the hosts were finding it difficult to mount any real challenge, but when they did the stubborn NCC defence saw them off. The visitors won a free kick but found the opposition area was packed with most of the team, although moments later NCC had a low diagonal shot speed across an empty goal-area, past a prone keeper and his unguarded far post. NCC took a corner but Ian Jones, the sole NCC player, right in front of goal, was forced to shoot wide as he was overcome by five of the opposition. T&Q managed a couple of potent attacks as NCC was beginning to spread out, leaving gaps; the hosts also tried a couple of harmless long-range efforts. NCC replicated this and had a couple of shots almost graze the bar as they sped over, and another great opportunity was lost when the ball passed by the left-hand post. They wasted another corner, and continued to squander the series of chances which they created.

Aaron Brown jumps and balances on one leg as he knocks the ball out following a T&Q corner.
He catches the ball on its way down

Slowly, inexorably, T&Q started to come out of their lethargy, and began to make some compelling forays. One, involving a quick quartet, was eventually ended when Aaron Brown collected the ball, but this was after much thrusting and jockeying for position around the edge of his penalty area. Then, against the run of play, and contradicting the amount of NCC possession, T&Q won a two-on-two encounter on NCC’s right wing. This allowed a lone T&Q attacker to continue up field, and enter a large area totally devoid of players. From there a well-delivered cross was met by an equally well-focussed player who sent a pulsating header to the right of a static Aaron Brown, to give the hosts a shock lead. Again T&Q came up the left, and their effort, somewhat dissipated by the NCC keeper as he rushed out, was eventually cleared by Simon Trew, in front of an empty goal. Both teams were leaving wide open spaces at the back, but a long-range opportunistic NCC lob was over-hit. NCC continued to pile on the pressure, but was constantly denied by the home keeper, frequently backed-up by his fast running defenders. On several occasions NCC sent over crosses, which had the home keeper beaten, but the visitors were then unable to put them away; on one occasion Ian Jones hit a post. A long-range and dangerous descending ball was pushed behind by the home keeper, as he acrobatically became air-borne in his enthusiasm to deny the visitors. The resulting corner was wasted, mainly because NCC spaced themselves at right-angles to the line, rather than parallel to it, and the open spaces were easily covered by an octet of defenders. Eventually the half-time whistle ended what had been, for NCC, a most frustrating period of play; little did they know what was to follow!

NCC create a great scoring opportunity but unable to take it even though they eluded the keeper

NCC’s difficulties increased during the interval when Simon Trew went off injured. The opening ten minutes were fairly balanced, although the T&Q players had moved up a gear, and were suddenly fielding more men in both attack and defence. Inside two minutes Charlie Davidson found himself making a solo run towards goal; almost sandwiched between the keeper in front and a defender behind he unleashed a low drive. Agonisingly this beat the keeper, but hit the left-hand post; for the second time in the match. Again the NCC defenders had moved up beyond their box, and an alert opposition forward posted a long-range volley; fortunately this ambitious snap-shot sped wide. Ten minutes into the new half T&Q spent some time on NCC’s right. Initially, in an attempt to create something different, they tried a back-heel flick-up, and won a corner, which was eventually put out for yet another corner. Although NCC had eight men defending no one had bothered to mark the man nearest the ball, waiting on the edge of the six-yard box. A low grubber came in, allowing this attacker to move forward and send a beautiful right-footed volley between the keeper and his two-man defence. Worse was to come, as a second goal came following a throw-on, again taken from the right. The ball was crossed to another unmarked player, waiting by the far post, who had the simple task of tapping it in. T&Q had notched up a brace in a two-minute spell. Adam Hampson, playing in his first NCC game, did himself credit, but with little support he found it impossible to thread through the half-dozen, or more, defenders in front of him, and then Ian Jones saw his effort go wide of an unguarded post. Just past the hour a solitary attacker dribbled the ball into the NCC half, and continued towards their goal. All alone Aaron Brown had little choice but to advance to meet him; it delayed the inevitable but the keeper was on the ground and the ball was moving towards the far post. A defender was speeding back, but to his left another forward, charging in, was able to lift the ball into the empty net; T&Q had scored three within eight minutes.

NCC defending hard

Charlie Davidson made another solo run towards the T&Q goal, as he had done earlier. This time the keeper came to meet him, and both ended on the ground, but the chance had gone. NCC had a corner, but it seemed as if only Adam Hampson was aware of the ball coming in; the other players collectively had positioned themselves on the far side of the home defence. The situation deteriorated for NCC when Harry Godwin went off injured and there were no substitutes available, thus the team was a man short. In the final fifteen minutes of the match things went from bad to worse as again the hosts scored twice in two minutes. The fifth goal came after an attacker sped down the wing, sidestepped a defender and lifted a left-footed shot towards the far post. Missed by an NCC player this allowed a T&Q man to bend low and nod the ball into an empty net. Following a brief NCC visit the rampant T&Q players sped down in numbers; NCC’s defenders were once more rushing back. Defenceless Aaron Brown had to come out yet again, only to see the ball lifted over his head, and finish in the net. NCC, by conceding five goals in a twenty-minute spell, had suffered their worst defeat of the season so far, and enabled T&Q to record their first-ever clean sheet in the league against NCC. Few will recall the brief periods of exhibition play NCC showed in this disastrous second half; Steve Cipriani was named man of the match.

T&Q, in their new orange and black strip appear to have complete control of the pitch

A bemused Michael Wyatt reporting from Sandalwood Drive

Game 7: League Match: 18 October 2014:
North Cheltenham Churches  2    Cornerstone  5

On an overcast day, with rain threatening but also brief glimpses of the sun, NCC hosted Cornerstone, sporting their new strip of a white shirt embellished with a vertical red stripe. The visitors kicked off and the initial play was balanced, with forays at both ends, even if the opposition did pose a brief threat when they came up their right wing. On ten minutes Cornerstone gained a thrown-on near the top-right hand corner. The ball was put into the penalty area where the NCC defence eventually cleared it. A minute later, déjà vu, but this time the home defence got into a muddle, and allowed the opposition to shoot. Three times this happened but NCC could only parry the ball twice before an unmarked player drilled it through the crowded area and into the net. NCC mounted a couple of sharp attacks down their left wing, and within three minutes had levelled the score. This saw Adam Slade send a long low diagonal effort from the edge of the box, which the keeper misjudged, and as his defence was missing so the ball ended in the far corner of the net. In the following four minutes NCC constructed three attacks, two produced corners and from the other the ball went wide. Approaching the seventeenth minute Cornerstone sent a long ball up their right wing. The home keeper came out to meet it, his defenders rushed back but a lone forward got there first. With no defence in sight the attacker put the ball beyond Aaron Brown, and watched it finish in the net, with the keeper on the floor and his defenders still missing.

An amusing pose

Immediately NCC launched another effort down their left wing, but a couple of forwards have to be wizards to master a solid defence which outnumbered them almost three-fold. NCC gained a corner, but the cross eluded all as it sped by the goal. Adam Slade mistimed his effort, allowing the ball to balloon up before descending behind for a place kick. Approaching the half-hour mark the visitors moved back into attack, and again favoured their right wing. In quick succession they posted a shot over the bar, sent a second close by the post and saw a third taken by the keeper. Then NCC sent two efforts over the bar and another wide of the post, but their shortage of attackers, often just Barry Styman, came up against a well-knitted defence which proved to be an impenetrable barrier. In spite of this Barry and Calvin Langdon-Bates created a good opportunity when the visiting defence was caught out, well almost! As the half drew to a close Cornerstone had two good chances to score; the first when a forward collected a loose ball and ran through an empty defence before hitting it straight at Aaron Brown, and then another effort passed wide of the right-hand post.

From a tight angle NCC's shot goes wide

Although a goal down NCC started the new half with optimism, and mounted a brief foray down field, before seeing off a counter-attack. Within five minutes NCC was up in the right-hand corner, where the players were driven towards the line. However Charlie Davidson fired in a low shot, from a very narrow angle. This bowled over the keeper, who lay supine as the ball continued into the far corner of the goal. A well-struck effort but no more than NCC deserved. During the next twenty minutes the hosts had most of the play, and kept the visiting defence busy. On one occasion their keeper rushed to the very edge of his box to clear the ball, leaving the goal area totally empty, and then a cross to Charlie Davidson saw him closed down by several defenders. NCC had yet another great chance following a corner. Here the ball was crossed, and then re-crossed, and a shot was sent wide of the post whilst two defenders were protesting with each other and the keeper was lying prone this time. We had a period of good stylish football from both teams, as play ebbed and flowed with passion and pace over the ground. For NCC this was achieved with more players up front, and arguably the Cornerstone defence worked the harder, with total success.

NCC busily defend in a crowded goal area

As the game approached its final fifteen minutes so things went downhill rapidly for NCC, as the visitors scored three goals, totally undeserved in the context of the match, but credit to Cornerstone for their persistence and tenacity. The first goal came in the seventy-seventh minute when they attacked down their right wing. From near the corner they sent over a low cross, which was met by a brave attacker lurking near the post, who headed into an area devoid of defence, and into the goal. NCC’s heads went down, and then they had a player booked for a foul, and conceded a free kick. Play sped up and down before Cornerstone knocked out NCC with two goals in two minutes. They won a corner, and the ball bobbled inside the area before Aaron Brown conceded another corner as he jumped, arching his body backwards and just getting the finger-tips of his right hand to the ball. This time a high delivery came over, bobbled about inside the area before a low effort was rifled goalwards. Both the keeper, and Oli Lynott-May, stooped in their efforts at prevention, but both ended, with the ball, over the goal-line; one player prone and the other supine. This was the killer-blow, there was no way back now. The situation worsened as a lone rampant attacker rushed down the left, and continued towards the line in total isolation. As the NCC defenders came rushing back as fast as possible so the ball was lifted, and sent towards goal. Aaron Brown appeared to have the ball covered but it dropped behind him, and below the bar, to rebound off the post and into the net. Disastrous! Adam Slade, scorer of NCC’s first equalising goal and also very solid in midfield, was named man of the match. I thought a draw would have been a better result; NCC did not deserve such a score line. However I thought our defence let us down at the end and also for much of the game there were too few men up front.

Aaron Brown Jumps, arches his back and just gets finger tips to the ball to guide it over the bar....

... and from the ensuing corner the ball bobbles about in the area until volleyed in  (2 - 4)


A shell-shocked Michael Wyatt reporting from Stade de Prestbury

Game 6: League Match: 11 October 2014:
Tewkesbury  3   North Cheltenham Churches  2

On a sunny autumnal day NCC travelled to Tewkesbury, to play Trinity Tigers, firmly rooted at the foot of the table. In a lively opening ten minutes the hosts almost pounced when they sped down the slope, forcing Ted Guest to make a desperate parry in front of an excited Tiger. Moments later a Tewkesbury trio was forced to head over as they encountered a goalmouth packed with seven NCC defenders. In turn the visitors forced the home keeper to make a save, and then Barry Styman had a shot cannon off the crossbar, with the keeper well beaten. In the tenth minute NCC created another attack, this time up the other wing. Charlie Davidson opened the scoring when he drilled a diagonal ball past the defenders and into the far corner of the net. Soon after this Simon Trew headed a high descending cross at the keeper, who made a good save as he fell, rolling over to his right, but emerging with the ball. Then Cain Thomas hit the woodwork again for NCC, the ball rebounding off the right-hand post before going out for a corner, with the keeper off balance and looking the other way. The corner whizzed across a crowded goal area, but NCC was unable to capitalize on the situation.

The Tigers clear the ball denying NCC another opportunity

NCC created several scoring chances as the half developed; most were ably pouched by the keeper growing in confidence, or else sent wide of the target. NCC had another golden opportunity lost when a cross, from the right, eluded both the home keeper and Simon Trew’s attempted header, and was nearly deflected off the bodies of three defenders packed by the post. Oliver Lynott-May was denied by a solitary in-rushing defender as he found himself approaching the goal. For a concentrated ten-minute spell NCC monopolised the attack, but was unable to penetrate an alert defence. Having seen off a rare Tiger foray the visitors created a plethora of attacks, but achieved nothing. The half ended with Tewkesbury having two strong attacks; although denied the hosts were now using the full width of this ground. It would appear that NCC was well placed, leading and having both the slope and sun in their favour for the second half!

Another chance goes begging as the cross eludes all the NCC players.
Note the ball just shows behind the jumping orange man who missed his header

The Tigers began the new half with a couple of strong attacks before NCC was denied by the legs of the home keeper, twice in rapid succession, and their next attack resulted in another effort sailing over the bar. Then NCC lost the service of Francesco Silva, who fell awkwardly and injured his collar-bone. Following a five-minute delay NCC maintained their pressure, with two attacks down their left. The keeper saved one by his near post but the other he could only watch as the ball cleared his bar. After a brief incursion from the Tewkesbury players NCC saw the opposition keeper make a reflex save as he dived and pushed the ball away with his outstretched right arm. From the resulting corner play hovered deep inside the Tigers’ lair before the ball was eventually kicked up-field, and for NCC ignominy followed, beginning in the seventieth minute.

NCC on the attack

Then began a twelve-minute match-changing period, during which the Tigers tipped the game on its head and secured their first points of the season. This kick up-field was collected by a lone forward, who sped though the centre, with NCC defenders rushing in from the right. He crossed the ball to the very edge of the box where a waiting Tiger propelled it some twenty yards; to his surprise, and extreme delight, the effort bamboozled Ted Guest, and entered the net. Within four minutes another attack from a rampant Tewkesbury came up their left, where a gentle lob flew towards the top corner of the NCC net. Deceived by the flight of the ball Ted was unable to prevent it from entering his goal. Now it was the turn of NCC, and minutes later they were down the field. Initially a high ball was sent behind for a corner, then Barry Styman sent in a powerful shot which bulged the empty net; all square, but not for long. Following another lucky escape the Tigers came up the right, and, in the eighty-second minute, gained a free kick, from just outside the box. A most gently-struck kick bounced into the empty goal-area, and continued towards the lone keeper. What happened next is a mystery, but Ted Guest seemed to be caught out in three minds, but his pitiable effort missed, allowing the ball to produce the winner. NCC’s worries grew when they had a player booked. In a frantic finale, when NCC besieged the Tigers’ goal, Charlie Davidson saw his diagonal effort go wide of a beaten keeper, and a Barry Styman free kick, taken from near the corner, was fumbled by the keeper and almost prodded home. After last week’s pleasing effort I felt this was the team’s worst performance so far this season; the only bright spot was awarding Tom Burns the man of the match accolade.

Charlie Davidson (on the ground) beats the keeper but the shot goes wide

With just minutes  to go a ball from an NCC free kick eludes all, including the keeper

An infuriated and exasperated Michael Wyatt reporting from the Gould playing field.

Game 5: League Match: 4 October 2014:
North Cheltenham Churches  1    Cambray  1

On a very wet morning NCC hosted Cambray, last year’s league champions. Despite the rain NCC got off to an absolute dream start as they opened the scoring inside twenty-two seconds. Taking centre NCC sped down their right, passed a trio of defenders and crossed the ball to Barry Styman, running towards the near post. Keeping a cool head and with more defenders charging in Barry slid the cross into the back of the net. What a way to light up the gloom of the murky morn! In the next ten minutes play was evenly balanced as each side manoeuvred around the field. NCC created a great opportunity when James Stevens sped through the middle, and turned to his left, but he was well-denied by a defender, who won control of the ball and cleared it up-field. Another NCC effort was fired over the bar. In turn Cambray was awarded two free kicks; the second, near the touchline, just sped past the NCC goal. Then, in the eleventh minute, Cambray had another free kick, on the edge of the penalty area. A pass, sent towards a lone attacker, was headed beyond the stranded Aaron Brown, who could only watch as the ball entered the far corner of the net. Amazingly this was the end of the scoring, and for the following eighty minutes the best efforts from each side all came to nought.

Barry Styman opens the scoring for NCC after just 22 seconds

Within two minutes NCC created another great scoring opportunity when Barry Styman burst through the centre, and passed wide to James Stevens. As a quartet of defenders rushed back, and NCC crossed the ball, the chance was lost. Cambray gained two successive corners, one on each side, but they posed little threat and were ably cleared by the home defence. The visitors sent over a couple of long-range lobs, but Aaron Brown was able to see them off with little trouble. Entering the final fifteen minutes of the half saw Cambray make a series of attacks; most ended with low volleys sent wide or easily fielded by the home keeper, although one almost crept through, and a later ball was juggled head high before being pouched. A Cambray free kick arched through the air, before descending into the thankful arms of the NCC keeper. In turn the hosts had their free kick headed out by a defender. Three minutes before the break James Stevens, approaching an empty goal area, was well-denied by the in-rushing defence, and his effort went wide. The half ended with Cambray again having consecutive corners on their left, and a lot of play on their right.

NCC began the new half on the attack, but a two-man squad was going nowhere against a team of this calibre. Cambray’s first attack of the half, down their left, was followed by a cross, which nearly saw them score as the ball was played onto the crossbar, before it rebounded, eventually going out for a corner. This quickly-taken and dangerous short corner was poked into the side netting, with several NCC defenders oblivious to this threat. Then, approaching the hour, James Stevens suddenly pulled up with a hamstring injury, and was helped off by friendly hands from both teams, a sporting gesture. NCC took a corner on their right which resulted in the ball narrowly passing the post, although the visiting defence appeared to have it covered. This was followed by a couple of scrambled clearances, one at each end, before Cambray had another shot. As Aaron Brown dived the wet ball slipped out of his hands; prone he could only watch as an opposition forward rounded him, matched by Tom Burns rushing in on the goal-side. The resulting effort saw the ball speed across a completely empty goalmouth, passing the outside of the far post by a whisker, or two!

An NCC shot at goal goes wide

NCC start another attack
See the low cloud drooping over the hillside

After parity throughout the match the final quarter saw NCC dominant, especially during the final ten minutes. Cambray again tried their quickly-taken short corner, and once more a neat flick-on hit the side netting before the home defence was aware of the situation. After both keepers had fielded long-range efforts, which saw the ball whizz through on the quick surface, we came to the final minute when NCC create another great chance. Greg Hart-Brown controlled the ball beautifully as he sprinted up his left, and Charlie Davidson was running in, completely unmarked. A shot came in, rather than a cross, allowing the ball to be smothered by the diving keeper. As the full time whistle went I thought this was the best performance by NCC this season. Although it could be argued that Cambray were below par they could only play as well as NCC allowed them, and a goal-less half is some achievement. Cain Thomas was named man of the match for his commitment and strong work in mid-field.

At 80 minutes NCC are on the attack

NCC demonstrate their control as they launch another attack in the dying minutes of the game

A wet but jovial Michael Wyatt reporting from a damp Stade de Prestbury

Game 04: Cup Match: 27 September 2014:
North Cheltenham Churches  2     St Andrews  2

On a very warm and sunny autumnal day NCC hosted St Andrews, in the first round of the Cotswolds Churches Cup. As the game was about to start an old Vampire jet roared overhead, perhaps making a passing visit en route to a flying display! During the opening quarter of an hour NCC manufactured twice as many attacks as their visitors, but was often denied by a stubborn defence which managed to stifle further progress; one notable action saw a defender shield the ball, allowing his keeper to come to the rescue. I felt the hosts lacked sharpness, and ought to have put more men in attack. This was shown when a free kick easily cleared the St Andrews wall, only to be met by a lone attacker but several defenders. St Andrews preferred to play the ball wide, and twice, in rapid succession, sped down their left. Towards the end of this opening period NCC, or rather James Stevens, had the best chance to date. Receiving a good pass from Charlie Davidson he approached the right-hand post, and entered the penalty area. With the keeper static, but alert, James moved across the face of the goal. As a defender rapidly approached he unleashed his effort, but to his horror saw the ball skim the bar as it sped over.

NCC about to score the opening goal

Then, nearing the sixteenth minute, NCC had another attack, from which they gained the first, of three, quick corners. It was the third corner which was made to count when a high ball, delivered by Barry Styman, came to Simon Trew (3), waiting on the edge of the penalty area. Out-jumping his opponent he headed towards goal. Following a scramble inside the box the ball fell to Aaron Brown who sent a waist-high delivery beyond the keeper, to open the scoring.

In the next twenty minutes St Andrews stepped up a gear, and made a series of forays down both wings, as well as the middle. They unleashed a high ball, although threatening it descended harmlessly beyond the far post, and then rather wasted a free kick delivered from inside the centre circle. At the other end NCC saw the ball speed just the wrong side of the upright, and then were denied again as the ball, won after five players all jumped for it, sped beyond the other post. In the excitement each side had an attempt go over the crossbar.

As we entered the final ten minutes of this half a lone forward approached the NCC goal. With NCC defenders charging in from the right he moved further to his left, his movement reflected by those of Ted Guest, in goal. Too late he tried to prod the ball forward but it was ably gathered by Ted, by now sat on the ground, but able to scoop the ball off his own legs; a great save. Moments later he made another important save, this time beyond the other post, as he dived with an attacker jumping over his prone body. St Andrews manufactured at least three more potent attacks before NCC moved to the top of the field. Here James Stevens headed a good cross towards the roof of the net where the keeper, moving swiftly to his right, had enough contact to direct the ball onto the woodwork, before it rebounded away, but still in play. Then Charlie Davidson collected the ball before returning it to James. Making no mistake this time he drilled a rising ball into the far side of the net, to maintain his incredible start to the new season of a goal in every match. As the whistle blew so NCC had established a well-deserved lead; but what drama awaited all in the second half!

Ted Guest makes a superb save

After hitting the woodwork James Stevens unleashes a diagonal volley to score NCC's second goal

The visitors began this half with a series of attacks, which saw Ted Guest, and the NCC defence, far busier than their opposite numbers. Twice, in the opening fifteen minutes, St Andrews had an effort pass a post; in turn NCC delivered a high ball which fell wide. Just after the hour mark the visitors had a player booked for a foul; their attempts were looking jaded. NCC had one effort go way over the bar, and, following a good run, and cross from Barry Styman, had another speed wide of the post. Then, on sixty-seven minutes, the match began its ultimate loss when St Andrews were awarded a free kick, just outside the box. The ball, struck hard and low, penetrated the NCC wall, and continued by the belated dive of the keeper, to finish in the net. Somewhat fortuitous, this was a lucky break to add purpose and momentum to the current league leaders’ efforts.

NCC had a number of attacks but the St Andrews defence held firm as both teams tired in the heat. Barry Styman saw his effort miss the top of the post by a foot, and Aaron Brown, surrounded by three defenders, was unable to control a rising ball inside the area. As NCC continued to attack so they were frequently thwarted, and frustrated, by the offside flag being raised. With three minutes of normal time remaining NCC’s misery worsened when St Andrews launched another attack, from deep inside their half. A diagonal ball, delivered towards the far corner of the box, was chased by Ted Guest and the opposition. Ted misjudged the situation, possibly due to the bounce and his angle of approach, resulting in the ball passing him, and continuing nicely to an opposition forward waiting all alone by the post. Despite three NCC defenders near-by a right-footed volley, almost unstoppable, was unleashed, to secure parity in the match. In the dying minutes NCC had two great chances to seal victory; both were headed over, the second following a corner. Simon Trew was named man of the match with a good all-round performance, in both defence, attack, and as captain.

The last kicks of the match after NCC concede a second goal  2-2

As the full time whistle went so this drawn cup-tie went into a penalty shoot out. NCC began the sequence, successfully, with the visitors following suit, for the first three strikes. Then NCC missed, and thereafter the team was playing catch-up, ultimately losing the contest by that penalty miss; by 5-4. The NCC players must have felt their blood had been sucked by a vampire!

All smiles and handshakes after the game

A dejected Michael Wyatt reporting from a sunny Stade de Prestbury

Game 03: League Match: 20 September 2014:
St Matthews  3    North Cheltenham Churches  3

On a muggy and murky morning NCC visited their local opponents St Matthews. The Saints began the opening ten minutes with a series of threatening attacks, but good defending by NCC maintained their clean sheet. Although NCC created some attacks these were ably cleared by the opposition defence and keeper. In the tenth minute the St Matthews pressure paid off, and they were awarded a free kick, which went out for a corner. From this the ball arrived in the six-yard box, enabling a Saints’ player to prod it past both keeper and defender, thus opening the scoring. A few minutes later Barry Styman had a great chance to level but he overran the ball, allowing the alert keeper to smother it with his diving body before Barry could retrieve the situation.

Ted Guest has no trouble with this high ball from St Matts

Then, having cleared a couple of sharp attacks, NCC followed up with a rare visit to the opposite end. This, in the seventeenth minute, saw NCC win a corner, and a long ball was crossed to the far side of the field. Harry Wilks, waiting beyond the box, unleashed a powerful diagonal header, which descended behind the mesmerised defence and landed in the back of the net. Three minutes later NCC took the lead when Barry Styman rifled a long range volley beyond Tim Aldred, alone in his goal-area. The remainder of this half was rather quiet, with few scoring opportunities. Most were made by NCC, whose attacks brought some good saves from the home keeper, and saw two NCC players booked. On the stroke of half-time NCC had another chance to increase their lead, following a corner, but the ball was headed over the bar.

Harry Wilks scores with a thumping header, the ball eludes all on its way to the back of the net

NCC began the second half with another corner, but the resulting effort was sent wide. This was followed by each side sending further attempts over the crossbar. Approaching the hour, and after considerable pressure, NCC scored their third. Following a St Matthews attack NCC cleared the ball up-field. James Stevens, positioned near the half-way line, gathered the ball, and spotting that Tim Aldred had moved off his goal line, sent a wonderful volley towards the goal. The ball blazed beyond the keeper and thundered into the net. Moments later NCC denied their hosts before they launched another attack, allowing Tim to make a great save as he jumped to take the ball just beneath the bar; then Aaron Brown had a similar effort pushed away.

Tom Burns heads the ball out

NCC have 8 men in the box as they defend their 3-1 lead

NCC on the attack but no goal

NCC appeared to rest on their laurels, which allowed St Matthews to come at them repeatedly. In the seventieth minute the hosts sped up the slope and sent a shot towards goal. Initially this effort was parried by Ted Guest, and then not cleared properly by NCC. The ball reached a player running in beyond the area who promptly drilled it into the net! After a further chance from each side NCC eased off the pedal, preferring to sit back and hold on to their lead. Although this encouraged St Matthews to create more pressure their opponents seemed to hold firm, and Ted Guest saved a furious shot. Then, as the game entered the ninety-minute mark, the hosts mounted another attack, which lead them to score an equaliser when a long range speculative shot crept into the corner of the net. This was followed by a furious final few minutes in which both sides nearly scored the winner, but parity was maintained after nimble work from both keepers. New boy Francisco Silva was named man of the match for his good all-round performance.

A disappointed Michael Wyatt reporting from the Stade de Prestbury

Game 02: League Match: 13 September 2014:
C3 Dons  0     North Cheltenham Churches  6

On a beautiful morning, bathed in warm sunshine, NCC visited Priors Park, for their match with C3 Dons. In the opening twenty minutes both sides rotated attacks as play flowed up and down the firm ground. For NCC Charlie Davidson created some promising runs up the right wing but a stubborn Dons defence proved impenetrable. NCC had a great chance when Barry Styman crossed a high ball to James Stevens, who headed goalwards, but the keeper managed to push the ball beyond his right-hand post. Soon after this Oliver Lynott-May made a good run up the line and found Barry Styman, but his shot was saved by the keeper, as was an effort from Ian Jones following his dash up the right. The Dons came into the game more, and had several attempts at goal; most coming from long diagonal balls delivered from the wings; the majority were blocked by the NCC defence, ably lead by Harry Wilks. Then the Dons could be considered unlucky when they had a goal disallowed. The home side followed this with two determined shots, the first went behind for a corner and the other resulted in a goal kick.

NCC successfully defend a corner

In the twenty-second minute NCC launched an attack up their left. Here Barry Styman fired a long range volley which saw the ball speed into the top of the net, as it passed through the narrow gap twixt post and keeper. Almost straight away the home side had an optimistic shot sail over the bar. Charlie Davidson sped up the right, and, as he dribbled the ball into the penalty area, he was bundled to the floor. Ian Jones stepped up and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner of the net, beyond the reach of the keeper, who remained rooted on his line. This was the one-hundredth goal Ian Jones had scored for NCC; well done Ian, the result of total dedication and commitment.

Ian Jones scores his 100th goal for NCC from the penalty spot

Bravely the home side fought back, and offered three quick attempts at goal. The first, a high effort, fell harmlessly behind, the second was fired over and the third was coolly saved by Ted Guest, following some nimble footwork. Just beyond the half-hour Barry Styman delivered a low shot which sped into the corner of the net, leaving the beaten keeper lying face down on the grass; three goals in ten minutes! NCC spent several minutes attacking, which saw their labours, including a corner and free kick, denied by the keeper, or sent high over the bar. In turn the Dons had a free kick and saw a great run denied by a sprawling Ted Guest and Harry Wilks. Another NCC attack saw their actions again stopped by the vigilant home defence. Approaching half time the NCC pressure paid off when Ian Jones went through the centre and stroked the ball along the ground and into a net devoid of defence; NCC was beginning to excel.

NCC started the second half with several blistering attacks; one saw a low trajectory headed away by an alert defender and another was eventually cleared, after several attempts, by the home defence. James Stevens had wonderful chance to score when he was clean through but the ball was put wide. After a brief foray up their right the Dons were again on the defence as NCC sped downfield. Following a throw James Stevens, positioned just beyond the near post, made amends as he threaded the ball between the keeper and a brace of defenders, 0-5.

James Stevens taps the ball home from close range to score NCC's fifth goal

Then followed half an hour in which NCC dominated although no goals were scored. The Dons began this period with two shots; both were sent over the bar. At the other end Barry Styman had his effort pushed behind for a corner, which was well caught by the jumping keeper as Ian Jones rushed in. Then NCC had two further shots saved and another sent wide before the hosts had a great chance go behind, and the ensuing corner bobbled about before NCC was able to tidy up. NCC’s dominance gave them five of the next six attempts, but, apart from one, all these efforts were denied by the Dons. That attempt saw Barry Styman denied a hat-trick as he posted a sitter over the bar. With five minutes to go Aaron Brown, who had earlier hit a post, won the race to the ball and drilled a low volley beyond the keeper and into the empty net, to hit the Dons for six. Man of the Match Barry Styman again sent the ball over the bar as he collided with the home keeper. A solid performance saw NCC record their first win of the new season, but the team must be aware of the many wasted opportunities to score; two goals in the second half was a poor reflection of their dominance.

With Harry Wilks on the ball NCC continue the attack

Aaron Brown pushes a diagonal ball beyond the reach of the keeper to hit the Dons for six

An enthralled Michael Wyatt reporting from a sunny Priors Park

Game 01: League Match: 6 September 2014:
North Cheltenham Churches  2    St John’s  3

North Cheltenham Churches welcomed St John’s, Cirencester, on a fine September morning; the visitors making their Cotswold Churches League debut. NCC manager, Andy Murton, had been forced to reshuffle his line-up as some players were involved in the following day’s Cheltenham half marathon; James Stevens donned the goalkeeping gloves with Aaron Brown getting a rare chance up front. The pitch was in perfect condition but NCC struggled early on to find the fluency they had shown in a 7-1 midweek friendly victory. Their best chance came from a set-piece; Tom Burns meeting a corner with a thundering header only to see his effort blocked on the line. When NCC did find the breakthrough it was against the run of play. Their goal owed much to the tenacity of Ian Jones, who refused to give up a lost cause, robbing a St John’s defender on the left flank before powering to the by-line and crossing perfectly for Charlie Davidson to volley home at the far post – composed finishing indeed!

St John’s had already shown that they were a goal threat and soon drew level, a diagonal pass eluding the NCC defence and falling perfectly for the visiting team’s striker to finish coolly past a helpless James Stevens, just past the half hour mark.

Ian Jones leaps to head the ball

Andy Murton rallied his troops at the break, and called for more composure, but it was the visitors who started on the front foot. When NCC failed to clear their lines under pressure a St John’s player was felled in the box. Aaron Brown had taken over in goal after the break but St John’s made no mistake from the spot, firing the penalty into the top corner and giving Aaron no chance. Charlie Davidson almost equalised with another sublime effort that just cleared the bar, but it was James Stevens, released from goalkeeping duties, who drew NCC level after a good hour’s play. With the St John’s defence distracted by the presence of Ian Jones, Simon Trew’s free kick, from deep in the NCC half, was inadvertently flicked on by the visiting centre half and James nipped in to drill the ball home. Unfortunately for NCC the parity was short-lived, as a lack of concentration allowed a St John’s player the freedom of the box to blast a sweetly-struck half-volley, the winner, into the net.

Some of the team had been watching  Strictly Come Dancing

Ian Jones makes another valiant effort at heading

NCC strive to get an equaliser

With seconds remaining NCC fail to capitalise on another chance

NCC made a determined effort to find another equaliser and Ian Jones and Charlie Davidson both went agonisingly close in the dying seconds, but it was not to be. Man of the Match was awarded to Charlie Davidson for a terrific and hard-working display on the right of midfield, which was capped by his fine goal.

Matt Allison reporting, and deputising for the regular reporters.

Match reports from 2013-14 season

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

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Last modified: 05 January 2019