Vase trail: I'm Still Waiting
Match 1. Saturday 18th September 2010. 2nd Qualifying Round. Abbey Hey v Oldham Boro. Abbey Stadium, Gorton. With Nelson out of action for this season, and maybe longer, a few of the Blues faithful have taken to a spot of groundhopping, and I belatedly joined in a couple of weeks ago, taking in games at Padiham and Bamber Bridge. Eager to go beyond watching just the usual local suspects, I decided that it would be a good idea for myself and the missus to follow the fortunes of our intended Vase opponents Abbey Hey, and trail them and the inevitable subsequent victors right through to the Wembley final. The missus cried off ill before even the first match yesterday, but, determined as ever, I set off on the lone trek through the drizzle to Gorton, arriving 20 minutes ahead of kick-off. Within moments of parking up, a stray shot from the warm-up had careered into my car, and it really was a sign of things to come, as less than three hours later I felt somewhat deflated at the prospect of a replay - which will again be at Abbey's ground - on Tuesday evening after a turgid 0-0 draw. Despite both teams struggling somewhat towards the foot of the First Division in the Vodkat League, things looked semi-promising, as the editorial in the programme mentioned a recent league game between the two which ended with Boro victorious 4-3 despite finishing up with just nine men on the pitch. Things might have been very different if Boro's Chris Kibble had gobbled up one of two glorious opportunities within the first quarter hour. On eight minutes he rounded the keeper just to the right of the penalty spot, but with just a sole defender on the line to beat, he scuffed his shot, which was cleared with ease. And six minutes later he cut inside from the left, but though he connected well this time, his low shot cannoned back off the left hand upright when it looked easier to score. Oldham continued as the better side for much of the first half, though bar a scramble in the area there was little other threat on the home goal, while at the other end, all a disappointing Abbey had to show for their efforts was a 20-yard effort which flew high over the crossbar. The second half began much as the first had finished, with Abbey just about in the ascendancy, but it was only the Oldham no 8 Jamie Rother - who probably edged my vote as man of the match - who had threatened a goal, working well to retrieve an overhit cross from the right before turning and firing low at the keeper. Then, with 20 minutes left, a flurry of activity, as the home side called the Boro keeper into action for the first time, then another three in quick succession. As shot from nothing forced him to push a low shot around for a corner, and two minutes later he produced a double save, parrying Michael Knowles' 25-yard free-kick, before blocking the point-blank rebound from Martin Pilkington. Soon after, John Hardy drilled across goal from the left, but the keeper held the ball well. It was Oldham who had the final chance of the 90 minutes, as Rother fired in a rising shot from the edge of the area, but it was too close to Abbey's Hungarian keeper, nicknamed "Tony" by the locals, who collected easily. The extra half hour had very little in the way of goalmouth action, though one rare Abbey attack saw a home official shout "Pass the bloody thing", only for the player to drag a woeful 25-yard shot hopelessly wide and in his direction. "Not to me, you pillock!" his rather amusing next line. On this showing, I can't help but feeling that if Nelson had been kept going, we'd have seen both of these teams off comfortably, and would be embarking on another bit of a cup run. As Diana Ross warbled almost 40 years ago, I'm three games into my groundhopping season, and "I'm Still Waiting" for anything like a decent game of football. Maybe the replay will be more like the 4-3 game.
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