November review and coming up

3 draws and 1 league defeat in November sees us now winless in 6

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At the start of the season, Bards had lost just one of their opening 8 league games and were near a play-off place. Fast forward to November, The Bards are nearer the relegation zone with only 1 win in the next 11, gaining just 6 points. November saw 3 draws and 1 defeat – maybe we didn’t get the rub of the green in some of those games, but simple goals are still costing us. Bards are still winless away in 8 league games this season.

Jimmy Fry came back to the club after scoring against us for Bromsgrove. He previously spent 5 seasons here and has joined as coach.

Basford (h) – For the 2nd game running Bards conceded a goal virtually from the kick off, 42 seconds was all it took for Basford to attack down their right and a cross was headed in with ease. It was 0-2 when a low cross was tapped in unchallenged after 14. It took 75 minutes for the Basford keeper to make a fine save from Sammons’ piledriver as the game was spent mostly in the Basford half with the away side not really threatening after going 2-0 up. 5 minutes from the end, a magnificent volley from James O’Neill (after a great chip from Will setting him up) led to the proverbial throwing ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ at the visitors. Liam came up for corners, Wright’s header was cleared off the line and with the last attack of the game, Hawker chested the ball from a headed clearance and drove the ball low into the corner of the net to loud cheers from The Bards faithful as he became our top league scorer with 4. 2 seconds from the restart the final whistle below. A point was deserved through the tremendous fight and passion The Bards displayed especially towards the end – Some weren’t sure it was 4-star entertainment stated by The Non-League Paper but the last 15 minutes were enthralling – as the club website stated a ‘roller-coaster’game. “I think it’s what we deserved to be honest” said Gav. According to Rod’s stats, Bards had 17 attempts (9 on target) compared to Basford’s 4 attempts (3 on target) On-line programme here Highlights here courtesy of Basford.

Coalville (a) – I think many would have taken a point before the game. Those that went said we put a shift in, grafted well, there was a good debut for Dickinson, who looks strong and vocal tightening up the back 4. Loads of aerial battles were won when Coalville went long ball and other than the penalty on 78, we never looked like conceding. McCone put Bards ahead with a tap in from Will’s corner on 28. Rod’s stats showed it was equal for both sides with 11 goal attempts, 6 shots on target, 5 corners, 2 offsides, 2 yellow cards each, 1 goal apiece with 1 less foul from Barwell (10). Highlights on Youtube. We were ‘camped in’ in the 2nd half said scorer Paul McCone

The Birmingham Senior Cup game saw a West Bromwich Albion Under 23 side run out comfortable 4-0 winners at The Bards who included plenty of ‘fringe’ players. It was fairly even until a goal just before half-time and 4 minutes after effectively won the contest. The 3rd and 4th coming right at the end from swift counter-attacks with the away side using their pace and power up front. Despite all the rain we had in the week and on the day, the pitch looked in excellent condition for the game against the current Premier League Cup winners (a competition run for under 23 sides). According to Rod’s stats, Albion had twice as goal attempts (14) with 8 on target compared to The Bards.

Mickleover (a) – would have been a good point after equalising on 85 minutes through Mikey but another very late goal meant a 4-3 defeat. Those that went said they could not believe we did not get something out of the game – we had shots blocked on the line, but we conceded bad goals again. Mikey Taylor was man of the match in the Non-League Paper and good to see him back on the scoresheet. Akubuine had a fine debut off the bench, was very pacey and MOTM from our STISA correspondent. We had a new formation with 5 at the back and wing-backs – Mickleover had youth and pace, which they used to their advantage after only 4 minutes with the opener from a through ball. A header at the back post from Martin Riley brought us level after 16 but a goal after 40 and a direct free kick around the wall in injury time saw The Bards go in 3-1 down at the break. Will fired home after good work by Mikey 6 after the break as Stratford dominated but had to wait until 85 for our third – Mikey twisting and turning before drilling home. Bards went for the win but were caught on the counterattack with the winning goal coming from a break from the halfway line. According to Rod’s stats, Mickleover edged the game with 13 goal attempts (7 on target) compared to Stratford’s 8 attempts (5 on target). Highlights on Youtube

The Tuesday night game against Redditch was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

Royston (h) – The last game of the month saw Royston visit The Arden Garages Stadium. “Silly errors are costing us” was the headline in Gav’s column in the programme – The Bards conceded another seemingly avoidable goal on 26. A misjudged bounce in the penalty area was seized upon by the Crows who made it 1-0 with a low finish from a pull-back. That was one of their 2 shots on target all game. The Bards had the better of the play up till then and Taylor appeared to be fouled from behind in the penalty area on 15 as he advanced through on goal but the referee, who caused frustration during the game for both sides on and off the pitch, waved the claims away. A leg injury to the goalkeeper on 35 saw Royston defend even more resolutely and wind down the clock as much as possible with presumably no sub keeper on their bench. Bards continued to dominate in the 2nd half against the away side, but were susceptible on the break and were lucky Royston didn’t double their lead. The Royston keeper made some good saves (according to Rod’s stats 10 of our 17 attempts were on target) but frustration was growing that The Bards were failing to beat the injured keeper struggling to move. Finally, Mikey volleyed one home from close range out of the reach of the keeper with 18 to go. There was no more scoring after despite chances at both ends.

Bards Eye View – Jed said he believed the Southern League has changed this season and the successful teams have a more direct and physical approach with The Bards needing to adapt. Also, an interesting stat from the club that 5 of the top 7 had plastic pitches although for me football is far better on grass with our pitch looking superb.

Players – Will Grocott is the only player to start all our league games, Ashley Sammons has also appeared in all the league games coming on as sub on occasions. Josh Hawker with 4 goals is our top league scorer followed by Andre Wright on 3.

League Table Tamworth (38 pts) have had their 10-point lead at the start of the month cut to 1 by Leiston who have 2 games in hand. After winning 9 successive games, Tamworth have collected the same number of points (3) as The Bards in their last 5 games after The Lambs had a tough month including playing the 3 clubs below them, losing 2-1 at Leiston. After winning their last 5 games, Leiston now have 37. Nuneaton (36 points), Rushall (32) and Coalville (31) make up the top 6. Bards are 18th with 19 points but Alvechurch (15 points) below us have 6 games in hand. The bottom 2 are Hednesford (8) and Rushden and Diamonds (12 points and with a minus 30 goal difference). Kings Langley (16) are 4th from bottom, 3 points behind us having played 1 more game.

Leiston are top scorers with 44 from 17, Coalville have scored 42 from 16. Needham Market still have the meanest defence in the league conceding 18 goals but are slipping down the table. Ex Bard Daniel Creaney is top of the scoring charts with 18 goals – Ex Bard Daniel Sweeney is 2nd with 13 goals. Nuneaton 1 Tamworth 1 drew a crowd of 1424 and Ilkeston had 1200 v Kings Langley.

The 2 promoted sides last year to step 2 are in the top 10 – Banbury are back up to 7th and Peterborough Sports 9th.

Players In – Mikey Taylor returned and defender Martin Riley signed at the start of the month. Carl Dickinson experienced defender – a “vocal player noted for his commitment, hard work and dedication” signed the week after. The club announced a double signing on Friday 25th November – going for experience again – a welcome return of Ahmed Obeng, back after leaving for Tamworth and defender James Mace on a dual registration from Leamington FC

Players Who Departed – Jack Storer and Dexter Walters Jed stated in Bards Eye View that ‘it was difficult seeing good players leave but all players have to abide by rules and respect the club’. Dexter joined Stourbridge. Jimmy O’Neill has gone to Stafford Rangers.

Looking ahead to December – (fixtures subject to change so check club website). December sees 5 games – the first 3 away starting at bottom of the table Hednesford on the 3rd, Alvechurch’s sloping pitch on Tuesday 6th and at Bedford on 10th. Then we are at home to St Ives on 17th who beat us 5-0 in the first away game of the season. We finish off with current table toppers Tamworth on a bumper Boxing Day game.

Let’s hope we do the double at Hednesford for the 2nd season in a row as we look for our first win in 7. Hednesford are one of only 2 teams in the league we have kept a clean sheet. With them only winning 1 all season, I think most fans would be expecting one point if not our first away win of the season. Bards won 2-1 at Hednesford last year to do the double – Ex Bard Leroy Lita, who scored for us in the game last year, is back in the Hednesford ranks. Hednesford is always a great ground to visit with super facilities. Alvechurch are currently below us with only 15 points but have only played 12 games due to their run to the FA Cup 2nd round. We lost there 2-1 last season to a hotly disputed penalty after Andoh had equalised with 10 to go. We played Bedford at home on the first game of the season, an equaliser towards the end denied us all 3 points.

Off the field, we have raised another £176 with your help and support at the 3 home games. We had an additional £37 as the winnings at the Birmingham Senior Cup game were donated back to us.

For previous monthly reviews, see 2022/23 archive

DW – any opinions in this article are the author’s

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