Saturday, 26 March 2011

England Dominant in 2-0 Win over Wales

England climb to the top of Group G in the Euro 2012 Qualifiers after easing to a 2-0 victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff this evening.

In a match that was billed as a compelling and competitive fixture between two British neighbours, it was the Welsh side who failed to follow the script, looking at times out of their depth against an England team brimming with Premier League talent.

The Three Lions got off to the best possible start after just seven minutes. Ashley Young, who has won the most penalties in the Premier League this season with five, was clumsily brought down in the box by his Aston Villa team-mate James Collins, leaving Frank Lampard to dispatch the subsequent penalty past Wales ‘keeper Wayne Hennessey. The Dragons’ task was made even more difficult a further seven minutes later when England full-back Glen Johnson played a lovely ball to the lively Young on the right-wing, who’s cracking delivery was slotted home by Darren Bent, scoring his third goal in as many games on the international stage.

Aaron Ramsey became Wales'
youngest ever captain in tonight's
game against England.
Wales were clearly missing the power and pace of Spurs’ winger Gareth Bale and were all too often short of the quality needed to get at a spirited England team. Garry Speed’s side went into the half-time break without even managing a shot on target and England were looking extremely good value for their 2-0 lead.

Wales certainly had more possession in the second half but it was England that so nearly added to their lead in the 47th minute. A poor clearance from Hennessey found Ashley Young whose tantalising cross was just too high for the onrushing Wayne Rooney at the far post. The Welsh sides’ best chance arguably came just after the hour mark, when Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey controlled well from a Steve Morrison pass before turning neatly to create space for a shot at goal, but he couldn’t muster a goal to celebrate becoming Wales’ youngest ever captain as he fired his shot high over the bar.

The Dragon’s had a short period of dominance in the second half, winning four corners in quick succession, but the deliveries from Craig Bellamy and Joe Ledley were poor and easily dealt with by England stopper Joe Hart. Stewart Downing went close to adding to England’s tally in the 90th minute when he cut inside and lashed a shot inches wide of Hennessey’s right-hand post, but in the end a two goal advantage was enough to see Fabio Capello’s men earn a valuable three points in Group G.

Aston Villa's Ashley Young continued his impressive
run of form at international level.
Wales’ hopes of qualifying for Euro 2012 now look all but gone as they remain bottom of the group and yet to even gain a point. The Dragon’s technical inferiority was there for all to see as the likes of Championship players Steve Morrison and Andy King failed to step-up to the levels of England’s Champions League stars. The performance of Jack Wilshere in the heart of the Three Lions’ midfield was once again a joy to behold, with the Arsenal youngster seemingly already establishing himself as a key player in Capello’s side despite being the tender age of nineteen.

As England come away from Cardiff with a well-earned 2-0 win, no doubt Fabio Capello will be looking to some of the squad’s fringe players such as Matt Jarvis and Kyle Walker to show what they can do in the friendly against Ghana at Wembley this Tuesday night.

What are your views and opinions on England’s victory in Wales tonight? Share your thoughts in the comments box below. 

Friday, 25 March 2011

England U21s Hammer Denmark 4-0

Stuart Pearce’s England U21 side thumped four past Denmark to no reply in an international friendly in Viborg yesterday evening.

Danny Welbeck, Scott Sinclair, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson were all on target as England finished the game with an impressive score line against a spirited Danish side. Although the result was synonymous with the Young Lion’s ranking as the number one U21 side in the world right now, the performance was at times questionable with Denmark particularly dominant in the first half.

The game started off with a sour note as Manchester City defender Micah Richards was stretchered off after just five minutes with a hamstring problem. It was big blow for the U21 captain and no doubt his club boss Roberto Mancini will be hoping that his injury is not too serious.
On-loan Bolton striker scored
Daniel Sturridge scored England's
third goal of the game.

Although Danish ‘keeper Jonas Lossl had little to deal with in the first period, it was England who went into the break in front, courtesy of a cracking goal from on-loan Sunderland striker Danny Welbeck, whose first touch was exquisite before riffling a shot into the roof of the net before Lossl could even move.

England certainly performed better after the break, and two goals in four minutes put the continually dangerous looking Danes to bed. Swansea City’s Scott Sinclair scored England’s second goal of the game in the 58th minute after latching on quickly to a rebound after the impressive Daniel Sturridge had his shot saved by Lossl. Bolton loanee Sturridge finally got the goal his performance deserved moments later when he cut inside and lashed the ball home from just inside the area. A much improved second half performance from the Young Lions’ was rounded off in the 72nd minute, when Sunderland academy graduate Jordan Henderson finished well after a superb ball from right-back Kyle Naughton.  

The score line certainly flattered Pearce’s men, but four goals against a strong Danish side should certainly be congratulated. No doubt Fabio Capello will be hoping that his Senior side exert the goal-scoring prowess of the U21s in their Euro 2012 qualifier with Wales at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow. Meanwhile Pearce’s team continue their Under 21 Championship Finals preparation with a friendly against Iceland at Preston’s Deepdale stadium on Monday night.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Matt Jarvis – a 'breath of fresh air’? Absolutely.

Guest writer CHRIS TEALE casts his verdict on the inclusion of Wolves' winger Matt Jarvis in Fabio Capello's England squad for next week's matches against Wales and Ghana.

Fabio Capello has come in for much criticism over the past twelve months, particularly after the World Cup fiasco and his very public U-turn over the captaincy. However, his latest England squad for the Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales and the subsequent friendly against Ghana should be unconditionally applauded. In particular, his call-up of Wolves' winger Matt Jarvis deserves a massive amount of credit.

This selection more than any other demonstrates Capello's willingness to select players who are in form for their Premier League clubs, regardless of how fashionable those clubs are perceived to be. Jarvis has consistently been Wolves' best player this season, and absolutely deserves his chance to be the first Wolves player to be capped by England since Steve Bull in 1990. One of Capello's predecessors, Sven-Goran Eriksson, tried to pick players that were in form regardless of the club they played for. However, selections like those of the 31-year olds Chris Powell in 2001 from Charlton Athletic and Alan Thompson from Celtic in 2004 were by no means long-term selections building for the future. Capello's selection of Jarvis, who will hopefully earn experience on the pitch at some point, is clearly a selection with the future in mind, as well as the present. 

Wolves' boss Mick McCarthy described
Jarvis' selection in the England squad
as a "breath of fresh air".
Jarvis' story as a professional footballer is one of hard work, coming through adversity and learning the game in the lower divisions of English football. Jarvis was released by Millwall as a teenager before then being snapped up by Gillingham. Jarvis made his debut in the-then Division One (Championship) in 2003 as a 17-year old, and made over 100 appearances over four years as Gillingham were relegated to League One in 2005. Jarvis continued to impress at the heart of Gillingham's team for the next couple of years, before Wolves made an undisclosed offer for the 21-year old winger as they looked to push for promotion in the Championship. From then on, he has held down a regular spot in the Wolves first team, and has at the time of writing scored four goals in the Premier League this season.

If Jarvis plays against either Wales or Ghana, something that looks very likely given that only Aaron Lennon and Ashley Young are the other recognised wingers in the squad, he will be rewarded for a career of hard work and determination. Small wonder, then, that Wolves manager Mick McCarthy sees him as a "breath of fresh air" in the England squad, and it must now be apparent that it is not just players from the top Premier League teams that can earn a call-up to the England squad.

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Monday, 21 March 2011

The Football League Awards 2011

The 2011 edition of the Football League Awards was held at a glittering ceremony in London last night, and Can We Play You Every Week casts its eyes over the winners from the Championship, League One and League Two.

The biggest prize of the night was undoubtedly the award for the Championship Player of the Year. From a shortlist that certainly raised eyebrows for the omissions of leading scorer Danny Graham and Jay Bothroyd, who received an England call-up last November, it was Queen Park Rangers’ Adel Taarabt who deservedly took home the trophy over fellow nominees Grant Holt and Scott Sinclair. I was fortunate enough to see Taarabt play earlier in the season and he is by far the most talented individual I have witnessed in the division. His contribution to Rangers’ position at the top of the table is unquestionable, with the attacking midfielder either scoring or assisting almost half of his team’s goals this season. Although the Moroccan international had a fairly mixed degree of success at former club Tottenham Hotspur, he has more than demonstrated his credentials in the Championship this season and I for one am looking forward to him plying his trade in the Premier League next term.

Peterborough forward Craig Mackail-Smith
won the League One Player of the Year Award.
In League One, Peterborough striker Craig Mackail-Smith beat Glenn Murray and Bradley Wright-Phillips to the Player of the Year Award. Mackail-Smith has scored an impressive 22 league goals this season and has managed 91 goals in 199 appearances during his five seasons with Posh, a record that understandably has put him firmly on the radar of clubs in the higher divisions, with Championship promotion hopefuls Norwich City the most recent team to have had an offer rejected for 27 year old forward.

The winner of the League Two Player of the Year Award was Bury’s Ryan Lowe, who won the prize ahead of Gareth Ainsworth and Adam Le Fondre. Lowe is currently the Football League’s highest scorer with 23 goals in 37 appearances. Lowe was also Bury’s leading scorer last term and has this season broken a 53 year old club record by scoring in 10 consecutive league games.

Ipswich Town striker Connor
Wickham won the Football League
Young Player of the Year Award.
The Football League Young Player of the Year trophy is always one of great celebration, as it not only is awarded to a player who has performed well over the duration of the season, but also points to the recipient being a rising star in the game, with former notable winners including Gareth Bale, Michael Kightly and Fabian Delph. This year’s winner was Ipswich Town striker Connor Wickham, who beat Henri Lansbury and Will Buckley to the award. The 17 year old looks set to have a bright future in the game and has impressed under new Tractor Boys’ boss Paul Jewell, scoring six league goals and earning his first cap for the England U21s. Wickham was last night also presented with his second award of the evening, the Championship Apprentice of the Year, which awards the most successful under-18 of the season.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Champions League Quarter-Final Draw

Former England international Gary Lineker served up a set of cracking ties as he performed the draw for the Champions League quarter-finals in Switzerland this morning.

The highlight of the draw was when Tottenham Hotspur, a team in which Lineker himself previously played for, were drawn against Spanish giants Real Madrid in what will sure be a thrilling contest. It seems as though Spurs just don’t do easy draws in what is their inaugural season in the Champions League. After dispatching seven-time European Cup winners AC Milan in the previous round, the team from North London will now face the competition’s all-time record-holders, who have not only won the European Cup nine times, but are also coached by Jose Mourinho, a manager who has won the Champions League twice in six years with two different teams and as recently as last season with former club Inter Milan.

Inter Milan striker Goran Pandev celebrates scoring an
88th minute winner against Bayern Munich that saw
his side progress through to the quarter-finals.
In the remainder of the draw, Mourinho’s former club Inter will face Schalke after beating last year’s beaten finalists Bayern Munich and Spanish side Valencia respectively. 2009 Champions League winners Barcelona have a tricky draw against Shakhtar Donetsk, with the Ukrainians unbeaten at home in 31 months in all competitions. The fourth and final quarter-final sees a re-run of the 2008 Champions League final as three-time European Cup winners Manchester United face fellow Premier League side Chelsea.

This morning’s quarter-final draw was followed by the draw for the semi-finals and Lineker again did not fail to disappoint. The winners of the match between Manchester United and Chelsea will face either Inter Milan or Schalke, while the winners of the game between Real Madrid and Tottenham will play either Barcelona or Shakhtar Donetsk, setting up a possible El Classico in the Champions League semi-finals.

The first legs of the quarter-final ties will be played on the 5th and 6th of April, with full reviews of all the games right here on Can We Play You Every Week.

Britain Bow Out of Europa League

The passports of players at Liverpool, Manchester City and Rangers can all be locked away ‘til next season as all three British sides went out at the last-16 stage of the Europa League last night.

In a fortnight that has seen three British clubs – Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – progress through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, their compatriots could not do the same in the Europa League and now have to turn their attentions to other competitions in the hope of silverware this year, or in the case of Liverpool, wait until next season for the chance to win a trophy.

We start off at Eastlands were Manchester City faced a strong Dynamo Kiev side with a 2-0 advantage from the first-leg. City boss Roberto Mancini put out a strong side that included the likes of Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and David Silva and the Blues looked dangerous against a Kiev team that had clearly come to Manchester with a game plan to sit back and protect their two goal aggregate lead. It was certainly going to be a tough ask for City to progress in the competition and their task was made even more difficult when fiery Italian striker Mario Balotelli was sent off for a challenge on Kiev defender Goran Popov, a challenge that made the tackle made by his City team-mate Nigel De Jong in the World Cup Final look like child’s play. Although Balotelli’s athleticism to raise his foot to such a height was impressive, it was a horrendous tackle and the Macedonian Popov was lucky not to be seriously injured.

Manchester City's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates his
goal against Dynamo Kiev at Eastlands.
Following a short interval for the kung-fu antics, Manchester City’s dominance of the footballing kind was rewarded six minutes before half-time when Aleksandar Kolarov fired in a low drive past the unsighted Oleksandr Shovkovskiy, a goal which give Mancini’s men a glimmer of hope at the break despite the prospect of having to play the entirety of the second half with just ten men. City continued to press after the restart and with twenty minutes to go brought on Edin Dzeko and Adam Johnson in the hope of taking the tie to extra time, but in the end Kiev’s one man advantage paid dividends and their one goal advantage was enough to see them progress to the quarter-finals. No doubt City fans will be wondering what would have happened if Balotelli would have kept his feet on the ground and the Blues played the entire game with their full contingent of eleven players, but unfortunately their previously impressive Europa League run is behind them and they will now have to turn their attentions to the FA Cup semi-final against inter-city rivals United to realistically keep this season’s dream of silverware alive.

Andy Carroll made his first start for
Liverpool against Braga.
A 0-0 draw at Anfield was enough to see Portuguese side Braga through to the quarter-finals after a 1-0 aggregate win over Liverpool. Reds boss Kenny Dalglish blamed his side’s lack of creativity as they struggled to break down a well organised Braga outfit. Dalglish commented after the game “you need to be really strong creatively if you are going to break down a very organised side” and a Liverpool team without injured captain Steven Gerrard and the ineligible Luis Suarez looked lacklustre in attack. Although the game saw Andy Carroll make his first start in a Red’s shirt, the big striker looked short of match fitness and Dalglish will know his side will have to perform much better in order to qualify for the Europa League next season.

Rangers, the last remaining Scottish team in Europe, lost 1-0 at home to PSV Eindhoven in front of over 35,000 fans at Ibrox. A 13th minute goal from Jeremain Lens was enough to see the Dutch side through to the quarter-finals in a game of poor quality that only managed four shots on target. The Glasgow side had a second half penalty appeal turned down after the referee – and amazingly the extra official behind the goal – failed to spot a hand ball on the goal line by Canadian international Atiba Hutchinson following a shot by Rangers midfielder Maurice Edu, but in the end it was PSV’s dominance over the two legs that sees them deservedly progress in the competition. 

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Manchester United ease past Arsenal to reach FA Cup Semi-Finals

A strong performance from Manchester United sees them through to the Semi-Finals of the FA Cup after a 2-0 win against Arsenal.

A weakened United side without regulars Darren Fletcher, Dimitar Berbatov and Nani were simply too strong for an Arsenal team who were all too often wasteful in front of goal.

United’s Brazilian brothers Fabio and Rafael, both playing in more advanced positions than their usual roles at full back, looked lively throughout and it was Fabio who opened the scoring after 27 minutes. A cross from Wayne Rooney was headed towards goal by Javier Hernandez and the young Brazilian positioned himself well to net the rebound after Arsenal ‘keeper Manuel Almunia initially saved from Hernandez.

Arsenal certainly had their fair share of opportunities with Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri in particular all going close but their efforts were consistently rebuffed by an almost impenetrable looking Edwin van der Sar.

Fabio Da Silva stretches to score Manchester United's
first goal against Arsenal.
United’s second goal came just four minutes after the restart and this time it was Fabio’s twin-brother Rafael’s turn to get involved, with the youngster’s pass finding Hernandez who again had a shot blocked before eventually being headed in by Wayne Rooney. The England striker looked back to this best playing apart in both goals and linking up well with strike-partner Hernandez.

Arsene Wenger’s side looked for more attacking options in the second half with Marouane Chamakh coming on to replace Denilson and the Moroccan international almost halfed the deficit with a header that, unfortunately for Arsenal, fell straight into the arms of van der Sar.

The game was stopped in the 80th minute for Gunners’ defender Johan Djourou to receive lengthy treatment for what seemed a nasty looking shoulder injury following a collision with team-mate Bacary Sagna, after Almunia again saved well from Hernandez to prevent his side going 3-0 down.

Eight minutes of stoppage time was added to the end of the second half due to the injury suffered by Djourou, but it was still not enough for Arsenal to grab even a consolation goal as the North London side crashed out of their third competition in as many weeks. Manchester United on the other hand will now look forward to tomorrow’s FA Cup Semi-Final draw as they learn who they will face out of Bolton Wanderers, Stoke City or West Ham United and their inter-city rivals Manchester City or Reading.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Manchester City’s Europa League hopes in doubt after 2-0 defeat to Dynamo Kiev

Manchester City face an uphill struggle to progress to the Europa League quarter-finals after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine last night.

In freezing conditions in the Ukrainian capital, Roberto Mancini’s men failed to ever real get going and too often lacked enough quality with their final ball to really test experienced Kiev ‘keeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy.

Dynamo Kiev went in front in the 25th minute through a deft finish from former AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko after a well worked cross from lively winger Andriy Yarmolenko, who at only 21 years of age looks a real prospect for the future.

Andriy Shevchenko looked impressive throughout
and scored Dynamo Kiev's first goal against City.
Manchester City offered little threat to the Kiev goal in the first half, with the only real moment of excitement from the City strike force coming at the start of the second half. Mario Balotelli, who seems unable to distance himself from any sort of controversy, came out late for the kick-off and the Blues had to start the second period with only ten men as first team coach David Platt was sent running back to the changing room to find the missing Balotelli. The Italian was soon back on the pitch with his team mates a minute later but was replaced by Carlos Tevez just twelve minutes in as he continued to rub his eyes and struggle with some sort of injury, although whether that injury was physical or mental is up for debate.

Balotelli’s replacement Tevez certainly offered City more of an attacking threat as they looked to earn a crucial away goal, with Yaya Toure, David Silva and Joleon Lescott all going close to making the score level. For all of the visitors’ increased pressure in the second half, it was Kiev who scored the second goal of the game. Andriy Shevchenko was again involved and it was his cross that was inadvertently headed on by City defender Vincent Kompany to Oleh Gusev who chested the ball down well before firing in an unstoppable shot past Joe Hart.

The Ukrainians now take an impressive 2-0 lead to Eastlands and Manchester City will need to put in an impressive performance to beat a Dinamo Kiev side that look solid at the back and possess an impressive attacking threat in the shape of Andriy Shevchenko, who last night looked almost back to his AC Milan best. 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Resilient Spurs battle through to Champions League Quarter-Finals

A hard-fought 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane was enough to see Tottenham Hotspur progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in their history after a 1-0 aggregate win over AC Milan.

For much of this season, it has been Spurs’ attacking prowess that has caught the eye and too much of the headlines, but last night’s clean-sheet against Serie A leaders Milan demonstrated that their often criticised back line can stand up against the very best and grind out a result when needed.

Spurs' midfielder Sandro showing the determination
that won him the man of the match award. 
Facing a mouth-watering front three of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato and Robinho, Tottenham’s centre back pairing of William Gallas and Michael Dawson stood up well to the almost continuous Milan attacks in the first half, with Gallas in particular positioning himself brilliantly to clear a deflected shot from Robinho off the line after a mistake by Spurs ‘keeper Heurelho Gomes. 

Harry Redknapp’s side certainly improved after the break, with Rafael van der Vaart going close from a curling free-kick and the ever-industrious Sandro chasing and harrying the Milan players in the centre of the park.  Although Tottenham failed to score for only the third time in 2011, their performance was enough to see them deservedly through to the Champions League quarter-finals, a feat never achieved before by an English manager.

Spurs’ boss Redknapp described his team’s progression as an “impossible dream”, adding “Two years ago if you would have said that we would have made it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, I would have thought you were crazy.”

Tottenham’s transformation under Redknapp has been not short of remarkable and two clean-sheets against  seven-time European Cup winners AC Milan certainly demonstrate that Spurs’ often beleaguered back four is most certainly up to the challenge. 

Monday, 7 March 2011

Weekend Round-up

A round-up of all the weekend’s action from the top four divisions in English football.

Dirt Kuyt scored a hat-trick for Liverpool against Manchester United

Premier League

The big story of the weekend was at Anfield where Dirk Kuyt, who had previously failed to score against Manchester United in every appearance he has made against them, bagged himself a hat-trick as Liverpool defeated the Red Devils
3-1. Second placed Arsenal lost the chance to close in on United at the top of the table after their goalless draw with Sunderland at the Emirates. Birmingham suffered a nasty hangover from last Sunday’s Carling Cup final victory losing 3-1 to local rivals West Brom. A missed penalty from Ashley Young cost his Aston Villa side dearly as they lost 3-2 away at Bolton. At Craven Cottage a controversial late penalty scored by Bobby Zamora on his return from injury saw Fulham beat Blackburn 3-2. Manchester City beat Wigan 1-0 thanks to a howler by Wigan ‘keeper Ali Al Habsi which leaves the Latics at the bottom of the table. Newcastle failed to rectify the fact they haven’t won a home game kicking off at 3.00 pm on a Saturday since August 2008 by losing to Everton 2-1. A resurgent West Ham moved out of the drop zone after an impressive 3-0 home victory against Stoke. Six goals were seen at Molineux, including two fantastic strikes from Jermain Defoe, as Wolves drew 3-3 with Tottenham. Tonight sees Ian Holloway’s Blackpool welcome Chelsea in what will sure be an entertaining game at Bloomfield Road.


Jimmy Bullard scored two goals from outside the area
as his Ipswich side beat Cardiff 2-0

Jay Rodriguez scored his third goal in as many games as Burnley beat Crystal Palace 1-0 at Turf Moor. Two wondrous strikes from on-loan midfielder Jimmy Bullard saw my team Ipswich win 2-0 against Cardiff in the Welsh capital. An impressive performance from Bristol City saw them win 4-1 away at Coventry. Derby drew 0-0 with Barnsley to end their run of five straight home defeats at Pride Park. A brace apiece from Max Gradel and Jonny Howson helped Leeds come back from 2-1 down to beat Doncaster 5-2 at Elland Road. A missed penalty from Wes Hoolahan cost Norwich a crucial three points against bottom side Preston as the game finished 1-1. Hull’s 1-0 win away at Nottingham Forest sees promotion chasing Forest go four games without a win. A rare goal from Hermann Hreidarsson saw Portsmouth earn their sixth straight victory with a 1-0 win at home to struggling Sheffield United. Queens Park Rangers extended their lead at the top of the Championship to eight points with a late 1-0 win over Leicester. Two goals from Leroy Lita were not enough to prevent his Middlesbrough side losing 5-2 to Reading at the Madejski Stadium. There was a shock at Glandford Park as Scunthorpe beat second placed Swansea thanks to a Joe Garner penalty. Watford continued their good run of form with a 1-0 win at home to Millwall.

League One

George Boyd scored a brace for Peterborough against Exeter

Bournemouth continued their impressive run of form with a 3-0 home win against Oldham. A cracking game at the Withdean saw league leaders Brighton claim all three points after a 93rd minute winner from Liam Bridcutt saw the Seagulls beat Carlisle 4-3. Dagenham and Redbridge grabbed a 1-0 win in the relegation six-pointer at home to Bristol Rovers. Charlton ended their run of four straight defeats by securing a 1-1 draw with Tranmere at The Valley. Southampton demonstrated their play-off credentials with a 2-0 win away at Colchester. A brace from Andy Monkhouse helped Hartlepool to a 3-0 home win against Brentford. Leyton Orient bounced back from their midweek defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup with a 2-0 win at home against Notts County. A double from George Boyd helped free scoring Peterborough beat Exeter 3-0 at London Road. MK Dons thumped four past Rochdale to no reply as the Dale fell to their first defeat in 2011. An impressive performance from Plymouth saw them defeat Sheffield Wednesday 4-2 as they look to move out of the bottom four after their recent 10 point deduction for entering administration. The 0-0 draw between Swindon and Walsall did little to ease either side’s relegation worries. 19th placed Yeovil earned a valuable point against high-flying Huddersfield as they drew 1-1.

League Two

Crewe striker Clayton Donaldson scored a hat-trick against Burton

Chesterfield opened up an 11 point lead at the top of League Two as they won 3-0 away at Cheltenham. A hat-trick from striker Clayton Donaldson helped Crewe hammer Burton 4-1 at the Alexandra Stadium. New boss Peter Jackson was unable to prevent his Bradford side losing 2-0 away at Gillingham. A brace from Steven Schumacher and a record 9th consecutive league goal for Ryan Lowe saw Bury win 3-0 at Hereford. Mid-table sides Lincoln and Accrington Stanley played out an uninspiring 0-0 draw at Sincil Bank. Morecambe earned a valuable three points with a 2-1 win at home to play-off chasing Southend. A late winner from Jon Taylor saw Shrewsbury take all three points from Northampton in a 3-2 win at Sixfields. Port Vale are now just three points off the automatic promotion spots after a 2-1 home win against Macclesfield. Barnet still lie second from bottom after their 0-0 draw away at Rotherham. A 94th minute winner from Greg Tansey saw bottom placed Stockport earn their first win in three games as they beat Oxford 2-1 at Edgeley Park. Torquay are now just four points off the play-offs after a 2-0 win at home to Stevenage. Wycombe drop to third in the table after a 2-2 home draw with Aldershot.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Weekend Preview

In a new regular feature, I’ll be casting my eye over the weekend’s fixtures and picking out the biggest games in the Premier League, the Championship, League One and League Two.

Premier League
Liverpool v Manchester United
Sun 6th March, 1.30 pm

Undoubtedly the fixture of the weekend sees ref-ranting Sir Alex Ferguson take his troops to Anfield for a clash against King Kenny’s re-born Liverpool side. It’s a big game for both teams, with Liverpool attempting to chase down Spurs in 5th place and United looked to demonstrate some bouncebackability after their midweek defeat at the hands of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Although the Red Devils have issues at the back, with Nemanja Vidic suspended and Rio Ferdinand still sidelined with injury, I think they’ll still have enough to beat a Liverpool side, albeit revived under the management of Kenny Dalglish, lacking in quality to challenge those in the top four.
Prediction: 1-2

Queens Park Rangers v Leicester City

Sat 5th March, 3.00 pm

When these two sides played earlier in the season at the Walkers Stadium it was Queens Park Rangers who came out on top in a fairly comfortable 2-0 victory, however I doubt the Londoners will have such an easy ride this time around. Leicester look a shade of the relegation threatened side Rangers played in September and under new boss Sven-Goran Eriksson have found themselves knocking on the door of the play-offs. With a host of Premier League loanees on both sides, it will certainly be an entertaining game at Loftus Road.
Prediction: 2-2

League One
Sheffield Wednesday v Plymouth Argyle

Sat 5th March, 3.00pm

A real fall from grace for two teams relegated from the Championship last season sees 16th placed Wednesday take on bottom side Plymouth Argyle. The Devonshire club have this week entered administration and find themselves eight points from safety after a ten-point deduction. Argyle, who beat play-off chasing Colchester last Saturday, will certainly be looking to make amends for their off-field troubles and take all three points from a Wednesday side that have been so far unconvincing under new boss Gary Megson.
Prediction: 1-2

League Two
Torquay United v Stevenage

Sat 5th March, 3.00 pm

11th placed Torquay take on 10th placed Stevenage at Plainmoor in what is an important game for both sides’ play-off ambitions. The Gulls will be looking for three points after a run of four games without a win against a Stevenage side unbeaten in their last five league games.
Prediction: 1-2

Friday, 4 March 2011

We're Just as Bad as the Rest of Them

‘Fix’, ‘cheats’, ‘disgrace’ and ‘an utter shambles’ were just some of the words and phrases used by the British media to describe the FIFA 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process last December. Three months on however, after a request by the BBC under the freedom of information act, it has been learned that England’s very own bid team were not as distant as they liked to portray from the secret deals and agreements it was vilifying late last year.

Secret emails between the British Foreign Office and embassy officials in Qatar made it quite clear that the England bid team wished to establish a voting alliance between the England 2018 bid and Qatar’s 2022 bid through the help of the Duke of York’s relationship with the Qatari royal family. This comes from the same England bid team that accused Spain and Portugal of breaking FIFA rules by forming a similar voting alliance with the Middle Eastern nation.

Now I am not writing to clear the name of FIFA, in fact far from it; any individual that watched the now infamous Panorama programme televised on the 29th November of last year or read Andrew Jennings’ fantastic book, Foul! The Secret World of FIFA, will know quite categorically just how corrupt, racist and despicable that institution in Zurich really is. My purpose here is to question the double standards of the England bid team.

Yes I can understand their frustration in losing out to two Blue Square Premier nations when it comes to football, and that statement really doesn’t do justice to the teams in that division, but why go out and accuse your fellow FIFA members of secret voting agreements and corruption when they too were going about the exact same thing themselves.

At first I was proud of our bid team in leading the way in calling for reform in the FIFA establishment, but now I sit here saddened, as I realise that we’re just as bad as the rest of them.