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Fan Zone 15/12/2023


FA  TROPHY  SUCCESS  FOR  UNITED’S  YOUTHFUL  TEAM


WOMEN’S  GAME  TO  GET  30  NEW  3G  PITCHES


AND  NEW  TV  DEAL  MEANS  FEWER  SATURDAY  AFTERNOON  MATCHES



Saturday’s FA Trophy game at Southern League South Frome Town was a day to remember for all kinds of reasons, one of them being Frome’s biggest gate for 50 years, 1,305.


Importantly Torquay’s comprehensive 4-1 victory takes them into Round Four with an away tie against Hereford FC in January. Two former Football League teams battling it out for a round closer to a Wembley final. Winners of this tie receive £5,250. 


Then the side Gary Johnson put out on Saturday, average age 20.5, was one of the youngest in the club’s history for a competitive match. It was certainly a day to remember for 16 year-old Jacob Wellington. And there were more from the Under-18 squad on the bench.


Finally, Rhys Lovett made it a hat-trick of penalty saves this season for three different Torquay goalkeepers.


*****


There certainly has been a change of fortunes over the last few weeks as Johnston’s side has now notched up a fourth consecutive win - and these with a depleted squad. Maybe Johnson “only needing some luck”, which owner Clarke Osborne alluded to in a recent interview, has helped turn the corner.


Lovett’s penalty save, with United 2-0 ahead, came at a crucial time as 2-1 might have made it a different game.


*****


With Yeovil and Maidstone looking for a swift return to the National League at the first time of asking, as are Torquay, it was interesting to see how United’s rivals got on. Yeovil were in league action dropping two points at Dartford which was good news, the gap between Yeovil and Torquay currently stands at nine points.


Maidstone, one of United’s rivals for promotion, were in Trophy action but went down 4-0 at Barnet while National North Scunthorpe, also looking for a quick return to non-league’s top flight, lost at home 2-0 to NL Solihull Moors. So, do these two defeats suggest a big gap in standards between the National League and North and South? Maybe, but the South team Bath City beat NL Boreham Wood.


*****


Whilst we all hope United will, by the end, be promoted, just how many of the regulars in the current squad will be able to keep the team up? How many contracts will be up? And will it be a case for the manager to re-build once again?


FA Trophy Crowd Watch: Southend v Hampton & Richmond 2,185, Kidderminster v Stourbridge 2,159, Scunthorpe v Solihull Moors 1,899.


*****


Although there remains a pocket of mistrust about the growth of women’s football there is no denying its growing popularity. On Sunday the clash between the two women’s teams of Arsenal v Chelsea attracted over 59,000 to the Emirates Stadium.


Only last week the FA in conjunction with the Government and the Premier League announced a £30m fund to deliver 30 new state-of-the-art 3G pitches at sites supporting women’s and girls’ teams across the country. This initiative comes as a direct result of the success of the Lionesses.


The 30 new pitches and accompanying facilities are designed to prioritise women’s and girls’ teams, with reserved peak-time slots, women and girls-only evenings plus priority booking for women’s and girls’ teams. Be interesting to see how far west one of these might come.


After all, we are led to understand that Clarke Osborne is still looking for a site.


*****


A new deal for TV football coverage of the Premier League was announced last week. With Amazon Prime dropping out it was the top two TV companies, Sky Sports and TNT (formerly BT Sport) to share the fixtures.


Now, if you asked your typical football fan about when they’d prefer the Saturday matches to start, the majority are likely to say 3pm. Whilst that may be true for leagues down the pyramid, it’s not the case in the top division.


Because under the new deal there will only be 113 potential 3pm games with the others dotted around Saturday lunchtimes, evenings, Sundays and Monday evenings. And kick-offs for many of these seem to be getting later without any regard to fans, particularly of the away sides, being able to get home.


Amazingly, last season Manchester United only played three times on a Saturday with a 3pm kick-off and Arsenal five times. Just shows how the football map has changed for the sake of TV money. What’s your view on this? Send yours to: fanszone.tu@gmail.com.


*****


With five of the Under-18s with the first team at Frome, the youth side notched up another league win to close the gap with Bridgwater, winning 2-1 at Fairford Town thanks to a last minute winner.


This Saturday it’s back to league action with the return fixture with Hemel Hempstead who, in the home match, won the points with two late goals. Hopefully somebody from the management team was at Havant on Wednesday to see Havant & Waterlooville defeat Hemel Hempstead 2-0.


Annual Christmas Quiz starts next week.


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