Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Below Average SportBLOG #6 - The Un-American American Sport Report

Since the podcast is a predominantly English sporting podcast lets mix it up and see how things are going in the sporting world across the pond, three of the major leagues are up and running at the moment, Baseball is currently coming to its conclusion with the World Series, the NFL is half way into the regular season and the front runners for the Super Bowl in February are coming to the fore, the NHL has started with some interesting teams leading the way in both conferences while the NBA is waiting in the wings starting tonight.

Major League Baseball

A season that started all the way back in April is coming to its thrilling conclusion as the San Francisco Giants take on the unfancied Kansas City Royals in the 2014 World Series, after 6 gruelling months, 162 regular season games it has come down to just 7 games to decide who is the league champions. Kansas City came through the American League claiming a wildcard spot to qualify for the playoffs after finishing just behind division rivals Detroit Tigers while the Giants were in a similar situation in the National League qualifying for a wildcard behind the much fancied Los Angeles Dodgers. The Royals reached the World Series first beating the Oakland Athletics in the one game Wild Card round a game they came back from 5-0 down to win 9-8 in extra innings thanks to a walk off (Game Winning hit) single from catcher Salvador Perez. After just squeaking through the wild card they went to LA to take on the Los Angeles Angels who were the preseason favourites to win the entire playoffs, in the end the Royals swept them 3-0 winning the third and final game in Kansas City 8-3 to keep their postseason alive. The sweeps kept coming for the Royals after they beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-0 in the American League Championship Series winning both games 3 and 4 2-1 in low scoring defensive battles to send them to their first World Series since 1985. Meanwhile in the National League the San Francisco Giants went through an eerily similar process, in the Wild Card round the Giants went into Pittsburgh and destroyed the Pirates winning 8-0 thanks to a grand slam by Brandon Crawford and a shut out by pitcher Madison Bumgarner. In the next round they faced off against the much fancied Washington Nationals and won the series 3-1, the highlight of the series being an 18 inning, 6 hour marathon in game two that the Giants won 2-1. As the National League Championship Series rolled round and with the Giants rolling they went through the St Louis Cardinals winning 4-1 with victory coming in the best possible fashion as Travis Ishikawa blasted a three run home run in the last inning to send the Giants to the World Series.

Game 1 of the World Series kicked off in Kansas's Kaufmann Stadium and the Giants turned up to put an end to the Royals 8 win streak in the playoffs after winning 7-1 primarily thanks to three runs in the first inning for the Giants, Madison Bumgarner had another fantastic pitching display before giving up his first run in the playoffs to a Salvador Perez home run after keeping a shut out going for 32 innings. In Game 2 the Royals came back the next night with a 7-2 victory thanks to a big 6th inning which saw them score 5 runs to level the series before heading off to San Francisco. Game 3 and the series was flipped on its head as the Royals took the series lead following a 3-2 victory, the Royals tried and tested formula of good pitching and fantastic defence that saw them into the postseason handed them a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 saw the Giants fight back this time winning 11-4 thanks to some big hitting from Pablo Sandoval to kickstart the Giants defence. This passed Sunday Game 5 saw Madison Bumgarner pitch the first complete game shutout in the World Series for 11 years as the Giants beat the Royals to take a 3-2 series lead back to Kansas City for Game 6 where the destination of the title could be decided tonight if the Royals win tonight the series will go the distance with Game 7 being this Wednesday night.

National Football League

8 weeks into the NFL season and if you believe Sky Sports or anyone in America the Denver Broncos have already won the Super Bowl thanks to their 6-1 start to the season, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning broke yet another record this time for most touchdowns in NFL history beating the previous best by Brett Favre with his 509th career touchdown pass against the San Francisco 49ers. Elsewhere in the AFC the New England patriots have bounced back from a poor game against the Kansas City Chiefs to win 4 straight games to sit atop the East division, the North division is the closest with all 4 teams separated by just one win with the Cincinnati Bengals currently leading. In the South the future London franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars are holding up the rest of the division with a 1-7 record but are not the worst team in football this year as that honour belongs to the Oakland Raiders who are yet to win a game and do not look like breaking that duck any time soon. In the NFC the surprise of the season has been that last season's champions the Seattle Seahawks appear to be struggling with a 4-3 record in the West behind surprise division leaders the Arizona Cardinals, in yet more surprises the hotly tipped New Orleans Saints have been poor but to be fair so has the rest of the South division with no one having a winning record. The Eastern division is being led by "America's Team" the Dallas Cowboys thanks to some record breaking running from DeMarco Murray but the Philadelphia Eagles are hot on their heels, the North is quickly becoming a two horse race between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers with the teams still to play each other in a potentially division deciding game in the last week of the regular season.

This passed Sunday saw the second of the London games this year as the Detroit Lions just edged out the Atlanta Falcons in dramatic fashion. The Falcons started the game in the best possible way as they drived 80 yards down the field for the touchdown as Matt Ryan hit Devonta Freeman for the 7 yard touchdown pass, Atlanta then doubled their lead when Matt Ryan found tight end Bear Pascoe in the back of the end zone to give them a 14-0 lead, as the Lions carried on having a bad start the Falcons kept scoring as Steven Jackson pounded the ball in for yet another touchdown and the Falcons a 21-0 lead at half time. Then the Lions finally got their act together as an early field goal from Matt Prater started the fight back, following a Falcons punt the Lions continued their march and saw the play of the day as quarterback Matt Stafford dropped a 59 yard bomb into receiver Golden Tate's hands. The wheels really fell off the Falcons wagon when a Matt Ryan interception was capitalised on by the Lions for another field goal to cut the lead to just 8 points, while the Falcons offense continued to stall the Lions kept going and with a 7 minute 13 play drive marched the ball down the field yet again and Matt Stafford hit Theo Riddick for another touchdown and breaking the Detroit passing record for most touchdowns by a Lions quarterback but a failed two point conversion by the Lions made the score 21-19 to the Falcons. Atlanta tried and failed to run the clock down and gave the ball back to the Lions which lead to a controversial finish, starting at their own 7 yard line the Lions moved their way into the Atlanta half and left themselves with 4 seconds to kick the winning field goal Matt Prater stepped up but as the play clock expired the whistles went just as he kicked it for him to shank it wide right and give the Falcons the win.... or so they thought, the referees met and as the whistles had gone before the ball was kicked a redo was ordered from 5 yards further out, so Prater readjusted himself went again and struck the retry straight down the middle to give the Lions the 22-21 victory to the dismay of the Falcons and a lot of the NFL pundits.

National Hockey League

The NHL season is just getting into its stride and the surprise package in the Eastern conference has to be the New York Islanders and their top goal scorer Brock Nelson which has jumped them to top spot in the Metropolitan division ahead of yet another surprise team in the New Jersey Devils. In the Atlantic division the Montreal Canadiens have jumped out to an early lead thanks to the fantastic goaltending of Carey Price and their typical brand of hard defence. The Western conference has its own surprise package in the Calgary Flames as Jonas Hiller appears to have settled right in and made the Flames a contender in the stacked Pacific division. The reigning champion Los Angeles Kings bounced back from an opening night defeat to the San Jose Sharks and have racked up 6 straight wins to lie second in the division. Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars currently leads the league in points just two seasons after he was let go by the Boston Bruins for not scoring enough points, while the league lead for goals is currently shared between Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks and the often heavily criticised on the show Rick Nash of the New York Rangers.

National Basketball Association

The new NBA season kicks off tonight when reigning champion San Antonio Spurs face off against the Dallas Mavericks in the battle of Texas, all eyes will however will be on Cleveland on Thursday night as they kick their season off against the New York Knicks with their heavily stacked roster and the return of the king as Lebron James returns home to win an NBA title for his home town Cavaliers. Much was made in the off season when James decided to leave the Miami Heat and the Cavaliers have rewarded him by giving him the best possible starting 5 to play with, even better than the one he left the Cavaliers for in Miami some 5 years ago, Kyrie Irving is a future hall of fame point guard and with Kevin Love they also have the best rebounding power forward in the league. Although in theory this season could quite possibly turn out to be similar to Lebron's first in Miami where the side qualified for the playoffs but didn't progress any further even though the Eastern conference is rather weak. Meanwhile in the West it is a three horse race between the perennial under achievers in the Los Angeles Clippers, the seemingly always the bridesmaid Oklahoma City Thunder and the ageing San Antonio Spurs with names like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics look set to miss out on the playoffs for a second straight season.

So there ends another batch of waffle hopefully you will hear another show soon before another whip round  by the three of us on the interwebs

Joe Scutts
Southern Correspondant

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Below Average SPORTBLOG #5 - Silkmen and Coyotes

The good thing with writing a column for Peter's B.A.S.C ( Below Average Sport Cast) is it allows me to concentrate on something other than the Manchester Phoenix. I do love the Phoenix, hell...I’ve been a season ticket holder throughout the Phoenix existence! The BASC allows me to indulge a little in my other two sports teams, Macclesfield Town in the amazingly named, Vanorama Conference and my beloved Arizona Coyotes. 

This column is written about a month after my first attempt so we are well into the Conference season and the NHL has finally swung into action. 

The Silkmen March on! 

So a month down the line and the Silkmen have continued their good start to the conference season, since my last posting, as they have played another 8 games and still only recorded 3 losses. That is quite an incredible bit of form for Macc, given the fans (and my own) pre-season predictions of a year of struggle. The Silkmen have registered 28pts from their 17 games so far and currently sit in 7th place just below Bristol Rovers, amazingly just 2 pts outside of a playoff place, which is currently held by Forest Green Rovers and I really don't think you would have found any Macc Town fan that would have predicted that at the start of the season. A huge part of the season so far for the Silkmen, has been their form at the Moss Rose and currently they are yet to lose a home game and remain one of three teams yet to lose on home turf. Stand-out players so far have been Luke Waterfall who is on loan from Scunthorpe United in defence, and who has been rock solid at the back playing all but one game so far. Wade Fairhurst is the other player catching the eye so far, as since returning to the Silkmen he has scored four goals so far. 

With Phoenix being my first love, I do not have much spare sporting ££'s free, so I pick and choose my Macc Town games and last Saturday was the first Silkmen game of the season that I managed to get to. In truth, it was quite a spur of the moment thing, but I went to the Moss Rose, to take in Macclesfield Town v Dover from the Brewtique stand (editorial note: Fancy name). The two clubs had only played each other about a month ago, before the usual return fixture where your games versus one opponent are done and dusted, but it rare to face opposition home and way, so early in the season. That game down by the White Cliffs finished 1-0 to the Silkmen, thanks to a 77th minute goal from Chris Holroyd.
So going into the game the Silkmen were fancied for the win and would want to keep their fine home form going. Macc managed to control most of the game, creating quite a few near chances but not too many guilt edged chances. Rhys Taylor did not have a huge amount to do in the half really. Into the second half where Macc would attack their own fans in the Brewtique stand and had them up their game in search of a goal.  That goal then came, after some great play to release Holroyd down the right flank, as speeded towards the box before he put in a great cross which evaded most players on both sides, but Paul Lewis was in space on the six yard line and calmly slotted the ball into the near corner. As Dover searched for an equaliser in the game, it became quite open but the Silkmen held on for another 1-0 victory and their second against Dover this season and saw Macc continuing their unbeaten run at the Moss Rose. 

The standout player for me and someone who rightly got the MOM was Adriano Moke, a tricky little winger with great speed and good ball control. Moke was the source of much creativity and attacking for Macc Town and is a player who could be key for the Silkmen this season if he is able to stay fit.
Next up for the Silkmen, is a home FA Cup tie at the Moss Rose against Wrexham. This should be a good `un, as the FA Cup has been kind to the Silkmen in recent years. Great cup runs have helped fill the Moss Rose and injected much needed ££'s into club coffers too. I'll be there this Friday (24th Oct) in the Brewtique stand. It'll be a tough game and a game that could threaten the home record, as both clubs know how important cup runs are at this level, so fingers crossed it will be a Good Friday night under the lights at the Moss! 

Mixed fortunes for the Coyotes 

The NHL season is off and running, with fans across the UK getting used to late nights once more in order to catch their teams in action. As of writing this, the Coyotes have opened the season with a 4 game home stand at the Gila Arena, against the Jets/Kings/Oilers and Blues. It`s been a frustratingly inconsistent start for the Coyotes, made all the more frustrating by being in the Pacific division which is a super competitive division in the Western Conference. I said on the last B.A.S.C podcast that, although a season is not made or broken in October, a poor start can leave you behind the 8-ball for most of the season and on reflection, a 2 and 2 start when you face both the current Stanley Cup champions and the St Louis Blues, could be considered an OK start. Though i`d have wanted to make more of the home stand though and get a few good wins under the belt to start with. 

The season got underway against the Winnipeg Jets and after a summer of build up to opening night, it was quite the let down. Poor team D (seems a regular thing for my teams who play on ice!) and poor goaltending, led the Jet's hammering the Coyotes 6-2. When your goalie admits to being 'not comfortable' on the ice, you know your team is struggling. Opening night was a downer too, with the following Saturday night facing the Stanley Cup winners the LA King's and would have to be better. With Dubnyk starting in goal for the first time, the Coyotes got up for the visit of the Kings and secured a 3-2 OT win over the Champions. It was a great win against an excellent team and one who could retain the cup this year. Midweek the Oilers rolled into Glendale, still searching for their first win and after Saturday`s win against the Kings, the Coyotes mostly clicked against Edmonton and got a big 7-4 victory on a night, where the offence clicked and the defence was there or thereabouts! So, off the back of two wins, the Coyotes faced the Blues last weekend and........were hammered 6-1. Smith struggled all night, but the loss can't be hung totally on him as according to Dave Tippett (Coyotes Coach) too many players were below their best and If that happens in the NHL, let alone the western conference, you will lose 99 games in 100 playing like that!  So a 50% win rate off the opening home stand and a case of should have been better, but could have been much worse. The Coyotes now head off on the road to face Nashville and Minnesota, before returning home to take on the struggling Florida Panthers. 

So that's it for now, we will speak again in a month and where hopefully the Silkmen will have started another FA Cup run and the Coyotes will be putting together a good run of form. Fingers crossed!


Below Average SportBLOG #4 - SHARKS, Bloods and Hockey

Well been nearly two months since my last column, so i suppose i should give an update on my sporting views and what has happened since my last blog entry. 
As some of you know I've really been losing my passion for football over the last 5 years or so and this season has basically made go 'meh' to the season so far as I've really not been interested much in it, barring non-league football. However though, the only side in football that i have been following more is my local side in Droylsden football club who have slipped down to the 7th league in the footballing pyramid now, after a record breaking season last term, but not in a good sense.  Droylsden now play out of the Evo Stick Division 1 league, where they hope to bounce back to the premier division, 'The Bloods' have a 50% record in the league this season, as they have an identical record at home as they do away from home too, with 4 wins and 2 losses in their opening 12 games to their season.

Looking at the International side of things and the European championship qualifiers have been and gone, which saw England remain unbeaten in their group after a comfortable 5-0 win over San Marino at Wembley, in front of a bored looking crowd and then saw England as entertaining as thrush and then struggled to a 1-0 victory in Estonia a few days later.  
North of the border, and the Scots are going about their business well after their unlucky loss to Germany in their opener with the world champions, they picked up a 1-0 win over a difficult Georgian team at Ibrox and followed it up with a 2-2 draw against Poland in the Polish capital, with Shaun Maloney and Steve Naismith netting for Scotland in the match. In the same group, Germany shown some cracks as they lost 2-0 in Poland and then saw them drop two points in Gelsenkirchen three days later, as the Germans had led thanks to a Toni Kroos goal and then in the 94th minute of the match, John O'Shea on his 100th appearance for the Republic of Ireland, saw him equalise with a rare strike to cap off a good night for the Irishman.

In Northern Ireland, the men from Windsor Park have become the unlikely side to top the group with an unbeaten record so far with two more wins to boot, as they beat the minnows of the group in the Faroe Islands 2-0 before then continuing their good record with a another 2-0 victory, this time in Greece as they beat the 2004 European champions with goals from Kyle Lafferty and Jamie Ward helping the Irishmen to three points.To be honest the International side of things have been much better than that of domestic side for my liking, though i don`t include England in that bracket, as i have a dislike for the English football side for many reasons.

I`m turning into a Rugger Bugger!

Over the past few months I've really developed a huge interest in Rugby Union and has overtook football in enjoyment me, as I`ve really gone off football and don`t enjoy it half as much as i did.  I`ve really gotten into the Union game and have been following the adventures of the AJ Bell Stadium based Sale Sharks. A few weeks ago I made my second trip to Eccles to watch the Sharks, as they battled the crisis club London Wasps where news had come out in recent weeks that the club is moving 100 miles North to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, and will see the Wasps move into their new surrounding, come December time.

The match Itself saw a very entertaining game, that sadly saw a low turnout with the AJ Bell Stadium just under half full, whether it was due to the fact the game was being screened on BT SPORTS or just because fans aren't coming to games as they only want to see a side that is successful and the Sharks haven't had a successful season since the 05/06 season when they became the Aviva Premiership League champions, no one truly know.
However, the Sharks have made a trend this year to their games, in which they have started quickly out of the blocks and this game was to be no different at all, with top Try scorer in the league, in Left-Winger Tom Arscott picking up an early try that gave the hosts an early lead. Nathan Hughes then went over from close range to see the Wasps move two points ahead, with Andy Goode converting on the extra points for a 7-5 score to the opposition. Right before half time, a charged down kick by Sale saw the ball bounce into the in goal area and saw Christian Wade unable to deal with it, and Scottish Scrum-Half Chris Cusiter grounded the ball for a Try and saw the Sharks bite back. Danny Cipriani in the second half then kicked over a drop goal and penalty, which saw the Fly-half get over after a nightmare first half with the boot, where he successfully kicked only one out of four and saw him needing new kicking boots in the second half. Cipriani then managed to find his range again and confidence boosted, as he converted a penalty and conversion, after Tom Brady went over for a try that gave the Sharks a cushion to win 25-14. Sale then got annihilated by the current champions in Northampton Saints on their travels, getting thrashed 43-10 with their worst performance of the season.

This past weekend I spent watching the new European Champions Cup competition, which is the Champions league of Rugby Union in a sense and the opening match saw Gloucester thrash a poor Brive side 55-0 at Kingsholm, against a side that lacked anything in attack and their defense was equal to a chocolate fireguard. Charlie Sharples will never have an easier game to score tries in again, with the Winger picking up a hat trick and becoming the first player to do in the tournament on opening night. 
Harlequins beat a stubborn Castres side 25-9, with Danny Care scoring the only try for 'Quins', while Nick Evans kicked 20 points with 6 penalties and a conversion from the boot.
Finalists in the old format last year in the form of Saracens saw them face the team they massacred in the Semi finals of the old Heineken cup, in Clermont-Auvergne. Sarries had Chris Ashton and David Strettle both going over twice, as the runners-up held out over the French club 30-23, with Zak Guildford scoring a pair of tries himself for the visitors.

Leicester Tigers put their poor league form to one side, as they beat tough opposition in Ulster  as they won 25-18 at Welford Road, with Owen Williams, Graham Kitchener and Freddie Burns all going over the Ulsterman's try line in the first half with the Belfast outfit struggling to get going. In the second half, Irish international Tommy Bowe tried to kick start an Ulster comeback, before Burns added a penalty to the Tigers score and then Franco van der Merwe replied for Ulster, but it was all too late to get back in the match.
The other two big clubs in Ireland saw them both go behind in their respective games and both take incredible victories in the process.
For Leinster the three winners of the old format, saw Wasps welcomed to Dublin and saw Alapati Leiua and Christian Wade both scoring tries as the Aviva Premiership side as they led 20-8.That then saw Ian Madigan kick a penalty on the stroke of half time, to see them trail by 9 at the break. Second half saw 'the Boys in Blue' mount their own comeback with Darragh Fanning scoring a try and then Madigan kicking the points on the board, while Dominic Ryan scored the winning try with 20 minutes of play left to win 25-20.

I started with Sale and will finish with them too as the Sharks opened their 'Group of Death', with a meeting against one of the famous Irish rugby sides in Munster and saw the AJ Bell Stadium mostly full, with a near 10,000 crowd to watch the game. It saw the encounter play up to the phrase 'Game of two halves', with the Sharks completely bossing their rivals, despite Munster taking the lead on 5 minutes. The home side went into the break 23-7 up, with the best team performance I've witnessed this season involving the Sharks. As tries for Sale by Magnus Lund and Johnny Leota for the hosts, added by Danny Cipriani kicking with a 100 percentage success rate in the game, with the English star converting five from five. In the second half it was all Munster, as they hardly let Sale move into their 22 metre area at all, with the 'Red Army' grabbing a lifeline with Andrew Conway and then when Conor Murray went over it was game on. The game reached was reaching it`s climax and it saw with time up 26-24 in favour of the home side, before Ian Keatley kicked over a drop goal to condemn the Sharks to defeat and give the Travelling Irish fans a win to get their group off and running, with a 26-27 win in a enthralling game of rugby and heartbreak for Sale.

Hockey time

Hockey wise has seen the Manchester Phoenix face two sides from lower league in the hockey pyramid, with playing the Billingham Stars and then the Blackburn Hawks. All three games saw the Phoenix coming out comfortable winners in the end with a 6-2 victory at home with a brace for Adam Walker and Shaun Thompson in the game and they then followed it up the next night, travelling up north and winning 6-1 at the Billingham forum, where Michal Psurny scored twice in the game and take a 4 point weekend from it.
Blackburn Hawks came into Altrincham where they revitalised some old memories for many supporters, with the old clashes between the Trafford Metros and the Hawks in the old barn, where there was saw some of the most exciting games seen in the old Oakfield Road rink. The derby atmosphere was there for all to hear and saw the Hawks take an unlikely and shocking lead after 10 seconds in, before the sides traded goals with each other in a crazy first half of the period. Czech forward Frankie Bakrlik netted a hat trick in the opening period, before youngster Jared Dickinson scored his own hat trick for the Phoenix in the second period, where they won 11-5 in yet another comprehensive win over their local rivals.


Ending this blog, I’ll mention the great news for the Belle Vue Aces speedway side, as work has FINALLY begun on their new stadium which is called the National Speedway Stadium and where work is set to be completed hopefully in time for the 2016 season, where the stadium is adjacent to the stadium they are in now.

Thanks for reading my waffle and until next time Bye for now!


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Below Average Sport Cast Epi 23: Band is Back Together

EPISODE 23 – The Band is Back Together
This edition sees Mark Woodcock make his long awaited return to the show,  as the Budgie man joins Scuttsy and i in our take on Sporting events of late.
This episode we touch on the Aviva Premiership rugby season, Euro 2016 Qualifiers, Speedway and Hockey!

(NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED during the making of the show too)

Twitter: @BASportCast