Game 14: Brimscombe & Thrupp 0.2 Highworth Town (Hellenic Premier)

Game 14: Brimscombe & Thrupp 0.2 Highworth Town (Hellenic Premier) 17.02.18

The original plan for today was to head down to Cornwall to watch Bodmin Town but with their recent postponements Alan opted to leave that until another day. Scanning the fixtures we came up with a trip to the Cotswolds and a ground that’s been on my bucket list for a few years. Brimscombe & Thrupp’s Meadow ground is unusual in that the stand and parking are on the same level as the neighbouring road but the pitch is at a much lower level. We arrived in good time and watched the FA Cup match in the clubhouse while browsing the programme. I was surprised to note that former Salisbury midfield favourite Wayne Turk was playing for Highworth, although in a defensive role today.

Visitors Highworth Town had played 15 away games in the league before today, winning 14 and drawing 1 – a fantastic record at this stage of the season and one that’s helped them to top spot in the league. They took the lead in the second minute when a ball was crossed from the left to an unmarked player on the right of the box. He took aim and fired the ball into the top corner. Brimscombe came straight back from kickoff and had a good shot well saved by the visiting keeper. There were plenty of attacking moves from both teams, Brimscombe seeing most of their shots sail well over the crossbar. Just before halftime Highworth almost added a second goal but the header came back off the crossbar with the home keeper beaten.

Brimscombe found themselves up against it after five minutes off the second half when one of their centre halves got a second yellow card for bringing down a Highworth player near the box. We hadn’t noticed the first card so it was a surprise to see him walk off the pitch. The officials weren’t popular with the Highworth players later in the half when one of their players was flagged for offside when the ball went to one of his team mates. There was only one covering defender so a good chance was missed. The assistant was very vocal about his decision but the players found it difficult to understand how the player was offside when he made no attempt to go for the ball and the player who did receive it ran past the defender before touching the ball. The yellow card made another appearance after the protests.

Both teams had some good chances to score before Highworth wrapped up the win with a goal in the 81st minute. The ball was played into the area and a defender sliced his clearance to a Highworth player who nicked in and placed the ball past the keeper from close range at the near post. In the final minute Brimscombe came really close to pulling a goal back. A fierce shot from distance looked to be going under the bar only for the visiting keeper to make a spectacular save. Another away success for Highworth who moved two points further ahead of nearest rivals Thatcham who are now five points behind after a home draw.

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Game 13: Winchester Castle 4.3 Liphook United (Hampshire Premier)

Game 13: Winchester Castle 4.3 Liphook United (Hampshire Premier) 20.01.18

The majority of the Hampshire League games were postponed due to waterlogged pitches today with only three games surviving. This game was confirmed as on when I checked on Twitter at lunchtime and I had enough time to drive over to the Hampshire County Council Sports Ground for the 2pm kickoff. The ground is on the outskirts of Winchester up a narrow lane. I was concerned that the rain was still falling heavily but when I arrived the gate was open and I could see the teams warming up in the rain as I parked up.

There are three pitches at the Sports Ground with the far railed off pitch used by Winchester Castle. This pitch has dugouts and a small covered stand. I had my large umbrella with me so decided to watch the game by the rails. The rain was fairly constant throughout the game but did ease off at times.

Liphook had a great start to the game, scoring with a great shot from the edge of the area in the second minute. They doubled their lead after five minutes from a corner – the ball was headed into the top right corner giving the keeper no chance. They came close to adding to their lead after ten minutes when they hit the bar before seeing the home keeper make a great diving save. After 20 minutes a Liphook corner was headed onto the post by a defender and to his relief the ball bounced out and was cleared. Winchester scored moments later – the Liphook keeper came off his line and couldn’t get back to stop a long range chip shot from going in.

On the half hour the scores were level. A long ball found the same Winchester player and he shrugged off the covering defender before chipping over the onrushing keeper. I hadn’t expected this after Liphook’s early dominance. Liphook had a penalty shout turned down and then saw one given when a shot from the edge of the area came off a defender’s arm. The referee deemed that the player had moved his arm towards the ball. The shot was struck to the keeper’s right but he guessed right and saved it. Liphook won a corner and saw a header go in to the net only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.Just before half time Winchester Castle took the lead. A defender went to clear the ball and slipped in the mud, allowing a Winchester player to run in, control the ball and chip it over the keeper for his hat trick.

The second half continued in the same vein of attacking football although there were only two more goals. Winchester Castle scored at the start of the half when a shot hit the keeper and the ball looped up in the air and in. Liphook were awarded another penalty ten minutes later and despite the keeper diving the right way the ball evaded him on this occasion for a Liphook ball. Both teams had chances for a goal but Liphook were unable to take advantage of a late sending off to equalise. Winchester Castle were content at the end to play the ball to the corners to waste time. An exciting game on a very muddy pitch.

Game 12: Bridgwater Town 0.2 Bitton (Western Premier)

Game 12: Bridgwater Town 0.2 Bitton (Western Premier) 13.01.2018

First game of the year and a trip with Alan to Bridgwater to recomplete the Western League, following the home team’s relegation from the Southern League last season. Both teams are mid table this season so we expected a close game. The ground is close to the local college and the teams had to change there and walk through to the pitch as the dressing rooms had some water ingress. We had a good catch up in the bar before going through to the excellent tea hut for some chips and curry sauce.

There were few chances in the first half and both teams had a shot just over before Bitton took the lead on the half hour. The goal was a spectacular free kick from distance that flew into the top right corner, giving the keeper no chance. This woke Bridgwater up and they had a couple of good efforts from corners but lacked a finishing touch.

The second half was an even affair. Bitton came close to adding to their lead when a shot skimmed just in front of the far post with the keeper beaten. Bridgwater had a good spell just after this and had several shots wide or saved by the visiting keeper. In the 70th minute Bitton broke down the left wing and when one of their players took the ball into the area he was tackled from behind and went down. The referee pointed to the spot straight away. The penalty was struck well enough to beat the keeper as he dived to his left. Bridgwater continued to press for a goal but weren’t able to convert their chances.

Game 11: Locks Heath 4.0 Hedge End Rangers (Hampshire Premier)

Game 11: Locks Heath 4.0 Hedge End Rangers (Hampshire Premier) 23.12.2017

A quick drive to the outskirts of Southampton found Paul and I at Locks Heath recreation ground for a pre Christmas catch up. There was a bar where we warmed up with a quick drink before heading out to the pitch. The ground has floodlights but is open on two sides with public footpaths which may prevent them from taking promotion in future.

This was a top v bottom fixture and it was no surprise that Locks Heath took control of the first half. The first goal came after 14 minutes from a long ball. The striker outpaced the defence, took the ball on and placed a controlled shot past the visiting keeper. A second goal followed from a well placed direct free kick that went low into the far corner and shortly afterwards it was 3.0 to the home team. The ball dropped into a crowded penalty area and was tapped in with no defender close enough to clear the ball. There was still time for Locks Heath to hit the post and see a great shot saved.

The second half only saw one more goal to our surprise. Hedge End had a good attack and saw their shot saved by the keeper. He distributed the ball quickly to allow Locks Heath to counter attack and they broke away to add a fourth goal.

Game 10: Cove 1.11 Worcester Park (Combined Counties Div 1)

Game 10: Cove 1.11 Worcester Park (Combined Counties Div 1) 11.11.17

At noon I was questioning whether to make the journey to Farnborough as it had been raining all morning. In the end I decided to get the train and hope the weather would improve. By the time I got to Farnborough station the rain had stopped and I walked round to the ground in the dry. There was no-one at the turnstiles when I arrived so I went into the clubhouse and picked up a free programme from the bar. It turned out that admission was collected during the game so after a quick drink I wandered out to the pitch.

The teams came out slightly late and following a one minute silence, the game kicked off at 3.05pm. Worcester Park were top of the league before the game and looked comfortable on the ball, dominating play and attacking quickly on the break. It took them 20 minutes to get the first goal, a shot past the keeper from inside the area from a tight angle. Six minutes later and they added a second from a quickly taken short corner. The ball was worked to the edge of the area and a low shot through a group of players eluded the keeper. Another six minutes and the visitors scored again from a breakaway. The Cove keeper parried the ball from a shot but only to a Worcester Park player who had an easy task to roll the ball into the net.

The second half didn’t kick off until 4.09 but it didn’t take long for the goals to start flowing again. Cove took the ball down the left and found a player in the centre in space. He was closed down by the defence but managed to get a shot away which deflected over the keeper’s head and in. Worcester Park soon took control again and the goals kept on coming. The scoring went as follows:

48 mins – 1.4 Shot in off post, Cove slightly aggrieved as it looked like their covering defender was impeded.
56 mins – 1.5 Unmarked player in centre of area picks a spot and shoots past the keeper
59 mins – 1.6 Ball crossed into the area, missed by everyone until player runs in at backlist to steer it in
75 mins – 1.7 Low shot from the edge of the area
83 mins – 1.8 Dribble into the area then player takes ball around keeper and scores

At this point I was hoping that I would see 9 goals for the first time in a men’s senior match. My hopes were answered when a Worcester Park player was brought down in the area and the referee awarded a penalty.

87 mins – 1.9 Penalty struck past keeper
88 mins – 1.10 Another dribble into the area, another goal

At this point the referee showed a second yellow and red to a Cove player who had been booked for dissent in the first half. It wasn’t clear what the card was for but there was still time for Worcester Park to have a goal disallowed for offside before adding a final goal to the scoreline in injury time.

90 mins – 1.11 Freekick just outside the area played into the centre of the box and a header beat the Cove keeper

So a record scoreline and 11 goals on the 11th day of the 11th month. I didn’t stick around after the game as I had to dash back to the station to make my train home. I felt sorry for the friendly people at Cove whose team deserved some credit for trying to take the game to Worcester Park even when they were losing heavily.

Game 9: Bristol Telephones 0.3 Wincanton Town (Western 1)

Game 9: Bristol Telephones 0.3 Wincanton Town (Western 1) 04.11.2017

The first 2pm kickoff of the season and a long awaited visit to Stockwood Lane to see the latest promoted team in Western 1, Bristol Telephones. Alan and I drove past a number of Western League grounds to get there, also spotting Somerset League team Cutters Friday who play on a neighbouring pitch. After parking near the turnstiles we wandered up to the clubhouse to enjoy a warm pasty and a drink.

We were fortunate that it was sunny for most of the match with just a small drop of rain in the first half. For the first quarter of an hour Telephones dominated possession and it was largely one way traffic towards the Wincanton goal. There was a brief halt in proceedings as the referee pulled up with a muscle strain and couldn’t continue. One of the assistants had to take over in the middle so it was agreed that a Wincanton sub would run the line for the rest of the first half, replaced by a Telephones official for the second half.

Shortly after the restart, Telephones conceded a penalty when a Wincanton player was brought down on the edge of the area. The keeper guessed the right way and managed to push the low shot away. He wasn’t so lucky two minutes later as Wincanton took the ball down the side of the area, cut the ball back and a close range shot found the back of the net. Wincanton had a couple of good chances to extend their lead. The first chance saw a player seeing the Telephones keeper off his line and attempting a chip, only to see the ball go wide. The second chance saw an initial shot saved and the follow up shot towards an empty net blocked.

The second half saw two more Wincanton goals come from good passing and movement. Their second goal came seven minutes into the half when the ball was worked across the area to the far right for an oncoming player to thrash a shot past the keeper. The third came just before full time, a good run down the left wing saw the ball crossed into the middle. Two defenders had a chance to clear it but couldn’t stop the ball running to the back post where it was blasted past their keeper.

Game 8: Glastonbury 0.1 Ashton & Backwell United Reserves (Somerset League Cup)

Game 8: Glastonbury 0.1 Ashton & Backwell United Reserves (Somerset League Cup) 14.10.17

With a gig in Bristol in the evening, I decided to spend the afternoon in Glastonbury and take in a Somerset League Cup game. Both of the teams play in Division 1 West of the Somerset League, Glastonbury 11 points and six places above their opposition. The ground was a former Western League venue and old programmes were available at at the turnstile. Only one side is accessible to spectators with a covered area with picnic benches by the clubhouse and a covered terrace area next to it. Looking over to the right there was a clear view of Glastonbury Tor.

The first half saw Glastonbury dominate the play but neither team were able to score. Ashton & Backwell came close, winning the ball from a defensive error at the edge of the area and lobbing the onrushing keeper only to see the ball bounce off the crossbar and away. Moments later Glastonbury had their best chance of the half when two attempts at goal from close range were blocked.

Ashton & Backwell improved in the second half but wasted several chances in good positions by not taking the time available to line up on target shots. The referee seemed too lenient with the players and several challenges that you’d normally expect to see a booking just led to a talking to. The Glastonbury keeper had a habit of rolling the ball out to a team mate rather than kicking. This lead to the only goal of the game when an Ashton player got a quick challenge in and won the ball. His shot was saved but a team mate was able to steer the rebound home past a lunging foot of a defender. Glastonbury picked up their game and had a couple of chances late on but couldn’t force extra time with an equaliser.