Game 4: South Wonston Swifts 2.1 Headley United (Hampshire Division 1)

Game 4: South Wonston Swifts 2.1 Headley United (Hampshire Division 1) 12.08.17

With no rain forecast, I decided to head over to South Wonston for an opening day fixture in the Hampshire League’s 1st division. The Recreation Ground has a modern changing room block and a roped off pitch with several park benches facing the pitch. I was lucky to get the last parking space as there are also tennis, skateboarding and exercise facilities that were all in use when I arrived.

The first half saw plenty of endeavour but few attempts on goal. South Wonston took the lead after half an hour from a penalty, awarded when one of their players was brought down in the area. After a couple of minutes waiting, the penalty taker put his shot one way while the keeper dived in the opposite direction.

The second half didn’t begin well for the player who gave away the penalty as he received a second yellow card for handling the ball. South Wonston added a second goal shortly afterwards, a through ball found their striker in space and he ran forward and lobbed the keeper. Headley had a couple of chances to pull a goal back before winning a penalty with five minutes to go. The initial penalty was saved but a Headley player was the first one to follow in and hit the ball past the keeper. They felt that they should have had another penalty for a handball moments later but the referee didn’t agree.

Game 3: Arundel 0.4 Pagham (FA Cup)

Game 3: Arundel 0.4 Pagham (FA Cup) 05.08.17

This ground has been on my “must visit” list for some time, so after working through today’s Extra Preliminary ties for the FA Cup it was top of the day’s list. There had been a heavy downpour in the morning at home so I came prepared with the raincoat and umbrella in the car just in case. The football ground has a small carpark and I didn’t expect to find a space so I parked in the nearby Mill Road overflow carpark for a couple of pounds.

Both of today’s teams play in the same division and as this was their first game this season there was no form to refer to. The programme did show last season’s table which had the visitors in a much higher position. I chose to stand near the goal Arundel were attacking in the first half for the view of the castle but most of the action took place at the other end. Pagham scored after 13 minutes, the ball was passed over from the right wing and their player controlled it well when taking on the defenders, crashing a shot in off the post. Arundel had an effort cleared from the goal mouth after half an hour and their keeper kept them in the game with a good one handed save shortly before half time.

There had been some light rain in the first half and the dark clouds continued to roll over the ground in the second half. Pagham continued to dominate the game and added a second shortly after kickoff. The home keeper came out to try and win the ball at an attacker’s feet, only for it to bounce off a covering defender back to the attacker who regained his feet and slotted the ball in. There was a brief spell of heavy rain around 70 mins in which saw many in the crowd head to the stand and terracing for cover. Pagham scored a third after 75 minutes when their player muscled an Arundel defender off the ball, turned towards goal and curved a great shot in. The scoring was wrapped up just before the end when a Pagham player hit a long range shot that the keeper couldn’t keep hold of. The ball bounced kindly to a Pagham sub who ran into the box, controlled the ball and hit in past the keeper. A good win for the visitors who now face Sittingbourne at home in the next round.

Game 2: Infinity 7.0 Hartley Wintney (Friendly)

Game 2: Infinity 7.0 Hartley Wintney (Friendly) 29.07.17

The original plan for the second part of today’s double header was a game at Winchester Castle but two sets of opponents dropped out and it looked like there would be no game after checking Twitter. This left a 2pm kick off at Infinity and a 3pm kick off at Fleetlands – given the weather I decided to head to Infinity and meet Alan. The drive across was mostly in the dry but it started to rain again as I arrived in Knowle and parked the car.

This was another match full of goals. Hartley Wintney were playing another friendly in a tournament at Basingstoke so it was difficult to gauge how strong their team was but it was no match for the hosts. Goals on 11 minutes (shot off post and in), 16 minutes (pass into box missed everyone and went under keeper), 29 minutes (breakaway with shot under keeper), 42 minutes (shot following corner) and 45 minutes (penalty) gave them a 5.0 half time lead. We almost saw another goal when the Hartley keeper missed a backpass but luckily for him the ball went wide.

As with the morning game, the goals dried up in the second half but the sixth goal again was the goal of the match – this time an outrageous shot after 57 minutes. The final goal came from an unmarked header after 66 minutes. An enjoyable start to the season despite the near constant rain.

Game 1: Andover Town 7.1 Hedge End Rangers (Friendly)

Game 1: Andover Town 7.1 Hedge End Rangers (Friendly) 29.07.17

An 11 o clock kick off at a new ground with options for a double header meant this was an easy choice for the first game of the season. The match was played at Sparsholt College near Winchester. At the back of the main car park were two pitches, one open and one fenced off with moveable dugouts and goals. There was no cover for the 40 or so spectators other than the trees on the raised hill behind one of the goals.

The game kicked off on time with rainclouds threatening – typical English summer day! Andover are one of the better teams in the Wessex Premier and that showed against their step 7 opponents. There were six goals in the first half and the woodwork was hit on more than one occasion. The goals were scored in the 4th minute (low shot into corner), 12th minute (header from corner), 14th minute (shot that looked to be wide but had passed through the goal net), 31st minute (keeper lost the ball, striker knocked it into unguarded net), 34th minute (ball passed back on breakaway, low shot in) and the pick of the bunch in the 36th minute – a shot from nearly the halfway line that beat the retreating keeper. By now the rain was quite heavy and the brolly was up.

I watched most of the second half sheltering under the trees behind the goal, only venturing out towards the end of the game as the rain died down. Hedge End scored from a nice dribble and low shot after 49 minutes, Andover added a seventh in injury time, a lob over the keeper had enough pace to beat the covering defender to the goal line. There was one flashpoint towards the end when an Andover player was unhappy at a strong tackle, the referee inviting the visiting manager onto the pitch to calm things down and lead his player off for a substitution.

Game 18: Portishead Town 2.0 Bishops Lydeard (Western 1)

Game 18: Portishead Town 2.0 Bishops Lydeard (Western 1) 22.04.17

At the start of January I made my regular resolution to try and visit the remaining Western League grounds that I hadn’t ticked before. After some careful planning, today’s visit to Portishead was my last new ground in the league at least for this season. The weather was overcast at home but as I headed into Somerset the clouds lifted and I found myself in the sunshine near the coast. There was a game taking place on the outside pitch which turned out to be a reserve cup match. I watched some of that while wandering around the pitch in the main ground.

After a nil nil draw the last time I had seen Bishops Lydeard I was hoping for a few goals, especially as three would give me a goal average of 4 for the first time at the end of a season. Neither team had anything to play for except pride but both teams put on a decent attacking display. Bishops Lydeard had a corner that was cleared to the edge of the area and volleyed back towards goal. Somehow the home keeper got a hand to it and pushed it over the bar. Portishead had a good chance but played one pass to many in the area and the final shot flew over the bar. They took the lead with eight minutes to go, a cross from the left found an unmarked player with space in the box and his low shot went in. A similar attack just before half time wasn’t as successful, the ball again flying over the bar.

Portishead doubled their lead eight minutes after the second half started. A good breakaway and pass allowed their player to beat the offside and as the visiting keeper hesitated, the Portishead player took advantage and placed a shot past him and in.Bishops Lydeard had a couple of chances and came really close to adding the third goal that I had hoped for in the 80th minute. A corner went in to the area and the shot was cleared off the line by a Portishead player who had been covering the far post. An entertaining game and a pleasant afternoon to complete the league and wrap up the season.

Game 17: Malmesbury Victoria 0.4 Bishop Sutton (Western 1)

Game 17: Malmesbury Victoria 0.4 Bishop Sutton (Western 1) 17.04.17

For my second Easter game I drove up to Malmesbury, arriving shortly before kick off. The ground was situated behind a Co-Op store with a nearby road sign directing traffic down a narrow roadway.

After a goalless 90 minutes on Friday it was a relief to get an early goal in this game. It came in the first minute when a backpass was missed by the keeper who staggered back but couldn’t reach the ball in time. Bishop Sutton had a header cleared off the line and added a second after 39 minutes. Their player got past a defender to reach the ball in the box, slotting it low into the net past the keeper. The assistant on the far side had his flagged raised and Malmesbury protested that their player had been pushed over. After some deliberation the goal stood. Bishop Sutton almost added a third before half time but hit a shot straight at the keeper.

Malmesbury gave the ball away cheaply too often in the first half but improved in the second half. Shortly after the restart the visiting keeper cleared the ball from the edge of the area and three defenders were on hand to cover the goal, one clearing a shot from distance to safety. After 55 minutes they should have got a goal back when one of their players was in the right place to win the ball unmarked in the box. Instead of chipping it over the oncoming keeper he hit it hard and straight, allowing the keeper to make the stop.

The game was end to end and both sides had shots on target and corners. With fifteen minutes to go Malmesbury missed another chance when a shot from a corner was cleared off the line with the keeper stranded. The ball made it as far as the six yard box when another Malmesbury player had a shot but in his eagerness to get to the ball he ended up hitting it high over the bar. Bishop Sutton wrapped the game up with ten minutes to go when one of their players robbed the ball from a Malmesbury defender before dribbling into the area and placing a shot under the keeper. There was still time for Malmesbury to come close with a shot before Bishop Sutton added a fourth, winning the ball near the half way line and getting the ball forward to place another shot low past the keeper.

A good result for the visitors and I’ve now gone four Western League games without seeing the home side score.

Game 16: Bishops Lydeard 0.0 Wellington (Western 1)

Game 16: Bishops Lydeard 0.0 Wellington (Western 1) 14.04.17

A bank holiday Friday meant an earlier than normal departure down the A303 which worked out well, arriving at the well marshalled car park on the edge of Bishops Lydeard half an hour before kick off. This was a local derby with the visitors at the top of the table by 2 points from Hengrove and there was a big crowd of 225 at the game. The programme highlighted the work going on at the ground with only two sides available for spectators. The far side was being prepared for a new stand and had a trench down the sideline while the far end was close to some trees. The weather was overcast but it remained dry throughout.

The game itself wasn’t a great spectacle. Wellington had the better of the play in the first half but neither keeper had much to do. The only real pressure on the home keeper came from a couple of long throws into the box. There were a couple of shots wide or over the bar at both ends. The second half was better as the game started to open up. Wellington managed a couple of shots on target as well as several over the bar. It looked for a moment that they would take the lead with five minutes to go only for a home player to clear the ball away from the goal line. Bishops Lydeard won a corner shortly afterwards and had their best chance of the game, a shot from close range just over the bar.

So after 50 games with goals, my first “dreaded” since the start of the 2014/15 season. Hengrove had won earlier in the day and now lead the division on goal difference with three games to go.