Wednesday, 21 September 2011

12. Hartley Wintney FC

A hart, a Hampshire rose and some recycling bins at Hartley Wintney FC.
The magic of the FA Cup, part three. Two matches seen in the early rounds so far, and both produced surprise results. However, they were only small shocks, measuring only a magnum on the champagne bottle scale. AFC Portchester and Moneyfields both beat clubs from one step higher in the pyramid than themselves - the equivalent of Pompey or Saints beating West Bromwich Albion or Fulham - good results, but not totally unexpected. Saturday's match was different. Different in that there would be a three step differential between the competing clubs - this would be more like Aldershot Town versus Everton - a home win for Hartley Wintney against their Southern League opponents would be the nebuchadnezzar of all shocks.

Could The Row trash The Bash? Could they go further in the cup than they ever had done before? It was time to find out...

Come and support your local team on its historic cup run! An A4 notice pinned to a tree in Hartley Wintney village.
Hartley Wintney FC (0) 1 v (0) 0 Bashley FC
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round
Saturday 17th September 2011
Attendance: 155
Entrance: £5
Programme: £1 (Outstanding. The best I've seen at a step 6 club by a country mile. Original content and imagination. Copy/pasting from the league website at a minimum. I can imagine the players enjoy reading this, thus it could actually help to create and maintain team spirit. The editors obviously like both making this programme and keeping their splendid website up-to-date. PDF copies of several of their programmes can be seen here)
Club shop: No, but enamel badges for sale at £3 each behind the bar.
Colours: Orange / black / orange v White / blue / blue
National Grid reference: SU7656

Thunder and lightning, very very frightening (lightning not shown in this photo).
I travelled to Hartley Wintney by train, hopping off at Winchfield and walking the final mile or two (it takes about half an hour to reach the ground from the station). I was entertained on the train journey by a bickering couple in the seats opposite me. A pink-haired girl, rejected by the producers of Snog Marry Avoid as being too over-the-top, was adamant that her boyfriend couldn't do or say anything right for the entire ride. I predict that her balding buddy in his Dreadzone t-shirt could well be back on the singles market very shortly. He should have jumped off the train at Winchfield and come with me.

The hanging baskets on the patio looked splendid when the sun came out.
The village of Hartley Wintney is at the edge of the London commuter belt. It's a little piece of Surrey that's spilt over into north-east Hampshire. The centre consists of antique shops, estate agents and a pond with a thatched duck house.

The duck house is obviously a good thing, but the human houses for sale in the estate agents would cost me around three lifetime's-worth of income, so I can't see myself living there any time soon. Never mind.

The Bashley bench looking pensive.
Arriving at the ground, I could see antlers everywhere. Not only does a hart feature on the home club's badge, but there's also a stag on Bashley's crest, and with The Bash bringing a large number of fans decked out in club merchandise, it felt as if I'd butted in during the height of the rutting season.

By the way, do you know the difference between a hart and a stag? I do (but only because I looked it up): a hart is a male red deer, whereas a stag is a generic name for the male of any deer species. So now you know too!

A Hartley Wintney shot goes harmlessly wide.
It rained. It thundered. It lightninged. And as one of the Hartley fans said: "This rain could be a great leveller." This is one of my favourite expressions about rain (or mud), along with "Good weather for ducks." Unfortunately, the ducks in Hartley village weren't too enamoured when the heavens opened, and swam off to hide in the vegetation - either that, or they were scared of me - I don't know.

I also don't know if it was the rain being a great leveller, but it soon became apparent that Bashley weren't at their best in the first half. They had chances - more chances than Hartley - but they were shooting as if they were wearing wellies instead of football boots. Everything went either wide of the goal or straight at Hartley's tremendous young goalkeeper.

Bashley fans in the rain.
Half-time, 0-0. I wandered around and took a photo of a large roller, but I'm not going to publish this one. You can just about make it out on the satellite photography on both Google and Live Maps. However, these photos are well out of date, as neither show Hartley's compact new stand, which was added to the ground a year or two back. I think I read somewhere that their ground improvements cost £470,000, but I can't remember where I saw that information, so it could be wrong.

Hartley cock-a-hoop at the final whistle; Bashley despondent.
The second half was more even, as Hartley grew more confident in a temporary sunshine window, and their opponents started arguing amongst themselves as they failed to find a way through. The breakthrough came five minutes from the end, when Hartley's substitute Dan Brownlie gathered the ball just inside Bashley's half with his first touch, and just bounded forward, snorting like a rutting hart, bundled his way past Bashley's left-back, then slotted the ball past the spreadeagled keeper. In off the far post, trickling over to the opposite corner in slow motion. Photos of the goal can be seen here (numbers 114-117 in the sequence).

Bash's stags vanquished. Fifty miles home, licking their bloody wounds. Hartley Wintney's players retired to one of the restaurants in the village with their £3,000 prize money, and partied the night away with caviar canapes and a jeroboam of best bubbly...Okay, considering the FA Cup's sponsors are Budweiser, it was more likely to be a crate of lager and a selection of crisps and peanuts, but you never know.

Hartley Wintney's new 113-seater stand.
So, three FA Cup matches for me, and three shocks. This was by far the biggest, and well-deserved too. Hartley Wintney will play host to Southern League Bideford in the next round, whilst Bashley can concentrate on the league.

I'm enjoying following the early rounds of the cup, so I hope to be at another match in two weeks time. But where?

1 comment:

  1. Good luck against Daventry Town on Sat. in the Cup.

    A Port Vale fan :)