|FA Cup 3rd qualifying round derby day at Basingstoke Town FC.|
There, Stokies knew that was coming - because it always does. That's not my opinion, that's just a précis of every other reference to the town on the WWW. Everyone seems to have a downer on the town, whether or not they've actually been there. You so often see the word Basingstoke used as shorthand for new town suburban tedium (see also: Swindon, Harlow, and any other town that was rapidly expanded post-war to give bombed-out Londoners a roof and a new life).
My opinion? Everybody has to live somewhere. Why not Basingstoke? It seems tidy and clean. It undoubtedly lacks the charm of Merry Olde Englande, but living in an idyllic picture-book thatched village costs a lot of money, which most of us don't have. If all you can afford is a functional, but comfortable and warm semi with an average-sized garden for your summer barbeques, then Basingstoke is just fine. And if you like shopping, then it's even finer, with the eighth-largest shopping centre in the UK, plus large numbers of American-style breezeblock superstores.
For facts, figures and positive images of Basingstoke, head here! For snide comments and snarky put-downs, head just about everywhere else on the 'web. Stokies, I'm on your side.
|Outside, looking in from the club car park.|
Basingstoke Town FC (4) 4 v 0 (0) Hartley Wintney FC
Saturday October 15th 2011.
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round
Programme: £2 (glossy, lots of adverts, not much content - currently advertising for a programme editor if anyone is interested)
Club shop: Yes, enamel badge bought for £3.
Colours: All blue with yellow trim (Wimbledon style) v Orange / Black / Orange (like Dundee United!).
National Grid reference: SU6250
|The sprinkler comes on pre-match.|
However, things could get better this season. They brought in a group of players from the London area during the summer, whilst offloading several of their surplus locally-based players - many of whom ended up at...Hartley Wintney. The newbies have done well so far, with Basingstoke bothering the business end of the Conference South table for the first time in a while, scoring an average of two goals per game.
|A big thumbs-up from Stokie the Dragon, Basingstoke Town's mascot.|
With so many of Hartley Wintney's squad having so much to prove to the Basingstoke management, they could have been forgiven for arriving at the ground with a collective grudge and some shenanigans in mind. But, to their collective credit, they're not like that at all. This is a disciplined group of players, who play fairly, but with a great deal of heart and no little skill for the level they play at.
Mind you, there is still a massive four-step difference between the two clubs (the equivalent for Basingstoke would be a tie against Pompey or Saints). Only in their wildest dreams (the ones that don't involve bareback dolphin riding or naughty nuns, at any rate), could Hartley Wintney possibly have expected to win. But there's always hope, even when the situation should be hopeless.
This could have been a classic cup tie.
|Staring into the sun at Basingstoke Town.|
The pitch is lit by eight tall latticed floodlight towers, which have 'eyes' like the old For Mash Get Smash advertising aliens. Not that lights were needed on Saturday, which was yet another cloudless, t-shirt kind of a day. Looking at the photos I've been taking recently, anyone would think that the sun always shines in Hampshire. Well, it doesn't.
|Lattice floodlight pylon at Basingstoke Town.|
I don't know what Stokie had for lunch, but the Basingstoke footballers must have had some of it too. You could almost see the fire on their breath as they rampaged into Hartley in the first half. The village side were done for by the 23rd minute, as Amazingstoke went 3-0 up, thanks to their slick movement and extra nous. Another goal just before half-time, and Hartley's hopes went up in dragon smoke.
|Careful! Don't step offside! Waiting for a Hartley Wintney free-kick delivery.|
Basingstoke's giraffe, Geoffrey, looked down on the Camrose with a giraffey grin on his face as his team attacked the goal that he could see during the second-half. He didn't witness any goals though, as a combination of stout defending, good saves, and a general improvement in Hartley's play prevented a potential record-breaking embarrassment for the villagers.
Thus, it remained 4-0 until the end. The second half was a 0-0 draw. Hartley will be disappointed with their start, but they do have a possible promotion to aspire to, as they are the most likely team to overhaul Guernsey at the top of the Combined Counties Division One.
Basingstoke Town have another home draw in the 4th qualifying round. If they can beat Staines Town, they will play in the first round proper, possibly against a big club such as Sheffield Wednesday. If they have more of Stokie's dragon food before the game, I'm sure they'll win.
|A rusty gas flue behind the stand.|
NB: Pitchside Photography was at the match, taking plenty of high-quality photos - I spotted him early on, which saved me the fuss of trying to get a decent action shot!
Another NB: Having checked, the floodlights look nothing like the Mash Get Smash aliens' eyes! More like Vauxhall Chevette headlamps.