Sunday, 4 December 2011

17. Lymington Town FC

The welcome sign at the entrance to Lymington Town FC's Sports Ground.
There is a sweet little toy shop in Lymington's High Street called H.E. Figgures where you can buy Sylvanian Families. For those not in the know (and that would be anyone who is not, or has never been, an eight-year-old girl!), Sylvanians are cute animal families that tend to live in canal boats or windmills in the imaginary land of Sylvania. The larger families consist of grandparents, a mum and dad, boy and girl children, and possibly a baby. You can own families of squirrels, badgers, penguins, cats, dogs, etc. All delightful, with hours of fun for young girls.

But what if the mums and dads of the beaver and duck families got divorced and remarried to a member of the other species? Would Mummy Beaver and Daddy Duck be able to have children in their second marriage? Unlikely, unless a satanic big brother "helped out" his sister by ripping the head off of one of the ducklings and stuck it on to the neck of a decapitated beaver (I am definitely NOT advocating that anybody try this, by the way). Some things just aren't meant to be.

On the other hand, various cat mummies could have new babies with other cat daddies, because they are the same species. This could potentially work out well.

Spying the main stand through a hole in the away dugout.
Lymington Town FC (0) 1 v 5 (1) New Milton Town FC
Saturday December 3rd 2011
Sydenham's Wessex League Premier Division
Attendance: 80-90
Entrance: £5
Programme: £1
Club shop: No
Colours: Red / white / black v Orange / white / orange
National Grid reference: SZ3195 / SZ3295

The back of the home dugout.
And just where is this rambling and seemingly pointless Sylvanian story leading, you may ask? Well, it's meant to be an analogy of the joining together of neighbouring football clubs, some of which work out for the best, e.g., Havant & Waterlooville (that would be the cat example); whereas others just don't work well at all. However hard you try to successfully attach a duck's head to a beaver's body, it's just not going to happen.

Beyond the dugouts, beyond the cricket sight screens, it's the Church of St Thomas.
And now for a long-forgotten fairytale: Once upon a time there were two low-key football clubs in neighbouring towns in south-west Hampshire. Lymington FC and New Milton FC played quite happily in the Hampshire League for several decades without any real desire to move onwards and upwards to the Southern League. To be honest, even if they wanted to move on, they were never good enough on the pitch, with very few trophies won between them.

There were other clubs in both towns: New Milton had Bashley as rivals; Lymington had Wellworthy Athletic. In the mid-1980s, Bashley started becoming successful, and were promoted to the Southern League from the newly-formed Wessex League. New Milton were left well behind in the third division of the Hampshire League.

Four miles to the east, Lymington and Wellworthy both became founder members of the Wessex League. The latter club were a works team that played less than a mile from Lymington's Sports Ground. When they were denied the use of their own ground in 1988, they had no choice but to merge with Lymington FC. The new club became AFC Lymington.

I know at least one cat who would love to climb up that fireman's tower!
AFC Lymington were very successful (the cat + cat example), winning the Wessex League three times in the Britpop era - an oasis of fruitful football on the edge of the New Forest, pulping all opposition. However, as you may be able to tell from the photos, their ground wasn't up to Southern League standard, so they were denied promotion. They had hit the proverbial glass ceiling and it was giving them a headache.

In the meantime, New Milton Town had moved in to a smart new ground. Members of each committee decided it would be wise to amalgamate the two clubs, so that Lymington's good team could play in a good ground and have a better chance of promotion. So they did. The new club became Lymington & New Milton FC in 1998, and they did eventually move on up. Unfortunately, the appetite for football at a higher level in the area was already satiated by the more established Bashley, and the new club struggled to gain enough fans to sustain them (beaver + duck).

Lymington's fans that didn't agree with the merger stayed at the Sports Ground and started Lymington Town again from scratch. They've gradually climbed their way back in to the Wessex League, where they now regularly face New Milton Town (the new name for Lymington & New Milton!). Both clubs claim the original Lymington FC's history. I think we need Pete Frame to create a football-themed Rock Family Tree especially for these two.

Floodlights shimmering like 100,000 fireflies in the early evening sky.
Regular followers of the Wessex League could be forgiven for believing that New Milton have changed their name yet again - this time to "New Milton Town Nil" (oh well, it's nearly that time of year when we all love to groan at cracker jokes...). Both sides were on a poor run of results going in to this match, with Lymington in mid-table and New Milton next to bottom. I was told on the gate that it could be a feisty affair, but in the event, it transpired that people around these parts are too polite to be feisty.

It was certainly a well-contested game between two evenly-matched sides. New Milton took the lead early on through the outstanding player on the pitch, Alex Baldacchino (who went on to score four of New Milton's five goals) - where others were unable to lose their markers, Baldacchino was clever enough to find space in the box and was also quick enough to shoot accurately before he was closed down. No surprise to see him near the top of the Wessex League's goalscoring charts.

Along the benches of Lymington Town's stand post-match.
And so to the half-time refreshments. Lymington's clubhouse was burnt down during the summer, but it's gradually being rebuilt. You can have a glass of lemonade on the patio whilst watching cricket during the summer months - very nice!

The visitors went 2-0 up within a minute of the restart, but within another minute, the home side had pulled one back, so the second half promised much. Then Lymington had their best chance of equalising when what sounded like the crack of willow on leather (but was actually football boot on attacker's shin within the penalty area) sounded out across the ground. Unfortunately for them, penalty saved. Two minutes later, the home side walloped the woodwork, but after that, it was all New Milton.

Floodlights sparkling in the darkness at Lymington.
The third goal was a Samir Nasri-style free-kick - 30 yards out, hopeful punt into the box, bounces past all the outfield players, goalie flummoxed, and sneaks in to the bottom corner...

With confidence visibly percolating out of their bright orange kit as night-time's chilly fingers stretched out over Hampshire, New Milton added two more goals in the last five minutes (the last of which was described as "Playstation football" by one of their delighted players - and who am I to disagree?).

They would be dancing on the streets of New Milton when the result was announced in the town. But before then, the grumbling, mumbling and head-shaking of the Lymington Town fans as they headed for the exits made this neutral sad. "You work hard all week, and then they serve up this on a Saturday!" The reactions in defeat are the same for the fan of the small club as it is for the game's giants.

I bet they never feel like that in Sylvania.

The sun goes down and the world plays football.
For more detail on the histories of these two clubs, see Dave Twydell's Gone But Not Forgotten Part 34.

I have now reached halfway in my quest for this season (the eighth match out of the planned sixteen). Who knows where I shall report from next?

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