Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Bracknell Town v Hartley Wintney

Welcome signs old and new at Bracknell Town FC.
Have I told you about my workmate who wouldn't eat food with holes in? I haven't? Well, it all came out recently when one of our colleagues brought doughnuts in to the office to celebrate his birthday. These weren't the squishy, sugar-crusted variety with strawberry jam squelching out of the middle. No, these were doughnuts with holes, as eaten by Homer Simpson.

My workmate (we'll call him Cyril - not his real name) refused to have one, despite being a good pal of the birthday boy. He insisted that food with holes was "just plain wrong" - no other reason, just "plain wrong". Of course, we had to go through every hole-ridden food we could think of to test him out...Polo mints, pretzels, spaghetti hoops (and what about letters with holes in Alphabetti Spaghetti? Your B's and P's, etc? Are E's and Y's okay to eat?).

Of course, in the end, he had to admit to liking some of these foods. I mean, how can Party Rings be wrong? We found more holes in his argument than there are in a kilo of emmenthal.

Bracknell Town FC's main stand is dwarfed by a nearby college building.
Bracknell Town FC (1) 1 v 2 (0) Hartley Wintney FC
FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round
Saturday 21st September 2013
Attendance: Overheard a club official saying they'd broken the 100 barrier.
Admission: £6
Programme: £1 (superb, the best I've seen since Hartley Wintney's two seasons ago)
Colours: All red v All blue
National Grid reference: SU8768 / SU8769

The Stripey End...
Reader's voice: Is there any point to this story, Andy? We want to read about Bracknell Town v Hartley Wintney here, not about this silly Cyril guy.

Hmmm, not really, unless you count the blackberries growing wild at Bracknell's Larges Lane ground as non-holey food - I think Cyril would like them.

Reader: Oh, come on, tell us why you were there...

Okay, I travelled outside of Hampshire for the first time in this blog's history because I'm attempting to follow Hampshire clubs in the FA Vase this season. Doesn't matter where they play, so long as I can get there and back in reasonable time - I won't be travelling to the north-east, for example, if any of the county's teams are drawn to play the likes of Billingham Synthonia or Whitley Bay in a later round. That's not going to happen for a while though, as the rounds are drawn on a regional basis for the time being.

It was Hartley Wintney's turn this time out.

...Oh, hang on, it's actually Tractor Corner!
Reader: Right, that's better. What was the ground like? Weren't Bracknell Town a Southern League club up until recently?

Yes, they played at a higher level than their current status suggests for around a quarter of a century. They were relegated to the Hellenic League in 2010. Because they played in the Southern and Isthmian Leagues for so long, Larges Lane is relatively well-developed for a step 5 club.

You enter via one of three beautifully preserved "proper" turnstiles (not one of those rubbish modern contraptions that you have to swipe a barcode to enter). Immediately to your left as you go in is a small brick-built stand which houses the directors and around 50 fans on red or white plastic seats. In front of this stand are a pair of disused dugouts - no longer needed in these days of multiple substitutes.

Moving along clockwise, you come to a second well-built stand, with around 100 red plastic seats. The poles holding up the roof are made of wood and have been painted bright red over the summer. Very smart.

A view along the side of Larges Lane showing the two seated areas and (just visible), one of the covered standing areas.
Reader: Good, good. You mentioned blackberries. Where are they?

Yes, the blackberries are over the far side from the two stands. Rotting away, they were. If you enjoy free wild fruit at football grounds, get to Larges Lane as soon as possible. And bring an ice cream tub or something similar if you want to take some home. I'm sure the club won't mind.

Reader: Mmm, I fancy some of that. Anything else worth mentioning about the ground or the town itself?

Yes, there's plenty more to look at. There are two covered three-step terraces - the one behind the goal is painted in fetching red and white stripes. A local character has his own seat made out of an upturned crate or something similar at this end. He'll probably say hello to you as you walk past. The other terrace contains a press box for two reporters, one of whom brings his westie to the match.

There's also a cosy clubhouse and a rusty roller (although the roller is locked away in a compound and difficult to spot). It's a nice ground.

As for Bracknell itself, I don't know much. It was mostly built in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a new town (the football club is much older - there was a village there before Bracknell New Town was built around it). There are 79 subways. And it was the home of the Met Office before it was relocated to Exeter.

Question: What's a dog's favourite county? Answer: Barkshire!
Reader: Thanks Andy, this is most informative. The Met Office, eh? I wonder if you could write about the match itself using as many weather references as possible? Did it rain goals? Was there a frosty reception for Hartley Wintney? Did the red mist descend upon any of the players? Heh heh.

Hey, you should be writing this, not me. Anyway, Bracknell got off to a breezy start, scoring after five minutes with a bolt from the blue, and by the glistening rainbow beard of Roy G Biv, it was a terrific goal - a thunderous volley from just inside the box.

Their high pressure start nearly paid off again five minutes later, but the linesman rained on their parade by raising his flag for offside.

Hartley Wintney weathered the early storm, but the outlook was grim for them. The rest of the first half descended into the doldrums with no more goals for either side. However, this was the calm before the force ten gale. Despite being a goal to the good, there were clouds on the horizon for the home side.

Tackling and leaping action as Bracknell Town win the ball.
Hartley Wintney must have had a thunderbolt delivered by their management team at half-time, as they swept down the pitch with the regularity and ferocity of the Mistral early in the second period. They equalised when Jack Coventry struck the ball past the Bracknell keeper with the deadly accuracy of a Midwestern twister.

Lightning struck a second time seven minutes later with a long ball out of defence and an ice-cold finish past the home side's netminder. More goals were confidently forecast, but none came.

In the last ten minutes, Bracknell flooded forward looking for a second goal which would have taken the tie into extra-time. They hit the bar and had the follow-up shot cleared off the line, but that was that.

Deep depression for the Robins of Bracknell Town as they exited the Vase. A blue sky day for Hampshire heroes Hartley Wintney.

Right, there must be more weather-related football expressions. What did I miss?

Bracknell Town's press box, post-match.
In the previous round, I saw Hythe & Dibden beat Oldland Abbotonians. They won again on Saturday - this time away to local rivals, the higher-ranked Totton & Eling. Thus, Hythe & Dibden and Hartley Wintney were both in Monday's draw for the First Round Proper.

The nine ties involving Hampshire clubs are:

Newhaven v Cove
Winchester City v Sholing
Kidlington v Lymington Town
Highmoor Ibis v Folland Sports
Abingdon United v Fareham Town
Hartley Wintney v Petersfield Town
Moneyfields v Christchurch
Bradford Town v AFC Portchester
Alresford Town v Hythe & Dibden

I hope to be at one of these on October 19th.

Reader: Glad to hear that, but please don't go off on one about Party Rings and emmenthal next time, eh?

Bracknell Town's  report of the match can be found on their website here.


  1. Hi Andrew, how about Kidlington vs Lymington Town? Site seeing around the dreaming spires in the morning then a cracking game in the afternoon. I'll have a beer on the bar for you.
    You can follow us on Twitter @Kidlington_FC

  2. Hiya Jet, that's certainly very tempting - judging by the league positions, it should be a close game. My one problem is that the children have morning activities, so that I can't usually set off from Southampton until at least 1.15. I think Kidlington is right on my limit for a 3pm kick-off (it takes about 15-20 mins to reach the M3 from where I live). I may well head your way and if I find I'm running late, stop off at Abingdon instead. Decisions, decisions!

  3. My plan is to be at Abingdon so might see you there. Great read as usual

  4. Thanks Paul, I'm enjoying your photography, as ever! So, a beer at Kidlington or a chance to be part of a Paul Paxford photo set? I'm definitely leaning towards one or the other, but I may not decide until the minute I'm able to set off on the day. In the meantime, children's activities are spilling over in to the afternoon for the next two Saturdays, so my plan to go to Hamworthy v Blackfield & Langley in a fortnight is in ruins. I genuinely don't know where I'll be next. It might have to be an evening game. So long as there's PYO fruit, I'm open to going anywhere...