Monday, 9 September 2013

Hythe & Dibden v Oldland Abbotonians

Hythe & Dibden's Ewart Recreation Ground, taken from Aurigny's G-JOEY last week.
I saw it as I was about to step on to the rattly old train that runs along Hythe Pier - pinned to a wooden post betwixt the ferry and the end of the platform, a scrap of paper with something transcribed on it in slanty capitals in black marker pen. Written in a neat, feminine hand, I could just make out the first line:


I couldn't see any more, as there was a shaky old gentleman with a walking stick trying to climb on to the train behind me. I looked away from the note and offered the old fellow my hand. A few seconds later, the aged train stretched, yawned, and slowly pulled away from the pier end terminus.

Britain's seventh-longest pier at Hythe.
Hythe & Dibden FC (1) 3 v 2 (1) Oldland Abbotonians FC
FA Vase First Qualifying Round
Saturday 7th September 2013
Attendance: Hard to tell, as people always coming and going at the Rec. 50-60?
Admission: £5
Programme: £1 (enjoyed the quiz!)
Colours: Green / white / white v Blue and white stripes / blue / blue
National Grid reference: SU4208

Waiting to announce the teams before kick-off.
I couldn't stop thinking about the note as I walked the short distance from the pier to Hythe & Dibden's football ground. Was the note new - was "John" going to be at the match today? Would I see him or even talk to him? Had he seen the note? How did he feel about it?

Or was the note old? Had it been there since the last Saints home match? St Mary's is only a fifteen minute walk from the ferry terminal on the Southampton side of the River Test. Was the note a hoax? Had a "mate" pinned it up as a wind-up? There were a lot of questions spinning round and around inside my addled mind.

Watching from the warm seats.
I had returned to the Ewart Recreation Ground in Hythe to watch a First Qualifying Round match in the FA Vase. This is a competition for clubs below Southern League level - in Hampshire, sides from the Wessex and Combined Counties Leagues compete in it, hoping to win through up to nine rounds to reach a Wembley final (where they will almost inevitably meet a team from the Northern League, who invariably win the competition).

Sides like Sholing, Winchester City and Blackfield & Langley can realistically dream of Wembley glory in May, whereas today's opponents, Hythe & Dibden and Oldland Abbotonians, will be doing well to win a couple of matches. Still, you never know, funny old game and all that...

Hythe & Dibden's Hakeem Osumah shoots! Oldland Abbotonians' Ryan Perry saves!
Saturday was Non-League Day - held every year whilst the Premiership and Championship have a week off for internationals, it's the day when small clubs get a bit of publicity in the media and crowds tend to rise a little because of it. I prefer the non-league game these days anyway, so I was always going to come, but I did hear one fellow say he was at Hythe specifically because it was Non-League Day.

Why would anyone want to watch a top flight match anyway? Following Premiership football, with its obsession with overseas markets, wallowing in rivers of TV gold - it's all about as exciting as cheering on ICI or BP in the international money markets. The price hikes, the primadonnas, the cutting edge tactical analysis by Alan Shearer on Match of the Day...

...Vacuous semi-humans in big clubs' marketing departments obsessed with selling shirts in Malaysia and hunting for an official candy bar partner in Bahrain, working their nuts off for a deposit on a mid-range BMW, whilst the owners skim off all the profit (and more) to buy yet another luxury yacht and the players get paid in "image rights" to avoid paying their taxes...

Thanks, but no thanks.

Hythe & Dibden equalise with a Simon De'ath wonder strike.
The players at Hythe & Dibden may get paid petrol money, or a tenner for a win, or they may play for nothing at all (I neither know nor care), but it's usually more enjoyable here than watching the overpaid, ungrateful few at the top of the game.

I looked at the name board pinned to the outside of the changing rooms to check for Johns - he may have been playing - but there weren't any today. He must be in the crowd of 50 or so that were gathering around the rails, chatting and laughing as the players walked out together behind the officials.

I noticed one or two small changes to the ground since last season - the quirky corner shelter had been moved to join up like a Lego piece with several other identical shelters on the playground side. All straight and neat and tidy for the new season, ready for Hythe & Dibden's assault on the Vase (although they have as much chance of winning the trophy as the Jamaican bobsled team had of winning gold in Calgary). The dugouts and railings had been painted as well - smart and shiny.

The legendary Simon De'ath celebrates his second goal with a nonchalant trot and a cheeky smile.
It only took a minute for Bristolians Oldland Abbotonians to take the lead (Oldland is at 5 o'clock on the outer edge of Bristol), one of their forwards breaking through Hythe's defence and cracking one in low from the edge of the box. I feared for the home team, as they had been heavily beaten every time I'd seen them previously. But this season's version is a mean green machine, and instead of wilting and dying like an old courgette plant at summer's end, they stood up proud and erect like the conifer behind the lower goal.

It helps having the legendary Simon De'ath in your team (legendary to Romsey Town fans at any rate, where he scored approximately 6,000,000 goals in his six seasons with the club). His curling wonder strike from 25 yards after half an hour was a worthy equaliser. He then went and scored two more barnstormers in the second half - only one of which counted, as the 40 yard lob over Oldland's keeper was mysteriously disallowed, presumably for offside.

Hakeem Osumah twinkled through the visitors' rearguard to score Hythe's third with 13 minutes remaining, before the Abbotonians pulled one back after 88 minutes. The ref's watch seemed to have stopped whilst much treading on the ball by the corner flag ensued. If Oldland had equalised, there may well have been extra time and penalties, which would have been exciting, but we'd been spoilt enough with the entertaining 90 minutes as it was.

All straight and tidy for the first home match of the season.
On my way out of the Ewart Rec, I overheard two men talking about the match: "That was a nervous last five minutes, wasn't it, John?"

John? John?! I wonder if he was heading towards the pier?

Hythe & Dibden travel to near-neighbours Totton & Eling in a fortnight; Oldland Abbotonians head back to Bristol with memories of a pleasant day out on the Waterside.

By the by, Hythe & Dibden have featured heavily in football blogs already this season. You can read about their match at Petersfield Town on Row Z here; their trip to Andover Town here; and this match was also covered here (although I didn't see anyone else taking photos). There is also a set of pictures from their away match at Tadley-Calleva here.

Another Vase report in a fortnight.


  1. Hi,

    I really enjoyed your blog post on this fixture and appreciate your attendance.

    The Hythe lads don't get a penny for anything, in fact most of them end up caughing up £5-10 a week on club fines :)

    I search the web for ground hopping blogs after every match and enjoy the views.

    Scott Johnston

    Assistant Manager
    Hythe & Dibden FC

  2. Thanks for your comment Scott. H&D have definitely improved this year, it was quite noticeable last week. Good luck in the next round - I think you've got a good chance against Totton & Eling, and who knows where you'll end up in the next round?

    I tend to assume players don't get paid at Wessex One level, but I guess some clubs might do - there's always rumours about Club X or Club Y paying such-and-such amongst the people who watch, but I don't print them!

  3. On another note it's good to hear that Joey is still up in the air. Never been on him myself, but he's quite familiar as I grew up under the landing approach to Southampton Airport.

  4. G-JOEY is a little yellow plane with eyes, in case anyone reading this is unaware! There were a series of children's comic books starring him a few years ago.