Thursday, 23 January 2014

Sholing v Hullbridge Sports

Sholing FC on the march to the arch.
I bought a box of Cheerios, the popular breakfast cereal, many years ago, and it had the best free gift ever attached to it! A purple frisbee (or flying disc, as I believe they're supposed to be called if they're not made by the Frisbee Corporation of America [must check this...])! A sturdy plastic disc with a tempting picture of a bowl of milk-soaked Cheerios in the centre.

When I say the best free gift ever, what I really mean is the most-used gift. The best might have been the Bob Wilson sticky stamp books given away by Nabisco in the early 1970s, or the collection of plastic Wallace & Gromit figures given away with Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies from around 15 years ago (and where are all the plastic toys in cereals these days? Did somebody really swallow one once and they've been banned ever since? Bring them back, I say!).

Anyway, me and my son have had many hours of enjoyment from our plastic friend ever since. It's our ever-present companion on family trips to the countryside or the seaside. We'll sneak it out and start tossing it to each other ever so first. Then we'll ramp up the action and throw it harder and harder and aim at specific parts of the other's body. It invariably gets out of hand and somebody usually ends up getting injured - a sore finger or bruised shin is not uncommon.

We have names for each type of throw. If you aim for the other's ankle, you have to shout "Ankle Snapper!" as you throw. A direct hit on the knee is a Knee Nobbler; a wild whang to the hip area is a Groin Destroyer; above that is the Rib Crusher. And so it goes on.

Sholing's club shop: scarves, shirts, ties and badges all at low low prices.
Sholing FC (2) 3 v 1 (1) Hullbridge Sports FC
FA Carlsberg Vase Fourth Round
Tuesday 21st January 2014
Attendance: 193
Admission: £5
Programme: £2
Colours: Red and white stripes / black / red and white stripes v All yellow
National Grid reference: SU4610

Approximately 250 miles there and back on a wet Tuesday night for Hullbridge Sports. Screenshot from Edinburgh University's Digimaps For Schools, using Ordnance Survey backdrop mapping.
My sixth FA Vase game of the season. I'd been avoiding watching Sholing on purpose up until now, as I believed they would be the last Hampshire club standing. If you include Moneyfields, they were one of four local clubs in the draw for the fourth round proper (the last 32), and the only one who were due to play at home.

Way out west, Alresford and Blackfield & Langley played on Saturday, where the rain had presumably not been as relentless as it had been over Southampton since...I don't know, was it mid-December when it first started? I love awaydays and would probably have gone to Larkhall v Blackfield, but I was expected back in Southampton for a pub quiz by 7pm, which would have been tight (sample question: How do you write the year 2014 in Roman numerals?).

The original scheduled match day of Saturday 18th January was a wash-out for Sholing and Hullbridge Sports, which meant that the game was rearranged for Tuesday. There was some controversy over this (as reported here), as Sports had a 250 mile round trip to make on a weekday evening, which unsurprisingly meant that several of their first choice players were unavailable due to work commitments.

Hosepipes and trenches keeping the floods out.
So the away team were weakened, but where exactly are they from? The Vase tends to be for clubs from small towns and suburbs of larger towns and cities, many of which are difficult to pinpoint, even for the keenest British geographer. Odd Down (Bath) have the right idea - there's no mistaking where they come from, so the easiest way of locating some of the less well-known sides in the competition might be to add the nearest large settlement in brackets after their official name. Hence, Sholing's opponents on Tuesday could be known as Hullbridge Sports (Near Southend-on-Sea).

Reading Hullbridge's history, it appears that they won the French Cup in 1952, joining such greats as Olympique Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux as former winners. Hang on...on closer inspection, it appears as though the French Cup was a trophy competed for by members of the Southend & District League, which probably means that the likes of St Etienne are unlikely to have held the trophy aloft.

Pre-match nerves.
As for Sholing, since the last time I was there (versus Tiverton Town in December 2012), they have voluntarily dropped out of the Southern League, citing such costs as the annual £12,000 coach hire to get to places like Paulton Rovers and North Leigh. They said they would have run out of money by Christmas if they'd carried on at that level, despite their relative success (never out of the top 7 since they joined).

They managed to keep most of their successful squad when they started the season in the Wessex League. Looking through their profiles on the club's website, most of the players have been with the club for years. A loyal and committed bunch, which shows on the pitch. They have won all but two of their Wessex League fixtures so far this season. It will be a big surprise if they lose at all in the league between now and April. Champions-elect. Far and away the best side in the league. And far too good for their opponents on Tuesday evening. The only surprise was that they only managed to score three goals.

I think Sholing's fans are enjoying their time back in the more local league. They know where their opponents come from. It's cheaper (£5 instead of the usual £8-10 in the Southern League). It's fun winning every week.

Walking towards destiny.
Applying frisbee terminology to goals - number one by Lee Wort (16 minutes) was a Neck Knackerer into the roof of the net from a yard out after a superb run down the left by the tricksy Marvin McLean.

Hullbridge equalised out of the blue three minutes later after Sholing's keeper misjudged a cross and Rob Hodgson looped in a header that was the equivalent of throwing a frisbee upside-down - it wobbled and dipped alarmingly before dropping over the line.

Wort restored Sholing's lead after 27 minutes when he whacked in the most accurate Ankle Snapper I've seen since my son walloped me one with gusto on Highcliffe Beach last summer.

Byron Mason thwacked in a Groin Destroyer in the second half to put the result beyond doubt. There were many other chances in the drizzle and subsequent rain, all falling to Southampton's only stripey team, but no more goals to bother the FA's statisticians.

The Echo report on the match can be found here. There are some photos from Essex-based photographer Peter Dudley here.

Hullbridge Sports' number 14, Harry Long, standing in the January rain.
This is now it for Hampshire clubs. Only Sholing are left after last weekend's matches. Moneyfields had already been harshly thrown out of the Vase after their abandoned game against Bitton in December (see the pane on the right for a link to my report).

Alresford Town went to Bristol's Hallen and were (by all accounts) unlucky to lose 2-0. The photographer Paul Paxford was there to shoot the action.

Blackfield & Langley lost 3-0 at Larkhall Athletic, the unbeaten leaders of the Western League. By coincidence, The Larks will be Sholing's opponents in the last 16 on February 15th. It should be a tremendous match-up between possibly the two strongest clubs outside of the Northern League. The winners have every chance of going all the way to Wembley. If you're at a loose end that day and you fancy watching a heavyweight match-up for a fiver, I'd recommend that you go. Tie of the round, I've no doubt about it.

Some of the crowd of 193 at the Silverlake Arena attempting to keep dry.
There were questions. Here are some answers:

2014 in Roman numerals is MMXIV.

Plastic toys are no longer found in cereal packets due to the cost of the oil used to produce the plastic.

And in case anyone was asking, the most painful frisbee-style disc throw is the Groin Destroyer.


  1. Andrew , another cracking report , yours is one of the best out there in my humble opinion. I always look forward to a new post of yours. Yours and Mike Lathams are the best,.

    Concerning your 'flying disc' i would hate to hear someone call "eye lid exterminator" or "Lip splitter" hope when playing you always have a stretcher handy , just in case. ?

    I have a great feeling about Sholing for the Vase and my few shillings at 66/1 back that theory up :) However i would have expected more in attendence than 193. Am sure the Larkhill game will be a corker.

    Keep thinking "why didnt he say hello at Petersfield" but that is a question for another day .....

    Keep up your great work

  2. Wish I'd put a tenner on Sholing at 66/1, they're looking very strong. The weather put paid to a higher attendance on Tuesday - it was raining all evening, which would have put a fair few off. Not as many away fans as there would have been on a Saturday either - they could have had 300 if the game had been played three days previously. I would expect 3-400 for the Larkhall match.

    And I would have said hello at Petersfiled if I'd known who you were! I recognised Paul Paxford at Havant & Waterlooville over Christmas and shook hands with the great man. I've no doubt that we'll be at the same match at the same time again, so we'll meet up then.

    Quite glad my son doesn't know about the eye lid exterminator - that sounds even more painful than the groin destroyer :-/

  3. Oh yes just to be within ten feet of the great PPax is one of life's pleasures. But to shake his hand takes things to another level :)
    PP's photo sets are superb - particually his action shots.