Friday, 8 August 2014

Christchurch v Blackfield & Langley

The entrance to Christchurch FC's Hurn Bridge Sports Ground stadium.
The Rules Of Hopping Around Hampshire:

1. Each match I report on has to feature at least one club from Hampshire. Doesn't matter if they're home or away. Doesn't matter if I've been to a ground a dozen times before. Nothing else matters apart from the Hampshire thing. Gives the blog a structure.

2. Rules two to six aren't really rules at all; they're more aims. So, rule/aim number two is that I shall try to write sixteen match reports in 2014/15 (the same as last season). The monthly split is likely to be two in each calendar month between August and November, then one each in December and January, followed by another two per month in February, March and April. It seems about the right number. If I did this every week, it would become more of an obligation than a pleasurable hobby. I need to stay sane.

3. Just like last season, I shall follow Hampshire clubs in the FA Vase until the last one is knocked out (subject to me being available to do so - family has to come first). More structure to the blog, and a little more predictability for my readers as to when to expect a new match report (usually the Monday or Tuesday after a Saturday match - it takes me a couple of days to get my act together to choose and edit the photos and then write the report itself).

The main stand glowing in the mid-evening sunshine.
Christchurch FC (0) 1 v 2 (0) Blackfield & Langley FC
Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division
Wednesday 6th August 2014
Attendance: 100+ (I forgot to count - could have been as many as 150)
Admission: £6
Programme: £1
Colours: All blue v Green and white hoops / green / white
National Grid reference: SZ1297 (with small portions in SZ1296, SZ1396 and SZ1397)

The second seated area at Christchurch.
More rules/aims:

4. There are eight grounds in the Wessex League that I've yet to visit (all in Wiltshire and Dorset). I aim to drop in on at least four of these in 2014/15, completing the league in 2015/16.

5. At the beginning of 2014/15, there were twelve Hampshire clubs down to level 10 (out of the 42* that I've written about thus far) that I'd only featured once since I started HAH. I should like to report on at least six of these clubs this season, if possible. This will depend a lot on the vagaries of the fixture list (especially cup draws) and my availability on particular weekends.

6. If I'm not compiling a report for HAH, then I shall be cheering on either Pompey, Havant & Waterlooville or Romsey Town. These are my "days off".

*I have to have a cut-off point, and the lower divisions of the Wessex and Combined Counties leagues at level 10 is it. Hayling United and Stockbridge have sadly recently dropped below level 10. Hence I now feature only 40 clubs.

Blackfield & Langley win this aerial duel.
Let's begin...

...and a great start to 2014/15 for The Rules, as I visit one of the four Wessex League grounds that I was aiming to do, and feature Blackfield & Langley for only the second time. Two ticks in one game. Go me!

So, Christchurch FC were formed in 1885, which made them one of the oldest clubs in Hampshire before the local government reorganisation of 1974 moved them in to Dorset. They played at the Barrack Road Recreation Ground until 1984. Not being familiar with the town, I had a look on aerial photography to see if the old football pitch was still there, and the first piece of open land that I spotted that could have been a football ground until thirty years ago had now been covered by a skate park.

My Tony Hawk-inspired imagination then went in to overdrive mode as I picked out a shadow or two on the half-pipes. Kids doing heel-flips and half-flips where there was once Hampshire League action! Were the other kids watching them secretly hoping that they'd fall off their skateboards and pick up an amusing injury (nothing too serious, but hopefully something involving yelps of pain and a little blood...)? Mobile phone cameras whirring away, would there be an unfortunate incident to post up on social media later?

Then I thought about the age profile of Christchurch (one of the oldest towns in Britain, due to the large numbers of bungalow-bound retirees in the area - Highcliffe ward has the highest proportion of elderly residents in the UK at 69%), and hoped that the shadows I'd spotted weren't actually overactive 80-year-olds being cheered on by fellow pensioners. More hip replacement operations coming up, I feared.

Once my imagination had calmed down, I had a look at the nearby road name and realised that the recreation ground I was looking at wasn't actually on Barrack Road. There appears to be a cricket pitch at Christchurch's old stomping park. No pensioners' skate park, thank chuff.

An tennis umpire's structure? One of those ladders you have to climb to get on an aeroplane? Whatever it is, not something you see at every football ground.
Talking of cricket pitches, Christchurch FC share their current ground with Dorset CCC (and the Bournemouth FA). The cricket pitch and indoor training facility are on the right as you enter the Hurn Bridge Sports Ground through the football club's turnstiles. I sniffed out a roller on the far side of the cricket pitch almost immediately, but waited until it was dark until I nonchalantly wandered over to indulge in my slightly odd hobby of photographing groundsmen's equipment. Sometimes, I'm a bit shy about it, but with a two second exposure...I think I've already taken my roller photo of the season!

Walking clockwise around the pitch, immediately to the left of the turnstiles is the refreshments hut (tea, burgers, bacon rolls, Kit Kats and condiments). Beyond that, at the first corner is a rusty roller and three sticks stuck in a brick - probably a makeshift wicket for the cricketers, but not something I was expecting to see...

Beneath some conifers on the left-hand side is the main stand - built in 1995, made of breezeblocks and metal with blue plastic seats. In the middle is the announcer's box, and above this is an electronic scoreboard (not switched on during Wednesday's game). Next to the stand are the curious steps (see the photo above). Hard standing surrounds the rest of the pitch until you reach the second set of seats, attached to a club building.

On two sides of the ground is dense woodland which reminded me quite strongly of the Forbidden Forest which surrounds Hogwarts in the Harry Potter novels. I half expected to see a herd of bow and arrow-wielding centaurs emerge from the woods, chasing a swarm of angry giant spiders. In reality, the only animals I saw peaking out of the undergrowth were a timid pair of bunnies.

The main stand after dark.
I suspect the first half of this match will be one of the least exciting I shall see this season. It would have been the proverbial "Last game on Match Of The Day" (we're talking about 0-0 draws between Birmingham/Bolton/Stoke/Middlesbrough/Sunderland/Wigan here). Actually, I take that back - there was a disallowed goal for Blackfield (offside), and a decent save by the away keeper when a Christchurch player nearly lobbed one in to the top corner.

Apart from this though, not a lot happened. I spent the half listening to aeroplane engines buzzing and gyrating at nearby Hurn Airport, hoping that a jumbo jet would take off and head straight towards us, low down and silhouetted by the setting sun. If I could have taken a photo of this happening at the exact same moment as the ball rippled the back of the net with the outsmarted keeper flying through the air, arms akimbo, precisely mimicking the enormous metal beast overhead, I could have put my camera down, wiped my palms together, grinning from ear to ear, knowing that I'd taken the ultimate match photo.

Of course, all the planes that took off during the match headed off in the opposite direction.

And the sunset wasn't that great.

And I was nowhere near the nets when the three goals were scored.

My first roller of the new season! Admittedly next to the cricket pitch, but I wasn't going to pass it by without a photo, was I?!
The worthwhile action began in the 67th minute when Christchurch's Matt Dodd headed in the opening goal from a well-worked corner. Just reward for the home side's defensive heroics. After a 4-0 defeat the previous Friday against Verwood Town, the home team's fans must have been expecting a thrashing against one of the league's big spenders. But the boys in blue were superb for 85 minutes, effectively keeping the Watersiders away from their danger area as if they'd set up some sort of magical magnetic forcefield on the edge of their 18 yard line. Or as if they'd borrowed a collection of invisibilty cloaks off of Harry Potter and were playing with extra unseen defenders.

The last five minutes were more frenzied than level 26 on Doctor Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. There was "a tangle of legs", according to X-Church's Lee Clark as he left the pitch after being shown a red card for denying Jamie Musselwhite a clear shot on goal. Penalty to the Yeovil Town lookalikes, converted with aplomb by Blackfield's Dave Ewen.

Within a minute, Musselwhite had dibbed one in from a yard out to make it 2-1. A sad end to Christchurch's brave performance, but Blackfield were grinning more than eleven Cheshire cats who had stolen not only the home side's cream, but had eaten a week's worth of Whiskas Supermeat on top.

Summer football. T-shirts. Shorts. Twinkly floodlights.
A proper match report from Christchurch's excellent website can be found here.

Will The Rules Of Hopping Around Hampshire be like a childhood diary and fizzle out after the first month? All enthusiasm and good intentions, obsessed and worried over before being suddenly forgotten? Quite possibly, but right now The Rules are Important and Will Be Adhered To.

Let me know when I lapse, won't you?


  1. Welcome back for another season! Personally speaking my new season resolution is always to get to more games, though it never usually comes off. After going past it on the train last week thanks to an unexpected detour I think I'll have to give Moneyfields a visit though. Somehow seeing a football ground for the first time, no matter what size, is always a bit of excitement. B & L are a side I've encountered a few times, though I've got a feeling that they have lost a few key players, one being Alex Baldacchino who moved to Sholing at the tail end of last season. Is Kevin Gibbens still there?

  2. Hi Neil. You should certainly give Moneyfields a visit. Always a competitive game when they're involved, and if the football happens to be boring, you can just sit and watch the trains go past. Yes, Kevin Gibbens is still at B&L - player-manager sitting in the back four at Christchurch. His photo is framed and hung on the wall at his old school, along with Phil Warner, who I presume joined Saints at the same time.

  3. I believe you have to have some kind of Google account to post a comment on here, annoyingly. I suppose it boosts the number of Google+ users...
    Anyway, I've been told by someone* who couldn't post a comment that the ladder is used by the starter in athletics meetings. I should have known that...
    *Hello Dad!