|The entrance to Amesbury Town's Bonnymead Park.|
The default position in archaeology is that if you don't know what a thing was used for, then it must have had some ritualistic purpose. From that starting point, you can dig up axe-heads and flinty jewellery and speculate about how they must have been used in any theoretical ritual.
No-one will ever know for sure what the ancients did at Stonehenge, which means that anyone can speculate on its use. Me? I believe it was used as a primitive football stadium. Look at the arrangement of the big stones. Each set of three stones is arranged as if they are a goal - two goalposts and a crossbar. Set out at regular intervals in a giant circle, there are around sixteen "goals", which means that there could have been up to sixteen teams playing at once.
Far-fetched? Maybe, but I spent most of my childhood inventing new sports. It's just the sort of thing I would have spent several hours mulling over during a boring Sunday, designing the layout and jotting down some rudimentary rules.
From the depths of my pitiful memory, Gockey (hockey played with golf clubs) and Holf (golf played with hockey sticks) may have been my inventions (but possibly not - they may have been school chum Hunky Hutch's ideas that I picked up and ran with...).
So, Stone Age football with sixteen teams? Followed by sacrifices and naked whooping and hollering? Why not? Give me a few hours and I'll come up with some rules...
|The home and away dressing rooms.|
Amesbury Town FC (2) 3 v 1 (0) Hythe & Dibden FC
FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round
Saturday 6th September 2014
Programme: Free with admission
Colours: All blue v Green / white / white
National Grid reference: SU1540 & SU1541
|Amesbury Town's stand.|
Amesbury's ground is used for cricket during the summer, so this was their first home match of the season. It's a leafy place, set in a bend of the River Avon, which should look stunning when autumnal colours take over from the current selection of greens in a few weeks.
Entering via the homemade pay hut, the clubhouse is immediately to your left at the top of a grassy slope. Changing rooms and toilets are attached to this building. Outside is a water tap which can be used to fill a bowl if you're accompanied by a thirsty dog (non-league dog count on Saturday was three).
Plenty of people chose to stand under the clubhouse verandah sipping on cold cold beer during the game - others sat in sunshine on the grassy bank behind the goal. Others stretched their legs and wandered around to the blue brick-built stand on the far side. Inside this stand are four rows of blue-and-white bench seats - stripey like a Brighton & Hove Albion or Huddersfield Town shirt. In front and to either side are blue brick dugouts.
At the far end to the clubhouse are a pair of storage containers and a couple of rusty rollers. I have christened this end the Rusty Roller End. Behind the rollers are stinging nettles and trees which lead down to the river.
|Hythe & Dibden FC all packed up and ready to leave Jones Lane last season.|
My main memory of that match against Team Solent is sitting near a pair of groundhoppers who were discussing the difference between "chips as a snack" and "chips as a meal". Apparently, it's all to do with cost. If you buy chips for less than £2, they're a snack; over £2, they're a meal.
I've no doubt the groundhoppers will be back when Hythe & Dibden move to their new home. I popped down to Clayfields last week to see if the new ground had been built yet. The answer to that is no, but the pitch was looking in good condition, and no doubt a lot of work has been going on updating the dressing room facilities - all largely invisible but necessary preparations.
In a few weeks, the pitchside barriers, floodlights and shelters will be transported from Jones Lane, new hard standing will be laid, an entrance hut and surrounding fences will be erected, and everything will be ready for the first match.
In the meantime, Hythe & Dibden are groundsharing with Blackfield & Langley at Gang Warily.
|The second half is under way at leafy Bonnymead Park.|
Nine minutes gone and it was 2-0 from a flicked header from a corner, scored by Amesbury's number 9, Danny Finnegan. With number 5 having scored after 5 minutes, and number 9 after 9 minutes, I surmised that Hythe & Dibden would probably be safe if they got past the 16th minute without conceding another goal (assuming Amesbury's sub numbers went up to 16).
I was right, as the home side calmed down a bit after their whirlwind start. There were more chances, but no more goals during the first half.
Talking of groundhoppers (well, I was a few paragraphs ago), I noticed at least three other than myself. One of them was holding a small photographic device and appeared to be mumbling to himself rather a lot. I'm sure he must be a nice person, but as he was talking to himself, I kept well away from him. Scanning through my Twitter profile yesterday, I noticed some retweets from Hythe & Dibden directing me to some Youtube videos of the match. Viewing one of these, I realised that the groundhopper had been taking videos and providing a commentary as he did so! One of the mini videos features Amesbury's second goal. Link provided at the end of this report.
|Hythe & Dibden's Terry Cox scores their goal from this free kick.|
Minutes later, and Amesbury's right-back received his second yellow card and the home team were a man short. They were lucky to get away with what appeared to be a certain penalty shortly afterwards, and then Lee Chudy curled the ball against the post (see below). The metallic ping of the goalpost seemed to signal the end of Hythe's dominance, as five minutes later, a directionless hoof up the pitch towards the clubhouse bounced between Hythe's hesitating centre-back and goalkeeper. Finnegan nipped in to head over the stranded custodian to put the home side 3-1 up and kill off any chance of a draw and extra-time.
Shame, as the match had been enthralling up to that point and I would have been happy to stay another half an hour.
|...and this shot from Lee Chudy hits the post!|
There's a match report on Amesbury Town's website here. There are likely to be action photos on Dave Cavanagh's Flickr profile, but I haven't seen them yet. The groundhopper's Youtube videos (with commentary) can be viewed here.
|It wasn't this fly's lucky day.|
The draw for the second qualifying round (Hampshire clubs only) looks like this:
Highworth Town v Hartley Wintney
Hook Norton v Tadley-Calleva
Eversley & California v Tuffley Rovers
New College Swindon/Fleet Spurs v Thame United
Team Solent/Cadbury Heath v Ringwood Town
Bradford Town v Andover Town
Fareham Town v Petersfield Town
Sherborne Town v New Milton Town
Bemerton Heath Harlequins v Moneyfields
Chippenham Park v Whitchurch United
Winchester City v Laverstock & Ford
Swanage Town & Herston v United Services Portsmouth
AFC Portchester v Hamworthy United
Horndean v Lymington Town
Folland Sports, Blackfield & Langley and Alresford Town all have byes.
Amesbury Town will travel to Bristol-based Longwell Green Sports.
Hmmm, I quite fancy a trip to the seaside on October 4th.
[NB: Fleet Spurs and Team Solent both lost their replays after extra-time]