Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Fourth Annual Festive Parade of Rusty Rollers

Going for the sympathy vote at Christchurch FC.
It's that time again when everyone gets to tell everyone else about their favourite films, TV programmes or songs of the year, whether it be in the comments sections of national publications or on social media in general. The journalists and tastemakers have spoken - now it's our turn! Well, since you asked, my favourite song this year was...but you didn't ask, so I'm not going to bore you with my opinion.

Instead, I'm going to decide which was my favourite roller of the past half-season - this is what you're actually here for, isn't it?

Kicking off 2014/15 at Christchurch, I snapped the little chap above. A young roller who might have got my vote if he hadn't placed himself next to a sad-looking mower without any wheels! The equivalent of posing with a doe-eyed orphaned labrador puppy for a sympathy vote.

Well, my vote can't be bought like that, young man! Next...

Posing with a bin at Horsham YMCA.
Quivering behind a bashed up old bin at Horsham YMCA was the rather shy fellow above. Obviously not very confident and a little unfashionable with its old-fashioned rusty metal framework, I can't see enough of him to sway my vote his way. I need a little more swagger in my old groundsmen's equipment! I expect his mum loves him though, so that's what really counts.

Double trouble at Amesbury Town.
In my third match report of the season from Amesbury Town, I christened one end of their pitch "The Rusty Roller End", and for good reason. These two sausage-like behemoths were keeping guard behind the goal, like twin night club bouncers. To be honest, I found them a little intimidating, as I was standing behind the goal during the second half, and I'm sure I saw one of them move! I couldn't turn my back on them after that...

Covered in beautiful yellow flowers at Swanage Town & Herston FC.
No groundsmen's equipment on display at Chertsey Town, so my next sighting was on a sunny day in Dorset. The exceedingly rusty specimen at Swanage Town & Herston above had covered itself in what it must have believed to be a beautiful bouquet of flowers. A good attempt at winning my vote, but I prefer marigolds.

Just the right amount of rust at Fleetlands FC.
There were two rollers at Fleetlands. One had made no effort to impress me whatsoever, lolling nonchalantly amongst the cars in the club car park, smoking a fag and swigging a can of fizzy beer. You don't win anyone's vote like that! The one above was much more lovable, posing in front of an old exhaust pipe. Just the right amount of rust and a perfectly proportioned handle. It's in with a chance of my virtual trophy!

Mr Spiky of Daisy Hill FC.
But hang on! What's this?! A spiky roller! Always a big favourite of mine! This is from Daisy Hill FC - one of six grounds in the north-west that I visited this autumn whilst working in the area (the others being Burscough, Bacup & Rossendale Borough, Glossop North End, Accrington Stanley and Padiham). I just wish he'd picked up some of that litter behind him before posing for the camera...

Nice ground at Daisy Hill, but the only one in the area to have any groundsmen's equipment on show. I may post some more pictures from the northern grounds after Christmas.

Horndean FC. Roller number 1, hopefully recovered from the lurgy by now.
The ground with the most rollers this autumn was Five Heads Park, home of Horndean FC. Their equipment looked a little ill. There must have been something going round in Horndean in November, as rollers number 1 and 2 were both covered in spots. Get well soon, chaps!

Horndean FC. Roller number 2, feeling a bit peaky.
Horndean's third roller was extremely tricky to spot, being hidden behind the small shelter at the end not open to spectators. Any player lucky enough to take a corner nearby would have had a good view of roller number 3. From what I could see through the fog and general all-round gloom, it looked absolutely magnificent! I don't think I could, in all conscience, vote for it though, as for all I know, close up, I might have seen it was a cardboard cut-out. A vote for a cardboard roller would bring the whole process into disrepute.

Horndean FC. Number 3 - tricky to spot.
So, who to vote for? Wait, what was that you said? I'd already handed out the trophy in August to a roller at Christchurch? Why, I think you're right, I did! Do you mean I have to delete this piece and start again? I don't know, maybe I'll rewrite it tomorrow...

If you click on the tag "Rollers etc" (in the Other Labels list) on the right, you will be able to view the previous Festive Parades and End Of Season Roller Round-Ups. This was the seventh in the series!

Looking back at last year's Festive Parade, it appears that HAH had just had its 40,000th page view on Christmas Eve. It looks as though page view number 73,000 will be had later today. You can't all have been spambots, false referral sites or me checking for comments during my lunchbreak at work, so thank you to everyone who has looked in this year, and have a Very Merry Christmas and an Amazing New Year!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Alresford Town v Phoenix Sports Club

The view from one of the hanging baskets at Alresford Town FC.
Reader's voice: "Hey Andy, are you going to ask us to write your latest match report again? If so, I'm out of here! That was hard work last time out."

No, that was a one-off. I was very busy that week and didn't have the time to do it. Bit more spare time this week, so I'll do it myself.

"That's a relief! Are you going to start the report with something weird and irrelevant, like you usually do?"

Well, I thought about writing about the heroic mule, Hamilton T. Bone...

"Who? What? Why?"

Hamilton T. Bone, or Hambone, as he was more commonly known, featured in one of my childhood books - The Puffin Book Of Animal Heroes, or something similar. He was a brave mule serving the Army in combat. Think War Horse, but a mule...

Whilst walking along the banks of the River Arle prior to the match on Saturday, I came across what I thought was his gravestone. Upon further inspection though, it appears that the gravestone belongs to a WWII regimental dog called Hambone. According to this link, scruffy brown and white terrier Hambone never made it to Normandy for D-Day, as he was run over by an army truck as they were preparing to depart for Utah Beach.

"Aw, that's a sad story..."

I know. He must have been a very good dog.

This viewing platform is new since my last visit to Alresford Town.
Alresford Town FC (1) 1 v 2 (2) Phoenix Sports Club
FA Vase Third Round
Saturday 6th December 2014
Attendance: 73
Admission: £6
Programme: £1
Colours: Black and white stripes / black / black v All red
National Grid reference: SU5832

Kneeling On Ice: Alresford Town's Adam Carrick bends down to trap the ball. Brrrr!
It was cold in Alresford on Saturday. So cold that the part of the pitch that the sun was unable to reach behind the clubhouse / town council building was still covered in frost at kick-off time. Some referees might have deemed the surface dangerous and called the game off, but sensibly, with the opposition having come such a long way, the matchday ref decided it was game on! Ice skates not required, football boots on!

Good decision for Alresford Town, as they literally caught their Kentish opponents cold after 90 seconds. Harry Draycott raced through a defence that was as static as a gathering of emperor penguins in an Antarctic blizzard. He pushed the ball through to Tom Riddell, who sidestepped the advancing keeper. Net rippled, goal number one to the home team. Surely the first of many against such a poor defence?

A good dog watches the game patiently. Hambone would have been so proud...
Hang on. According to the Southern Counties East League table, Phoenix Sports Club were a team that had conceded only six goals all season. No-one at Step 5 had let in less goals nationwide. They had not lost at all since being promoted from the Kent Invicta League last season. Ten wins in a row. This was not a poor defence. This was not a bad team. And so it proved once they had settled down. Once they'd warmed up, they were to prove as dangerous as a pack of ravenous polar bears.

But who are Phoenix Sports Club? They are from Barnehurst in south-east London, right on the edge of the city, virtually in Dartford. London / Kent border. About 5 miles from Charlton Athletic, their nearest Football League club. A community club, like so many others at this level, with dozens of age group teams. The first team are playing at their highest-ever level since being formed in 1935. Phoenixes. Rising. Etc.

I was aware that they are not the only club called Phoenix "Something", as there is a similarly-named team in Nottinghamshire, so I had to check to see how many Phoenix clubs there are. Source: The Non-League Club Directory 2014. Answer: 7 (including Phoenix Knights...).

Whilst I was thumbing the index, I had to check the number of Athleticos, Dynamos and Reals (yep, nothing better to do that day!). Answers: Athleticos: 5 (including Athletico Arundel); Dynamos: only 2; Reals: 11. The most common prefixes appear to be AFC and Old (as in Old Boys). Just so you know, like...

...whilst a bad dog invades the pitch (twice). Hambone would have been so disappointed.
I've posted pictures of Alresford Town's ground before. The only change since February 2013 is an extension to the viewing platform above the changing rooms, which looks like it could be a nice place to have a cool drink of lemonade on a warm day. On Saturday, cups of tea and mugs of soup would have been more sensible, along with thermal underwear and woolly hats.

Or we could have run around to keep warm, like the players. On 20 minutes, Phoenix's Harrison Carnegie kept out the chill by scarpering down the right flank and crossing for the impressive Yacine Gnahore. "Feed the Yak and he will score", as we used to sing to Aiyegbini Yakubu when he played for Pompey. Feed this Yac, and there's no doubt about what he will do, walloping the ball in without a second's hesitation to make it 1-1.

Phoenix Sports then scored the winner just before half-time when Gary Morrison palmed out a close-range header by Louis Valencia straight to Ricky Freeman, standing six yards out, who volleyed the ball back past the keeper's ears and between the sticks.

Phoenix Sports Club's keeper Steve Phillips smothers the ball.
As usual at Alresford, there were a few people watching the game from behind the netting and wire fencing which surrounds the pitch. Some of these people were "taking the dog out for a walk". The dogs were as interested in the football as their owners - one mutt in particular, who couldn't stand it any longer after 35 minutes. He just had to join in!

I don't know how he got in to the ground, as he was definitely watching from behind the netting earlier in the game, but enter the stadium he did, ignoring the signs telling spectators to keep off the pitch. Sticks are old skool! Manky tennis balls? Pah! That big ball needed to be chased! On he came, heading straight for the ball whilst Phoenix were attacking, skidding past players trying to catch him, nudging the ball with his wet nose, lolloping past the far goal and back out of the stadium!

Five minutes later, with Alresford on the offensive (at least he was fair to both sides), he was back again for more action! Zigzag, skim, pant, bounce, and out again! All the while, a little white terrier stood patiently by the side of the pitch, tutting away and thinking how disappointed Hambone would have been with this bad dog's disrespectful actions...

Sunset over Arlebury Park.
The second half wasn't incident-free, as the ref was hit on the side of the head and needed treatment. From the drop ball, a Phoenix player tried whacking the ball out of play, but hit the ref on the side of the head again! More magic sponge, and he was able to carry on. Great saves at both ends kept the scoreline at 2-1, but it was all over for Alresford at the final whistle.

There are match reports on Alresford Town's website and in the Echo, here and here.

Not only Alresford, but AFC Portchester and Blackfield & Langley were also defeated on their home patches, which means that my Vase journey is over for this season, as there are no Hampshire clubs left in the draw for the Round Of 32.

Phoenix Sports Club will travel to Bodmin Town in the next round. Portchy and Blackfield would probably have played each other if they'd gone through, as their conquerors were drawn against each other. The club that beat Horndean in my last report, Ascot United, beat Newport (IoW). With Verwood Town also falling, that left no Wessex League clubs at all still in the competition in 2015. Very unusual.

The full moon waxes gibbous as it rises over the corner flag.
What next for me? Well, I've checked back at my aims for the season, and there are still things to do. I still intend to write another seven reports. At least two of these will be from Wessex League clubs that I've yet to visit (Verwood Town, Bournemouth Poppies, Hamworthy United, Laverstock & Ford, Bemerton Heath Harlequins, Pewsey Vale). With a reformed Salisbury club likely to be joining the league next season, I might visit more than two, with at least one being from the Salisbury area (so that I can complete the league next season). My other main aim was to feature at least six clubs that I'd only previously reported on once before - I've already done this, but I might feature one or two more.

Hythe & Dibden have a new ground, and I've yet to visit AFC Totton's new stadium, so they're possibilities, depending upon how the fixtures fall. Plenty still to do. I'm having a midwinter break now (although there will be the traditional Festive Parade of Rusty Rollers over Christmas). My next match report will be from a fixture on Saturday 17th January, winter weather and man flu permitting.