Monday, 19 January 2015

Wimborne Town v AFC Totton

Wimborne Town's ground is hidden away near this old church.
I love Wimborne, absolutely love the place. It's one of those towns that's not quite big enough for the enormo-corporation-low-wage-tax-avoider-seven-figure-bonuses-for-directors-we're-based-in-Luxembourg-only-because-we-like-their-delicious-cakes-honest-bland-bland-bland shops to suffocate, but is just large enough to support an independent record shop, book shop, kitchen shop, etc. It has an abbey, several independent cafes and an old-fashioned sweetie shop.

And for map-loving geeks like me, it's a thrill to know that two Ordnance Survey 100km National Grid lines run through the town, such that Wimborne Town's football ground at The Cuthbury is in the SU 100km grid square, but travel 400m (or less) to the south, south-west or west, and you would be in a different 100km square. Indeed, one line runs east-west straight through the town's independent record shop, Square Records, such that you can browse for CDs on the north side of the shop and be in SU, but cross the floor to pay for your purchase, and you would be in SZ. Straddle the imaginary line with one foot on either side, and mention the fact to another customer, and they're likely to leave the shop pretty quickly, glancing back to make sure you're not following...

AFC Totton fans watch their team take a throw from one of Wimborne Town's covered standing areas. Beyond there are the directors' seats, then the changing rooms; beyond those is the covered bench-seated stand.
Wimborne Town FC (0) 0 v 2 (1) AFC Totton
Evo-Stik Southern League South & West Division
Saturday 17th January 2015
Attendance: 261
Admission: £9
Programme: £1.50 (superb issue)
Colours: Black and white stripes / black / black v All blue
National Grid reference: SU0000

And at the far end of the ground, another standing area.
I've just had a break from writing HAH over Christmas. I've been doing this blog for four years and I did think about stopping altogether. My mojo had stopped working and needed replacing by a shiny new Mojo 6.0, but I didn't get one for Christmas, despite all the hints. After all, it was rather nice watching a few games over the break - albeit in the freezing cold - and not having to remember what happened and then spend a few hours afterwards writing about it. (Shame about the defeats for Pompey, Romsey and Havant & Waterlooville, but I'm used to it. I can take it on the chin after all these years of disappointment).

But then, I drove my son back to university last week and was privileged to watch Bangor City win their first home game of the season against Port Talbot in front of 450 or so noisy herberts. And I loved it. I wanted to tell the world all about it. But I couldn't, because there were no Hampshire teams involved. And so, with enthusiasm regained, I started to look forward to the following weekend and my planned trip to Wimborne.

The town crier takes in the action beside Wimborne's BBQ hut.
Friday came around. I put down my work tools at 5pm and shouted "Stuff this for a game of soldiers, I'm out of here!" I said it very very loudly (hmmm, okay, just inside my head, to myself, so that nobody else could hear me...), stormed off (more of a tiptoe towards the door with a few polite goodbyes, really...), and roared home on my supercharged 5000cc Yamaha Hell-Bike XL5 (erm, make that driving home very slowly in heavy traffic in a ten-year-old Vauxhall Slowcoach...).

A pizza, a couple of beers, an early night, and I was up before dawn, ready to hit Dorset! Travelling through the half-light, passing the previous night's roustabouts and malcontents stumbling home through Shirley Precinct...the kids with bum-fluff soul patches heading who-knows-where after an all-night X-Box killing spree...the milkmen and night workers going home to sleep after 12 hour shifts, ready to wake again at 5 to the sound of Sports Report on the bedroom wireless...

Destinations unknown all, but I was going to Wimborne, and I was excited!

Big hugs over the wall for Totton's first goal scorer, Rob Flooks.
Did I mention that I love Wimborne? I love the journey there as well, because I can stop off at Blashford Lakes nature reserve and watch kingfishers fishing from the Ivy Lake hide. I can spot three different types of grebe and work out which species are which (not easy with winter plumages, you know...).

I can stop off anywhere in the New Forest and be at one with nature before the afternoon's excitement. When someone recently asked me what was the best thing about living in Southampton, I was able to reply that it's close to the New Forest (...and that we'd recently had new lamp-posts installed in Shirley).

Even closer to the Forest is Totton, so they had an even shorter journey than me - Totton to Wimborne is just over 30 minutes, which is as close as you get to a local derby in the widely-spread Southern League South & West Division (it can theoretically stretch from Cornwall right up to the West Midlands - long journeys for part-time players playing in front of 100-200 spectators).

Beneath the scoreboard, a selection of other Southern League clubs. I think I can see Shortwood United and North Leigh in the pile, as well as the two obvious ones.
I think AFC Totton might love Wimborne as well. They started as brightly as my friend the Blashford Kingfisher, scoring after five minutes of non-stop pressure on the Magpies' goal. The excellent Mike Gosney curled over an in-swinging free-kick from the right that Gareth Bale would have been proud of. Rising highest at the back post was his team-mate Rob Flooks, who headed down and into the net past the Wimborne keeper. Even Manuel Neuer couldn't have kept that one out.

Whether or not the match cameraman caught the goal on film, I don't know, as I haven't seen any highlights on the web. However, the match was being filmed from Wimborne's TV tower - another one of my favourite things about Wimborne, but I don't love it as much as the scoreboard underneath.

I couldn't wait to see how the scoreboard worked (I'd seen it in other people's photos beforehand), so the first thing I did upon arriving at The Cuthbury was to wander round to the far side to inspect the scoreboard from behind. Excitingly, there was a pile of team names on boards on the ground, just like giant versions of the cardboard team names that came with Subbuteo's scoreboard...Fleet Town, Mangotsfield United, Yate Town (where referees come from)...they were all there...apart from AFC Totton, freshly relegated from the division above last season, so they had to make do with being merely "Visitors".

2-0 to the Visitors!
There's lots more to love about The Cuthbury, but not for much longer, as I believe the ground may be sold soon for housing and the club will be moving. In photos that I saw before the match, there was a 30 foot tall blow-up man outside the entrance (I believe his name is Mr Magpie). From certain angles, he looked like he was joining in the action. I was going to take a photo of him and say that Peter Crouch had signed for Wimborne in the transfer window...but he wasn't there on Saturday, so I'll have to keep that joke for another time.

Anyway, the score remained at 0-1 until the final minute, when Totton broke away. A one-two was played off of the referee, and Craig Feeney was through on goal. He slotted the ball in to the net, low to the keeper's left.

Not even the town crier's bell could inspire Wimborne to come back from two down at that point. They very nearly scored a consolation deep into injury time, but Steve Mowthorpe pulled off a tremendous point-blank save to deny them. One that Manuel Neuer would have been proud of.

Wimborne Town's TV tower. If you look closely, you can just make out a halo around the sun above the tower.
So, how did the scoreboard work? Well, the numbers are double-sided, so that when a team scores their first goal, the number board is flipped over to reveal a 1. When the second goal is scored, a new board appears from a bag of numbers. This is also double-sided, featuring a 2 and a 3, and so on. I want one in my garden! With all the team boards! Just as an ornament, of course. Or perhaps I'll take up Subbuteo again and play a summer season in the garden with my very own giant scoreboard...

There are proper match reports on both clubs' websites here and here. Plenty happened which I forgot to write down, and it's all there, all well described. AFC Totton move up to the verge of the play-offs, whilst the Magpies remain in mid-table, but with a brilliant ground in a wonderful town, which should be good enough for anyone. Photos of the match can be found here. As usual, I can't see myself in any of them!

Next match report will be in a fortnight - weather permitting. I'm hoping to visit a Wessex League club in the Salisbury area. See you there!

[Edit: I found the match highlights, thanks to the Stags Voice Facebook page! They are here]

Special Bonus Picture 1: Bangor City last weekend.
Special Bonus Picture 2: a kingfisher posing at Blashford Lakes on the way to the match.