Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Swindon Supermarine v Fleet Town

Swindon Supermarine FC beckon drivers to the Webbswood Stadium with this sign on the nearby roundabout.
It was one of those jaw-dropping moments...stood outside Wembley Stadium, desperately trying to rid our manbags of all signs of food or drink before being searched at the turnstiles for anything from apples to guns (or any of the twenty-odd other things that are banned from the stadium on a match day), when it suddenly appeared with no prior warning...

Up on the screen, beneath the arch, my photo was showing, advertising the FA Trophy Final! An actual photograph that I'd taken...me, I took that! With my finger...that finger there...on my hand...oh, my goodness (or words to that effect)...

Cola spilling from my lips, sticky drink can hurled towards my son, a fumble in my coat pocket, unzip the camera bag...don't go away, don't disappear, not before I can take a picture! Camera on, point, click...it was still there! My photo, up there, on the screen outside Wembley!

The jaw-dropping moment when Liphook United appeared outside Wembley.
Swindon Supermarine FC (1) 3 v 0 (0) Fleet Town FC
Evo-Stik Southern League Division One South & West
Saturday 28th March 2015
Attendance: 124
Admission: £9
Programme: £2
Colours: All blue v Gold / black / black
National Grid reference: SU1889

Swindon Supermarine's oldest structure.
If you know me, you'll know that I was one of the winners of the #myfanphoto competition (I have gone on about it a bit over the last few weeks...), run by the organisers of Non-League Day. Ten people won a pair of tickets each to Sunday's FA Trophy Final between North Ferriby United and Wrexham. Not only did we win free tickets, but our photos were to be shown on the big screens inside Wembley and were to be printed in the matchday programme.

I'd already bought the programme and found my stamp-sized photo. Nice, but I've seen my photos printed in other programmes and books before, so it was a relatively minor thrill. My main concern was to keep the rain off of the programme so that I could file it away next to my Got, Not Got books in my home football library.

Scoffing our hot cross buns down in the drizzle, I just wasn't expecting the parade of mobile phone operator ads outside the stadium to be interrupted by my photo, which could be seen all the way down Wembley Way by the hundreds, maybe thousands of people making their way up from Wembley Park Station. Liphook United's full-backs, that was you up there! That was you, summing up the camaradarie of non-league football in a picture. That was you, representing the thousands of amateur footballers out there who play the game for enjoyment, win or lose, week after week throughout the season. That was you, where Kane and Rooney had been two nights previously - it was your turn. Famous for thirty seconds!

And a newer stand next to the older one.
I was buzzing like the bees in the Arkell's ad at Swindon Supermarine the day before (see bottom photo). The Liphook photo appeared again on the screens inside the stadium twenty minutes before kick-off accompanied by a commentary from the Wembley DJ. No idea what he said about my effort - I was still whirling more than a Wurlitzer on a Curly Wurly-fied whirligig.

And then the match started...Wrexham were 2-0 up with fifteen minutes to go. The green-clad Yorkshiremen behind us were urging everyone to stand up for the Ferriby. It worked like a charm, as the underdogs scored twice to take the match in to extra-time...

But I'm not supposed to be writing about that match here. This should have been all about Fleet Town's trip to Swindon Supermarine...and so it shall be from now on in...

Supermarine is one of those places that I've always wanted to visit, purely for their name. I drove past their ground on the way back from Lancashire in the autumn and timed how long it would take me to get there from Southampton - just over an hour - a very reasonable time. So, when Fleet Town were due to play there - and with Fleet not having featured on HAH for four years - I decided it was time to go to north Wiltshire.

Behind the goal, a homemade standing area.
It rained all the way to Swindon. At every match I've reported on in 2015, the sun has failed to shine, so I wasn't surprised. I went through the turnstile. I bought a badge at the club shop immediately in front of the turnstile. The friendly fellow running the club shop hadn't put his wares on display due to the horizontal rain blowing straight in to his little hut. Shame, because I would have liked to have seen the Supermarine beanie hats (as advertised on their website). I suspect the club shop is the only place in the entire world where you can buy a Swindon Supermarine beanie hat.

To the right of the club shop is the oldest structure in the ground - a small stand with fifty or so red plastic seats without backs. This stand moved with the club from a neighbouring pitch when they were formed in 1992 via a merger between Supermarine and Swindon Athletic (formerly Penhill). I sat in the stand drinking a nice warm cup of tea whilst waiting for kick-off. To my left was a DJ table with a pile of Now That's What I call Music CDs. To my right was a metal table for the local pressman to lean his laptop upon. Dotted around me were other early arrivals, greeting each other and chatting about Swindon Town's promotion prospects. It was all very affable.

At five minutes to three, the rain suddenly stopped and the sun came out! It was one of those little miracles that make you believe in some sort of ancient football/weather god. The announcer read out the teams "very slowly for my Pompey-supporting friend who likes to write down the players' names in his programme" (which made it two Pompey fans in that little stand!). Then he played a familiar ditty as the two teams walked on to the pitch - the Match of the Day theme tune. Supermarine's players had evidently heard this before, but Fleet thought it was hilarious. Football with a smile.

A shot from distance from Fleet Town.
With the sun out (until ten past three, at any rate), it was time to walk around the ground. Next to the old stand is a new metal stand with four rows of blue and white seats. Supporters can buy a seat for the season for £25. Then it's tarmacced hard standing behind the far goal. In the far corner is a recessed area with plastic sheeting over it as a shelter. Handy if you're caught in a shower.

Along the opposite side to the stands, it's more hard standing all the way to the far corner, where there is a metal terrace, the same kind as is found at Sholing. Beyond this are three more turnstiles of different types, presumably all bought from different professional clubs as they upgraded to the modern electronic form (which I dislike intensely - modern pro football, pah!). I presume Supermarine utilise these when they play Swindon Town in pre-season friendlies.

Turning left and walking beneath some tall fast-growing conifers, you come to the final spectator structure - a homemade standing shelter made of scaffold poles. The roof, back and sides seem to consist of disused advertising boards painted blue. I see discarded boards piled up at many grounds I visit - what a great way to recycle them!

Changing rooms and a clubhouse complete the grand ground tour.

Numbers 4 and 10, your time is up!
As I reached the apex of the penalty area on the far side, the first goal was scored. It was one of those where everyone is slightly embarrassed - Chris Taylor because his goal was really a sliced cross; goalkeeper Ryan Pryce because the ball - spinning like an out of control planet with the fierce wind behind it - slipped through his gloves and slithered over the line. Muted congratulations from Taylor's team-mates and the odd half-hearted clap from of a few of the 124 spectators.

The wind dominated the game. At one point during the first half, the referee told Fleet's right-back James Scott that he "had the wind". Cue bemusement at which sort of wind he had, as it certainly wasn't the gale force weather type of wind, which was blowing straight in to his face as he was trying to take a throw-in.

Half-time, and the prize for the draw was a ploughman's with paté (Green 704). I didn't win (and thank goodness for that, say my family and friends, as I would probably talk about nothing else for the next few weeks...).

The second goal was scored by Supermarine's number 9, Connor Waldon, on loan from Swindon Town for work experience. He brought down the ball on the edge of the area, shimmied to the left, shimmied to the right, turned and stroked the ball efficiently low to the keeper's right. You could tell he was a pro.

Supermarine could have scored many more, but their third and final goal was the best of the game, a low hard strike from wide out on the left by Ryan Stanners.

This was the second time I've covered Fleet Town on here, and they've yet to score. Maybe next time...

They don't make adverts like this any more! I wish they did!
I wore my Supermarine badge to Wembley the following day (along with a Romsey Town badge and my Havant & Waterlooville shirt). The badge witnessed North Ferriby's extraordinary comeback, going 3-2 up in the first half of extra-time, before conceding an equaliser with 118 minutes on the clock. The penalties that followed were just as nail-biting, as one pen went in, the next was saved, and so on, until eventually the villagers from East Yorkshire climbed the steps to take the trophy back home. One of the great Wembley finals, they say, and I'm not going to disagree, as this was my tenth trip to the stadium, and far and away the best game I've seen there.

I was going to write more about Swindon Supermarine - about how they sound a bit like Super Mario, and how there must be a pitch in the Supermarine complex dedicated to Mario and Luigi and Yoshi and Princess Peach where they can play some sort of weird, illogical game of football with turtle shells and giant bananas - but there wasn't space this time...

Match reports can be found on the two clubs' websites here and here. Fleet Town's report is very honest about their performance. One point since New Year says it all. Bashley (with no home wins all season) v Fleet will be interesting in a couple of weeks. Match photos can be found here. More photos from Supermarine may well appear here shortly, but weren't available to view as I wrote this.

I'll be at another game on April 11th, but I haven't decided where yet - somewhere with a club that has promotion or relegation at stake would be my first choice.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Hamworthy United v Petersfield Town

Coming up next at Hamworthy United, league leaders Petersfield Town!
I had the weirdest of dreams the other night. I felt someone shaking me in my sleep, saying something, urging me to wake up. I was like, "Wassup? Wassamatter?"

It turned out that I had to change the cat's nappy. My cat was three years old and it was "still" wearing nappies. I was told that it was my turn to wipe its bot-bot and put a fresh nappy on. So, peg on nose, dozy and buzz-drunk with disturbed deep sleep, I took the nappy off, did the dirty wiping business and put a fresh one back on, just as I'd been told to do.

This didn't actually happen - it was a dream, but it felt real at the time, as all dreams do. Years and years on, I can still remember the one about the giant coots licking brown sauce off of lily leaves on the pitch at Upton Park - it's a clearer memory than some of the most important days of my life - days which actually happened.

The old stand at Hamworthy United...
Hamworthy United FC (1) 2 v 2 (0) Petersfield Town FC
Saturday 14th March 2015
Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division
Attendance: about 70
Admission: £6
Programme: £1
Colours: Claret / sky blue / claret v All green
National Grid reference: SY9990 / SZ0090

...the new metal terrace, full of mellow people...
A psychoanalyst would have a field day with me generally, but if they just stick with the cat's nappy dream, I think the meaning would be fairly obvious. The theme there would be "letting go". The cat was clearly a child-substitute, and at three years old, it was way too old to still be wearing a nappy.

With my children now in their late teenage years, I've recently had to learn to "let go". No more designing Brio railway tracks, no more Teletubbies, no more bedtime stories. Most weeks, I don't see them from one day to the next - they're either away at university or out shopping and partying with friends or hidden away in their bedroom playing sick beatz.

At least pets-as-surrogate-children are always there for us former carers - a cat will always need a warm lap, a dog will always play with a stick, a rabbit will always, er, run away when you try to pick it up. Cats don't tend to wear nappies though. Thank chuff.

...and, quite literally, a bus shelter. That's me in the reflection!
Letting go of children has let me go out more and do whatever I want to do. My life clock has been wound back twenty years. What I did then on a Saturday was watch football. What I do now on a Saturday is...watch football, and I don't feel as though I have to go to the same places every week and watch the same teams if I don't want to. I can go wherever I like.

I no longer need the younger man's thrills of being in a big crowd and singing my heart out for the lads. I was just as happy watching Hamworthy United versus Petersfield Town as I was at Fratton Park for Pompey against Cheltenham Town last night. Possibly happier, as I can move around and sit or stand wherever I like at a non-league ground. At Fratton Park, you buy your ticket, are allocated your seat, and there ye shall stay for 90 minutes. If you're sat next to an annoying so-and-so, there's no moving to another seat - you have to listen to him swearing and raving for the whole match.

There tend not to be any annoying so-and-sos in the audience at non-league matches, and if there are, it's easy to move. We're generally of post-child-rearing age and as mellow as a duet between Val Doonican and Michael Buble (and that's pretty mellow).

Watching the action from the 59-year-old main stand.
You can arrive in Hamworthy from two directions. Direction One: from Poole, over a choice of bridges. There's the older bridge, or the newer bridge - both of them lift up to let boats in or out of Upton Lake. The newer bridge is the Twin Sails Bridge, which opens up with jaws looking like a deep-sea Kraken, awakening and ready to devour any motorist daft enough to try and beat the flashing red lights. You can see this bridge opening from Hamworthy United's County Ground (so-called because it is owned by the Dorset County FA).

Direction Two into Hamworthy is via the B3068 underneath the railway line, which is the only road to connect the suburb with Upton, the next estate to the north.

With only three roads into or out of Hamworthy, it would be very easy to defend in a game of Dorset-based Risk. It would be the equivalent of owning Australasia or South America in the official game.

The County Ground is located near the southern tip of the peninsula between Upton Lake and Lytchett Bay. It's an easy walk from Poole town centre. It would once have been hidden behind an impressively-bechimneyed power station, but this was demolished many years ago. There is still an extensive electricity sub-station nearby - the type that feeds pylons with energy, and who knows, perhaps the Kraken syphons off some of its own evil energy from there?

Petersfield score their second goal with a flick over the keeper's shoulder.
Arriving at the County Ground, you walk to the far end of the car park to find the entrance. To the left as you walk in is a claret and sky blue portakabin housing the club officials. Behind that is the tea bar (for groundhopping badge collectors, club badges are for sale here at £3!). Tea is sold in paper cups with lids. Next to the tea bar is the clubhouse with beer on offer at £3.25 per bottle. Connected to the bar in the same block are the changing rooms (with pre-match music seemingly chosen by my daughter - I felt like yelling "Can't you turn that bloomin' racket down?!" - the sure sign of old git-age coming on).

Beyond the changing rooms is a bus shelter - an actual bus shelter - which would keep five or six spectators dry on a damp day. A few paces further on is the old stand, built in 1956 and opened by Sir Stanley Rous - four rows of wooden bench seating, with forty-year-old messages of luv dedicated to Sharon lovingly carved by some spotty herbert in the 70s. I wonder if he still comes to watch on a Saturday (and I wonder if he still luvs Sharon?).

There isn't much else to see as you walk clockwise around the pitch. The railings are rather fetching, painted in claret and blue, as are the brick dugouts. Any West Ham fans would certainly feel at home here, watching Dorset's Hammers.

On your clockwise stroll around the ground, the last piece of football furniture you see is a modern metal terrace, erected in honour of Irvin Brown. Behind the terrace is a large rusty roller with a wheelbarrow and a bicycle leant against it. And then we're back at the entrance...

The Twin Sails Bridge, hungrily devouring unfortunate motorists with its vicious mandibles.
I haven't reported on many really exciting games so far this season - there have been a lot of low scoring affairs on my travels - but this was an exception. League leaders Petersfield Town haven't been beaten in months, with The Hammers trundling along in mid-table all season, so an away win would have been expected. However, it was Hamworthy that had the best of several early chances, including a header cleared off the line and another which was tipped on to the bar by Petersfield's busy custodian.

The opening goal arrived just before half-time, and I missed it. Not because I'd been distracted by a robin twittering away behind me (as had happened at Andover New Street), but because there didn't seem to be any danger. Petersfield's goalkeeper had the ball and I assumed he was going to kick it upfield. So I was taking a photo of the main stand when I heard a collective yell of joy. Apparently, the keeper had given the ball straight to Hamworthy's Josh Rose, who promptly passed the ball back in to the net. Honestly, I'd been concentrating so hard all through the first half, using my brain to its fullest capacity, taking plenty of notes...and then I missed the first goal! Gah!

Luckily, I saw goals two, three and four...

Petersfield's Rams equalised five minutes in to the second half via a penalty from Sean Wain (it would have been a poor show if I'd missed that...). It stayed level for 15 minutes until Hamworthy's Dan Smith scored with a header - and not just any old header - he flew in like a caped superhero to connect with a low, hard cross. The net rippled and billowed as much as it would have done had it been employed to stop a Gareth Bale wonder-strike.

With the home side working so hard, it took the best goal of the game for the league leaders to earn their point. Jordan Neal was played through by a pinpoint pass and as he reached the apex of the six-yard box, he had a choice - to either blast the ball as hard as he could in the general direction of the goal (which is what I would have done, probably closing my eyes and praying to Jah as I did so), or to delicately chip the ball over the goalkeeper's right shoulder so that it crossed the line just inside the far post. Look at the photo of the goal above to see what he did...

Lichen growing on the railings, like a world of nature in miniature.
There are a couple of excellent proper match reports on the two clubs' websites, here and here. The latter report (from Petersfield) uses one of my photos which I posted on Twitter - I haven't used that one on here. I usually have some spare action shots from whichever matches I go to. If any club wishes to use them on their website or in their programme, let me know and I can probably send them a few. Leave a comment on here or contact me via Twitter (Hopping Around Hants @AndrewRocklob). I've seen my photos on club websites, Twitter profiles and in programmes so many times now. I don't mind, but it's nice to be credited.

The draw leaves Petersfield as favourites for the Wessex League title and possible promotion to the Southern League (subject to passing ground grading). The Hammers can be content that they played so well and have drawn twice with the likely champions this season.

The Rams played again at Totton & Eling last night and won 4-0, so the current championship / promotion situation is like this: with seven matches left to play, they can attain 96 points. Second-placed Winchester City can only reach a maximum of 89, so Petersfield can afford to lose two of their remaining games and still be champions. Nobody else can realistically overtake them now. Winchester's best hope for promotion is to finish second and hope that The Rams fail their ground grading.

My next report will probably be from a Southern League match on March 28th.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Liphook United v AFC Stoneham

Liphook United Football Club.
Back in the days when men were employed to read out destinations over the tannoy at railway stations, I used to catch the train to school every day from Havant Station. I heard the following refrain so often that I can recite all the stations between Havant and Waterloo even now:

"This train will call at Rowlands Castle, Petersfield, Liss, Liphook, Haslemere, Witley, Milford, Godalming, Farncombe, and so on and so forth*". Something that I learnt off by heart as a child, like The Lord's Prayer or the roll call of firemen from Trumpton (Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb).

Well, I knew Rowlands Castle well enough - it was only a mile or so from my home in Leigh Park - an easy stroll away. Petersfield - that was where my school was, so I could find my way around there. But beyond Petersfield, it was all something of a mystery. I never had any need to go to Liss, Liphook, Haslemere et al, so all I could do was just imagine what all these places were like.

* The station announcer didn't actually say "and so on and so forth" - that was just me being lazy.

Plastic sheeting to keep the derriere dry; an umbrella to keep drizzle off the knees. Watching Liphook United from the seated area on the bank behind the goal.
Liphook United FC (0) 1 v 1 (0) AFC Stoneham
Saturday 28th February 2015
Puma Engineering Hampshire Premier Football League Senior Division
Attendance: About 40
Admission: None
Programme: No
Colours: All blue v Pink / black / black
National Grid reference: SU8431

Corner for AFC Stoneham, with Liphook Methodist Church as the backdrop.
And so, I'm an old man now, but I'd still never been to Liphook before Saturday. Me-as-a-boy would play with the words, roll them around the tongue and run wild with my imagination:

Lip - smiling, kissing, talking, spitting, don't give me any of your lip sunshine, edge of a chasm with red-hot lava boiling and a-bubbling hundreds of feet below - don't slip, don't fall...

Hook - catching a fish, a pirate's hand, the bit with the tune in a song...

A town with a volcano, populated almost entirely by pirates! Sounded quite exciting to me-as-a-boy.

What I certainly wouldn't have imagined at that age was an ordinary, pleasant village in East Hampshire, with normal people going about their everyday business in a normal way. Shopping for bread, watching TV, cleaning the oven, taking selfies, having a cup of tea - just like everywhere else.

Stoneham's keeper puts some welly into this goal kick.
Visiting Liphook as a 12-year-old boy - with its disappointing lack of pirates and volcanoes - would not have been very appealing. However, now I'm older and wiser and know everywhere is pretty much the same wherever I go, I spent all week looking forward to my afternoon out in the village anyway.

It would have been the ideal opportunity to take up the same hobby as one of the contestants on Only Connect earlier in the week - someone who had visited two-thirds of the places in Britain where three county boundaries meet. This phenomenon happens just to the east of Liphook at a place called Hammer Bottom - the boundaries between Hampshire, West Sussex and Surrey all meet here. Not sure what I would have done when I'd got there - like many other people, I've arrived at a county boundary and put one foot on one side of the line and the other foot on the other side and felt the thrill of being in two counties at once (or even better, a US state boundary - there's a photo of me somewhere with one foot in Wyoming and one in Montana - I couldn't have been happier right at that moment).

Anyway, what do you do when you want to be in three counties all at once? I'm guessing that at Hammer Bottom, you'd have to put one hand on the ground in Surrey, a foot in Sussex and the other in Hampshire in some kind of weird geographical Twister pose, whilst hoping that there were no holes in embarrassing places in your jeans and that no-one was watching.

Heads up, check to see who's free in the box before crossing.
The geographical Twister will have to wait for another day, as I had football instead on Saturday. The match was between the teams sitting in third and fourth places in the Puma Engineering Hampshire Premier Football League Senior Division. Liphook United had been champions two seasons running in 2012 and 2013, whilst Eastleigh's AFC Stoneham had finished as runners-up in 2014. There is little chance of either winning the league this season, as Hamble Club have only dropped three points since August, but there could still be a big prize at the end of 2014/15 for AFC Stoneham: promotion to the Wessex League.

At this level, clubs have to apply to the FA Leagues Committee if they wish to move on up a step. Their ground is inspected, and if it passes the inspection, they then have to both finish in the top five of their league, and be the highest-placed club within that league to have applied and been passed fit for promotion by the Leagues Committee.

To pass the inspection, AFC Stoneham will have to meet several criteria: they will need to have a railed off pitch; floodlights of a certain lux; covered seating; hard standing all the way around the ground; and their changing rooms and toilet facilities must be up to scratch. If they fall just short, they may be allowed up and given some grace until the following March to get everything together, so long as they can prove they have plans in place to complete the work.

A workmate who is secretary for a club at the same level as Liphook and Stoneham told me it would cost his club £100,000 to be promoted. His club won't bother, as the increase in gates and sponsorship would never cover the costs - they are happy with their role in the community in their village, giving several age-group teams the chance to play football and keep fit. The men's first team are a minor consideration for them.

Congratulations after Liphook's goal...
To be promoted, AFC Stoneham will have to finish above Portsmouth's Baffins Milton Rovers this season, who are the other club from the league to apply to the Leagues Committee. On their showing on Saturday, I would say that Stoneham would easily hold their own in the Wessex League Division One (as would Liphook United, but they haven't applied for promotion).

When I watch football at different levels, I compare the teams that I see by my own grading system:

Usually, players at Wessex League Division One teams are "Better than me". At the next level up, players tend to be "Much better than me". In the Southern League, "Much, much better than me", and so on, until reaching the Premiership, when they should be "Stratospherically better than me" (with the exception of a few of the lesser-known duffers that Harry Redknapp brought to Pompey, who were definitely "Crapper than me"). Of course, this grading system applies to a fit me from twenty years ago - I'm nearly at Walking Football age now.

On my grading system, Liphook United and AFC Stoneham were generally either at "Much..." or "Much, much..." level in this hard-fought, entertaining game. Both sides hit the bar in the first half on a pitch that was in tip-top condition considering the amount of postponements due to waterlogging at nearby grounds. The players deserved their half-time oranges, which had been neatly prepared for them by the lady in the clubhouse tea bar - all piled up in a Pyrex bowl and covered with Klingfilm to keep them fresh and juicy.

...but ten minutes later, AFC Stoneham equalise with this shot.
There are no floodlights, no cover for spectators, and no hard standing around the pitch at Liphook (apart from the public paths that happen to run alongside the pitch). I'm guessing that gaining planning permission for floodlights, in particular, would be very difficult at their current village centre location (even though the tennis courts at the same facility have them). Thus, the club are looking to move in order to progress and provide better facilities for the football-playing members of the village.

There are plans for a new football facility in Liphook to be found at this web address. If you live locally, the club would dearly love you to sign in to the planning department's website and register your support. But they also need financial support to realise their dream. They already own the land where the football pitches will be situated, given to them by a generous benefactor, but amongst other things, they will have to provide a new access road to the site at Bohunt Manor. This will not be cheap. So, in the unlikely event of anybody reading this having a large amount of cash to spare, they would love to hear from you!

Opponents AFC Stoneham also have plans to move, but I'll leave the story of that until another time (see their website if you want to know more).

Open this gate to enter the wonderful world of non-league football.
I know, I know, this is supposed to be a match report. So let's get back to the game. I noticed that Harry Munt has followed me on Twitter over the weekend (Hopping Around Hants @AndrewRocklob). I think he's waiting for me to describe his goal. If you've read this far Harry, here it is...

I'd like to tell you that Harry's goal was a wonder goal, one of the best I've ever seen. I'd like to say it was up there with Maradona's famous goal versus England in the 1986 World Cup (not the cheating handball - the other one). I'd love to say that Harry picked up the ball on the halfway line, and that there was only one thing on his mind. One of his team-mates had told him that there was a scout from Shrewsbury Town in the audience, and that he'd come specifically to watch Harry. It was his big moment to impress, to win that professional contract that he'd always dreamed about.

He spun round, and in one dazzling movement, backheeled the ball away from two Stoneham defenders, leaving them flat on the ground like Terry Fenwick and Ray Wilkins in '86. Harry then motored forward, bamboozling the men in map cover pink with his skills. He went past three Stoneham defenders, to the left, to the right, back to the left again, then a fourth man, then a fifth, but none of them could touch him. They would dive in, but Harry would be gone. Suddenly, he was one-on-one with the terrified keeper. He knew this was his time. The goalie stood no chance, as Harry skipped past his flailing arms with the ball glued to his feet. The ball was in the back of the net before Stoneham's keeper knew what had happened. Harry wheeled away and headed towards his beaming manager, arms aloft, glancing sideways at the furiously scribbling scout...

I'd like to tell my readers about this incredible goal, but there were witnesses to say that it never happened. There were 22 players; substitutes and coaches; a referee and two club linesmen; there were 30-40 committee members, friends, relatives, girlfriends, children and random strangers watching from the sidelines; and there was the old lady taking her westie for a walk over by the nursery. They all saw what really happened. Apart from me. I was watching the dog sniffing a telegraph pole and wondering whether to snap it and send it to Non-League Dogs (I didn't).

So I don't know how the ball found itself at Harry Munt's feet, 15 yards from goal with no-one in front of him. Two steps forward and a sidefoot into the empty net. As I hadn't been concentrating on the game, maybe, just maybe, what I'd previously described had actually happened and I hadn't seen it...?

Ten minutes later, AFC Stoneham's centre-forward Luke Musselwhite picked up a loose ball on the edge of Liphook's box and rolled it into the net to the home keeper's left.

1-1, and a fair result.

Liphook United players tidy up after the match.
If I was going to give out awards for tea-making this season, Liphook's cuppa would be the current favourite - freshly-made, in a mug, and with just the right amount of milk. And at 50p, a bargain! And the sandwiches on the table by the changing rooms looked delicious. Not made for me, sadly, but for the players and committee members to enjoy post-match. Cheese, ham, a choice of white or brown bread, all peeking out from under a table cloth, teasing me. I had to make do with a Mars Bar instead - at 50p, another bargain!

So, that was my second visit to a Hampshire League club this season (Fleetlands was the other). Both were most enjoyable. I have a spare day in my hopping plans on April 11th - I may well return to this league on that day if there's an appealing fixture.

Thank you to everyone at Liphook for being so friendly to the slightly odd bloke with the camera - I don't think I've ever spoken to so many erstwhile strangers at a match before. Good luck for the rest of the season and with the plans for the new ground.

Finally, I have entered the picture above in to a national photo competition. The organisers of Non-League Day are giving away tickets to the competition winners for the FA Trophy final at Wembley on March 29th. The best entries will also be printed in the matchday programme and shown on the big screens within the stadium. If you wish to enter, take a photo at a non-league match at any time up to next Saturday (March 7th) and follow the instructions on this link. Who knows? Liphook United's full-backs could be up on the big screens at Wembley at the end of the month, as could one of your own pictures!

I'll be back in two weeks with a report from a Wessex League ground.