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 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.


  1. If the rumours are right, Stoke city are paying Petersfield a healthy sum for one of their young players so they'll have some ready cash to do ground improvements. I believe they have already placed an order for new floodlights.

  2. I saw Ed Dryden had been snapped up by the Potters yesterday. At least some of the Premiership's money will be trickling down to one of our local clubs. I heard they're erecting a new stand as well. I might well pop along and have a look before the season ends. Love Lane is one of my favourite Hampshire grounds.