Monday, 13 April 2015

Petersfield Town v Lymington Town

"Always Believe"
I have a standard way of setting out my match reports. I choose my eight favourite photos, and in between, I have seven pieces of writing, plus the match details. I try and make the writing mildly diverting, so that it has some sort of longevity - I hope you can look back at anything I've previously written and whether or not you were there at the time, there should be some entertainment value for you as a reader.

However, I occasionally put up more photos and cut down on the words - usually at an end of season match where something big was at stake. The previous example of this was Sholing's Wembley victory in the FA Vase last year. Sometimes, pictures say more than words, and I think Saturday at Love Lane was another of these occasions.

So, without too much excess waffle between the pictures, I present for you:

Petersfield Town's Promotion Match! Less Words! More Pictures!

The Petersfield Town Ultras celebrate a goal which was harshly disallowed a second or two later.
Petersfield Town FC (0) 1 v 0 (0) Lymington Town FC
Saturday 11th April 2015
Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division
Attendance: 150-200 (I forgot to count, but it wouldn't surprise me if the official attendance was even higher)
Admission: £5
Programme: £1
Colours: Red and black stripes / black / red and black stripes v Yellow / blue / blue
National Grid reference: SU7523

Love Lane looking as stunning as ever in the Spring sunshine.
Things I like about Petersfield Town:

1. The Ultras. There was a piece in the Telegraph recently about the spread of ultra culture at non-league clubs. Sholing have them; Fareham Town have them. Groups of friends who come along, stand together and make a noise - something you used to be able to do at Football League grounds until we were all told to sit down, shut up and watch the big shiny rotating advertising boards. And woebetide you if you try to stand up or bring any food or drink in to the stadium or take any photos whilst the match is on. IMAGE RIGHTS! OUT YOU GO!

New seats and standing area all ready for the FA's ground inspectors.
Petersfield have a group of lads with a vuvuzela and some sticks which are regularly banged together to create a beat (of sorts) for their chants. Nothing you haven't heard before, but they make a racket up in the old stand. The older regulars seem to like them, or at least, put up with them. They've certainly given the old stand a new lease of life with their flags and their singing. Last time I was at Love Lane, there was nobody in the stand for the majority of the game, so it's good to see it receiving some love. It's a shame they won't be playing Bashley with their own noisy ultras next season - I'd like to have seen that match. With ear plugs, obviously.

Lymington's Stuart Williamson makes a flying save.
Things I like about Petersfield Town:

2. The stadium's setting. It's a pretty place, with all the mature trees surrounding the ground, and the South Downs as a backdrop. On a sunny Spring day, there are few football grounds that could be more pleasant. I was even able to photograph a red kite for the first time at a match (I saw one the previous week circling above Romsey Town's ground, but I didn't have my camera handy).

Half-time, and the Ultras have left their vuvuzela behind and gone off in search of a nice cup of tea.
The club have had to add more facilities to achieve the ground grading for the Southern League, but they've integrated these new features sympathetically. Since I was last there two years ago, the turnstiles have been completed (they were under construction then). The clubhouse remains unchanged, but beyond there, the piece of cover next to the dugouts has been replaced by a scaffold and corrugated iron shelter with red bench seats beneath the roof.

Over the other side of the pitch, Ronaldo shimmies down the wing.
The dugouts themselves have also been replaced. I don't remember them being particularly small (the usual reason for replacement), but the new ones are cosy and, dare I say it, the home dugout looks luxurious with high-backed seats for the coaching staff and substitutes. The away dugout has wooden slatted seats which look like the shelves from an airing cupboard. But hey, if you want to sit on comfy seats in a dugout, go and sign for Petersfield instead of your team!

Petersfield Town score the promotion-winning goal and it's time to celebrate!
Beyond the dugouts is a new red hut which will be used for refreshments when they play at the higher level next season. Next to the hut is a new scaffold and corrugated iron construction with a plank of wood attached to the roof at the front proclaiming it to be The Wain and Hunt Stand (I think - I forgot to write the name down...). Whether the stand has been named in honour of their star players or built by them is hard to tell. Anything is possible at this level! The new shelter has a row of fifty or so red plastic seats in front with a slightly elevated area of wooden boards behind for spectators who prefer to stand. I liked this new shelter a lot. Home-made but effective.

I'm sure that ball landed up there somewhere...poke, poke...
Even the hard standing around the rest of the pitch has been replaced with new tarmac. It's all looking very smart. New floodlight bulbs as well, to create the required lux for the Southern League. I say the Southern League, but the club won't actually know yet which league or division they will be playing in next season. All they know is that they have been promoted to the next step up in the pyramid.

Lymington's players look on as Petersfield lift the league trophy.
The choices for the FA's Leagues Committee will be the Southern League Division One South & West (joining AFC Totton and Sholing); the Southern League Division One Central (near-neighbours Godalming Town play in this division, as might Fleet Town next season); or the Isthmian League Division One South (very unlikely, but could happen - they would be playing lots of teams from South London, Sussex and Kent were they to be placed here). Whichever division they are placed in, they will be on the outskirts and thus have to travel long distances, whether it be to the west, north or east. I hope their finances don't get stretched too much by this, as their predecessors, Petersfield United, found it tough in the Isthmian League.

A thumbs up from manager Ian Saunders.
Things I like about Petersfield Town:

3. They have pin badges for sale! It's sad, I know, but I like to collect a pin badge from every club I visit. I have them all attached to a velvet-covered pin board, and they look great! I like clubs that have their merchandise displayed in a club shop, or obviously for sale behind the bar or in the tea hut - put up a cardboard sign and let us know if you have things for sale! Failing that, let us know what you have for sale in the programme, and where exactly in the ground we can buy it! When I remember, I ask behind the bar at most clubs I visit for a pin badge - they either pull out an ice cream tub full of them, or tell me that so-and-so has some on him but he's not here today, or I get a blank look as if I've asked for the moon on a stick. Other times I forget to ask and they've potentially lost out on my £3, as I'll send my cash off to Terry's Badges instead to fill the hole in my collection.

Post-trophy-lifting, an empty bottle of fizz gets left behind on the pitch.
Anyway, Lewis Hyde scored the close range winner for Petersfield on Saturday to clinch the three points they needed to win the league. At the end of the match, we were treated to Queen's We Are The Champions, David Bowie's "Heroes", and Chris Montez's Let's Dance over the tannoy. Champagne was sprayed, players wore the Sydenhams Wessex League trophy's lid on their heads, the management team were interviewed by local radio, and all the club's volunteers had their photo taken with the trophy in the sunshine. It was the perfect day.

I know I'm probably not supposed to have favourites, as I cover all the teams in Hampshire on here, but hey, I do like Petersfield Town. Well done to them. I hope all their fans turn out in force for them next season as they did at the weekend. It will be tough, as they will be playing so many clubs that they have no historic rivalry with and that most of The Rams' supporters will not have heard of (and who have no travelling support to swell the Love Lane coffers). The league above will force them to raise their prices, and they will be trebling or quadrupling the number of miles they travel for away won't be easy, is what I'm saying. But they deserve their chance at the relative big time.

Go for it, Rams!

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