|The long walk from dressing rooms to pitch passes an adventure playground at Verwood Town FC's Potterne Park. If only I'd put the flash on!|
I needed to take a walk to calm down. Too self-critical by far. I bypass the ground - there's little happening there yet - the fellow at the pay hut is chewing the fat with a friend, but there appears to be little other activity. Ah, there's the entrance to Moors Valley Country Park. Memories of taking the children there a few years ago. My daughter got to ride on a pony, but my son was terrified of the pine cones. Moors Valley is full of pine cones, so it wasn't a good day out.
|A pile of unsold programmes in the pay hut.|
Verwood Town FC (1) 2 v 1 (0) Whitchurch United FC
Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division
Saturday 25th April 2015
Pin badge: £3 (available at pay hut)
Colours: Red / black / red v All maroon with sky blue trim
National Grid reference: SU0907
|The tea hatch/boardroom in a container at Verwood Town. Directors' seats laid out neatly in front. The fishing nets are for digging balls out of a nearby ditch.|
I sit down in the sunshine at a picnic table and listen to the Springtime birds calling for mates. There's the endless two note tooting of a male great tit. I look around and see him on a nearby bush, looking natty in a tidy black bib. He's looking good and sounding good - I'm sure he'll get a mate soon.
I feel a bit calmer now, so I get up and make my way back along the path towards the football ground. I pass by a pair of small girls on scooters, one of whom is asking mummy why it always takes so long to get where you're going, but hardly takes any time at all to get back again afterwards. These are the wisest words I've heard for weeks (and we're nearing the end of a general election campaign...). I've been wondering the same thing all my life and I still haven't come up with an answer.
|Verwood Town's seated stand in Dennis the Menace red and black.|
Then I notice a couple of tattooed men smoking and texting outside the changing rooms. These can't be Verwood or Whitchurch players, surely? Of course not - they're on the pitch behind me, warming up - these must be bored dads waiting to pick up their children.
Me? I put my collar up to stop my camera strap from chaffing my neck. I feel like a moth-eaten Elvis, but at least I'm a bit more relaxed now. Time to enter the stadium...
|Rain clouds ahoy.|
I'd been dithering all week about where to go for my final report. There were five relegation or promotion deciders in the Wessex League - I'd been tossing up between Andover Town v Fareham Town and Cowes Sports v Romsey Town for a few days, but decided I didn't want to see Fareham relegated (they pulled off their own version of The Great Escape by winning 1-0, as it happens), and nor did I want to see my Romsey Town boys lose at Cowes (which would have meant promotion for the Isle Of Wight club, which duly happened).
In the end, I decided against excitement and went for a meaningless game at Verwood instead. After all, I'd already seen Petersfield's promotion celebrations and I have Havant & Waterlooville's play-off matches to come (and I may go to Fratton Park for the Hampshire Senior Cup final between Sholing and Gosport Borough on May 5th as well).
So, I'm not averse to excitement - just not today.
|Watching from a grassy knoll at Verwood Town.|
I'd noticed a pair of fishing nets leaning up against the boardroom container as I walked in and had wondered what they were used for - there's no river flowing behind the ground, no man in a coracle needed to fetch wayward shots, as used to happen at Shrewsbury's Gay Meadow. When one ball landed in the ditch and a club volunteer picked up a fishing net, it clicked. It was a device to save his back. A minute or two later, he had come back, ball in net, ready for it to be used again in anger.
It may have been this exact ball that ended up rippling Whitchurch's goal net after 20 minutes. Jordan Fisk was in the right place on the edge of the six-yard box to volley in a loose bouncing ball. Sweet as chutney.
|Whitchurch United on the attack in the second half rain.|
The next chance that Whitchurch had to get a goal back was a free-kick right on the edge of the opposition's penalty area, to the far left of the box. Perfect for a right-footer to curl one in to the top corner. Unfortunately, the right-footer that stepped forward to take it was their goalkeeper, Brad Snelling. I can understand his frustration at never getting the opportunity to score (as I played in goal myself), but us goalies should know that we are between the sticks for a reason - we can't shoot for toffee. Sure enough, the free-kick was blasted so high and so wide that I thought I heard Foxy going "Yaroo!" on the golf course a quarter of a mile away as the ball whacked him on the back of the bonce.
On 82 minutes, I heard a home fan complain that the game had "lost its fizz". On 83 minutes, Whitchurch got a goal back. Danny Phillips nodded in a looping header across goal and just inside the far post.
As is usual on the last day of the season, people were discussing scores coming in from other grounds. I got to hear all the news from the relegation and promotion matches in the Wessex League, but nothing from elsewhere. Screw you and your irritating narcissism, Premier League! Not everyone is as obsessed with you as you'd love to think...I got the impression that nobody from Verwood wanted to lose their annual local derbies with Christchurch, and that Tadley-Calleva were "Whitchurch Reserves" (presumably this information came from an away fan). Well, Christchurch ended up in a relegation spot, and Whitchurch Reserves missed out on promotion to Cowes Sports.
|A delicious spread awaits club officials in the boardroom. Battenburg, sponge cake, biscuits and something mysterious covered in foil.|
I shall be back again in a couple of weeks with the latest end of season roller round-up. Then I shall post sporadically throughout the summer - perhaps some statistical stuff this year - before returning in August for a new season of hopping around Hampshire and nearby counties.
Now, have I done enough to get that hat-trick of awards from Onion Bag?