Monday, 31 August 2015

Brockenhurst v Yate Town

Respect for the victims of the Shoreham air crash before kick-off.
What a finale! What a match! What an amazing day for Brockenhurst Football Club!

94 minutes on the watch, 1-1, and the subs warming up in front of me wondering whether they would be playing at Bournemouth Poppies in the Hampshire Senior Cup on Tuesday evening, or whether they would be travelling to Bristol after work for an FA Cup replay. It looked for all the world as if they'd be clocking out early for the long journey to the West Country, when suddenly, the ball was played forward on Brock's left, a defender slipped on the greasy turf as a low cross skimmed across the box, and Scott Joyce found himself all alone six yards out with the ball at his feet.

He couldn't miss, surely? He'd only signed from Blackfield & Langley two days before - this was his first game back at his old club. Sidefoot the ball into the far corner and he would be the returning Roy of the Rovers hero; lose his footing and sky it over the bar and...well, it wouldn't bear thinking about. There wouldn't have been a hole big enough for him to sink into.

But this fairytale had a happy ending. The man with the luminous yellow boots kept his head and did what was necessary! 2-1 to the underdogs and subsequent pandemonium in the forest!

As the ref mentioned to one of his assistants as he trotted back to the halfway line: "What did I tell you? It's the FA Cup!"

Come on the Badgers! In the rain.
Brockenhurst FC 2 (0) v (1) 1 Yate Town FC
The Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round
Saturday 29th August 2015
Attendance: c100
Admission: £6
Programme: £1.50
Colours: All blue v All yellow
National Grid reference: SU2902 / SU3002

Peek-a-boo! Brockenhurst's stand.
As I got out of bed on Saturday morning, my body was giving me a sneak preview of what it must feel like to be 85 years of age. I'd played five games of volleyball in two days and, as the cliché goes, I had muscles aching that I didn't even know existed.

Not only that, but I'd been standing too close to the speakers at a concert by Ash at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth the night before. Deaf in one ear, and requiring a whole-body transplant, I was very tempted to give the football a miss and pop into Boots instead to purchase a circulation-boosting Revitive (as advertised by Ian "Beefy" Botham on one of the minor ITV channels). Oh, can't someone take away the pain? Please!

Through pure strength of will, I resisted the shopping urge, and ignoring the old-man pain, got into my car and drove to the New Forest. Parking in Brockenhurst costs money, so I stopped outside the village in one of the many walker's car parks, and ambled to the match past a series of grazing ponies and equally-grazing picnickers, humming Kung Fu to myself as I went ("Oh Daniel San made in Taiwan, Come on Jackie Chan, uh uh uh oh oh...).

Ascend these steps to sit in the stand.
Brockenhurst's football team have played at their Grigg Lane ground since 1950. The stand and changing rooms were built in 1978 - this being the year that I spent all my pocket money one week on three Yorkie Bars, eating them one after the other and being sick as a result. I still can't look a Yorkie Bar in the face without feeling queasy.

Also in 1978, my uncle made me some C90 cassette tapes of modern music (he knew I liked my music and didn't have enough money to buy records). I played A Tonic For The Troops by The Boomtown Rats and Rattus Norvegicus by The Stranglers over and over again, but another one of the albums he taped for me, Bat Out Of Hell by Meat Loaf, I never really enjoyed. Of course, this was one of the highest-selling albums of all time, and I didn't "get it". I had to accept that I was out of step with popular taste. Nothing's changed in the intervening years.

Nicely polished wooden bench seats await you up in the stand. Tea and Twix optional.
Enough about me...let's break off for a minute and see what you know about Yate.

  • Brockenhurst's opponents, Yate Town, are from an overspill town to the north of Bristol (handy for the M4 and M5), and play in the Southern League Division One South & West - the same division as Bashley, AFC Totton and Winchester City. They are thus, one step higher in the pyramid than Brock. True or false?
  • Yate is famous for the mining of celestine, the mineral from which strontium is extracted. Strontium is used in pyrotechnics and weapons. Strontium from Yate was used in the Vietnam War. True or false?
  •  Yate's pedestrianised 1960s shopping centre was opened by Pat Phoenix, who played Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street. True or false?
  • There was an annual festival at Yate shopping centre for several years in the 1980s and 1990s. Celebrities who have opened the festival include Timmy Mallett, Keith Chegwin, Bob Carolgees and Spit the Dog, Grotbags from the Rod Hull and Emu TV show, and the Milky Bar Kid. True or false?
Extraordinarily, all of these statements are TRUE (at least according to Wikipedia). You kind of forget how popular some of these people were thirty years ago...

Spectators watch on with resignation as Yate score their penalty.
Anyway, back to the match...

I entered Brock's ground, and what did I hear? Only Bat Out Of Hell blasting out of the speakers by the clubhouse! Ah well, I'll be gone by the time the morning comes, I suppose. It had been raining gently since I'd left the car, and it would continue to rain for the next hour or so, but the weather hadn't put too many people off. The cover by the Badgers Sett tea hut had around twenty fans sheltering beneath it, and by the time the players came out and gathered around the centre circle to pay their respects to the Shoreham air crash victims, there must have been another eighty people packed in to the stand. A healthy FA Cup crowd for Brock.

The first half was uneventful until the 39th minute, when the referee blew his whistle as the ball floated over from a Yate corner. Apparently, there had been some shirt-pulling or other argy-bargy in the box, and he'd given the team in yellow a penalty. It reminded me of the Half Man Half Biscuit lyric from The Referee's Alphabet - "The Y is for Yate, the kind of town that referees come from". Brock fans were certainly convinced that the away team had brought their own ref at that point.

The penalty was duly dispatched, and it was time to turn our attention to the half-time 50/50 scratch card. I'd chosen Nottingham Forest (Pompey had already gone). But no, Pompey failed to win and Newcastle United had come out on top (and it's not often you can say either of those things these days).

Brock's Jack Smith heads the equaliser beneath the telecommunications mast.
So much happened in the second half. I don't know what the manager said at half-time, but it was as if the Badgers had come out of hibernation after a 45 minute sleep. So many chances - to be fair, at either end - Yate hit the woodwork twice, but Brockenhurst had a one-on-one thwarted by Yate's goalie, another shot cleared off the line (possibly hitting a defender's hand - not spotted by the ref), but as a buzzard circled overhead, it appeared as though they would never break through.

However, with only fifteen minutes remaining, Jack Smith leapt higher than his marker to head downwards in to the net at the Telecommunications Mast End. At last! The Badgers had broken through! Chants of "Wemberley! Wemberley!" could be heard throughout the forest!

Brock kept pressing, and five minutes later, Kabba Jack was through on goal, but was tripped from behind right on the edge of the area. Red card for Yate's Matt Villis, and Martin Horsell in goal had to pull off a spectacular save from the resulting free-kick as the ball arced towards the top-right corner.

Into injury time, and Yate had one last chance deflected wide. It was at this point that Brock's subs started discussing when the replay would be - which is where we came in...

As the players left the pitch, the stadium announcer shouted out "Welcome home, Scotty!" What a return for the hero of the day! But it wasn't just Scotty, the announcer also declared that "All the lads deserve a medal!"

Indeed they did.

Enjoying a burger at the Badgers Sett during the second half.
Do you know what? All that pain I was feeling before the match, all those aching muscles - it had all gone. Even as a neutral, I felt the same thrill as the players and supporters of Brockenhurst when that second goal went in. They say that you feel a buzz when something amazing happens - well, that's what happened on Saturday - that feeling of elation, of a tingle down the spine, the head-spinning dizzy thrill of it all - I felt it, and it took away all that pain. I felt warm and glowy all the way home.

Brockenhurst will play at home to another Southern League side from Bristol, Mangotsfield United, in the next round of the cup on Saturday September 12th. On the same day, the conquerors of Chinnor in the previous round, Hartley Wintney, will host their neighbours Fleet Town - this after sticking five past the higher-ranked Banbury United on Saturday. Both ties should be absolute crackers.

Sadly, I'm unable to attend any matches that day, so my next report may well come from a midweek Wessex League game instead.

I caught the winning goal and celebrations on camera. Instead of another thousand words from me, here are four final pictures to complete Saturday's story:

How to celebrate after scoring a 94th minute winner in the FA Cup: Firstly, wheel around and head towards the corner as the ball hits the net... past your ecstatic fans waving their cycle helmets in the air (extremely happy little boy just hidden behind you). You feel like you've just scored the winner at Wembley in the final...

...the first of your team-mates slides in to congratulate fall on top of him and scream and yell and man-hug ...

...followed by the rest of the team (and subs). Ouch! That must hurt at the bottom of the pile?!

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