|The impressive main stand at AFC Totton, as viewed from the road outside the complex.|
Various aloof farm cats would come and visit us and make our tent their temporary home, occasionally deigning to let us stroke them. There were friendly dogs as well, always ready for a tail-wagging fuss. Like I said, a nice place to spend a few days (if you like that sort of thing).
In the evenings, as the sun went down, we would wander along the footpath which leads past the village churchyard (alive with bats), and down to the pub. After a couple of pints of Wherryman (straight from the barrel), we were ready for a pub game.
|Parade of honour for Mike Gosney, breaking the record for first team appearances at AFC Totton.|
AFC Totton (1) 2 v 2 (1) Evesham United FC
Evo-Stik Southern League Division One South & West
Saturday 30th January 2016
Colours: All blue v Red and white stripes / black / black
National Grid reference: SU3415
|Evesham United fans watch from the far terrace.|
Now, bar billiards is a game I used to play with friends in Emsworth. This was a long time ago though, so I struggled to remember all the rules. Luckily, help was at hand, as one of the locals was only too happy to give us the lowdown.
In case you're unaware, bar billiards is played on a sloping green-baized table similar in size to a pool table with ball-shaped holes cut in to the cloth instead of the corners and sides. Placed at various points on the cloth are mushroom-shaped skittles. You win points when one ball hits another and then one or more balls drop down the holes. The holes are worth a differing amount of points according to their difficulty.
The rules vary from county to county, so our new friend related to us the Suffolk Rules. In Suffolk Rules, if you knock over a white skittle, you lose all your points for that go; if you knock over the black skittle, you lose ALL YOUR POINTS for the entire game up to that point. I've put this in capitals because he told us this with some relish. If you can imagine trying to play this game in a strange pub, not really knowing what you're doing, and this fellow was watching you like an eagle, just waiting for you to knock over the black skittle, so that he could announce to the whole pub (very loudly in his country burr) that you've LOST ALL YOUR POINTS! Not sure about the rest of the pub, but he found it all very entertaining.
I think you had to be there...
|The second seated area at AFC Totton.|
It was a special day, as before kick-off, Mike Gosney was presented with a silver plate and a bottle of champers by Lawrie McMenemy. Mike was going to be playing in his 387th game for the club, breaking the appearance record previously held by Mark Osman. He'd played in the first competitive match at the new Wembley in 2007, when Totton lost to Truro City in front of the largest-ever FA Vase final crowd - he's the only player still at the club from that day. He had a short time at Gosport Borough a couple of years ago, otherwise he's been loyal to Totton, scoring 174 goals mostly from the wing. I've seen him many times and always been impressed.
Manager Steve Hollick had said beforehand that they wanted to win this one for Gos, but it was going to be a tough game: visitors Evesham United had beaten The Stags 6-0 at their place in November.
|Mike Gosney chats with some fans during a break in play.|
It was the away team who started stronger, taking the lead after 13 minutes, Adam Mann heading in a precise cross from six yards. At this stage, Evesham had THREE POINTS.
Five minutes later, they were down to ONE POINT as Totton equalised. Nick Watts picked the ball up in his stride from a long throw by keeper Steve Mowthorpe. He ran half the length of the pitch leaving his pursuers behind like a cheetah being chased by [insert slower animals here]. As he approached the byline, he zipped over a cross for Nathaniel Sherborne to power in with his head at the back post for 1-1.
The game was quite even up until half-time, both sides having further chances to score.
|The ref enjoys the celebrations following AFC Totton's second goal.|
As every bar billiards player knows, you can lose all your points during the game, but there's always time to retrieve some of them. And so it proved, as Evesham equalised a few minutes later. Mann was again sniffing around the six-yard line as a cross came in. This time, he shot low and hard. Mowthorpe appeared to make a decent save, but the twenty or so away fans behind the goal yelled for a goal as they believed the ball had crossed the line. The referee agreed and it was 2-2.
There is a match highlights video here. The goal/not-a-goal controversy is inconclusive. See what you think...
|One last big effort towards the end of the game with the scores at level pegging.|
They liked the main stand, describing it as "tall and bold". It's certainly the main focal point. It can be seen clearly from the road which passes the ground. Every time I drive past it, I have to turn my head and admire it. There's plenty of legroom and the steepness - or rake - of the stand means that there's little chance of sitting behind a tall person and not being able to see anything.
Groundtastic also liked the fact that they'd recycled their old stand, bringing it from the old ground, 1.3 miles away at Testwood Park (now 84 houses and flats called The Mallards - prices up to £386,000 if you're interested in moving there). The old stand is long and shallow, and similarly to a lot of other grounds, the view of the pitch is obscured by railings if you sit in the front two rows of blue bench seats. When the new ground was built by Linden Homes (who bought AFC Totton's and Totton & Eling's former grounds for housing - 106 addresses now at T&E's Southern Gardens at an average of £200,000 each), I think they should have placed this stand on at least one step of concrete - too late now, unfortunately.
|The Mallards, Totton. Formerly a football ground.|
Aside from this minor criticism, Groundtastic also commented on the claustrophobic narrowness of the walkways between the pitch railings and the terrace railings, which was fair enough - it's all a bit "After you, Claude" when meeting someone coming in the opposite direction.
An observation for future development would be the possible provision of a covered and elevated area for wheelchair and mobility scooter users. There is potentially space for this between the old stand and the terrace at the entrance end. If a wheelchair user came to watch a match at Testwood, there is plenty of flat standing around the pitch perimeter, but as with the front benches in the old stand, the railings obscure the view without some sort of elevation.
But do I like this ground? Yes, I do. It's not perfect, but it's way better than it could have been - the main stand being particularly well designed. Oh, and I loved the club shop and the spacious bar and the clean toilets...
I'll be back.
|One of the stewards watches on as Totton attack the far end.|
More reports from this entertaining game can be found here and here.
I shall put up some more photos from the match on the Hopping Around Hampshire Facebook page shortly.
The next report should be in two weeks from a Wessex League stadium. The " New Ground Trilogy" Part 3. This one should be safe from possible weather-related postponements.