|Pewsey Vale's ground, overlooked by an old schoolhouse.|
It's the time of year when nature knows that anything can happen.
And you know that it's the end of all the football postponements - those middle-season months of uncertainty, when you look at Saturday's fixtures, choose your game to go to, and then the rain falls all week and you're at the mercy of the referee, deciding whether a boggy pitch is a safe pitch - and invariably, he decides it isn't and you're stuck at home, or you go somewhere less interesting instead.
And this becomes a habit after a while, all this "doing something else" on a Saturday, and some of us drift away as these new hobbies become more reliable than the football.
But it's okay, you can come back now. It's warm, the sun is shining, you can go out without thermal undies and enjoy the end of the season.
|The clubhouse/changing rooms and covered seating area at Pewsey Vale.|
Pewsey Vale FC (0) 1 v 3 (1) United Services Portsmouth FC
Saturday 12th March 2016
Sydenhams Wessex League Division One
Attendance: Varied throughout as people came and went, but averaged out at around 15-20
Colours: White / navy / navy v Red and blue stripes / red / red
National Grid reference: SU1659
|Watching on intently from the dugouts.|
...and Pewsey Vale is a long way, relatively speaking, from the heartland of the Wessex League, which is generally based around Solent City and Bournemouth. United Services had a 130 mile round trip for the game on Saturday, which, other than Portland United, is the furthest they will travel this season.
Of course, it's the same for Pewsey, who have one or two local rivalries across the misty, militarised Mordor of Salisbury Plain with Amesbury and Laverstock, otherwise they have to travel a fair distance for a lot of their away matches. That's the trouble with being right on the edge of the league footprint - of course, if they moved over to the Hellenic League or the Western League, they'd be on the edge of their footprints as well. They can't really win.
|Can you spot the White Horse carved in to the hill?|
Once you've established that you're here to watch the match, the gateman will take your fiver and store it away safely in his old ice cream tub. Programmes are available for 50p - this week's copy was mostly adverts, with an insert featuring league tables and suchlike. I spend many hours poring over the programmes I buy at Wessex League grounds - I always seem to learn something new. This week's new-found knowledge is that there is a business in Collingbourne Ducis that will clean your dog's ears for you - Collingbourne Ducis being a village that I've often driven through and wondered what people who lived there did for a living. Now I know.
|United Services attempt a cross as the crowd look on.|
Carry on clockwise to the far corner flag, and you will see the only thatched cottage bordering a Wessex League ground (unless anyone knows of another). Throughout the game on Saturday, a well-to-do pigeon sat motionless on the thatch warming his toes and cooing from time to time. He was in the perfect position to see two of the most stunning goals that the village has witnessed this season - firstly, a perfect 40 yard lob from United Services's Michael Dark, who spotted Pewsey's goalkeeper off his line and tried his luck - from the angle that Dark fired the ball in, it would have been torpedoing its way out of the sun towards Pewsey's blinded custodian - a very clever goal indeed. It was harsh on Pewsey, who had matched their promotion-chasing opponents up until that point.
|Coming out for the second half.|
The four goals were shared equally between the two ends, so let's leave the pigeon contentedly cooing and carry on around the ground and head towards the other end to see the other two goals. You have to pass the changing room/clubhouse building before reaching the far goal. This is a single-storey building with a tin roof which provides the only shelter in the ground on a rainy day as the roof hangs over 40 or so red plastic seats placed in two rows. Alternatively, you could watch the match from inside the cosy clubhouse whilst sipping from a mug of tea and chewing on a freshly-made roll, but there are only a couple of windows available, so be quick to reserve your place.
|One of these dogs has spotted something more interesting than the football. Probably another dog.|
It was in front of the old schoolhouse that United Services's second goal originated after an hour or so. A free-kick from wide on the left was lofted in to the box in a more conventional manner than Pewsey's later in the game. The ball was flicked on and landed at the feet of Dark, eight yards from goal. He shimmied to his right, selling a dummy to the keeper, then rolled the ball gently to the left to make it 2-0.
The final goal, a minute after Pewsey's wonder strike, was also at this end. As the local bellringers practiced pealing in the background and a murder of crows cawed overhead as they returned home from a day of scavenging, Liam Bush ran through on goal, only to be chopped down from behind by Pewsey's Gareth Robb. A clear penalty, the only decision for the ref to make was whether to show a yellow or a red card. After consulting with the lino on the far side, common-sense prevailed with a yellow, the penalty being punishment enough. Rich Warwick placed the ball on the spot, ran up to shoot, but slipped as he did so. Pewsey's Louie Latouche dived to his right, but could only palm the ball on to the post, from whence it trickled gently over the line.
At this point, the church bells stopped ringing, leaving only the sound of crows and the congratulatory slapping of shoulders from the visitors.
|Only in Pewsey...|
Let's hope the pleasant weather continues.
United Services stay fourth, with a good chance of promotion come the end of April.
My next report will be from another Wessex League club next Saturday, followed by my final Wessex League club two weeks from then. After that, I'm undecided, but I shall probably finish my match reports for the season at a promotion or relegation clash in mid-April - could be anywhere!