Sunday, 9 October 2016

Clanfield v QK Southampton

The welcome sign at Peel Park, home of Clanfield FC.
I'm in a rush. There's no time. Places to go, people to see...

It's a short one this week. Just a ground description and a perfunctory match report. I hope you don't mind too much.

No seats at Clanfield. Unless you bring your own bicycle saddles.
Clanfield FC (1) 3 v 2 (0) QK Southampton FC
Puma Engineering Hampshire Premier Football League Senior Division
Saturday 8th October 2016
Attendance: Varied throughout the match as dads and lads came and went - generally around 15-20
Admission: None
Programme: None
Colours: Blue and black stripes / black / black v Yellow / black / yellow
National Grid reference: SU7016

QK Southampton on the ball.
I promised I'd visit a few Hampshire Premier Football League grounds this season, and this looked like the most interesting game in the league this week, as second-placed Clanfield entertained fifth-placed QK Southampton.

Clanfield is a village at the furthest point of the Portsmouth / Havant conurbation, protruding finger-like in to the South Downs National Park, which gives it a very rural feel. On three sides of the ground, there are hills visible - the reds, yellows and oranges of autumn just beginning to mix with the different shades of agricultural green and brown to make the backdrop to this game a veritable riot of colour.

To the east, Chalton Windmill looks down on proceedings with a slightly saddened air. A windmill without sails is like a daddy long legs without any legs - it's just wrong. The club feature the windmill on their badge, but with sails, making it look much more chipper.

A close shave for QK.
Clanfield's ground is basic, as you'd expect at the 11th tier of English football. Set on the local recreation ground, the pitch slopes in every direction all at once, but generally downwards from the entrance towards the far end.

There is a small car park provided for users of the recreation ground, which was almost full even with less than twenty people watching the game. Next to the car park is a pavilion which houses the changing rooms and a small room with a tea hatch (half-time tea and a Mars Bar at only £1 was my only expense of the day). There are tables in this room, one of which had a bowl of Frazzles placed upon it at the end of the match for hospitality purposes. I was so tempted to take one on my way out, but I kept my discipline and left them all alone.

The local kids watch the match from their elevated half-pipes.
The pitch has a rail along the right-hand side, with a tarmacced path running parallel to it which joins the entrance with a skateboard park at the far end. The local kids were enjoying their Saturday afternoon, blasting out Nirvana whilst the match was going on, like an errant tannoy announcer who's forgotten to turn off the half-time musical entertainment. Here we are now, entertain us!

The top end and the left-hand side are roped off, with the far end open. Beyond the rope on the left is another pitch, with a playground beyond that. No dogs are allowed on the recreation ground, so no photos of contented pooches this week.

Chalton Windmill up on Windmill Down. It's lost its sails.
I missed photographing the first goal, as I wasn't ready (lucky I don't get paid for this...). Ashley Fisher ran through on goal and slotted the ball home from 18 yards after only two minutes. At this early stage, it looked like it could be a tough afternoon for the visitors from the Millbrook area of Southampton, but they weren't to be overwhelmed. Indeed, they were arguably the better side for the rest of the first half. More possession, but with little penetration, leaving the home keeper with little to do.

The arty pic.
In the second half, there was little to choose between the two teams as the entertainment level went up a notch. QK got their equaliser after 50 minutes, Joe Griggs firing home after the ball wasn't cleared properly from a corner. They extended their lead 15 minutes later, George Callard latching on to a sloppy back pass to race clear and whack the ball beyond goalkeeper Tim Jackson's reach.

Then it started raining. And raining. I retired to the pavilion, where I stood beneath the overhanging eaves. Other, more hardy souls, put their umbrellas up and carried on watching in the downpour.

Kicking downhill in the teeming rain, Clanfield had their chances, but with ten minutes to go, it looked like QK were going to hang on to record a surprise victory. However, it wasn't to be, Mike Newman equalising for the home side. A win for Clanfield would put them top if leaders Hayling United faltered, so they kept looking for another goal.

I'd been joined under the eaves by some of the skatepark kids, one of whom asked his friend what was the best atmosphere he'd ever experienced at a Clanfield match. He replied that it was the game against United Services, to which the first boy agreed. It was as he spoke that the home side won the game, Lucas Lothian smashing in the 92nd minute heartbreaker for QK.

With no time left for QK to make a comeback, it was time to celebrate for the villagers. Later on, they found out that Hayling had only drawn, so Lothian's last minute strike had indeed put Clanfield on top of the league.

Time to tidy away the corner flags. Until next week.
I shall visit another club from the same league next Saturday. If the match is half as entertaining as this one, it will be a happy day.

There will be another 40 or so photos on the HAH Facebook page shortly.

Enjoy your next match, wherever that may be.

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