Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Whitchurch United v Fawley

A selection of colourful boots lining up at five to three.
It's been a long season, but we're nearly there now. Nearly all over.

What's yours been like? Some of you will be players. You've scored with that incredible volley from thirty yards that you'll never forget in front of only 55 spectators - some of whom would have missed it because they were texting or visiting the loo (but, oh my goodness, you felt like you'd netted a last-minute winner at the Fratton End for just a few seconds there...), or you've made that unbelievable save at the feet of the onrushing forward in the last minute to win all three points for your team. Or you've missed that easy tackle leading to the opposition's equaliser and been teased by your team-mates for days afterwards.

Some of you will be coaches or managers. Your team listened to you about defending against that big lump who was good in the air after you'd traveled a hundred miles on a Wednesday evening to scout your FA Cup opponents. Then they understood your gestures from the dugout when you were pointing frantically at their full-back sneaking up for that corner. They actually listened to you, and sometimes you felt like you'd won a match with your good advice and it was all worthwhile.

Or you'll be a volunteer at your club, putting the nets up and taking them down again afterwards, serving tea and burgers to the regulars, washing the kit, cleaning the dressing rooms, spending hours producing a programme, only for the match to be called off at the last minute. Frustrating, but you'll be back again next week, because you enjoy the camaraderie, the drink in the bar after the game with your fellow volunteers, and it's good to catch up with Joe, who does the same job as you for the club down the road.

Whitchurch United's stand. If you look very carefully, you can just about see the spire of the "white church" that gives its name to the village.
Whitchurch United FC (0) 1 v 3 (2) Fawley AFC
Saturday 15th April 2017
Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division
Attendance: 60-ish
Admission: £6
Programme: £1
Colours: Red and white stripes / red / red v Sky blue / dark blue / dark blue
National Grid reference: SU4647

Maj Syob? Wassat then? Ah, Jam Boys!
You may not be directly involved with a club, but you pay your money and watch the same team home and away every week anyway. You have the limited edition scarf that they sold behind the bar. You wear the club pin badge proudly on your lapel. At home, you drink coffee out of the club mug as you contemplate yet another defeat. But it won't take much to turn it around. Next season, keep the decent players, get rid of the dead wood, bring in that 20 goal a season striker and your team will be there or thereabouts.

Or perhaps you groundhop? You'll either be at a different ground every week, visiting each place once and once only, never returning again, collecting programmes, taking a few photos, meeting up with your fellow hobbyists to chat about the relative quality of chips at each ground in the Southern League. You visit places you'd never visit otherwise, and boy, do you have some tales to tell!

Or you'll stay local, watching any match within half an hour's drive which takes your fancy. You've visited every club within your chosen radius several times over and enjoy the freedom of not worrying if your team wins or loses. Of course, you'll have your favourites (or anti-favourites) - you might want the club with the friendly gateman to win, or the sweariest manager to lose, but you're really there to be entertained and have a bit of fresh air. You just love your football.

It takes all sorts, and we all contribute to the big, fascinating jigsaw every Saturday from August to April.

Fawley on the attack.
On a match day, we all have our roles to play - even the creatures of the animal kingdom! At Whitchurch on Saturday, three red kites glided over the pitch fifteen minutes before kick-off, on the lookout for some tasty carrion - a dead rabbit would be great, but failing that, a freshly-killed mouse would do. As the pitch was clear of rotting flesh, they'd obviously taken it all away and ripped it to shreds with their sharp claws and beaks earlier in the day. Good job!

Dogs and dog walkers were staying away, with Whitchurch's Longmeadow being one of the few grounds in the Wessex League to not allow them inside. No awkward ejections required.

The goals were set up properly, nets pegged down securely; corner flags nice and straight; fluorescent training bibs hung up inside the home dugout ready for the subs to wear when limbering up. The club volunteers responsible for these duties had played their part to perfection, and were now collecting money on the gate, warming up the tea urn or perhaps serving beer and crisps behind the bar. All in order.

Fawley's second goal, headed in by Aaron Lucas (hidden in amongst the Whitchurch defenders).
Perhaps the fellow who erected the corner flags at 1:30 was also the club announcer? If so, it was his turn to entertain and inform the visitors five minutes before kick-off. In relation to the rules on respect, he pleaded with us not to partake in any spitting or scratching. Of course, as a mellow bunch (the only scratching happening today would be the buying and eating of pork scratchings), we were all in on the joke. He then asked us all to clap loudly and cheer raucously when the players entered the field of play. With only thirty or so people in attendance at that point ("the regulars are all in the bar and won't hear me..."), we had a chuckle at the irony. I wonder if the same chap presents a pub quiz? He'd be good at it.

Despite this being the most important match in the league on Saturday, no more than sixty people turned up to watch (with more sneaking in through open gates without paying as the match progressed). Home fans, away fans, friends and family of the players, groundhoppers (I spotted at least one, playing his anointed role of photographing the stand and other structures within the ground), two bloggers (hello to The Terrace Traveller!) and general fans of the local game were all there, but we don't amount to much. We're aware of the slight absurdity of it all, but we don't care what other people think. We like what we do and we're going to carry on.

Football season nearly over? Never mind, there's always Premier Pigeon Racing.
My role, as blogger/photographer, was to guess which end the first goal would go in, and be at that end as the ref's whistle blew. I chose the bottom of the slope, which was being attacked by Whitchurch in the first half. I was confident of getting decent photos of the opening goal and subsequent celebrations. Within a minute, Fawley had taken the lead at the far end, and I had the wrong lens on, as I started the game looking for wide angle landscape shots, as I usually do. Keiran Roche cut in from the right and slid the ball under Ellis Grant in the home goal for 1-0. One day, I'll be in the right place at the right time, with the right lens on my camera. One day...

Fawley started the game stronger, with United's manager querying his team's commitment, "I thought we were up for it?!" On 20 minutes, Whitchurch's Jason Silver headed over from close range, but I had a feeling that Fawley would score again, so I made my way to the top of the slope. Ben Bolton came close to extending their lead, shooting low and hard and on target, but Grant saved well.

Sustained pressure brought two corners in quick succession for the away side - the first was palmed out by Grant, but the second was deadly. Steve Green knew his role as corner taker. He'd had a few sighters and had been delivering a mean cross, but this one was spot on. Aimed between the edge of the six yard box and the penalty spot, it was flighted in perfectly for centre-back Aaron Lucas to attack with a vicious header - down, bouncing two yards out and then up in to the roof of the net, bisecting Grant and the defender on the near post. 2-0 at half-time.

A well-deserved pat on the head for Callum Tanner as Fawley celebrate their third goal.
The referee and his assistants had had a quiet game until the second half, when they were called into action straight away - firstly, an offside flag denying Whitchurch a quick goal at the start of the half, then after 72 minutes, the ref sent Whitchurch sub Jack McCarthy off for dissent.

Ten man United went further behind on 81 minutes when an unmarked Callum Tanner controlled a lofted ball in to the box, turned and knocked it past Grant from eight yards. The result hadn't really been in doubt for quite some time, despite Danny Phillips best efforts, wriggling and squirming his way past Fawley's defence, but he could never get a shot away - there was always someone to stop him eventually. Whitchurch did get a goal back via an unmarked header from Sam McCarthy, but we were in to injury time and it was always going to be the very definition of a consolation goal.

With the match over, attention turned to Twitter, where the result between Cowes Sports and Alresford Town was eagerly awaited by both sides. If Cowes had earned a point, then Whitchurch would be relegated. If Cowes had won, then both teams would be down. As it happened, the Islanders lost, so neither club were relegated on the day.

To make matters worse for one of the Whitchurch players, as I was driving home along the A34, I spotted one of the team parked up beside the road in his tracksuit, car obviously having broken down. He'll have spent the evening nostalgic for the morning, before it all went so horribly wrong...

Inside the stand at Whitchurch United FC.
The final day scenario looks like this:

Whitchurch United have to win away to Hamworthy United this coming Saturday, or they're definitely down. They also need a turnaround in goal difference of nine goals between them and Cowes Sports (e.g., a 6-0 win for Whitchurch and a 3-0 defeat for Cowes would do that). If Cowes Sports draw at home to Amesbury Town, Whitchurch are down. If Fawley win at home to Brockenhurst and Cowes Sports fail to win, Fawley escape relegation and send Whitchurch and Cowes down. If Fawley don't win, they're down no matter what. If Cowes win, both Fawley and Whitchurch are relegated, no matter what they do.

I'd say you'll need a slide rule to work out the permutations on Saturday, but nobody under fifty even knows what a slide rule is, so I won't say that.

Everybody played their roles on Saturday to make it an entertaining afternoon out. My final task is to upload another forty or so photos on to the group Facebook page. I shall do that shortly.

Fawley are having a Pay As Much As You Want Day for their final home game. If you live nearby, are a local enthusiast, or a hardcore groundhopper, pop along and give them a raucous cheer. I can guarantee they'll give everything to have a chance of staying in the Wessex Prem - it will be no meaningless end of season affair on the Waterside this week, that's for sure.

As for me, I've done my bit for 2016/17. I'll be back with the end of season roller round-up, but otherwise, the next report on here will be in August. Have a super summer everyone, and thanks for reading the blog this season!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Stockbridge v Bush Hill

This sign appeared in the book "Got, Not Got" a few years back!
This is the tale of two football clubs whose fortunes could not have been more different this season.

There's the old, traditional village club, who have struggled to compete. Then there's the new club from the big city who can't stop winning.

There's the village described in the Domesday Book as a "small town" with "a school made of chalk", whose football club couldn't raise a team for three league fixtures earlier this season.

Then there's the club from Millbrook, a suburb of Southampton, who have no trouble finding handy players to beat all-comers.

Stocky going through their pre-match warm-up routine...
Stockbridge FC (0) 0 v (1) 2 Bush Hill FC
Puma Engineering Hampshire Premier Football League Senior Division
Tuesday 4th April 2017
Attendance: About 50
Admission: None
Programme: No
Colours: All red v Sky blue / dark blue / dark blue
National Grid reference: SU3535

...whilst Bush Hill go through theirs at the the other end of the pitch.
It must be hard for Stockbridge FC. Based in a village of 550 or so inhabitants with a higher than average median age (according to the last census), they must only have around 25-30 men of football-playing age in the village (say, 16 to 35 years old) to choose their team from. Of course, not all of these men would be interested (or capable) of playing the game to Hampshire League standard, so they have to import young men from outside of the village to play for them.

The nearest sources of young men are the towns (or cities) of Andover, Winchester, Romsey and Salisbury, between six and twelve miles distant. I would imagine most of the squad come from these places - they would all need to drive or source lifts as public transport is not good, and would have to give up around 20 minutes of their time to travel to Stockbridge to play or train (then the same amount of time to get back home again).

This can't be easy for the club. Or any other relatively remote village side.

The players emerge from the new dressing rooms.
Contrast this to any team based in a city, where there is a large pool of men of the right age living nearby. You could be aged 16 to 35, live in Millbrook and choose to play for any one of several clubs in or near the estate, e.g., QK Southampton, Bush Hill, or any club that plays in the Southampton League at Green Park.

Bush Hill have only existed since 2002, when AFC Maybush merged with Lordshill SAS (hence the "Bush" and "Hill" taken from each club's name - probably a better choice than combining "May" and "Lords", to be honest). They've achieved a lot in that time. Southampton Saturday Senior League champions five times in a row, they were given permission to enclose part of Mansel Park with railings in 2013, the year that they joined the Hampshire League. They won Division One at the first attempt, making it six championships in a row.

Two fifth place finishes in the Senior Division followed before this season, when they have swept almost all before them. Just two defeats and one draw all season (well done to Fleetlands and Liss Athletic for their away victories and Liphook United for their home draw).

Darkness begins to descend upon Stockbridge.
Bush Hill needed a single point to win the league from their fixture at Stockbridge on Tuesday evening. Whereas poor old Stocky were already guaranteed bottom place and - presumably - relegation. I say "presumably" because anything could happen at this level between now and the league's AGM. Already this season Andover Lions have folded and therefore take one of the two relegation positions, albeit a virtual one. If another club should go to the wall, then Stockbridge would be reprieved (or a reprieval would also be in order if Four Marks or Sway - the top two in Division One - should fail a ground grading inspection and not be promoted).

Stocky didn't win a game until February, when new coaching staff arrived at the club, bringing half a dozen new players with them. Between them, the new players and the original squad members gelled quickly, with the club winning three matches in quick succession. The Great Escape was on, but only one more point has been obtained since February, and with Hedge End Rangers going on a winning streak, Stocky's Great Escape escaped them in the end, bottom place being confirmed on Saturday.

However, just like at the River Test fish hatcheries nearby, there's new life at Stocky. Wherever they ply their trade next season, there will be hope.

Corner for the Bush.
Bottom of the league. Who could have blamed Stockbridge if they'd thought that there is no point in trying? Just let the Bush take away their point and be done. But, of course, you can't step on to a football pitch at any level and not try. There's pride, there's team spirit. You can't let your mates down. A month ago at Bush Hill, Stocky came within seconds of snatching an improbable 3-3 draw, but the home side scored in the last minute to take all three points. Proof to the village side that they could live with the leaders.

And indeed, in front of a crowd of around 50 (split fairly evenly between home and away support), Stockbridge battled valiantly. Generally their defence held out superbly against the onrushing waves of blue-shirted forwards.

Bush Hill hit the bar from a 25 yard free-kick after eight minutes. Playing with a confidence befitting a team who had only failed to win three times all season, they took the lead after 20 minutes, Jack Jewell threading the ball in from 12 yards. Ecstasy for the city lads, as Jack ran half the length of the pitch pursued by team-mates, arms pumping in celebration. He knew - they all knew - that tonight they would be champions.

Goal number two for Bush Hill to confirm them as champions!
A pair of bats flew north by north past Stockbridge's brand new brick-built changing rooms as the team talks were being given at half-time. I looked around me. The old wooden changing room block was still in situ, now used mostly as spectator toilets. To the left was a tea hut with a friendly volunteer dishing out teas, coffees, hot chocolate, Mars Bars and Twixes. All drinks served in mugs. My mug had Father Christmas on it.

To the right of the changing room block was a brand new playground for the children of the village. Nobody using the climbing frame, so I'd leapt up there to take a few photos from an elevated position. From here, I could see the bench-seated stand below me on the left, blocked off tonight (and presumably permanently to prevent it being vandalised).

The second half was similar to the first. Stockbridge defended very well, but couldn't create many good openings at the other end. Goalkeeper Pete Roberts pulled off a couple of terrific saves, but couldn't stop Bush Hill's John Macaulay putting the result beyond doubt on 70 minutes, hammering the ball home from six yards when Stocky failed to clear their lines after a sustained Bush Hill attack.

You could almost hear the chants of "Championes! Championes!" for the rest of the game. You knew the players and supporters of the away side were singing it inside their heads for the last twenty minutes. Eventually, the ref's whistle went, everyone shook hands, then the lads in blue made their way back to the away dressing room, out came the mobile phones in video mode, and the chanting started in earnest.

Bush Hill - 2016-17 Hampshire Premier Football League Championes! How does that feel?!

This is becoming a habit. An arty railings shot to finish (see also Cowes Sports two weeks ago...)
There's a match report on Stockbridge's excellent website here. Loads of interesting information about the club on the site. Well worth a browse.

As is always the case now, I shall publish more photos from this match on the HAH Facebook group page in the next half hour or so. As it was so dark, there aren't as many player photos as I usually post this week. One day, I shall learn how to set up my camera for perfect night-time action shots. Maybe next season.

I came to Stockbridge partly because my Twitter and Facebook followers sent me here following a poll. I may well do that again for my final report of the season on 15th April. Look out for that if you follow me on either site. Until then, enjoy your football (along with any other interests you may have).

Monday, 20 March 2017

Cowes Sports v Sholing

One of the two entrance signs at Cowes Sports. This is the dirty older one, but I liked the daffodils.
Lists. My life is full of them.

Sometimes, if I didn't have a list of things to do, I wouldn't even get up in the morning. I mean, I don't actually have a list telling me what I need to do after I've got up. You know: Visit the bathroom; Get dressed; Feed the cats; Breakfast and a cup of tea; Wash and clean teeth, and so on. This is such a familiar routine that I'll never get it wrong.

It's all the other stuff. At work, if I'm expected to do X, Y and Z, then I need to make a list to show me what I have to do before I reach X, Y and Z. I have notebooks full of As, Bs and Cs from weeks, months and years ago.

There's the weekly shopping list. Don't forget the toothpaste! Then on my phone, there are lists of records to buy, pin badges to order, upcoming gigs. There's another notebook full of football fixtures - both for the teams I actively follow, and potential matches of interest for HAH.

Without lists, I'd just forget everything. My life would lack structure. I'd probably spend all my time watching the telly and surfing the 'net and nothing would ever get done.

The oldest structure in the Wessex League.
Cowes Sports FC (0) 1 v 3 (1) Sholing FC
Saturday 18th March 2017
Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division
Attendance: 104
Admission: £5
Programme: £1
Colours: Blue and white stripes / black / blue v Red and white stripes / white / white
National Grid reference: SZ4895

A call for volunteers.
I know several people who keep spreadsheets of all the football matches they've ever been to. They can tell me how many games they've seen at how many different grounds, how many goals have been scored by the home and away sides, how many red cards have been issued in their presence. In the circles I move in, this is considered normal behaviour.

I've no idea how many matches I've ever seen live because I don't have a spreadsheet (I wish I had, but it's far too late to start now!). All I have is a few scraps of paper with details of the matches I've written about for HAH. Having checked my HAH records, I know that I've written about Sholing six times previously (more than anyone else, with the exception of Havant & Waterlooville, Alton Town and Hythe & Dibden, all also featured six times). They've won the last four of these games, including the FA Vase final in 2014. I've seen Sholing score 12 goals and concede seven. Whereas, I've never covered Cowes Sports before - the only club in the Wessex League that I've not written about.

Which is partly why I was at Westwood Park on Saturday. Partly, because I put the choice to a vote, with my Twitter and Facebook followers sending me to the Isle of Wight instead of Four Marks. I don't know why I've never thought of putting a vote out there before. I shall do it again as it was strangely entertaining, checking every couple of hours to see who was winning.

Marvin McLean attacking the Cowes Sports right-back.
What would happen if I wrote a match report as a list? Well, that's pretty much what I do at an HAH game anyway, jotting down noteworthy incidents as they happen, to be expanded upon later.

So, without editing, what did Saturday's game look like in my notebook?

  • 1m 0-1 9 Dan Mason fk turned shot 12yds
  • 50m CS hit bar
  • 60m 0-2 9 Mason through ball turned shot 18yds
  • 65m 1-2 ??? turn and shot 20yds from short corner deflection?
  • 70m 1-3 corner 5 headed back in ??? turned volley 6yds

Doesn't make a lot of sense, does it? Lots of turning and shooting, but I'll stick with those descriptions, because all four of the goals were the result of someone quickly controlling the ball from a pass, twisting their body to face the goal and volleying the ball fast and hard in to the net. The goalkeepers never stood a chance with any of the four goals.

After the match, I could check Twitter for the missing goalscorers, the "???"s. The mystery man for Cowes was Dexter Malin (who must have got a touch on the incoming shot from outside the box to divert the ball past Sholing's Ryan Gosney), with the missing scorer for Sholing being Dan Mason.

Sholing's third goal was also Dan Mason's third, which was his 100th for the club in 154 games. That's an impressive ratio.

The seventh time I've written about Sholing and their fifth straight victory. You could say I'm their lucky charm, but I don't believe in that sort of thing. They're just a very good side for the level they play at. If Cowes believed in unlucky charms, they would probably want me to go and watch Whitchurch United for the rest of the season, as they are the Island club's main relegation rivals - Cowes sitting fourth from bottom of the Wessex Prem, one place above Whitchurch in the final relegation position. Whitchurch have lost every time I've featured them.

Preventing Lee Wort from scoring, by fair means...
I had other notes in my book. These are bits and pieces that I wrote down before the match, as I always do my homework before I go anywhere for the blog.

Highlights from my studies included:

  • Cowes FC (and subsequently Cowes Sports since the original club's merger with Whites Sports in the early 1980s) have played at Westwood Park since 1912.
  • The stand at Westwood Park is the oldest structure in the Wessex League. It was built in 1921 by local boatwrights and chandlers in a nearby sawmill in Medina Road.
  • Largely untouched since 1921 inside, but reclad in the early 1990s.
  • There used to be another stand opposite, but this blew down in the wild storms of 1987.

(Source for these facts: Peter Miles in The Homes Of Non-League Football).
Looking at old photos, there was a small uncovered terrace next to the main stand, but the building containing the clubhouse and changing rooms was constructed on this spot around 25 years ago. One step survives.

Beyond the big stand is another covered area, one step high but with a ramped entrance so that wheelchairs can use it, which can be seen in the fourth photo here. In the corner behind this structure is a tree with a handmade swing, at a perfect height for a six-year-old child.

All the structures at Westwood Park are on one side, with the rest of the ground being hard standing with a mixture of walls and blue and white railings separating spectators from the pitch.

...or foul! Ouch!
And there were yet more notes - interesting historical snippets taken from Norman Gannaway's Association Football in Hampshire until 1914:

  • Cowes FC were formed in 1881. Early opponents included Banister Park School, Ringwood Hornets, Portsmouth Sunflowers, Total Abstinence of Basingstoke (my absolute favourites - I wish they were still around!), and Fordingbridge Turks (Hampshire's oldest surviving club - I must feature them next season).
  • Woolston Works (Sholing's forerunners) won the first ever Hampshire Senior Cup in 1888. They imported a large number of Scotsmen who were employed as shipmakers. The Scots introduced "modern methods of football into the county".
  • People complained about the new style of play. For example, in 1887, someone called Old Stager wrote that "in our time we played for fun, and we enjoyed the rough and tumble of a manly sport. Now, your footballers go into training for their matches, wear shin-guards to save their legs, and with all their skills have taken all the rough and tumble out of the game". I wish Old Stager was still around. I'm sure we'd get on famously.
  • Cowes won the first ever Hampshire League title in 1897. The deciding match was at home to Portsmouth's Royal Artillery, which the island club won 1-0. However, some of the home supporters made for a Royal Artillery player who "was pelted with orange peel and pursued by the unruly mob". Apparently, Cowes supporters "did not bear a very good character...continually hooting and hissing the gunners..."

There's much more of this priceless detail in the book. Recommended if you can source a copy. I can assure you that Cowes fans no longer hoot and hiss at the opposition. Nor do they throw orange peel at them. Just a frustrated sigh or two as their team lose at home yet again.

Dan Mason's hat-trick goal for Sholing.
But I haven't told you how to get to Westwood Park yet. Some of you will want to visit. Here's how you can do it...

  • Buy a through train ticket to Cowes (West).
  • Catch the free bus from Southampton Central train station (south side). Buses on the hour and half  hour on a Saturday.
  • Arrive at the Red Jet terminal after seven minutes.
  • Board the Red Jet (£16.40 adult day return if you don't already have a through ticket). They go at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour.
  • The Red Jet takes 23 minutes to cross The Solent.
  • Walk 15 minutes up a steep hill (which gradually becomes less steep) to Westwood Park.

Thus, from boarding the shuttle bus at Southampton station to arriving at Westwood Park, it takes just less than an hour.

If walking up a steep hill is difficult for you, then it is possible to take your car on the car ferry (which takes about an hour to cross The Solent and lands at East Cowes). All up-to-date information for the ferries is here.

The inevitable arty shot at the end.
A well-written match report for this game is on Sholing's website. It features several more of my photos. If there was a prize for Best Website at the Wessex League end of season awards ceremony, then Sholing would almost certainly win it. However, I don't believe such an award exists. It should, it really should.

I shall post another 40 or so photos from Cowes Sports on the HAH Facebook page in a while. If all these pictures aren't enough, then there are even more on my Flickr profile here. I don't usually use Flickr, but it seemed like the best place to put them this week so that Sholing's webmaster, Keith Legg, could access them easily for their match report.

The next HAH will be in two weeks. I shall put the destination up for a vote again, as I can't make up my mind. The choice will be between a women's match on Sunday April 2nd and a men's match in the Hampshire League on Tuesday the 4th.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Upham v Michelmersh & Timsbury

Upham FC ready for action.
As a child, I would regularly have nightmares. Always the same thing...ghosts. I would wake up screaming because I was convinced I'd seen a headless highwayman in my room. Whilst my eyes were adjusting to the light, the ghost would merge with the patterns in my bedroom wallpaper so that it would look like it was passing through the wall.

Backlit tree branches swaying in the wind would be visible through my thin curtains. But they weren't tree branches, they would be long-dead Cavaliers waving their arms in surrender as they were being captured by ruthless Roundheads prior to imprisonment and hanging.

The view from the teepees.
Upham FC (0) 1 v 1 (1) Michelmersh & Timsbury FC
Saturday 11th March 2017
Puma Engineering Hampshire Premier Football League Division One
Attendance: 10-15  (varied throughout)
Admission: Free
Programme: None
Colours: All red v Gold and black quarters / black / black
National Grid reference: SU5320

Letting fly in the first half, but Upham had to wait until the last few minutes to score.
I thought these childhood nightmares had long since gone, to be replaced by more adult night-worries. And so they had until this week, when I stayed up late doing my homework on Upham prior to my visit for the football on Saturday.

I was reading about the pub in Upham known as the Brushmaker's Arms, when I must have nodded off, so that the last thing I remembered was the story of Mr Chickett the miserly brushmaker, brutally murdered for his horde of gold coins in 1545. It was said that his killer escaped with Chickett's gold and embarked upon the Mary Rose for her maiden voyage (which, of course, was also her last, as she sank at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour).

Chickett then haunted the Brushmaker's Arms until the day that the Mary Rose was recovered in 1982, at which point his ghostly moaning and midnight coin rattling suddenly stopped.

Upham's Keiran Shalloe shields the ball from his opponent.
My broken dream began. Had I read enough about Upham? Would the locals demand that I answer questions about the village before I could enter? Would I have to fill in an 85 page questionnaire before the match? One wrong box ticked, and I would be sent home?

There was the entrance to Upham Recreation Ground...but who was that standing by the slide in the playground? A rather dishevelled man dressed in hessian rags...it couldn't be? Was that Chickett the Brushmaker? And what was he waving?

I could see the footballers warming up. The match was due to start in ten minutes, but Chickett was beckoning to me...

He had a sheaf of paper. He was indicating that I had to fill in this great wad of forms before I would be allowed to watch the match!

Fetching a stray ball from the field next door.
Okay, okay, let's have a look...I must know enough, it'll be fine, I'll play along...

Name, Age, Sex, Profession...yeah, yeah, I can do this...what else? Ah, here's the bit about the football club:
  • Upham FC was founded in...Oh, when was it? 1974! I remembered!
  • Name at least three trophies that the club has won...Tough question, let's think...How about the Winchester League Division 1 in 1992, 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2010? Does that count as 5? You want two more, Mr Chickett? Okay, they were Hampshire League (2004) Trophyman Cup winners in 2005, 2012 and 2013, and Northbrook Cup winners on five occasions. I could name the years if you wish, but the players will be leaving the dressing rooms ready for kick-off shortly!
Please, please, Mr Chickett, isn't that enough?! No? Okay, just one more then...
  •  Highest league position since they joined the Hampshire League? Okay, the Hampshire League was split in to two rival competitions between 2004 and 2013. During this period, Upham finished as runners-up (twice) in the Hants League (2004). Since the leagues were merged, the best they've done is 5th (last season). They look certain to better that this season, going in to the match against lowly Michelmersh & Timsbury in third place. They still have a chance of promotion, although losing 4-0 in each of their last two matches against their main rivals (Sway and Four Marks) has severely dented their ambitions. Nothing less than a win would do today.
Will that do? Will you let me go now, Mr Chickett? No? You want a desperately feeble anecdote before you let me go? Well, I'll never forget the time I was listening to the Hairy Cornflake's show on Radio 1 in the 1970s, and a listener rang in to enter one of his competitions. When the listener said he was from Lower Upham, the DJ roared with laughter. I've no idea why. I guess it was different times back then.

Peeking through the ghostly vortex.
For some reason, Chickett thought my anecdote was hilarious. As his ghostly cackle went on and on, sounding more and more like a series of desperate miaows, I realised that I was laughing too, and that I'd woken myself up. Or was it one of my cats asking for its breakfast that had awoken me?

Either way, it was Saturday morning and it was match day! As I came round, I realised that I wouldn't have to fill in any questionnaires upon my arrival at Upham after all, so the morning flew by without any worries.

Arriving at Upham's Ray's Farm Recreation Ground, there was nowhere to leave my car in the tiny car park, so I drove a couple of hundred yards down Shoe Lane and parked next to the village duck pond instead (no ducks were seen). I then walked back up the narrow lane strewn with fresh horse poo, admiring the roadside daffodils as I went.

There were no ghosts at the recreation ground. Instead, there were children playing in the playground immediately by the entrance with their mums, dads and grandparents. Ahead of me, Upham FC and Michelmersh & Timsbury were warming up on the roped off pitch. To my left as I walked towards the football pitch was the Tommy Steele Pavilion, opened in 1997, which contains the changing rooms and toilets. There's a verandah at the front of the pavilion which would provide the only cover at the ground in the event of rain. Unfortunately, as the pavilion is at right-angles to the pitch, only one person could stand there keeping dry and be able to see the whole pitch at the same time.

I guess that if you're short enough, you could stand inside one of the teepees and keep dry whilst watching the match. Teepees? Yes, there are wooden teepees for children to play in at the top end of the pitch! And when I say "top end", I mean it. There is a ten foot slope from the far end of the pitch, down towards the near end, and it varies in intensity as you go down.

Michelmersh & Timsbury on the attack.
Michelmersh & Timsbury, who contained several players from the Burridge club which disbanded earlier in the season, kicked down the slope in the first half. They nearly scored after three minutes from a goalmouth scramble, but the ball was cleared off the line and booted upfield. Upham then nearly took the lead after 26 minutes when Michelmersh's defender, Joshua Woodward, sent a header crashing against his own bar with goalkeeper Adam Woodford stranded.

With the majority of the attacking threat coming from the home side, Michelmersh took the lead slightly against the run of play on 37 minutes when Ben Wakefield ran on to a through ball and tucked home from twelve yards.

This wasn't going to plan for Upham. They knew that if they failed to win today and Sway won their match against Lyndhurst, Sway would be promoted and that the only team left that they could overhaul was Four Marks*.

Kicking downhill in the second half, Upham became more and more desperate to equalise. Eventually they did, Keiran Shalloe volleying home from 15 yards with a minute left of normal time.

The away team were then reduced to ten men as Ryan Gonyora was booked for a foul, then immediately booked a second time, presumably for protesting the original decision as the ref stood with his finger pressed to his mouth. A minute later, Upham nearly scrambled the ball over the line for a last second winner, but man of the match Wakefield cleared off the line to preserve the scoreline at 1-1, which was probably fair on the balance of play.

As the players left the field, one or two cleaned their boots on an old boot-brush near the dressing room doors. I wondered if Mr Chickett was looking on, pleased that one of his precious brushes was still being used, 472 years after his untimely death.

*Sway won 4-1 to secure promotion. Four Marks have five home matches to come and require seven points to guarantee a place in the top two.

Tidying up time.
I shall post another forty or so photos from Upham on the HAH group page later this evening.

I'll be back next week, and for the first time, I shall be putting the next report to the vote. If you go to either my Twitter account (here), or the Facebook group page (here) from tomorrow (Tuesday) evening, you can help to decide whether I go to another Hampshire League Division One match this coming Saturday, or if I travel to the Isle of Wight for a Wessex League game. I'll combine the votes from both polls and go with the majority.

If no-one votes at all, I shall toss a coin.

And cry myself to sleep.

And try not to dream of Mr Chickett and his annoying questionnaire.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Weymouth Reserves v Folland Sports

A pair of Weymouth FC crests adorn the Reception doors at the Bob Lucas. This is the way in for reserve games.
Do you remember when your birthdays used to be so exciting, a day you would look forward to for weeks beforehand, instead of it being yet another impossible number, yet another reminder of your finite mortality? Once a year, you would wake up early, leap out of bed and stumble, half-walking, half-running to your parents' bedroom, squawking incoherently at your mum and dad to remind them what day it was and to get up and FEED ME PRESENTS!

Dad would roll over, bleary-eyed, check his alarm clock, tell you it was only 4:30, and that it was far too early for that sort of thing. You'd have to go back to bed, but you couldn't sleep. You'd sit there reading comics for what seemed like days, until you heard stirring from the bedroom next door.

Then it was ALL ABOUT YOU for the rest of the day. Presents, cake, maybe a party, everyone making a fuss of you. And if it was the weekend or the school holidays, your birthday would be twice as good! As happy as a cat in sunshine on the best day of the year by far (until Christmas rolled around again...).

Game number one. The main stand at Dorchester Town FC.
Weymouth Reserves (2) 6 v 1 (0) Folland Sports FC
Saturday 25th February 2017
Sydenhams Wessex Football League Division One
Attendance: 108 (highest of the season so far)
Admission: £5
Programme: Available, but I didn't get one
Colours: Maroon / white / sky blue v All red
National Grid reference: SY6580

Game number two. Flags a-fluttering in the stiff breeze at the Bob Lucas Stadium.
I don't remember exactly when those feelings dissipated for me - some time during the awkward teenage years, I guess, but they do appear again occasionally. One such time was this weekend. A few weeks ago, whilst checking fixtures and kick-off times for the Wessex League on Full-Time, I noticed that Weymouth Reserves were starting their match against Folland Sports at 5:30 on Saturday. I'd marked this game down as a probable HAH trip anyway, due to the visitors being a Hampshire club. At first, I thought the kick-off time was annoying, as it would mean taking action photos in the dark (never easy to do well). But within ten seconds, I realised that I could probably see another game beforehand. A double!

Two matches one after the other! A double! An elusive and rare double! The only other time I'd seen more than one match in a day was at the Island Games in 2011!

Serious groundhoppers pursue doubles all the time. They will scan the fixtures and travel the length of the country for two matches in a day to make a long trip worthwhile. So I checked for nearby games and immediately spotted that Dorchester Town were at home to Slough Town in a 3 o'clock fixture. The double was on!

Hence my childlike excitement as the day drew nearer...

Weymouth FC's large stand.
Of course, you can do more than two matches in a day on organised groundhop weekends. Any football ground enthusiast who has the spare time and money will probably have been on at least one of these trips. A group of clubs in a particular league who are geographically close together will agree to staggered kick-off times throughout a weekend. In return, they can expect two to three hundred visitors to boost their coffers. If they provide a programme, a pin badge, food and beer, they can make as much money in one day as they can in ten normal matchdays.

The Wessex League were offered the chance to host one of these weekends, but turned the opportunity down. If they ever changed their minds, a Wessex Groundhop weekend would start on a Friday night at a ground near a main base with plenty of hotel rooms for all the distant visitors (say, Southampton). For example, Team Solent would host the opening fixture. On the Saturday, there would then be matches kicking off at 11am, 1:30, 4:30 and 7:45, so we might make our way up the Waterside, from Blackfield & Langley to Fawley to Hythe & Dibden to Totton & Eling. Then on the Sunday, there would be three more matches, starting at 11am, 1:30 and 4pm over the other side of the city at, for example, Sholing, Hamble Club and Folland Sports.

In return for a little disruption (possibly losing some players due to work commitments, for example), each club would make a tidy profit and gain some positive publicity locally - there would be plenty of local football fans potentially making first visits to each club, as well as all the distant groundhoppers that would be coming once and once only.

Goal number two after just six minutes. It was going to be a long old evening for Follands.
In the absence of an organised weekend, perhaps pairs of clubs could agree to staggered kick-off times for a kind of informal "mini-hop"? With agreement from the away clubs, Follands at 2pm followed by Hamble Club at 4:15 anyone? Publicise this on relevant websites and in the Echo and see how many people turn up. If the crowd (and therefore matchday income) triples or quadruples, another pair of neighbouring clubs should then try the same thing. In these days of falling interest in the non-league game, anything is worth trying to bring people in, I would have thought?

Anyway, back to my own informal double, and first stop was Dorchester Town. The Avenue Stadium was opened in 1990, so I don't know if it can still be described as a "new" ground in its 27th year. It's certainly aged well though. The seated stand has a pitched roof with a central gable which covers 710 white plastic seats. The rest of the ground comprises of five terraces, three of which are covered with pitched rooves. The fact that AFC Bournemouth played nine league matches at The Avenue whilst Dean Court was being redeveloped should indicate that The Magpies would have no trouble with the ground-graders should they ever move up the pyramid again. Unfortunately, at the moment, they're heading halfway to nowhere, with Saturday's 0-4 defeat to Slough leaving them close to the Southern Premier relegation zone. Lovely ground though.

James Franklyn of Folland Sports skins Weymouth Reserves full-back Will Gape.
Drizzle, light rain, gusty winds. Low clouds and darkness due half an hour earlier than normal. Forty minutes to drive the six miles to Weymouth's Wessex Ground (now the Bob Lucas Stadium). Up hill, down valley at sixty miles an hour. Weymouth's twinkling floodlights appeared over one of the bumps in the road before disappearing again just as quickly. It all added to the excitement of my double day.

I'd been chatting to Nathaniel (the Terrace Traveller) at Dorchester, and he was here again in the large car park. He'd had the same idea as me. I assumed there would be another dozen groundhoppers following us from Dorchester (I'd spotted several taking photos at The Avenue - a giveaway), but didn't recognise anyone else from the first game once we were inside the stadium.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Our first problem was how to enter the Bob Lucas. The turnstiles were unmanned and there didn't appear to be any other way in. Nathaniel suggested jumping over the turnstiles and finding a club official to pay once we were inside, but I poo-pooed that idea (I had visions of me getting one leg over the turnstile and promptly getting stuck. With hilarious consequences).

Eventually we spotted someone entering the double doors at Reception. We decided that was most likely to be our route in to the stadium, and it turned out that it was. £5 handed over at the box office window, as if we were entering a theatre. The Theatre Of Nightmares, as it would turn out for Follands.

Fantastic chip over the keeper from 30 yards by Follands' Jamie Dover (out of picture).
But what were Wessex League Folland Sports doing at Southern League Weymouth, I hear you ask? Was this a cup game? No, they were actually playing Weymouth's reserve team, who were promoted to the Wessex League from the Dorset Senior League during the summer.

This was a controversial promotion, as Weymouth Reserves are the first stiffs ever to play in the Wessex League. Other reserve sides in the Wessex catchment area all play in the Wyvern League (including neighbours Dorchester Town). At the Wessex League AGM, some clubs argued that a reserve team in the league could be the thin end of the wedge. If Weymouth were allowed in, then why not other reserves of higher-ranked clubs? But there was nothing anyone could do other than complain, as the FA's Leagues Committee allocate clubs to leagues, and so Weymouth Reserves were in.

Is the Bob Lucas Stadium the most impressive to host Wessex League football? Salisbury fans might argue otherwise, but the answer is almost certainly "yes". Built in 1987 on the site of the town's old speedway track, Weymouth FC have been playing here for 30 years now. Like The Avenue Stadium, it can no longer be described as new. Indeed, it has started to rust in places, the salty sea air not helping in this respect. With a capacity of 6,600 (800 seats), the Bob Lucas is bigger than some Football League stadiums.

The imposing stand has plastic seats in fading club colours. As at big rivals Dorchester, the rest of the ground is terraced, with large covers on each side. The terraces have crush barriers painted in maroon and yellow. It's another proper football ground, my second of the day.

Fellow blogger Nathaniel Holland (The Terrace Traveller) watches the players leaving the pitch at the end of the game.
I'm not trying to avoid writing about the match, I'm really not, but nobody from Follands is going to want to read this. I could just move on and write about something else, or just stop here, but I feel obliged to mention the game in passing:

Okay, a Positive: Follands have a young team who haven't been playing with each other for very long. Last week, they won 6-3.

Minor Negative: This week, they lost 6-1 against a group of players who are all hoping to play three steps higher in the Southern League in the near future - some of them have already played for Weymouth's first team this season in cup competitions.

Positive: Goalkeeper Callam McGeorge made a terrific penalty save two minutes in to the second half to prevent Conor Jevon securing his hat-trick.

Negative: It rained hard during a ten minute spell in the second half when Weymouth scored their fourth, fifth and sixth goals. Just before the fourth went in, Weymouth's keeper made a terrific fingertip save to deny Follands scoring with a 35 yard screamer. So nearly 3-2, and it could all have been different.

Another Positive: Follands' Jamie Dover scored the best goal of the match, lobbing Ashley Weeks from 30 yards from near the right touchline. Weeks got tangled in the net and had to be rescued by the referee.

Three positives against two negatives for Follands. They'll learn from this match and come back mentally stronger.

On a personal note, I loved the two grounds on Saturday, but I have to warn anybody thinking of going to either stadium who collects programmes that Dorchester's can only be bought outside the main entrance. Once inside the stadium, I wasn't allowed back out to buy one. Whereas Weymouth Reserves had a programme, but they only seemed to be printing them out on demand at the box office for anybody who asked for one.

Luckily, I'm not too fussed about purchasing a programme, but I do like to buy a pin badge if there's one available. I was expecting one at Dorchester, but their club shop was shut, and there were none available elsewhere in the ground. And at Weymouth, you can buy them at first team games from their club shop. However, the shop doesn't open for reserve matches. As a nine-year-old, I'd have been devastated, but I've mellowed out a bit since then.

EDIT: Weymouth Reserves secretary has offered to send me a badge, which is very kind. So many nice people at this level of football.

And here's one of those Weymouth players, being congratulated by some young fans.
Nathaniel will probably be writing about both this game and the previous one at Dorchester Town on his Terrace Traveller blog.

I shall be uploading another 40 or so photos from the day on the Hopping Around Hampshire Facebook page this evening.

I will also be updating my Wessex League Story Map with information from Weymouth Reserves this evening. If anybody uses this map and is aware of any wrong links, postcodes, whatever, please let me know and I shall fix them.

My next two reports will be from matches on March 4th and the 18th, so in seven days or so, there will be some words and pictures from a Hampshire Premier Football League game, so long as the wet weather forecast for the coming week doesn't ruin my plans.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Paulsgrove v Colden Common

Watching Paulsgrove attacking in the first half.
We all do it. We all daydream about what we'd do if we suddenly had millions of pounds to spend. A lottery win, an unexpected bequeathment from a rich great-uncle, a hand-me-down banking job in the City of London...

What would you do with a £20million windfall from the National Lottery or Great-Uncle Moneybags? Probably the same as me. There'd be the dream home, followed by a fast car or two, never-ending holidays. A massive room with a pool table, a bar with all my favourite beers on hand pumps, and an old-style reconditioned vinyl jukebox in the corner stuffed with rock n roll, punk and soul classics. My friends would come over and we'd have parties lasting for days.

But it would be hard to spend it all on me and the family and friends, so I'd also give a big wedge to charity - homeless cats, dogs for the deaf and blind, rescued donkeys (cue jokes about Saints or Pompey, according to which club you support...), orphaned children, the sick and needy, cures for every disease...

And still I'd have millions left over.

Paulsgrove celebrate their first goal with the Portsdown Hill chalk pits in the background.

Paulsgrove FC (1) 2 v 1 (0) Colden Common FC
Puma Engineering Hampshire Premier Football League Senior Division
Saturday 11th February 2017
Attendance: About 20
Admission: £0
Programme: No
Colours: All dark blue v Red and white stripes / black / red
National Grid reference: SU6305

My design for a new stand at Paulsgrove FC. May never be built.
As much as I'd like to theoretically party all day and all night, all of the time, it's not in my nature. I'm a creative man at heart, so I'd have to have something else to fill my time. I like to write and take photos, hence the existence of HAH. But as a child, I also enjoyed designing and inventing things. I may well go back to that.

I might spend a day or two inventing a new improved potato peeler or a cleverly-engineered nut cracker. I'd also like to help some of my local football clubs by improving their infrastructure. If a Wessex or Hampshire League club needed a new stand, I'd design it for them, then give them the money to go ahead and build it.

To this end, I spent a little time this week designing a new stand for Paulsgrove FC (see the illustration above). Paulsgrove are one of many clubs in the Hampshire League who have nowhere for spectators to sit or stand to keep dry when it rains, so it would be a useful addition to their ground.

Time for a drink.
It didn't need to be a big structure - enough room for 30-40 people, so I designed a small stand with three concrete steps. The front step would be reserved for chairs - these would be removable and put in place before kick-off and then stored away in the changing room block when not being used. The back two steps would be used by those wishing to stand. So far, so normal.

The most unusual feature of the stand would be on the roof, where I placed two turrets. Why? Because Portsmouth has a long military history - the Roman-era Portchester Castle isn't far from Paulsgrove, and there are several forts overlooking the city up on Portsdown Hill. The turrets would firstly reflect this history, but secondly, the stand could also be used as play equipment for local children when there was no match on.

They could climb up on to the roof of the stand via a safe ladder, and depart the roof on a slide. To thwart any bad kids who might want to break the stand or set it on fire, the whole thing would be made of tungsten.

Sadly, I guess I will never be rich and my stand will never be built, consigned to live on in my whimsical world and nowhere else, so back to the real world...

One of Colden Common's subs wondering whether he'll get a run out today.
As mentioned previously, Paulsgrove have no cover, other than their indestructible dugouts. The pitch has a blue and white metal rail surround with a concrete path beyond that. Dog walkers and other members of the public come and go during the match as one side of hard standing doubles up as a public footpath connecting some playing fields to the west with Marsden Road to the east. The dog walkers pass the heavily fortified changing rooms/tea room building (help yourself to a drink at half-time for a small donation) and over the small bumpy car park. If you travel to Paulsgrove FC by car, it's unlikely you'll be able to park here, but there is plenty of room outside on Marsden Road.

Looking around, you'll see Portsdown Hill with its Victorian chalk pits and secret military installations to the north; and to the south, Tesco, McDonalds, the M27, the massive heap full of rubbish that used to greet visitors to Portsmouth (now landscaped), and yacht masts belonging to the citizens of Port Solent (which usually includes the homes of several Pompey players). And then there's the railway track which runs parallel to the ground - two footballs were booted over the fence on to the track during the match - replacing these balls must be Paulsgrove's biggest expense.

The exclusive nature of Port Solent sits at variance with the council estate in which the club is based. Built quickly and cheaply in the immediate post-war period to house returning servicemen and civilians bombed out of their Portsmouth homes during the war, Paulsgrove has a reputation which can be summed up as "rough, tough and mind your hubcaps" if the internet is to be believed. Having had family live nearby, I know the place reasonably well, and yes, whilst there's undoubtedly some bad eggs, I've never had any problems there, so, as always, don't necessarily believe what you read - make your own minds up (this applies to everything in life).

Close but not quite, as Colden Common hit the inside of the post and the ball runs along the line before being cleared.
Both Paulsgrove and Colden Common had had a slow start to the season, but lately, both have been on excellent runs. Paulsgrove were last beaten in the league in mid-November, whilst their visitors hadn't lost since December 3rd. So, on paper, this looked like it could be a much better game than the mid-table positions of the two combatants suggested.

Common had a full complement of players, including several with recent Wessex League experience at Romsey Town and Whitchurch United, whilst Paulsgrove were struggling to fill their bench, with injuries and other availability issues causing problems for their management team. However, what the Grove lacked in strength in depth, they made up for in team spirit. Common were never given time to settle on the ball - there would always be a Grove player niggling away at their ankles or putting in a hefty (but fair) challenge.

The home side duly took the lead on 14 minutes when Harry Griffin picked up a through pass 35 yards out which bisected Common's centre-backs. He took ten strides forward and calmly stroked the ball past the onrushing keeper Ben Goble for his second goal in two games since signing for the club.

Common's best chance to equalise in the first half was caught on camera (above). It looked nailed on when Ben Thomson lofted the ball over the advancing keeper. But the ball hit the inside of the post and ran slowly back up the slope without crossing the line before a Grove defender got there first and smashed it away to safety. Cursed luck for the away side or good fortune for the home team? Take your pick. There was more to come at that end in the second half...

Common score from the halfway line. Beckham-esque!
The second half was the story of two contrasting goals - one sublime, the other highly controversial. Common had been pressing well and deserved an equaliser, but it came in an unexpected fashion after 57 minutes. Paulsgrove's goalie cleared the ball upfield, but it went straight to Common's midfield maestro Dave Egerton near the centre-circle. He glanced up, spotted the keeper off his line, and promptly lofted the ball back, one bounce, dead centre, net rippling, nice one!

And that could have been that in what was a very even game. There weren't a great number of chances as most of the action was concentrated in midfield. A draw looked likely, but on 85 minutes, it all kicked off. Paulsgrove's Josh Cripps took aim from the edge of the box. His shot bounced awkwardly in front of Goble, who got a hand to the ball, but not quite enough to stop it completely. It dribbled out of his grasp and as he desperately dived backwards to retrieve the ball...well, did it cross the line or not?

I'm neutral, so I'll present the evidence as I saw it:

The main exhibit is the photo below. If you zoom in on the goalkeeper, is there daylight between the ball and the goal-line? I honestly don't know!

Also in the photo, you can see two home supporters raising their arms in celebration. They obviously had a great view. Would they both be celebrating like that if the ball hadn't crossed the line? I think if they weren't sure, their hands might be on their heads or over their faces.

Paulsgrove's centre-forward is also celebrating, but did he have as good a view as the supporters? And was he holding up his hand more in hope than expectation? Again, I don't know!

The club linesman was on the right-hand side as we look. With the goalkeeper's body in the way, there is no way he could have seen whether the ball crossed the line or not, even if he was positioned perfectly in that split second.

Of course, the only person whose opinion really matters is the referee. As you can see from the photo, he had a small gap between the Paulsgrove player and the Common keeper through which he could see the ball. In his opinion, with the view that he had, the ball had crossed the line, so that should have been that. However, as Paulsgrove ran off for their celebratory hugs, the ref was surrounded by protesting Common players who insisted it wasn't a goal. Right-back Henry Bragginton (number 2 in the photo, who had a decent view of the situation) was sent off for arguing too vehemently.

As I say, I'm neutral, and I was obviously a long way away, so I'm not committing either way! The evidence is there in the photo. If you'd like to make up your own minds, feel free to do so, but the referee's decision is final, so nothing will change.

Blimey, it's like Match of the Day on here this week! Their pundits would have loved this!

Anyway, it was blooming cold, my fingers and feet were both numb, so I was glad the final whistle went a few minutes later. Back to the car (hubcaps still intact, unsurprisingly), and home to warm up in front of a roaring log fire.

Did it? Didn't it? Can't quite tell if the ball crossed the line here for the winning goal, but Paulsgrove's fans seem to think so.
I wasn't the only cameraman at Paulsgrove on Saturday. Colden Common are one of the few clubs in the Hampshire League with a dedicated lensman. His snaps and a match report may be seen on Common's website here. As I always do these days, I shall publish another 40 or so pictures on the Hopping Around Hampshire Facebook page later this evening.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm just popping out to visit my Great-Uncle Moneybags to change his will to make sure he's warm and comfortable, then on my way home, I need to pick up a Euro Millions lottery ticket. I'll be back on here in a fortnight, when I'll feature one of the two Wessex League grounds that I've yet to write about. (Unless I'm a multi-millionaire by then, in which case, it's all round mine for a paaaaartyyyyy!!!!)