Sunday, 3 December 2017

Hamble Club v Horndean

This way to FA Vase action...
I don't have time to write a long report this week. There's reasons, but I'm not going to tell you what they are. However, I was at Hamble Club yesterday and I took a few pictures, so I thought it would be remiss of me not to share some of them with you.

Consider this a "Picture Special". Normal service will be resumed after Christmas when I'm not quite so busy with life.

Pre-match handshakes.
Hamble Club FC (1) 2 v 1 (1) Horndean FC
Buildbase FA Vase Third Round Proper
Saturday 2nd December 2017
Attendance: 74
Admission: £5
Programme: £1
Colours: All yellow v All red
National Grid reference: SU4707

The yellow stand as it was in January 2017.
Hamble Club have expanded their little yellow stand since I last took photos at the ground. Above is a picture from January, whereas below is a picture from yesterday. Spot the difference! The original stand has had extensions added on both sides. On the left, as you look at it, are covered seats for away officials, whereas on the near side in the picture below is the longer extension which can be used by anybody. There are three rows of bench seats all the way along, giving enough covered shelter for well over 100 spectators in inclement weather.

Hamble Club's extended stand in December 2017.
Yesterday's match was an FA Vase Third Round Proper tie (the fifth round in all, including two preliminary rounds). Hamble Club entered this national competition for the first time ever this year, which means they've never been beaten in a competition at a national level (they'll be able to enter the FA Cup for the first time next season). Rivals from their Hampshire League days, Baffins Milton Rovers, have also entered the Vase for the first time this season - unfortunately, they lost 4-1 at Combined Counties League Horley Town yesterday.

This landscape shot captures the only blue sky of the afternoon.
This was opponents' Horndean's 20th attempt at reaching the latter stages of the competition. They'd never gone beyond the Third Round before (losing to Bemerton Heath Harlequins at this stage in 2012). Someone was going to be a record breaker by the end of the afternoon.

Horndean on the offensive...
It was to be the home side who extended their own best (only) effort, but not before they'd fallen behind to a spectacular Miles Everrett goal in the third minute. Everrett latched on to a bouncing ball 40 yards out and let fly. I was in the perfect position to capture goalkeeper Sam Webb's desperate attempt to keep the ball out of his net as it flew over his head...

...and Hamble Club on the attack.
...but I thought the ball was going over and wide, so I didn't bother taking a photo...

Hamble Club congratulate each other after Mo Nyang's equaliser.
Everyone in the ground was shocked when the ball dipped at the last moment, finding the top corner, an inch below the bar, an inch inside the post. I didn't even manage to photograph the celebrations because (a) I couldn't resist clapping and (b) there were so many Hamble players between me and the group hug. So much for this being a Picture Special...

Totally unnecessary fisheye effect as the teams emerge for the second period.
The man near me said that it had been "a game of two halves in the same half" as the interval approached. He was right - Horndean had dominated the opening twenty minutes, but Hamble had played their way back in to take the honours later in the half - literally, as Mo Nyang scored from close range to equalise in the 41st minute.

The second half was more end-to-end than the first. I couldn't call the result as either side could have scored the winner. It was the team in yellow who got it though, as Nathan Lynch looped a header in to the far corner after 64 minutes to win the tie. Hamble Club join Blackfield & Langley and Newport (IW) as the Wessex league's representatives in Monday's draw for the last 32, which will remain semi-regionalised before the competition goes fully national in February.

It wouldn't be right if I didn't finish off with the traditional arty shot...
More photos will be posted on the HAH Facebook page later today. There is a report from The Echo here.

Now I know how to write a match report in 15 minutes flat! I'll make more effort next time, I promise. HAH will be back after Christmas. Have a fun few weeks.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Netley Central Sports v Infinity

A stylised Netley Abbey upon a shield. Now that's a proper badge!

We all have them. Little everyday irritations. You'll have your own, no doubt, and some of them may coincide with mine, but we're all different, so we'll agree to differ on certain subjects. I'm a Marmite and liquorice kind of guy; you're a Brussels sprout and parsnip kind of person. I'm not going to change my mind, and you won't be changing yours, so if we meet, let's just get on and enjoy the things we have in common whilst we're together.

However, as I'm in charge here (above the comments line, anyway), I'm going to let you know some of my bugbears in case we ever do have a chinwag - I have them all on a spreadsheet, so I can order them if I want to and delete them if I mellow with age (unlikely). Here's some of the worst:

  •  Let's start with the workplace, and people who "build their own personal brand". I'm well aware that's what we're all supposed to do to get on in life - create a slightly over-the-top LinkedIn profile, dress to impress, talk quite loudly using buzzwords to cover up the fact that we don't really know what we're talking about, mingle with influencers, make out we're having a more interesting time than we really are on social media...I know how to do it, but just count me out. I'm me. I don't have a personal brand. Take me or leave me, but don't ever accuse me of having a personal brand.
  • Related to the world of work, there are many many phrases that irritate me - "Assume makes an ass out of you and me", "There's no I in team", and so on. And then there are the people who have scrums instead of meetings...

A pair of Infinity players encourage one another as they emerge from the changing rooms.
Netley Central Sports FC (1) 2 v 0 (0) Infinity FC
Trophyman Southampton Divisional FA Senior Cup Third Round
Saturday 18th November 2017
Attendance: 20-ish
Admission: No
Programme: No
Colours: Blue with white sash / blue / blue v All yellow
National Grid reference: SU4508

Danny Phillips on the attack for Infinity.
Carrying on with the irritations...

  • I mentioned scrums. Well, rugby union is right up there on my list. I Just Don't Understand It. I know it's photogenic, I know they're all supposed to be gentlemen (even the players who gouge other players' eyes?!), but I will never ever understand the rules or the general appeal.
  • People who say "Confused dot com" instead of "Confused". Don't do it.
  • People who call Berkshire the "M4 Corridor". It's Berkshire.
  • Dog owners who let their pets slobber all over my crotch when I walk across the park so that I have to go home to change my trousers, and then say "he's only playing!"
  • Pub quiz cheaters. What's the point of entering a quiz and then looking up all the answers on a smartphone? It's the equivalent of doping in sport. Beyond annoying for all the other teams who do it "clean".
  • Premiership football and the tedious circus that surrounds it. Do I really have to explain this one?
There are many more irritations on my spreadsheet, and they grow almost daily. It's an age thing.

Matthew Watts scores Netley's first whilst a man checks his phone on the balcony of one of the flats overlooking the Rec.
Footballers and the people who run the clubs that they play for will have their big irritations as well, and I'm sure a lot of them will be similar to one another. At the level that I watched on Saturday, with a match being played on a village recreation ground, there's the doggy doo on the pitch. Probably left by the same dog that slobbered all over my trousers. Two of the most useful tools in the groundsman's arsenal are his poop scoop and bucket. Sure enough, there was a foul, steaming lump discovered in the penalty box before kick-off at Netley Central Sports, delaying the start by a few minutes. Not nice. Had the dog owner never heard of poobags?

Then there's the more general irritations suffered by the players, all dutifully recorded by pros in Shoot!'s Focus On... feature during the 1970s, 80s and early 90s. Biggest Drag In Soccer or Miscellaneous Dislikes is where they would record the fact that they didn't like losing, bad refs, or going shopping with the missus. If you search the internet, you will find some...

  • Glenn Hoddle didn't like flying or losing to Wrexham.
  • Alan Biley loved punk, but disliked ignorant people.
  • Frank Worthington's biggest disappointment was not getting the lead role in The Incredible Hulk. Me too!

One for the Crap Football Photos Twitter account. They don't like unnecessary filters or slightly out of focus players or refs.
But I digress (to be honest, I've spent the last seven years on HAH digressing. One day, I'll actually write an entire piece about a football match...). Saturday's trip was to the recreation ground in the centre of Netley, a village to the south of Southampton (to my readers in the north - yes, there are places further south than Southampton). It's a typical village rec - there's a playground, a basketball/games court and one of those new-fangled outdoor exercise facilities that look like a playground, but are meant for adults to do "steps" or whatever. And there's doggy doo bins, thank goodness.

The roped off football pitch is raised above the rest of the field and is fairly flat. There's a drop of two metres or so behind the far goal, which means you can effectively watch a game at pitch level at that end. There are six floodlight poles, but no evidence that they work, as the match was played entirely in daylight. The changing rooms look fairly new, and have a tea hatch on the right-hand side as you look at it. 50p for a cuppa. Good value.

All in all, a perfectly acceptable venue for a local cup game.

Matthew Watts does the aeroplane celebration after scoring his and Netley's second.
The competition was the Southampton Divisional FA's Senior Cup, and both clubs had reached the last 16. Now, this is normally contested by men's football clubs within the local FA's area, from approximately the level that teams like Winchester City and AFC Totton play, down to Southampton Saturday League sides, with the final being a potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the players to play at St Mary's Stadium. But this season is extra-special, as the competition is 100 years old, and Southampton FC have entered and are competing for the trophy. Granted, not the first team, but their under-23s. Still, even their u23s are good enough to stick 12 past Hampshire Premier League side QK Southampton, so they're clear favourites to lift the trophy.

Netley Central Sports play in Division One of the Hampshire Premier Football League (level 12 in the English football pyramid), whereas Saturday's opponents, Infinity FC, play one level higher in the same league's Senior Division. Thus, pre-match, a win for Netley would be unexpected.

What is this? The Matthew Watts Fan Club Page? Even goalscoring heroes have to tuck the corner flags away in a safe place at this level!
As it turned out, Netley were the better side on the day. They wanted it more. Listening to the people following the two clubs, this was Netley's best performance of the season, and conversely, it was Infinity's worst. But that's cup football for you. If the lower-ranked team play at their limits, they'll usually have a chance.

Netley took the lead two minutes after they'd hit the post, in the 37th minute. It had been coming. A cross came in from the right which Infinity failed to clear. Matthew Watts was in acres of space 10 yards out on the left. He thwacked the ball low and hard with his right peg into the opposite corner. Big smiles on the faces of the team in blue. They definitely wanted it.

Infinity have several experienced ex-Wessex League players on their books. A lot of people tipped them to do well in pre-season, but they showed little evidence of their collective pedigree on Saturday. The closest they came was hitting the base of the post early in the second half. But if anybody was going to score another goal, it was Netley, and so it was after 75 minutes when Watts was played through the centre. He ran on and slid the ball past Infinity's keeper to make it 2-0.

The same two sides meet again this coming Saturday at Netley in the quarter-finals of the league cup. Will the result go the same way? Netley are the lowest-ranked club left in both the Southampton FA Senior Cup and the Hampshire Premier League Cup. They have a good team which is also challenging for promotion - but they can't be promoted unless they buy some dugouts and have hard standing laid along at least one side of the pitch, which the council will have to approve. But at least they're still going, which wasn't a foregone conclusion as they nearly folded in the summer through lack of funds. They were saved at the eleventh hour by a sponsor coming in and putting enough cash in for them to start the season. It's never easy at this level, whether it's doggy doo in the box, or no money for kits and equipment. I hope they can carry on for a few more seasons yet.

Study of Autumn Leaves and a Goal Net.
In the next round of the cup (the quarter-finals), Netley Central Sports will play host to Wessex League Lymington Town, which will be extremely tough, with Lymmo playing three levels higher. But if Netley are at their very best, who knows? Further north, Saints u23s will travel to Winchester City.

I mentioned the Focus On... feature in Shoot! earlier. You can find a few examples of this in a book about goalkeepers that's just been published, called Glove Story. The book was co-written by Rob Stokes, who some of you may remember was Waterlooville's man between the sticks during the 1990s. There are some of my pictures in the book, including one of my dad's old quilted keeper's jersey which adorns the front cover and spine. Another one of my photos fills two pages later in the book. Wessex League followers will recognise the colourful goalposts of Bournemouth Poppies taken during a match against Fareham Town a couple of seasons ago. I know I'm biased, but I really do recommend this book - it's a cracking read! Glove Story can be ordered in time for Christmas from here.

More pictures from Netley will be added to the HAH Facebook page this evening.

Next time, I shall either be following one of our local clubs in the FA Vase, or I shall report on a game from the Hampshire FA Intermediate Cup. I'll decide nearer December 2nd. Thanks for reading. In the meantime, I assume HAH hasn't made it on to your personal Irritation Spreadsheet...

Monday, 6 November 2017

Bishop's Waltham Dynamos v Overton United

The long walk from the dressing rooms.
I've recently been reading about artificial intelligence and the rise of machine learning. Scary stuff.

I'm sure most people are aware of how they're targeted by automated algorithms in various places on the internet, whether that's for advertising purposes or for more sinister reasons, from the simple "If you like James Blunt, then you will probably also enjoy Cannibal Corpse" on Amazon and similar sites (I may have got that one slightly wrong...), to the shady opinion-swaying advertorials from corporate-backed so-called "thinktanks" that appear on our Facebook feeds because we once clicked "Like" on a meme about chain smoking kittens.

But now the machines are coming and we're all going to have to learn new skills to survive - unless you're a meat-packer or a chief executive of a multinational company, in which case, you can carry on as you are.

Bishop's Waltham Dynamos gathering their thoughts before kick-off as the rain clouds glower down on those below.
Bishop's Waltham Dynamos FC (1) 1 v 4 (2) Overton United FC
UK Office Systems Hampshire FA Intermediate Cup
Saturday 4th November 2017
Attendance: About 20
Admission: No
Programme: No
Colours: Yellow / red / red v Blue and white stripes / white / blue
National Grid reference: SU5417

Dynamos come close to doubling their early lead, but this shot was saved.
I was reading a report with an infographic which shows you the likelihood of your job being done by machines over the next 15 years or so. I found mine, and apparently, there's an 87% chance that my job will be done by a deep learning trained robot before I retire - and they're pretty good odds compared to some. If you work in a job that is routine and repetitive, your days are probably numbered - this group includes telemarketers, accountants and shopworkers; if, on the other hand, your work involves creativity or empathy, you'll probably be okay.

Of course, new jobs will be created by this new technology, but the worry this time (compared to previous technological revolutions) is that nearly every sector will be affected at the same time, because machine learning can be applied universally and it's developing so rapidly. So many people will become superfluous at the same time, with not enough jobs left to go round.

I already refuse to use the automated checkouts in supermarkets (that used to be someone's job!), and I shall in the near future refuse to use automated vehicles that have put human drivers on the scrapheap. I'll do my bit.

Equaliser for Overton as Steve Price heads in.
Footballers will be safe from this unstoppable tidal wave of automation. At least, the creative ones will be. Not so sure about the routine, repetitive Tony Pulis teams, mind. We're going to have an awful lot of leisure time in the near future, so luckily we'll still have our sport, whether we're playing it or watching it.

With my playing days long since over, I'll carry on getting my dose of fresh air on a Saturday afternoon whilst listening to 22 muddy blokes in their twenties and thirties yelling "Do we want this boys?!", "Left shoulder!" and "In the hole!" to each other.

This week, it was a trip to the small Meon Valley town of Bishop's Waltham, the home of Jeff "And that's the first goal Stranraer have conceded in over 800 minutes of football" Stelling. It's a pleasant place, bigger than nearby Colden Common, and ten times larger than neighbouring Upham, both of whom have Hampshire Premier League football teams.

Jonnie Gurney weaves his way through the Dynamos defence on his way to scoring Overton's second.
Bishop's Waltham also used to have a team in the Hampshire League, and not so long ago. Bishop's Waltham Town finished as Division One runners-up in 1992-93, which is as high as they ever managed. They spent a couple of seasons at the bottom end of the expanded Wessex League a decade or so ago before resigning during 2006-07. They were then absorbed by Sporting BTC and played on for another five seasons before changing their name to Sporting Bishop's Waltham for four seasons before reverting back to Bishop's Waltham Town in 2013-14, when they folded mid-season for a second time.

The "new" senior team in the town is Bishop's Waltham Dynamos, who were previously a junior side with a large number of children's teams. The Dynamos senior men's team have been working their way up the Southampton Saturday League. They were promoted to the top division last season as champions, and going in to this game, they were leading the table with just a single defeat so far.

Overton United keeping dry during the half-time team talk.
Dynamos' opponents on Saturday were Overton United, who play two steps higher in the Hampshire Premier Football League Senior Division, so it was an intriguing "David v Goliath" match-up (sort of!). The competition was the Hampshire FA Intermediate Cup, which I featured in the previous round when Warsash Wasps took on Clanfield.

This tie turned out to be a little closer than the match at Warsash (it finished 5-1 to Clanfield there). Indeed, for the first quarter of the game, Dynamos looked the more likely winners. They took the lead on the heavy pitch after 5 minutes, when James Cox shot towards the bottom left of the goal, which Overton's keeper anticipated, but a deflection directed the ball in to the opposite corner.

Dynamos then had several chances to double their lead before Overton equalised after 26 minutes. Steve Price got his head to a corner ball near the penalty spot. There was no stopping that one as it flew between keeper Fin Taylor and the defender guarding the post.

It had been overcast and gloomy since kick-off, but now the rain started to fall intermittently. The only cover at Bishop's Waltham's Priory Park is the shelter offered by trees surrounding the pitch on three sides (if you count the trees lining the track on the near side as you enter the complex). Those who had come prepared with wellies and umbrellas were the wise ones.

A cheeky peak over the hedge.
The rain didn't bother the players, least of all Overton's Johnnie Gurney, who had already had a couple of probes at the Dynamos defence. After 41 minutes, he received the ball near the centre-circle and went on a weaving run. Past one defender, past another, then another until he reached the edge of the box. No panic. No problem, as he slipped the ball under the advancing keeper. "That's the difference between these two teams - they just have that little bit of extra quality when they need it" as I was told by a bystander.

The extra quality allied to the confidence boost of going a goal up just before half-time meant that the away side were in almost complete control during the second half. Gurney and Price both scored again, each from close range, to keep their travelling support happy. They progressed to the last 32 of the competition with their 4-1 victory, whereas Dynamos can concentrate on the league. If they play as well for the rest of the season as they did for the first twenty minutes here, they may well make it two championships in a row come April time.

The next round of this cup is due to be played on December 2nd. Overton United will travel to Montefiore Halls (another Southampton Saturday League club who play at Wide Lane in Eastleigh).

The sun comes out for the first time all afternoon just as it's time to go home.
Rereading the opening couple of paragraphs, I feel I must apologise for being such a miserable old goat, but I'm not changing it all now. Everything will be fine. It always is.

For the last two HAH's before Christmas, I'm going to feature two more cup games (making it an entire half-season of knockout matches - no idea if I can keep that up from January until the end of the season...). The next one will be a Southampton Senior Cup tie on November 18th, then something on December 2nd - the Hampshire Intermediate Cup clashes with the FA Vase, and I can only choose one! I may throw that one open to a vote on the HAH Facebook page.

Speaking of which, there will be another 40 or so pictures from Bishop's Waltham on there before bedtime tonight.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Baffins Milton Rovers v Radstock Town

The sign by the entrance at Baffins Milton Rovers.
You know that you've been doing something a long time when things that didn't even exist when you first started doing that thing not only exist but are doing very well indeed. I've got used to having workmates that weren't even born when I started work. It's only a matter of time now before I have a manager or a supervisor that's younger than my own children.

In football, at first it's quite exciting when you're 16 or 17 and players your age start breaking in to the first teams at big clubs. Then you get used to it in your twenties and you watch entire teams that are of the same generation as you. You grow up with them, feel their joy when things are going well, and their pain when they lose. If they play for your team, you might bump in to them at the local pub or club and share a beer with them and have a bit of banter (yes, it used to happen).

Then your generation start retiring, and suddenly you're desperately searching around to find that long-serving right-back at Mansfield Town, or the evergreen goalie who's warming the bench at his twenty-third professional club...the last two players in the entire Football League who are still older than you...

...And then you reach the age at which all the referees are younger than you and you have to accept that you're no Spring chicken any more.

The last turnstile from Fratton Park.
Baffins Milton Rovers FC (0) 1 v 0 (0) Radstock Town FC
Saturday 21st October 2017
Buildbase FA Vase First Round Proper
Attendance: 105
Admission: £5
Programme: £1 (I think - it may have been £6 admission with a free programme, not sure)
Colours: All blue v All red
National Grid reference: SU6703

Directors seats in the stand.
And so it goes with Hopping Around Hampshire. I've been doing this since January 2011, and guess what? Baffins Milton Rovers didn't even exist back then! Since forming later that year (as an amalgamation of two successful Sunday sides - Baffins Milton and Baffins Rovers), they have been Hampshire Premier Football League champions twice (in 2013-14 and 2015-16). They also won the league cup in the year that they failed to win the league.

Promotion to the Wessex League was obtained when their ground was deemed good enough. Last season, they scored 128 goals in 40 matches to finish runners-up behind Hamble Club to secure promotion to the Wessex Premier at the first attempt. This was the third season in a row that they had scored over 100 league goals. They reached the League Cup final at the first attempt as well, losing 2-1 to Sholing on a dry and bumpy pitch at AFC Portchester in May of this year.

This season, they have entered a national competition for the first time. Clubs have to spend at least one season playing in the FA Vase before they can compete in the FA Cup, so next year, there should be another "first" for the club as they enter the country's most famous competition for the initial time. In the meantime, they've beaten Cowes Sports and Selsey to reach the First Round Proper of the Vase.

FA Vase gold at the end of the rainbow for Baffins on Saturday.
In contrast to the newness of Baffins, Western League opponents Radstock Town (near-neighbours of Paulton Rovers, who I featured a few weeks ago) are a relatively ancient club, being formed in 1895. They've been competing in the FA Vase since 1975, but they'd never played a club from Hampshire in the competition before. I'll stick my neck out and say that Saturday was the furthest east they'd ever travelled to play a game in this competition (although they'd gone slightly further east in 1986 to play Havant Town in the FA Cup...).

If these two clubs were in the pop charts (yes, such a thing does still exist), Baffins would be the new kid on the block, say, Marshmello, and Radstock would be someone old and respectable...someone like Cliff Richard perhaps? If he's respectable? Not sure. How about Elton John then? Or Gilbert O'Sullivan? Is there anyone who is both old and respectable?!

Radstock Town win out on this occasion.
Baffins moved to their new ground in the summer of 2015. They moved all of one hundred yards from the pitch next door which is under the shadow of a giant adult's climbing frame (see the photos on the HAH Facebook page to view this structure). They shared these facilities by the Langstone Harbour wall with a local cricket club. It made sense to move if they were ever to progress, so with the backing of  their major sponsors Kendall (based at the wharf just to the north of the ground) and some grant money, they've been developing the new ground ever since. (It looked like this in August 2015).

As you enter, you click through the last of the turnstiles from Fratton Park (I wonder if it's the one that my dad used to lift me over to get me in to the ground for free back in the day?). There's another old Fratton Park turnstile at Havant & Waterlooville, but I don't know the whereabouts of the rest of them.

To the right are temporary buildings for changing rooms, a bar/kitchen and a toilet. There's a new, more permanent structure being built which will be the new clubhouse. I suspect this will be open for business before the end of the season.

There's a gate which prevents access to the far side of the ground (making the stadium effectively three-sided, despite the fact there's hard-standing down the Eastern Road side of the ground). On the harbour side is a brand new homemade, roofed two-step terrace (which came in handy when rain fell in the second half). Next to this is a 120 seat stand with black and white tip-up plastic seats. All very impressive, as this was just a roped-off playing field two years ago.

The 120-seater stand and the new terrace at Baffins Milton Rovers.
The match was a game of attrition, as games between Wessex and Western League sides often are. There was nothing dirty, just everyone putting in their all in difficult, windy conditions, thanks to Storm Brian literally blowing a gale. Victims of Storm Brian included one of the corner flags, which blew over just before the match started, and several foam scaffold protectors which had been placed over the railings, presumably to prevent injury to any spectators that happen to be leaning on them. One or two of these lengths of foam fluttered on to the pitch during play before deciding that they actually felt a little safer where they'd come from and returned to the barriers like shy and regretful cockapoos.

There was little meaningful action for the first half-hour as players got used to the conditions. Goal-kicks from one end would fly out for a goal-kick at the other end unless the keeper took a little tap-kick, whilst kicking in to the wind too high meant that the ball would swing round at alarming angles and nobody could predict where it would come down again.

Eventually, the shots on target started arriving, with Radstock, with Storm Brian behind them, having the majority of efforts. Tom Boyle, Baffins' England Deaf international keeper, had to get down smartly a couple of times to prevent the team from Somerset going ahead before half-time.

The second half carried on in much the same vein, but this time Baffins had the wind behind them. To the permanent background sound of whistles coming from the rigging of the yachts in the neighbouring boatyard (home to the likes of Basil and Bagpuss...), the home side pressed on looking for what increasingly looked like the single goal which would bring victory.

After 70 minutes, the breakthrough came. A low ball through the middle caught Radstock's goalie by surprise. It must have moved in the wind, as he fumbled on the edge of his area. Joel Jackson was there to pick up the dropped ball, and he couldn't miss the resultant open goal from 15 yards. Cue elaborate celebrations - some sort of dance moves (to an imaginary Marshmello tune?) followed by handshakes and hair ruffles with his team-mates, followed by high-fives with the fans behind the goal.

Joel Jackson gives high fives to the supporters behind the goal after scoring the winner.
A hard-fought but deserved victory for Baffins at the height of Storm Brian. Their reward is another home tie, this time against struggling South West Peninsula League side Cullompton Rangers, who caused one of the major upsets of the round by winning away at AFC Portchester on Saturday.

The other Hampshire clubs that remain in the Vase after Saturday's ties are amongst the final 128 clubs that survive nationwide. The Second Round Proper will be played on Saturday 11th November. Unfortunately, due to family commitments, I won't be at any of the following games...but you could be! Other than Baffins, here are the fixtures:

Christchurch v Fareham Town
Team Solent v Tavistock
Exmouth Town v Blackfield & Langley (for the second season running!)
Sholing v Wellington
Hamble Club v Brockenhurst
Portland United or Horndean v Royal Wootton Bassett Town

Also in the draw from the Wessex League are Newport (IW), who will be home to Hengrove Athletic.

The round after this one is due to be played on December 2nd, so I'm hoping a few of "our" sides get through so I can feature one of them that weekend.

England international Tom Boyle gives the thumbs up as he leaves the pitch.
There was a photographer from Radstock Town at the match. I assume he was concentrating on taking pictures of his team. I focussed mainly on the Baffins players. More of my photos can be found on the Hopping Around Hampshire Facebook page, which can be found here. Sholing's Keith Legg has added pictures from his club's tie at Highworth Town on the same page. If anybody else has photos of their own Hampshire-based club, feel free to post them there. I'd be interested in seeing them, as would a few others.

For the next HAH (on November 4th), I'll be back on the trail of the Hampshire Intermediate Cup, at one of our local recreation ground-based clubs. See you in a fortnight.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Warsash Wasps v Clanfield

The entrance to Warsash Rec, the home of Warsash Wasps men's team.
I know I keep harking back to the old days, but I feel I need to just one more time. There's a new book about goalkeepers coming out soon, and the keeper's jersey I used to wear at school is on the front cover! I mean, it wasn't really mine - it was my dad's - but I wore it as a kind of retro hand-me-down as the school goalie. It was one of those quilted efforts from the early 1960s, an original Umbro - probably worth a fortune on the black market these days.

*Checks Ebay...confirms NOT worth a fortune*

Anyway, this green jersey was massive and exceedingly baggy on the 10-year-old me (now an exceedingly tight fit on middle-aged me), but I put in some of my finest performances wearing it. Digging it out earlier this year to take photos of it for the book, I noticed an original 1970s stain down the front. Probably a Toast Topper stain. I must have worn the shirt home and had a bite to eat between the end of school and a match against Front Lawn or Cowplain or Riders or Trosnant or Bidbury or whoever our opponents had been that week.

I suppose it could have been the yolk from a fried egg. I ate a lot of fried egg sandwiches in those days.

The head of football at our junior school was Mr Wade. I remember him being as tall as my mate Ben...Ben Nevis, but then all adults towered over me at that time. Mr Wade must have put in a lot of unpaid overtime to run the school football team, but surely he enjoyed doing it? I wonder if there is still a football team at my old school in Havant? Checking their website, there's no mention of football...

Warsash Wasps being led out by today's official, Mr Michael Thomas.
Warsash Wasps SFC (1) 1 v 5 (3) Clanfield FC
Saturday 7th October 2017
Hampshire FA Men's Intermediate Cup First Round
Attendance: People came and went throughout the match, but other than me, I think it would be fair to say that two men and a dog were the only spectators who were there from beginning to end.
Admission: Free
Programme: No
Colours: Yellow and black stripes / black / black v White / yellow / yellow
National Grid reference: SU4905

A lonely-looking club lino waits for something to do as the spire of St Mary's Church peeps out from amongst the houses behind him.
With the decline of football in schools, independent clubs were needed to fill the void. This is where clubs like Warsash Wasps come in. They were formed in 1977 specifically to provide football for children. They have a brand new facility in the village dedicated to their youth teams, just a couple of hundred yards down the road from the recreation ground where the men's first team play.

They currently have 28 teams for boys and girls, ranging from three under-9 sides up to the under-18s. From there, the by-now young men and women can progress to their respective adult teams if they wish to do so.

Of course, they're not the only club to serve their local community in this way. Many other clubs whose adult teams play in local leagues also have thriving youth sections - Warsash Wasps' opponents on Saturday, Clanfield FC, provide a similar service to their village. If I'm reincarnated upon my death and return as a 10-year-old boy, I might well play for one of my local youth teams rather than my school now. Mind you, I'd probably wear a more up-to-date keeper's jersey. I don't think I could stand the inevitable teasing if I turned up in my dad's old shirt again.

When I said that the attendance consisted of two men and a dog, I was forgetting the eight boys and their bicycles...
So the Warsash Wasps men's first team play on a recreation ground in the middle of the village. There were rumours that Gordon Strachan used to live nearby whilst he was the manager at Saints. Maybe he still does, for all I know. Perhaps he occasionally strolls up to the rec to take a game in. If he has a dog, he might even bring it along and join all the other dog walkers who visit the rec during one of Wasps' games.

There's no so-called football furniture at the rec - no terraces, no seating (unless you count the park benches that are dotted around the place), no floodlights, no railings, and so on. The only shelter was used by the local children as a climbing frame during Saturday's match. You can see them sitting atop the shelter in the picture above. They moved over to the other side of the pitch later on and congregated in the playground instead.

Penalty to the Wasps!
It's funny that an ex-Saints manager should live in Warsash, because it's really border country between Southampton and Portsmouth here. To the west, over the River Hamble, there's no question that the majority of football fans support Southampton FC, whereas a couple of miles east, in Fareham, Pompey fans are undoubtedly in the ascendancy. Around here, in the badlands of the Locks Heath / Warsash / Swanwick and Sarisbury area of Solent City, the fans of both clubs live side by side. Neil Cotton of Row Z ran a survey on this subject three years ago. You can see his results here.

What is for certain is that Warsash Wasps play in the Southampton Saturday Football League at Senior 1 level (the second tier of this league). They've not had the best of starts, with only one win from their first four matches. Whereas Saturday's opponents, Clanfield, are comfortably ensconsed in mid-table in the Hampshire Premier Football League. There is a three level gap between the two clubs - the equivalent of a team near the bottom of League Two taking on a mid-table Premiership club - say, Yeovil Town v Stoke City. Realistically, you might expect Yeovil to beat Stoke one time in every twenty - this was the extent of the task facing the Wasps.

The cup competition that the two sides were playing in was the Hampshire FA Intermediate Cup - open to clubs from the Hampshire League downwards in the pyramid, ending at Warsash's level. It's a mixture of Hampshire League clubs and those from the various city-based leagues from around the county, plus clubs from the Isle of Wight, plus a sprinkling of reserve sides from the Wessex League and other places. Last season, the Island's Whitecroft & Barton Sports beat Locks Heath in the final.

Not a penalty! As Clanfield's Brown evades Collier's tackle.
Is it wrong to borrow someone else's match report without asking them first? Probably, but I don't know how to contact John, the author of the following report. We spoke last season at Upham, and he was the man without a dog on Saturday. He posted this report to Tony's Non-League Forum. I've added in one or two names cribbed from the team sheets and made a couple of other minor edits, otherwise this is all his work. Thank you John. If you read this, I hope you don't mind:

"Turned up at Bishop's Waltham but no game on, so decided to watch Warsash Wasps v Clanfield instead. Lively start by both sides but Clanfield won a succession of corners and took the lead from a short corner played to the far post and the ball was headed across goal and slotted home by the Clanfield full back Frankie Cole. Minutes later Clanfield doubled their lead when Josh Hazell launched a long throw in into the penalty area which was headed beyond the keeper by Harry Potter. Warsash had shown some promising moves and their number 10 Chalk rode one challenge in the penalty area but was tripped by a second challenge and the referee awarded a penalty converted by Gibson who found the bottom corner of the net. Any chance of a Warsash recovery was dashed from another Clanfield set piece when an identical short corner was headed by Andy Brown over the keeper and into the net. HT 1-3.

At the start of the second half Clanfield increased their lead when Potter struck a fierce long range shot which Warsash's keeper Moylan seemed to have covered, but he failed to keep the ball out at the near post. Warsash kicking down the slope and with the wind behind them tried to get back in to the game but Clanfield's keeper Chris Clark dived to block a powerful goal bound shot which was heading for the far corner. Another effort went over the bar and a couple of chances went wide of the posts. At the other end the Warsash keeper redeemed himself with some outstanding saves from close range, tipping one shot onto the bar and getting down low to save the follow up. Warsash cleared a couple of efforts off the line as they pushed forward and finally conceded a fifth goal after the Warsash keeper reacted to block a Clanfield strike at the near post but the ball fell to Clanfield substitute Cam Palin who slotted the ball home."

A straw woman was the day's most curious spectator.
At the start of John's report, he mentions that he turned up to Bishop's Waltham, but there was no game on (presumably because the opposition couldn't raise a side). This is a huge problem at this level. There has been a massive decline in participation over the last few years. So many clubs at the real grass roots level have folded due to lack of players. It wasn't very long ago that the Southampton Saturday League had over ten divisions. This season, there are only six. Entire leagues have folded because they've simply run out of teams.

57 teams entered the Hampshire Intermediate Cup this season. In the first round, consisting of 48 fixtures, there were 17 walkovers where one club couldn't fulfil their fixture for one reason or another. I'm not going to speculate at the reasons behind this decline - there will be many different factors involved - but the fact remains, if there are no players, there will be no football. If there is nobody to run a club, that club folds. Once enough clubs die, the leagues lose another division. Once all the divisions within a league have gone, there is no league. If there are any players left, there is nowhere for them to play.

In the meantime, the Premier League will carry on as if nothing is happening.

Time to tidy away the goals until they're needed again.
Clanfield will host Christchurch Reserves in the Second Round of the Hampshire FA Intermediate Cup on November 4th. I may well feature another match from the same competition on HAH from the same day.

I shall publish another 40 or so pictures from this game on the HAH Facebook page later this evening. I need a nice cup of tea before I do that though.

I nearly forgot to mention the name of the new goalie book! It's called Glove Story, and it comes out on November 7th. You can access the publisher's website by clicking here. It's by the same authors as the Got Not Got series of books, which some of you might be familiar with. It would make a grand Christmas present for the between the sticks custodian in your life.

Next time on HAH, I'll be featuring an FA Vase tie being played on October 21st. I haven't made up my mind which game to feature, so no clues this time. See you in a fortnight.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Godalming Town v Brockenhurst

Scarves for sale at Godalming Town (and mugs, programmes and pin badges!).
Wow! Just wow! It's not even October yet and already I've seen my best game of the season! Although, to be honest, that's often the case at this time of the year. The early rounds of the FA Cup and Vase tend to produce some of the most dramatic matches in any given season. For the players, it must be the lure of Wembley glory (or even just the prospect of testing themselves against relatively big clubs from outside of their usual region). Do they try harder, or is that merely my imagination? Or is it that cup matches are just more exciting than bread and butter league encounters, for the players and followers of the sport? Then there's pride at stake for the league if you're playing a club from another region. Adrenaline is a notch or two higher than normal. It's a heady mix.

It had looked like the most straightforward of wins for Brock. Wingers Will Tickle and Mark Barker had spent the first half tormenting Godalming's full-backs. They had been jinking and jetting past their unfortunate opponents, crossing and shooting at will. Aaron Dunne had scored the Badgers' overdue first after 20 minutes, heading in from Barker's free-kick. Matt Sheedy added the second ten minutes later after Tickle's cross had been blocked and rebounded to him ten yards out. And then there was a third in stoppage time from Mitchell-Carlton Speechley-Price.

Brock were absolutely cruising in to the next round. No problem at all.

The main stand at Godalming Town FC.
Godalming Town FC (1) 3 v 5 (3) Brockenhurst FC
Buildbase FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round
Saturday 23rd September 2017
Attendance: 80-100
Admission: £6
Programme: £2 (the best I've seen at this level for quite some time)
Colours: Yellow / green / yellow v All blue
National Grid reference: SU9844

Tiny homemade shelter at Wey Court.
And then Godalming got one back.

It was 45+4 - the "plus 4" being time added on due to a double sending off after 34 minutes. I didn't see the incident, but according to my source in the stand, there had been a "coming together of heads", "handbags" and "nothing much to it". However, the end result was that Godalming's Hakim Griffiths and Brock's Tommy Barnes both took the walk of shame back to the dressing rooms.

During the Plus 4, Godalming's debutant Robert Webbe scored via the back of his head. It was 3-1 at half-time and Brock should still have been comfortable.

Mark Barker attempts to round Aaron Bufton in Godalming's penalty area.
But it wasn't comfortable at all, not at all. The Combined Counties Premier Division side began playing with more poise and confidence after the break. The clock ticked round to 58 minutes and my "last goal scored" raffle ticket's time was up. Sadly, the entire minute was taken up with a substitution for the home side. I've still never won a football raffle...

Shortly after this, Ben Cotton weaved his way through Brock's defence, rounded goalkeeper Matty Taylor and side-footed home to make it 2-3. Time for the home side to pick the ball out of the net and run with urgency up to the centre-spot, slam it down and keep believing they could complete an unlikely comeback.

Brockenhurst were visibly nervous at this point with Godalming's tails well and truly up. They couldn't get a third. Could they?

The answer to this question was "yes", but in an unexpected manner. With 15 minutes remaining, Webbe floated in a corner...and the ball seemed to cross the line without anyone touching it. There may have been a slight deflection, but I didn't see one from the far end where I was stood. 3-3 with a goal straight from a corner. Now, would there be extra-time and a possible replay, or could one of the combatants snatch a late victory?

Goalmouth scramble but no goal on this occasion.
I needed a good memory to take away from this part of the world. The last time I'd been in the Godalming/Farncombe area (Godalming Town actually play in Farncombe), I'd been in the school hockey team (goalkeeper, naturally), and for some reason, we had an away fixture against one of England's most expensive public schools, Charterhouse, which is a mile or two distant from Wey Court.

You'd have thought that you'd be able to leave your valuables in the changing rooms at Charterhouse with impunity, what with the public school ethos of fair play and honesty and so on and so forth. I mean, compared to some of the rough, tough schools I played at in both the hockey and football teams, none of whom ever caused us any bother...

But come full-time and a creditable 2-2 draw against the future captains of industry and grandees of the Tory party, we returned to the dressing rooms and we'd been ransacked! My bus fare home, all 15p of it, gone! But worst of all, I'd bought a 7 inch vinyl record on my way to school that morning - Turning Japanese by the Vapors - and the thief had broken it. Not stolen it, but worse, broken it!

Henceforth, from that moment, I became a Communist.

The inevitable arty pic.
I needed a good memory from my trip to Surrey, and Brockenhurst's Speechley-Price provided it with six minutes remaining. He'd been a painful presence all afternoon and looked the most likely to score. And score he did. Chasing a ball played through the centre, he reached the edge of the 18 yard box and shot low and hard. The ball looped up off a stretching defender, leaving Bufton helpless as it bounced over the line and in.

People sometimes ask me if I have any favourites from the 50 or 60 clubs that I cover on here, and I usually go all coy and say "no comment" or words to that effect, but I found myself punching the air when that fourth goal went in, so yeah, I'll admit it, Brock are one of my favourite teams.

Unlike my children, I don't love everyone equally.

With Godalming chasing another equaliser, Speechley-Price was played through the middle again with two minutes remaining. This time he shot earlier, arcing the ball way over Bufton's outstretched arms to make it 5-3 for what was, in the end, a deserved victory for the club from the New Forest.

Mitchell-Carlton Speechley-Price celebrates scoring his second and Brock's fourth of the afternoon, as well as having the longest name in the Wessex League.
So Brockenhurst progressed on what turned out to be a very good day for Wessex League clubs against sides from surrounding leagues. They'll be playing at home to South West Peninsula League side Crediton United in the First Round Proper on October 21st. Here are the fixtures for the remaining Hampshire clubs:

AFC Portchester v Cullompton Rangers
Highworth Town v Sholing
Westbury United v United Services Portsmouth
Romsey Town v Hamble Club
Portland United v Horndean
Fareham Town v Ivybridge Town
Baffins Milton Rovers v Radstock Town
Hengrove Athletic v Alton
Farnham Town v Lymington Town
Frimley Green v Blackfield & Langley
Bashley v Bridgwater Town

I hope to file a report from one of these matches on HAH in four weeks time. But which one?

Down the steps to the dressing rooms for the returning heroes.
There's another report from Saturday's game on Godalming Town's website here. More photos from the match will appear on the HAH Facebook page later this evening.

Obviously, the incident that scarred my childhood at Charterhouse had nothing to do with the good people of Godalming Town FC. Just being there amongst the friendly home crowd in the sunshine will always be a good memory. And their ground is lovely, with an old stand with wooden bench seats, an engaging announcer, a superb programme packed with info and colour photos, an area for children to play, a rusty roller in one corner, a top-notch tea hut...I could go on. They're a good bunch. If you're up that way, please pay them a visit.

The next HAH will be from a match being played on October 7th. I do love a cup game, so I'm considering delving deep - really deep - down inside the pyramid and visiting an insect-themed club from the badlands between Southampton and Portsmouth for a Hampshire Intermediate Cup tie next. See you in a fortnight.