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.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Paulton Rovers v Winchester City

The entrance sign at Paulton Rovers FC. So now we know where we are, we can start the story...
It's not a competition. I repeat - it's definitely not a competition, and there is no winner, but every weekend, amateur and semi-pro photographers all over the country go out and try to take the ultimate football picture. We go to the match, we click away, then eagerly check the screens on the back of our digital cameras looking for this week's finest photos (we know when we've got a good 'un! Like a fisherman reeling in the biggest trout of the day, there's a frisson when we first see our best pics...). We download our pictures to our PCs or laptops, delete the out of focus ones, or the pictures where the linesman ran in front of the lens at just the wrong moment, do a bit of cropping and brightening, then upload our favourite photos to our preferred internet platform and wait for the Likes to roll in...

We just want our labours to be loved.

The structure photo. Players giving foreground interest.
Paulton Rovers FC (1) 1 v 0 (0) Winchester City FC
Emirates FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round
Saturday 2nd September 2017
Attendance: 129
Admission: £9
Programme: £2
Colours: Claret / claret / white v Blue and black stripes / blue / blue
National Grid reference: ST6556

Landscape for context. Tiny players. Spoil heap covered with trees...small gap top right!
You can classify football photos in to different groups. An interesting match photo album will have some pictures from each group.

If you're going to create a satisfying album, you want to tell a story, so we tend to start a photo-story with a sign. It will literally set the scene by showing the viewer where we are that day. Is there a match board? A road sign pointing to the ground? A big board outside the entrance with club name and badge? There's one of the latter at Paulton Rovers, so that's the title of this week's story sorted.

We enter the ground. We need to set context for the match, so we take photos of the structures. The stands and terraces are part of the history of the club - there's emotion in these places. So many cheers and tears over the years, so many stories from matchdays past. Today is the latest chapter in the club's ongoing history. Empty or full of nervous, fingernail-chewing fans, the stands and terraces are our background for the day. Paulton Rovers' 25-year-old main stand is smart and colourful - painted in pink and claret - it makes a cheerful backdrop for the later action pictures. I make sure it appears often (backdrop is important for action photos).

The action shot. Crunching tackle version.
The match starts. We select a position where the backdrop is interesting or the light is good (sun shining on players is often better than shooting in to the sun...). Structure pictures are useful for the story, but there's also the wider context of the ground's setting. What lies outside of the confines of the stadium? The keen football photographer will take a few "landscape" pictures at every match. At Paulton Rovers, to the south, there isn't much to see, so no landscape photos on that side. To the west lies the village of Paulton itself, so slatey-grey rooftops are visible on this side. To the north, behind the pink stand, you can see green Somerset hills with wind turbines way off in the distance. These hills carry on round to the east (and most open) side of the ground, so the north and east sides give the best backdrops. A wide angle camera lens gives us tiny players, but there's pretty countryside and big sky to make up for this (if there's no attractive backdrop, then Big Sky is always a good fallback, especially if there are fluffy clouds).

We'll return to the landscape to the east in more detail in due course...

Great action shots aren't easy to take. There's anticipation, timing, and luck involved. You have to anticipate that crunching tackle, that aerial battle from the goal kick - a split-second too early or too late, and the ball hasn't arrived yet, or it's already gone (it's always good to have the ball in the picture). You also want to have the players facing towards the camera - whoever views your pictures will want to see their grimacing faces. In the action shot above, it looks like Simba Mlambo is being fouled, but the ref thought otherwise and waved play on.

The goal photo. Almost inevitably taken from the far end of the pitch. At least the scorer isn't hidden in this one.
The ultimate action shot is The Goal! As with the standard action shot, a little luck is needed. Are you going to be at the right end for the first goal of the game? On Saturday, the first goal was the only goal of the game, so miss it and there would be no goal photo for the story. Paulton were having their best spell of the match five minutes before half-time (Winchester had been disrupted by losing two players to injury in quick succession at this point - Adam Tomasso to a particularly nasty-looking head injury after he caught a flailing elbow, and Andy Jenkinson to a muscle injury). Paulton won a corner on their right. Dale Evans floated the ball in to the box where Joe Chandler rose highest to head home (video retweeted by the club here).

The trouble with goal photos is that the scorer is often obscured by another player, so it's a good idea to have a motor drive on your camera, taking several photos per second - at least in one of these pictures, the scorer may be visible.

Allied to The Goal shot is The Celebration! Taking many pictures of the goal celebration improves the story (but just choose the best shot for your story - don't fill the entire album with essentially the same moment -  just because you took 17 pictures with the motor drive doesn't mean your audience want to see all of them). It's the most emotional part of the match. Are the players leaping all over each other? What are the fans in the background doing (answer: not much in the picture below - although the other photographer at the match is looking at his camera - I wonder if he caught the goal)?

The goal celebrations. Always with the goal celebrations.
Then there's the portrait shots. Photographers may snap individual players during breaks in play. There are the full length shots, such as the one below of Pat Cox, or half-body or head and shoulders shots. If someone is pointing or shouting or otherwise showing some emotion on the pitch, so much the better. As I was following Winchester on Saturday, I concentrated my portrait shots on the away team only, trying to snap each of them at least once (I failed miserably).

Action shots and portraits can be taken at any game, and are essentially interchangeable. But what makes the match or the ground different? This is where a quirky or arty picture comes in. Is there an unusual sign in the ground? Or is there coloured tape wrapped around a goalpost? Zoom in and highlight the quirks. The arty shot featured here from Saturday is of a pair of speakers taken from inside the stand, taken at such an angle that Winchester's subs can be seen as well for extra interest.

There are other types of photo not featured here, such as the "crowd's eye view", where you might stand behind someone and take a picture of them watching the match. Pictures of the fans, floodlights, the carpet in the clubhouse with the club crest on it - it all adds to the story.

My photo-story of Paulton Rovers v Winchester City is partly here, but mostly on the HAH Facebook page.

The full-length portrait with bonus blurry background landscape.
But there's one more type of photo I haven't mentioned yet, and it's one that us amateur football photographers dream of - the perfect whole-stadium view taken from an overlooking vantage point outside of the ground. We don't get many chances to do this. A rare example of this type of pic in the Wessex League would be at Laverstock & Ford - there's a hill behind their ground - on my last visit there I climbed up the hill to take pictures of The Dell and the rest of Salisbury stretching out beyond and it was lovely!

The further west you travel, the more hills there are, the higher the chance of getting an elevated full-stadium view. So I checked an Ordnance Survey contoured map before setting off for Paulton, and sure enough, I found a lump overlooking the ground. Even better, there were public rights of way wending their way up there.

I made sure I arrived in Paulton early. I parked in the ample club car park and went for a walk. Ten minutes later, I was at the base of the lump. It's no ordinary hill - it's an old spoil heap from a neighbouring coal mine (the disused mine is no longer visible, as it apparently was a few years ago). It's a steep old lump, but I was determined to get my perfect photo! So I followed the path along the base, looking for a gap in the trees with a view of the football ground. It didn't happen, so there was only one thing to do, and that was to climb the spoil heap to the top. One major's surrounded by barbed wire, so no go.

So I walked round the base to the right, through a kissing gate and in to a field. I disturbed a woodpecker feeding on ants, but otherwise there was no other living creature up there. Still no whole-stadium view though as I reached the top of the field. At which point, I stopped dead in my tracks. In front of me was a herd of cows. Now, you might not be afraid of cows, but I most certainly am. A few years ago, I was walking along a footpath through a field full of cows when they suddenly took a dislike to me and my companions. The entire herd started running towards us, looking angry. We had no choice but to run as well. Either that or be trampled.

We reached the wall surrounding the field and just managed to climb over before the herd reached us. Cows? No thank you! As you can probably imagine, I'm very wary when out walking now, and if my route goes through a cow field, I'd rather turn back and retrace my steps. So, with one eye peeking warily behind me, I walked back down the hill, disturbing the woodpecker again.

The quirky/arty shot. Big speaker! Small speaker!
There was another path to the left of the spoil heap, so I tried this way instead. I found a small gap between the leaves here and took a picture, but I thought I could do better. There was no barbed wire next to this footpath, so glancing up at the steep, gravel-strewn hillside to my right, I thought I'd risk climbing up there.

It was slippery - very slippery. I'd put one foot down on a tree root, but the other foot would slip back down as there was no real purchase. Eventually though, I made it to the top. Treading very carefully, avoiding the badger sett holes, I tiptoed across the top of the spoil heap. There was my friend the woodpecker again - oh, if only I had wings like you! Someone else had been up there having a bonfire recently, but they were long gone. I was on my own in a potentially dangerous place, but my urge to take the perfect photo drove me on.

Ten more steps, and there it was...Paulton Rovers below me with the players doing their pre-match warm-ups on the pitch. I could see most of the pitch and the near and far ends, but not the stand on the right, which was obscured by a tree. Three steps to my left and I'd be able to see it. Trouble was, the steps were down and would end at the top of a nearly-sheer drop of fifty feet or so. Was it time to turn back and admit defeat? Of course not! Perched precariously at the top of the cliff, I took the photo reproduced below. Was it worth it? You can decide for yourself.

And here's the one I defied serious injury for. Was it worth it?
Winchester can consider themselves truly unfortunate not to come away from Paulton with at least a draw. They were unlucky with the early injuries, but then with wave after wave of attacks being repelled by the home defence in the second half, and a marginal offside decision denying them a 93rd minute equaliser, they would have lost that match maybe one in ten times. On most average days with average luck, they would have been in the hat for the Second Qualifying Round draw. Talking of which, here's how it turned out for the surviving Hampshire clubs:

Havant & Waterlooville v Merthyr Town;
Gosport Borough v Swindon Supermarine;
Cinderford Town v Basingstoke Town or Hartley Wintney;
Truro City v AFC Portchester.

Paulton Rovers will host Kidlington.

Ties to be played on Saturday 16th September.

Match reports can be found here (Paulton Rovers website) and here (Southern Daily Echo). I can't see any other photos elsewhere. So the HAH Facebook page will be the only place where the story of the day will be found (as soon as I have time to upload them).

If you're interested in football match photography, take a look at these sites to inspire you. They don't necessarily follow all the rules (rules are there to be broken, after all), but they're all exceptional at this lark:

Pitchside Photo
Darren Luke
Ben Webster
Onion Bag
David Bauckham

This list is not exhaustive.

There are also a few local club-based photographers who are also very good. Take a look at Ray Routledge's photos on Sholing's website, for example.

HAH will be back in three weeks for an FA Vase tie featuring a Wessex League club. See you then.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Binfield v Horndean

Not the easiest ground to find, but eventually you'll find Binfield FC down this lane...
We'll start with a quiz this week. It's a bit intellectual, but bear with me.

Here's a series of quotes from a famous writer (you'll probably recognise most of them):

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed;

What mighty contests rise from trivial things;

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

So, who wrote these words? Was it Shakespeare? Sounds like him, doesn't it?! 

Swinging on the railings as the officials lead the teams out for this FA Cup game. They would never allow such behaviour at Wembley!
Binfield FC (0) 1 v 1 (1) Horndean FC
Saturday 19th August 2017
Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round
Attendance: 120
Admission: £6
Programme: £1
Colours: All red v All yellow
National Grid reference: SU8571 / SU8572

Dunno, but I thought I saw the shape of a penguin up in the clouds above Binfield. It's gone now.
The quotes weren't from Shakespeare - they're all the work of 18th century satirical poet Alexander Pope. The relevance to a football report on an FA Cup match between Binfield and Horndean? Well, Pope is Binfield's most famous resident, his family having fled there in 1698 when all Catholics were expelled from London. The Binfield suburb of Popeswood is named after him.

Binfield is a village on the outskirts of Bracknell in Berkshire. The football club played on a field in the village up until 1983, when they moved to their current ground on Hill Farm Lane. There was obviously a lot of work required to bring it up to tip-top standard, with the land needing flattening - hence the artificial slopes from moved earth at the clubhouse end and along the right-hand side.

Binfield's ground isn't the easiest to find. It reminds me of my two visits (so far) to Andover New Street - I've got lost both times. As at New Street, the football ground is both outside of the nearby populated area and next door to a graveyard and an archery field. There are three pitches at Binfield - the one in use by the first team has a pitchside rail, whereas the two neighbouring pitches for youngsters do not. At the entrance to the complex is a large car park, within which lies a rusty roller (did I remember to take a photo of the roller? Find out at Christmas...).

Horndean clear their lines under pressure early in the match.
Behind the car park, there's a brand new clubhouse with a bar and a tea hut. Attached to the clubhouse is a fair-sized area of covered standing. On the other side are the changing rooms with an overhanging roof, making two covered standing areas with an elevated view at this end.

On the right is an Arena stand with approximately 100 red plastic seats. The rest of the pitch is surrounded by hard standing, with the exception of the far end, which is officially out of bounds to spectators, but it's easy enough to walk from one side to the other if you fancy a shortcut. The whole ground has a pleasant feel of the countryside with red kites gliding overhead at intervals throughout the game.

But why was I here on Saturday? Because it's the FA Cup, that's why! As I usually do these days, I start the season by following random Hampshire clubs to new places (new to me, anyway) in the early rounds. There's rarely a dull game, and every journey is an adventure. It's a harmless enough hobby and I never expect much from my days out, so any excitement is a bonus.

Which reminds me of a famous quote:

 "Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed".

Now, who was it who said that again?

Miles Everett shoots just high and wide for Horndean.
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast"

It's still early season, and anything could yet happen. Horndean beat one of the favourites for the Western League title, Melksham Town, in the previous round of the cup, whereas Binfield knocked out one of the top sides in the Southern Combination, Chichester City, so both sides would have been going in to the game with a certain amount of confidence. In particular, Horndean have yet to be beaten in any competition so far, so I had them down as slight favourites pre-match.

The game was evenly contested. If I'd brought my mates from Opta along, I'm fairly sure they would have counted roughly equal numbers of shots, 50/50 possession statistics, and so on (but what's that new stat on Match of the Day this season...Likelihood of Scoring? 0.27 v 0.74? What on earth is that one all about?!).

The breakthrough came after 29 minutes, when Horndean's Miles Everett turned in the box and slotted home low and hard from twelve yards with his right peg, leaving Binfield's keeper wrong-footed.

The southern Mark Smith. Just step sideways.
"What mighty contests rise from trivial things".

So the Wessex League side went in a goal up at the break. It could have been two after 47 minutes when Mark Smith lofted a cross in from the right, which went over keeper Matt Hill's outstretched arms and rebounded off the inside of the far post and was then walloped to safety by a Binfield defender. The Deans were beginning to look relatively comfortable during the second half, restricting their Hellenic League opponents to just the odd opportunity here and there.

Substitute Josh Maloney had his legs scythed from beneath him as he shot from eight yards after 62 minutes, resulting in several minutes worth of treatment from the Deans' physio, but the ref waved play on. A converted penalty here would probably have settled the tie.

However, it all started to go wrong for Horndean ten minutes later, as Binfield's Joe Gritt and Horndean's Ash Howes went for the same bouncing ball. Gritt caught Howes on the ankle. Both players went down, but Howes got up first and gave Gritt a petulant kick. Right in front of the ref. It was obvious what was coming next.

Down to ten men, Horndean conceded a free-kick 25 yards out from goal on 76 minutes. As their wall lined up, I could see a big gap on their right. I was willing them to shuffle over a yard or two, but my ESP message didn't get through. Josh Howell duly stepped up and aimed for the gap. Low and hard towards the corner, keeper Del Harding got a hand to the shot, but couldn't deflect it wide.

And that was that. After being rattled by the sending off and then conceding a goal in quick succession, Horndean regained their composure and held out fairly comfortably in the end to take Binfield back to Five Heads Park.

The view from the top of the grass bank at the entrance end.
The replay will be at Horndean tomorrow (Tuesday) evening. The Wessex League side should be favourites to go through on the 15 foot slope of their home pitch, but you never know with cup football.

Whoever wins will play Cornwall's Bodmin Town at home in the First Qualifying Round on September 2nd. Other Hampshire clubs in today's draw have been paired thusly:

Gosport Borough v Bridgwater Town
Frome Town v Fleet Town or AFC Totton
AFC Portchester v Dorchester Town
Farnborough v Salisbury
Paulton Rovers v Winchester City
Basingstoke Town v Hartley Wintney
Cinderford Town v Moneyfields
Andover Town or Wimborne Town v Cadbury Heath

Hmm, I can feel a trip to the West Country coming on for the next round.

"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread".

Indeed. Wise words from Mr Pope.

The Home of The Moles.
There's a brief match report on Binfield's website here. It contains a link to their photographer's album of 99 action shots, which mostly concentrate on the home side, unsurprisingly. There will be another 40 or so photos from the game appearing on the HAH Facebook page later this evening (after I've had a nice cup of tea).

Can Horndean finish off the job they started tomorrow evening? If you live nearby, why not pop along and find out? After all, this is the FA Cup - it's a Mighty Contest - and anything could happen!

Monday, 7 August 2017

Farnham Town v Fawley

Biblical rain two minutes before kick-off at Farnham Town FC.
And so it begins again. A new season. A fresh start. Everyone is equal, just for one day.

Right now, the league is separated by alphabetical order only. If you are Arsenal, Aldershot or Aalborg, you head your division due to the necessity of having a name, and the luck of that name beginning with the letter A. Hard cheese to Yeovil, York City and Zeljeznicar - there's always next week for you.

In the cups, everyone is still in - all 758 entrants in this season's FA Cup can still dream of a Wembley appearance, or at least a money-spinning run to the Second Qualifying Round and a chance to play in front of 500 fans at a National League South club.

It's 2017/18, and anything could happen.

"Seriously, we cannot start the game until you've brushed ALL THE WATER OFF THE PITCH!"
Farnham Town FC (0) 3 v 2 (1) Fawley AFC
The Emirates FA Cup Extra-Preliminary Round
Saturday 5th August 2017
Attendance: 80-ish
Admission: £7
Programme: £1
Colours: Maroon / maroon / white v Sky blue / navy blue / navy blue
National Grid reference: SU8346

Still raining after kick-off.
And so I begin. Hopping Around Hampshire is back for another season - my seventh full season in all since 2011. I feel the need to explain what I do before I can truly begin again. A lot of you will know already, but others will be here for the first time.

This is a blog - one of those quaint leftovers from the early days of the internet, before social media began to dominate. Blogs were invented so that people could shout out to the world about themselves and their interests - their love of fast cars, flower arranging, bee-keeping, whatever. Everyone had one circa 2008. You had one, I had one, we all had one, but nobody read each other's because we were all too busy writing our own.

So we got fed up, stopped and forgot about blogging. Facebook came along and blogs almost died. I'm a dinosaur, an internet iguanadon, but people still read Hopping Around Hampshire, so I carry on. Most posts receive 200-500 hits in the first week of publication, so somebody likes what I do.

The view down the far side at Farnham Town.
I write about Hampshire football clubs, mostly from the Southern League downwards in the pyramid. I regularly travel outside of the county to watch and write about games, but the one rule I have is that every game I feature has to have at least one club from Hampshire involved.

I think people like this targeted approach because there's a fair chance that I'm going to feature your club at least once during the season, and if I don't, then I'll probably write about somewhere you know, or some players that you've watched, managed or played with. There are always lots of photos, both on here and on the blog's Facebook page.

So what are the plans for this season? What can you expect between now and April? Well, I'll be starting off with three matches from the very earliest rounds of the FA Cup, hence the visit to Farnham Town with Fawley.

There will be matches in the FA Vase, probably from places I've not previously featured, but just as likely revisits, especially if I haven't been to a ground for a few years. I'm also intending to write about at least half a dozen Hampshire Premier Football League clubs, probably from October onwards, so look out for them if you're involved at that level.

Most specifically, I'll be paying a visit to Baffins Milton Rovers at some point, as they are the only Wessex League club I've yet to feature as a home side.

Let's begin again.

The sun's come out!
And so we're at Farnham Town, a club which lies less than one and a half miles over the county boundary in Surrey. It's a prosperous town with expensive parking (it would have cost me £4.70 to park for four hours had I left my car in the town centre car park). However, the parking is free for spectators at the Memorial Ground, as the club have agreed a deal with a nearby business park to let fans park there on a matchday for nothing (the car park directly outside the ground is for residents of the neighbouring flats).

The Memorial Ground is pleasingly quirky. The clubhouse lies outside of the ground itself, but the usual food and drink options are available here for the hungry visitor, and at less than half of what you'd expect to pay at a Premier League ground. Maybe less than a third.

There's no turnstile at the entrance to the ground. Instead, a fellow collects your £7 entrance fee from a seat behind an uncovered plastic table. To the left as you enter are new changing rooms, and with no spectator access beyond this building, there is little option but to turn right. And the climb begins.

There's a short, steep ramp up to the first corner. I suspect the pitch had a magnificent slope on it at one point, but it has been flattened (probably when the pitch was lengthened in 1975 in order for the club to progress up the leagues).

Kieran Roche puts Fawley ahead just before half-time.
There's a shelter upon the banking behind the goal containing five rows of plastic seats. This was erected in the mid '70s, so it's around forty years old now. The banking appears to be all grass in my photos, but I can assure you there are stinging nettles mixed in - I know this, because when I sat down on the bank to take the photo shown below, I put my hand on a nettle. It was worth it for the picture though. There is a garden bench seat on the other side of the shelter if anyone wishes to use it.

The hard standing at this end keeps rising until you reach the far corner, when it suddenly dips down again at an alarming rate as you descend towards the dugouts and a second shelter beyond them which has two steps of terrace beneath it. There's another twenty yards of hard standing beyond the shelter, then it rises up again, with steps this time, but there's a dead end here at the final corner, as the end behind this goal is a no-go area for spectators. The Memorial Ground is thus a two-and-a-half-sided ground.

The twenty or thirty people inside the ground at five to three were very grateful for the two sheltered areas, as a violent thunderstorm hit Farnham as the players were preparing to come out. Lightning forked across the sky, count to two, and then thunder roared (it's one second between lightning and thunder roll for every mile away from the lightning strike, isn't it?). Rain hammered down on the pitch, and there were puddles where there were none just five minutes earlier.

Kick-off was sensibly delayed by five minutes whilst the centre of the storm passed overhead. The ref then walked around the pitch, spotted an area which was waterlogged and asked a club volunteer to brush the water off the pitch before he would start the game. I'm sure some refs would have abandoned the game before it had even started, but this one was sensible - it was obvious the storm had passed and that it would be safe to carry on.

An elevated view of proceedings.
The players may have been damp, but there was to be no dampening of their spirit. After all, this was the FA Cup - you're playing your part in the oldest club competition in the world. In a few months, the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United Reserves would be strutting their stuff in the same competition, and you would be able to trace a direct route through to the Third Round Proper...."If we'd beaten X, then Y, then Z, then all these other teams and got to the third round, we would have been drawn...AWAY TO BARNSLEY!"

For Fawley, just one victory would have given them a piece of their own FA Cup history, as they had never won an FA Cup game in five previous attempts, having fallen at this stage against Hallen, Cowes Sports, AFC Portchester (twice) and Almondsbury UWE since 2012. Farnham Town's Cup history is a little more impressive, although they've never made it past the 2nd Qualifying Round.

The first half was even, with neither side having many clearcut chances. Kieran Roche had danced through Farnham's defence a couple of times before being denied, but his third attempt at beating them was successful, as he shrugged off a couple of defenders as he waltzed in from the right, poking the ball past Farnham's keeper from a narrow angle to put The Oilers a goal up just before half-time.

The crowd go wild as Farnham score their 94th minute winner.
Combined Counties Premier Division Farnham improved after the break and got their equaliser after 54 minutes, when Matt Glass smashed a volley in from six yards when the ball dropped to him when Fawley failed to clear their lines.

The task got harder for Fawley when Roche was sent off midway through the half for an off the ball incident. They would have been perfectly happy to stop the game there and then and take Farnham back the the Waterside for a replay. However, on 83 minutes, Dane Sayce fired in a thirty yard free-kick which was tipped over for a corner by Jamie Cunningham in Farnham's goal. Sayce then floated the corner over where his fellow centre-back, Aaron Lucas, stood five yards out. He connected with the outside of his right foot, hitting the ball up and over the defenders on the line. Pandemonium, as Fawley thought they'd done all the hard work with just six minutes remaining.

But this is a sad story, because there was to be no club history made for Fawley. Within a minute, Glass had equalised from the penalty spot, then in the 94th minute, the same player ran from the halfway line before slipping the ball past Connor Beattie in the away goal. Pandemonium again, but this time from the Farnham players. They were in front for less than a minute throughout the entire game, yet it will be they who travel to Godalming Town in the next round, whilst Fawley will pop up the road to local rivals Romsey Town in the league instead.

Farnham Town players celebrate their last-minute winner.
There is an excellent match report on Fawley's website here. It features a couple of my photos that I posted on Twitter, plus a GIF of Lucas's goal. There will be another 40 or so photos from the game on the HAH Facebook page shortly.

What a game! It got off to a slow start, but it built up into an exciting finale. It had everything I love about the early rounds of the FA Cup. I'll post a report from another game in the same competition in a fortnight. I haven't made up my mind where from yet, but it will involve at least one club from Hampshire. I stick to the rules.

Friday, 16 June 2017

End of Season Roller Round-Up 2016/17

I've only told a few close friends this up until now, but I think it's about time a few more of you were made aware of my plans for this coming autumn...

I've decided to change my field of work. Enough of barely scraping by working for The Man. I'm striking out on my own. It's the only way I'm ever going to have a chance of getting rich. Enough of the crushing clockwatching tick-tock-tedium of 9 to 5. My dreams are going to become real!

In September, I shall be opening a new tattoo parlour on Shirley High Street. I'm going to call it "I TA-TA-TATTOO Ü". To this end, I've been interviewing potential tattooists. This afternoon, a lad called Ryan called in. I asked him to show me what he could do by giving me a temporary tattoo on my forearm. I drew a roller in my notebook and instructed him to add a wolf to the face of the roller. I sat back, closed my eyes, and let him get on with it.

I must have dozed off, because an hour later, I opened my eyes, glanced down, and this is what I saw:

Is that a toilet roll?!
I couldn't believe it! Not only had Ryan copied my notebook drawing EXACTLY, but he'd also used permanent ink! I now have the world's worst tattoo...

But life goes on, and my next task before the grand opening of I TA-TA-TATTOO Ü is to create an online catalogue of potential tattoos for my future customers. The market for mystical beasts, tribal symbols, messages of love, English roses, upside-down crosses, burning skulls, etc, is well saturated, especially in Shirley, so I needed an original angle.

I decided to try and create a new market for football club groundsmen. Wouldn't they just love a "sleeve" full of rusty rollers, turf prodders and line-marking equipment? I decided to look through my photos from the second half of last season for inspiration for the catalogue, and I think I've come up with a few winners.

Firstly, the life model for my own forearm mistake was Whitchurch United's fairly standard, but effective roller. I've called it KRUSHA! in the catalogue. It's a simple, classic design. For a few quid extra, we can add a wolf to the face of the roller...

If you already have a reasonably full sleeve, we can add a small (but perfectly formed) roller in to a suitable gap on your arm. The life model for this is what we've christened the Cockalorum from Hamble Club. I think the Cockalorum would look good with a cartoon wizard drawn on its smooth surface, but as the customer rules, we can add anything you like - perhaps a scorpion or a snorting bull or a pair of fish, inspired by your personal zodiac sign? Or would you prefer something a little more niche, like Jose Salomon Rondon's face superimposed on a crisp?

If you want a roller design running the length of your forearm, we'll be recommending Banstead Athletic's rusty beast. I wanted to call this one Mr Sausage, but I was dissuaded from using this name, as my business partners considered it a bit risqué. We settled on Saucy Boy in the end. We can do the handles on this one in your own club's colours if you like, although we will insist that the main body is half grey, half rust, just like the original roller.

If you fancy something a little different from our regular roller designs, perhaps you'd like us to tattoo a rope-rolling machine on to your right shoulder blade? We found this one out in the Hampshire countryside at Upham. Our thought process for naming this one went something like this: Countryside > Country Music > Glen Campbell > Wichita Lineman > Wichita Ropeman. So, Wichita Ropeman it is...

It's a fairly complicated design, so it will be one of our more expensive tattoos. However, if you love both rope roller-uppers and country music, we're absolutely sure you'll love this!

The roller we found at Cowes Sports on the Isle of Wight was seemingly used to flatten cow pats. It looked filthy, so we called it Dirty Den. East Enders fans will appreciate this one. But only because it's called Dirty Den. Although, come to think of it, if you'd like us to add actor Leslie Grantham's face to the cow pat, I'm sure we can do that for you.

The saddest roller I've seen this past half-season was at Selsey in West Sussex. Not only is Selsey likely to be one of the UK's first casualties of extreme sea level rise...not only is Selsey the most likely place in England to be struck by a tornado...but this poor roller appeared broken in two. Perhaps its heart was rent in half due to a recent romantic break-up? And now it's the only roller in its social group who doesn't have a boyfriend / girlfriend. We've called this one The Gooseberry in our catalogue. You'll probably want to have this one tattooed somewhere difficult to see, such as between your shoulders, because you'll invariably feel miserable every time you catch sight of it.

Another roller spotted in Sussex was this curious fellow at Arundel. It reminded us of a gigantic woodlouse, so we called it The Crunchy Bat (an Olde English name for our tiny friends from the compost heap). We're working on further creepy-crawly-inspired designs. Look out for the Scary Spider and the Surprising Earwig in the New Year.

Finally in our catalogue, we present our pièce de resistance, the mighty double-barrelled Richter Predator 65 from Fordingbridge Turks. The most incredible roller design we've ever seen, with the super-heavyweight one tonne barrel at the back, and the lighter, more nimble barrel at the front. Filled to the brim with accessories, such as the two-storey drinks holders, the car tyre safety bumpers, the fine adjustment wheely thing. Quite frankly, you'll never be able to afford this as a tattoo, so don't even think about it. I'd stick with the Cockalorum if I were you.

And in case you were wondering...No, Ryan didn't get the job.

If you'd like to see more rusty roller pictures, follow this link: Rollers etc.