Monday, 13 February 2017

Paulsgrove v Colden Common

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

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

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

And still I'd have millions left over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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