Monday, 20 March 2017

Cowes Sports v Sholing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highlights from my studies included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 13 March 2017

Upham v Michelmersh & Timsbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And cry myself to sleep.

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