Monday, 15 October 2018

AFC Croydon Athletic v Fareham Town

And still there's another five minutes to go until we reach the ground...
I booked myself on to the club coach for 12 quid. It seemed like a good idea. It was the FA Vase, the weather in the west half of the country was due to be wet and wild, whereas the sun was gonna shine in London. All the other Hampshire clubs that were playing away in the Vase were going to get drenched. Fareham Town were going to keep dry. Yes, it was a good idea.

But then the worries started kicking in.

Worry number 1: I was going out the night before. Would I lose my discipline and drink too much, stay out too late and fail to get up on time? [No, I had a few beers, but I managed to get home before midnight].

Worries number 2 and 3: Would the M27 be blocked eastbound so that I couldn't reach Fareham by the time the coach left? Or would my car break down? [No and No].

There were other worries, including the fact that I always take a wrong turning on the way to Cams Alders (Fareham Town's ground) and somehow end up in Segensworth, but I managed it this time. I did it. I got there on time.

The coach came. The team kit, training cones and tactics board were all loaded. The fans were there. The club officials were there. It was just a few players that were missing. However, they turned up eventually and we set off.

First stop, Cobham Services to load up on Greggs and KFC. Second stop, AFC Croydon Athletic, or at least that was the plan. The coach driver was advised by a local not to go up the road leading to the ground, "as you'll never squeeze in!" So instead, we were dropped off over a third of a mile from the stadium. The players carried all the kit, the spare footballs and so on for 15 minutes up a potholed track to the Mayfield Stadium, but at least we were there (and of course, the coach could get up the track - it was tight, but the driver managed it so that he was waiting for us at the end)!

AFC Croydon Athletic play in the Southern Counties East League (formerly the Kent League). I won't describe the ground as I think the pictures here do the stadium justice. For the groundhoppers amongst you, it was worth the journey. However, I wouldn't want to walk along the track leading to the stadium in the dark.

The first half was quite scrappy, with neither side playing particularly well. However, the hosts probably just about shaded the play and scored the opening goal after 28 minutes, Rob Carter side-footing in from 10 yards when Fareham failed to clear from a corner.

The second half was all Fareham once they got in to gear. The fact that AFC Croydon's goalkeeper, Nic Taylor was man of the match should indicate where all the action was. He pulled off several decent saves. As Town became more desperate for the equaliser, they left themselves exposed at the back and the home team took advantage of this to score twice on the break, after 88 minutes and again deep in to injury time. The scoreline was what they call "flattering", but if you don't score, you don't win.

So it was back on the coach after what looked like a meal of cheesy chips for the players and a long journey home in the dark.

AFC Croydon Athletic's reward is a home tie against another AFC, AFC Uckfield Town of Sussex. Fareham can concentrate on the league (and the Russell Cotes Cup and the Portsmouth Senior Cup - maybe they can win a trophy yet this season).

The club formerly known as Croydon Athletic FC.
AFC Croydon Athletic (1) 3 v 0 (0) Fareham Town FC
Saturday 13th October 2018
Buildbase FA Vase 1st Round Proper
Attendance: 96
Admission: £7
Programme: £2
Colours: All maroon v Blue and black stripes / blue / blue
National Grid reference: TQ3067

Stand and some of the terraces at Mayfield Park.
The official match report on Croydon's website can be found here.

There will be many more photos from the game on the HAH Facebook page here.

Fareham Town's photographer Nick White can be found on Twitter here. He posted a few fine pics over the weekend.

AFC Croydon Athletic's stand.
Advert for the Ghostfinder Paranormal Society, in case you ever feel the need.
The Crematorium tower.
Covered terraces and dugouts in club colours.
Beautiful Croydon.
Fareham Town fans watching their team trying to score from a corner. Looks like some holding going on in the box, ref!
The home substitute's job at this level is often to go and fetch lost balls. This one was on the roof of the end terrace.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Calne Town v Fawley

Gaily coloured sign attracting visitors in to Bremhill View.
I can't help it. I love the FA Vase. I can go to places I've never been and watch two sets of amateur or semi-pro footballers giving it their all, knowing there's a Wembley final at the end of the rainbow. I've rarely seen a boring game in this competition.

This was very much the case at Calne on Saturday in the initial round of the competition. From the first minute, when the home side took the lead with a curling shot from 20 yards, through the 7th minute, when Mark Lilley equalised from the first penalty of the day, to the 19th minute, when Calne scored from a dubiously-given corner, through to the 29th minute (Hawkins drew Fawley level at 2-2), to the 48th and 62nd minutes (Calne going 4-2 up with a pen and a goal from open play), until the 78th, 87th and 89th minutes, when Fawley came back from 4-2 down to win 5-4, with Elliott Earl sliding in the third, then sub Peter Southwick scoring two in quick succession, this was a riveting rollercoaster of a game. Quite possibly the best match I'll see during 2018/19.

Pre-match, it looked like it could be an even match-up between Calne Town of the Western League and Fawley of the Wessex, and Calne is somewhere I'd never been, which is why I chose this game. Calne is about 1 hour and 35 minutes from Southampton by car (if you don't take any wrong turnings on the way - I didn't on the way there, but I messed up going across Salisbury Plain on the way back, making it a two hour return journey).

Bremhill View's main structures are on the far side from the corner entrance. You can see the dressing rooms and stand in the pictures below. The other three sides are hard standing - the far end has been newly laid. Aaron Witchell and Lovesey both wrote their names in the concrete as it set. If you'd like to see more of Calne's ground there are approximately 40 more photos on Facebook here. There are also plenty more action pics. I noticed that Calne had their own photographer, so I concentrated entirely on taking photos of Fawley's players.

The dressing room steps.
Calne Town FC (2) 4 v 5 (2) Fawley AFC
Saturday 1st September 2018
Buildbase FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round
Attendance: Approximately 50-60
Admission: £5
Programme: Free with entry
Colours: White / black / white v Sky blue / navy blue / navy blue
National Grid reference: ST9971

I understand it was a lovely sunny day back in Hampshire. The sun shone for about three minutes in Calne.
There are more photos on Calne Town's Facebook page here.

Somewhere on the 'net, there may be a video of this game, which will be worth a watch. There was a drone hovering above the ground throughout the match, presumably taking still or streaming images. It must have quite an impressive battery life, as I didn't notice it coming down for a battery change at any point. I haven't seen the results of this yet, I'm assuming something will be published somewhere at some point.

Calne Town's seated stand.
Dressing rooms and tea hatch.
Children watching from the neighbouring playground.
Fawley on the attack in front of the rapt audience.
Big effort.
Crazy dance moves.
Unbelievable! The 89th minute winner!
Big smiles from Scott Johnston.
It wouldn't be right if I didn't finish with an arty one...

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Street v Fleet Town

Newly promoted to the EvoStik Southern League, Street Football Club.
I could have waited until December 29th and the match at Fleet. It's going to be Fleet v Street, and the closest you'll ever get to a fixture which sounds like a Monopoly property. But I decided on the back-to-front fixture, which was a rare match-up between two teams which rhyme. As I'm easy to please, I settled on Saturday's game instead.

It was a special occasion for the club from Somerset, as after 50 years in the Western League, they won it by 15 clear points last season (including a run of 26 successive victories) for their first-ever Western League championship and automatic promotion to the Southern League Division One South (the same league as Winchester City, AFC Totton, Moneyfields and Blackfield & Langley). They're delighted to be there, unlike opponents Fleet Town, who were moved at very late notice by the FA from the Isthmian League Central (I think!), which was far more geographically appropriate for them, due to Shaw Lane's resignation from the Northern Premier League and Wimborne Town's subsequent belated promotion (it's complicated...).

Street look as though they'll be carrying on with their Western League form, as they won this fixture with ease. From the very first minute, when Craig Herrod broke through and forced the first of many superb saves from Brendan Norris, until the very last minute, when Phil Ormrod (excellent name despite the lack of an E) missed from close range when it looked easier to score, Street overwhelmed the club from north-east Hampshire.

Goals from Herrod, Ben Amghar and Steve Murray sealed the win in front of an impressive crowd of 193 at The Tannery. They proved that they're not to be taken lightly. AFC Totton beware, as the boys in green will be down at Testwood on 1st September!

As for Fleet Town, it appears that they have an almost completely new side from the one which finished 2017/18, so they'll need time to gel. Saturday will be a game from which they must learn about one another and move on.

Young fans watch on as Fleet have their pre-match huddle.
Street FC (2) 3 v 0 (0) Fleet Town FC
Saturday 18th August 2018
EvoStik Southern League Division One South
Attendance: 193
Admission: £8
Programme: £1.50 (very good)
Colours: All green with white trim v All yellow
National Grid reference: ST4735 ST4835

The older of the two seated stands at Street FC.
Match reports from each of the clubs' websites can be found here and here.

Approximately 40 more of my photos can be found on Facebook here. Apologies to those of you who aren't on Facebook.

As an addendum, this was the fourth time I've watched Fleet Town play, and they've yet to score a goal. Curiously, I've seen neighbours Fleet Spurs three times, and they've lost each time. Seven defeats in seven games for the two Fleet teams. I'm obviously an unlucky charm!

My Fleet Town stats from the Groundhopper app. Not good.
Close shave for the home side. Street's second seated stand is in the background with a small standing shelter to the right.
Tussling as the home subs look on.
Action in front of Street's shallow covered terrace.
Penalty? The ref said "No!"
Steve Murray celebrates Street's third goal by the corner flag.
I'll let you caption this one!
A bad day in the dugout for Fleet Town. Another 37 games to put things right...

Monday, 13 August 2018

Sandhurst Town v Lymington Town

At the bottom of the track lies Bottom Meadow, home of Sandhurst Town FC.
Good morning/afternoon/evening and welcome back to Hopping Around Hampshire for another season!

I considered stopping the blog this summer because I believe I've said everything that needs saying over the past seven years. I'll be repeating myself if I carry on with the writing, and there's nothing worse than going around and around in wordy circles.

Plus, I have two children at university (with all the travelling back and forth across the country that that involves on several Saturdays between September and next April).

And what's more, I have a season ticket at Havant & Waterlooville for 2018/19!

So, I'm quite busy and maybe not as motivated as I once was. So the plan is to turn HAH in to more of a photographic story-telling vehicle, cutting down on the words. On the blog, I shall publish photos of where I've been, primarily for the groundhoppers who might be interested in what the grounds look like, whereas on the accompanying Facebook page, there will be more action shots - I know the players and other people involved in the local game are more interested in these.

As ever, there will always be at least one club from Hampshire involved.

So below, here's the photo story of the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie between Combined Counties League Division One side Sandhurst Town and Wessex Premier Lymington Town - the home underdogs pulling off a very creditable 1-1 draw. The replay will be at New Milton Town's home on Wednesday (Lymington share with the local cricket club). The winners will be at home to Frimley Green on August 25th.

The accompanying Facebook page can be found here:


I'll add another forty or so photos on there during the course of this evening, concentrating mostly on Lymington's players in action.

I believe there will be more photos published on Football in Bracknell (I took a lot of the Sandhurst players as well as Lymington's), but they aren't there as I write. Check on there if you're a Sandhurst Town follower for more pictures of your players.

No-nonsense ref carries match ball with one hand.
Sandhurst Town FC (1) 1 v 1 (0) Lymington Town FC
Emirates FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Saturday 11th August 2018
Attendance: About 50
Admission: £5
Programme: None seen
Colours: Red and black stripes / black / black v All yellow (no sponsors for either club!)
National Grid reference: SU8460 SU8461

Sandhurst's Ultras watching from the stand.
Tactical adjustments.
The clubhouse and changing room block at Sandhurst Town.
Lymington's ball!
Lymington's ball?
Golden FA Cup football.
Saints fans in Berkshire!

Sunday, 10 June 2018

End of Season Roller Round-Up 2017/18

Four Marks FC
I should really stop entering internet competitions. I've never won one. I never will.

There was one at the end of the season on a start-up site sponsored by a betting company. Why they set their website up in April, so close to the end of 2017/18, I don't know. Anyway, they were offering big prizes for a poetry competition:

Send us your poems about rollers and you could win £1,000 in cash, plus a season ticket for your favourite club!

Well, this competition looked too good to be true. I had to enter. No chance of winning, obviously, but if I didn't try, I'd regret it forever. Or at least 30 seconds, and then I'd forget all about it.

I had writer's block. I couldn't get beyond the following, extremely trite ditty:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Rollers are rusty
And so are you!

Well, if they only had one entry, I would win, so why not?

AFC Stoneham
I logged in to the website, typed out my terrible poem (feeling a little embarrassed, to be honest) and forgot all about it.

A week later, I bumped in to an old friend. He told me he'd got a job with this betting company in the marketing department. Unbelievably, it had been him that had come up with the idea of the poetry competition! I bought him beers for the rest of the evening whilst he showed me the other entrants on his smartphone. For example, this effort about the roller at AFC Stoneham:

Misty, cadaverous, as old as Stonehenge
The haunted roller appears
Forgotten, desperate, seeking revenge
Coffin-bound for eight thousand years
Howling with hatred, tormenting the innocent
The haunted roller appears
The rusted zombie groundsman's equipment
Of your nightmares and day fears

I couldn't help it. I shouted out:

Who ya gonna call? Roller Busters!

My old friend laughed and agreed it was a bit of an overwrought effort.
Havant & Waterlooville

Then there was this one about the moppy rollers at National League Havant & Waterlooville:

Another wet day in Havant
The thirtieth day in a row
Another day for their rollers
To be our spongey heroes

Slurp it up and regurgitate
Like a parent hawk for its chick
This pitch needs to be puddle-free
We need it to be in good nick!

I didn't like the last line. I told my friend it didn't scan properly. He had no idea what I was talking about. He'd never read a poem in his life. He said he'd put it to one side. If there was nothing better, he'd consider it for the prize. I rolled my eyes.

Borth United
Then he showed me this one about the roller at Mid Wales League Borth United:

Come hippie missiles and fall on Borth
Loaded with unicorns and glitter and flowers
Give the team strength to rise up and finish fourth
And give the players wings and laser boots and other super powers

Well, that was so poor, I was beginning to think my trite effort had a chance. One thousand pounds! I could see me renting an open-topped bus for the day, buying myself a cheap trophy and riding up and down Shirley High Street waving my cup around as if I'd just personally won the Champions League.

Dream on, baby. There were more poems...

Bishop's Waltham Dynamos
The next one sounded quite meaningful. For the first time that evening, I was worried:

In a world of circles
He felt like a hexagon
Every divot judged as a jerk.
He wished he had feet and legs.

"I can't avoid the broken glass,
The fox, the goose, the dog shit,
The rancid lumps of bubblegum,
The rocks and stones and beercan lids"

Imagine if you had to roll instead of walk
To squeak squeak instead of talk
Squelching over slugs and spiders
Feeling like a reversed Midas.

In a world full of potholes
Don't be a roller (or a wheel)
In a world full of hot moles

 ...Now you know how they must feel.

But I saw a glimmer of hope. It was that penultimate line about the hot moles. It was rubbish! I bought my friend another beer and pointed this out to him. He was in agreement! I still had a chance.

Godalming Town
Another drink downed. Another two poems to go:

There's a bird called a roller
It doesn't ta-whit
It doesn't ta-whoo
It lets out more of a KWEEK!

There's a roller called a roller
It doesn't rotate
It barely moves at all
And when it does, it lets out a SQUEAK!

That's because it needs some oil.

Well, that clearly wasn't going to win anything, unless the betting company had some sort of Rotten Tomato Prize...

Michelmersh & Timsbury FC
Just one more entry, according to my friend, who by now was on his seventh pint. I offered to buy him another one, and he told me how much he hated his job and all his insufferable workmates and how he'd like to hand in his notice and drop his trousers on his way out of the office and how he'd like to write exactly what he thought about them all on his bum cheeks as he disappeared for the last time...

When your skin flakes off
It becomes dust
When a roller's skin erodes
It becomes rust

I just laughed out loud at that last one. I told my friend that if he dropped his pants, I'd write my poem on his cheeks in permanent marker and it would be the perfect riposte to his awful colleagues...

Overton United FC
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Rollers are rusty
And so are you!

According to the stories I read on social media the next day, he actually carried out his threat! My poem, his arse, all over Twitter!

Needless to say, I didn't win the poetry competition. Nobody won. The betting company found some legal loophole which meant there would be no £1,000 prize, and no season ticket for the lucky winner. To be honest, I don't think anyone deserved to win, as the entries were so uniformly dire.

But I was so close, so close to victory for the first and only time in my life...