Sunday, 18 February 2018

Michelmersh & Timsbury v Lyndhurst

"Football on Junction Box with Michelmersh & Timsbury FC Club Crest"
There's a word for it, probably taken straight from the original German, but I can't for the life of me think what that word is.

It's when you've spent your entire life dreaming about a city, imagining it's the most exquisite place in the world, where everything is perfect all the time - where all the houses are designed by Gauguin and Matisse; where all the men are rugged and handsome and sophisticated and all the women are clever and funny and have hourglass figures to die for; where the cafes and bars are full of these incredible, beautiful people who are all interested in you and your life and the beers are all perfectly golden and come with a frothing head and taste amazing. It's your own personal Utopia.

It could be anywhere, but let's just say you're a Japanese tourist visiting Europe for the first time, and the city you've always dreamt of is Paris. You get there and it's raining. The streets are filthy, the inhabitants are rude. The only people who want to know you are only nice to you because they want your money.

You realise that your personal Utopia doesn't exist and you go crazy, locking yourself in your Kyoto apartment for the next fifty years, only venturing out to stock up on supermarket sushi and cheap rice wine.

It's a bit of a trek from the changing rooms to the pitch.
Michelmersh & Timsbury FC (0) 0 v 7 (6) Lyndhurst FC
Saturday 17th February 2018
New Forest Care Hampshire Premier Football League Division One
Attendance: 7
Admission: None
Programme: No
Colours: Amber and black quarters / black / black and amber v Green and black hoops / black / green
National Grid reference: SU3425

The match carries on regardless as smoke billows from a garden on Mannyngham Way.
The same sort of situation could occur with football grounds. You've been to watch your own team at their own ground hundreds of times. You stand or sit with your friends, chewing the fat and swapping yarns every couple of weeks. You join in with the chants. You attempt to make up new songs, trying to rhyme your hard-tackling defensive midfielder's surname with your favourite cereals to the tune of Tom Hark. You clap the lads off the pitch after a narrow defeat despite the worthy performance against the league leaders. They clap you back. It's like your second home and you (mostly) enjoy your Saturdays with your football friends.

But you've always dreamed of that faraway ground, where firecrackers are not only allowed, but positively encouraged; where the tifosi make their own banners, unfurling them before kick-off where they cover the entire Curva Nord (if you made a banner for your team, it would be made out of an old bedsheet, just enough to cover you and your mates at the Tea Hut End).

So when your team are knocked out of the cup and have a blank Saturday, you get on a plane and fly off to Spain, to Barcelona, Bilbao or Betis, hoping for that ultimate football experience.

Kabir Brethen of Michelmersh and Gary Rogers of Lyndhurst battle over possession of the ball.
And then the Spanish TV company moves your game to 11 o'clock in the morning when nobody in the crowd is properly awake, it's raining for the first time in three years (there's no roof over your seat), and the ultras just couldn't be bothered with a pyrotechnic display this week, thank you very much.

You go home, cry, and lock yourself in your bedroom for the next fifty years.

A consoling pat on the back for Michelmersh's overworked keeper.
Groundhoppers are used to this scenario. They hear about "a little gem of a ground" in deepest Flanders, they save up for months for the trip, and they get there only to find the classic old stand has been knocked down.

Now, I'm a bit of a groundhopper when I'm not watching the teams that I actively follow. Long-time readers will know that over the years, I've featured all of the clubs in Hampshire down to Step 6 (Wessex League Division One), plus the rest of the Wessex League in Dorset and Wiltshire. I like to think that I've given you an interesting photographic record of football in the county since 2011 (plus some slightly odd articles on rusty rollers).

But once I've featured all of the clubs at their home grounds at least once (and I've featured many clubs two or three times on their own patch), where do I go next? The answer is to delve deeper, to go lower down the pyramid. Hence, I've been ticking off grounds in the Hampshire Premier Football League over the past couple of seasons. I realised the other day that I only have another eleven grounds to go until I've completed the whole league.

Michelmersh & Timsbury was one of those places.

My cunning plan is to show you the home grounds of Colden Common, QK Southampton, Hedge End Rangers, Infinity, Overton United, AFC Petersfield, Four Marks, Lyndhurst, Headley United and South Wonston Swifts by the end of next season (assuming the clubs all survive - not a given).

No idea what's going on here. I hope everyone involved is okay now.
I have no illusions about what any of these grounds will be like. I know full well that there won't be any ultras lobbing fireworks - there won't even be anywhere to keep dry if it rains, so I'm not going to go home and cry if I find myself in a roped off field. I don't mind, so long as there's a bit of fresh air and some entertainment.

I'd not seen any photos of Michelmersh & Timsbury's home before I went there on Saturday, but what I found was not unexpected. There's a small car park which was full when I arrived 15 minutes before kick-off, but there's plenty of space to park on Mannyngham Way. Next to the car park is a wooden building which houses the dressing rooms. There's a verandah with an overhang there, so you could keep dry whilst watching the football. However, there is a practice pitch and a cricket pitch between the dressing rooms and the roped off main pitch, so you'd need binoculars to watch the match from there.

On the south side of the main pitch are tall trees separating it from more council pitches at Hunts Farm (not in use on Saturday). On the west are some bushes which prevent stray shots from landing on the main road beyond (there's also a tall net here for the same purpose). There are large houses to the north, whose residents would no doubt complain if Michelmersh & Timsbury ever wanted to erect floodlights.

There are two large rusty rollers lying around, who may well feature in a far-fetched story at the end of the season.

Invasion of the spaniels!
I don't want to embarrass the home side by writing about the match too much. I knew it was going to be Bottom v Top, but they had played each other recently and the game had ended up 6-3 to Lyndhurst, so I was hoping for more of the same on Saturday. However, it was never close at any point during the game, as the visitors took the lead after two minutes through Paul Abrahams, and then added four more goals at roughly ten minute intervals, with the sixth coming quickly after the fifth just before half-time.

Michelmersh improved after the break and looked as though they would draw the half 0-0 until Lyndhurst scored their seventh via a Josh Bench header seven minutes from the end.

The match could have been abandoned after 89 minutes as there were no balls left - there were only two or three to start with, and at least one was flat, so when the last remaining ball got stuck up a tree, there was a minor panic for a few minutes until one of the lost balls was retrieved from the bushes, where it had lain forgotten about for half the match.

In the time remaining, Michelmersh did score a consolation, but Hassan Felah was flagged offside. So Lyndhurst improved their goal difference by seven, and Chris Pye, who scored a hat-trick, went top of the divisional scoring charts (James Attwood and Josh Daley were their other scorers).

End of match handshakes outside the wooden changing rooms.
I wish I could have visited Michelmersh & Timsbury on a day when they hadn't been beaten so heavily, but there's always another day, another match when they can go again and hope for better.

I shall upload more photos from the game on the Hopping Around Hampshire Facebook page on Monday evening. I hope I've got everybody's names right on here, but if I haven't, please forgive me - I do it all the time, but not intentionally.

The next HAH will be in three weeks (March 10th). It will feature another Hampshire League match. Having looked at the fixtures, four of my unvisited clubs are at home, so it will be one from either Hedge End Rangers, Infinity, Overton United or Four Marks (although the latter are playing Lyndhurst!). Perhaps one of these places will resemble my own personal Utopia? I can only dream...

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Windsor v Hamble Club

The working turnstiles at Windsor Football Club.
If you've ever been in a position, at work or elsewhere, where you have to give someone some bad news, you'll know the drill - you start with a positive, then you drop the badness bomb (gently), and then you end up with another positive to soften the blow.

Let's start with the positives for Hamble Club. Always start with the positives.

They did enormously well to reach the Fifth Round Proper of the national competition for clubs at this level, the FA Vase. They won six times to get this far, starting way back in September last year:

  • Bemerton Heath Harlequins (h) 3-1
  • Petersfield Town (h) 5-0
  • Romsey Town (a) 3-2
  • Brockenhurst (h) 5-4 aet
  • Horndean (h) 2-1
  • Westfields (a) 4-1
22 goals scored and 9 conceded in reaching the last 16 (over 400 clubs played in the Vase this year). And all this at their first attempt, as they'd never entered the competition before.

A view of Stag Meadow under grey skies from Windsor Great Park.
Windsor FC (1) 2 v 0 (0) Hamble Club FC
Saturday 3rd February 2018
Buildbase FA Vase 5th Round Proper
Attendance: 625
Admission: £7
Programme: Free with admission
Colours: Red with green and white Union flag / red / white v White / white / yellow
National Grid reference: SU9575

Windsor's old stand with Windsor Cemetery Chapel behind.
The negatives? Move on to the negatives after the initial positives, but do it nicely...

This was one game too far. There was no lack of effort, but the home side were just too good on the day, with the scorer of the second goal for Windsor, Jack Denton, being particularly impressive.

And then the positives again. There's definitely more of those for the Monks.

Hamble Club went further in the Vase than anybody else from the Wessex League this season. They were the final club standing out of 41. Next year, they will receive byes in the first three rounds and enter at the Second Round Proper stage, so they have a good chance of repeating their efforts in 2018/19.

Stud inspection.
I travelled to Windsor by train. Arriving at Windsor & Eton Central, the first thing you see is a replica of an old royal steam engine, nicknamed "The Queen", trapped on a rail between buffers and a restaurant, with no way out. It's the sort of thing that would happen in a Thomas the Tank Engine story to an engine that disobeyed the Fat Controller, except it's happened in real-life in Windsor. Any trains pulling in to the terminus would see "The Queen" and know they should behave themselves on the six minute journey to and from Slough...or else!

You move on from the trapped engine and start walking through a shopping mall. If you're looking for vapes or a cheeky tattoo, then the arcade which you walk through on the way out of the terminus is not for you. Windsor is not Shirley, shall we put it that way?

Beyond the arcade, you see Windsor Castle looming up out of the drizzle. It's big. I didn't realise how far back it stretches until Saturday. I guess it's the ideal size for the Queen and her growing family when they need a few days away from Buckingham Palace.

There were lots of tourists.

Hamble Club attack through the middle...
From the castle, it's a two mile walk to Stag Meadow, the home of Windsor Football Club. Situated on the edge of Windsor Great Park (aka Liz's back garden, which stretches off towards the horizon in every direction), the club has played here since 1911. When I say "the club", I mean the current incarnation and their immediate predecessors, Windsor & Eton FC, who collapsed and went out of business in 2011, just after pipping AFC Totton to the Southern League Division One South & West title.

The original club reached the semi-finals of the FA Vase in 1981. This season's last 16 appearance is the reformed Hellenic League club's best run so far in their short existence.

...and down the left.
Windsor FC play at Stag Meadow, which is a much-loved ground. Many groundhoppers rate it amongst their favourites. And yes, it's an agreeable ground in an attractive setting, so I can see their point. Dotted around outside the ground are stubby oak trees wearing overcoats of ivy to keep the chill out. Making themselves at home in these trees, and flittering between them every few minutes, are a flock of chittering parakeets. They are constantly calling to each other in high-pitched, irritating screeches, sounding just like *insert your two least favourite minor celebrities, probably from Essex, here* having a pointless argument about whose turn it is to peel the potatoes.

The focal point of Stag Meadow is its old stand, erected in 1948. It's about the same height as the one at Cowes Sports, but not quite as wide. The original wooden stand was burnt down in 1943, twenty years after it was built. At the time, it was said that it had been the victim of enemy action, but the truth is that it was probably an arsonist that had done for it. The "new" stand is still in good condition and now has red plastic seats. It was full on Saturday, apart from a few seats with restricted views towards the edges.

Joy at the final whistle...
There is terracing of between three and six steps around the rest of Stag Meadow, with the far side having cover. However, both ends are open to the drizzle and any other elements that might be out and about.

The other thing that might be of interest to groundhoppers is that there is a small hut selling old programmes right next to the entrance. Talking of programmes, the club give the match programme away upon entry, and it's a good one. Saturday's issue had two wordsearches. I always check these for inadvertent rude words - the closest I came to any filth in this issue were the words DOGS and SWINDON.

...and dejection.
I'm not avoiding writing about the match, but I know my main audience is Hampshire football followers, and it was only disappointment for the club's fans and a few local floating fans that I recognised. Nathan Lynch was as effective in the air as he always is (he wins more headers than he has any right to); Nick Watts worked his magic on the right wing...

But generally, Hamble's forward play was snuffed out by Windsor's well-marshalled defence before it became too dangerous. The official match statistics showed that Hamble only had three efforts on goal, and that none of them were on target. By way of comparison, Windsor had 14 shots, eight of which were on target. The two that really mattered came after 29 and 50 minutes.

The first goal was set up via a surging run down the right by Jack Denton, who crossed low and hard across the six-yard line, where Riccardo Cannon cleverly flicked the ball over Rory Anderson in Hamble's goal with the outside of his heel.

The killer second goal, and one that would have graced the turf at Wembley, was by Denton. He picked up the ball from a throw out by the home keeper, and he just ran with it. It was like the Winter Olympics had already started and he was practicing the slalom as he bypassed the entire Hamble team. As he reached the edge of the area, he let fly, and that was that.

Noisy so-and-so.
Windsor's reward for beating Hamble Club is a journey to the north-east to face Stockton of the Northern League Division One. Now, that will be a tough tie.

Highlights from Saturday's game can be found on South Coast Journalism's website. Both goals are worth seeing. There are also match reports here and here. More of my photos from the game will be published on the HAH Facebook page when I get around to it.

That's it from the FA Vase this season for Hampshire clubs. I'll be back in two weeks with a game from the Hampshire League, if the weather is kind.