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.
Details:
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.

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