Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Four Marks v Netley Central Sports

The dugouts at Four Marks FC.
When I first started doing this in 2011, there were a lot of other football blogs around nationally. I have to admit, I thought I'd be one of about 19 locally and nobody would be interested in what I did because the other 18 would all be more erudite, more worthy, have better jokes. There were definitely better blogs - Mark Sanderson was writing entertainingly about playing for Burridge and Skif was authoring Dub Steps (mostly about Havant & Waterlooville, but he covered other teams as well). Sure enough, they were both intimidatingly good. I tried, but I was never going to be their equal.

But there were hardly any others out there locally, even though that period was supposedly "The Golden Age of the Football Blog", so I carried on as the Third Best Football Blog in Hampshire. Bronze medal position, you gotta be happy with that?! And even if HAH wasn't the third best, at least it kept me occupied.

This one is called "The Lonely Footballer Without A Ball" or something equally pretentious.
Four Marks FC (0) 0 v 3 (1) Netley Central Sports FC
Saturday 21st April 2018
New Forest Care Hampshire Premier Football League Division One
Admission: None
Programme: None
Colours: Orange / black / black v All blue
National Grid reference: SU6634

Division One's top scorer this season, Netley's Alex White, brings the ball under control.
So I carried on as Mark and Skif retired from the game. Others came and went, but I'm still here, and undoubtedly still third best.

I persisted through the years - I would go to a match involving at least one club from Hampshire every other week throughout the season and describe the town and the ground, occasionally mentioning the match. One thing I would never do was copy a description of a place straight from Wikipedia and pass it off as "research". Firstly, that's ripping off someone else's work, and secondly, it's boring. I'd rather have an original story taken from my own experience (or just make something up).

Hence, Four Marks. Would you rather a copy/paste job, or would you like to hear about my friend's story about the garage shop? The latter, obviously...

The view downhill towards the cemetery.
There's not a lot to do in Four Marks, or so my friend told me. She didn't grow up there, but her mum, her step-dad and her dog have moved there since she left home, so she's a fairly regular visitor. It's a nice place to live, apparently, full of large houses with well-kept gardens, but there's NO PUB!

There used to be one in nearby Ropley, but that shut down after a fatal accident involving a pair of teenagers leaving one evening and crashing straight in to another car. No-one survived. The pub building is still there, but its boards and shutters are rotting away along with the rest it.

So there's no pub in Four Marks, which means if you want a drink, you need to get a "takeaway". The problem with this is the lack of shops. The only place that sells alcohol is the Co-op attached to the garage. One evening, my friend went there to buy a bottle of wine and was told by the shop assistant on the till that she "shouldn't be drinking that in your state". She didn't know what he was talking about, so she asked him what he meant. He pointed to his stomach and made a bowl shape. He thought she was pregnant.

She wasn't pregnant - not even chubby - so she was quite upset. She's been dieting ever since.

So my only Four Marks story concerns a body fascist shop assistant. Not really that interesting, but it's a story.

Oh, and there's a fireworks shop in Four Marks where I once bought some bangers. One of these fireworks was the one that I planted upside-down in our garden, lit it and watched open-mouthed as it flew three times around the garden, narrowly missing my young children before landing on my friend's head and setting his hair alight. Another story. Good.

Elm Tree View or whatever it's called. No elm trees to be seen.
I have another story now, and it involves my visit to Four Marks Football Club last Saturday. I arrived at about 2:45 and there was nobody about. I did wonder if the match was on, but the Inspector Poirot within me noted that the nets and corner flags were both standing proud and erect, so the players must be warming up elsewhere.

My little grey cells were correct, as there is another field nearby where the lads were going through their last-minute preparations. The changing rooms and the St George's flag-bedecked clubhouse are next to the other field which appears to host cricket matches during the summer.

So the players had to walk 50 yards or so from the changing rooms along a road next to a popular playground and bowls club to reach the football pitch.

Four Marks on the attack during the five minutes that the sun has shone this season.
The pitch slopes by about 6 feet from top corner to the opposite bottom corner. You might think it would be an advantage to play down the slope as you can probably run a bit faster downhill. However, as the Netley manager pointed out at half-time, it was actually harder, as the ball tends to run away quite fast when through passes are played. That had never occurred to me before, but he was quite right.

Behind a hedge at the bottom of the slope is a cemetery. On the right-hand side is a field with a piebald horse behind some tall trees. I stood for ten minutes in such a position as to try and get some players in a picture with the horse in the background. I failed (there's a photo of the horse on the HAH Facebook page, but no footballers).

At the top of the slope is a small children's football pitch, whilst off to the left is a new housing estate. As usual with new estates, the roads are named after things that were there before the building started, but won't be there any more. In this case, some of the roads are named after birds that used to nest on the land, whilst others are named after trees that were probably chopped down to make way for the houses.

Matt Watts scores Netley's second and they know there's no coming back from that!
The match was the most important of the season in Hampshire League's Division One. The visitors, Netley Central Sports (who I featured earlier in the season against Infinity), were top of the league going in to this, their last match. They were six points clear of the hosts, Four Marks. However, Four Marks would still have one more match to play after Saturday. Win both, and the two clubs would be level on points.

The catch was that Netley's goal difference was superior by ten, so even a narrow one or two goal defeat would probably be enough for them to be champions, although there would still be some jeopardy as Four Marks could theoretically still score a big win at Upham the following Saturday.

This was clearly the game of the day in the Hampshire League, but as is often the case at this level, there were more people playing than there were spectating. Even so, that doesn't make the game any less enjoyable for everyone there.

I didn't take many notes, but from memory, Netley took the lead after around eight minutes - Alex White slotting a penalty home after one of his team-mates was brought down as they were about to shoot. This was White's 24th league goal of the season, which made him Division One's top scorer for 2017/18. I wonder if he wins a trophy for that?

Netley were the better team in the first half. They knew at half-time that Four Marks had to score at least twice, and then another eight times in their final match, so there was no need to panic if they got a goal back. They didn't, as Netley went further ahead five minutes in to the second half. The ref gave a controversial free-kick 20 yards out on the right as a Four Marks defender appeared to win the ball cleanly in a tackle. But once a decision is given, the ref ain't gonna change his mind. The ball was lofted in over the three man wall, and there was Matt Watts at the back post, ghosting in to head home just like ex-England international Martin Peters used to in the old days.

Netley knew it, Four Marks knew it, we all knew it...this was the moment when the team in blue had won the league. They did score again five minutes from time when Watts was played through and chipped the keeper, but it really didn't matter at that point.

Two league officials had turned up with the champions shield and Netley Central Sports were taking it home with them! They had last won a league in 2010 when there was no promotion between the two separate Hampshire leagues. This time, they've applied to go up to the Hampshire Premier Football League Senior Division. They've done the business on the pitch, it's now up to the authorities to judge if they have good enough facilities for the step up.

Netley Central Sports...CHAMPIO-NAYS!
I shall be uploading more pictures from the game on to the HAH Facebook page later this evening. After dinner.

I think this will be my last blog report of the season. I've done slightly less than usual, which has been down to the weather in the second half of the season. I may do some sort of round-up of recent matches which will include Fareham Town, who I promised to feature but whose matches have been regularly postponed since I gave my word to them.

There will also be a roller round-up at some point. Some people seem to like them, although most don't.

As for next season? I think I'll carry on, but I won't write quite so much - it does take a lot of time. The blog may become more of a photo-blog. I don't know, I'll give it some thought. In the meantime, I'll be cheering on "my" team, Havant & Waterlooville, as they attempt to win promotion to the National League. Exciting times for the Hawks!

Oh, and my friend is still not pregnant and still enjoys her wine. And my other friend has lost all his hair since the fireworks incident. Nothing to do with me, honest.


  1. Thanks Andrew,good season for Netley,nice to have some photos.

  2. Cheers Alan. Enjoy the close season and then good luck when it all starts again in August!