|The banner on the wall of the hub overlooking the football pitches.|
I occasionally get asked to take photos at local clubs. If I have time to do so, I'll probably say yes (although I have been a meanie in the past and said no. I was too busy at the time). AFC Station were one of the clubs that put in a request, and I (eventually - possibly six months later...) turned up at Wide Lane to feature them on here. This was in November. I wrote about the crisis enveloping the adult men's game on a Saturday, with more and more clubs folding. I wrote about how enjoyable it is to play with your mates, out in the fresh air on a Saturday afternoon, kicking a ball about, getting involved - you're only young and fit enough to play for a few years, after all - there's plenty of time to sit around doing not very much when you're old. And so on.
This was the most popular piece I've written for quite some time, receiving over 400 hits (the average is around half that), so I guess it struck a chord. AFC Station's opponents that afternoon in the Southampton Saturday League Junior Division 2 (effectively the league's 4th division) were bucking the trend as a relatively new club, Testlands FC. After the game, Eddie McCaffery from the club asked me to pop along and take some photos one day. So, I did. Eventually.
Who are Testlands FC? They are the men's adult team of the Testlands Youth Football Club, based at the Testlands Hub (formerly Millbrook School) on the west side of Southampton. They're newly formed (well, in 2016), as it was felt that the boys who were playing in the youth teams had nowhere to go once they'd reached the top age group. Sure, they could go off and find another club (the likes of Bush Hill and QK Southampton are nearby and play at a reasonable standard in the Hampshire League). But what if they wanted to keep playing with their friends and with familiar coaches in an environment that they are happy in? The adult team gives them the chance to do that.
It's not all lads from the youth team though - the club is open to anybody. I'm sure they'd welcome anyone who can play at Junior 2 standard and who is committed to playing most Saturdays throughout the season. The club's ambitions are to go as far as they can go. They've seen nearby Bush Hill rise up through the leagues. They'd like to at least emulate them and maybe surpass them, reaching the Wessex League one day.
As a new club, they have a long way to go, but everyone has to start somewhere. They play on a well-drained pitch at the back of the Hub. You have to go through reception and out the back to reach the pitch, a bit like you used to have to at Fawley. The only structures beside the pitch are a pair of handmade dugouts, salvaged from some old bicycle shelters. Clever, spacious and practical.
On the pitch, Testlands were facing Botley Village, a former Hampshire League club whose adult men's team have been sliding down the pyramid over the last few years, and may not have stopped sliding yet as they propped up the table going in to this fixture. The hosts were in fourth place, but probably too far behind league leaders Whiteley Wanderers to win the division this season.
It looked like it was going to be a rout as the hosts raced in to a two goal lead within 9 minutes, Sean Haines blasting the first in from 12 yards (see the two pics below), then being played through and sliding the ball past the keeper to give Testlands a quickfire 2-0 lead. I don't know if Testlands sat back a bit then, or if Botley just woke up, as the rest of the first half was more even. The away side got a goal back after 19 minutes after a defensive mix-up, their number 12 taking advantage, walking the ball in to the net (sorry, I don't have names for the Botley scorers). 2-1 at half-time was probably about right on the balance of play.
There were to be five more goals in the second half. Haines completed his hat-trick on 55 minutes, blasting past Botley's nervous goalie from 10 yards. The away side got a goal back five minutes later, as their composed number 5 was played through, sliding the ball low to the Testlands' keeper's left.
It still could have gone either way at this stage, although Testlands were gradually stamping their authority on the game. What proved to be the killer goal came after 73 minutes when there was a shove in the box and the ref awarded a penalty to Testlands. Bertie New kept his nerve to slot home.
Botley Village got the score back to 4-3 with a minute of normal time to play. A free-kick was awarded just outside the box (it could easily have been a penalty - according to my photographic evidence, the foul was right on the line...). Their impressive captain curled the ball in and there were three men unmarked and onside at the back post, three yards out. One of them side-foot volleyed in and they still had a small amount of hope...
...which was squashed within 90 seconds as Luca Cordeddu tucked away the fifth goal for Testlands.
|Testlands FC 2018/19.|
Testlands FC (2) 5 v 3 (1) Botley Village FC
Saturday 9th February 2019
Southampton FA Saturday Football League Junior Division 2
Programme: Of course not!
Attendance: A few friends, family members and non-playing squad players
Colours: White / red / red v Green / green / red
National Grid reference: SU3815
|The first goal for Testlands (you can just see the ball behind number 17).|
I'm happy to take requests for photos from other local clubs. My main rule is that there has to be at least one club from Hampshire involved in the game. I'm a season ticket holder at Havant & Waterlooville, so I'm unlikely to visit when they're at home, and I'm also busy on other weekends sometimes, but if I can fit you in, I will.
I said it was a double-header this weekend - I'll be writing about a Sunday League club next. To follow later in the week!
|The ball hits the net despite the goalie's best efforts to stop it.|
|It's Millbrook Towers again! (See also QK Southampton, Bush Hill and Team Solent!)|
|Basically the same picture, but in the second half and in greyscale monochrome.|
|Testlands on the attack. Homemade dugouts in the background.|
|Botley Village squad members in the away dugout.|
|Testlands subs look on during a tense period of play in the second half.|
|Botley Village score in the 89th minute to trail 3-4.|
|Arty shot of a corner flag to finish off.|