Monday, 25 February 2013

36. Hayling United FC

Welcome to Hayling United FC.
Wasting beer is a sin. No need to say this really. Everyone knows it. So why did I pour my almost-full pint of HSB over the kid's head? I don't think he was annoying me. Did he do it to me first? Was he staring at my pint? Or did we do it because we could, because we realised that after we left college, we would never be able to do stuff like this again without ending up in the cells. The leeway of late teens. The freedom of youth?

It might have been because he was a posh kid from Hayling Island. All kids from Hayling were posh, or at least, us Leigh Park boys thought so (I know different now, but things were more black and white back then). In my days at Havant Sixth Form College, Hayling, Havant and Leigh Park would meet in the back room at either The Ship Inn or The Royal Oak in Langstone as a halfway house. Beer-wasting happened. I'm not proud of this. He wasn't a bad kid - to be honest, I never heard him speak - he was the quiet one (the dangerous one). I don't remember anything else.

It must have been a good night. One of many at eighteen.

Remember Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel's warning? White lines (don't do it). Doesn't apply to groundsmen.

Hayling United FC (0) 2 v 2 (1) Totton & Eling FC
Saturday 23rd February 2013
Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division
Attendance: 34 (headcount: exactly 0.2% of the island's 17,000 population). Official attendance given as 19.
Admission: £5
Programme: £1 (very good)
Colurs: Black and white stripes / black / black v Yellow / red / red
Club shop: No
National Grid reference: SU7200

The stand at Hayling United. Two-thirds closed.
Hayling Island is flat. If you ever mislay your ironing board, take a trip down to Hayling, choose any random square yard, and I promise it will be as flat as a flounder, just right for ironing those troublesome creases. It's easy cycling terrain - just like Holland, but without the wacky baccy coffee shops. However, there's trouble with all this flatness - there's nothing to stop the winter wind blowing in from the north.

It was cold on Saturday. So cold that I may have been hallucinating. At one point, I was convinced that an Arctic fox had just wandered by, sniffing the grass for signs of hare. Five jumpers cold. Heavy, grey, sombre, bleak. Was that an iceberg floating past Mill Rythe Holiday Village? I swore I heard a stranded walrus howling with the kind of desolate forlornness that only the desperately lost and alone can muster.

During the summer months, Hayling Island is a holiday-maker's paradise. Set off early to avoid the queues stretching for miles across the bridge which connects the island to the mainland, and you are rewarded with three miles of beach, sandbars at low tide, and some of the nicest ice creams in Christendom. Mine's a liquorice, since you're asking!

A motherly penguin waddled past, her gullet full of gurgitated fish, ready to feed her baby, all fluffed up in the middle of the colony between the dugouts.

Winter. Bleak.
For the motorised visitor to Hayling United FC, parking isn't a problem, as you use Hayling College's spacious car park. Shuffling towards the playing fields at the back of the college, you see the tea room before you get to the pay hut. Tea at 80p + Mars Bar at 60p = Bargain!

The friendly fellow at the pay hut takes your five pounds entrance fee and notes you down as a paying customer in his notebook. I was number four on Saturday. Number four in a sparse crowd. They would love 1% of the inhabitants of the island to come and watch them, but even with Pompey away, no more than 0.2% turned up for the visit of Totton & Eling.

Turn right through the entrance gate and you see the stand, which is two-thirds closed with a wire mesh barrier, presumably to discourage vandals when there's no-one about. Beyond the stand is a covered standing area, past which the players trot out from the dressing rooms in the school sports hall behind the ground.

Adequate cover for a club of this size. Unfortunately, the cover is set way back from the pitch, due to the school requiring an eight lane running track on their playing fields, with this being the best place for it. Carry on round and you see a rugby pitch to the right, then several child-size football pitches surrounding HUFC's barrier-enclosed playing surface. If you made an entire circuit of the pitch, you would eventually come to a long jump/cat poo pit just before leaving the ground.

Trotting out for the second half.
Entranced by a gaggle of snow geese feeding on a neighbouring pitch, the first half hour of Saturday's match passed by without much incident. I began to wish that I'd gone to Havant & Waterlooville instead (where, coincidentally, there was the same result today with the teams scoring in the same order). Only five miles up the road. Lots of cover from the wind there.

Then Totton & Eling's Craig Feeney scored to kickstart the game. The third time I've seen T&E this season, and I'd only ever seen the speedy, skilful Feeney score for them [Edit: not true, as he only scored one in their FA Cup tie with Weymouth]. He's a nippy nipper, for sure. Up there with Alresford's "unplayable" Zach Glasspool at the top of the Wessex League's scoring charts. This one was a slider beneath the keeper's body.

1-0 was how it stayed until half-time, when a polar bear made an unwelcome appearance in the stand. I waved him away with a rolled up programme, which I then proceeded to read.

Just like watching Newcastle United v Watford!
The programme was very good, having everything the visitor could possibly need (with only the club's results thus far this season missing). I'm particularly fond of questionnaire-type pieces, so was delighted to find four in Hayling's programme - one each for the first team manager, assistant manager, coach and vice-chairman. You know the kind of thing...Date of Birth, Nickname, Best Ground Played On, Favourite Food...

If anyone ever asked me to fill one of these things in, I know I would take it far too seriously, possibly losing sleep thinking about my answers. Best just to knock it off in five minutes and be done, knowing that only a handful of people will ever read it (and they'll forget all your answers within nanoseconds). I couldn't do that.

Favourite Film? Well, I'd choose one serious movie and one comedy - how about Apocalypse Now and This Is Spinal Tap? Okay, I'll stick with that for the time being. Sleep on it.

Favourite Band? Oh, cripes! Do I choose someone that normal people have heard of, even if they're not necessarily number one in my heart? Or something that very few people have heard of and be accused of musical snobbery? Buzzcocks or The Chefs? The Undertones or Yeah Yeah Noh? Old skool or modern? The Fall or Veronica Falls? Girls At Our Best! or Girls Names? Like I said, cripes! No sleep tonight then...

The twisted spire of St Mary's Church, Hayling.
Hayling's manager Steve Poulton chose Happy Mondays as his favourite band. He must have been bummed on the hour mark, as T&E extended their lead with a goal scored by...not Craig Feeney! A tired looper from Byron Gharibian this time.

Had Hayling been suffering from lazyitis? Not at all. They just needed to step on and do it better. Twist some melons.

With 90 minutes completed, they had shaken their maracas, done their freaky dancing, but the breakthrough hadn't come. 92 minutes, still nothing. 93 minutes, a free-kick 25 yards out. Up steps Lee "Tigger" Tigwell...Back of the net! (Or, more precisely, hits the stanchion and bounces back out, but "back of the net" sounds more exciting). 1-2 - surely that was just a consolation?

94 minutes, a scramble, a header, underside of the bar, over the line? Number 2, Steven Black, makes sure! It's 2-2! The boys in black and white had come back from 0-2 down to snatch a draw with the last kick of the game! Hallelujah! Bob's your uncle!

Ice floes melt with the excitement. Penguins swim back to Antarctica via Chichester Harbour. The walrus grows a kinky afro, freaky dances to Wrote For Luck and breaks into the toothiest grin you've ever seen.

The electronic scoreboard at Hayling United (not switched on).
Ignoring the freezing temperatures, I had a nice time at Hayling. Friendly people, and the match was pretty good...especially the last two minutes!

Anyway, I don't usually let on where I'm going next, but barring illness, bad weather, etc, I'll be seeing Hayling United again next Saturday at Alton Town's big day out. I know a few people who've said that they'd like to join me at one of these matches. I'd be delighted to see any of you at Alton, as would the club themselves, who need all the support they can get in their hour of need. See you there if you can make it!

Oh...and I promise I won't tip a pint of beer over you!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Against Corporate Bullying: The Campaign to Save Alton Town Football Club

Especially for the residents of Alton: Alton Town v Molson Coors in Private Eye 1333.
Alton Town Football Club are in trouble. At the end of this season, they are going to lose their ground. "So what?" you may be thinking. "Lots of small football clubs are in trouble - they overspend, fail to pay their taxes, run up debts. Why should I feel sympathy for Alton?"

Well, as far as I know, they are a well-run club, never been in trouble before. Their problem is that their landlord, Molson Coors (the seventh biggest brewing company in the world) is intending to throw them out so that they can sell their ground for housing. You may be thinking, "but surely landlords can do whatever they like with their own property? It's just hard luck on Alton Town that the mega-corporation that owns this land want to cash in right now. I expect Molson Coors are feeling the pinch in this current economic climate, just like everybody else?" Their last year's profits of £60,000,000 would suggest otherwise...

The real objection is that the sports ground has a covenant on it. Since 1935, the football and bowls clubs which share the site have been protected by this legal document which states that the land should be used for outdoor activities in perpuity. All previous owners (all of them breweries) have respected this document. The full story behind the fight to save the sports ground can be read on the Save Alton Town blog - it's worth reading everything on there, even the links, just so you know what they're up against. It's very much small town, skint Davids versus the billion dollar Goliaths of multi-national America.

What are Alton Town intending to do? Well, on March 2nd, the football club are calling on all football fans and local people to turn up to their Wessex League match against Hayling United. They aim to break their record crowd of 500 to show their landlords that people care about them, and to underline that closing down the football and bowls clubs would be a massive PR disaster locally for the brewery (whose brands include Carling - ironically a former sponsor of millionaires' playground, the FA Premiership).

For followers of several nearby clubs, your team will be playing away on March 2nd. Why not go to Alton instead and support them in their hour of need? Only £3, and the standard of football in the Wessex Premier is usually not too bad. Fans of Reading, Pompey, AFC Bournemouth, go on! You'll be assisting in a good cause, and you might even enjoy it!

To all groundhoppers out there: This could be your last chance to see Alton Town play at their traditional home. You will see a rickety old stand and a lovely pavilion. No kit stands anywhere to be seen. If you've been there before...go again! They're hoping to break their record attendance of 500. You could be a big part of their history just by turning up.

Fellow bloggers: It's a ready-made story for your readers. The football club would appreciate any publicity, whether you have 5 readers a day or 500. You never know who's going to be reading. It might be your piece that's read by that influential someone that could help them remain at the Sports Ground for many years to come.

So, why have I uploaded a cutting of last week's Private Eye article on the fight? Because it is strongly rumoured that an employee of the company bulk-bought every copy of the magazine that was on sale in Alton last week, to prevent the locals having a chance to read it. If that's true, it shows you just what the club are up against. Apparently, there will be another piece in Private Eye soon (not that anyone in Alton will be able to read it).

And anyway, without us, what will become of Sylvester?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

35. Farnborough FC

A very soggy Farnborough Football Club.
I can daydream for Britain. If daydreaming was an Olympic sport, I'd be a national hero, awards coming out of my ears.

This is what I was thinking about on the thirty minute walk from Farnborough Main train station to Farnborough FC's Cherrywood Road stadium:

Passing under the narrow bridge by the junction of Union Street and Prospect Road: "Hmmm, mild peril alert: this is where I got splashed by an Audi driver last time I was here, walking to Cove's ground..." That didn't happen this time, although it had been raining all morning, and there were puddles galore.

Past Cove's ground: "I love their roller! And Squirrel Lane! If only there were real squirrels there!"

Up Prospect Road: "There's a Prospect Lane near Havant & Waterlooville's ground, that's a coincidence. And this whole area is very similar to West Leigh...I wonder if man-mountain Ollie Palmer will be on top form today, or will his collapsed proposed transfer to Colchester affect him? C'mon Ollie! Back of the net, son!"

Past a garden full of chickens: "I wonder if they like eating woodlice?"

The Farnborough FC badge is everywhere. I hope that's not a phoenix! They mustn't eat chips.
Farnborough FC (1) 1 v 1 (0) Havant & Waterlooville FC
Blue Square Bet Conference South
Saturday 9th February 2013
Attendance: 483
Admission: £12
Programme: None ("We're awaiting the courier delivery; we shall inform everyone when it arrives")
Club shop: Yes. Badges £3.
Colours: Yellow with blue sleeves / yellow / blue and yellow v White / blue / white
National Grid reference: SU8657

The imposing new stand at Farnborough FC.
Close by the chickens, a sign on a roundabout, indicating a left turn for Farnborough Rugby Club and Cove FC; right for Farnborough Town FC: "This truly is a sporting nirvana, if I'm not very much mistaken!"

The road sign might still say Farnborough Town FC, but the current entity are no longer known as that. In 2007, the original club were liquidated (there are various stories about who or what to blame if you search around the web). They were demoted by only two steps, and are back where they were in double-quick time, all debts wiped out, as if nothing had happened. Since Farnborough Town's demise, the FA have changed the rules - any new club taking the place of a failed club now drop at least three steps. Thus, if Pompey go to the wall, they will restart at either Conference South or Southern League level (although there is some discretion - safety concerns and suchlike have to be considered).

A small area of cover just along from the main stand.
Past Bracklesham Close: "I wonder if the roads on this estate are named after bays or places in Sussex? Wasn't Bracklesham Bay the place where I found a rock made of iron pyrites? Fool's gold, of course! And Paul Weller went both to there and Selsey Bill for his holidays as a youngster, apparently"

On to Holywell Close: "Ah, so it was bays! I'm on Cherrywood Road now - are there roads named after trees nearby then?" A minute or two later, and Pear Tree Close is spotted...

The original Farnborough Town were only in existence for forty years. They previously played at a recreation ground in Queen's Road, moving to Cherrywood Road in 1977. The ground has had a number of names over the years - at first, it was The John Roberts Ground. It's since been the Aimita Stadium and the Rushmoor Stadium. However, everyone knows it as Cherrywood Road, and so it remains, at least until the next sponsor comes along with a wad of moolah.

The stadium has been developed piece by piece - the latest being the large new stand to the right of the turnstiles. Now, this has been under construction for quite some time - in photos from the last couple of seasons, it has resembled a giant whale skeleton with its ribs sticking up high into the Hampshire sky. I guess they must have found and sold some precious ambergris over the summer, as a roof has now been added. Even so, it remains shut to spectators, at least until the concourse is developed.

Unless I misunderstood a short conversation I overheard (quite possible), the old main stand (The Charles Mortimore Stand) is apparently going to be demolished later this year. Presumably, a new clubhouse will be built beneath the big new stand and the old stand side redeveloped (very, very slowly). Don't quote me on that though.

Hot chocolate, whipped cream, marshmallows. Hey, where did my Flake go? It's only gone and sunk in to the drink!
Arriving with plenty of time to spare, into the empty club shop to browse and buy a badge: "Ah, there's the badges on the counter, I'll just pick one up and have a flick through the old programmes. I'll let the guy behind the counter know I have the badge. Why is that steward standing there, arms folded, glaring at me? That's not very friendly. I'll just buy the badge and go. The Hawks club shop is a place of merry chat and laughter - this one is just forbidding. I don't want to be here."

Into the stadium. No programmes available, as they appear not to have turned up. Have a look around and take some photos. Peek behind the old stand, thinking there might be a route through to the other side - no, there isn't. Poke my nose back on to the hard standing by the food stalls. "Why is that steward staring at me? Why is he striding towards me?" He wants to see my ticket! "Jobsworth! Jeez, this is an odd place. Where's the welcome, happy to see you, friendly banter of just about every other club I've been to? They're acting like this is a nightclub and there's a fight about to break out. If they're like this to everyone, no wonder their crowds have halved this season..."

Dan Strugnell scores for Havant & Waterlooville.
Perhaps it was just the drizzle making the stewards miserable? It was a manky day. On the train from Southampton, I counted all the football grounds I could see - well, there was Saints and their big swanky stadium; an unidentified ground with a stand in Basingstoke; Fleet Spurs! Seen, appropriately, fleetingly! And Cove's floodlights as the train pulled up at Farnborough Main. I began to wish that I was at Fleet Spurs - at least they appreciate the people that turn up there and don't try to make them feel like potential criminals.

Never mind, I was about to watch the mighty Hawks in action! "I'll treat myself to a hot chocolate! That's got to be good!" It was!

The match? Not so good. Played in a miserable grey half-light - the same shade of grey favoured by the inhabitants of the Neutral Planet in Futurama - Farnborough went one up via a close-range header after five minutes. They hit the post from a similar chance a little later. The Hawks were hopeless, managing one shot on target before half-time.

More thoughts: "What was that noise?" A crash on the stand above my head. A large stone on the pitch. Kids in the car park lobbing stuff into the ground. "Charming place!"

Congratulations, Dan! Good show!
It was the sort of day that Chicken Licken warned us about when he said the sky was going to fall down. If a flock of sandpipers had flown in at half-time and started poking around in the mud, hunting for tasty bivalves, it would have been no surprise. It was that muddy.

Still, at least clubs in the Conference use a proper football - white with black spots. It looks just like a Subbuteo ball from the 1970s - the type that came with stick-on black hexagons that made it wobble alarmingly across the pitch. It was this ball that Dan Strugnell bazoomed in to the net from a corner 15 minutes in to the second half. 1-1.

H&W had the majority of the chances during the rest of the match, but nobody managed to score again. Farnborough whanged not one, but two shots over their big new stand into the car park beyond. Which was funny.

The programmes never did turn up.

Match reports here, here. Video highlights here. Message board vitriol here. Message board bafflement here. A virtual tour of the ground here.

After the match at the Prospect Road End.
Was that a one-off? Is Farnborough that unfriendly to every visiting club? Do they have something against Havant & Waterlooville, and if so, why? Assuming we're in the same league again next season, I won't be going back, so they've lost themselves £12. Oh, and where were all the children? Non-league grounds are normally swarming with them (cheap football). Have their parents been put off going by all the swearing and abuse? You expect chants full of effing and blinding at a Football League ground, but not in a crowd of 483 at level 6. No need, there's really no need.


Tuesday, 5 February 2013

34. Alresford Town FC

All visitors welcome at Alresford Town FC. They've even made a dugout for the lucky few!
During the week before a game, I have a little think about the club that I'm going to visit on the following Saturday. What do I know about them? What do I know about the town that they play in? I scribble down my thoughts in a scruffy notebook. Sometimes I have a lot of ideas; at other times my notebook appears as vacant as the average contestant on a Saturday evening quiz show.

So then, Alresford, what do we know about you? We know that you are the watercress capital of Hampshire, if not the entire world (although Huntsville Alabama would undoubtedly argue their case very strongly if this mousemat is anything to go by). Extensive cress beds border the town to the north. You occasionally glimpse them as you walk along the banks of the River Itchen.

Named after the local produce is train-lovers' heaven The Watercress Line, the steam railway running between Alresford and Alton. Some people would argue that trainspotters and groundhoppers have a lot in common - ticking off train numbers and football grounds being similar activities. Both keep detailed records of statistics that are both meaningless and exceedingly boring to everyone other than themselves. So, now is probably not the time to tell you that I have watched football at 77 different grounds in my lifetime (34 league; 43 non-league). Neither do you want to know that I have seen 125 goals in the 34 matches that I've covered so far in Hopping Around Hampshire (not including the occasional "extra" matches that I write about), which is an average of 3.67 goals per game.

I could go on.

And on.

Anyway, Alresford is certainly the place to live for any steam enthusiast who enjoys a hot, peppery salad!

Alresford Town's clubhouse, featuring first floor viewing platform.
Alresford Town FC (2) 5 v 0 (0) Fawley AFC
Sydenhams Wessex League Premier Division
Saturday 2nd February 2013
Attendance: 55
Admission: £6
Programme: £1 (good, plenty to read)
Club shop: No
Colours: Black and white stripes / black / black v Dark blue and light blue / dark blue / light blue
National Grid reference: SU5832 (more steam trains than you can shake a stick at)

From the platform...preparing to enter the fray at five to three.
Another thing I knew about Alresford is that it appeared at number 43 in the original Idler Book of Crap Towns. A sample quote: "It's purgatory with hanging baskets", which is quite funny, admittedly, but the 43rd worst town in Britain? Really? It transpires that this is where one of the authors grew up, and so, as a teenager, had a downer on the place. My response to any teenager moaning about their boring home town is "okay, if you don't like it there, go and live in the earthquake-affected slums of Port-au-Prince without electricity or water for a year, then come back and whine about your comfortable, affluent small town life". (Which makes me sound like an annoying old git).

The original Crap Towns book featured a disproportionate amount of settlements around these parts, with Hayling Island ("the final destination of choice for wealthy people waiting to die"), Portsmouth ("a good place to sail out of"), Winchester ("priggish complacency") and Basingstoke ("large and offensive") all also featuring in the top 50. I know, you're thinking "What? No [insert your least favourite place here]?" So unfair, on so many levels.

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Alresford actually seems quite pleasant to the passing visitor (me). No chain stores (barring a Tesco Local and a Pizza Express, but they're cunningly disguised as olde worldey shoppes), no 99p shops, only one charity's an alien world to those of us that are used to Shirley or [insert your own example of more typical British high streets here].

Goalmouth action in front of a spinney on the South Downs.
The football ground occupies part of Arlesbury Park. During the winter months, a green mesh fence separates the ground from a cricket pitch on the downward slope. Beyond the cricket pitch is a rusty play area featuring a climbing frame in the shape of a cheerful four-legged spider (I hope the local children didn't pull the spider's other legs off). Beyond the playground is the alder-bordered River Itchen, from which the town gets its name (Alresford: "the river crossing by the alder trees that abound with siskins").

The ground is dominated by Alresford Recreation Centre, a large building which houses the club's dressing rooms and a bar, amongst other things. There is a balcony outside the bar upon which spectators can either sit (there must be around a hundred black plastic seats up there) or stand and watch the match.

Beneath the balcony, there are three long wooden benches, sheltered from any rain. The wind, however, coming from the north on Saturday, was a little more difficult to avoid. One poor little girl was completely wrapped up in a pink raincoat, curled up in a hedgehog-style ball on one of the benches, shivering and quivering with extreme cold. Possibly there to watch her daddy play football, I'm sure she would have preferred to be anywhere but here...

Along from the building, there is an entrance/tea hut in a brown shed, which is in turn behind the two wooden dugouts. More green mesh separates the ground from the surrounding areas, both by the tea hut and behind the goal to the left. In a corner at the far end of the ground is the groundsman's brick-built shed, containing his white line painting equipment and a large silver roller (spattered with just a little rust).

The far side of the ground (the cricket pitch side) is out of bounds to paying spectators, making Arlesbury Park a three-sided ground. However, plenty of cheeky dog walkers stopped by for a quick free peek through the mesh during the match.

From the outside, looking in...
Alresford Town have been in existence since 1898. Their programme is devoid of a list of honours, presumably because they haven't won very much throughout their history. Their last real success was winning the North Hampshire League in 1999-2000, which helped them to be promoted to the Hampshire League Division Two. From there, they climbed in to the Wessex League upon its devouring of the Hampshire League in 2004. Promoted to the top division of the Wessex League in 2006-07, they've been bumbling around the lower half of the table for the last five seasons....

Until now! I don't know what's changed (the signing of players from last season's Hampshire League champions Liphook United has probably helped), but a victory on Saturday could have put the club top of the league for the first time in their short Wessex League history. Not only that, but they will be playing in the Wessex League Cup Final at the end of the season; and they've reached the quarter-finals of the Hampshire Senior Cup, with a home tie against GE Hamble coming up...

They're having a fine old time right now.

Alresford Town hit the bar towards the end of the first half.
Saturday's visitors, Fawley AFC, were looking to derail Alresford's championship ambitions. Their aspirations remained on track for the first half hour with them having the majority of the possession and chances. The highlight in this period for me was when an Alresford shot was ballasted high over the bar and in to a neighbouring field - a club official was on hand to clamber over a ladder to collect the precious match ball. I sidled over and hung around near him, waiting for it to happen again so that I could take a photo, but my sneaky plan hit the buffers as the homesters kept their shots low and on target from then on in.

Eventually, a low ball was funnelled through from Alresford's midfield - Fawley's keeper left his station, went loco out of his box and failed to see the warning lights as one of his defenders tracked back to cut out the danger. They collided, and Alresford's Zach Glasspool steamed in to pick up the loose ball and guided it in to the empty net from the edge of the box.

This gave the home side a good platform to build on, and other than a short period at the start of the second half when Fawley must have had their fire stoked by a rousing half-time team talk, from then on it was like watching a race between a Japanese bullet train and Thomas the Tank Engine. Alresford railroaded their visitors in to submission with a metronomic inevitability.

The second goal, after 42 minutes, was just the ticket for Alresford's Suharl Odeh as he slid the ball in from close range. The home team then rattled the bar (see above) just before the ref signalled for half-time.

Behind the other goal: Alresford Town's fourth, scored by Ashley Ledger.
Clickety clack, clickety clack, Alresford Town came down the track...

Fawley ran out of steam in the second half. Shortly after hitting the underside of the crossbar, they fell three behind from a magnificent header by Glasspool - the culmination of a top quality move where the ball had been switched from one side of the pitch to the other in the build up. He gauged his run from the sidings brilliantly to connect powerfully with the ball and cause the net to billow like smoke from the London and North East Railway's famous Mallard on its record-breaking run near Grantham in 1938.

The fourth goal was caught on camera (above - I'm sure the striker saw me taking photos and aimed for me! It made an effective shot anyway against the backdrop of the watery, winterly setting sun). Fawley's defence dropped their guard as a low level cross came in from the left, was dummied by Glasspool and reached Ashley Ledger, who swivelled as though he was on a well-oiled turntable and hammered the ball left-footed past the stranded keeper.

Two minutes later and Glasspool scored the fifth (for his hat-trick) with the best goal of the game - a curler from a point on the right side of the penalty box. Watching Match of the Day later, I made a mental note of all the players that were deemed "unplayable" in the Premiership that day - Aston Villa's Christian Benteke being the only one. I'd like to add Zach Glasspool to that rather tiny list - Fawley found him impossible to stop - even if they'd tied him up at half-time, locked him in a big metal container and sent him packing off to Inverness on an overnight freight train, he would have broken out before the engine had even set off, flown back with his superhero cape fluttering behind him and still scored his two magnificent second half goals. Unplayable indeed.

The 5-0 victory, combined with dropped points for rivals Downton and Christchurch, meant that Alresford Town tunnelled out from the Wessex League's underground and topped the Premier League table on Saturday night for the very first time. I'm sure they were well chuffed.

Alresford's well-written official match report can be found here.

The ladder used by a club official to retrieve errant footballs from a neighbouring field.
Statistic time: this is the sixth time I've written about one of the three Waterside clubs (Fawley, Blackfield & Langley, Hythe & Dibden), and the sixth time that they've lost (I won't tell you the goal difference in those matches - you won't want to come back again next week...).

Okay, one more statistic to bore you with before I go: the last time I saw a 4-0 followed by a 5-0, the next match I wrote about finished 4-5. Here's hoping!

Oh, and by the way, thanks to my workmates George and Richard for the help with all the railway wordplay (we quickly realised that watercress puns were a non-starter). I hope they're well-stoked with their efforts.