Monday, 19 November 2018

AFC Station v Testlands

AFC Station line up for their team photo.
People think I'm mad enough anyway for watching any type of football outside the Premier League, but when I go and watch a match in a roped off field in the Hampshire League (levels 11 and 12 in the English football pyramid), they think I'm beyond insane.

On Saturday, I went four levels lower, down to the fourth division of the Southampton Saturday Football League (known as Junior 2). Is that 16 promotions away from the Premier League? It's a big number, that's for sure. I'll be long retired before either of these sides get there, if they ever do. Realistically, they never will, of course, but that's not the point.

The point at this level is to get out on a Saturday afternoon in the fresh air and have an organised kickabout with your mates, with a proper pitch and a referee. There are leagues and cups to win, and you'll try hard to win them, but it's really secondary to the social aspect. You make friends for life and there will be moments that you'll always remember - an amazing goal, a brilliant save, or a crazy night out drinking after the game.

AFC Station asked me to come along and take some pictures. They were formed in 2009 as a team of friends based at The Station pub in Bitterne. They played at Riverside Park until the pitches there were no longer maintained by the council. They now play their home games at Wide Lane in Eastleigh, on whichever pitch is available on the day. They've had the same nucleus of players since they started, with additions arriving as and when required.

Opponents Testlands are new to the league this season. They're based at the Testlands Sports Hub in Millbrook.

The game looked like it could be close on paper, as the two sides were neck and neck in the league. It proved to be close on the day, with just the one goal separating them. There appeared to be little danger as Testlands' Ryan Phillips poked over a low cross from an acute angle on the right. However, the ball evaded his team mates, AFC Station's defence, and their goalkeeper, who was guarding his near post. Somehow, the ball squeezed just inside the far post for what proved to be the winner just 18 minutes in to the match. If he meant it, it was brilliant...

If there had been an Opta statistician there, he would have recorded roughly equal amounts of possession, approximately equal chances on goal (not that many) and quite a lot of crunching tackles. The best piece of action came right at the end, as an AFC Station player curled in a free-kick from 25 yards which was sneaking in to the top corner, but the Testlands keeper made a superb save to win the game for his team.

If you're of football-playing age and you live in either Bitterne or Millbrook, I'm sure both of these clubs would love to hear from you. The game at this level is slowly dying, with more and more clubs and players dropping out every season. It's a great way to keep fit, and a good way to make new friends. And who knows, you could be the goalscoring hero occasionally, just like your idols in the Premier League. It might be a little odd to watch football at Wide Lane on a Saturday afternoon (I'll admit that), but it's completely normal to want to play.

The view from behind the goal.
AFC Station (0) 0 v 1 (1) Testlands FC
Saturday 17th November 2018
Southampton Saturday Football League Junior Division 2
Attendance: Family, friends, one photographer and the guy with the baby
Admission: No!
Programme: Of course not
Colours: All red v Green / red
National Grid reference: SU4417

Autumn in Eastleigh.
That was a good game to photograph. The sun was out, the autumn colours were vibrant, there was plenty going on. I'm tempted to come back another day and spend 15 minutes taking pictures of each match at the complex, a sort of "Day in the Life of Wide Lane" if you like.

There are another 40 or so pictures on the HAH Facebook page. Good luck to both teams for the rest of the season. Keep enjoying what you do and I hope you like some of the pics.

I'm not sure when HAH will be back. My life looks quite busy over the next few weeks. I'll try and feature at least one game during December, perhaps in the Hampshire League, weather permitting.

One of many tough tackles.
Meanwhile, on the adjacent pitch, it's AFC Hiltingbury Vets v Gosport Vets.
The guy with the baby stops to watch the footy.
Jostling for position.
Meanwhile, on the other adjacent pitch, it's scrum time!
Excuse me sir, I believe that ball should be mine...
Thumbs up for Saturday Junior football!

Monday, 29 October 2018

Colden Common v Liphook United

The entrance to the Boyes Lane complex at Colden Common.
Twitter. Sometimes I don't know whether I love it or hate it. It can be annoying or it can be useful. It's certainly useful for football fixtures. I follow most of our local clubs and often it will be the first place I hear their news. Where is the next game to be played? What time is kick-off? If the weather is poor, has the game been postponed?

I'd not been to Colden Common before and I wasn't sure if they still played at Main Road or if they'd moved permanently to Boyes Lane. Twitter told me to go to Boyes Lane and that the kick-off would be at 3pm (non-floodlit grounds will have earlier kick-offs from next weekend due to BST ending). Useful!

Twitter is also good for polls. If someone I know posts a poll, I'll generally have an opinion and vote for my preferred choice. Democracy in action. Last year, I voted in Richard Osman's World Cup of Crisps. Pickled Onion Monster Munch won and I was in full agreement with the electorate, which almost never happens.

Last week, I posted a poll of my own. There were four Hampshire Premier Football League grounds that I'd not previously featured on HAH which had first team fixtures scheduled for Saturday. 176 people voted and it was very close between the top two - Athletico Romsey obtained 35% of the vote, but they were pipped by Colden Common on 40%. As I respected the result of the poll, I went to Colden Common FC for their league cup game against Liphook United. As it happens, it was a very good choice, so I thank the 70 or so Twitter followers who voted for this option.

Liphook had won the initial fixture between the two clubs in the league in August by 9 goals to 1. The way they started, kicking uphill, it looked like there might be a similar result. George House capitalised on some hesitation in the Common defence after 11 minutes, snaffling what I thought would be the first of many for the visitors.

But Common didn't buckle and gradually fought their way back in to the game. Dave Paskins tucked in their first on 31 minutes. The game was suddenly as even as the scoreline suggested. Another 10 minutes passed before Maciej Marcinkowski looped a header over Joshua Bird in Liphook's goal. Paskins then scored his second and Common's third two minutes later with a diving header from close range.

It was cold, so a warming cuppa from the clubhouse was welcome at half-time. I chatted with one of the club volunteers and volunteered my own opinion that Common would need another goal yet, as I thought Liphook were more than capable of scoring at least twice more - and so it proved. Bird was sent off for handball outside of his box after 58 minutes. A fellow spectator who had a better view than mine thought it was a harsh decision, but Bird didn't complain (indeed, both sides were very well behaved throughout).

Liphook midfielder James Liddiard, who was by far the tallest player on the pitch, powered in a header after 58 minutes, and then scored again from close range as the ball rebounded off a post in to his path. 3-3 with 15 minutes to go! This was a cup match, and it looked like we were heading for penalties...

Then the masterstroke by Common's manager Ben Thomson, who brought himself on with five minutes remaining. Within a couple of minutes, his through ball was met by Paskins twelve yards out, who smashed in the winner, much to the home team's delight.

As I said, thank you to my Twitter followers for sending me to Boyes Lane. You were right!

Autumn Panoramic View no1.
Colden Common FC (3) 4 v 3 (1) Liphook United FC
Saturday 27th October 2018
Hampshire Premier Football League Cup 2nd Round (last 16)
Attendance: Approximately 20
Admission: None
Programme: Yes! £1, and very good it is too, full of statistics and club news.
Colours: Red / black / red v All blue
National Grid reference: SU4822

Colden Common on the attack...
The Common won't be at Boyes Lane for very much longer. At some point during 2019 (probably at the start of next season), they will be moving across the River Test to Otterbourne FC's old ground. The committee are currently sprucing the ground up and making sure the various safety certificates are in order, so if you haven't been to Boyes Lane yet and you want to go, there aren't many more opportunities for you to do so.

Common have a superb social media presence for a club this far down the pyramid. A match report (with photos) can be found on their website here.

There will be another 40 or so pictures on the HAH Facebook page.

...But here come Liphook in this ding-dong battle.
Autumn Panoramic View no2.
Yes, there is a cameraman here and he did capture this rabona (or whatever it's called!)
Coaching staff and fans watching from the sidelines (no dugouts here).
Autumn Panoramic View no3.
The excellent Chloe-Ann Anderson gives out her autograph to this Colden Common player.
Goal number 3 for Liphook and it's anybody's game with 15 minutes to go!
But it's Colden Common who score the winner in the 88th minute. Dave Paskins in the middle of the bundle after his hat-trick goal.
And here's this week's quirky pic. A bucket of tools behind the bottom goal.

Monday, 15 October 2018

AFC Croydon Athletic v Fareham Town

And still there's another five minutes to go until we reach the ground...
I booked myself on to the club coach for 12 quid. It seemed like a good idea. It was the FA Vase, the weather in the west half of the country was due to be wet and wild, whereas the sun was gonna shine in London. All the other Hampshire clubs that were playing away in the Vase were going to get drenched. Fareham Town were going to keep dry. Yes, it was a good idea.

But then the worries started kicking in.

Worry number 1: I was going out the night before. Would I lose my discipline and drink too much, stay out too late and fail to get up on time? [No, I had a few beers, but I managed to get home before midnight].

Worries number 2 and 3: Would the M27 be blocked eastbound so that I couldn't reach Fareham by the time the coach left? Or would my car break down? [No and No].

There were other worries, including the fact that I always take a wrong turning on the way to Cams Alders (Fareham Town's ground) and somehow end up in Segensworth, but I managed it this time. I did it. I got there on time.

The coach came. The team kit, training cones and tactics board were all loaded. The fans were there. The club officials were there. It was just a few players that were missing. However, they turned up eventually and we set off.

First stop, Cobham Services to load up on Greggs and KFC. Second stop, AFC Croydon Athletic, or at least that was the plan. The coach driver was advised by a local not to go up the road leading to the ground, "as you'll never squeeze in!" So instead, we were dropped off over a third of a mile from the stadium. The players carried all the kit, the spare footballs and so on for 15 minutes up a potholed track to the Mayfield Stadium, but at least we were there (and of course, the coach could get up the track - it was tight, but the driver managed it so that he was waiting for us at the end)!

AFC Croydon Athletic play in the Southern Counties East League (formerly the Kent League). I won't describe the ground as I think the pictures here do the stadium justice. For the groundhoppers amongst you, it was worth the journey. However, I wouldn't want to walk along the track leading to the stadium in the dark.

The first half was quite scrappy, with neither side playing particularly well. However, the hosts probably just about shaded the play and scored the opening goal after 28 minutes, Rob Carter side-footing in from 10 yards when Fareham failed to clear from a corner.

The second half was all Fareham once they got in to gear. The fact that AFC Croydon's goalkeeper, Nic Taylor was man of the match should indicate where all the action was. He pulled off several decent saves. As Town became more desperate for the equaliser, they left themselves exposed at the back and the home team took advantage of this to score twice on the break, after 88 minutes and again deep in to injury time. The scoreline was what they call "flattering", but if you don't score, you don't win.

So it was back on the coach after what looked like a meal of cheesy chips for the players and a long journey home in the dark.

AFC Croydon Athletic's reward is a home tie against another AFC, AFC Uckfield Town of Sussex. Fareham can concentrate on the league (and the Russell Cotes Cup and the Portsmouth Senior Cup - maybe they can win a trophy yet this season).

The club formerly known as Croydon Athletic FC.
AFC Croydon Athletic (1) 3 v 0 (0) Fareham Town FC
Saturday 13th October 2018
Buildbase FA Vase 1st Round Proper
Attendance: 96
Admission: £7
Programme: £2
Colours: All maroon v Blue and black stripes / blue / blue
National Grid reference: TQ3067

Stand and some of the terraces at Mayfield Park.
The official match report on Croydon's website can be found here.

There will be many more photos from the game on the HAH Facebook page here.

Fareham Town's photographer Nick White can be found on Twitter here. He posted a few fine pics over the weekend.

AFC Croydon Athletic's stand.
Advert for the Ghostfinder Paranormal Society, in case you ever feel the need.
The Crematorium tower.
Covered terraces and dugouts in club colours.
Beautiful Croydon.
Fareham Town fans watching their team trying to score from a corner. Looks like some holding going on in the box, ref!
The home substitute's job at this level is often to go and fetch lost balls. This one was on the roof of the end terrace.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Calne Town v Fawley

Gaily coloured sign attracting visitors in to Bremhill View.
I can't help it. I love the FA Vase. I can go to places I've never been and watch two sets of amateur or semi-pro footballers giving it their all, knowing there's a Wembley final at the end of the rainbow. I've rarely seen a boring game in this competition.

This was very much the case at Calne on Saturday in the initial round of the competition. From the first minute, when the home side took the lead with a curling shot from 20 yards, through the 7th minute, when Mark Lilley equalised from the first penalty of the day, to the 19th minute, when Calne scored from a dubiously-given corner, through to the 29th minute (Hawkins drew Fawley level at 2-2), to the 48th and 62nd minutes (Calne going 4-2 up with a pen and a goal from open play), until the 78th, 87th and 89th minutes, when Fawley came back from 4-2 down to win 5-4, with Elliott Earl sliding in the third, then sub Peter Southwick scoring two in quick succession, this was a riveting rollercoaster of a game. Quite possibly the best match I'll see during 2018/19.

Pre-match, it looked like it could be an even match-up between Calne Town of the Western League and Fawley of the Wessex, and Calne is somewhere I'd never been, which is why I chose this game. Calne is about 1 hour and 35 minutes from Southampton by car (if you don't take any wrong turnings on the way - I didn't on the way there, but I messed up going across Salisbury Plain on the way back, making it a two hour return journey).

Bremhill View's main structures are on the far side from the corner entrance. You can see the dressing rooms and stand in the pictures below. The other three sides are hard standing - the far end has been newly laid. Aaron Witchell and Lovesey both wrote their names in the concrete as it set. If you'd like to see more of Calne's ground there are approximately 40 more photos on Facebook here. There are also plenty more action pics. I noticed that Calne had their own photographer, so I concentrated entirely on taking photos of Fawley's players.

The dressing room steps.
Calne Town FC (2) 4 v 5 (2) Fawley AFC
Saturday 1st September 2018
Buildbase FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round
Attendance: Approximately 50-60
Admission: £5
Programme: Free with entry
Colours: White / black / white v Sky blue / navy blue / navy blue
National Grid reference: ST9971

I understand it was a lovely sunny day back in Hampshire. The sun shone for about three minutes in Calne.
There are more photos on Calne Town's Facebook page here.

Somewhere on the 'net, there may be a video of this game, which will be worth a watch. There was a drone hovering above the ground throughout the match, presumably taking still or streaming images. It must have quite an impressive battery life, as I didn't notice it coming down for a battery change at any point. I haven't seen the results of this yet, I'm assuming something will be published somewhere at some point.

Calne Town's seated stand.
Dressing rooms and tea hatch.
Children watching from the neighbouring playground.
Fawley on the attack in front of the rapt audience.
Big effort.
Crazy dance moves.
Unbelievable! The 89th minute winner!
Big smiles from Scott Johnston.
It wouldn't be right if I didn't finish with an arty one...

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Street v Fleet Town

Newly promoted to the EvoStik Southern League, Street Football Club.
I could have waited until December 29th and the match at Fleet. It's going to be Fleet v Street, and the closest you'll ever get to a fixture which sounds like a Monopoly property. But I decided on the back-to-front fixture, which was a rare match-up between two teams which rhyme. As I'm easy to please, I settled on Saturday's game instead.

It was a special occasion for the club from Somerset, as after 50 years in the Western League, they won it by 15 clear points last season (including a run of 26 successive victories) for their first-ever Western League championship and automatic promotion to the Southern League Division One South (the same league as Winchester City, AFC Totton, Moneyfields and Blackfield & Langley). They're delighted to be there, unlike opponents Fleet Town, who were moved at very late notice by the FA from the Isthmian League Central (I think!), which was far more geographically appropriate for them, due to Shaw Lane's resignation from the Northern Premier League and Wimborne Town's subsequent belated promotion (it's complicated...).

Street look as though they'll be carrying on with their Western League form, as they won this fixture with ease. From the very first minute, when Craig Herrod broke through and forced the first of many superb saves from Brendan Norris, until the very last minute, when Phil Ormrod (excellent name despite the lack of an E) missed from close range when it looked easier to score, Street overwhelmed the club from north-east Hampshire.

Goals from Herrod, Ben Amghar and Steve Murray sealed the win in front of an impressive crowd of 193 at The Tannery. They proved that they're not to be taken lightly. AFC Totton beware, as the boys in green will be down at Testwood on 1st September!

As for Fleet Town, it appears that they have an almost completely new side from the one which finished 2017/18, so they'll need time to gel. Saturday will be a game from which they must learn about one another and move on.

Young fans watch on as Fleet have their pre-match huddle.
Street FC (2) 3 v 0 (0) Fleet Town FC
Saturday 18th August 2018
EvoStik Southern League Division One South
Attendance: 193
Admission: £8
Programme: £1.50 (very good)
Colours: All green with white trim v All yellow
National Grid reference: ST4735 ST4835

The older of the two seated stands at Street FC.
Match reports from each of the clubs' websites can be found here and here.

Approximately 40 more of my photos can be found on Facebook here. Apologies to those of you who aren't on Facebook.

As an addendum, this was the fourth time I've watched Fleet Town play, and they've yet to score a goal. Curiously, I've seen neighbours Fleet Spurs three times, and they've lost each time. Seven defeats in seven games for the two Fleet teams. I'm obviously an unlucky charm!

My Fleet Town stats from the Groundhopper app. Not good.
Close shave for the home side. Street's second seated stand is in the background with a small standing shelter to the right.
Tussling as the home subs look on.
Action in front of Street's shallow covered terrace.
Penalty? The ref said "No!"
Steve Murray celebrates Street's third goal by the corner flag.
I'll let you caption this one!
A bad day in the dugout for Fleet Town. Another 37 games to put things right...