|The Way In to Waterside Park, avoiding the turnstiles.|
The top of the Southern League Division One South is fascinating this season, as at least three Hampshire clubs could be involved in the play-offs in a few weeks. One of them may even be promoted automatically.
The clubs in question are Moneyfields, Winchester City and Blackfield & Langley (we'll leave AFC Totton out of the argument for the time being, as they've probably left themselves too much to do, being seven points adrift of the final play-off position with seven games to go).
I followed Blackfield & Langley to Thatcham Town's Waterside Park on Saturday to inspect their promotion credentials. They travelled to Berkshire as league leaders, albeit only a point ahead of Yate Town. Thatcham were in mid-table with no chance of going up or down at the end of April. You might have expected them to take it easy from now on in...
However, Thatcham Town are a proud club. They are current holders of the FA Vase, having beaten Northern League Stockton Town at Wembley last May. They also won the Hellenic League to be promoted to the Southern League. Of course, Blackfield are current Wessex League champions.
Thatcham was once in Wessex League territory before it shifted south and west. They won the league in 1995/96. They have an ex-Wessex League manager in Danny Robinson, who has taken charge of Alresford Town and Winchester City in the past, so he knew all about his opponents.
Blackfield's main threat in the first half came from long throws and corners, with the powerful duo of Connor Doe and Sam Poole both coming close to scoring - Doe's goal was disallowed for a push, whilst Poole's header from a corner smashed against the bar. The closest Thatcham came to taking the lead was from a long-distance lob by Kyle Tooze over the advancing keeper, Lewis Noice.
Where Blackfield shaded the first half, the home side were slightly the better team in the second. They scored the only goal of the game when Tooze bundled his way down the left before pulling the ball back from the byline for Jack Alexander to sidefoot in to the far corner from six yards.
It was a tough-tackling game with no quarters asked or given, as they say (sorry for the cliches). Blackfield were obviously frustrated about losing. They lost top spot to Yate Town, who beat Paulton Rovers. However, Moneys failed to make up their four point gap, as they went down 2-0 at Street. Elsewhere, Winchester sneaked in to the final play-off spot with a victory at Larkhall Athletic.
It's going to be an interesting few weeks...
|The calm before the stormy game.|
Thatcham Town FC (0) 1 v 0 (0) Blackfield & Langley FC
Saturday 23rd March 2019
Evo-Stik Southern League Division One South
Colours: Blue and white stripes / blue / blue v All green
National Grid reference: SU5265
|Splendid save by AFC Bournemouth loanee Calum Ward.|
There will be another 40 or so photos from Thatcham on Facebook later this evening.
Next Saturday, I shall be heading to a title decider in the New Forest!
|The home fans gather behind the near goal.|
|The chase is on!|
|Tough tackling in greyscale monochrome.|
|The tea bar at Thatcham Town.|
|Thatcham celebrate the winning (only) goal.|
|Flying the flag for the FA Vase holders.|
|The Way In is now the Way Out.|
|A gathering of directors under the stand at the end of the match.|