Football is full of strange co-incidences, like today; Of the two Southern Premier League games I’m trying to decide between both feature opponents with very similar club crests. On one hand there is the battle of the Stags as AFC Totton hosted Bashley on the edge of the New Forest, whilst down by the sea it’s the battle of the boats as Gosport Borough took on Weymouth. The boats won – mainly for convenience as it was the nearer of the two, and also as I quite enjoyed my last outing to Privett Park.
Quite a few of the people in the ground actually seem to be Weymouth supporters, wearing replica shirts and beanies in the clubs terracotta colours. It’s a more than decent travelling contingent for this level where, like the Bideford game, there is usually no more than a handful of away fans. Weymouth however, are historically quite a big-club – at least in non-league terms – who have relatively recently fallen on tough times.
After resisting for a few moments I head into the club shop to sift through the programmes. Arranged in chronological order the programmes provide a record of the fortunes of the club which have waxed and waned; In 1988/89 Gosport took on Waterlooville in the Beazer Homes League Premier division, but by 1992/93 were facing Sholing Sports in the Wessex league and in 2009 were taking on Cinderford town back in the South and West Division of the Southern League.
What I also find interesting from old programmes is the history contained within their pages – these are just a few small nuggets:
- In Gosport’s first Season in the Southern League (1978/79) the attendance at the first three games was over 1000 and the average for the season was 600.
- Guy Whittingham featured at number 8 for Waterlooville in 1988
- Bar Turnover over 2008/09 has been down slightly, blamed on the recession.
- A player with the surname Gazet du Chattellier, possibly a French aristocrat, made three starts and one substitute appearance in 2009
One other coincidence today is that Steve Claridge featured prominently for both Weymouth and Gosport. For Weymouth Claridge had both spells as a player and player-manager punctuated by a successful pro-career, whist for Gosport Claridge scored the last-gasp equaliser to take last seasons play-off final against Poole Town into extra time leading to Gosport’s victory and promotion.
Such is the drama, of football, but today the battle of the boats turns out more like the Battle of Hampton Roads – the first battle between two Iron-clad ships which took place during the American Civil War. The battle, between the Virginia and the USS Monitor, lasted for several hours, during which neither ship was able to land a decisive blow through the others thick armour plating.
Gosport are a different side to the Bideford game. They look lost up-front without Justin Bennett – on Honeymoon in Thailand, whilst the scorer of the two goals that day, Wilde, is out injured. Jamie Brown has been pushed up front from midfield whilst Sammy Igoe is tucked in alongside Danny Smith in midfield. For his part Brown seems more like getting a red card than a goal tangling at some point with every Weymouth player on the pitch – Yet another strange coincidence is that back in 2004 playing for Dorchester Town Brown received a red card after tussling with Claridge, then playing for Weymouth, who also received a red card. Weymouth however, are similarly bereft of ideas and so as with the Battle of Hampton Roads both sides break-off the engagement and head for home.
Just in time. My toes are freezing.