It had been a hotly contested derby game and preparing to take the penalty the player couldn’t help but feel the watching eyes of the crowd upon him. Some would be hoping he scored, others that he missed. A picture appeared in his mind of the perfect penalty, a sweetly hit ball arcing towards the top right corner – the kind Le Tissier perfected. Opting for a short run up, the player struck the underside of the ball to give it lift and curve. It had plenty of curve, heading for the inside of the post, but not quite enough lift…. at full stretch the goalkeeper flashed across the goal, pushing the ball wide, the hearty slap of ball on glove echoing in the penalty takers ears.
Alas my ambition of scoring a goal at a Wessex League game remains unfulfilled, but, at least I hadn’t embarrassed myself by blazing high and wide, which was my biggest fear (and what a player managed to do in another local derby that day). Thankfully too it hadn’t affected the outcome of the game, being part of a half-time beat the ‘keeper contest. I can say though that Brockenhurst have a pretty good reserve goalkeeper.
The contest was part of the activities being put on by the Brockenhurst MUGA Team, a group of locals who are raising funds for a multi-use games area in the village. This also included a sponsored 5k run, in which the three runners began with a lap of the pitch, a raffle, netball and table tennis. All this added to the festive atmosphere at Brockenhurst’s Grigg Lane ground ahead of the New Forest derby with Bashley and is a great example of how football clubs can come together with communities.
Bashley themselves brought a substantial following to the party. Many of their fans sported scarves and badges, a sign that not so long ago the club played at a higher level, as both these things tending to be a rarity at Wessex League where any scarves, or hats tend to be homemade – something which I think is particularly endearing so special kudos goes to the Brockenhurst supporting gent with the homemade blue and white bobble hat.
For all this recent history though it was Brockenhurst who went into the game as the higher placed team in the league table, sitting in 10th place, compared to Bashley’s 14th. It was also Brockenhurst who opened the scoring on 39 minutes. Leaping for a cross-cum-shot the Bashley ‘keeper – an absolute colossus even by goalkeeper standards – could only get a palm to it. Crashing to the ground with the ball running loose a frantic scramble ensued which saw Brock’s Ryan Long succeed in poking the ball into the roof of the net.
A few moments later all hell broke loose. An off-ball grapple between a Brock’ and Bashley player near the far side of the pitch intensified, drawing both sets of players into a melee in which there was a fair amount of pushing and shoving. I’m sure a punch was thrown – though with so much going on it was hard to tell – and a fan also seemed keen to get involved, but the referee managed to arrive just in time to prevent any further escalation.
Once calm was restored the referee began the customary consultation with the linesman who was well placed to see the action. It was a tense moment as the outcome of the conversation could well have a major impact on the subsequent course of the game, but amazingly no cards of any colour were brandished – not even yellows for the participants in the grapple which started it all. The game then restarted with a drop-ball.
One player who was particularly lively in the first half was Brock number 7 Will Tickle. Described in the programme as a “livewire” the sparky Tickle managed to get behind the Bashley left-back on numerous occasions and late in the half Tickle created a good opportunity for Brockenhurst to extend their lead as he surged through once again. Tracked by a defender he did well to slot a pass across, presenting a colleague with a great opportunity. The Bashley ‘keeper however, proved equal to it.
That Bashley didn’t equalise early in the second half was down to a great save from Brockenhurst’s goalkeeper Gary Morrison who acted quickly and got down well to save a low shot from Bashley number 9 Kabba Jack, put through on goal by a good ball from the left wing. But despite Bashley’s efforts in seeking an equaliser Morrison had relatively little to do as attack after attack broke down. A key factor appeared to be the pitch which was so bobbly that the ball skipped across it like a stone being skimmed over a wave. This definitely didn’t suit Bashley’s on-the-ground passing style as their attackers lost vital time fighting to keep the ball under control.
Bashley’s frustration was compounded by the sounding of the final whistle, contrasting with the visible elation of the Brockenhurst players. In terms of league position they may have little to play for, but Brock’ ‘keeper Morrison’s primal fist clenching, vein bulging celebrations demonstrated just how much this derby win meant to them. 1-0 to Brockenhurst.