Tag Archives: Hampshire Premier League

Fleetlands v Clanfield – Hampshire Premier Football League Senior Division – 17th April 2017

21 Apr

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“It’s the last one, go and enjoy it” were the words of the Clanfield manager to his team, before mentioning that a win would see the side, currently placed 7th, move up two places to 5th. The manager also counselled his side to be smart in their play as they had arrived with a bare 11 which did not include any strikers – “it’s a bank holiday it can’t be helped” was his rather easy-going assessment.

Against the side currently occupying 2nd position, behind already crowned champions Bush Hill, it meant however, that Clanfield would have an uphill struggle – something they quite literally faced in the first-half as Fleetlands pitch sloped downwards toward the bottom left corner.

Fleetlands has to be one of the most interesting grounds I’ve visited so far, particularly at this level. As well as the standard changing rooms, clubhouse and perimeter rail there are two small stands. It is also on Ministry of Defence land – a helicopter base, so has a windsock near the corner of the pitch as well as several helicopter pads. The pitch side view is also pleasant, looking out over the water, moored yachts and ending with Portsdown Hill in the distance. It can’t be that far off Wessex League standard, though apparently no Hampshire league clubs have applied for promotion this season.

Despite their disadvantage Clanfield acquitted themselves well in the first half. There was a scare when Fleetlands hit the post and the follow-up fell to one of their strikers for the follow-up, but the shot was blocked well and cannoned off a Clanfield players rear-end. At the other end they managed some reasonable chances, the best coming when the Clanfield number 4, through on goal, put his shot just high and wide.

In the absence of any substitutes the Clanfield manager was left to run the line. From this position he did his best to encourage his players “well done, that’s quality” he said to one after a particularly good tackle in which the Clanfield player wrapped his leg around an opponent to take the ball and curtail a marauding run down the line.

In terms of management style the Clanfield manager couldn’t have any more different to his opposite number the Fleetlands boss who surveyed the game with arms either folded, or in pockets and a look of perpetual disgust on his face as he offered various points of criticism to his players.

Coming off the field at half-time one of the Fleetlands players called out to the manager. Getting his attention he launched a long cross-field pass in the managers direction. This had presumably been intended to show-off, but the player had over hit it and sailed high and wide of the intended target. The manager’s eyes narrowed. “Why did you call me then, so I can go and get it?” he snarled (though with a few more swear words). Someone would be doing extra push-ups and laps of the pitch at the next training session.

On a personal note the end of the first half marked 135 minutes of football I had seen that day without a single goal. I suspected though that this would change in the second half as Clanfield’s bare 11 would surely struggle as the game wore on.

As it was I didn’t have much longer to wait for my first goal of the day. A few minutes into the second half Fleetlands got on the score sheet when one of their players headed in a cross to make it 1-0. This was followed soon after by another great chance when a Fleetlands player danced through the Clanfield defence only to be denied by a magnificent full-stretch save by the Clanfield ‘keeper who pushed it onto the post.

The ‘keeper  was in particular having a particularly impressive afternoon, being  near unbeatable in the air, and this intervention allowed Clanfield to have at least a stake in the game for a little while longer. Their moment came when well-beaten by an opponent the Fleetlands right-back produced a late slide tackle to concede a free-kick on the edge of the box. The kick itself did not trouble the goal-keeper, but the ball came loose in the area and a Clanfield player was perfectly positioned to tuck it away. Unfortunately for Clanfield however, they poked it over.

This was effectively Clanfields last chance to get something from the game. Tired legs began to severely blunt their attacking edge and their forwards were unable even to hold the ball up, placing the Clanfield defence under sustained pressure as every single ball forward was mopped up by the Fleetlands defence and returned with ease. In the end the killer low was applied by one of Fleetlands’s substitutes, their number 12 Connor Johnson, who was a short tricky player of the type given to gleefully dribbling in and out a number of opponents as if he were a gust of wind slipping through the yacht masts out on the water. Several members of the Clanfield defence were almost helpless as producing such a dribble he tucked Fleetlands second goal away safely beyond the ‘keeper. From this point there really was no coming back for Clanfield. 2-0 to Fleetlands.  

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Bush Hill v Stockbridge

13 Mar

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At times it had looked like I wouldn’t make it, particularly when that wrong turn had cost me at least 10 minutes, but in the end I’d timed it just right. 2.59 according to my watch and I was striding up to the turnstile at Team Solent’s Test Park ground…

…only the gate was shut. Peeping through the gap revealed only an empty, still ground, no sign at all of a top of the table Wessex league thriller between Team Solent and Moneyfields. I turned back in confusion, there had been no rain today, and in a neighbouring field a rugby game was in full-swing. “Must’ve been called off” said another chap who in the meantime had wandered up and drawn the same conclusion. We stood for a moment pondering the two hour gap in our Saturday afternoons. “Ah, these footballers don’t like a bit of mud these days do they” he added as we gazed over at the rugby field.

So far in life, I’ve resisted the lure of the smart phone, but this was a moment one might have come in handy. I had no idea what to do, or where to head to – QK FC were in the neighbourhood, was it worth swinging by there? Problem was I was on the other side of town and my geography was a little patchy. What was the easiest way to get from here to there….?

I headed off – in the wrong direction. This though turned out to be the saving point of my afternoon as immediately round the corner at Mansel Park I spotted game was in progress. One team in red and one in yellow, not Solent or Moneyfields, but close enough. The ground, consisting of a couple of shipping crates and a fixed railing around the pitch, suggesting Hampshire League.

I ditched the car at the first opportunity and hurried over to the pitch, the first task to figure out who exactly I was watching. It was easy enough to figure out who the home team were, the reds, as their crest adorned one of the shipping crates “Bush Hill FC.”

On the pitch Bush Hill were led by their number 2 a right back who sported a white headband which made him look like a latter day Steve Foster. The steve-foster-a-like possessed a good touch and moved forward well, dictating much of the early play. To me Bush Hill looked the better side overall, playing some nice flowing football despite a slightly bobbly pitch, and took what I assumed was the lead when a low shot across the opposition ‘keeper found the net. The opposition did manage an equalizer after a loose header was gobbled up by an onrushing forward who capitalised on a bit of indecision from the Bush Hill ‘keeper who had failed to anticipate the threat early enough to issue a strong response, but at the other end Bush Hill added two more to give them a commanding, if not quite unassailable, 3-1 lead at half-time.

In fact the only problem Bush Hill really faced at this stage was running out of milk in the tea hut. I wasn’t the only one who had come over from Team Solent’s ground and as a result there had been a bit of a rush on the tea and coffee. I made the crowd to be around 40, a respectable amount even for a Wessex League side.

A Bush Hill goal early in the second half would likely have killed the game, but it was the visitors – who by now I’d figured were Stockbridge -who managed to sneak a goal back with a finish applied from close range after a pass across the goal mouth. With the deficit at just one goal Bush Hill clearly felt the pressure and began arguing amongst themselves. As a player I always love it when the opposition argue as it is a sure sign that the psychological battle is being won and it was probably no coincidence that Stockbridge began to enjoy their best period of the game. When a Bush Hill player, spurning the easy-ball, dithered in midfield and was subsequently caught in possession an almost identical pass across goal led to the equaliser. This turn of events led to the Bush Hill players fuming, but for the second time this week I was lucky enough to witness a game which went right down to the wire.

With tired legs in evidence on both sides Bush Hill attempted to rejuvenate themselves by bringing on a fresh attacker. This brought an added urgency and threat into their forward play, yet still they still could not find the finishing blow. It therefore fell to Stockbridge to take the initiative. Their opportunity came on the break. Suddenly it was 2 on 1 and with a player free on the far post a real sense of deja-vu was kicking in however, instead of passing across the goal to his team mate the Stockbridge forward elected to shoot…. and miss. What happened next was almost morality lesson on the dangers of greed; Almost immediately Bush Hill scored at the other end. Where just a moment before Stockbridge had been odds-on to take all three points, now they had none.

Bush Hill held on for a 4-3 win and all three points, which according to a later Google search sees them move to the top of the Hampshire Premier League. With plenty of games in hand they look very much like taking the championship. Stockbridge meanwhile sit at the bottom of the table.

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QK Southampton v Headley United; Hampshire Premier League Saturday 17th August 2013

20 Aug

Saturday saw me at QK Southampton. Formerly known as Queens Keep, after the office block which housed the Inland Revenue whose sports and social club the team belonged to, the club changed its name in the year 2000 a reflection, like many works sides of loosening ties and a desire to seek a new future. For just over a decade QK FC have played at the Lordshill Recreation Ground on Redbridge lane, a modest home of a few portakabins, a shipping container and two-dugouts (see Hopping Around Hampshire for some wonderful photos of the ground in the snow) which is currently a covered spectator area and set of floodlights short of the clubs long-term Wessex league ambitions. Interestingly – to me at least – their home is also a stones-throw from Bargain Farm where my Grandma was born, so it’s quite possible that the pitch was once a field ploughed by my great-grandfather…

QK Southampton (yellow) take on Headley United (white)

QK Southampton (yellow) take on Headley United (white)

As impossible as it is to read another persons mind it was not hard to tell what was occupying the Queens Keep Goalkeeper’s thoughts.  Redemption. It had been an eventful, some would say disastrous, opening twenty minutes for the tall, spindly, youth between the sticks. First there was his drop-kick which was charged down by an opposing forward, leading to a hasty hoofing of the loose ball into touch. Next came a shot, a fairly routine one, of the type which sees goalkeepers clutch the ball to tightly to their chest turning their body into a giant softball glove.

QK's portakabins

QK’s portakabins

This time though the ball rebounded off the ‘keepers palms with a waiting forward seizing the chance to slide it into the corner of the net. One of his defenders must have said something as the keeper stormed toward the bench, removing one glove shouting that he wanted to be taken off leading to some among the small crowd to question his sanity. Finally, just a few minutes later, another forward barreled through chasing a bouncing long ball with the vigour of a puppy chasing a tennis ball. The ‘keeper looked gripped by indecision as his legs held him tight in no-mans land. The forwards boot connected to send the ball looping up and  into the net.

Now he was facing a penalty. Another goal would give Headley United an almost unassailable lead. A save would not only keep QK in the game, but would more importantly go some way to redeeming those earlier errors. The ball is kicked, the ‘keeper guesses right. Low and to his left, but it’s hit with too much power. 3-0. The chance gone.

Umbrella in QK Southampton club colours.

Umbrella in QK Southampton club colours.

At half-time the ‘keeper is the last into the portakabin which serves as the home dressing room (though the teams actually get changed in a pavilion some distance away for the ground) The door closes and the shouting and swearing begins. By contrast, just a few metres away, in the away dressing room the Headley United manager is calmly issuing instructions for the second half. His tone is even as he implores his team not to let up and to put QK to the sword.

The away dressing room. NOT the scene of the half-time hairdryer.

The away dressing room. NOT the scene of the half-time hairdryer.

Which approach was the most effective was apparent as soon as the teams returned to the field. The QK players, save for a couple, looked dejected. They waited for the game to resume in silence whilst the Headley players whooped, hollered and clapped their hands together excitedly. Using the width of the pitch well they fulfilled their managers instructions by adding  a further two goals, before yet another breakthrough threatened to tun the game into a rout. Hit hard with the outside of a foot the ball swings towards the near post. A certain goal. Suddenly the ‘keepers left arm shoots out. Saved. The handful of spectators, as one, applaud – for the first time in the whole game. Then again, another breakthrough. Two-on-one. The odds firmly stacked against him when the ball is dispatched toward goal. He stretches out his leg. The ball bounces into the air. With the goal mouth looming large somehow it twists over the bar with the audacity of an Olympic pole-vaulter. The crowd applaud again. It may have no impact on the game, but it’s redemption.

An injury towards the end of the game which reduces Headley to 10 men, results in QK stealing a late, late consolation, to leave the final score 5-1. The Headley ‘keeper who has, when called upon, produced a series of fine acrobatic saves is left furious – So close to a perfect clean sheet only to have it snatched away at almost the last minute. 

Welcome to QK

Welcome to QK

The road to QK

The road to QK

Entering the pitch

Entering the pitch

Match action

Match action

Granny's House

Granny’s House

Hamble Club Reserves Vs AFC Aldermaston Reserves Hampshire Premier League Combination Sat 13th October 2012

16 Oct

My recent trip to Eastleigh having ended in something of disillusionment that the ethos of non-league football was in retreat I felt I needed an antidote in the shape of a real football hinterland. This was what Row Z was meant to be about, exploring the far reaches of the game, the unloved, the forgotten and  the overlooked nooks-and-crannies where football is found. As far away from the gigantic-stadia and corporate sponsored, bloated excesses of the modern game as it is possible to get. This is the desire that leads to me picking my way across a muddy field alongside the players of Hamble Club reserves and AFC Aldermaston reserves to see if Hamble could end their losing streak and put their bad run – including an 18-0 defeat, behind them.

Hamble’s golden postbox

Hamble, or to give it it’s proper name Hamble-le-rice regards itself as a village, though it manages to pack in rather a lot including an aerospace plant and an oil refinery. Hamble is also home to some 5169 people, according to the 2001 Census, one of these people being Dani King who also happens to have been a gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympics. In recognition of her achievement the postbox in Hamble’s high-street was painted gold and is now proving to be something of a visitor attraction. As I crouch down to take the perfect shot you see here a couple arrive and also begin taking photographs of the box, then returning from a drizzly walk down to the waterfront I see a pair of young women stood beside the golden box whilst a local presses the button which digitally captures their beaming expressions. Success it seems possesses a magnetic quality. People just want to be close to it, to feel as if they share some small part of it, whether this is standing in a crowd of 70 000+ as their team wins the cup, or having a photograph taken by a golden post box.

Leaving the postbox behind I head off to the Shell Mex ground (presumably given Hamble’s links with oil the name refers to the petrolium giant) home to Hampshire Premier League side Hamble Club F.C who are Hamble’s second team after GE Hamble, the works side from the Aerospace plant who play in the Wessex league. Along the way I pass by the actual Hamble Club, a rather glum looking single-storey social club in the part of Hamble which didn’t get much screen time on Howard’s way. The Shell Mex itself also looks like a glum place with plenty of peeling paint, potholes and copious amounts of mud. There is what seems to be a squash court and club-house attached to the changing rooms, though it’s unclear if either get much use and it is clear that they’ve seen better days.

The Shell Mex Ground

I make my way into the ground with some trepidation, not least because the place looks as welcoming as the musty old cafe in the Goonies. As I’m here to watch a reserve fixture, I may well be, and indeed appear to be, the only spectator, or at least the only spectator who isn’t either a friend or relative of a player, or a club official. As I arrive the players are returning to the changing rooms having had their pre-match warm-up and I pass through them beside well-weathered portakabin which has a sign reading tea-hut attached to it. A few people are stood inside sipping from foam cups, but the seeming lack of a friendly non-league tea lady puts me even more ill at ease and I hurry on toward the pitch.

There is just one other person milling around alongside the pitch, the AFC Aldermaston official who drives the team mini-bus and will this afternoon be running the line (their often being no official assistant referees at this level) We have a nice chat in which I ask him if they’re expecting a good result – Hamble’s last three games ending 9-0. 18-0 and 16-1 respectively, but rather than any unbounded optimism he talks of the trials and tribulations in getting his team together; The Aldermaston squad only recently arriving having set off from their base at 1pm, leaving late as they were waiting for players to show up. Apparently the club has about 60 players on the books, but many of these have a casual approach meaning getting a team together can be a challenge. It reminded me of my days playing for the 3rd XI at Goldsmiths College when we’d all be assembled in the college canteen on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons waiting until 11 of us were there, often making phone calls to people who said they’d be there. As our budget did not extend to a team-bus we’d have to rely on public transport to reach the venue which was often far out of East London – even our home pitch was in Sidcup, and we’d more often than not be late and have to play two halves of 30 minutes.

View from the sidelines at the Shell Mex

As for our results, they looked a little like Hamble’s who have, by anyone’s standards, been having an abysmal season. Both the first team and reserves are rooted to the bottom of their respective leagues like a rusty old anchor wrapped in seaweed at the bottom of the Hamble – The reserves for their part losing every one of their six matches in the process scoring only three goals whilst conceding a rather breathtaking seventy-three. Hamble however, appear to be intent on tearing up the form book and for much of the first half look the better of the two sides – though there is one hairy incident where the Hamble ‘keeper elects to hoof, rather than catch, a relatively innocuous-looking incoming shot. Slicing it the ball swerves up in the air; It could go here, there, or anywhere and looks for a moment as if  anywhere may well be the back of the net, but it somehow it avoids going in and Hamble continue with their pressure on an uncomfortable looking Aldermaston defence.

Hamble Club Reserves (white) take on AFC Aldermaston Reserves (blue)

Without taking too much away from Hamble, it is worth pointing out that their opponents are no stranger to bad form themselves; AFC Aldermaston’s first team were in fact not so long ago credited with the worst ever losing streak in British football history – lasting some 40 games. Hamble’s dominant spell continues up until the closing stages of the first half when it all begins to go wrong allowing Aldermaston to take the lead after a corner-kick ends up with the ball being bundled over the line. It’s ugly, but it’s a goal.

AFC Aldermaston attack in the 2nd half

Just before half-time another Aldermaston corner-kick sees the ball cross the line on the third attempt – the first being palmed away by the ‘keeper and the second blocked on the line. The first half finishes 2-0 to the visitors. As the Aldermaston team return to the dressing room the Hamble manager, wearing jeans and a track-top, assembles his team by the corner of the pitch for the half-time talk which reflects both the disappointment in conceding two late goals, but the achievement of it only being two goals; “They expected to come here and rout us” he tells his side suggesting that of the two teams it is the visitors who will be most unhappy with the scoreline. He adds that Hamble may yet still win the game predicting that “the next goal wins it.”

Though Hamble do come close to scoring when through on goal just after the restart Aldermaston seem much more relaxed in the second half and begin  playing some fluid football with some moves which are easy on the eye, at least for the one neutral amongst the handful of Hamble Club reserves friends and family. Increasingly the game looks beyond Hamble and as it trickles towards it’s conclusion the Hamble manager – now dividing his time between the match and keeping an eye on his young son who is playing with a ball on the rather soggy training pitch – makes one final throw of the dice with his last substitution. However, the player he wants to send on, who has been huddled in a hoodie since the start of the game, doesn’t have any socks. It is decided, as a solution, that another substitute must part with his to allow the player on the pitch “As soon as you get those socks on you’re on” the player in the hoodie is told. The change has no impact whatsoever on the game and it ends 2-0 to Aldermaston, a good result for them, but, recent results considered, a great result for Hamble. Time to paint another postbox.

Strawberry Fields Forever: Locks Heath F.C Vs Paulsgrove F.C Hampshire Premier League Saturday 15th September 2012

23 Sep

Locks Heath: Strawberry fields aren’t forever.

Let me take you down/ cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields/ Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about/ Strawberry Fields forever

When the Beatles sang the lines strawberry fields forever they hadn’t counted on urban sprawl and the caprices of supermarkets. For it was these two things; pressure for land and the desire for ‘standardised’ produce, along with competition from abroad, which did for the strawberry fields of Locks Heath according to a local history website. The decline, it says, began in the 1930s and today the fields belonging to the once thriving industry supplying strawberries the length and breadth of the country now have more in common with The Member’s song Sound of the Suburbs than the Beatle’s Strawberry Fields:

Same old boring Sunday morning/ old mans out washing the car/ Mums in the kitchen cooking Sunday dinner her best meal moaning while it lasts/ Johnnys upstairs in his bedroom sitting in the dark/ Annoying the neighbours with his punk rock electric guitar 

The sights of the suburbs: A suburban mock-Tudor close.

Locks Heath is these days, it seems, made up of a succession of small closes, this pattern of development is apparently due to the small size of the strawberry plots. Exploring some of these the sights of the suburbs are also very much in evidence; mock tudor styling, shiny cars parked on driveways, well turned out kids riding round on gleaming new BMXs and people spending a sunny afternoon tending to their gardens.

With time to spare before the match, and keen to get a sense of the place, I headed to the town centre. Like much of the rest of Locks Heath it is relatively new, being constructed in the 1980s. From the pictures I’d seen in advance I expected it to be a soulless car-park-supermarket-mini-mall-any-town development, but the sun seemed to have brought out its best features. Once out of the car-park and away from the supermarket it had an almost continental unhurried atmosphere – or was that just the Costa Coffee sat bang in the middle? It was all capped off by a clock tower which, like such features tend to, acted as a focal point for the local youth who seemed to be enjoying sitting around doing not much at all.

Saturday morning family shoppers crowding out, the centre of town/  Young blokes sitting on the benches shouting at the young girls walking around

Quite nice on a sunny day. The Lockswood Centre.

I decided to take a look in the nearest charity shop. If the recession has given taught me one thing it is the merits of charity shops. Like the Fall they are – especially in terms of their layout – always the same, but also excitingly always different; You never know what you might find, and so I found myself holding a copy of a biography of Joe Kinnear contemplating the claim made on the back cover:

Joe Kinnear has been one of the most successful football managers of the last 10 years

Joe Kinnear – as in the Joe Kinnear who is now most famous for his ability to squish 52 swear words into one five minutes minute tirade – and in so doing just out-did the band Super Furry Animals who used the word F*** 50 times in 4 minutes 46 seconds in their 1996 cult single The Man Don’t Give a F***. Well F*** me.

But, the astonishing thing is, with a bit of help from Google and Wikipedia I can verify the claim actually stacks up. The book was published in the year 2000 – so if we go on the previous 10 year period then there is of course Fergie at Man United, George Graham at Arsenal, Leeds and Tottenham, but few other managers consistently did well over this whole period. Kinnear meanwhile guided a modestly resourced Wimbledon to 6th, 9th and 8th placed finishes in the Premier league- along the way winning the respect of his peers who in 1994 awarded him with the LMAs manager of the year award. That Kinnear’s achievements in this period were relative takes nothing away from them, though it has led to them largely to be forgotten.  I considered buying it, but £2 seemed a little steep as was the £1.50 for a non-descript biography of Ally McCoist. In the end I walked away with a copy of Margrave of the Marshes the autobiography of John Peel, completed after his death by his wife Sheila, for a very reasonable £1.

The view from Strawberry Fields

Succeding in running down the clock I decide to head to the match I’ve come to see; Locks Heath v Paulsgrove in the Hampshire Premier League. On the way though I come across a patch of what looks like over-grown scrub with a sign for a planned development, ‘strawberry fields’ so I pull-up nearby and scramble back down past the concrete blocks which, I presume, are to keep out travellers from what was, I deduce from the sign, once a strawberry field which had no doubt once relied upon the casual labour provided by the travelling population. I wander round the site taking pictures for a few minutes before I realise that I’d better get to the ground.

Council Tenants – Locks Heath F.C buck the trend; According to the 2001 Census just over 90% of homes in the Locks Heath Ward area were owner occupied.

Locks Heath play their football on the council owned Locks Heath recreation ground. Abutted by what appears to be a new housing development this has been their home for 80 years and the ground is equipped with floodlights, dugouts and a rail around the pitch as well as a changing room block and social club. A number of accoutrements are however missing; there is no fence of any kind around the perimeter of the ground, no entrance gate and no stand -though a few people brought their own fold-up seats – lack of which ultimately led to the clubs withdrawal from the Wessex League. There is also no matchday programme – and you know how much I like my programme.

The teams assemble by the changing rooms

Unchallenged by anyone asking for so much as 50p to put in a biscuit tin I stroll from the car park to the pitch, past some cricket nets and right past the teams who are both waiting patiently outside the changing block. As I approach the pitch it seems there aren’t many spectators – the people of Locks Heath evidently preferring pottering in their gardens, or sipping cappuccinos to Hampshire league football.

The assembled crowd eagerly awaiting the match. At this point players outnumber spectators.

After a seemingly inexplicable delay the teams begin a procession along the not inconsiderable distance from changing rooms to the pitch. This all allows time for at least a few more spectators to drift over from the social club, though when the teams enter on the field of play there are more people on the pitch than around it. Meantime a group of grey-haired men debate which match to tune their radio to; Southampton vs Arsenal at the Emirates, or Portsmouth vs Walsall at Fratton Park. Locks Heath is not just a halfway point in a footballing sense, it is also geographically the half-way point between the cities of Southampton and Portsmouth.

The teams enter the arena. Locks Heath F.C in Black/Red shirts and Paulsgrove F.C in Sky Blue/White stripes.

Locks Heath, who begin the match in 4th place, take the initiative early on against the visitors, who lie mid-table, hitting the bar after around 15 minutes. The Locks Heath goalkeeper seems to be having a particularly good game commanding his area well and sending long kicks upfield – something which is often a bit of an achillies heel for goalkeepers in the lower reaches of the game. The ‘keeper however can do nothing to stop Paulsgrove taking the lead around the half hour mark. A Paulsgrove player is brought down in the area earning the offending defender a yellow card and the penalty is slotted into the corner. Paulsgrove though fail to go in at half-time with the lead.  Just before the break a cross evades the flapping arms of the Paulsgrove keeper and is volleyed-in from close range; an impressive goal to lift the home teams spirits.

Watching football on a sunny day.

I take the opportunity to wander into the social club in search of food. A bacon roll and a cup of tea is mine for £1.60. With the John Peel book, the free match and now this I’m having quite a good time on a shoe-string budget. Back out to the pitch-side I sit down. Right here in the sun would be the perfect spot for a picnic, though the chances are a ball would at some point land slap in the middle of the spread. The Paulsgrove number 3 wanders over and leans casually against the railing as he takes long drags on a cigarette. Looking at a boy dressed in a Southampton kit he says with a mock disdain: “what sort of kit is that?”,  “Saints” the boy replies to which his friend pipes-up “booooo Saints.” “what’s the score?” the number 3 asks with a glint in his eye knowing it was 4-1 to Arsenal at half time.

Paulsgrove mount an attack in the first half.

Hopefully the number 3 enjoyed his brief break as the Paulsgrove defence was offered little respite in the second half by a home side looking for the win. Again and again Locks Heath attacked, but still Paulsgrove tenaciously held on. Several times the number 7 broke through the defence who though formidable in the air looked decidedly weak on the ground, but a succession of poor touches gave Paulsgrove just enough of an opportunity each time to desperately scramble the ball away while the Locks Heath number 9, with a clear-sight of goal, chose instead to attempt to knock a passing pigeon out of the sky. Towards the end a cloud of dust was thrown up by one Locks Heath player scuffing his studs along the ground after yet another attack broke down.

Under Pressure? The Locks Heath Goalkeeper clears the ball.

And so it ended. A draw is a funny thing; The same outcome of one point gained can mean two very different things; for Locks Heath who really should have won the game disappointment and frustration, but for Paulsgrove delight and relief at holding on – certainly the Paulsgrove players, out-played on the day, seem to be the happier ones as the teams exit the pitch. I also left the field happy. I’d seen a reasonably entertaining game of football, with plenty of tension and excitement on a sunny day and at the end of it have spent no more than £2.60. The people of Locks Heath are missing out on something by sipping their cappucinos and mowing their lawns.

Details of the Hampshire Premier League can be found on the F.A full-time website

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