Tag Archives: Wessex League

Wessex League Attendances 2016/17 Part 4: The Biggest Games

23 Jun

In the previous parts of this series I’ve looked at the averages, but now it’s the turn of individual games. Across the whole of the Wessex League the attendance ranged from a high of 488 (Sholing v Bournemouth) to a low of 6 (Folland Sports v Laverstock & Ford)

For each division I’ve compiled a list of the ten fixtures which drew the biggest crowds. In the Premier Division Sholing scooped the two slots thanks to their fixtures against Bournemouth and Brockenhurst, which were both billed as free entry community days.

Largest attendances Prem div

Granting a one-off free entry to a game to pull in the punters has been a strategy which has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, particularly among non-league clubs. And it does work – as Sholing have demonstrated, generating 450+ crowds on both occasions and being the only Wessex League club to break the 400 barrier. (Incidentally I wrote a short piece on free entry games for WSC a couple of years back)

Largest attendances div 1

Also guaranteed to get the crowds flocking is the prospect of a derby. For me, the beauty of the Wessex League is the sheer abundance of local derbies. As for the biggest… that award goes to the Isle of Wight derby between Cowes Sports and Newport Isle of Wight which drew 359 fans to Cowes’s Westwood Park Ground and some 267 to Newport IoW’s St George’s Park. Another derby which set pulses racing was the New Forest Derby, between Bashley and Brockenhurst which achieved a crowd of 268 – the fourth highest crowd at any game in the Wessex League (the return fixture, though not in the top 10 was nevertheless Brockenhurst’s highest gate of the season attracting 181 fans to Grigg Lane. Similarly in the top 10 list of biggest Division One gates derby games also feature. Top of the list is the North Hampshire derby between Alton and Andover New Street which saw 154 people pass through the turnstile, followed by the Salisbury area derby between Laverstock & Ford and Downton which was watched by 138 spectators.

Prem div 200 plus

The clubs which featured most though were the ones with consistently high attendances, in the Premier Division Portland made the top 10 three times with games against Bemerton Heath Harlequins (243), Team Solent (231) and Bashley (222) none of which could really be considered a local derby whilst in Division One Alton v Totton & Eling (136) was the third highest gate and again a game which could not be considered a derby. That said however, nothing quite matches a Wessex League derby day so next season it’s well worth booking a ferry ticket for the Island derby, or taking a day in the New Forest for one of the New Forest derbies.

Wessex League Attendances 2016/17 Part 3: Wessex League Division One

21 Jun

Back in 2015-16 Portland stormed to the top of the average attendance league with an average crowd of 134 as they also took the Division One title on the pitch, earning them promotion to the Wessex Premier.

For 2016-17 no clubs managed to reach the dizzying three figure heights of Portland’s 2015-16 average and the average attendance crown goes to Alton FC who posted an average attendance of 86 – one lower than their figure for the 2015-16 season in which they had finished as attendance league runners-up to Portland. By way of comparison Alton’s 86 would put them in 9th spot in the Wessex Premier, between Fareham Town (87) and Hamworthy (78)

Wessex1 Attendances

Following closely behind Alton are Totton & Eling who recorded an average of 80. This represented quite a large increase from their 2015-16 average of 62 and was, along with Laverstock & Ford, the largest average attendance increase seen within Division One – though this is excluding Hamble Club and Baffins Milton Rovers who were both in the Hampshire League in 2015-16.

One key difference between the averages for Division One and the Premier league is the size of the gap between the leaders and the chasing pack. In the Premier the difference between top club, Portland, and fourth placed Andover Town was 63 spectators per game, whilst in Division One the difference between Alton and fourth placed Romsey Town was only 19 spectators per game. As well as the average I also calculated the standard deviation (a measure that is used to quantify the amount of variation, or dispersion of a set of data) for both divisions and the standard deviation for the Premier is 40, whilst it is 19 for Division One, suggesting that on the whole there is much more variance in average attendances across the Premier Division.

At the very he rear of the attendance table are United Services Portsmouth who managed to draw an average crowd of just 21. Like Team Solent in the Premier Division US Portsmouth are a club who receive backing from an institution – in their case the forces – and therefore don’t have a developed support base. One other point is that it’s not the most straightforward ground to get into as Hopping Around Hampshire found in 2013:

You need to walk all the way to the far side of the naval playing fields to the entrance of HMS Temeraire, where the sentries at the barrier will let you in if you say you’re going to the match. From here, walk to the left, through the car park, up a short flight of steps, around the large building on your right, down another flight of steps and through an open gate to the athletics/football stadium.

Tied with US Portsmouth in bottom place, also on 21, are Fleet Spurs, a club which occupies a space on the geographical fringes of the league and who in 2017-18 will be competing in the Combined Counties League.

The bottom three is completed by Folland Sports who attracted an average of 23 spectators per game. Having a works team background Folland’s have never had the best attendances, but in 2016-17 the club suffered several blows when it came to enticing the crowds through their turnstile. Relegated at the end of the 2015-16 season and usurped by up-and-coming neighbours – and eventual Division One Champions – Hamble Club Folland’s average attendance shrunk from 51 in 2015-16, the biggest decline among the Division One clubs.

Wessex 1 Changes

Hamble Club were just one of four clubs promoted into the Wessex League for 2016-17. Joining them from the Hampshire Premier League was Baffins Milton Rovers whilst Weymouth Reserves and Shaftesbury came from the Dorset Premier League. Of these clubs all made the Division One average attendance top ten with Shaftesbury reaching the highest position, finishing in fifth place with an average attendance of 64 and Hamble Club the lowest of the group in 9th spot with an average of 50. All except Weymouth Reserves achieved promotion to the Wessex Premier in their first season.

Wessex League Attendances 2016/17 Part 2: Wessex League Premier Division

16 Jun

Salisbury’s departure for the pastures of the Southern League means a new champion at the head of the Wessex League average attendance table…. step forward Portland.

avg att WSX Prem

Like Salisbury Portland completed a double of not just securing the highest average attendance, at 169, but also the league title and also in their first Wessex Premier season. There however, the similarities end for rather than being a fallen giant who has hit rock bottom, Portland entered the Premier Division from below, through Division One which they in turn only first entered in 2015 previously stepping-up from the Dorset Premier League. Impressively too Portland are in geographic terms rather out on a limb which may limit the number of away fans wanting to make the journey.

In a close second place were Bashley who averaged 165. The Bash have an illustrious Wessex League history – winning the inaugural title back in the 1986-87 season and the village team spent a number of years mixing it with the big boys in the Southern Premier League only to have recently fallen on tough times. The result of all those years at a higher level however, means the club has a good support base – of the kind who go to games wearing scarves, hats and badges. Bashley is also at the heart of the Wessex Premier New Forest/Waterside nexus which meant well attended derby fixtures against the likes of Brockenhurst (268), Lymington Town (240) and Blackfield & Langley (233)

Third placed Sholing, with an average attendance of 130, offered an interesting case as the club have this season experimented with free entry and community days as a method of engagement. Entry was free for games against Brockenhurst – where before the game teams from across the club posed for a combined photo – and the game against Bournemouth, which was combined with a community fun day. In terms of getting the crowds in both events were a success with the Brock game pulling in 464 and the Bournemouth game 488 –the two biggest crowds across the whole league. These two games have boosted Sholing’s average significantly (A rough calculation shows that disregarding these games Sholing’s average would have been 94, putting them in sixth place, between Cowes Sports and AFC Portchester) and it will therefore be interesting to see if Sholing, or other clubs do something similar next season.

At the other end of the attendance table are Team Solent who averaged just 24 spectators over the whole season. The ‘Sparks’ as they are known suffer from something I call works team syndrome. Although not a factory team Solent are broadly a similar case in that they enjoy the support of a large institution as a benefactor – in this case the University – for whom they are named after. It is often the case that the price of this is the lack of interest from the local community who may not feel the club represents them, whilst for their part ‘works’ teams do not need to maximise their spectator numbers so often community links go undeveloped. In Solent’s case this is a little bit of a shame as they are a good footballing side who on the three occasions I saw them last season played an exciting attacking style of football – perhaps the neutrals and groundhoppers best kept secret.

Promoted to the Wessex Premier as last seasons Division One runners-up Amesbury Town struggled on the pitch this season, finishing one spot above the relegation places in 19th. This may be a factor behind their low attendances which saw an average crowd of 29 at their ground – down from 50 in the 2015-16 season. Another factor could be the fact that promotion to the Premier meant the loss of two derby games against nearby Downton and Laverstock & Ford which attracted 74 and 72 spectators respectively in 2015-16. Finally, third from bottom are Bournemouth FC with 31. Like Amesbury Bournemouth had a tough Wessex Premier Season finishing in 17th place.

One interesting point to note is that Moneyfields, this season’s runners up who were also promoted to the Southern League, failed to entice many spectators to their Copnor ground with an average of just 55.Whether the club attract more playing at a higher level remains to be seen.

Change from 2015-16 by club

As we saw previously the average for the Wessex Premier as a whole dropped fairly significantly between 2015-16 and 2016-17, from 107 to 76.

This was mainly as a result of Salisbury’s promotion. Looking at a club-by-club basis it is clear to see that the biggest losers this season had either a close proximity to Salisbury, or else were clubs with low crowds and therefore with an average which was more sensitive to a sudden influx for one game. In 2015-16 Team Solent for instance saw a crowd of 387 for their game against Salisbury, whilst this season their biggest was 45 for the visit of Alresford Town. The loss of Salisbury was also keenly felt by near-neighbours Bemerton Heath Harlequins who saw 620 spectators squeeze past their turnstyles for the derby-day visit of Salisbury in 2015-16. The promotion of Amesbury Town meant that though Bemerton would have a game which they could regard as a local derby which drew a season-best crowd it could not realistically fill the Salisbury sized gap and attracted only 102 spectators.

Change in avg wsx lg

Only seven clubs in the Wessex Premier improved their average attendance. Heading this group was Portland United. Having been in Division One last season granted immunity from the Salisbury effect and it seems that playing at a higher level has brought an average of an additional 35 fans to each game.

Sholing boosted their average by 20 from 2015-16, chiefly as a result of the very high attendances from the free entry games against Brockenhurst (464) and Bournemouth (488) which more than made up for the loss of the 407 fans who had visited their ground to watch Salisbury the previous season. The third biggest gainer was Fareham Town who boosted their average by 14. Again Salisbury may have had an impact as in 2015-16 Salisbury recorded one of their lowest on-the-road crowds at Fareham with only 156 spectators turning up.

I was unable to obtain the figures for Bashley’s average attendance for last season in the Southern League South & West, though I did manage to find a figure of 109 which was for only part of the 2015-16 season. If this is the case then their figure of 165 for 2016-17 represents a huge improvement.

On the road

On the road WSX lg

Finally I decided to take a look at how teams compared when it came to the crowds they attracted whilst on-the-road. As you can see, compared to the home attendances there is much more similarity which suggests that significant travelling support is a little bit of a rarity in the Wessex League. Brockenhurst top the table having attracted an average of 103 fans to their away fixtures, largely helped by that free game against Sholing. The free game at Sholing also sees Bournemouth near the top with 83. In second though are Bashley who saw 91 people on average turning out to watch them take on the home side. I crossed paths with them myself at Brockenhurst and can confirm that Bashley do indeed have a reasonable away following. In third are Sholing with 87 – and I believe from what I’ve seen that Sholing do make an effort to encourage their support and offered coach travel to Portland in 2016-17

Wessex League Attendances 2016/17 Part One – The Overall Picture

15 Jun

Long-time readers will know that if there’s two things Row Z can get enthusiastic over its attendance stats and the Wessex League, so I’d like to thank the Wessex League for providing me with the attendance stats for the 2016/17 season which has allowed me to indulge these two interests.

My interest though is not based on any claim to geekdom, but is more about how important I feel attendance stats are for revealing certain things about the game and clubs, or at least that’s what I tell myself.

Since getting the figures I’ve been looking them over and creating all manner of graphs to try to see if I can pull out any interesting tidbits. There are, it can be said, a few and it’s been a bit of a headache to think about how best to present it all without it all becoming a mish-mash, or even a 5,000 word borefest so I’ve opted to release it in parts. Here goes part one….

The overall picture

Wessex Overall Avg

Overall in 2016/17 the average attendance at Wessex League Premier Division games was 76 and for Division One clubs the figure was 48.

For Division One this represented no real change from 2015/16 where the average had been 49. The same cannot be said of the Premier Division which enjoyed an average attendance of 107 in 2015/16.

The reason for this reduction in the Premier of over a quarter can be put down to one main factor, which I’ll call The Salisbury Effect. In 2015/16 the Wessex League was joined by Salisbury, a new club which replaced the dissolved Salisbury City. A whole book could be written about Salisbury’s recent football travails, but the essence of the story for attendances is that traditionally Salisbury are a bigger club who entered the Wessex Premier as the starting point of their journey back to full health – rehab if you like.

It was just a few years ago that Salisbury City graced the Conference National and the club retained a relatively big following. Helped by a celebrity manager in ex-pro Steve Claridge Salisbury attracted crowds which were in Wessex League terms extremely large, averaging 707 over the 2015/16 season (for comparison the second highest average for 2015/16 was Andover Town with 130.)

The club also boasted a relatively large travelling support so the impact was felt not just on the overall Premier Division average, but across the averages for many clubs who back in 2015/16 cranked the programme printing press into overdrive and ordered extra sausages, tea bags and white rolls in advance of Salisbury’s visit.

Having won the League at the first time of asking however,  Salisbury gained promotion to the Southern League for the 2016/17 season leaving turnstiles across the Wessex Premier that little bit quieter this season as things returned to an equilibrium.

 

Hamble Club v Pewsey Vale: Wessex League Division 1 – 29th March 2017

31 Mar

DSCF4566

Visiting Hamble Club’s ground, the Hamble Community Facility, the one really striking thing is the newness of it all. Signs of recent construction are still everywhere from the nails and screws which litter the floor of the new stand to the heavy plant tracks in the mud. It was all very different the last time I came here, back in late 2012. The ground which, then named the Shell Mex Ground, was a fairly run of the mill – and slightly run down – Hampshire League ground. There are still a few leftovers from this time – the tea hut in the old portakabin, the dugouts, and an old section of pathway, but apart from these it is all gleaming and fresh – so much so that before I take my seat in the stand I instinctively check to see whether the paint on the back wall is wet.

My last visit had been to see Hamble Club’s reserves play AFC Aldermaston’s reserves. Neither the smell of wet-paint, or success in evidence as the reserves were enduring a season which could best be described as a little difficult. In their first six games of the season they had shipped 73 goals for only three at the other end and were firmly rooted to the bottom of the Hampshire Premier Combination (whilst the first team were themselves at the foot of the Hampshire Premier League). I was the only spectator who was not either a club official, or relative of a player which left me a bit self-conscious – not helped when I got smacked in the face by the ball.

How times have changed – to begin with I notice that reserve fixtures now cost a couple of quid to get into. On field success in the Hampshire league has meant that Hamble were contenders for promotion to the Wessex League, but such a step-up necessitated substantial work to the ground in order meet the much higher Wessex League standards. Hamble though have risen to the challenge and the programme carries a statement from the league which congratulates the club, and fellow promoted side Baffins Milton Rovers on managing to upgrade their facilities in such a short time-frame. Having been involved in a project to upgrade a semi-derelict cleaner’s supply cupboard into a community room which has hit snag after snag for 18 months I can vouch that virtually creating a football ground from scratch in a tight time-frame is quite some achievement so it therefore seems a bit churlish to say that the stand at Hamble Club affords a pretty poor view thanks to the number of posts supporting the roof of the structure, but I suppose you can’t have it all.

The appearance of Hamble Club on the Wessex League stage and the development of the ground also raises something of an interesting question as to just who are the biggest team in the village? Next-door neighbours Folland Sports have the history, but as things stand Hamble Club sit atop the Wessex’s Division One, whilst Folland’s languish toward the bottom of the table.

I’ll leave that up to others to decide, but seeing them in action against bottom-club Pewsey Vale it is apparent that Hamble Club boast a strong side and the Monks (Hamble’s recently acquired nickname, which seems a little odd for a side whose roots lie in a social club) dominated the opening to such an extent that it was at least quarter of an hour before Pewsey Vale even look like mounting an attack which came by way of a long free-kick hoisted into the danger area which the Hamble defence cleared easily.

Pewsey’s biggest friend in the first half is the Linesman’s flag. Hamble were adjudged offside so many times that I lost count, but it seemed like getting on for double figures. Still, Hamble did manage one attacking foray which didn’t end in a raised flag and through this took a one goal lead into half-time.

Such a slender lead meant that though Pewsey, who were outplayed both in terms of skill and physical power, were down they were by no means out of the game. Their number three did a particularly good job of keeping his colleagues spirits up by offering plenty of encouragement and praise to ensure shoulders and heads didn’t drop toomuch and around 20 minutes into the second half Pewsey won a couple of corners in quick succession. These didn’t produce anything to test the Hamble ‘keeper, but served as a reminder that Hamble’s failure to put the game to bed early could have cost them dear had Pewsey got a stroke of luck.

With both sides still seeking something from the game the pace of the game really picked up in the final stretch. To aid their efforts Hamble brought on Nathan Lynch a big centre forward, playing in the number 12 shirt. As desired this succeeded in shaking up the Pewsey defence and Lynch had a hand (literally according to the Pewsey Vale players) in the second Hamble goal, putting Hamble’s number 7 Nick Watts clear through on goal.

Watts is a player whose name I clocked on the team board when I arrived as he has been with Sholing, one of the top Wessex League sides where he was part of the squad who won the FA Vase. Throughout the game his short passes and good movement were a key element in Hamble’s attacking play and I had him odds on to make the most of his chance. The margin of error was narrow, but Watts managed to just squeeze the ball past the onrushing Pewsey goalkeepers outstretched foot and just inside the right hand post. The Hamble players celebrated, knowing that at this late stage the game was beyond Pewsey. Final score 2-0 to Hamble Club.

DSCF4551DSCF4552DSCF4558DSCF4559

Sholing v Team Solent – Wessex League Cup Semi Final

23 Mar

DSCF4537

As a fan of cup football (early plug – I even recently wrote a book on it) I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to witness the semi-final of a cup contest I had yet to see in the flesh – the Wessex League Cup.

Compared at least to the Hampshire Cup and Russell Cotes Cup, The Wessex League Cup is a relatively young cup competition dating back thirty years to the 86/87 season. Created to supplement the newly formed Wessex League (the thinking being that every league needs a cup) it is currently contested by teams from across the two Wessex League divisions, the Premier and Division One.

The very first winners of the Wessex League Cup were Road Sea Southampton -a team who came from nowhere and reached some dizzying heights, before then disappearing just as abruptly as they had arrived.

Despite their lack of longevity the Road Sea Southampton side of the era can claim a spot among the Southampton local football hall of fame. Other legendary local sides include the Sholing Sports sides of the 1970s and 1980s and I’d also argue Dave Diaper’s Sholing. Quite aside from the FA Vase triumph of 2014 Sholing have consistently been among the top local semi-pro sides stretching back well over 10 years and have been unlucky not to claim more honours than they have.

Part of the reason for Sholing’s sheer consistency is the success they have had in keeping their side together. It’s almost unheard of for players at this level to clock up over 400 league appearances, yet Sholing have four players at the club who have achieved this milestone and another three who have exceeded 200. This couldn’t be in greater contrast to their opponents Team Solent who are the men’s side of Solent University. Made up of students, many of whom study on the sports related degrees the university offers, Solent’s personnel is subject to natural churn as students graduate and leave the institution.

Despite this difference in approach Team Solent have enjoyed a great deal of success on the pitch and arrive at Sholing’s Universal Stadium as holders of the Wessex League Cup. The university have also invested a significant sum – said to be in the region of of £600-700k – in the clubs Test Park facility and the team are managed by local footballing legend James Taylor, whose goals for AFC Totton helped edge Sholing into second on more than one occasion a few years back.

I’m actually quite familiar with Test Park as my daughters team play in a youth league which uses the facilities. Sholing themselves field a number of sides there, part of their admirable youth set up, so it’s worth making the point that both clubs have been a tremendous force for good to the local football scene. Another example being that Sholing’s match report is being compiled by a Solent uni sports journalism student who sits in the stand with his laptop.

With both clubs putting out good strength sides I was optimistic about the prospects of seeing a good game and the early signs were good. Nicknamed ‘the sparks’ Team Solent began with a zippy, electric urgency which stretched the Sholing defence. Immediately standing out was Solent’s number 10, team captain, Jesse Waller-Lassen who signalled just how dangerous he was with a wickedly arcing free kick which went just over the bar. His pace later earned him a golden opportunity to put Solent ahead as he skipped around his marker; Through on goal Waller-Lassen shimmied before sending a shot curling towards the top right corner. Sholing ‘Keeper Ryan Gosney was however, equal to it and stretched a long arm upwards to send it out for a corner. Gosney saved Sholing again later when he was well positioned to claim a close range header which again looked an almost certain goal.

At the other end Sholing generated chances of their own, coming close with a powerful header from a corner which arrowed just high and wide of the top-right corner of the goal, but having seen Sholing a few times over the years, their main characteristic to me seems to be resilience. Sholing can simply soak up pressure. In part I put this down to the teams stability – these are players who for years have done battle together on pitches across the whole of the south of England, who know each other and all their strengths and weaknesses inside and out. Is it a surprise that under pressure they just dig in and get on with the job?

Their reward came just before half time when Lee Wort was tripped in the area and confidently despatched the spot kick. It was perhaps a little harsh for Solent to be going in one goal down as were it not for Gosney they could rightfully have expected two goals of their own, but as the teams left the field there still appeared to be all to play for.

A goal for Solent was all that would have been needed to spark the second half into life, but it seemed as if they had lost a little of the zing which they had displayed in the first half and it was Sholing who claimed the second goal of the game when, on 76 minutes, Sholing sent a low ball into the box which was palmed away by the Solent ‘keeper at the near post, but only as far as the feet of Sholing’s Jamie Bulpitt who was left with a simple finish from close range.

As the game approached its final conclusion Solent belatedly begin to lay siege to the Sholing goal, but once again the Sholing defence effectively closed ranks and Gosney mounted an effective last line of defence. 2-0 to Sholing. The final, against Baffins Milton Rovers, awaits.

Folland Sports v Andover New Street

21 Mar

DSCF4503

The village of Hamble has had a long association with the aviation industry. Among the first arrivals were the aviation firm Avro who built a new factory in the area just over 100 years ago in 1916. With a boat building heritage stretching back even further Hamble was particularly noted for sea-planes and it was to build such aircraft that British Marine Aircraft arrived in 1936. Not long after however, the firm however found itself in difficulty and in 1937 were renamed Folland Aircraft after new owner and managing director Henry Folland.

It was in 1938 that Folland Aircraft FC were founded, one of many ‘works teams’ across the area. Remarkably within just a few years Folland’s were one of the top teams in Hampshire; With the factory involved in a production of a wide range of military aircraft the coming of the second world war saw the factory employ a number of Southampton and Portsmouth football players, engaged in war-work, who strengthened the side greatly and in 1941 Folland’s won the prestigious treble of the Hampshire Senior Cup, Hampshire League and Russell Cotes Cup.

As with many clubs Follands have had both their ups and downs over the years and though they may never have realistically hoped to quite recapture the heights of their glory days recent years have also seen the club enjoy success under the management of Danny Bowers who led the club to its highest ever league position, a Wessex Premier League 3rd place in 2013/14.

There was though always a sense that the club was punching above its weight as Folland’s crowds were among the lowest in the Wessex Premier (not unusual for works teams) and when Bowers, experiencing ill health, offered his resignation in early 2015 the clubs fortunes changed dramatically with the team relegated from the Wessex Premier at the end of the 2015/16 season.

A quick return was effectively ruled out as Follands won only one of their first 15 games this season. This poor run included a 7-0 defeat in the league to neighbouring side Hamble Club – this would have particularly stung as Follands could no longer claim to be the biggest club in Hamble. To add an additional layer of complications Folland’s are also engaged in negotiations over their ground – which they have been advised may be made available for development some time after the 2017/18 season – the outcome of which will have vital implications for the future existence of the club.

Folland Park itself is a compact ground which owes its appearance to the art of the bricoleur; None of the elements quite match up, but it is this which makes it endearing and homely as does the way tea is served in a china mug as opposed to a throw-away polystyrene cup (Incidentally the tea hut is called ‘Mug’s Corner’.) Just outside the ground a banner advertises upcoming children’s football coaching sessions set to take place on Saturday mornings, showing that the club is attempting to reach the wider community. Few are in evidence at the ground today though with the sparse crowd seeming to consist of a handful of club stalwarts complimented by a smattering of player’s friends and family.

One thing which could count in 17th placed Folland’s favour is that their opponents Andover New Street are having an even worse season and sit one off the bottom in 20th place, winning just four games out of 31. Sure enough for a team with the second worse goals scored column in the league Andover looked distinctly unthreatening up front. Their stocky number 9 was never in the game whilst their number 10, a short player who possessed good close control and was at the centre of many of their best moves, appeared to have an aversion to shooting – As one of the Andover entourage told me “he likes to walk it into the goal.”  Neither posed any sort of aerial threat. Defensively the Andover goalkeeper looked less than solid and, for me, was at fault for the opening goal when coming out he found himself marooned in no-man’s land, presenting the Folland’s number 11, James Franklin, with the simple option to slide the ball past him into an unguarded net. Later coming under pressure when attempting to play the ball out of defence Andover conceded a corner, which led to Folland’s second goal and gave the home side a 2-0 lead going in at half time.

In the second half, shortly after forcing the Follands goalkeeper to make his first serious save of the game, Andover did find the back of the net, but saw it ruled out for a foul on the ‘keeper and any thoughts Andover may have had of getting at least something out of the game were soon dispelled as a defensive lapse allows the Follands number 10 through on goal, his cool finish, low in the right hand corner, making it 3-0 to Follands.

Follands were denied a fourth by a good save from the andover ‘keeper before the game descended into controversy. Finding himself in a defensive position the Andover number 10, Jazz Beavis – who I had down in the first half as a niggly sort of player involved in plenty of shoving, tussling and shirt tugging- launched into an airborne two footed lunge on the Follands number 9.

DSCF4517

The Andover player was incredibly lucky to remain on the field as the referee awarded only a yellow card, much to the displeasure of the few Folland supporters who quite rightly demanded a red. The players on the field though exercised remarkable restraint in the face of such a horrific challenge.

Follands fourth did eventually come late on as the number 7 scored with a fantastic shot from outside the area. The Andover ‘keeper gets a good hand to it, but it’s a good enough shot to creep into the top corner.

Final score 4-0 to Follands.

Having lost their previous two games 4-0 a win by the same scoreline is surely welcome for Follands and helps distance them from the bottom relegation slot, but the simple truth is that at this juncture in the clubs history what happens off the field is far more important than what happens on it. Let’s hope that Follands, a club with an illustrious history, can survive and thrive.

DSCF4513

DSCF4509DSCF4531DSCF4523DSCF4518

 

 

%d bloggers like this: