Tag Archives: Wessex Premier League

Team Solent v Moneyfields – Wessex League Premier Division 13th April 2017

14 Apr

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Last Saturdays win over Whitchurch may have secured promotion to the Southern League for Moneyfields, but the Wessex League title itself is still very much up for grabs, with Money’s being pushed hard by Portland United.

With no promotion play-offs Team Solent, in 7th place, have little to play for in the league (they do though have a Southampton Senior Cup game against Sholing), but pride was still at stake and as the match report for their previous game, against Newport IOW, in the programme mentions Team Solent have never finished lower than seventh in any league in their history.

Certainly Solent wold prove a much tougher side than the rather sorry Whitchurch and as the Moneyfields A-team-like bus pitched up at Test Park the players would no doubt have been expecting a tough contest.

Money’s were clearly up for the challenge and threw everything they had at a game in which every inch of ground and every ball was fiercely contested. The intensity of the game saw both sides were making numerous appeals to the referee and first-half bookings were received by Solent’s number 9 Giovanni Landu and Money’s number 5 Dan Woodward, both of which would later have a significant impact on the course of the game. It was Solent though who came out on top of the first half having opened the scoring when Landu found himself in receipt of a deflected low cross which he side-footed beyond the reach of the ‘keeper and into the corner.

Moneys, apparently keen to get going, returned to the field a good few minutes ahead of Solent “Do we want it, or what?” one of their players asked his team mates rhetorically. The response came from two long range attempts, one from Brett Poate which goes just over and another from substitute Marley Ridge. Failure to equalise though saw the Money’s frustration building. Unhappy with the time it is taking to retrieve balls that have gone out of play the Money’s players begin barracking the ref to “get the game going.” This they did particularly forcefully on one occasion when the ball went out for a Team Solent throw. Perhaps though they should have been careful what they wished for as the throw began a move which saw the ball flicked on towards the edge of the Money’s area. The move was then finished in style by Tyrell Mitford who running on to the ball lifted it neatly over the stranded Money’s keeper and into the back of the net.

Money’s did fashion chances of their own and Lee Webber in the Solent goal did well to claim one teasingly low cross which came in after a Solent player, attempting to see the ball out for a goal kick, was muscled off the ball. As the half drew on however, it seemed ever more likely that Money’s would go home empty handed, potentially delivering a huge blow to their title ambitions.

A third Solent goal at that stage was likely to have finished the game off so Money’s had a lot to be grateful for when their ‘keeper Steve Mowthorpe kept a flicker of hope alive by coming out well at to deny a through-on-goal Mitford at the near post.

As it happened the game was to take a twist when Solent’s Landu fouled a Money’s defender in their own area leading to a second yellow card for the striker. A one-man advantage would have suited Money’s nicely, but just seconds later, Woodward received his second yellow following a rash foul on a Solent player who was leading a counter, leaving it as 10 on 10.

Fortunately for the visitors this arrangement suited them better. Solent’s shape suffered from having only one striker up front, allowing Money’s experienced defender Brett Poate to drive forwards unopposed. Moneys managed to pull a goal back with a good finish from a corner, the ball sent arrowing into the net by an impressive Marley Ridge, before Poate himself slammed in a late equaliser. His delight and the cheering of the visiting fans, who numbered more than a few, demonstrated just how crucial a goal it may turn out to be in Money’s season. Money’s then had a chance for a winner, as Poate lined up a free kick at the edge of the D. Had it gone in the scenes would have been truly remarkable, but it was not to be a Beckham v Greece moment for Poate who sent it wide. 2-2- draw.

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Moneyfields v Whitchurch United – Wessex League Premier Division – 8th April 2017

10 Apr

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With the springtime sun shining brightly there was a relaxed feeling in Copnor on Saturday. The smell of freshly mowed grass lingered in an air filled with the sound of children playing in back-gardens whilst no one strolling along seemed in any particular hurry.

Stepping through the turnstile into Moneyfields ground the atmosphere was no different. With some forty minutes before kick off the Moneyfields players, out training on the pitch, appeared in good spirits, smiling and joking, as they were being put through their paces by their coaches – including, I spotted, Mick Catlin who enjoyed much recent success at Gosport. I think you can tell a lot about a team from its warm up routine. Simply pinging shots at goal like a Sunday League side always seems to me to suggest a sloppy indiscipline, whereas proper drills – like the ones Money’s were doing – speak more of an organised and disciplined side.

A win would go a long way to securing the Wessex League title for Moneyfields and would assure them of promotion to the Southern League, but if there were any nerves there were no real outward signs of them. Perhaps this was partly because opponents Whitchurch United sat 19 places below Money’s in 20th place – with eight wins out of 39 – though sitting just four points above the relegation spot Whitchurch were among the sides who still had something to play for [edit – in actual fact 3 are going down this season so Whitchurch are indeed sat in the relegation zone].

As it turns out Moneyfields confidence was well placed and a victory for the home side never looked in doubt. Money’s opened the scoring around five minutes into the game when a ball over the top from midfield was slotted past the Whitchurch goalkeeper and the lead was further extended when the Money’s number 8, James Guthrie, did well to put a low ball into the box, which was finished off by a colleague.

After their second goal Money’s really came to life hitting the woodwork twice, before netting their third. Having been put through the attacker seemed to put away at an almost leisurely pace which must have annoyed the Whitchurch bench who exchanged words with their ‘keeper. “They could have had five by now” the ‘keeper was heard to say in reply. In fairness he was correct as he had at that point, made two reasonable saves – including one very good stop with an outstretched foot. The person next to me though pointed out that if you included the two occasions the woodwork was rattled Money’s could well have been looking at seven. I predicted a rout, another nearby spectator – a Money’s regular – wasn’t so sure “sometimes the other side manage to come back” she told me….

Early in the second half I was beginning to think they may have been right. The Money’s attack appeared to have lost much of its first-half potency and as a result the Money’s players themselves were beginning show signs of frustration. Whitchurch began to enjoy their best spell of the game, testing the Money’s defence who were called on to charge down several attempts on goal.

Money’s though won a free kick right on the edge of the box as the result of a trip. I did have to wonder whether the Money’s player may have been looking for that outcome, but if they were then it was a good call; the free-kick was sent in with a nice curl and met with an onrushing Money’s head to make it 4-0.

Whitchurch were showing clear signs of dissatisfaction with their collectuive performance “If we held the line he would have been off, but we dropped” was the verdict of their number 4 who like the rest of the Whitchurch team would probably have rather been elsewhere. This was confirmed soon after when the number 4 received an injury. Being treated by the physio on the sidelines he remarked “I could have been at a piss up, but instead I’m here playing centre back.”

The physio did enough to get him back onto the pitch, but the pain didn’t end there. Two more goals came; the first when money’s number 7, Lewis Fennemore, played a lovely dink out to the right of the Whitchurch area. Despite taking a deflection the ensuing cross still found a Money’s player to make it 5-0. A sixth was then added when through on goal Marley Ridge produced a neat shuffle to deceive the ‘keeper and finished in an empty net.

One notable feature of Moneyfields Avenue is its location right next to the main railway line to Portsmouth Harbour. This means that Money’s tend to lose a few balls. As a Money’s header sailed over the net erected to catch any over-ambitious shots, lands smack-bang on the tracks a Whitchurch player asked “what happens if we run out of balls” before jokingly adding “maybe it’s forfeited 0-0.” Whitchurch have no such luck, another ball is found and it finishes 6-0 to Moneyfields.

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Brockenhurst v Bashley – Wessex League Premier Division – Sat 1st April 2017

3 Apr

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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.

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Totton & Eling FC v Blackfield and Langley FC; Wessex League Premier Division 19th October 2013

20 Oct

It feels like ages since I’ve been to a game, and even longer since I’ve been to a Wessex League Premier one so I was quite excited to be on my way to Millers Park, home of Totton and Ealing FC to see them take on Blackfield and Langley from just down the road.

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First of all though I’m faced with a grim realisation that I’ve made a mistake. I must have got the date wrong when I looked at the fixture list – or at least that’s what I think when just before the ground I catch sight of a handful of people in blue scarves featuring a stags head design at either end. It has to be AFC Totton fans – surely they won’t have a game scheduled for the same day?

“It doesn’t happen often” confirms the friendly gent manning the turnstyle at Millers Park, but as it turns out AFC Totton have a cup game, an FA Trophy tie against Clevedon Town. For Totton and Eling this means in all likelehood a lower gate than could otherwise be expected for a local derby against one of the divisions top sides.

AFC Totton's adjoining ground

AFC Totton’s adjoining ground

That the clubs have adjoining door is mainy due to the fact that both of their former grounds were snapped up by the same developer, Linden Homes, for housebuilding. In the case of Totton and Eling – then known as BAT – this was a rather traumatic affair as their ground at Southern Gardens had been sold from under them in 2006 by their corporate benefactors British American Tobacco who were also in the process of closing down their Southampton factory.

Things looked bleak for a time and amid the uncertainty the club made the decision to disband it’s first team and continue with its reserves two divisions below.  Ties with BAT were fully severed with the name change to Totton and Eling in 2007. Things began looking up with both the prospect of a new home thanks to the deals done as part of the planning process for the development of Souther Gardens and Testwood Park sites.. Promotion back into the Wessex Premier in 2009 saw he club regain it’s original level with the move to Millers Park coming in 2009/10

The story isn’t untypical of many former works sides. Redbridge FC – previously Ford United – were forced out of their home, the company owned Rush Green, in 2000 when the firm would only offer a one year lease on the facility – not enough to satisfy the league authorities. Closer to home Eastleigh-based Pirelli General FC folded  in 2003 following their Chestnut Avenue ground being put up for sale a year after the main part of the cable works closed down. Ironically Pirelli’s old ground is now occupied by AFC Stoneham – formerly known as Ordnance Survey, who themselves suffered the loss of a ground when the Civil Service ground closed in 1999

The challenge faced by the clubs who survive is in shaping a new identity, not always an easy task – especially when you’ve got a bigger club next door. One thing I feel would help in this respect is a new badge. I can’t help but think the current effort – a basic text font – could be replaced by something a bit more iconic. Sad as I am I’ve actually done a design! Not that I’m a graphic designer, as you can tell, but here’s my effort. Its meant to be based on a cog from the Tide-mill at Eling where the club takes it’s nickname of ‘The Millers’ from, though I wonder whether a waterwheel would work well too.

Totton & Eling's current badge

Totton & Eling’s current badge

My attempt at a new badge for Totton & Eling

My attempt at a new one!

Millers Park itself isn’t bad. It’s very neat and shiny, but, probably like the new homes which now occupy Southern Gardens,  its what an Estate Agent might describe as compact. Even the small number of people there are here today – mostly Blackfield and Langley fans and dignitaries –  it feels quite full up.

The main stand at Miller's Park - this was transplanted from the former ground at Southern Gardens

The main stand at Miller’s Park – this was transplanted from the former ground at Southern Gardens

Most of that crowd would have been happy though with what was a solid Blackfield and Langley performance. Like the last time I saw this side, against Fareham Town last season former Southampton man Kevin Gibbens was the one pulling all the strings with Totton and Eling seemingly helpless to prevent his flick on’s as his team mates hit him again and again.

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Unsurprisingly Gibbens himself grabbed the first goal in what was a very one sided first half where the hosts best chance came from an under-pressure pass-back which looked, momentarily, to have wrongfooted the Blackfield ‘keeper.

The second stand at Millers Park

The second stand at Millers Park

To imply that Blackfield are a one-man team however, would be to do them a diservice. Proving Gibbens isn’t the only Blackfield player with a nose for goal Alex Baldaccino hit a free kick from the edge of the area past the to make it 2-0 early in the second half putting an end to a spell of Totton and Eling pressure at the beginning of the half. Gibbens then finished the game off  when he bundled the ball over the line from a corner-kick for Blackfield’s third before former Totton and Eling player Craig Feeney scored with an impressive flying header, then to seal Totton and Eling’s misery added another with a nonchalant spin and backheel over the line.

A late penalty, scored on the rebound  brought some consolation to the home side – who always knew they would would have a tough game against the reigning champions. Final score Totton & Eling 1 – Blackfield and Langley 5.

AFC Portchester v Hamworthy United; Wessex Premier League 4th August 2012

6 Aug

After consulting the fixture list I decide to begin my season at Wicor Rec home to AFC Portchester. Enjoying the patches of sun I’m moved by the kindness of strangers, ponder the meaning of the word ‘premier’, listen to some whining and witness some last-gasp excitement. All in all a great day out.

No escape from the castle. AFC Portchester’s Crest.

Portchester’s most prominent landmark is its castle a well preserved Roman fort, turned Norman castle, turned royal palace, turned Napoleonic-era prisoner-of-war camp, turned not unpleasant picnic spot. Unsurprisingly the castle makes a prominent appearance on the crest of AFC Portchester a side whose roots are rather less ancient – the club tracing its lineage back to a club formed in 1971, Loyds Sports, who began in the lower reaches of the City of Portsmouth Sunday League

The Castle itself is not visible from Portchester’s ground, Wicor Rec, and there are little thoughts of turrets, battlements and Legionaries as I pull off the main road into a land of bungalows and caravans resting on block paved driveways – though I do notice how the paving seems mimic the herring bone patterns of the flint which forms the castle walls.This suburban landscape soon gives out to a country lane leading after a short distance to the car park I’d scouted out on Google earth the night before. Pleased with myself I squeeze into a tight parking spot and follow a handful of people down a path I assume will take me to the ground.

The road, or rather path, to Wicor

I’m greeted by a table where a man with his arm in a sling sits in a chair with two kids, a boy and a girl, sat on the table. As instructed I pay my £5 to the boy and pass. My first task is to go in search of a programme. Now, this is not an easy admission to make, but I’m a bit of a programme geek. In fact I used to be a rather enthusiastic collector which stemmed from when I went to matches at the Dell and there was a small shop, ‘collectors corner’ which nestled in an alcove of the Milton Road stand. Not only could you buy your matchday programme here, but much, much, more – It was a veritable Aladdin’s cave of programmes; Non-league, Premier League, Champions League, you name it. Sadly when the Saints moved to St Mary’s there was presumably no room for ‘collectors corner’, but too late I’d been bitten by the bug.

The main stand

I’ve calmed down a bit these days, I only get the odd one, or maybe two, on ebay, but I’m meticulous about getting, and keeping, programmes for all the matches I attend – it’s a sort of memory thing. I searched the whole ground, but couldn’t find anywhere, or anyone selling a programme. I noticed a few of people with one so there must be somewhere – surely? I asked a couple sat outside the clubhouse, one of whom held a prized programme in her hands, and they pointed in the direction of the boy on the table. I headed over and spotting no programmes anywhere near the table knew the answer before I asked the question; “sorry mate they’re all gone.” I trudged back feeling disappointed. The last time this happened was Southampton vs Ipswich where the programme seller buggered off early. I tried to get one after the event on ebay, but gave up as bidding got silly heading for the £10 mark.

AFC Portchester’s starting XI

As I walked back past the couple the woman asked If I’d managed to get one; “Nah, they’re all gone”  I tell her to which she held out her programme – “here have mine” she exclaimed. “Are you sure?” “Yes, take it.” I thanked her as it was a kind thing to do for a total stranger. Programme obtained I  flicked through for some background  for the game. Having been promoted as runners-up in the Wessex League Division one last season Portchester were making their debut in the Wessex Premier League. The Portchester manager, Glen Bridgman, took the opportunity paid homage to his ‘off-field’ colleagues whilst spelling out his target for this season. Avoiding specifics he states; “we will be looking to finish as far up the league table as possible.” Well, that’s ok I thought. The alternative, not trying to finish as high up as possible, doesn’t really bear thinking about.

I killed the remaining few minutes before kick-off by pondering the how ubiquitous the use of the term Premier is these days in football; The Premier League, the Blue Square Premier, Evostick Premier, Hampshire Premier. Often too the league below as is the case of the Wessex Premier is named ‘division one’. Stupid as Premier is taken from the French Premiere which means simply ‘first’ as in La Premiere rue a droite (the first road on the right). In France the premier division is followed by the deuxieme, meaning ‘second’, division, but here we have the premier, meaning first, followed by a division one. One following first. Go figure. By the time I’d finished this train of thought the teams had arrived on the pitch and stood in a line. Portchester looked every-inch the new boys on their first day in secondary school whilst their opponents Hamworthy United, members of the premier league since 2004/5, seemed like a bunch of hackneyed seen-it-all-before fifth-year bruisers.     .

First day of big-school for AFC Portchester

The difference between the sides are clear from the start. Hamworthy; powerful and good in the air. Portchester; quick and good on the ground. These characteristics are apparent in the opening exchanges the Hamworthy number 11 sends over a cross which cheekily questions the Portchester defence like Louis Theroux in full-flow. Portchester respond instantly using their pace and some incisive passing to create a great chance on the break only to be blazed wide.

Perhaps inspired by their squeaky-voiced, gesticulating manager, who from my vantage point on the opposite side of the ground resembles an animated hamster, Portchester take the lead around the 20 minute mark; a poor back-pass places the Hamworthy goalkeeper in trouble and his attempt at a clearance is charged down leaving the loose ball to be tucked away by a Portchester shirt charging up from midfield like a Roman    cavalryman. 1-0.

Jolted by the upstarts audacity at pinching a goal Hamworthy look to respond instantly. A header glances off the bar, but the flag is up anyway. In any case the wait isn’t long; minutes later another Hamworthy free kick is fired high into the Portchester box. After some head-tennis which sees the ball headed on to the far post then back to the near post the finish is applied at close-range.1-1.

AFC Portchester v Hamworthy United

Soon after an argument breaks out next to me as the referee stops play to allow a Portchester player who has gone down to receive treatment. The man next to me, for whom the referee has been able to do no right all game, is unhappy about the stoppage leading him into an argument with someone who appears to be a Portchester committee man. the committee man tells him “you wouldn’t have a problem if it was one of your players” to which his whining response is ” they should only stop play for a head injury.” the comittee man says that it is the referee who probably has the most knowledge about these matters and let him get on with it. I think about joining in for a moment partly because the man’s whining, in a moderate Dorset accent, has been getting my goat, but also because I can’t believe the lack of compassion. This is the yin to my programme lady’s yang. I want to say “so, if a player’s got a compound fracture and his leg’s at a right angle, but it’s not a head injury? Huh, huh..no I wont stop prodding you in the chest bub.”

On the subject of heads Hamworthy take the lead towards the end of the half with – quelle surprise – a header which cruelly evades the Portchester keepers ineffectively outstretched arm. A number of testing crosses follow, but fortunately for Portchester none end up in a goal. Portchester themselves send a spectacular 40 yard free kick crashing against the bar in reply before spurning another chance created by their pace. The old heads stroll off to the changing rooms one up. 1-2 at half-time.

Half-time at Wicor Rec.

Portchester start the second half well. Two good chances are created by through balls out-foxing the pair of giants entrusted with the guardianship of Hamworthy’s back-line; On the second occasion only a quick reaction from Hamworthy’s goalkeeper prevents a certain Portchester goal. Hamworthy seem at this point to be struggling to deal adequately with the pace of Portchester down the left wing. As the game progresses and legs tire this could well prove crucial, but Hamworthy are still a threat, particularly in the air from dead-balls and it takes a couple of good saves by the Portchester goalkeeper to prevent the game slipping further beyond their grasp.

Twenty five minutes into the second half, one flash down the left wing, a loose ball in the area, the keeper not getting enough of a hand on the shot ,and Portchester celebrate another equaliser 2-2. Hamworthy, who had seemed to be playing for time, begin to re-apply pressure. A blocked goal bound effort and some woeful finishing however conspire against them.

AFC Portchester attack down the left flank

With the game drawing to a close, but still finely balanced the Portchester number 7 breaks down the left once again. Knowing this could be the deciding move of the game the excitement in the ground rises for the first time at once dispelling the chilled-out al-fresco air which had clung around the tables arranged outside the clubhouse. Reaching the by-line a spectator yells at the player to pass and whether he hears, or whether it was a coincidence he puts in a low cross which teasingly evades the Hamworthy keeper leaving an easy tap-in to make it 3-2.

The new boys had announced their Wessex Premier arrival. A win against a side who had finished a respectable 7th the previous season was as good a start as could be hoped for; excuse enough for plenty of changing room back-slapping and a celebratory pint or two in the rather nice club house. Someone however forgot to tell Hamworthy who pop up to poop the party somehow sneaking a goal on 89 minutes.The game finishes 3-3 at the final whistle. Maybe the back-slapping won’t be quite as intense, but for Portchester it is still a good result and means they’re well on the way to meeting their managers target.

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