Tuesday, 6 September 2011

11. Moneyfields FC

Moneyfields, Moneyfields, so good they named it twice.
It is quite possible that the city of Portsmouth is a misplaced chunk of the North that was transported to the South coast upon the shoulders of giant glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age. The likes of Barnoldswick and Ramsbottom were left behind in Lancashire as the ice melted and dumped the tightly-packed terracing and salt-of-the-earth inhabitants of Pompey down on Portsea Island.

You can become quite lost in the grid of similar-looking terraced housing around the Moneyfields club. It reminds me of the layout of a Pacman game. However, instead of chomping on pixellated fruit in the backstreets of Portsmouth, on Saturday I went in search of goals and an FA Cup upset...

There are two pitches at Moneyfields. You should go round this one.
Moneyfields FC (0) 2 v 1 (0) Gosport Borough FC
FA Cup Preliminary Round
Saturday 3rd September 2011
Official attendance: 201 (I counted at least 240, so the extras must have been club officials and other free entrants, e.g., players from other teams at the club. Headcounts are nearly always higher than the official total, which should be of paying customers only)
Entrance: £5
Programme: £1 (lots of match reports)
Club shop: None seen, but then I didn't go into the clubhouse, which was absolutely heaving when I arrived - there may have been club merchandise for sale in there.
Colours: Yellow / Navy / Navy v White / Claret / Claret
National Grid reference: SU6602
There were over 200 people in the crowd at Moneyfields on Saturday.
Moneyfields have started the season in a chipper fashion, having been involved in some mighty high-scoring games so far - 6-5 at home to Romsey Town being the most remarkable. They lay second in the Wessex League table before this match, with a total of 34 goals cluttering up their For and Against cells after only five matches. Christchurch were beaten 2-0 in the previous round of the FA Cup to set up this so-called Harbour Derby against opponents from a step higher on the non-league ladder.

As usual, I asked around before the match to see what my fellow enthusiasts knew about Moneyfields. The answers ranged from "Who are Moneyfields?" to "Aren't they the team that once played in women's underwear to stop a losing streak?*" My personal internet investigations revealed the likely existence of a club programme shop (subsequently not seen) and the guaranteed presence of trains behind the goal on the West side.

*This Saints-supporting colleague may have been winding me up with this scandalous (if untrue) nugget.

Trainspotting at Moneyfields: 450 109 rattles past.
Moneyfields are a relatively young club. They started life as Portsmouth Civil Service, but as they rose through the leagues, they found they needed a better ground, so they moved into the pre-existing Moneyfields club in Copnor and changed their name. The actual ground was once used as a training facility by Portsmouth FC - there's plenty of space here, with two-and-a-half pitches and a large clubhouse, but presumably it wasn't good enough for the professional club, so they moved away from the city to practice their secret corner hand signals away from any passing spies on the trains that glide past the ground every few minutes.
The Finest Windows & Conservatories Stand.
Gosport Borough are traditionally the more, ahem, glamorous of the two clubs. However, like nearby Fareham Town, they have long been overtaken by the Hawks of Havant & Waterlooville, who hover over the outskirts of the city like kestrels, occasionally picking off one of the clubs' better players and giving them one or two of their nestlings in return.

Pre-match, the Gosport manager mentioned to The News that his club were going to take the cup seriously this year - the £1,500 prize money would come in useful, and so on and so forth. Moneyfields were the underdogs, but you know, sometimes underdogs can bite (just like Pacman when confronted by a strawberry).
Luxury seating in the dugout on the back pitch.
Gosport managed to make the net bulge several times in the first half. Unfortunately for them, it was the net behind the goal that prevents match balls from landing on the railway track. Moneyfields did little to suggest that they were going to progress in what looked like it could be a rout once (or if) Boro opened the scoring.

To be honest, the first half was a bit dull, so I ended up watching the trains more than the match for a ten-minute period when nothing much was happening on the pitch. Ah, the days when I used to stand on the platform of Eastleigh railway station collecting the details of all the passing locomotives in my Ian Allen bumper book of train numbers! Flask of soup in one hand, pencil poised in the other, wondering what I was doing there, and thinking "Are these really the best days of my life? Lordy me, I've got another 60 years in front of me, and collecting train numbers is as good as it gets?"

So, I stopped collecting train numbers and moved on to vinyl records, which was much more satisfying.

Oh, and new football grounds and enamel badges. The collecting bug - it's a man thing, isn't it?

Goal to Moneyfields!
The second half was better. It was as if someone had released four cartoon ghosts onto the pitch from their pen in the middle of a Pacman maze to liven things up a bit.

Boro scored early on. Justin Bennett rounded the keeper, then took five minutes to slide the ball over the goal line as the Moneys' defence looked on. He could have hung a hammock up between the goalposts and laid down and had forty winks before scoring, such was the length of time he seemed to take.

A few minutes later, and Moneyfields equalised with a Jack Lee volley from a corner. You can see his goal in the photo above. He scored with the outside of his left boot - tremendous skill. The pose in the photo is similar to one that Dennis the Menace took in his 1963 annual when he was running away from a lion that he'd released from a circus in order to bother Walter the Softie. The ruse backfired and he ended up being slippered by his dad. Er, just imagine a cartoon lion chasing Jack Lee in the photo - that's how menaces run away from dangerous animals...

...Back on subject, and Moneyfields scored again two minutes later, when Steve Hutchings lobbed the advancing keeper at the Railway End. No more Dennis the Menace comparisons this time - it was merely a very well-taken goal.

Gosport then pinged the post, had a goal disallowed for phase two offside (which would have caused Alan Shearer to explode with confusion), and blasted several more efforts into the wrong net behind the goal. All of which equalled FA Cup ignominy for Boro, and celebration time for Moneyfields. Gosport's manager gathered his team around him on the pitch after the final whistle and let them know how embarrassing their performance was. To be fair, they probably deserved to win...but they didn't. It can be a cruel game.

Predictably, this report ends up with a picture of some rusty old groundsman's equipment...
So, two FA Cup matches for me so far this season, and two upsets. Moneyfields will travel to Godalming Town in the next round, hoping to win and equal their best-ever run in the competition.

I hope to be at another cup match in the near future, but at which ground I have yet to decide...

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