Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The 3rd Annual Festive Parade of Rusty Rollers

The Cobra at Brockenhurst FC.
Welcome to Hopping Around Hampshire's third annual Festive Parade Of Rusty Rollers! Make yourself at home whilst I present the first half of the 2013/14 season's collection of non-league groundsmen's equipment.

I thought I was never going to see a new roller again after starting the season at Pompey, Romsey Town and Hythe & Dibden - only Romsey had one on show, and I've featured that one before. Luckily, I do go to matches other than the ones I write about on here, so a visit to Brockenhurst for their FA Cup game with Folland Sports at the end of August came up trumps with what I've christened "The Cobra", due to its bent handle/neck. Hissss!

Spotting The Cobra was a good thing. However, I was gutted to see that Tabitha Tractor had gone. Still one of my favourite Hampshire grounds though, even without the old girl.

On a breezeblock at Kidlington FC.
I'm following Hampshire clubs in the FA Vase this season, so I've filed reports from outside the county from time to time. There were rollers at all three "foreign" fields I've visited thus far. Unfortunately, I failed to photograph the one at Bracknell Town - I only spotted it on my way out of the ground, through some wooden slats in a compound. Shyness overcame me as I suddenly believed that everyone was watching me (it is a bit weird snapping these things, after all), so I walked on past, whistling a tuneless tune of regret.

On my next Vase trip to Kidlington, I had a beer in the clubhouse before the match, and somehow, all shyness disappeared. I was straight outta the bar, my dander well and truly up as I spotted a roller on a breezeblock and some old grass-cutting equipment attempting to hide in the undergrowth.

Andover New Street's roller had a front row seat for their bonfire in November.
During a break from the Vase, I revisited Andover New Street on the day of their bonfire party, and thank goodness I did, as I found the old fella above, cowering near the huge pile of wood that would later go up in flames. I patted it and comforted it and assured it that everything would be fine - "You're made out of metal mate, they won't burn you"...

Andover New Street's overworked leaf-picker having a well-earned rest.
...also at New Street was an overworked and stressed leaf-picker, resting against the back of a dugout after a busy morning's work clearing the pitch for their match against Fleet Spurs.

Hidden out of sight at Odd Down (Bath).
Back on the Vase trail in November, it was time to go to Bath for some Christmas shopping and a match at Odd Down. No groundsmen's equipment around the pitch, but through a gap in a gate, I could see Les B's rusty lump of old iron. And was that a white line painter behind?

Moneyfields to the rescue!
You can always trust Moneyfields to come up with some rusty gems. At their abandoned Vase match with Bitton a fortnight ago, I found many many pieces of much-loved equipment lying around. I think I may have snapped the above roller before, but it was in a different place, so I'm counting it for a second time. Tick! Behind the roller was a rather exciting mini-dumper truck, which several small boys found irresistible as an oversized toy throughout the match.

Lined up ready for inspection at Moneyfields.
Beside the stand was more equipment, including an old watering can. Nice, but not as fascinating as these wheelbarrows, all lined up on parade ready for inspection. Oi, Yellow Wheels! Have a wash!

A proper turnstile at Bracknell Town FC.
To make up for the episode of shyness at Bracknell, I'm ending this Festive Parade not with a roller, but with one of The Robins' splendid old turnstiles. Part of what made their Larges Lane ground my favourite new ground of the first half of the season.

Previous Festive Parades can be found here and here. End of season round ups are here and here.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers. And who made the 40,000th page view just before I started typing this morning? Probably a spambot.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Moneyfields v Bitton

The sign beside the leaving gate.
I have this hate list. It has 27 things on it. To be honest, it's more irritations than hates, so let's call it an "irritation list" instead. I was reminded of this when I sloped in to my office the other day, and they'd put up a Christmas tree. Nice touch, you might think, but underneath were a pile of presents. I knew these presents were just empty boxes full of fetid seasonal air, and this irritated me - presents aren't for show, they should have something in them! Books, CDs, Subbuteo accessories! I don't mind what's inside, so long as there's something! I wanted to kick these false gifts and stamp on them and spit on them and generally destroy them. A bit over the top, but little things can be the most annoying.

I suspect I'm not the only one who finds little things irritating, because it was the most inconsequential of incidents blowing up out of all proportion which caused the FA Vase match between Portsmouth's Moneyfields and Bristol's Bitton to be abandoned last Saturday.

Moneyfields FC, pitch 1 (left); and pitch 2 (right). And a train.
Moneyfields FC (0) 1 v 1 (0) Bitton AFC (abandoned after 101 minutes)
FA Carlsberg Vase 3rd Round Proper
Saturday 7th December 2013
Attendance: 120-ish
Admission: £5
Programme: £1. I got the last one on sale. Featured my match report and photos from Odd Down (Bath), much to my surprise! A shoo-in for my Programme of the Season :-)
Colours: Yellow / dark blue / dark blue v Red and white stripes / black / black
National Grid reference: SU6602

A train passes by on the way to Fratton.
More of the abandonment later. I was at Moneyfields because I'm following Hampshire clubs in the FA Vase this season - regular readers will know this, but first-timers here will wonder what I was doing there, so I have to explain. Consider this synopsis as being like one of those recaps of previous episodes which precede each programme in a drama series - thus, at the end of the previous episode, the chisel-chinned hero was caught out by the monobrowed, hook-for-hand baddie whilst riffling through a cabinet full of folders searching for evidence of his brother's missing fortune. The baddie shines a powerful torch in his face and pulls a gun (somehow, not sure how he could do both things at once with only one functioning hand - haven't fully thought this through...). Surely it's all over for our hero? The credits roll...

Of course, at the beginning of the next episode, the baddie doesn't shoot - he wants to talk, which gives our hero space to think...

Where was I? Ah yes. This was my fifth Vase match of the season so far. Previously, I'd visited Hythe & Dibden, Bracknell Town, Kidlington and Odd Down (Bath) - reports and pictures from all these matches can be seen by clicking on individual match links to the right. I intend to see a match in every round until all the Hampshire clubs have been knocked out. It was Moneyfields' turn for a visit on Saturday. I would love to have gone to Saltash v Alresford, Reading Town v Sholing or Shepton Mallet v Blackfield & Langley, but I had to be home by six o'clock! Even so, I was happy to revisit Moneyfields. Portsmouth is my home city, after all.

The ketchup table at Moneyfields.
So what happened on Saturday? Well, if you include players and officials, there were around 150-200 people in the ground. If you asked each person what they saw, they would come up with 150 different answers, so mine is only one perspective out of many. Moreover, it's difficult to know what to write, as it feels as though the incident is still sub-judice, the FA not having made a decision on what to do about this yet.

But there's no avoiding the subject, so as much as I'd like to list another 26 irritants, it's probably not the place for them (maybe next time - remind me if I forget).

The first major incident was the sending off of Moneyfields' Warren Hunt for a two-footed leap for a loose ball inside Bitton's penalty area. I was standing near this and can say he was unlucky, as both he and a Bitton defender leapt in in similar fashion - Hunt just happened to arrive a tenth of a second after the Bitton player. If the timing had been the other way round, the away side would have been a man down after 22 minutes and be facing a penalty.

After the sending off, there were a lot of hard tackles and constant appealing to the ref. I spent ten minutes chatting to a local fan (who also happened to be an ex-referee) and we both agreed the man in the middle was getting fed up. It was only a matter of time before someone else made the walk of shame.

A legal punch from the Bitton keeper.
There were two goals within a few minutes in the second half. Bitton's Luke Bryan scored the first, running clear on the left and stroking the ball under Dave Hook into the home side's goal just inside the far post. From the restart, the outstanding Stuart Green equalised, calmly poking the ball home from a Steve Hutchings cross. It went relatively quiet in the goalmouths after that. Both sides were giving it everything they had, with every decision or non-decision argued over. Any parent or teacher will know what it's like to be on the end of this sort of behaviour. In the end, you occasionally snap and do something you regret.

And so it came to extra-time. I was standing behind the Bitton goal, a long way from the defining incident of the game, so I may not have seen everything clearly, but rightly or wrongly, here goes...

It appeared to start when Moneyfields' left-back tackled Bitton's number 7 in front of the changing rooms where a large number of fans were stood. There was no foul, as the ref waved play on. However, the next thing we knew, the Bitton player was pushing the left-back to the ground...players from both sides ran over and were shoving each other around (this is what is known as "handbags"). At this point the ref blew his whistle and stood nearby, watching. Bitton's number 7 thumped a Moneyfields player who fell to the ground. The physio came on to treat him, but in the meantime, the number 7 was going wild, trying to smack everyone in sight. It took four of his team mates to pull him away (most of the players were there trying to calm the one or two hotheads down - not everyone was involved in the fisticuffs).

After several minutes, the referee spoke to Steve Hutchings, who started walking towards the dressing rooms, shaking his head. I assumed he'd been sent off, but I hadn't seen a card. The out of control number 7 would surely follow, and perhaps one or two others. Then I slowly realised that the ref and his two assistants were standing side by side and players had begun to shake hands with them (as I previously stated, the majority of them had done nothing wrong). The ref had had enough - he'd reached the end of his elastic and had abandoned the match.

It seemed harsh from where I was standing. Two or three sendings off and a restart would have been my decision, but there had been so much going on a few minutes earlier, the ref probably couldn't tell who was innocent and who was guilty. He'd snapped, like a stressed out and angry parent. Whether he's regretting it right now, I don't know, but we're all human.

There's no free view from the footbridge behind the stand - I know because I checked.
As I type, there has been no decision from the FA. They will have to decide what to do based on the referee's report. They could order a replayed match at Moneyfields. They could let the 1-1 stand and tell the two sides to replay at Bitton. They could throw both clubs out of the competition. They could throw one out - most likely Bitton, as it was their player who started the brawl and wouldn't calm down.

If both teams are thrown out, the sides they beat in the previous round could be reinstated (Fareham Town and Odd Down (Bath)), or the club they've been drawn to play in the next round (Hadleigh United) could get a bye. Either or both clubs could be fined. Either or both could be banned from the competition next season. It all depends on what the referee wrote in his report.

I hope what I've written was a fair summation of what happened. However, if any of the other 150 souls who were in the ground on Saturday read this and want to add anything or put me right on anything, feel free to do so in the Comments below. The Comments are fully open for two weeks, then after that I have to approve them (this prevents spammers commenting on pieces I wrote ages ago). I can't imagine I got everything right - I was about as far away from the incident as it was possible to get and not be standing on the railway line behind the goal.

Three more views on the game: a report from the Bath Chronicle is here. One from the Portsmouth News is here. And Bitton's website report is here. It mentions abusive and aggressive supporters in the two reports from the west country, but I didn't notice anything other than calls for the number 7 to be sent off. A follow up piece in The News is here.

Moneyfields' stand under the twinkling floodlights.
Of the clubs that I've written about previously in the Vase (other than Moneyfields), only Kidlington were still in the competition this week. They lost 3-2 after extra-time at home to Cornwall's Bodmin Town.

No Hampshire clubs fell this time out, so there are still four left (out of 32 nationally, which is an impressive total). Blackfield & Langley won away at Shepton Mallet (who had been reinstated following AFC Portchester's removal from the competition due to playing an illegible player); Sholing trounced Reading Town in Berkshire; and Alresford Town stuck seven past Saltash United away from home. The draw for the next round, which I assumed would be national, was in fact still regionalised, but with a straight north/south split:

Moneyfields or Bitton v Hadleigh United
Sholing v Hullbridge Sports
Larkhall Athletic v Blackfield & Langley
Hallen v Alresford Town

Ties to be played on January 18th.

And there goes another train...
Apologies for the lack of whimsy in this report, but there was a lot of actual stuff to write about without bizarre filler this time out. I was going to mention that the match was being played at Pompey's ex-training ground, and that I regularly used to travel from Havant to Portsmouth by train to buy the latest Fall album and would occasionally see Pompey's players practicing their free-kicks as we whizzed past. There was other stuff too, but it'll have to wait for another time.

I'm having a break from match reports now until after Christmas. I'll be catching up with Pompey, Havant & Waterlooville and Romsey Town's progress whilst I'm resting my typing fingers - I've seen them play at least twice each this season and have yet to see any of them win. Fingers crossed and all that.

See you again in January (although there may be a roller round-up in the meantime).