|The sign beside the leaving gate.|
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
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.|
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.|
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.|
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.|
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.|
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...|
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).