Monday, 13 March 2017

Upham v Michelmersh & Timsbury

Upham FC ready for action.
As a child, I would regularly have nightmares. Always the same thing...ghosts. I would wake up screaming because I was convinced I'd seen a headless highwayman in my room. Whilst my eyes were adjusting to the light, the ghost would merge with the patterns in my bedroom wallpaper so that it would look like it was passing through the wall.

Backlit tree branches swaying in the wind would be visible through my thin curtains. But they weren't tree branches, they would be long-dead Cavaliers waving their arms in surrender as they were being captured by ruthless Roundheads prior to imprisonment and hanging.

The view from the teepees.
Upham FC (0) 1 v 1 (1) Michelmersh & Timsbury FC
Saturday 11th March 2017
Puma Engineering Hampshire Premier Football League Division One
Attendance: 10-15  (varied throughout)
Admission: Free
Programme: None
Colours: All red v Gold and black quarters / black / black
National Grid reference: SU5320

Letting fly in the first half, but Upham had to wait until the last few minutes to score.
I thought these childhood nightmares had long since gone, to be replaced by more adult night-worries. And so they had until this week, when I stayed up late doing my homework on Upham prior to my visit for the football on Saturday.

I was reading about the pub in Upham known as the Brushmaker's Arms, when I must have nodded off, so that the last thing I remembered was the story of Mr Chickett the miserly brushmaker, brutally murdered for his horde of gold coins in 1545. It was said that his killer escaped with Chickett's gold and embarked upon the Mary Rose for her maiden voyage (which, of course, was also her last, as she sank at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour).

Chickett then haunted the Brushmaker's Arms until the day that the Mary Rose was recovered in 1982, at which point his ghostly moaning and midnight coin rattling suddenly stopped.

Upham's Keiran Shalloe shields the ball from his opponent.
My broken dream began. Had I read enough about Upham? Would the locals demand that I answer questions about the village before I could enter? Would I have to fill in an 85 page questionnaire before the match? One wrong box ticked, and I would be sent home?

There was the entrance to Upham Recreation Ground...but who was that standing by the slide in the playground? A rather dishevelled man dressed in hessian couldn't be? Was that Chickett the Brushmaker? And what was he waving?

I could see the footballers warming up. The match was due to start in ten minutes, but Chickett was beckoning to me...

He had a sheaf of paper. He was indicating that I had to fill in this great wad of forms before I would be allowed to watch the match!

Fetching a stray ball from the field next door.
Okay, okay, let's have a look...I must know enough, it'll be fine, I'll play along...

Name, Age, Sex, Profession...yeah, yeah, I can do this...what else? Ah, here's the bit about the football club:
  • Upham FC was founded in...Oh, when was it? 1974! I remembered!
  • Name at least three trophies that the club has won...Tough question, let's think...How about the Winchester League Division 1 in 1992, 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2010? Does that count as 5? You want two more, Mr Chickett? Okay, they were Hampshire League (2004) Trophyman Cup winners in 2005, 2012 and 2013, and Northbrook Cup winners on five occasions. I could name the years if you wish, but the players will be leaving the dressing rooms ready for kick-off shortly!
Please, please, Mr Chickett, isn't that enough?! No? Okay, just one more then...
  •  Highest league position since they joined the Hampshire League? Okay, the Hampshire League was split in to two rival competitions between 2004 and 2013. During this period, Upham finished as runners-up (twice) in the Hants League (2004). Since the leagues were merged, the best they've done is 5th (last season). They look certain to better that this season, going in to the match against lowly Michelmersh & Timsbury in third place. They still have a chance of promotion, although losing 4-0 in each of their last two matches against their main rivals (Sway and Four Marks) has severely dented their ambitions. Nothing less than a win would do today.
Will that do? Will you let me go now, Mr Chickett? No? You want a desperately feeble anecdote before you let me go? Well, I'll never forget the time I was listening to the Hairy Cornflake's show on Radio 1 in the 1970s, and a listener rang in to enter one of his competitions. When the listener said he was from Lower Upham, the DJ roared with laughter. I've no idea why. I guess it was different times back then.

Peeking through the ghostly vortex.
For some reason, Chickett thought my anecdote was hilarious. As his ghostly cackle went on and on, sounding more and more like a series of desperate miaows, I realised that I was laughing too, and that I'd woken myself up. Or was it one of my cats asking for its breakfast that had awoken me?

Either way, it was Saturday morning and it was match day! As I came round, I realised that I wouldn't have to fill in any questionnaires upon my arrival at Upham after all, so the morning flew by without any worries.

Arriving at Upham's Ray's Farm Recreation Ground, there was nowhere to leave my car in the tiny car park, so I drove a couple of hundred yards down Shoe Lane and parked next to the village duck pond instead (no ducks were seen). I then walked back up the narrow lane strewn with fresh horse poo, admiring the roadside daffodils as I went.

There were no ghosts at the recreation ground. Instead, there were children playing in the playground immediately by the entrance with their mums, dads and grandparents. Ahead of me, Upham FC and Michelmersh & Timsbury were warming up on the roped off pitch. To my left as I walked towards the football pitch was the Tommy Steele Pavilion, opened in 1997, which contains the changing rooms and toilets. There's a verandah at the front of the pavilion which would provide the only cover at the ground in the event of rain. Unfortunately, as the pavilion is at right-angles to the pitch, only one person could stand there keeping dry and be able to see the whole pitch at the same time.

I guess that if you're short enough, you could stand inside one of the teepees and keep dry whilst watching the match. Teepees? Yes, there are wooden teepees for children to play in at the top end of the pitch! And when I say "top end", I mean it. There is a ten foot slope from the far end of the pitch, down towards the near end, and it varies in intensity as you go down.

Michelmersh & Timsbury on the attack.
Michelmersh & Timsbury, who contained several players from the Burridge club which disbanded earlier in the season, kicked down the slope in the first half. They nearly scored after three minutes from a goalmouth scramble, but the ball was cleared off the line and booted upfield. Upham then nearly took the lead after 26 minutes when Michelmersh's defender, Joshua Woodward, sent a header crashing against his own bar with goalkeeper Adam Woodford stranded.

With the majority of the attacking threat coming from the home side, Michelmersh took the lead slightly against the run of play on 37 minutes when Ben Wakefield ran on to a through ball and tucked home from twelve yards.

This wasn't going to plan for Upham. They knew that if they failed to win today and Sway won their match against Lyndhurst, Sway would be promoted and that the only team left that they could overhaul was Four Marks*.

Kicking downhill in the second half, Upham became more and more desperate to equalise. Eventually they did, Keiran Shalloe volleying home from 15 yards with a minute left of normal time.

The away team were then reduced to ten men as Ryan Gonyora was booked for a foul, then immediately booked a second time, presumably for protesting the original decision as the ref stood with his finger pressed to his mouth. A minute later, Upham nearly scrambled the ball over the line for a last second winner, but man of the match Wakefield cleared off the line to preserve the scoreline at 1-1, which was probably fair on the balance of play.

As the players left the field, one or two cleaned their boots on an old boot-brush near the dressing room doors. I wondered if Mr Chickett was looking on, pleased that one of his precious brushes was still being used, 472 years after his untimely death.

*Sway won 4-1 to secure promotion. Four Marks have five home matches to come and require seven points to guarantee a place in the top two.

Tidying up time.
I shall post another forty or so photos from Upham on the HAH group page later this evening.

I'll be back next week, and for the first time, I shall be putting the next report to the vote. If you go to either my Twitter account (here), or the Facebook group page (here) from tomorrow (Tuesday) evening, you can help to decide whether I go to another Hampshire League Division One match this coming Saturday, or if I travel to the Isle of Wight for a Wessex League game. I'll combine the votes from both polls and go with the majority.

If no-one votes at all, I shall toss a coin.

And cry myself to sleep.

And try not to dream of Mr Chickett and his annoying questionnaire.

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