Monday, 25 September 2017

Godalming Town v Brockenhurst

Scarves for sale at Godalming Town (and mugs, programmes and pin badges!).
Wow! Just wow! It's not even October yet and already I've seen my best game of the season! Although, to be honest, that's often the case at this time of the year. The early rounds of the FA Cup and Vase tend to produce some of the most dramatic matches in any given season. For the players, it must be the lure of Wembley glory (or even just the prospect of testing themselves against relatively big clubs from outside of their usual region). Do they try harder, or is that merely my imagination? Or is it that cup matches are just more exciting than bread and butter league encounters, for the players and followers of the sport? Then there's pride at stake for the league if you're playing a club from another region. Adrenaline is a notch or two higher than normal. It's a heady mix.

It had looked like the most straightforward of wins for Brock. Wingers Will Tickle and Mark Barker had spent the first half tormenting Godalming's full-backs. They had been jinking and jetting past their unfortunate opponents, crossing and shooting at will. Aaron Dunne had scored the Badgers' overdue first after 20 minutes, heading in from Barker's free-kick. Matt Sheedy added the second ten minutes later after Tickle's cross had been blocked and rebounded to him ten yards out. And then there was a third in stoppage time from Mitchell-Carlton Speechley-Price.

Brock were absolutely cruising in to the next round. No problem at all.

The main stand at Godalming Town FC.
Godalming Town FC (1) 3 v 5 (3) Brockenhurst FC
Buildbase FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round
Saturday 23rd September 2017
Attendance: 80-100
Admission: £6
Programme: £2 (the best I've seen at this level for quite some time)
Colours: Yellow / green / yellow v All blue
National Grid reference: SU9844

Tiny homemade shelter at Wey Court.
And then Godalming got one back.

It was 45+4 - the "plus 4" being time added on due to a double sending off after 34 minutes. I didn't see the incident, but according to my source in the stand, there had been a "coming together of heads", "handbags" and "nothing much to it". However, the end result was that Godalming's Hakim Griffiths and Brock's Tommy Barnes both took the walk of shame back to the dressing rooms.

During the Plus 4, Godalming's debutant Robert Webbe scored via the back of his head. It was 3-1 at half-time and Brock should still have been comfortable.

Mark Barker attempts to round Aaron Bufton in Godalming's penalty area.
But it wasn't comfortable at all, not at all. The Combined Counties Premier Division side began playing with more poise and confidence after the break. The clock ticked round to 58 minutes and my "last goal scored" raffle ticket's time was up. Sadly, the entire minute was taken up with a substitution for the home side. I've still never won a football raffle...

Shortly after this, Ben Cotton weaved his way through Brock's defence, rounded goalkeeper Matty Taylor and side-footed home to make it 2-3. Time for the home side to pick the ball out of the net and run with urgency up to the centre-spot, slam it down and keep believing they could complete an unlikely comeback.

Brockenhurst were visibly nervous at this point with Godalming's tails well and truly up. They couldn't get a third. Could they?

The answer to this question was "yes", but in an unexpected manner. With 15 minutes remaining, Webbe floated in a corner...and the ball seemed to cross the line without anyone touching it. There may have been a slight deflection, but I didn't see one from the far end where I was stood. 3-3 with a goal straight from a corner. Now, would there be extra-time and a possible replay, or could one of the combatants snatch a late victory?

Goalmouth scramble but no goal on this occasion.
I needed a good memory to take away from this part of the world. The last time I'd been in the Godalming/Farncombe area (Godalming Town actually play in Farncombe), I'd been in the school hockey team (goalkeeper, naturally), and for some reason, we had an away fixture against one of England's most expensive public schools, Charterhouse, which is a mile or two distant from Wey Court.

You'd have thought that you'd be able to leave your valuables in the changing rooms at Charterhouse with impunity, what with the public school ethos of fair play and honesty and so on and so forth. I mean, compared to some of the rough, tough schools I played at in both the hockey and football teams, none of whom ever caused us any bother...

But come full-time and a creditable 2-2 draw against the future captains of industry and grandees of the Tory party, we returned to the dressing rooms and we'd been ransacked! My bus fare home, all 15p of it, gone! But worst of all, I'd bought a 7 inch vinyl record on my way to school that morning - Turning Japanese by the Vapors - and the thief had broken it. Not stolen it, but worse, broken it!

Henceforth, from that moment, I became a Communist.

The inevitable arty pic.
I needed a good memory from my trip to Surrey, and Brockenhurst's Speechley-Price provided it with six minutes remaining. He'd been a painful presence all afternoon and looked the most likely to score. And score he did. Chasing a ball played through the centre, he reached the edge of the 18 yard box and shot low and hard. The ball looped up off a stretching defender, leaving Bufton helpless as it bounced over the line and in.

People sometimes ask me if I have any favourites from the 50 or 60 clubs that I cover on here, and I usually go all coy and say "no comment" or words to that effect, but I found myself punching the air when that fourth goal went in, so yeah, I'll admit it, Brock are one of my favourite teams.

Unlike my children, I don't love everyone equally.

With Godalming chasing another equaliser, Speechley-Price was played through the middle again with two minutes remaining. This time he shot earlier, arcing the ball way over Bufton's outstretched arms to make it 5-3 for what was, in the end, a deserved victory for the club from the New Forest.

Mitchell-Carlton Speechley-Price celebrates scoring his second and Brock's fourth of the afternoon, as well as having the longest name in the Wessex League.
So Brockenhurst progressed on what turned out to be a very good day for Wessex League clubs against sides from surrounding leagues. They'll be playing at home to South West Peninsula League side Crediton United in the First Round Proper on October 21st. Here are the fixtures for the remaining Hampshire clubs:

AFC Portchester v Cullompton Rangers
Highworth Town v Sholing
Westbury United v United Services Portsmouth
Romsey Town v Hamble Club
Portland United v Horndean
Fareham Town v Ivybridge Town
Baffins Milton Rovers v Radstock Town
Hengrove Athletic v Alton
Farnham Town v Lymington Town
Frimley Green v Blackfield & Langley
Bashley v Bridgwater Town

I hope to file a report from one of these matches on HAH in four weeks time. But which one?

Down the steps to the dressing rooms for the returning heroes.
There's another report from Saturday's game on Godalming Town's website here. More photos from the match will appear on the HAH Facebook page later this evening.

Obviously, the incident that scarred my childhood at Charterhouse had nothing to do with the good people of Godalming Town FC. Just being there amongst the friendly home crowd in the sunshine will always be a good memory. And their ground is lovely, with an old stand with wooden bench seats, an engaging announcer, a superb programme packed with info and colour photos, an area for children to play, a rusty roller in one corner, a top-notch tea hut...I could go on. They're a good bunch. If you're up that way, please pay them a visit.

The next HAH will be from a match being played on October 7th. I do love a cup game, so I'm considering delving deep - really deep - down inside the pyramid and visiting an insect-themed club from the badlands between Southampton and Portsmouth for a Hampshire Intermediate Cup tie next. See you in a fortnight.

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