Pre Season Friendly
AFC Stoneham 0
(Scott Wilson, Yemi Odubade)
The Elliotts Arena
Following my day out in Bath on Saturday, the second game was just around the corner, this time a more familiar surrounding and more familiar teams as I headed over to The Elliotts Arena for a local derby encounter between Wessex Division One side AFC Stoneham and National League outfit Eastleigh.
Approximately 1.8 miles separates The Elliotts Arena and Eastleigh’s Silverlake Stadium so on paper it was as good as you’re going to get in terms of a local derby, a feisty encounter, even for a friendly.
It was the first run out of the new season for both teams with Eastleigh using the game to cast their eye over a couple of trialists, young professionals and new signings.
This was my second trip to AFC Stoneham, having witnessed a highly competitive 1-1 draw against Laverstock & Ford in March.
As Eastleigh ran out 2-0 winners against their next-door neighbours, the game will probably be remembered for its woeful penalty kicks (or goalkeeper heroics, depending on which side of Stoneham Park you sit.)
Tony Lee and John Cole both had their penalties saved either side of half time as goals from Scott Wilson and Yemi Odubade gave the visitors a 2-0 victory.
Eastleigh, as you would expect, started the game brightly with trialist Josh Carmichael and Jai Reason getting early efforts in on goal.
It took a bit of individual brilliance from new signing Wilson to break the deadlock. Having signed from National League South side Weston-Super-Mare, the striker beat full back Jamie Bentley, cutting inside to curl a low shot just past the fingertips of Stoneham stopper Sam Whieldon.
Tony Lee missed a great chance to double the lead for Chris Todd’s men but defender Ben Clarke managed to race to the line and put the ball into touch.
Lee’s evening got worse as he looked to make his mark on the game. After being bundled over in the box by Liam Magee, the young striker could do nothing as Whieldon guessed right to save the penalty and keep the score at just 1-0.
The introduction of Eastleigh fan favourite Yemi Odubade definitely got the crowd going after the restart and the winger used his skill and experience to weave through the defence and slot past the ‘keeper to double the away side’s advantage.
Stoneham started to play football after going 2-0 down and showed that they were not going to go down without a fight.
Substitute Callum Doyle bounced a 30-yard strike off the top of the crossbar before the referee awarded the home side a soft penalty after James Granger was judged to have tripped Doyle on the edge of the box.
John Cole stepped up but former England schoolboy ‘keeper Mark Childs saved perfectly and Dan Spreadbury could only poke the rebound into the side netting to give Eastleigh the local bragging rights with a final 2-0 score.
With one newly built wooden stand, The Elliotts Arena is pretty basic when you compare them to some other grounds in their league. But taking into account how recently they were promoted into Wessex Division One, the club have made giant strides to improve the facilities to ensure progression up the football league ladder.
On a rainy day (thank god it was dry on both of my visits), the one wooden stand would be the only place to get away from the weather, however with support poles across the front of the stand it would obstruct your view so personally I chose to find a space pitch side to take in some summer evening football.
With a little tea hut next to the main stand and a newly built BBQ shack behind the far goal, it is clear to see that the base for expansion and development is there.
Like their near neighbours Eastleigh, a rise through the non league ranks is not impossible and I would love to see Stoneham grow and expand in the future.
2016/17 Games: 2
2016/17 Grounds: 3
Total Grounds Visited: 150