Hampshire Premier League
Locks Heath 6
(Joe Collins x2, OG, Ben Chambers x2, Ethan Rooke)
Hedge End Rangers 3
(Luke Faithfull x2, Dan Turner)
Attendance: 19 and 1 dog (approx. headcount)
Locks Heath Recreation Ground
Two games in a day! Not quite as eventful as my trip to London where I managed Dagenham’s early kick off before just making it to The Valley for Charlton’s game at three o’clock but even so, a pleasant day of football was on the agenda for my Wednesday afternoon/evening.
With University of Southampton’s game finishing just before four, I had a few hours to go home, eat and pick up my friend and former housemate who was joining me for his first taste of non-league football, and what a mouth watering tie I had picked for him. If he could endure 90 minutes of a Hampshire Premier League game, tier 12 of the football pyramid, he was well equipped to come and join me on more adventures, as I can’t say I will be dipping many levels below that any time soon.
He got the full experience, some agricultural tackles, shoddy defending, questionable officials and the fan that didn’t take too kindly on my comments of a fluffed clearance from the ‘keeper. I only said the clearance had more slice than a pepperoni pizza but the guy stood about ten foot away didn’t see the funny side.
I was particularly excited to be visiting a new ground, as I seem to be revisiting a lot of places in recent games so to go somewhere completely new was my motivation to don the big coat and go and stand on the touchline on a chilly October evening.
Its pretty rare to catch a midweek Hampshire Premier game as most of the grounds don’t have floodlights, at the start and end of the year when it stays lighter for longer you may catch the odd 18:30 kick off but to have a game under the lights at Locks Heath was a treat, and must work to an advantage to ease any late season fixture congestion.
The ground is pretty steady really, the playing surface is reasonably level (albeit quite narrow). There are two decent sized dugouts, a selection of advertising boards along one side and a fair sized clubhouse, which I believe must cover the cricket in the summer months also. The barrier surrounding the pitch wasn’t just the usual white metal bar either, it was some thick plastic structure at a good height to lean on.
For a free game of football the conditions, albeit cold, were perfect for a game of football, I was just glad there were plenty of goals to keep me entertained, I couldn’t imagine standing through 90 minutes and the game to be scoreless, this is game 70 without a goalless draw so long may it continue.
Locks Heath came from 2-1 down at half time to hit five, second half goals to beat Hedge End 6-3.
Joe Collins’ spot kick levelled things midway through the first half following Luke Faithfull’s opener but Hedge End’s Dan Turner scored from the penalty spot just before half time to give his side the lead at the break.
Heath scored four unanswered goals after the restart before Rangers pulled one back to make it 5-3, however the home side put the game to bed late on when they added a sixth through Ben Chambers.
The game was fairly even in the opening exchanges with Hedge End’s Faithfull firing high from inside the penalty area. Faithfull was making his presence known in attack and he forced home goalkeeper Martin Gardiner into a flappy save that was parried clear.
Gari-Lee Irvine then had a good chance for the hosts when he found himself in an advanced position with plenty of space and his shot was palmed away by ‘keeper Oli Hurst before Stuart Venn cleared away.
Hurst then did well to keep the game goalless when he saved well from a good shot from Heath winger Nicholas Waters.
The away side did take the lead when James Roden played a little pass over the defender to Faithfull who beat the ‘keeper to the ball to head towards goal and over the line, despite Heath defender Jack Pilgrim going close to preventing the goal.
Locks Heath were not behind for long when Turner committed a foul in the box, allowing his opposite number eight Collins to step up to take the penalty. Hurst guessed the right way and managed to get a touch on the ball but Collins had hit the spot kick with enough power to send it into the back of the net.
As half time drew near, Locks Heath captain Pilgrim gave away a penalty for handball when he tried to clear from a wide free kick. Dan Turner stepped up and slotted the ball into the corner as Rangers took a slim lead into the interval.
Whatever was said in the home dressing room at half time must have worked as Heath pegged Rangers into their own box applying plenty of pressure on the visitors as Hurst did excellently to tip Chris Sales’ shot into the post.
The score was all level just two minutes after the restart thanks to an own goal by Venn who maybe could have done something different to stop Sales’ free kick deflecting off him into the net.
Hedge End were falling apart and Locks Heath were in the lead for the first time a minute after equalising through Ben Chambers who collected the ball inside the box and slotted past the ‘keeper. Rangers full back Jack Costa had lost the ball on the half way line leaving his side short of defensive cover and Loz Wall scuffed his shot perfectly into Chambers who was composed enough to score.
Ten minutes later, Locks Heath added a fourth when Irvine won the ball back in the attacking half and played a pass into Chambers who missed the ball completely. Luckily, Collins was perfectly placed behind him to slam the ball into the corner to grab his second of the night.
Rangers had completely self combusted in the second half as Locks Heath showed why they are battling towards the top of the table and they added a fifth on 68 minutes when the ‘keeper spilled an easy catch from a straightforward free kick, allowing Ethan Rooke to slot in from close range making it 5-2.
Following the fifth goal Hedge End managed to compose themselves a little and try to reduce the deficit and they managed to pull one back when Faithfull got the better of the defence to smack the ball in at the near post from a tight angle to get his second of the evening.
Craig Hill, who had come off the bench for Rangers, missed a sitter that would have pulled the score back within one goal when he scuffed a great chance from a well-delivered free kick by Costa.
Locks Heath stayed firm at the back and they managed to clear Kenny Gatera’s effort off the line just inside the post as they looked to be holding on to their two-goal lead.
The home side rounded the night off in style with the ninth goal of the game when Chambers beat the offside trap to collect a lobbed ball, shrugged off the last defender, rounded the ‘keeper and slotted into the gaping net to secure all three points for his side.
2016/17 Games: 44
2016/17 Grounds: 40
Total Grounds Visited: 175