Southern League Division One Central
Petersfield Town 2
(Billy Connor, Adam Cripps)
Fleet Town 2
(Pat Cox, Josh Harfield)
Starting the year with style a double header on January 2nd and two new grounds was a perfect way to get 2017 up and running.
Colden Common had just won 3-2 in a close game with Hedge End Rangers in the Hampshire Premier, the 11th tier of English Football. The game finished just before 2pm, giving me plenty of time to drive 21 miles east to Love Lane, home of Southern League Division One Central outfit Petersfield Town.
This was my first time watching a game from the Southern League Division One Central and my first time watching Fleet Town.
I had seen Petersfield Town on three occasions previous to today, most recently a 6-0 pre-season away victory at Fawley. Last season I saw Petersfield thump Bashley 5-0 in the Russell Cotes Cup before losing 3-1 away at Portchester in the next round.
I hadn’t heard great things about Love Lane prior to my trip, and taking into account the Rams’ rise through the leagues, becoming the first team to win back-to-back promotions in the Wessex League to get to where they are now, I wasn’t expecting much from the ground. Prior to the promotions, as recently as 2004 they were playing in the Hampshire League set up.
The ground is alright, certainly not the worst place I’ve been to, the one seated stand sits on the half way line directly opposite the tunnel and dugouts. The seats didn’t have backs though, something that my lack of posture couldn’t have dealt with.
The clubhouse was big, had a big screen showing Sky Sports and there was a couple of covered standing areas which also had some seating on the same side as the clubhouse.
Up one corner there was a fenced off overgrown area with the start of the 2017 bonfire wood (or the remains of 2016) ready for a Guy Fawkes on top, next to an abandoned cabin which was probably the away dressing room back in their Hampshire Premier years.
The pitch had a little slope but that can only add to the character of the place, even if the skate park behind the main stand was generating more noise than the spectators.
I was made to feel very welcome and with the club undergoing a complete branding restructure, I was treated to a key ring and a sticker when purchasing my pin badge, obviously getting rid of the stock donning the now dated club crest.
For the game I decided to stand just to the right of the main stand at pitch level, managed to see everything and stay out of the afternoon sun which would have played havoc with the view had I stood in a different spot.
Petersfield Town ended a run of seven straight defeats to draw 2-2 with Fleet Town in their opening match of 2017.
The Rams came from behind to lead 2-1 at half time but Josh Harfield’s header four minutes after the restart was enough to share the spoils.
The game saw its first goal after just 19 seconds when Fleet striker Pat Cox smashed the ball into the back of the net past George Hill. Petersfield had passed the ball back to Chris Harvey who was closed down quickly by Cox and Ben White and it was Cox who had the simple job of converting the one-on-one inside the area.
It was all even again on six minutes when Josh Francis scuffed his clearance to Billy Connor who skipped along the edge of the box before smashing a shot into the top corner, beating the ‘keeper at full stretch.
In a frantic game both sides created chances as Cox scuffed a shot wide. Moments later, Rams forward Matt Andrews glanced a soft header on target from a long throw which didn’t worry Ryan Pryce in the Fleet goal.
Pryce then had to be alert to hold on to Andrews’ low drive after he did well to twist and turn on the edge of the box to work a shooting opportunity.
Francis then had a chance to put the away team ahead when he overlapped Rob Carr on the left wing who playing in the pass into the box for Francis to shoot at goal, however Hill was alert to block the ball away at the near post.
The home side did take the lead on 32 minutes when Adam Cripps headed in from a free kick from 40 yards. White had committed the foul and the ball found Cripps who looped his header over Pryce and it dipped just under the crossbar to give John Robson’s men the lead.
Harvey, who had been at fault for Fleet’s opener, made up for his early mistake when he cleared off the line from White who had done well to round Hill from Cox’s flick on.
Fleet piled on the pressure after the restart when Hill held on to White’s shot before tipping over Francis’ effort after some good play between White and Simba Mlambo. From the resulting corner, Fleet pulled things level when Harfield stooped into the header to put the ball over the line inside a crowded six yard box.
Fleet always looked like they could grab a winner and extend Petersfield’s torrid run of defeats in the league. The home side did stay strong though and defended as a team to see out the game.
Harvey missed a clearance that could have given Fleet a winner but it fell to visiting substitute Danilo Cadete who shanked his shot well high of the goal from close range to the frustration of his team mates.
Hill was earning his money in the final ten minutes of the game when he made two crucial saves to secure the draw for Petersfield when he denied White and Cadete.
2016/17 Games: 74
2016/17 Grounds: 54
Total Grounds Visited: 147 (38)