Wessex Division One

Hamble Club 2

(Doug Rowe, Liam Crook)

Laverstock & Ford 0

Attendance: 39 (approx. headcount)

Hamble Community Facility

After two Saturday’s in a row without football I was beginning to forget what it was like to gear up for a 3pm kick off.

I left work at midday in glorious sunshine, only to be met by showers on my drive home. The weather plays an important part in my decision for a game, for instance, I would have to think twice before heading to a Hampshire League ground with no cover if it was going to rain for the whole match, it did narrow my options down slightly.

My search for new grounds also leaves me with a bit of travel involved and after I had lunch and gathered my thoughts, I had left it a little tight to get to Farnborough or Fleet Spurs, both half decent options for today.

I always had Romsey if I really didn’t want to go anywhere (after all, they were featuring me in their programme that I later found out wasn’t printed).

The other game that caught my attention was Hamble Club. They were the league leaders and in truth I thought that they had already been crowned champions. They were playing Laverstock & Ford, another solid Wessex Division One side still pushing for a high finish so I thought this could be an interesting game.

My last visit may not have counted for some of the more serious ground hoppers. It was a pre season friendly to start with and I know some people don’t count such menial fixtures. I went to Hamble back in July on a nice summers evening as they beat Wessex Premier side Alresford Town 2-1 on the field next to the ground (another reason why some ground hoppers wouldn’t have given me the tick). Due to Hamble’s promotion last season, they were in the process of upgrading their ground and I can only assume that is why they played on the pitch next door which I believe is a police training facility.

This time I was doing the ground for real. It was a league game and in the main stadium, I mean I was happy to tick it off before but it was nice to see the ground now it is complete.

The win also confirmed the league title for the Monks, making the day even better and meaning that I had picked a game with something riding on it, despite it being a complete accident, mid table games at this end of the season can be fairly mundane.

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The Ground

They certainly have been busy since my last visit. The Hamble Community Facility (formerly known as the Shell Mex Ground), is a place that the club can be proud of, considering their rise through the league.

Any team that makes the jump from the Hampshire League into the Wessex have a big task to get their ground up to scratch. It goes from playing in a park with basic changing rooms and toilets to having a clubhouse, turnstiles, perimeter fencing, a certain amount of seated/covered area and all the other bits. When I went in July I wrote that the club were clearly in transition and it was nice to return and see it in its full glory.

The stand had tripled in size and the run down tea bar that I thought would be replaced, has moved closer to the pitch, keeping some character from last season. The clubhouse is smart inside and out, everything looks very new and it’s amazing how good the yellow paint makes the place stand out.

One slight issue is the clubhouse is situated the wrong side of turnstile. Not a big issue to exit the ground but maybe the team board would be better placed on the side of the tea hut inside the ground rather than by the entrance to the clubhouse.

Saying that the man on the turnstile was very pleasant and the sunshine that seemed to have held off the rain showers was making it a pleasant afternoon.

The stand runs a fair way down the far side from where the entrance is, a wooden structure, painted yellow, it does the job with three rows of bench seats offering somewhere to perch and some shelter. My age-old hatred of support beams obstructing view was in full swing here but when you take into account the Monks’ sudden rise through the league I am overall impressed with the place.

Everywhere looks better in the sun but I certainly like the Hamble Community Facility, it will be interesting to see what improvements they make now they are going to be a Wessex Premier side.

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The Game

Hamble Club were crowned Wessex Division One champions with a 2-0 victory over promotion rivals Laverstock & Ford.

The Monks were aided by Ringwood Town’s 2-0 victory over second placed Baffins Milton Rovers to secure the league title with four games remaining.

The defeat for Laverstock was their seventh straight loss as they narrowly hold on to a top five spot. It was a second promotion in two seasons for Hamble after finishing third in the Hampshire Premier League in the 2015/16 campaign.

The Monks played with intensity straight from kick off, forcing both Lavvy’ fullbacks into two early mistakes before Mo Nyang dragged a shot wide of Alexis Aguer’s goal.

The game settled down and Laverstock started to string some passes together. However Hamble always looked dangerous and after Graham Mankin spooned a clearance into the air, Nyang used his pace to nip in before firing a shot over the bar.

It should have been a case of third time lucky for wide man Nyang who fired a hard shot that was magnificently saved by Aguer who would have known little about the shot.

There was some desperate defending from the visitors, blocking shots from all over the place as Nick Watts, Liam Crook and Craig Shrimpton all having shots blocked.

In attack, Laverstock didn’t possess the cutting edge to challenge Rory Anderson’s goal as Hamble looked like a solid team riding high at the top of the league.

Hamble went close again from a corner that was clawed out before Harrison Hayle made a vital block on the line to keep the scores level at the break.

The second half started in ugly fashion after Shrimpton saw a straight red for violent conduct after an off the ball incident with Jamie Smith.

That should have been Lavvy’s incentive to use the added man and take hold of the game but instead Hamble went close to taking the lead when Doug Rowe managed to tease Aguer off his line before squaring to Watts to blaze over the bar.

Mike Byrne went close to breaking the deadlock with a powerful header from a testing free kick.

Hamble talisman Rowe played a nice give and go with Crook but was superbly denied by Sam Dorrington who slid in to block a certain goal.

Nathan Lynch was an aerial threat throughout the game and he forced a great save from Aguer with a header that the Frenchman defied the laws of gravity to tip over.

Out of nowhere Hamble were gifted an opening goal, the ball bounced away from Laverstock in the midfield and Rowe was sent away towards goal and calmly rolled the ball into the goal under the onrushing Aguer.

Minutes later the lead was doubled in unusual style when Crook scored straight from a corner. The captain swung in the set piece from the right side and it evaded everyone in the box and crossed the line, leading to mass celebrations confirming the league title.

Word soon got around that Baffins were losing in the New Forest and Hamble were really enjoying themselves on the pitch. Laverstock struggled to create anything and there really wasn’t any inclination that Hamble were a man down.

Both sides made changes to freshen things up and Lavvy’s only effort of note fell to Adam Bourner who smashed over the bar.

As the game wore on, legs began to tire and there was plenty of space for Hamble to exploit on the break, Aguer preventing a third goal with a good reaction save to deny Coby Wilson.

Ricky Bull missed a sitter in the dying moments when substitute James Thompson fired a low cross into the box and Bull had the easy job to tap home, however the ball fizzed out over the other side.

2016/17 Games: 116

2016/17 Grounds: 62 (10)

Total Grounds Visited: 155 (41)

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