Wessex Premier League

Whitchurch United 1

(Sam McCarthy)

Fawley AFC 3

(Kieran Roche, Aaron Lucas, Callum Tanner)

Attendance:  69

Longmeadow

What a disappointment yesterday turned out. After leaving work a little late I was pushing it to make kick off at Gillingham Town against Sherborne Town. I was really excited for the day, not only was I cramming in a double header, it was my first taste of Western League action.

Either way I hopped in my car knowing that I would probably miss the first few minutes of the game, not the end of the world, after all, I was ticking two new grounds off today and had a day of football ahead of me. What I didn’t account for was sitting in 30 minutes of traffic heading into Salisbury.

I sat in Lidl car park considering my next move. I was going to miss the entire first half at Gillingham so no point going there but I still could have got to Warminster against Westbury at 3pm. This may sound slightly out of character but I decided against going to any game, drove home and pottered around the house before heading back to work in the evening.

I felt so despondent about how my day had gone, I wasn’t even fussed about any matches on Saturday, until a friend ended up with a spare ticket for Southampton against Manchester City, the only condition was that I drive, and we go to Whitchurch versus Fawley before. Deal!

So today my plans had completely turned around with a double header on the cards and a free ticket for Southampton. No new grounds but a fun day nonetheless.

This was my second trip to Longmeadow, having been once last season in a 3-1 defeat to Bemerton Heath Harlequins on April 2nd 2016.

I enjoyed my first visit, a nice sunny day with good company and today seemed to be the same, just with the added extra of a Premier League game straight after.

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The Ground

 Although I have been before, this is my first visit since setting up this blog so here are my thoughts about the ground.

I have to start with the slope on the pitch, everyone should just be thankful that they don’t use the pitch at the top of the recreation ground which looks almost vertical when sat in the stand at the bottom, not to mention the rusty goalposts I could see in the distance.

The ground is a nice place, made nicer by the fact that it is sunny. The sunshine improves the look of most places but the club play in the idyllic town of Whitchurch, just off the A34, in between Winchester and Newbury.

The car park is fair, plenty big enough for the small crowd gathered for a thrilling game with plenty at stake.

The turnstile is a little white and red shelter selling pin badges and you enter the ground just one side of the halfway line, next to the clubhouse on the left and the main stand on the right.

The clubhouse, changing rooms and tea bar are all located up one corner of the ground, the usual snacks and drinks were on offer and the team board was nicely positioned on the external wall of the clubhouse.

The other side of the fence on the far side is (I assume) a public field/recreation ground where you could probably get a good view of the game without paying, however that shouldn’t be anyone’s thoughts when visiting these wonderful clubs run by hard working volunteers.

The main stand is just a few rows of bench seats, a few support beams obstruct the view slightly but if you can place yourself in a good position you can see most of the action with both goal areas in full view.

On a whole, Longmeadow is pretty standard for the level United are at, a nice little ground for a small town team and I have enjoyed both of my visits and would be sure to come again, each time getting a nice welcome at the turnstile and everyone inside the ground seems friendly and chatty.

Another note to make was Whitchurch fielding a Bermuda international in the form of Taurean Manders who was a second half substitute in the midfield, not something you see everyday if you watch a lot of football at this level.

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The Game

Fawley scored three past fellow relegation scrappers Whitchurch to keep their chances of survival alive and condemn United to relegation to Wessex Division One. The Oilers need another win next Saturday in the final game of the season to stand a chance of staying up.

It took less than a minute for the game to register the first goal when Kieran Roche raced through on the right wing from a long ball over the top, cut inside the defender and slotted the ball into the goal at the near post past Ellis Grant.

The next chance would fall to United as Luke Walker sent a cross into the box and Jason Silver was unmarked to fire a free header over the bar.

Fawley had a few chances without causing too many issues, Steve Green toe poking a shot wide before Ben Bolton fired straight into the hands of Grant at the near post.

The second goal did come for the visitors when a corner from the left side found Aaron Lucas in the six-yard box to nod in with little challenge from the Jam Boys.

The woodwork came to the rescue for Fawley seconds before the half time whistle when Walker sent a header looping over Conor Beattie before rebounding off the base of the post to keep the away side 2-0 up at the break.

After the restart it didn’t take long for the Jam Boys to have the ball in the back of the net when Jamie Masell converted Danny Phillips’ scuffed shot at goal, however the linesman had his flag up for offside meaning Fawley maintained their two goal lead.

Mansell had another great chance to score after some good play from Phillips and Walker, however the United number ten stuttered on the ball and eventually lost possession when he could have shot.

Grant, in the Whitchurch goal, was fortunate not to concede again when he cleared the ball straight to Tanner who could only shoot straight at the keeper to make the save.

United made a double change when Jack McCarthy and Bermudan international Taurean Manders replaced Walker and Silver. Just minutes after coming on Jack McCarthy was given a straight red card following an altercation with Fawley midfielder Green, who received a booking for his involvement.

The third goal followed for the Oilers when Tanner nipped in at the near post to collect Bolton’s cross to slot in past Grant from close range. The goal sealing Fawley’s win and condemning United to Wessex Division One football.

Despite being a man down, Whitchurch still showed a bit of spirit and after Phillips dispossessed Dane Sayce on the edge of the box, he could only direct the shot straight at Beattie in the Fawley net.

United did grab a late consolation when Fawley failed to clear the ball from a free kick on the right side. The ball evaded everyone and fell to Mansell who took his time before looping the ball back into the box for Sam McCarthy to nod over the line.

As United piled everything they had into attack, there was plenty of space for Fawley to exploit but the final chance of the game fell to Tanner who raced through before spooning a shot up into the trees behind the goal.

2016/17 Games: 120

2016/17 Grounds: 64 (10)

Total Grounds Visited: 155 (41)

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