Tuesday October 23rd 2012, Kick off 19:45.
at ‘Ewart Recreation Ground’, Hythe, Hampshire.
The Wessex League Division One.
Hythe and Dibden (Green/White) 1-0 Fleet Spurs (Navy Blue/Red), admission £3, prog included, cup of tea £1.
attendance, 20 (rough head count).
And so at the start of the 12-13 season, I find myself with ten grounds to complete the two divisions of the Wessex League.
A unique league in which every club has their own ground.
I set off from my Slough work base at 17:35, and eventually arrived at the Rec by 19:30ish.
Not an easy ground to find, it appears not to have its own car park, with players and spectators either parking on the main road (when I say ‘main’, a main village road!), running by the ground, or round the side of the rec by the council facilities and parish hall.
I walked through a clearing in the trees to the right of the parish hall, to find myself to the left of one of the goals whilst the players were warming up, with the small clubhouse 100 yards to my left. Shared with cricket, this is a multi functional set up, typical of many Step 6 or 7 non league clubs.
I had to “ask behind the bar” to pay for the pleasure of watching the game, three quid I was told, with two ‘free goes’ at the club, ‘unveil the ball’ competition, if you wrote your name on the correct square (I didn’t).
Already I suspected, this is a club that doesn’t really bother with pestering those who haven’t paid their three quid, as this is a ‘walk in’ recreation ground. And I didn’t see anyone come round the ground asking others for any money.
It was a dark dark night as I approached Hythe, which is situated across the water from Southampton, on a peninsula. A ten mile or so drive south from the M27 not far from Fawley.
Whilst trying to locate the entrance to the ground I noticed signs for ‘The Marina’, and thought it a shame I hadn’t visited this ground on a Saturday to investigate more.
Subsequently reading up on the history of Hythe, it says that the pier railway and ferry service across Southampton water to Southampton operates at half-hourly intervals throughout the day, and is the oldest working pier train in the world. Which now explains the strange train noises I’d heard from the ground. At the time I struggled to comprehend that Mr Beeching had failed to spot this line, and not closed it, he hadn’t and didn’t. I assume the line is now mostly used by commuters working in Southampton, and living in Hythe and Fawley etc.
During World War II, Hythe was used as a port for the “little ships” of the Royal Navy, the Motor Torpedo Boats and the RAF Air/Sea Rescue Boats. In 1960, The Hovercraft Development Company and Sir Christopher Cockerell, its founder, moved to Hythe. There was also a small airforce base in Hythe known as RAF Hythe. Until its closure in September 2006 it was used by the United States Army to service and maintain watercraft.
Due to various early season cup competitions, Hythe had only played six league games, and Fleet Spurs five. H&D also had the ignominy of an 11-0 thrashing at Wessex Premier Horndean. As it stood, Hythe were bottom of the table with six defeats, whilst Fleet were nicely placed, with three wins and one draw. A nailed on away win you’d think? Not how it turned out. Yes, Fleet dominated the first twenty-five minutes, regularly making inroads into the H&D last third, but time and time again their final ball was wanting, and finishing was poor. In the twenty-fifth minute a lovely passing move, was completed with a nice goal scored inside the area by Dean Lavelle to put the home team one up, very much against the run of play at that stage.
This is how it stayed to half time, even though Fleet had more of the ball, as the half wore on the H&D boys grew in confidence. Ewart Rec is a pleasant little venue. Hemmed in at both ends behind the goals by mature trees, the side opposite the cricket field has about six different Heath Robinson structures, that absolutely guarantee you will not get wet here.
Not sure what was said to the green shirted H&D boys at half time and what was put in their tea? but they came out like a team possessed, and looked intent on not only taking the points but in adding to their one goal. With much prompting from their coaching team, each and every one of their young-looking team seemed dedicated to taking the three points tonight, they ran every ball down. And harrased and closed down the Fleet boys when ever they were on the ball. Desire is an often over used word in football, but the second half performance was very much worthy of its usage, and I should imagine there was much back slapping in the H&D dressing room at games end at a job well done. As the half wore on Fleet looked less and less likely to notch an equaliser, and H&D had a few good chances to add to their one goal, but there end product was just lacking. Still they held on, and I was pleased for them that their season was finally now up and running.