Horndean (Red/Red) 3-2 Hamworthy United (Yellow/Black Stripes/Black) HT 0-1. £6, programme £1 cup of tea £1, attendance 20 (looked more like 40).
Sometimes the whole process of ground hopping is seamless, a painless journey, enjoyable scenery on the way, early arrival, time for a pint before the game, or a bite to eat. Today was the opposite. My venue was chosen (Hayling United v Christchurch/top of the league) and Ros decided she wanted to tick Portsmouth Cathedral, and already a little alarm bell rang, hmm, ‘city centre’? derling derling. Turning off the bell in my head, we headed south on a pleasant early winters Sat morning.
An easy journey down the A34/M3/M27, that is, until we got into the centre of Portsmouth, and only about mile and a half from where I needed to drop Ros, down by the quayside. Wall to wall, non moving traffic in both directions. It took about 35 mins to do about 3 miles, my mood had changed! Still, I arrived on the Island in good time and found the club at Hayling college, and had parked up by 14:25. As I’d heard on the grapevine, a fairly soulless looking and lacking in facilities venue, outside the entrance to the ground a small cafe seemed to be about it. At the entrance gate, I dithered about going in thirty minutes before KO. Engaging in dialogue with the gateman, I asked if I could take a programme first. “None today, they f*cked up this week”, assuming in ‘they’, he had meant their printer, I asked if he had any older back copies, he did and was happy to give me one later (!). However already in a grumpy mood, getting a Saturday NL Step5 tick, without a matchday programme (for this day) of any sort (a 4 page photostated team sheet would have sufficed) was not on my radar. So I decided to engage one of my back up options. Getting back in the car, my initial thought was to visit the Victory Stadium, near where Ros was located, for the game at US Portsmouth, then I remembered that had been a 2pm KO, so I headed for option two, Horndean, about 10 miles north, thankfully the sat nav allows quick re-routing of destination. Honestly, what did we do before Sat Nav days? And at five to three I pulled up at ‘Five Heads Park’.
Thankfully Horndean did issue, a fairly basic programme, and the club history on the opponents had been written about Ringwood Town for some reason, but a programme is a programme. So I was happy, and also, they had gone the extra mile with a white board up on the changing room building wall with teams written up, a major benefit for many hoppers, especially when arriving late!
I liked Five Heads Park immediately, a severe slope on the pitch, going uphill from the car park end to the top of the ground, not quite of Hallam FC proportions, but not far off. Nicely enclosed by mature trees, and up high with a view.
I spent the first twenty minutes of the game at the top of the ground, the end Hamworthy were attacking, a good decision as they made all the early running. On seven minutes keeper Howard couldn’t hold the ball, and parried to Shoverton, who tucked the ball in the net from about ten yards out, 0-1.
The first half didn’t reach any quality on a sticky pitch, the Deans huffed and puffed, created a few half chances, but at half time, the 0-1 scoreline had been justified, as the away team had looked more likely to add to that one goal.
The second half turned into a decent match, Horndean playing up the slope, looked like an entirely different team. On 55 good approach work on thre right, ball into the area, and neat finish from Louis Castles, 1-1. Their bulldozing centre forward Jamal Fenelon (think Akinfenwa), who had looked earlier like a pub player, showed some lovely skill on the right side of the area on 58, turned the defender and smacked a lovely strike into the bottom corner, 2-1, game turned on its head.
And on 68 minutes more good approach play down the right, ball into the area, and a good finish again from Fenelon, 3-1. The nippy winger Sam Perkins having come off the bench was causing a few concerns to the Horndean backline, and looked their only outlet for creating an opening as Horndean had become mostly dominant now. On 73, Deans captain Tom Chapman hit the bar with a fifteen yard header, and the game now became very end to end. That man Perkins made a good run down the right, cross into the area, and easily converted by Chud on 82, 3-2, game back on. The Hammers from Dorset just couldn’t find that crucial third goal, and Horndean held on for the three points, in what had turned into a most entertaining game. Palace won 2-1 to stay top of the Championship (for now), and Hayling/Christchurch had been 2-0, so it’d looked like my decision to head to Horndean had been justified, and thankfully when I returned to Portsmouth the traffic had relented. It had turned out to be a good day, in the end!