Saturday August 17th 2013 at the Winklebury Sports Complex, Hampshire FA ground.
Wessex League Division One, kick off 3pm.
Andover Town (Royal Blue/Royal Blue) 3-0 Hythe and Dibden (Green/White), attendance 61.
Admission five pounds, programme one pound, coffee one pound.
I had been expecting a goodly number of ground hoppers at this fixture, but even I was taken aback at the actual number in attendance. Of the sixty one who made it to the rather unexciting Winklebury area of Basingstoke (actually is any area of Basingstoke exciting?), I estimated that forty or so were here just ‘for the ground’.
Recognising numerous faces, many by sight only, and some who’d gathered in Cumbria just the previous Saturday for the one day Northern League hop, this really was a gathering of the ground collectors.
As I said to ‘Tim of Stourbridge’ of the forum pages of the parish of http://www.nonleaguematters.co.uk/forum/gforum.cgi, “it’s the OCD day out club!”
For good reason though, for Andover Town, newly formed in 2013 and surprisingly given admission directly into Step Six in Division One of the Wessex League, this was to be one of two games only that the club were due to play (the other on Sept 28th) at this newish Hampshire FA venue before moving into the Portway Stadium in Andover, which was previously the home of the defunct Andover FC.
Using many young players from Sparsholt and Andover colleges, I was told they would have a twenty-two man squad this season, and rotating players as and when.
On their performance today, one can already see this new club making a strong promotion bid in their first season.
As for the ground, I was impressed. With the help of the football foundation, a smart space age looking silver clad stand straddled the half way line, a sparse number of seats dotted around it, but plenty of space at the back to stand if one wished, a nice touch.
Apparently the game had been in some doubt due to pitch dimensions and surface quality. I hadn’t been aware of this until arriving at the ground, and although the pitch looked a little barren in places and had some heavy sanding in places it did seem entirely playable, and after the dry summer we have had I expect to see many worse this season, I had already at Hatfield the previous Tuesday.
Hythe and Dibden had a season on struggle in 12-13, finishing bottom and winning only three of thirty league games and conceding ninety-six goals in the process, I visited them in early winter 2012 and had enjoyed their quaint little venue tucked away on the south coast.
Today, at least for the first half they competed well, probably having a 50-50 share of possession, BUT, they had no end product in the last third, and the young AT team took full advantage by striking three times.
The first a lovely twenty-five yard free kick from Ollie Yeates which rocketed into the top of the net. The second a penalty converted by Lloyd Foot, and a third on thirty-six minutes by Michael Dixon.
All was already lost for H&D, and the expectation was that AT would add to the scoreline in the second half. They should have done, as they dominated the play, but some dogged last line defending from the visitors somehow kept them out, and Andover were happy to cruise to three points in their first ever Wessex League fixture.
So an enjoyable afternoon was passed in the company of many of our hobby, even though I spent most of the second half yawning as a result of having spent the previous day at Olympia at the Great British Beer festival :). I shall return to watch Andover Town at the Portway Stadium later in the season to catch up with their progress.