Sunday, 11 August 2013

Hayling United 2 v 1 Fareham Town

Saturday 10th August 2013
Wessex League Cup Second Round
College Ground, Hayling
Admission: None
A4 Squad List Sheet: Free
Attendance: 120 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3

Another Saturday, another venture into Hampshire for me to tick off another Wessex League ground. Faced with a shortlist of Winchester, Romsey or Hayling today, I chose to visit the ground which was one of 150 selected nationwide to celebrate the inaugural Sir Bobby Robson National Football Day – mostly an occasion to celebrate the development of junior football at grassroots level.

The College Ground is located in the centre of Hayling Island, a 20 minute bus ride south of Havant train station. It would be hard to fall in love with this ground, as it is a rather soulless and uninteresting venue, devoid of any character, and one that would probably be extremely bleak on a winter’s day, all of which is understandable considering that it is set on college playing fields, amongst a large expanse of playing fields distantly lined by trees. The pitch has plastic railing and hard standing all around, and there is a modern metallic all-seater stand towards one corner , with one half fenced up and out of bounds today. It is set some way back from the pitch, which means that standing is not allowed close to the railings along this length so as not to obstruct the views of the handful of people sitting in the stand. Between this stand and the corner flag is a small covered area for standing. The National Football Day was celebrated with various small-sided junior games taking place from mid-morning onwards, and with a bouncy castle, barbecue and various other refreshment and competition stalls behind the corner flag adjacent to the stands.  No admission fee was taken today, nor were programmes issued – both surprising given the occasion today and the increased attendance – although an A4 sheet displaying squad lists for both teams was given out free of charge.

This league cup game, a local derby between two clubs with no apparently no love lost between them, would pit a Division One team at home to a Premier Division team. Hayling actually finished in 16th place the 21 team Premier Division last season but were relegated due to ground grading issues. Fareham Town finished in ninth place. During the first week of the football season, Fareham have picked up a win and a draw from their opening two league games, both at home, whilst Hayling suffered a 2-5 home defeat in their only game so far this season. Today’s teams were drawn together in last year’s competition, Hayling winning 0-1 away.

On an overcast, warm but fairly windy afternoon, the underdogs got off to a fantastic start. With just four minutes on the clock Dan Sharpe broke forward to latch on to a long, very high ball pumped forward and although a Fareham defender just about managed to make enough ground to make a faint challenge, Sharpe rolled the ball past the keeper and into the corner of the net. They continued to have the better of the game, but were called offside on countless occasions. Fareham got more into the game as the half wore on, and a minute before half time they were back on level terms. A free kick from just outside the outer left corner of the penalty area was floated towards goal by Wayne Boud, and Graham Lindsey glanced the ball with his head into the far corner of the net.

Into the second half and Fareham were playing much better, always looking the more likely to score and were unfortunate not to do so on 61 minutes when Michael Dark outpaced the defence down the left and as the keeper came out to meet him, Dark hit a low show which beat the keeper but hit the post before being scrambled away. On 70 minutes, with probably their first chance of the second half, Hayling went back into the lead with a terrific goal. Sharpe received the ball just outside the area, sidestepped three defenders before unleashing a ferocious shot on the turn which gave the keeper no chance for his second of the game and fourth in two games. Fareham seemed to have run out of steam by now and although they regularly attached the final third and forced a succession of corners in the dying minutes, they never looked likely to get another equaliser and so it was the underdogs who progressed to the next round.

Unfortunately, Hayling giantkilling efforts in this game proved to be in vain, as they were subsequently thrown out of the competition due to fielding an ineligible player and so Fareham progressed to the next round.

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