Tuesday, 22 April 2014

AFC Portchester 0 v 2 Alresford Town

Saturday 19th April 2014
Wessex League Premier Division
Wicor Recreation Ground, Portchester
Admission: £6.00
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 112
Match Rating: 3

Having spent the last month or so confined to groundhopping in my local area, mostly at intermediate or junior level, today I decided to take on a more long distance trip into Hampshire for a top of the table clash in the Wessex League, at a club whose manager is the former Arsenal and England player Graham Rix.

The Wicor Recreation Ground is a brisk 20 minute walk south westwards from Portchester train station. It is part of a large expanse of playing fields, with the waterfront of the Solent very close by, from which Portsmouth is clearly visible. The copious neat signs outside the ground point to a club that is trying to create a professional image and once inside the ground it is clear that although it is very much 'work in progress', with some parts currently resembling a building site, there is obviously plenty of ambition to make this ground fit to host football above the Wessex League. As one enters in one corner, immediately ahead is a quirky signpost pointing people in the directions of the club's facilities - as well as Fratton Park and Lands End. Adjacent to the turnstile is a very smart tea bar - named 'The Cage', whilst stretching from there is a very long portakabin type building containing the clubhouse. Straddling the half way line is a small all-seater stand, followed by a hospitality area, consisting of a portakabin and decking patio with tables and chairs, whilst heading towards the corner flag the foundations and skeleton structure are in place for two new stands. Behind the goal where one enters there are two temporary style uncovered all-seater stands, one either side of the goal, whilst around the rest of the ground there is just hard standing. The ground's remote location, surrounded by fields and trees and with no through roads close by, makes this a pleasant venue, which certainly will be even nicer once the construction works are completed. The programme was one that promised much but delivered little. It certainly looks the part, as one might expect here, with a professional design, but only consists of 16 pages, 7 of which are purely advertising and the remaining pages are generally rather sparingly filled.

This match would be between two teams still with plenty to play for as we reach the dying embers of the season. AFC Portchester went into the game in sixth place, with 70 points from 38 games, and with fourth place still within reach, currently occupied by Winchester who are  five points ahead having played two games more. Alresford currently top the division, with 88 points from 39 games and a very impressive 117 goals scored, although they are very unlikely to be crowned champions, given that Sholing are two points behind but with four games in hand. When today's teams met in the reverse fixture back in October, they drew 2-2.

On a warm, generally sunny afternoon, Portchester had slightly the better of the opening exchanges, indeed having the first real chance to open the scoring on 2 minutes when a close range shot was palmed over the bar. It was to prove a false dawn though, as Alresford went on to control the game, proving to be a class above their hosts throughout. They took the lead on 14 minutes after some defensive uncertainty saw the ball run weakly towards the goalkeeper, and Warren Bentley got to the ball first to tap it just inside the near post for his 53rd goal of the season. The rest of the half lacked real goalscoring chances, although in first half stoppage time, an Alresford header from a corner flew just over the bar.

Portchester rarely looked like scoring in the first half, so their task of getting something from this game became huge just three minutes after the break when the visitors doubled their lead. A free kick was sent to the left of the penalty area and Bentley eventually sent in a cross shot which the keeper got a hand to but the ball fell to Dan Strange at the far post, who thumped the ball home. Finally the home team did start to look more threatening in the final 20 minutes as they carved out some good chances, but in truth Alresford were always in firm control of this match and thoroughly deserved the three points to keep the pressure on Sholing to win their games in hand. The future may not be looking so bright after this season however, as news emerged that the Alresford management duo, Danny Robinson and Tim Cole, will be leaving the club at the end of the season to take the reigns at fellow Wessex League club Winchester City.

No comments: