Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Sholing 2 v 3 Folland Sports

Monday 21st April 2014
Wessex League Premier Division
VT Sports Ground, Sholing
Admission: £5.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 248
Match Rating: 4

At the conclusion of my morning game at East Preston, I got back on the train and continued westwards to the outskirts of Southampton for another top of the table clash, this time in the Wessex League, at the home of the team I saw earn a trip to Wembley earlier in the month, conquering Eastbourne United in the FA Vase Semi-Final.

The VT Sports Ground is about a twenty minute walk from Sholing rail station, and is a ground that is difficult to like. Entering behind one other goal, there is a portakabin housing a hospitality area, tea bar and toilets, whilst by the corner flag is one of the dingiest clubhouse I have ever encountered. The rest of the ground has hard standing and uniform solid metal fencing all around, although colourful trees in the distance make the settings a little less sterile. Along one of the lengths are two modern stands, one all-seater and one covering a few terrace steps. The programme was a good effort, 44 pages which although may seem pricey at £2.00, is negated by the excellent admission price charged. Understandably, much attention is given to their FA Vase run.

Having voluntarily stepped down from the Southern League last season despite a top half finish and retaining most of their players, Sholing have been champions-elect all season. They've suffered a chronic fixture backlog in recent weeks, today being their ninth game in April, but quite impressively, they only lost the first game of that series, in the league cup. They went into this game in second place but almost certain to be crowned champions, just two points behind leaders Alresford but with four games in hand, and Sholing play their final three fixtures after Alresford's last game. Folland Sports went into this game in third place, which is as high as they can finish, and a win today would guarantee them third place. They have accumulated 82 points from 40 games. The two teams have already met twice this season, Sholing winning 2-1 both times in Hamble, once in the FA Vase second round.

On a very warm and sunny afternoon, Sholing put out a very young team today, mindful of avoiding injuries and suspensions for the FA Vase final in a couple of weeks time, and it showed in the first half, as the visitors dominated the first half. On ten minutes they opened the scoring with a quite brilliant goal. Dan Mason plucked the ball out of the air and, on the turn smashed a volley from the edge of the area into the net. They had chances to extend their lead further, which only happened right at the end of the half. An initial shot was blocked and rolled across the area, landing at the feet of Michael Turvey, who drilled the ball through a crowd of players and into the net.

0-2 was a fair scoreline at half time, but after making a couple of changes at half time, including their goalkeeper, Sholing were much more competitive in the second half. They pulled a goal back on 55 minutes when a galloping run down the right wing culminated with a peach of a cross which evaded the defenders and goalkeeper but not Alex Baldachino, who headed the ball into the net. Ten minutes later and it was 2-2. Some good trickery in the box ended with a low close range cross and Baldachino got the decisive touch to score. However, parity was to last just three minutes. Sholing's substitute goalkeeper brought down a forward in the box and Ryan Long hit the ball low to the right with the keeper going the other way to make the scoreline 2-3. That somewhat surprisingly killed the game, as neither side really threatened to score again. So this result meant  Folland Sports were assured of a third placed finish, whilst Sholing, for whom this was their first home defeat since November 2012, fell five points behind leaders Alresford, but still with four games in hand.

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