Wessex League Premier Division
Western Way, Salisbury
Attendance: 30 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3
Unusually convenient train connections on a cheap train ticket towards northern Hampshire spurred me to make the long trip westwards into Wiltshire today, for what would turn out to be one of the more unusual groundhopping days out. I probably set the tone for that for heading to Salisbury and not taking in the sold-out FA Vase semi-final tie between Salisbury and Hereford, instead settling for a more homely, tranquil and apparently attractive genuine step 5 venue.
Western Way is located about a 25 minute walk westwards from Salisbury train station, and is an attractive ground with plenty of character and with very good facilities for step five. An experience that, at times, felt anything but like senior football began when the turnstiles opened less than half an hour before kick off. Once inside, one notices a very enclosed feel to the ground, with tall Leylandii closely lining three side of the ground, whilst the brick clubhouse is located behind one of the goals, with an interesting feature being a few rows of seating on the upstairs balcony. A grass hill behind the clubhouse makes for another green and pleasant backdrop. Straddling the half way line on one side is a fairly spacious all-seater stand, whilst between that and a corner flag is an elevated covered standing area. Around the rest of the ground is just hard standing. The programme produced today was truly abysmal. Inside an advertising shell dating back to 2014, there was an insert of just eight pages containing any information of interest to this season let alone today - of which two pages containing predicted line-ups, another three of this season's results and fixtures, and a further page advertising Easter Monday's derby match against Salisbury.
Both of today’s teams are destined for a mid table finish this season. Bemerton Heath Harlequins came into this game in tenth place, with 12 wins and five draws from their 29 games, whilst Moneyfields were in 12th place, with 11 wins and three draws from their 26 league games. When the two teams met in September, Bemerton won 0-1 away.
On an overcast, chilly afternoon, the original referee for this game did not show up, meaning that one of the linesmen had to take charge whilst a Moneyfields official ran the line. Hardly ideal for a senior football fixture, it has to be said. The first half was quite even, although Moneyfields saw a header from a corner hit the bar. On 35 minutes, the home side were awarded a debatable penalty, when the striker went down under a challenge from a defender as he tried to get to the ball before the keeper. Sam Griffin fired the ball into the bottom left corner, despite the keeper going the right way. 1-0 was how it remained at half time, a lead the home side just about deserved.
Into the second half and Bemerton upped a gear to take control of the game. After coming close a couple of times, they doubled their lead on 58 minutes when Griffin fired the ball from the outer corner of the penalty area, and a deflection off a defender guided the ball past the keeper and inside the far post. Moneyfields grew increasingly rattled, which culminated in one of their players spitting in an opponent’s face. Unfortunately, the referee did not spot this and got away with a talking to. On 77 minutes, Bemerton made completely sure of the points when Griffin completed his hat-trick lifting the ball perfectly over the keeper and into the net, a hat-trick that was all the more pleasing as he was the player who was spat at.
Bemerton saw the game out comfortably for a win they deserved, both for bring the better team and for keeping their discipline whilst the visitors lost theirs.