Monday, 18 April 2016

Whitchurch United 0 v 1 Newport (Isle of Wight)

Saturday 16th April 2016
Wessex League Premier Division
Longmeadow, Whitchurch
Admission: £6.00
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 60 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3

With train connection making a trip across Surrey much more convenient than usual, I had planned to visit Sandhurst Town today. However, heavy rain yesterday and with a little more this morning meant that that game was postponed, and so I continued a little further south-westwards to tick off another ground in the Wessex League.

Longmeadow is about a twenty minute walk southwards from Whitchurch train station, passing through the very pleasant village centre en route. After passing through the car park, spectators enter behind the length with all of the facilities. To the right of the entrance is a metal stand which is not particularly easy on the eye and contains wooden bench seating. To the left of the entrance is overhang from the clubhouse, and beyond where the players come out of the dressing rooms is a tea bar hatch. Around the rest of the ground is just hard standing, although spectators are not allowed to pass by the dugouts. A see through fence “encloses” the three other sides, and behind the length opposite the entrance are playing fields up a slope, behind one goal is a school, and behind the remaining goal there are tall trees in close proximity. It’s a peaceful, rural location with a friendly feel about the place, but it lacks charm and colour somehow. The programme was quite a dismal affair, clearly written in a timeless way, with no fixtures or results, league table or up to date comment. It contained eight pages introducing the history of Newport and an article about former Wessex clubs inside a 12 page glossy, colour shell introducing the home club.

There was little to play for approaching the last few weeks of the season, with both teams stuck firmly in mid table. Whitchurch went into this game in 13th place, with 12 wins and seven draws from their 37 league games, while Newport were two places better off having played four games fewer, with 14 wins and three draws from their 33 games. Newport had already played at Whitchurch back in December in the League Cup, winning 2-4, whilst in the reverse fixture in the league, Newport also won, 6-2.

On a mainly overcast and very chilly afternoon, this turned out to be very much a game of two halves, with it probably no coincidence that the team on top were the ones kicking down the quite considerable slope. Whitchurch had the better of the first half, taking plenty of shots on goal without ever really forcing the Newport keeper, although they did have a shot blocked on the line which they couldn’t quite force over. Newport looked fairly dangerous on the break, but the scoreline was goalless at the break.

Just over a minute into the second half and Newport saw a close ranged hooked shot cone back off the bar, but in the follow-up, a Newport player was brought down to earn his side a penalty, which was driven low but was blocked by the keeper, and the loose ball was hacked away. Newport went on to dominate the rest of the game, and they scored what turned out to be the winning goal on 62 minutes when, following a corner, the ball dropped to Ryan Oatley, who threaded the ball diagonally through a crowd of players and into the net. Newport could and should have won by a larger margin, but were guilty of missing some gilt edged chances, and the home side had a player sent off for a second yellow card. But one goal was enough to complete the hat-trick wins over Whitchurch this season.

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