Saturday, 10 September 2016

Verwood Town 2 v 2 Amesbury Town

Wednesday 7th  September 2016
Wessex League Premier Division
Potterne Park, Verwood
Admission: £6.00
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 57
Match Rating: 4

After an enjoyable if exhausting day’s cycling in the New Forest, I then made the short ten mile drive westwards to take in my second visit to a Wessex League ground in two days. I also wanted to tick off this ground on one of the rare times I would be driving, as it would not be an easy one to visit by train, situated almost 10 miles from the nearest train station.

Potterne Park is located to the south of the town of Verwood and is situated to the rear of a large sporting and leisure complex, and on the edge of a large country park beyond.  Therefore it is not surprising that this is a pleasantly rural and fairly scenic ground, with trees all around. After passing by the sports pavilion which houses the changing rooms for the players and officials, spectators enter in one corner after paying at a booth, which also doubles up as a club shop outlet. All of the facilities are along this length, with a green container unit type building housing the tea bar and officials’ hospitality area. Then there is a metallic all-seater stand to one side of the half way line, with a further metallic stand covering steps for standing. Although the stands are of the identikit variety, at least they are painted in club colours. Around the rest of the ground there is just hard standing, apart from behind the far goal, which is out of bounds to spectators. The ground is fully enclosed, but the fence is see through wire fencing, and so it would be very simple to watch the match from outside without paying, as the surrounding area is park land. There is no clubhouse in the ground, and the club points out that they receive no revenue from the bar in the pavilion just outside the ground where the players change, and instead invite everyone to make their way to their Sports & Social Club about a mile away after the match. The 32 page programme was decent, printed on good quality paper, with an attractive cover and with all of the important information to preview the match contained within.

Verwood have had a difficult start to their season, picking up just one point from their opening six league games, and on the morning of today's match, their manager Gavin Reeves paid the price with the sack despite only being appointed in the close season, so the previous assistant manager took charge for this evening's match. Amesbury Town were promoted at the end of last season having finished runners up in Division One, and they have made a good start to their season, in ninth place having won three and drawn one of their five league games, but on Saturday, they lost to Blackfield & Langley 9-0 away in the League Cup.

On a sunny evening, this was an enjoyable game to watch, with both teams playing good attacking football in the opening stages before becoming a little more of an entertaining midfield battle as half time approached. Verwood were certainly playing much better than their league position indicated, and they took the lead five minutes before the break. The ball was floated in diagonally into the box, and Martin Smith met the ball with a glancing header to take it over the keeper and into the net.

Into the second half and Verwood looked quite comfortable with their lead and indeed things got even better for them 75 minutes when they doubled their lead. A ball played forwards towards the outer corner of the penalty area drew the keeper out, and Ryan Kelly knocked the ball past the keeper and then struck the ball just inside the post. The scoreline might have been surprising, but their first three point haul of the season seemed to be beckoning as Amesbury had really lost their way in this game as an attacking force until they pulled a goal back just two minutes later. Substitute Cameron George benefited from a lucky bounce in the area to run diagonally towards goal before rifling in a fierce shot across the keeper and into the far top corner of the net. Disaster struck for the home team three minutes later, as Amesbury got back on level terms. The ball was whipped in to the far post and Craig Wheeler headed the ball in. It was suddenly a completely different game now - having led by two goals, Verwood were now hanging on to get anything from the game, but they did indeed manage to see the game out to claim only their second point of the season.

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