Lyndhurst 0 Fleetlands 2

Saturday 28th February 2009
Lyndhurst 0 Fleetlands 2
Hampshire Premier League
At: Wellands Road
Kick-off: 2-30 pm
Attendance: 20 (headcount)
Weather: sunny
Duration: first half: 46:10; second-half 47:35

Lyndhurst is known as the ‘capital’ of the New Forest and I suppose it turned out to be appropriate that I recovered from my first British Orienteering Championships, held on the forest at Hampton Ridge, by spending the afternoon there before setting off home.

Nobody at the Wellands Lane ground, I’m sure, will have had any idea what a busy time I’d had in the 19 hours before kick-off. Last night, I was at the Sport Stafford Borough annual awards and, following a few hours sleep, set off at 4-15 am for the British Champs. After a 93-minute run which got me 26th position in my course, I decided to stay local watching my first game in the Hampshire Premier League.

I didn’t have a street map printed or directions because I expected to get a few miles under my belt on the way home from the orienteering before stopping off for a match around the M4/M40 corridor. Fortunately, I took the right route into Lyndhurst (A337 from the M27 junction 1) and spotted Wellands Road on the left while queuing in traffic, 100 or so yards before the traffic lights on the High Street. The ground was round to the left at the end of the road.

Through the entrance, the pitch (orientated roughly east-west with a white metal post and rail) stretched widthways with parking was on the right. To the left were two buildings, one a clubroom and the other changing rooms. Dugouts were on the near touchline, either side of the halfway line. Over of the far side was a second pitch. There was no covered standing and no programme was issued, though they plan to resume issuing next season.

Inside the welcoming clubhouse, from where hot and cold refreshments were served, was an interesting cutting (also on the BBC Sport website). Lyndhurst FC was founded in 1885 and four years later became the first opponents to face present-day Arsenal FC (then known as Woolwich Arsenal) in the FA Cup. They may have lost 11-0 but can rightly boast this ‘claim to fame’!

The 2008/09 season is only the second-ever Hampshire Premier League campaign. The competition was founded in 2007 and consists mostly of former members of the disbanded Wessex League Division 2. A total of eighteen clubs started this season though Ludwig Leisure resigned from the league in November after playing just 15 fixtures.

Both sides went into the game just below midtable in the 17-team division. Lyndhurst (19 games, 31 points) were in 9th position, two places and seven points better off than Fleetlands who had played two games less. Runaway leaders Colden Common topped the table with 62 points, some 14 points clear of nearest challengers Clanfield.

Around five minutes before kick-off, the teams lined up on halfway so the referee could carry out a boot inspection before commencing the increasingly familiar fair play handshakes (

To a cry of “Lyndhurst, let’s go,” from one of their defenders, the home side (red/black halved shirts, black shorts and socks) got the game underway, defending the clubhouse end and attacking down the slope. Opting to stand on the near touchline, I soon got chatting to the grandfather of one of the Fleetlands players and enjoyed his company during the first half.

Fleetlands (all blue) should have taken the lead on the quarter hour. Luke Haynes drove the ball across the face of goal to the feet of Scott Hamilton who fired wide at the far post. At the other end, Craig Barker looked to take advantage of hesitancy in the visitors’ defence just after the half-hour and sent a lob wide of the left-hand post.

Chances started to come more frequently as the interval approached. Steve Salway glanced a header wide of the home goal while Haynes got forward down the left for Lyndhurst, only to see his shot deflected wide.

The deadlock was broken by Fleetlands in the 43rd minute. A long throw propelled by Ian Hudson fell to Hamilton, 8 yards out, who finished with a low shot into the bottom-left corner. The lead was nearly doubled in the next attack as Hamilton fired against the left-hand post before the ball was scrambled clear for a corner.

I decided to sample the view from the other side at the start of the second half. Just before the hour, after I had made my way back to the nearside, James Hardy took the ball forward into the Lyndhurst area to latch onto a throughball ahead of the keeper but his shot ended up side of the target. The visitors almost repeated their goal when Barker, this time, fired wide at the far post after another long throw.

Lyndhurst, encouraged by defender Craig Mason and from the dugout, pressed for an equaliser. Craig Barker headed wide at the far post and the same player fired straight at keeper Mike Smart. Mason also got forward to fire a well-struck long-range shot straight at Smart. The Fleetlands bench was concerned. In the 74th minute, Shalloe delivered a free-kick into the area which was headed down to Barker who curled a shot wide of the right-hand post.

Fleetlands managed to get forward in what was turning out to be an entertaining hard-fought contest and should have doubled their lead. A perfect cross from the left by substitute Lee Mancell fell to unmarked Billy Coates, barely six yards out, who sidefooted wide across the face of goal.

The miss didn’t matter as the visitors soon doubled their advantage in the 77th minute. Mancell was the supplied with another low cross from the left and this time Hamilton turned and fired into the roof of the net from seven yards out to score his second goal. This was a real blow to Lyndhurst who were looking likely to net an equaliser.

To their credit, Lyndhurst kept on searching for a goal, urged on by the vociferous Mason who actually finished the game wearing a black left boot and a red right boot. In the closing stages, Peter Hurst dribbled past several defenders and when he found his way blocked, laid a pass to Waterige who sliced a shot well wide of the Fleetlands goal.

Back into the car at full-time and home for 8 pm (via Salisbury, Swindon and the M5) in time for a much-needed meal at the Barley Mow.