Sunday, 22 February 2015

Winchester City - The City Ground




Winchester City FC
The Denplan City Ground
Hillier Way
Abbots Barton
Winchester
Hampshire
SO23 7SR





Ground Number: 461
Friday 20th February 2015
Winchester City 4-0 Moneyfields
Wessex League - Premier Division




As regular readers of this blog know, I am a huge fan of Friday night football. I'm a huge fan of any football to be honest, but especially on a Friday when I'd otherwise be winding down with a few drinks. Originally on this day I was going to be travelling to Barnton, up in Cheshire, for their North West Counties League game against Atherton Colleries. I had made plenty of good friends amongst the visitors, and it would be a good opportunity to have a catch up. But then I saw that Winchester City had a Friday night game on the same day too, with a considerably shorter distance to travel. I also knew some people that were going there, so I'd be in good company. I'd also not have to wait long to see the Colls play, as I will be seeing them in 3 weeks time when they play at Daisy Hill in a local derby, which is another Friday night game.




WINCHESTER CITY were formed in 1891, originally calling themselves Winchester Swallows FC. They have played in the Hampshire League for the most part of their history, though they have spent a few seasons in the Southern League as well. They had a best ever finish on 12th in Division 1 South in 1972, but have generally found life tough at the higher level. They had applied for promotion this season, and were doing well, sitting in 3rd, two places above where they finished last season, following relegation from the Southern League. 


They have reached the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round on a number of occasions, but not since the 1950's. In modern times they had a great season in the competition this season, getting to the 3rd Qualifying Round before losing to Conference South side Concord Rangers who went on to reach the 1st Round. The club won the FA Vase in 2004, when they beat AFC Sudbury in a game played at Birmingham City's St Andrews ground. They have won a number of local cups and were the first club of Terry Paine, the Southampton record appearance holder with 800 starts for the Saints.



On the day of the game, I had quite a hard day at work and was pretty tired when I came to finish. Though my fatigue might have been something to do with me getting very little sleep during the week. I'd had football Tuesday and Wednesday and was planning to go last night as well to the Arsenal v Crewe FA Youth Cup game at Borehamwood FC. But in the end, my brother came round and we had a Chinese takeaway with a few drinks instead. I was thinking about doing some vlogging, or at least a big video of lots of short clips joined together for the upcoming Scottish groundhop. I wanted a dinky little camera that I could just have on my person, switch on and forget about for recording atmosphere at grounds etc. So I went onto eBay and got myself a little spy camera for £6.65. It wasn't perfect either in footage quality or form factor, but it would do for now. I could have got one delivered from Poland for £3.95, but these things do not come with the best reputation and I wanted a UK seller in case things went wrong.




I spent the afternoon doing various little errands that needed tying up, before leaving at 4.15. The journey down was actually quite good for a Friday night, and save for a couple of slow bits, I made good time. On the way I was entertained by the excellent 'Two Mikes' podcast - hosted by TalkSPORT presenters Mike Parry and Mike Graham. It was it's usual fun listen and certainly made the journey go a lot quicker I arrived in Winchester at 5.35, parked up near the ground and took the 15 minute walk to Wetherspoons.

It took them a while to serve me, and then like buses, 3 members of staff came along at once. I ordered myself a flaming dragon curry and a pint of Thistly Cross cider. The pint was fantastic and bought back good memories, as the last time I had it was when I completed the 92 football league grounds at Sunderland. The curry too had a good kick to it, and both put me in a good mood. It's hard to beat Wetherspoons for value and it will always be one of my first choices. I'd prefer an independent pub that made an effort on the cider front, but if not, I will try and find a Wetherspoons. The Winchester ones was one of  their better establishments for me, as my second pint was Orchard Pig Maverick, another one I'd not had for ages.  Both the ones in Wycombe are very poor cider wise, only getting something decent when it is the chain wide festival in July.


I left at 6.45 and by 7 was back at my car. I got my bag and went in the ground, paying £5 entry and £1 for a programme. I then went in the club shop and got myself a book - Phil Stant, the former Cardiff striker's autobiography for £2. There were plenty of groundhoppers in attendance and I chatted to them while I waited for kick off. Jack was down for the weekend, going to Gillingham Town and Yeovil Town tomorrow and he is a hopper I have met several times before. Then I met Bashley fan Sheridan for the first time and we had a great chat with some other random people. Finally Rob, a Blackburn and Winchester fan, as well as a groundhopper came over for a chat - it was him that inspired me to complete the 92, rather than just getting pictures of the grounds, and in turn do loads of non league ones too.



I was interested to see that Dave Hook was in goal for Moneyfields. He was a well known name in non league circles, but I remember him playing against Wycombe in the FA Cup 1st Round back in the year 2000. He was 30 then, so he must be at least 44 now. Along with former Boston United keeper Paul Bastock, still turning out for St Neots Town, he is proving that age needn't be a barrier. Wycombe had an incredible  run to the FA Cup Semi Final that year, before a narrow 2-1 defeat to Liverpool.




With Petersfield Town being the runaway leaders in the Wessex League, this match would go a long way to deciding who would finish in the runners up, and gain a possible promotion spot should one be available. The opening stages were a bit scrappy, with lots of strong challenges flying in, but not much in the way of goalmouth action. Winchester did take the lead however. On 20 minutes good work by Adam Roberts and Warren Bentley left Liam Robinson with a simple chance to open the scoring. The home side edged the first half, with Moneyfields mainly restricted to chances on the break


The second half was a different story though, with almost complete domination from Winchester. They doubled their lead a couple of minutes into the second half, thanks to another goal from Robinson as he followed up a shot that had initially been parried. With all the challenges flying in, a sending off was inevitable and this came to pass when Moneyfield's Conor Bailey was sent off for a late and high challenge which left his opponent in agony. This only served to strenghten the home side\s grip on the game and 2 further goals on 67 and 68 minutes sealed the game for them. Warren Bentley got the pick of them, finishing well for his 44th goal of the season and it was only visiting keeper Dave Hook that kept the score down.




It had been a good evening with some great people. The attendance of 462 was excellent too - Winchester's last 2 home attendances were 106 and 122, so it proves yet again that Friday night football is well worthy of consideration. Most clubs seem reluctant to host Friday evening kick offs, with them being few and far between. Only in Wales do they get played on a regular basis. Pretty much every example I have seen has seen a large increase in attendance, thanks to the home club getting the word out and reaping the rewards with extra revenue.


The game finished quite late, and it wasn't until 9.50 that I left. I had a good journey home, listening to Absolute 80's and then David Bowie. I made good time, getting in at 11PM. I caught up on Facebook, plus jotted down a few notes for this blog, before going to bed around half past midnight.




THE CITY GROUND has been built up over the years as the team have progressed up the leagues. Apart from one covered area on the far side, which probably holds around 200, they are all of the metal 'Arena' type stands. While these are functional, they are quite bland, but at least the club have added their name to the seated area (around 200 capacity) The other one behind the goal (around 100 capacity) is a plainer standing area. With all the open standing I reckon that it could hold around 2000 with ease.

The best thing about the ground is the club shop with as well as club merchandise has a great range of old books and programmes at cheap prices. The tea bar and clubhouse are standard football fodder and do the job. I'd recommend a pleasant 15 minute walk to the well-to-do city Centre which has a range of places to eat and drink, including one of the better Wetherspoons in the chain. 






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