Longmeadow Sports Centre
Ground Number: 744
Friday 24th November 2017
Whitchurch United 2-3 Andover New Street
Wessex League D1
WHITCHURCH UNITED - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club was formed in 1903 when two local clubs - Whitchurch Rovers and Whitchurch Albion merged. They played in local leagues up until 1958 when they joined the Hampshire League. Several unremarkable seasons were spent here, until a change of fortunes in 1990 when they the Division 2 championship. They coped with the step up well and after a 4th placed finish in 1991, 3rd place was deemed good enough for promotion to the Wessex League the following year. Aside from 1994/95, when they dropped back down to the Hampshire League, they've remained there ever since. Whilst the Wessex League was a singular division, Whitchurch found success hard to come by, with the best finish coming in 1996 when they finished 13th. There were also three bottom-placed finishes and the third of these resulted in relegation to the newly formed Division 2 in 2004. A further relegation followed two years later although this was negated by the Wessex League cutting back to two divisions the following year. Gradually, results improved and in 2013, Whitchurch finished as runners-up behind Brockenhurst, winning promotion to the Wessex Premier in the process. Four seasons were spent in the higher division, with a best-ever finish of 6th in 2015. At the end of last season, the club was relegated after finishing second-bottom. This season, Whitchurch have started steadily, sitting in 12th at the start of the game, whereas visitors Andover New Street, were top.
A number of campaigns have been enjoyed in the FA Cup, with the best run coming in 2011 when they beat Bemerton Heath Harlequins, Brading Town & Brockenhurst before a 2-0 defeat at home to Gloucester City in the 2nd Qualifying Round. Success has been a little harder to find in the FA Vase, with two 1st round appearances in 2003 and 2015. Whitchurch United have also been runners-up in the Andover League Open Cup and the North Hants Senior Cup, both in 2013.
For the first time since June in the midweek before the game, I'd be without a game. I'd texted fellow hopper Anwar with a list of 7 options, most of them fairly close, but he turned them down, citing lack of funds. I looked at games to the south, but with the nearest unvisited or not recently visited ground being 75 miles away in AFC Stoneham, I decided not to bother. Instead, I stayed in and watched a good night of TV and got to sleep at 10.30 which was very welcome. It was a disappointing night on the football front though, with me losing a fiver on football bets and Wycombe succumbing to a 1-0 defeat up at Accrington Stanley. The whole reason for holding back was an upcoming game on Friday night. It was further away that I'd have liked as a driver at 60 miles each way, especially as I was on my own. That said, it was still my closest Wessex League team and one of my closest unvisited grounds, it was just a shame that I couldn't do it on the train.
It was a tiring day at work on the day of the game and so after getting home just before 2 after a 9-hour shift, I was glad of a few hours rest to catch up with things. I left at 5, stopping at Morrisons in Wycombe on the way to pick up various items - including a decent 'Black Friday' deal of 10 Litres of Old Rosie cider for £15. I was looking forward to a chilled pint of it once I got home after a hard week at work. it being a cold one, I made sure I set my Twitter to warn me of any tweets that the game might be off, though the club had been confident earlier of it going ahead. It was going to be 3 degrees at kick off, according to the forecast and I was hoping that it wasn't going to be a case of 'When will I see you again?' if I suffered a postponement. Getting out of Morrisons was a pain, with it taking 20 minutes due to congestion. There was then a further ten minutes getting out of Wycombe. Another half hour delay on the M4 meant that it was a typical Friday evening on the roads. I got to the ground at 7.25, paying £6 to get in, plus £1 for a programme. After getting a decent portion of chips for £1, I walked around the ground getting pictures before picking a spot near the halfway line to watch the game from before it kicked off.
The game started fairly equally, with half chances for both, but not too much quality in the final third. Andover New Street scrambled the ball home, but the 'goal' was ruled out for offside. On 24 minutes Whitchurch United took the lead when Luke Neller capitalised on good work down the left when he lobbed home keeper Josh Cotton from around 12 yards. A couple of minutes later, Andover New Street drew level, this time it was Shane Lock heading home a corner. The score remained the at until halftime, with the visitors having the better of proceedings. They took the lead on 52 minutes when Craig Blakeman's cross from the left deceived the keeper and went in. Andover New Street extended their lead on 67 minutes when Casson Spencer chased down a defensive clearance and netted from the edge of the area. With the game looking safe, Whitchurch United staged a late rally. Tauren Maunders' cross-cum-shot from the right caught visiting keeper Dave Tasker out of position and set up a tense finish. Despite a couple of chances, the hosts couldn't find an equaliser and in the end, the visitors for the win that they deserved.
The game had quite a bit of stoppage time and it wasn't until 9.50 that I got away. The game had been a decent contest and the Friday night football had drawn a decent crowd. Despite the frozen conditions, 123 fans had turned up, including several hoppers. Once again, it proved that Friday night football was a crowd puller, as it was well up on the previous best attendance of 57. It's a mystery why more clubs don't give it a go, especially those who groundshare or get low attendances. There was only one downside and that was that they fanny around with the roads at weekend and with a big stretch of the M4 closed, a considerable amount of time and mileage was added to my journey. I had to go back via the M4 to Reading and then get the M4 back home from there. I eventually got in at 11.20 and started typing my blog whilst catching up on YouTube videos. I stayed up until 1 am, after a couple of pints of Old Rosie I dropped off pretty quickly but didn't have the best night's sleep.
LONGMEADOW is a pretty standard step 6 ground. There is a spacious stand, this seats 200 on benches. The leg room is good and the views reasonable despite supporting pillars. Aside this is a covered area of flat standing that could hold around another 100. The rest of the ground is open flat standing. The bar is fairly standard, it has Thatchers Gold on tap, though I didn't indulge so I don't know the prices. The tea bar was good, with a decent selection and the chips were well cooked and good value at £1. There's a decent sized car park at the ground, as well as local street parking.
SCORES ON THE DOORS
1: Ground facilities & condition (for the level)
Fairly decent ground for the level (6)
2: Area around the ground (parking, food/drink, public transport)
A decent amount of parking, town is 10 minutes walk (5)
3: Welcome / Club Friendliness
A nice welcome from all (7)
4: Value for money
£6 was slightly above average, but not unreasonable (6)
5: Social Media & Website
A good Twitter and reasonable website (7)
A fair bit to read and only £1 (7)
7: Game entertainment
An enjoyable contest (7)
8: Tea Bar
A decent selection at fair prices (7)
9: Bar / Clubhouse
Fairly standard - has sports TV (6)
10: Club Shop
TOTAL SCORE OUT OF A POSSIBLE 90: 58
AVERAGE SCORE: 6.44