Ground Number: 788
Friday 24th August 2018
US Portsmouth 1-3 Sholing
FA Cup Preliminary Round
US PORTSMOUTH - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club was established in 1962 as Portsmouth Royal Navy and was a works team. They joined the Hampshire League upon formation with a best ever finish of fifth in the 1st Division in 1984. In 1986 they joined the Wessex League as one of its founder members. Whilst it was a singular league, Portsmouth Royal Navy's finishes were generally poor and ranged from 11th in the 1994/95 season to rock-bottom on four different occasions. This was mainly due to them only being able to call on members of the services to represent their team. As a result, they rejoined the Hampshire League in 2001, finishing as high as 6th in 2004. That summer, a change to the infrastructure was brought about to allow civilians to play in the side and this resulted in a name change to United Services Portsmouth. They immediately joined the newly-formed second tier of the Wessex League and have played there ever since. Finishes have ranged from 3rd in 2009 to 13th in 2012. Last season US Portsmouth finished 4th and this allowed them to enter the FA Cup this season after a years absence.
Talking of the FA Cup, the best runs came in the late 1990's when they twice reached the 2nd Qualifying Round. Both occasions resulted in heavy defeats - losing 7-0 at Waterlooville in 1997 after taking them to a replay and 6-0 at Hungerford Town the following year. This season saw the club progress in the Extra Preliminary Round with a 5-2 win against Andover Town in front of a crowd of 42. The best run in the FA Vase came in 2014-15 when the side beat Swanage Town & Herston and Ringwood Town before losing to AFC Portchester in the 2nd Round. Local honours include the Russell Cotes Cup in 1968 and the Portsmouth Senior Cup in 2012.
I always love a Friday night game and am also a big fan of the FA Cup and was always bound to do a game on this day. Initially, I'd pencilled in a train trip to London and a revisit to Tooting and Mitcham. But then I spotted that US Portsmouth were at home to Sholing in a fairly local derby. As it was a new ground and reasonably close at around 85 miles away, I decided to go for it. The area around the ground looked great - some decent pubs, plenty of takeaways as well as the seafront and landmarks like the Spinnaker Tower. The only problem was parking, pretty much every street was restricted and it didn't seem to be very motorist friendly. To be fair, the council probably had it right - it was a very congested area and it would have been a nightmare for residents if it was a free-for-all. Thankfully, an email to the helpful local council clarified that parking was free after 6 pm and so thoughts of horrendous bills of around £12 to park for the match were dismissed. I'd still not want to get there much before 5 though and so did some research into what I wanted to do with that time. A bonus was the entry cost - confirmed as a fiver the day before the game which was very good value.
The day of the game came and it was the usual Friday at work, fairly busy, but I was out at 12.15. I got a few bits of shopping and some lunch before heading home for a couple of hours. I'd been warned by a local hopper down that way, Splodge, that the traffic would be bad, especially with the live 'Victorious' concert. I checked it out, expecting the usual modern rubbish but it looked pretty good for tonight with The Lightning Seeds and a Beatles tribute to Abbey Road as well as people like the Kaiser Chiefs and The Libertines. I left at 3.15 and made good progress. Happily, there was no issue with parking and so after arriving at 5.30 I paid £1.80 to park for the remaining half hour that they were charging for. With clear skies, I made a bee-line for my planned pre-match pub, The Lawrence Arms which was just over a mile away. About five minutes into my journey, the heavens opened and I got completely drenched. At least it sped me up though and I got to the pub earlier than planned. It was worth it too, the place had been nominated as CAMRA cider pub of the year at one point and it was fully deserved. I had a couple of halves, first Rum Tiddly Tum and then Ernie Boys Scrumpy. I'd like to have stayed, but I had more pressing matters. I stopped at a Chinese takeaway en route called Woks Wrong and had Garlic Chips and a pancake roll. That was all good and so via my car, I walked to the stadium, paying a fiver entry and a quid for a programme.
The start of the game saw US Portsmouth slightly the better side but it was Sholing who took the lead on the half-hour mark. A cross was put in and a home defender headed into his own net. It was another cross and close-range finish that made it 2-0 just before the break. Jake Hoole heading home, it was the same player who had provided the cross for the first goal. I had a Bovril at halftime for the first time this season but as I returned to my seat, the floodlights were out. They got one side working and thanks to a cooperative ref, the game was played. I'd imagine that the majority would have been wetting themselves with excitement at calling the game off on health and safety grounds so Mr Sean Phillips deserves credit. So, Sholing must have taken a dim view of proceedings, because ten minutes into the second half, the hosts had a goal back. A corner was put in and Lewis Beale headed home from close range. The hosts' joy was short lived though for on 65 minutes Lee Wort picked a spot in the bottom left-hand corner of the net to make it 3-1 to Sholing. The game calmed down a bit after that and there was never really any danger of a comeback, although the best player on the pitch, Jake Hoole hit the post for Sholing.
Funnily enough, I'd predicted 3-1 to Sholing before the game. I'd also predicted a good boost to the attendance and the final figure of 111 was more than twice what they got in the previous round and by far the biggest attendance that I could for a club that has recorded a gate of 3 in recent seasons. The Wessex League are pretty good at Friday night football, but it's a shame that other leagues are not as receptive. Certainly, it was a very nice club to visit tonight and they deserved the extra attendance from football fans, even if a good chunk of them came from Sholing. I wanted something to eat before I went and so I went to a kebab van around the corner to get a doner burger. This was pretty good, but it was past 10 by the time I left. I listened to the Two Mikes on the way home which made the journey go at a decent pace and I got in at 11.30. I carried on listening to the radio with a couple of cans while I typed my blog. With a coach trip to Bradford City v Wycombe Wanderers tomorrow, I didn't want to stay up too late, so went to bed at 1 am.
The VICTORY STADIUM is a pretty well kept venue, though sadly it has an athletics track. Even so, views from the 500 capacity main stand are decent and there is also additional steps of terracing and open flat standing. The tea bar is basic, offering hot and cold drinks and snacks and although I didn't visit the bar, it did look to be of decent size. If you want food, there's a catering van at the end of the road and there are choices to suit every taste within easy walking distance. I'd recommend a midweek visit as parking around the ground is crazy expensive for anything more than a couple of hours, though it is free after 6 pm.