Winchester Castle FC
Hampshire County Council Sports Ground
Hampshire County Council Sports Ground
Ground Number: 874
Monday 26th August 2019
Winchester Castle 1-4 Stockbridge
Hampshire County Premier Senior Division
WINCHESTER CASTLE FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club was originally established in the 1960s but was dissolved in 2001, reforming five years later. They played in local leagues until 1971 when they joined the Hampshire League. Starting in Division 4, they were promoted after a 3rd place finish in their debut season. They were champions of Division 3 in 1984, earning promotion to Divison 2. Despite only finishing 11th in 1986, they earned promotion to Division 1. They'd struggle here and after a couple of seasons, were relegated back to Division 2. A further relegation followed in 1992 to Division 3 and it took the club a while to recover. By 1997, a runners-up spot was good enough to see promotion back to Division 2 and then in 1999 third place was good enough to win promotion to Division 1. In 2001 they finished as runners-up in Division 1 but were dissolved into Winchester City. It took them until 2006 to reform, sing the players of Winchester City's 'A' side. The Hampshire League had changed to a single league by then and Winchester Castle remains here to this day. The best finish came in 2013 when they finished 4th in the Hampshire Premier Senior Division.
The City of Winchester is the county town of Hampshire. There's a population of just over 45,000. Winchester Castle plays second fiddle to Winchester City who play in the Southern Premier. The city is some to the annual Hat Fair and has one of the largest farmers markets in the country, with over 100 stalls. Famous people from Winchester include actor Colin Firth and footballers Danny Ings and Wayne Bridge.
For the second part of my Bank Holiday double, I really fancied going to Winchester Castle, as it looked one of the step 7 grounds worth visiting. It was still a bit of a hard sell to fellow hopper Anwar though, who prefers bigger grounds, but eventually, a compromise was reached where I'd drop him at Winchester City for their 'away' game against Basingstoke Town, who ground shared there. We left our previous game at Alfold at 1 and there must have been a problem with our intended route as we had to go a longer way, adding 10 miles to the journey. We needed lunch, so navigated to a local Tesco where I got some chicken & sausages from the hot counter, a slice of cake and some diet Irn Bru. I then dropped Anwar at Winchester City, before taking the 10-minute drive to Chilcomb, where the Hampshire County Council Sports Ground was. I had a look around the clubhouse before walking over to the main pitch. There was a slight disappointment when I saw that the area of cover I was expecting had gone, but with me having made the effort to get there, I was gonna make sure I enjoyed my visit. I sat on the grass bank, eating my lunch while I waited for the game to start. Winchester Castle had seen a torrid start to the season and were sitting bottom of the league and having lost all 5 so far. Home defeats to Hayling United (1-3), Colden Common (0-5) Overton United (2-3) and Bush Hill (1-8) as well as an away defeat at Sway (2-8) represented a difficult start to the 2019/20 campaign. Stockbridge meanwhile, were sitting in 4th, in with a chance to push for a return to the Wessex League, should they want that. They had an impeccable home record with wins over Overton United (6-1), Lyndhurst (3-0), Liss Athletic (8-2) and Paulsgrove (1-0). Away form had been less pretty, with two defeats to Fleetlands (1-3) and Infinity (3-4) but surely they would be favourites for today's game.
The hosts started well but didn't really create any chances. The first real effort came for the visitors after 15 minutes when a Winchester Castle defender hooked a goalbound shot off of the line. After 22 minutes, Stockbridge took the lead when a cross from the right was knocked on by their number 8 allowing Callum Buck to finish from around 15 yards. Both sides were still creating chances and there were some moans from both sides about offside decisions as both linesmen were supplied by the clubs, as is the standard at this level. Referee James Crascall said that he backed his linesmen, despite claims of bias. Winchester Castle equalised on 35 minutes, an excellent free-kick by Pierce McNamara from 25 yards giving the Stockbridge keeper no chance. There was plenty more moaning from both sets of players, but the referee handled it well. Stockbridge were given a penalty in the final minute of the first half for an obvious handball. The home player was yellow carded and Sam Walsh dispatched the penalty to give his side a half time lead. Winchester Castle came close to equalising on 53 minutes, set-piece specialist McNamara hitting the bar with another free-kick which was from a similar position to his goal in the first half. The argumentative players proved too much for the referee, as a few minutes later, Sam Walsh was 'sin-binned' for talking back to the official. The hosts didn't take advantage of their extra man and weren't really creating anything from open play. In fact, it was the visitors who looked more dangerous, a home player being booked for tripping a Stockbridge man to prevent him from getting away from the defence. Winchester Castle pressed the self-destruct button on 72 minutes, switching off and allowing the returning Walsh to nip in and score to make it 3-1 in what was the only goal of the game I didn't catch on film. There were vociferous claims by the home players that they'd heard the referee's whistle to stop play and this resulted in at least one of them being sin-binned. A few minutes later, the outcome of the contest was decided after the home number 6 cynically tripped an attacker in the area and Sam Walsh completed his hat trick from the penalty spot. They nearly scored another after Winchester Castle switched off again, but their captain could only find the side netting. The hosts had a couple of chances to score a consolation, but timely tackles from the visiting defence prevented any further goals.
Winchester Castle didn't really look like a side that had lost every game this season, but their failure to create clear cut chances from open play and some mistakes at the back had allowed a decent Stockbridge side to win comfortably. In terms of possession, there wasn't too much difference between the sides. The game finished at 4.50 and after walking back to my car, I drove back to Winchester City to pick Anwar up. I couldn't get as near to the ground as I wanted as traffic was too busy, so I text Anwar to meet me at the top of the road. The message took a while to send, so I went and met him halfway. We had to stop for petrol at Tesco on the way home, annoyingly, it was 127.9 a litre, the most I had paid in months, but it was still the cheapest in the area. We listened to some podcasts on the way home and it was a good journey with us getting back to Aylesbury at 6.45. I dropped Anwar off before sticking at Lidl to get a 4 pack of cider and a pizza. I got back home at 7.30, having my drinks and pizza while I watched Solihull Moors v Eastleigh. I also put my blog of the first game of the day shortly after. It had been a very unhealthy Bank Holiday weekend, but I was determined to enjoy it as it may be my last, as work are forcing through a new contract which may see me have to work all of them. Normally I don't drink from Sunday to Thursday and the plan is certainly to not have any more booze until next weekend.
The Hampshire County Council Sports Ground is one of the better venues at step 7, despite the ramshackle cover that appeared in other groundhoppers blogs. The main pitch is fully railed and there appears to be a set of brick dugouts being built in place of the cover. There's a grass bank on one side that gives an elevated view of the game. There's a clubhouse offering a basic range of drinks and snacks and a large car park. The ground doesn't appear the best for public transport though and there's little in the way of pubs or food nearby from what I saw.