Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Stockbridge - The Recreation Ground

Stockbridge FC
The Recreation Ground
SO20 6EU

Ground Number: 1025
Tuesday 23rd November 2021
Stockbridge 3-1 Winchester Castle
North Hants Cup Quarter Final


The club was established in 1894, playing in various locations over the course of its history. They played in very local leagues at first and early honours included the Andover Junior League Division 2 in 1932. They spent many years in this competition and were champions of the whole league in 1980 and 1982. After a runners-up spot in 1984, they moved to the North Hants League where they were runners-up in their first season before winning it in 1988. Stockbridge moved up to the Hampshire League in 1991 and were runners-up in Division 3 in their second season. This earned them promotion to Division 2 where another runners-up spot was achieved in 1996. After a few seasons in Division 1, reorganisation saw them placed in the Premier Division. A 3rd place finish in 2001 was a credible finish, with the team scoring 107 goals in 40 league games. The league disbanded in 2004 with the club, along with many others, joining the newly formed second tier of the Wessex League. A 7th place finish in 2007 was the best season, league wise in the club's history, being at step 6 of the Non-League pyramid. They would remain in the Wessex League until 2014. It wasn't results on the field that led to their downfall but a nearby river bursting its banks, leaving their pitch unplayable for three months, forcing them to resign. Ever since, they have played in the step 7 Hampshire Premier League - Senior Division and are currently in 5th place which would give them a chance of applying for a return to the Wessex League, should they so wish. history.

Stockbridge entered the FA Vase in 2018 and 2019 but exited at the first hurdle on both occasions. Local honours include the North Hants Senior Open Cup (three times), the North Hants League Cup in 1991, the Andover League Open Cup (six times), the North Hants Junior Cup (four times), the Hants Junior B Cup in 1933, the Andover Midweek Cup (three times), the South Wilts Charity Cup (twice) and the Fred Druce Cup (twice). The small town of Stockbridge is located on the River Test in Hampshire and has a population of less than 600. The bridge over the Test led to the town's name, a local legend suggested a coach stop stocked provisions, but it derives from an earlier bridge that was made of 'stocks' (tree trunks). Nearby big towns are Winchester (8 miles) and Salisbury (15 miles).


Originally on this day, we had been planning to do a groundhop involving my hopping pals, Anwar and Colin, as the latter had a rare day off. However, Colin turned down each of the seven options that we could do together as they were not in the leagues he was looking to complete. He also turned down the 8 options I offered him in the South that were not possible with Anwar in favour of a game at Hillingdon Borough - less than an hours train journey away and one that he could have done anytime. There were only two options within a reasonable distance and cost with Anwar - Wednesfield and Chipping Sodbury Town and with the weather looking like it was going to be very cold, he showed little enthusiasm. I decided to leave those two options on the table in case he changed his mind, but if I was on my own, my preference would be Stockbridge. They were the nearest unticked ground for me and had a North Hants Cup game against fellow Hampshire League side Winchester Castle. Ironically, the same two sides had met at Winchester Castle's ground when I visited them in August 2019 with Stockbridge running out deserved 4-1 winners. As a backup, in case of a postponement for any reason, I had AFC Stoneham against Bashley in a Wessex League game, the 3G pitch being useful in the arctic weather. 

The weekend had been bittersweet as ever. Wycombe won for the first time in six games, beating Bolton Wanderers 1-0. A great day was had, albeit a boozy one. There was then the usual Sunday at work with the worst of the public in on the worst day of the week. I kept my head down and ploughed through and Monday was a lot more peaceful. On Monday night, I received confirmation that I'd be on my own and so started doing my research with a trip to Stockbridge in mind. I worked out a point to check the game status and alter my plans to save some wasted miles. The day of the game came and I was on my day off as usual. I had my Covid booster jab which was a two-mile walk away. All went fine and after I walked into town. I just got a load of stuff from Lidl's bakery and also some chicken. With there being nothing inspiring near the ground, this would do me for a couple of meals. After doing some other things, I was home by 4 after walking 11 miles. I had an hour to catch up on things and continue my blog before I left at 5.20. It was a great journey down, me opting to take the shorter route via the M4. I was by the ground just before 7, parking in a side street as the club had warned of limited parking.

The hosts were sitting 5th in the table. They'd been in decent form in their last five games, beating whipping boys Lyndhurst 5-1 in their latest fixture. They'd also beaten Sway 4-3 in the league as well as drawing 1-1 at tonight's opponents. They'd beaten Moneyfields Reserves 4-1 in the Hampshire Saturday Trophy but had lost 4-0 to Locks Heath in the Hampshire Premier Saturday Cup. Winchester Castle were in similarly good form and had beaten Chamberlayne Athletic 3-2 and 4-0 in the league as well as Whitely Wanderers 3-1 in the Hampshire Premier Saturday Cup. However, they'd lost 2-0 to Bishop Waltham Dynamos in the Hampshire Saturday Trophy. Around 13 miles separated the two teams by road. Stockbridge started the game on top, with Winchester Castle relying on chances on the break. The hosts took the lead on 17 minutes, a shot on the turn from just inside the area by Ross Belbin. The visitors then had a good spell, a dipping shot from outside the area on 21 minutes was well saved by the home keeper. Another shot from the right, five minutes later produced another good save. However, Stockbridge broke and on 27 minutes, Belbin grabbed his second, finishing low from around 15 yards. Chances came and went for both sides, the best when the visiting keeper was caught out of his area but the Stockbridge shot was wide with the keeper unsighted. On 52 minutes, Winchester Castle had a goal back, a cross being headed home from ten yards. Five minutes later, Stockbridge restored their two-goal lead, Joseph Bailey bundling home a corner from the right at the near post. Winchester Castle had a goal disallowed for a push on 75 minutes amidst another good spell, but they couldn't make a game of it. Overall, a draw would have been a fairer result but Stockbridge took their goals well and were defensively solid.

There had been around 45 people at the game on a bitter night. By the time I got to the car, the thermometer read just 1 degree. I was cheered up by an excellent result for Wycombe at Plymouth as the Chairboys won 3-0. I'd probably have considered going had I known I was going to be on my own earlier, having not been since 2007. Ironically, since my last visit to Home Park, Wycombe had won six and drawn two, remaining unbeaten. All we had to show for my four visits there was an exciting penalty win in the LDV Vans Trophy and three league defeats, including one that relegated us in early April. The Bluetooth in my car was not working properly and so I had to listen to the roundup via my phone speaker. I then turned over to Greatest Hits Radio, for once not getting the 'Guess The Year' feature right. It was a decent journey back, with me going the long way round via the M25 and I was back home by 11. It had been a decent evening and I stayed up for an hour or so before going to bed.


THE RECREATION GROUND is a decent venue for the level and is good to go for step 6 football. The pitch has three sides hard standing and railing with the 4th side closed off. There is one metal stand but this was fenced off on my visit, presumably to prevent vandalism as it's in an open park. It holds around 50 seated.  There is a clubhouse but it was closed on my visit. Nearby facilities include pubs, a kebab shop and a Co-op. The car parking at the ground is limited, though there is a reasonable amount of street parking. 

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