Brockenhurst 2 Fawley 3 (21st Feb 2015)
With non-footballing plans for the afternoon falling though, late morning saw me seeking out a match at very short notice. I had considered Dulwich Hamlet, but a difficult route by car, or a slow train journey put me off. Just as well. It ended 0-0.
I did fancy Weymouth, but I’d have been cutting it fine to get there on time. Looking at that part of the world on google maps did remind me though that I had a very swift beer in a pub near Brockenhurst station en-route to a match at Bournemouth, and had an even swifter look at Brockenhurst’s ground, just up the road. I’d thought at the time it would be a nice place to visit one, day, so this day became that day.
Deep into the New Forest, Brockenhurst is certainly one of the nicer places in the south. It is just a village, and the bucolic feel can be rammed home somewhat by finding the street the ground is on has horses roaming freely, munching on the plants growing by the roadside. I’m sure Brockenhurst’s is the only ground entrance I’ve seen which has a cattle-grid.
You can find clips of the horses on youtube, and perhaps even more incongruously, a clip of Liam Gallagher chatting to a 17 year old outside the very same pub I’d stopped in a couple of years earlier, and indeed, who were sponsors of today’s game.
Despite being parked so close to the pitch that I could have easily watched the match from my car and listened to Reading’s game at Ipswich on Radio Berkshire (surprisingly clear despite Berkshire being nearly 60 miles away) I ventured in anyway.
There isn’t a great deal to the ground in truth. It’s the sort of place that’d be lovely to visit on a summery day, but not so good in the winter. Today wasn’t really either, being quite sunny, but also pretty cold when the wind blew. The main stand was decent enough. It only held 200 or so in four shallow rows of benches, but was raised up high enough to allow a very good view. I’m not sure, with the rows being so shallow, that the view would be so good from the back of those four if the stand was full, but it’s not normally a major problem in Wessex League.
Alongside the stand is the fair-sized clubhouse, with signs telling you to respect the neighbours and be quiet upon leaving. It’s not the sort of place you readily associate with the wild and rowdy, but who knows what a derby win v Lymington might bring out in the home fans.
Further round the corner is a small area of covered terracing, set back from the pitch, and adjoining the “Badgers Sett” tea-bar, whose lack of an apostrophe must have been peeving grammar pedants for years.
The tea bar name is due to Brockenhurst being known as “The Badgers”, with “Badgers’ home” being the ancient meaning of Brockenhurst. My assumption of it being a reference to the home team’s striped kit did at least allow google to answer by question of “why the badgers?” when the stripes were blue.
There wasn’t much in the way of structures at the rest of the ground. Plenty of trees helped though. One was so wide that the trunk was on both sides of the perimeter wall. At the far end were flats, whose dull intrusion into the scene was only slightly enlivened by the plastic skeleton hanging from one window.
Today’s opponent’s according to the programme cover, were Alresford Town, who they’d beaten 2-1 in September. Actually taking the pitch were Fawley. Not a town of club I’d ever heard of, it turns out that in contrast to picturesque Brockenhurst, they play next to a giant oil refinery on the west side of Southampton Water. They also arrived with, despite the relatively comfortable 16th place in the table, the worst goal-scoring record in the division. Brockenhurst had scored nearly twice as many, yet were still only 6 places above, in 10th.
Fawley started the game looking pretty lively, but it was The Badgers who opened the scoring after just 11 minutes, with an almost lazy looking shot from the edge of the area being stroked into the bottom corner. From there it looked the sort of game where the home side would go on the win 3 or 4 nil, if only they could get the second. They had enough possession and enough opportunities. They must have had a good seven or eight corners, but beyond the odd scramble, nothing came of them.
Fawley weren’t doing a great deal, but showed signs of waking up towards the end of the half. As often happens, one team’s wastefulness is punished, and Fawley equalised just before half-time. Brockenhurst’s Brazilian goalkeeper, a lanky and pale-looking guy who almost makes Peter Crouch look muscular, and perhaps the least Brazilian-looking Brazilian ever, made a good stop from an initial shot. The ball dropped kindly for a Fawley attacker though, and there’d be no mistake second time round, being thumped in from six yards.
The 2nd half saw Fawley come out stronger, but slightly against the run of play, Brockenhurst went back in front just after the hour. A ball at the back post was blocked but not cleared, and it was turned back in for 2-1.
With Fawley scoring 1 per game, and conceding 2 on average, that could have been that. Not a bit of it though, as it just seemed to fire Fawley up. From possibly the very next serious attack, Fawley got behind the Brockenhurst defence. A ball across the 6 yards box was dangerous, and a defender’s efforts to steer it away from an attacker only succeeding in glancing it across the goal into the far corner.
This blow caused Brockenhurst to fall apart, and from that moment they seemed to regard defending as an impossible task. Within a few minutes it was 3-2. On a pitch that’s lumpiness was reminiscent of school-dinner mashed potatoes, a ball over the top was often the wiser one, and such a ball led to Fawley’s third. A chip forward wasn’t dealt with at all, resulting in a calmly finished one on one.
From there Fawley really ought to have gone on to score at least one or two more. A combination of wasteful finishing, and a man of the match display from Brockenhurst Brazilian keeper, using all four spider-like limbs to deflect goal-bound efforts.
Could Brockenhurst create their own late equaliser? No. In fact in the first 3pm match I’ve been to for about 15 years that finished before 4.45, they barely managed to do anything. Closest was a flicked header, almost by instinct than intent, that clipped the top of the bar, but that really was it. The horses outside might have been happy, but for Brockenhurst’s players and fans, it wasn’t the best day.