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Tuesday 26th March 2013 ko 19.45

Wessex League Premier Division

ROMSEY TOWN 2 (Phillips 41 Harry 90)

FAREHAM TOWN 0

Att 32 (head count)

Entry £5

No Programme

Until I researched this I had no idea why the small Hampshire town of Romsey resonated with me. It’s notable for fly-fishing on the River Test but I prefer my fish in batter with chips so it wasn’t that, but when I saw that Wilbert Awdry was born nearby the pieces began to fall into place. The Rev W Awdry wrote the Thomas the Tank Engine books, and is was him that got me to learn to read as a child. I remember meeting him as a small boy at a model railway exhibition at Oxford Town Hall, and being star-struck for the first time in my short life. You can blame him for what you’re reading now!

The Broadlands Country House is in the outskirts of Romsey too. Variously home to the inventor of Gunboat Diplomacy Lord Palmerston, and Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma, it was designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown, and was where Prince Charles and Princess Diana spent their wedding night. I’m not sure whether that last fact is necessarily a selling point!

The factor that influenced this tie for me was the opposition. Fareham Town secretary Paul “Splodge” Proctor is a good friend of mine, so any game that gets me Fareham and a new ground is going to be a good choice for me! There’s only one problem, whenever I watch the Creeksiders play, they seem to lose! On arrival it seemed that Romsey needed my support more than Fareham. There was no programme (“We’ve got no one to do them”)  and it was quickly clear that the majority of the meagre crowd, no doubt hit by the televised England game, would be following the visitors. The gateman quickly became the barman, I went to the teahut, and discovered the one advantage of a tiny crowd is your food gets cooked to order.

That gave me the chance to survey my surroundings. One advantage of Romsey having a scaffolding firm as sponsor is that the ground improvements to stay in the league (mainly a perimeter fence) are more easily completed. The jewel is undoubtedly the little stand with its bench seats on the far side. It’s lovingly maintained, and graces its surroundings and not a single person sat in it. Still the club was welcoming, and I pondered how on earth Fareham could find a way to lose to a club rock bottom of the table having only 19 points and shipped a horrifying 117 goals in 34 games.

Clearly my malevolent influence was more powerful than I imagined, as for the first time I watched a side who were simply looking for the season to end. The Fareham fans behind the goal muttered conspiracy theories as they side mustered a reasonable level of play only for the first 10 minutes of each half. Romsey simply weathered the storm and hit back just before half time, Danny Phillips being put through to fire home past Luke Douglas. Fareham huffed, Wayne Boud swore, and the Fareham fans tried unsuccessfully to rouse their team, even trying the waving of an Eritrean Peoples’ Liberation Army flag at one point. It didn’t work, and Luke Harry fired home in stoppage time for a win that was almost as deserved as it was unexpected.

The win lifts Romsey off the bottom, relegating New Milton, who will be swallowed up by Bashley at the season’s end, at the foot of the table. Romsey feel they have a potential ace up their sleeve though. With the Wessex League being stricter on ground grading, they feel their improvements will keep them in the Premier Division even if their players can’t. None of which concerned Splodge as he smiled as he said to me, ” That’s it Reade, no more Fareham for you, you’re banned!”

The thing is, was he smiling or was that a grimace?