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Tuesday 1st April 2014 ko 19.30

Wessex League Division One

HAYLING UNITED 0

UNITED SERVICES PORTSMOUTH 0

Att 7

Entry £5

Programme £1

As much island hopping as groundhopping this one! The island at the eastern-edge of Hampshire is a popular tourist destination as well as being where in 1958, the windsurf board was invented by Peter Chilvers, although it took a 1982 court case to prove his claim! The island was used for “Operation Fabius,” in 1944 a mock invasion in preparation for D-Day. I enjoyed crossing the bridge over from Langstone and enjoying the view back over the harbour towards Portsmouth. 

The football club play at the back of Hayling College, and that location is the cause of many of the club’s problems. The ground is fundamentally a college’s playing field, and that fact sits uncomfortably with ground grading regulations. The floodlights are present, but the requisite seats and cover are so far from the pitch as to be virtually pointless as the college requires there to be space for a running track to be marked around the pitch for the summer. To add insult to injury, the grille locked to the front of the stand remained in situ throughout the game too. Is the ground enclosed? By the letter of the law, yes as there’s a gate where the club can collect admission, but there’s a lot of space beyond the pitch….

And for all of that I liked the people. They know the limiations of their location and work within them and on a warm evening there’s worse ways to spend an evening watching your local team. Sad to say an attendance of 7 tells you that the people of Hayling Island don’t agree with me, perhaps Hayling’s struggles on the pitch are putting them off. You know a club is struggling when a league table is reproduced with defunct Stockbridge at the bottom, their record reduced to zeros, to prevent having to place Hayling bottom. The club believe Stockbridge’s demise will keep them in the Wessex League, and there being vacancies in the league, the shortcomings of the ground may well be put to one side for now. After all, this is the club where Chelsea legend Bobby Tambling started his career. However the club has more interesting little historical footnote. The club’s first ever game, in 1884 was against Portmouth AFC, no relation of the Portsmouth FC of today. One of the Pompey players, a struggling Southsea doctor is recorded as A.C. Smith, or Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes!

The game was as poor as the scoreline suggests. Hayling are riding along on the crest of a slump, a good win against Ringwood ending a run of 6 straight defeats including reverses of 9-1 against Tadley Calleva, and 8-2 at Hythe & Dibden. A goal-fest was never likely as both teams substituted enthusiasm for skill, and endeavour for tactics. Time after time, the ball was knocked down the channels as the first resort rather than the last, and the goalless score was likely well before it became a matter of record. Still, I did catch Hayling very much at a crossroads, a clean sheets a welcome step forward in the rebuilding process. The question is whether the Wessex League will allow that to continue under their auspices?