Monday 13th April 2015 ko 18.30
Hampshire Premier League, Senior Division
AFC STONEHAM 1 (Forbes 48)
HAMBLE CLUB 3 (Thomson 5 90 Watts 35)
When you visit a few grounds in a particular league, you start to get a feel for that league. And then a club comes along that completely changes that perception and that club for me was AFC Stoneham.
I’d got used to grounds along the lines of Otterbourne and Winchester Castle, and so when I arrived at the gatehouse, yes gatehouse, I did a double-take. The ground has seen massive renovations since its days as the Pirelli works ground, and the club have applied to the Wessex League for next season. Chairman Mark Stupple was good company and his praise for the Wessex League officials was fulsome, their support for him and his club has been first-class.
A stand has been erected, hard standing laid, and the floodlights are in the process of being renovated. Both club and ground look precisely what they are, a Step 6 club in waiting. But here’s the irony of the piece, the ground is earmarked for housing, putting Mark and his club in an odd position.
On one hand the club needs the correct facilities to get promoted, on the other they know that those facilities will be destroyed as soon as the economics of house building improve. The cute bit is that as part of the planning gain, the builders must provide the club a ground as least as good as what’s been lost. That site would be at the other end of Stoneham Lane, but other than keeping the ground-graders happy, all the building gives the builders something to replace!
What they can’t replace, and won’t need to in this case, is good old-fashioned charm. It was a pleasure to chat to Mark, smile at Stoneham’s take on a public address system and enjoy a game of football in the setting sun. In fact there was just one issue…
You’d have thought that with the hosts playing in a wholly purple kit, there would be little scope for a kit clash, but when Hamble Club turned up in a natty shade of all blue, the clash was one of the worst I’ve seen in 15 years solid groundhopping! Still a clash of colours is preferable to a postponement and Hamble were reasonable value for their win.
The mathematics of this season’s HPL is that Baffins Milton Rovers are top, 2 points ahead of Hamble Club but Hamble have 5 games in hand. Stoneham are a distant fourth, 19 points behind Baffins. It means Hamble have everything to play for, but normally if the champions go up, the runners-up are only promoted in their place if for one reason or another they don’t take promotion. Stoneham’s elevation will almost be certainly based on the reality that the Wessex League has vacancies in both their divisions and so any club with both the means and ambition to cope at the higher level is likely to be promoted.
I wish both club and league well in their endeavours.