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Tuesday 29th December 2015 ko 19.45

Wessex League Division One

PORTLAND UNITED 1 (Godfrey 15)

RINGWOOD TOWN 0 Roberts sent off 67 (dangerous play)

Att 171

Entry £5

Programme (excellent) 50p

In Wessex League circles there is a standing joke that they are the only Step 5/6 league that gets to play European football, via of course the 3 visits to the Isle of Wight clubs, Cowes SportsNewport (IW) and East Cowes Victoria. Well I reckon by the island rule, there’s now another European trip in the Wessex… to Portland!

The Dorset island isn’t a true island, it’s joined to Weymouth and Chessil Beach by a barrier beach, but why let the facts get in the way of a good joke? Despite the location being, you would have thought, more suited to the Western League, the club’s recent history is with the Wessex. They played in the Wessex from 2001-2006 before dropping back into the Dorset Premier League, but a series of top two finishes have convinced them to give Pyramid football another go.

And they’ve certainly got the ground to give it a go too. There’s something slightly reminiscent of Lewes FC’s Dripping Pan about Grove Corner, with the split level viewing on one side, and the wall in front of the terraced houses is equally evocative. It is the kind of the place that invites you to walk round and explore.

What no one expected was a good game of football. With the beginnings of a storm, and the ground on top of a hill is was very much a case of find somewhere, anywhere to shelter, and hope not too many footballs disappeared into the yonder.

It was to the enormous credit of both sides that not too many did. You can watch full-time players fail to grasp the concept that it you hoof the ball up in the air, it will disappear, so it seemed incredible that two Step 6 teams managed to serve up an entertaining game. There was, sadly an exception to that rule, Alex Roberts’ challenge that earned him a red card was dreadful but that shouldn’t detract from a game that was far better than it had any right to be, in the midst of a howling gale.

On top for that it was gratifying to see a friendly club enjoying being back in pyramid football, and being pleasantly surprised at the massive crowd. It was, in all honesty a dreadful drive home afterwards, but I completed the task with a smile, it was clear that the Wessex League has regained a gem.