Tuesday 4th December 2012 ko 19.45
FA Vase 2nd Round Replay
HANWORTH VILLA 2 (King 77 Reddings 90)
LITTLEHAMPTON TOWN 1 (Kew 21)
It seems an age since I watched the Vase 2nd round fixture at Newport, Isle of Wight. That day, Littlehampton playing in the second tier of the Sussex County League did well to force a replay in south-west London, as Hanworth play one step higher in the Combined Counties Premier.
This part of the world always seems busy, with a dual carriageway at one end of the ground, and the stream of aircraft taking off and landing at Heathrow. The district is probably best known for its long-disappeared airfield, which welcomed Amelia Earhart following her transatlantic flight in 1932, but the area is now cut in two by the M3.
I gave a lift to Calne based hopper Paul, for his first taste of a Combined Counties League ground. There are few great grounds in this league, Rectory Field is typical of the genre, two prefabricated stands, floodlights and a fence are recent additions to the facilities, to no doubt keep the ground graders happy, but it has provided the basics for their band of followers.
And what a jolly band they are, friendly, noisy, and clearly passionate about their club. What I didn’t expect though, was a life-size cutout of Marilyn Monroe, wearing Hanworth Villa kit. I’ve seen some strange sights at football grounds, mascot Elvis Gresley being high on my list,but I think this takes the biscuit!!
On a cold, bleak night the two teams served up a game so good I completely forgot how cold I was! In a high quality encounter Littlehampton took an early lead then were forced back as Hanworth began to control possession. In fact the game could easily have been over by half time if the home forwards been even slightly less profligate.
The second half was a similar story, as Littlehampton were reduced to sporadic counter-attacks. The frustration began to tell as heavy challenges went in, and referee Matthew Westlake did well to keep 22 men on the field. As a neutral I was perfectly happy to see the game end 1-0, what I wanted to avoid was an equaliser and extra-time.
I ended up getting one but not the other, as Levi King finally converted a chance, then just as I’d given up hope of getting home at a reasonable hour up popped substitute Steve Reddings to send Hanworth to a third round tie away at Croydon. Obviously late goals are a hopper’s best friend!