Sunday, 1 April 2007

31/03/2007 - Downton 2 Hamworthy United 2

A weekend down on the south coast saw the Groundblogger (and father) make the 35 minute journey from Poole to Downton to watch the Robins take on Hamworthy United in a Wessex Premier mid-table clash.

The journey to the village of Downton was very straight forward and we arrived at the ground which abuts a sports centre at around 2.15pm.

Downton is a pretty ground entered by a turnstile at the top corner of the home straight with a bar and changing rooms complex on one side ahead of a low grandstand.

With 45 minutes before the kick off we slipped into the bar for a quick refreshment and a peruse of the programme which took all of 45 seconds.

The bar itself closed at about 2.45pm and did not reopen until 4.30pm so the match was punctuated by trips to the snack bar for hot drinks at half time to drive out a brisk wind which drove across the pitch and led to some swirling high balls.

The Robins, resplendent in their red shirts, have had a difficult season trading in the lower reaches of the table although not in any danger of relegation.

The Hammers are only six points better off and notable only for the fact that their ground is just around the corner from Groundblogger's dad's house.

This proximity led to the local knowledge that the visitors were putting out a slightly weakened team from normal, although if players were looking to take their chance in the first team you would not have known it. Give them the benefit of the doubt though and say that the conditions were making it hard to play.

Downton's supremo in the dug out was justifiably miffed then 24 minutes in when an indecisive defensive header left the home custodian stranded allowing Keith Middleton to nip in and tuck it home for the opener.

"We do it every week, we've had all the play and we've give away a stupid goal", was the cry from the dugout after the neat finish which was the high point of a low half.

Middleton's contribution was virtually his last though as he limped off shortly after after a strong challenge in the middle of the park.

Concerns that the match was not going to be worth a pleasant 35-minute drive in the country though were unfounded following a second half which had the competitive edge as the Robins attempted to stage a fightback, and a unique spot of ball retrieval involvoing a ladder and a concerned-looking groundsman.

This followed a peach of a free kick from outside the box by Hammers' Michael Hubbard on 59 minutes which had seemed to put the match beyond the homesters.

But the game was spun on its head by a moment of madness from the Hammers' goalkeeper Nick Hutchings.

A good through ball from Downton saw one of the strikers through on goal although off to the left hand side of the penalty box and while he concentrated on slipping it past the onrushing Hutchings, the Hammers' keeper concentrated on a bodycheck which would have been more effective on an ice hockey rink.

The shot went wide but Hutchings found his mark and left the referee with no hesitation in pointing at the penalty spot.

Hutchings was sent off and Downton's Kev Thick coolly slotted home. 1-2 and game, as they say, on.

Being down to 10 men, Hammers reorganised and set out on a defensive footing. And although Downton huffed and puffed they could not blow the visitors down.

It took two moments of real class to orchaestrate the equaliser in the 86th minute, firstly a splendid cross right into the danger zone of the visitors' penalty box and then a clipped shot over the outcoming keeper by Thick for his and his team's second.

Downton then scented blood and went looking for the winner and they did have the ball in the net in injury time but unfortunately the ball was attached to the keeper's hand when it and he were bundled in.

After the final whistle there was a brief scare when Radio Five Live announced that Barnsley had scored a late goal at Oakdale but the Rams held a two-goal lead and held on for the three points while undoubtedly the Hammers committee would have returned to Poole slightly miffed that they had not managed to.