Sunday, 31 August 2014
Bashley 0 v 2 Winchester City
Saturday 30th August 2014
FA Cup Preliminary Round
Bashley Road, Bashley
My desire to take in an FA Cup game at a new ground meant a long trip was in prospect for me today. I eventually decided to head along the South Coast and into the New Forest.
Bashley Road is about a 20 minute walk northwards from New Milton train station and is a rather disappointingly unremarkable rural ground. Walking down a short drive from the main road, one is confronted with a large yellow and black fence welcoming visitors to the ground, with a turnstile block to one side, although this was closed today. One enters behind one goal, noticing the ground is surrounded by trees, which gives it a pleasant, naturally enclosed feel, however in all honesty, that is where the charm ends. Adjacent to the entrance is the village hall, beyond which is a much shorter, flat roofed building containing the clubhouse and refreshments bar. Between the clubhouse and the pitch, there is hard standing. Stretching from a corner flag to the half way line is a press box and commercial office and then an all-seater stand, whilst beyond the half way line are two further stands covering terrace steps. Behind the remaining goal and along the other length is flat hard standing. The 40 page programme was somewhat old fashioned in that it was printed in black and white throughout, inside a colourful cover. But it proved a more interesting read than more colourful and glitzy programmes often produced these days at this level, with an acceptable level of advertising.
After their very existence looked in grave danger towards the end of last season, when it had to rely on the generosity of supporters to see the season out, Bashley have had a poor start to their campaign in the Southern League Division One South and West following relegation last season. They are second bottom, having picked up just one point from their opening six games. Winchester play a step below Bashley, in the Wessex League Premier Division, but are one of the favourites to gain promotion this season, having signed the management team and several players including prolific striker Warren Bentley from Alresford Town. They've had a solid if unspectacular opening to their season, in 14th place in the 22 team division, winning two and drawing one of their four games so far, although they have up to four games in hand on all other teams in the division. Unlike Bashley, Winchester entered the FA Cup in the Extra Preliminary Round, winning 2-5 at Lymington Town. Today's teams met in a pre-season friendly in mid July, with Winchester winning 0-4.
On an overcast afternoon, Winchester completely dominated the first half, to the extent that one would have thought the home side were the underdogs desperately trying to keep in the game. Winchester took the lead on seven minutes, when a throw in was helped on and couldn't be intercepted, until Bentley stroked the ball past the keeper. How they did not extend their lead by half time was anyone's guess, being camped in Bashley's half and creating and missing countless chances whilst also having a shot cleared off the line. Bashley were lucky to still be in the game at the interval, having had an absolute shocker of a half, with their players being too slow and too lightweight.
Things could only get better for Bashley, but they were a team transformed after the break, looking much more threatening and creating several good goalscoring opportunities. Winchester still looked threatening on the break though and the game really could have gone either way. In the end, with seven minutes remaining, Winchester scored a second to seal their passage into the next round. A surge into the box ended with the ball being played across the area, allowing Bentley the easy task of stroking the ball home. To their credit, Bashley still pushed for a goal, but it was Winchester who, in terms of league status, claimed a giantkilling scalp, but in reality they deservedly progressed to the First Qualifying Round, where they will play the winner of Bemerton Heath Harlequins and Bournemouth Poppies. Although the season is still very much in its infancy, based on today's evidence with results so far, the smart money would be on these two clubs swapping divisions at the end of this season.