The Sports Ground, Lymington
FA Vase 1st Round Proper
Attendance: 70 (estimate)
Match Rating: 2
For my Hallowe'en entertainment, I headed down to Hampshire once again today, this time to the coast, in my quest to watch an FA Vase game at a new ground, with the added bonus of watching a team from the Western League, which I very rarely have the opportunity to do.
The Sports Ground is about a 15 minute walk from Lymington Town train station, via the town’s charming high Street, and the main entrance is in one corner of the ground. Whilst the ground is not particularly attractive and is certainly basic, it does have an old fashioned charm about it, back to an era when a town's facilities were shared between its sports clubs, with the cricket square located behind one of the goals and the tennis and bowls club behind one length. As a result, the ground is large in terms of space, but is neat and tidy with a pleasantly sleepy feel to the place. Due to the pitch being shared with cricket, there is only grass standing available behind one goal and half way up one side, but with hard standing around the rest of the pitch. On the opposite length there is a long stand covering bench seating in club colours of red. There are no other pitch side spectator facilities. The clubhouse is set next to the cricket pitch, the other side of the entrance, and is rather small and unremarkable, and today was certainly the wrong day to come to a game hungry, with confectionery and crisps/peanuts the limit of the club's food offerings for spectators. The programme was a very good effort, if a little stat heavy. Fair play as well to a very reasonable admission fee, which compared very favourably with what I am more used to in the south-east corner of England.
Lymington probably came into this game as favourites, in sixth place in the Wessex League Premier Division, having won six and drawn four of their 13 league games. Wells play a step below Lymington, in the Western League Division One, and were in fifth place, having won eight and drawn one of their 14 league games. To reach today’s fixture, Lymington had beaten Oldland Abbottonians, from the same division as Wells, 0-1 away and East Cowes Victoria Athletic 0-9 away, whereas Wells had beaten Keynsham Town 2-1 in a replay.
On a beautifully sunny and warm afternoon – the complete contrast from the miserable conditions I endured at Basingstoke last Saturday – this game started evenly, but it was Wells who had the first real chance, when a powerful header from a free kick went just over the bar. On 24 minutes Lymington came close, again a powerful header from a free kick going just over the bar. But the home side did take the lead on 36 minutes, when a shot by Harrison Weeks from the edge of the area took a deflection, guiding the ball into the back of the net. A minute before half time, Wells thought they had won a penalty when the referee blew his whistle, but instead he booked the forward for a dive. But the home side went into the half time break with a narrow lead, which they certainly deserved, although Wells were still very much in the game.
The second half was rather uneventful for the most part, as Lymington seemed to cruise towards the win and Wells looked unlikely to get back on level terms. And on 80 minutes, Lymington all but sealed their progress to the next round when Brad Strickland sent a perfect cross into the box and Darren Ritchie planted a firm header into the net. They came closest to scoring again a minute from time, when a free kick hit the top right corner of the woodwork. But Lymington still comfortably progressed to the next round, happily, as not only did they deserve to win, but the frequent moaning of the Wells players and coaching staff did rather grate.