Test Park, Southampton
Wessex League Premier Division
Match Rating: 3
Today was a day when no game really stood out, and although I was planning to head to Berkshire to watch Sandhurst Town, at the last minute I changed my mind and instead headed for Southampton. It turned out to be a good decision, as news came on my Twitter feed that the Sandhurst game had been postponed.
Test Park is just over three miles north of Southampton Central, with plenty of buses going fairly close to the ground. Although the fact that the ground is part of a university sports complex, and that Team Solent is the team of Southampton Solent University, does not bode well for a ground with character and a good atmosphere, it is not actually a bad ground – it is neat, easy on the eye, with some individuality. Spectators enter behind one of the goals, through a wooden turnstile block. Down one length, there are a couple of small all-seater stands, with curved roofing providing a refreshing change from the similarly sized identikit stands so common at grounds at this level these days. Beyond the far stand is a small burger van. Beyond the far corner flag there is a small stand covering a few metallic terrace steps, and around the rest of the ground is just hard standing, with quite attractive wooden fencing enclosing the ground. The 16 page programme was reasonable and provided the essential stats to preview the game.
This season is panning out to be one of mid table obscurity for both clubs. Promoted as last season's champions of Division One, Team Solent have had a solid season so far in the Premier Division, coming into this game in 12th place, with seven wins and three draws from 18 games. In recent seasons, Moneyfields have regularly been top 6 contenders, but so far this season has been disappointing for them, coming into this game in 16th place in the 21 team division, with six wins and two draws from their 18 games. When the two teams met in Portsmouth in late September, Team Solent won 1-4.
On a bright, mild afternoon, Team Solent looked much the brighter team in the first half, always looking to play football while the visitors preferred more agricultural means and moaning to the officials. The home side took the lead on 9 minutes. Following a free kick into the box, an initial shot drilled towards goal was blocked by a defender's leg, but later in the move, James Orvis struck the ball low through a crowd and past an unsighted keeper. They doubled their lead on 32 minutes, when the ball was crossed from the right wing into the six yard box, and Jesse Waller-Lassen just beat the keeper to tap the ball home. Moneyfields were back in the game within a couple of minutes though, Thomas Chapman heading the ball downwards into the far corner following a corner. Although Team Solent had the better of the rest of the half, few goalscoring chances were created, but they deserved their narrow lead at the break.
Into the second half and Moneyfields thought they had equalised on 49 minutes when the ball was headed in following a free kick, but the goal was ruled out for offside. On 58 minutes, Team Solent were awarded a penalty when a rash challenge brought down the Team Solent forward running to the byline. Ade Olumuyiwa, from no run up, coolly passed the ball into the net with the keeper diving the other way. One felt that that would be the decisive goal, as it was hard to see Moneyfields getting back in the game although they did come close a couple of times, and when they finally did score their second, in the third minute of added on time, it was far too late to snatch an unlikely and undeserved point. A free kick just outside the far outer corner of the penalty area was dinked in, and the loose ball was prodded home by Gary Austin