Calthorpe Park, Fleet
Southern League Central Division
Match Rating: 2
After engineering works and expensive train fares put paid to tempting FA Vase games at Berkhamsted and Ipswich Wanderers, I instead headed for northern Hampshire and a rare visit to a Southern League ground.
Calthorpe Park is about a 20 minute walk south westwards from Fleet train station, via the town’s high street, and one reaches the turnstile after walking through the car park and by the clubhouse. Once inside, the ground is rather bland and has the feel of a ground from a step lower, although perhaps one would have a more positive impression closer to the summer months when the trees surrounding and enclosing the ground are in colour. Straddling the half way line by the entrance is an all-seater stand, which is spacious and has quite a high roof but with supporting pillars along the front. To the other side of the entrance is a tea bar, with some overhang providing a covered standing area to watch the game. Cover is provided behind both goals by iron sheets supported by scaffolding poles, while along the opposite length is hard standing with a grass bank behind. The pitch has quite a slope from end to end, but was good condition considering the persistent rain of recent months taking its toll on many grounds at this level. The 16 page programme was attractive and professionally produced, and although it was very basic, it did cover the essentials and was fairly priced.
This promised to be an interesting game. Although a glance at the league table suggested the away team, St Ives would be strong favourites, Fleet had one of the best home records in the division. Fleet came into this game in 17th position in the 22 team division, with 8 wins and four draws from their 25 games, and seven of those wins and two draws have been gained at home. St Ives were in third place, with 14 wins and nine draws from their 27 games, and are just three points behind leaders AFC Rushden and Diamonds. When the two teams met back in August, St Ives won 2-0.
With difficult conditions caused by a very blustery afternoon with occasional downpours thrown into the mix, it was not surprising that the first half was low on quality with few moments of excitement, although Fleet kicking down the slope, had the better of things. They should have taken the lead with just two minutes on the clock, when a ball played forward fell at the feet of Rob Carr as he broke clear of the covering defenders and through on goal but with just the keeper to beat, he shot low and wide of the far post. With the home side setting up very defensively, goalscoring chances were at a premium, but a minute before the break, St Ives came close to equalising when Ben Seymour-Shove saw his shot from outside the area come back off the crossbar with the keeper motionless.
Into the second half and St Ives came out with more intent as they kicked down the slope although a goalless draw was looking ever more the most likely outcome. In the end, St Ives went on to win the games with two goals following corners. On 62 minutes, Drew Phillips headed a corner into the ground and the ball bounced up and into the net. 11 minutes later and Charlie De’ath met a corner with a powerful header which sent the ball into the top right corner. Fleet battled on gamely, and had two really good chances in added on time to at least score a consolation goal, first a header inside the six yard box from a corner sent the ball wide of the goal, and a scramble deep inside the area did not fall kindly to a Fleet player. So a result that would have been expected, with the result lifting St Ives up to second in the table, but Fleet will probably feel hard done by to have not got at least a point from an uninspiring game that really neither team deserved to win. But Fleet stay in 17th place and 11 points clear of a relegation berth.