Kendall Stadium, Portsmouth
Attendance: 100 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3
With most clubs not starting their pre-season fixtures until next week, a trip to Wessex League new-boys Baffins Milton Rovers was the only realistic new tick of a club’s regular home ground available for me today. It promised to be a good one though, with a club very much on an upward curve hosting a local club several leagues higher up in the pyramid.
The Kendall Stadium is about a 15 minute walk from Hilsea train station, and is very much still a work-in-progress as it is going through the final stages of preparation to host senior football for the first time this coming season. A colourful club sign greets visitors from the main road, and spectators then enter the ground in one corner after paying admission at a wooden hut. Behind this goal there are several portakabins housing the changing rooms and a tea bar, in front of which there are a few tables with seats under parasols. Along the length stretching from the entrance there is hard standing, as well as a modern metallic small all-seater stand. Behind the other goal is just hard standing, while along the remaining length, it is currently a flattened mud path awaiting a hard path to be laid. Floodlights are not currently present, although the spots are marked out in preparation for when they will be installed ahead of the league season. Once the finishing touches are made, this will presumably be quite a pleasant little ground, with trees down both lengths and the harbour visible behind one of the goals, although a busy road alongside the ground provides plenty of traffic noise. A very basic, 4 page programme was produced – at least the club made the effort, is as positive as one could be about it, but 50p maximum would have been a fairer charge for a photocopied, folded over sheer containing very little information.
These are exciting times for Baffins Milton Rovers, having won the Hampshire Premier League last season to earn promotion to the Wessex League Division One, and they won the Portsmouth Senior Cup too, beating very near neighbours Moneyfields in the semi-final, and then a youthful Havant and Waterlooville side in the final. Gosport Borough are an established National League South outfit these days, finishing ninth last season.
On a breezy afternoon, bringing dark clouds and the occasional rain shower in between sunny spells, this was a surprisingly entertaining game, played at a fairly high tempo with some meaty challenges going in from both sides, and the home side held their own early on. But on 19 minutes, Gosport took the lead. Jason Parrish shrugged off a defender (who claimed he was fouled as he fell to the ground at the left edge of the area), ran towards goal and drove the ball powerfully inside the keeper’s near post. They doubled their lead on 36 minutes, Sam Flanagan scoring from the penalty spot high in the right hand side of the net after Connor May was brought down as he strode into the box. Right on the stroke of half time, Baffins were awarded a penalty of their own when Bradley Fairweather was pulled back as he entered the penalty area. He converted it himself, placed low just inside the left hand post, and the referee then immediately blew the half time whistle.
The second half started off quite evenly again, but Gosport scored their third on 51 minutes. An excellent run with the ball through the middle ended with a tackle and the ball spilling to
Ollie Bailey, who took the ball goalwardsbefore drilling the ball under the keeper. Gosport dominated from now on, and saw a shot hit the post on 58 minutes, and on 75 minutes, a low ball across the six yard box couldn’t be tucked home. Baffins continued to battle well, and Callum Dart forced a smart save from the keeper on 77 minutes. But right at the end of the match, Gosport scored their fourth when Alfie Lass had time to stop with the ball just outside the area before thumping the ball into the roof of the net.
Scorelines obviously matter very little this early in pre-season and surely both managers will have learnt some useful things about the players on show during a match that was lively and a good test for both teams.