When my grandparents lived in Gosport, a four-minute ferry ride from Portsmouth, I was taken as a boy to look around HMS Victory. I remember there was a plaque on the deck that said “NELSON FELL HERE”. I’m not surprised – I nearly tripped over it myself.
I was in Gosport again on Bank Holiday Monday, watching Gosport Borough’s 1-1 draw with Dorchester Town in the Conference South. I attended my first match at Privett Park 53 years ago, a Hampshire League fixture against Reading ‘A’, and have now seen Boro’ play in five different divisions. The day return train fare from London Waterloo was only £15 – a ‘Summer Fever’ ticket – so it was a relatively cheap trip to the coast.
It’s August but matches can still be postponed or abandoned due to the weather. There were a few off on Saturday. In Purley there were torrential downpours at around 11am and 2pm and I feared the worst. I went to Whyteleafe v Woodstock Sports in the new ‘Southern Counties East League’ and the well-grassed pitch at Church Road stood up very well. ‘Leafe won 4-0.
I had an FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round replay last Tuesday, my 432nd match in the competition all told, and saw Hanwell Town go out to the only goal scored by Cockfosters’ Adam Ali, a 25-yarder that the ‘keeper didn’t get near. Hanwell’s manager is Ray Duffy and his team included Tom Duffy (captain), Oliver Duffy, Connor Duffy and Callum Duffy. Yes, they are all his sons.
In the boardroom at half-time they told me that Cockfosters’ No.4, Fergus Moore, was 41 years old and had played in more than a thousand senior matches. He certainly didn’t look that age. On the following evening, at the same ground, I saw Southall beat Sun Postal Sports 4-2 in the Spartan South Midlands League’s Division One. Southall’s sub left-winger was unplayable in the second half.
There was very little football on Sunday but I found a London SE Regional Women’s League match between London Corinthians and AFC Wimbledon in New Eltham, a 27-minute train journey from Charing Cross. I got there seconds before kick-off and sat on a pavilion step near someone who I assumed was the Dons’ secretary. He told me it was their second match of the season and they’d lost the first one 9-0 to Crystal Palace.
They’d started with ten players. Two had had to leave the field with injuries and another one had left the ground at half-time to go on holiday. So they’d finished with seven. They were a player short again on Sunday and the situation looked bleak when they went 8-0 down with 20 minutes still to play. But the ‘keeper played a blinder after that and only conceded one more with virtually the last kick in stoppage time.
Five matches in the last week have taken me up to 22 for the season and 6,487 altogether.