Match Report -

Match Report - , by Ian Craig

Hallen v Team Solent

TO “HALLEN” BACK!

Hallen is a Town or Village – judging by the almost total lack of sighting of any inhabitants probably the latter – in Gloucestershire and is north or perhaps north west of Bristol, sandwiched between two motorways and in touching distance of the Severn Estuary yet still gives the impression of being in the middle of nowhere.

This was the destination for “Days Tours” with Team Solent in the FA Vase the objective and after a tortuous winding trip through a variety of places of which this writer had never heard (although I thought Preston was in Lancashire) we surfaced on the M4 and headed west. The M4/M5 junction was easily negotiated, the roundabouts on the A4018 not so easily and eventually memory, the ever talking Satnav and what appeared from the back seat to be some inspired guesswork saw Hallen and its football ground hove into view a mere matter of an hour and a quarter prior to kick-off. The ground was neat and tidy with what looked an excellent playing surface with the entrance, Clubhouse and Dressing Rooms behind one goal and in the near distance (if that is not a contradiction in terms) was a windfarm with three “windmills” going hypnotically round and round. Down one side was a collection of what appeared to be Portacabins, one of which housed the tea bar and hospitality room – the purpose of the remainder was unclear – and a nice stand with covered seating. The far end and the other side were open and there appeared to be no covered standing other than what resembled an-upmarket Bus Shelter by the Clubhouse – though that looked as though it contained some form of seating.

Some twenty minutes before kick-off some gentlemen kindly erected the posts and nets thereby dispelling thoughts that we may have to volunteer our coats to mark the goals out schoolboy style. One can only assume this is a longstanding local custom. Kick off was 3.01 – they did not keep to Wessex Time – and it is not an exaggeration to say that the first half was all Team Solent. They completely dominated play so much that had the game been decided on corners it would have been declared no contest before the break and the home goalkeeper simply stood and watched crosses go across the face of his goal rather like watching the trains at Overton station in the vain hope that one will stop. Having said that, some adjustment in direction and elevation as regards the Team Solent attempts at goal would have helped. Both sides missed what looked from the touchline easy one on ones with Solent forward taking the ball too wide after rounding the keeper and the home striker going for glory and clearing the fence behind the goal by some distance before the witnessing of a rare event on the stroke of halftime. After the game had been stopped for an injury the referee, to his credit, re-started the game with a dropped ball or a “bounce-up” as it used to be known. Almost something of a collector’s item nowadays (as is a throw being given to the opposing side after being taken from the wrong place!)

Cometh the second half, cometh Hallen. Whether they had been subjected to a managerial rollicking at half time or something had been put in the tea is open to question but they were a different side and for at least twenty-five minutes had the visitors on the back foot. If something was put in the tea thankfully the ingredient was not available in the excellent hospitality area – we could never have coped with the extra energy! The home side got their reward on the twenty-five-minute mark when a low cross bounced into the net off a Solent defender which must have led to thoughts as to why such an occurrence had not happened from the multitude of crosses Solent had provided in the opening forty-five minutes at the other end. The goal however had the reverse result to what one would expect – either that or the effects of the halftime tea had worn off- as Team Solent suddenly took control of the game again culminating in an equaliser with seven minutes remaining. The Match officials, who had a good game, then made their only real error as a Team Solent player taking no part in the game whatsoever was flagged offside as one of his colleagues was bearing down on goal. Happily, this did not affect the outcome as Solent produced the best piece of football all afternoon to take the lead before a rash challenge by the home goalkeeper saw things wrapped up with a penalty in the sixth minute of stoppage time. Where do Officials find so much stoppage time week by week?

So mission accomplished and a most enjoyable day. Gracious and welcoming hosts, no rain from the black clouds that hovered all afternoon and a fair result on the day but proof also of the difficulty of maintaining football at this level. A rough headcount in the first half suggested an attendance of 35 – later to be officially confirmed as 37 – which did nothing to drown out the noise from the Motorway or on a more serious note engender enough income to meet the expenses of the day. A further thought on a similar level is that the Ground, whilst properly fenced in, is surrounded by well-maintained green spaces including both cricket and rugby pitches which must have property developers slaving at the mouth, and be constantly testing the resolve of local planning committees. Long may it continue to remain untouched.

Home by the same route, though Preston went un-noticed this time, and back in the Municipality of Overton by 7.00. “Days Tours” are to be recommended.