Solent 1 Larkhall Athletic 0 aet
Finally, for the first time in 6 weeks, my first choice of game was on. The rain had finally relented for a few days, the sun was out and I headed off to the south coast on a pleasant day. I chose to travel to Solent station and walk from there, the journey to Southampton was unremarkable. I feared the worst as a group of 8 student hockey players got on my carriage and sat as a group just in front of me. But to be fair, their behaviour was immaculate, they chatted, bantered, ate, made phone calls but they weren't loud and their language completely acceptable. They were a credit and I hope they won their hockey match at Southampton university. Bizarrely, at Southampton station, on the platform opposite mine, a young lady in ballerina costume was running along the platform, leaping into the air and being photographed by a friend. It seemed a remarkably dodgy thing to do as she was running along the yellow line on the edge of the platform, one slip or dodgy landing and it could have had a very messy end. The photographer didn't seem to be much cop either as she must have repeated the jump about 8 times until I lost sight of them as a train pulled in.
The ground is about a 25 minute walk from Solent station mostly along the Portsmouth road. I broke the walk having spied the Solent takeaway on the other side of the road, a mixture of Chinese food and normal fish and chips grub. The sausage and chips were more than acceptable and cleverly wrapped in a sort of boat shape and I munched happily for the rest of the walk.
I had spent most of the walk following another guy who had got off at Sholing station and at the ground I discovered that he was a fellow hopper from Ipswich, it's always good to spend time chatting to fellow hoppers about their experiences and the grounds that they've visited.
The ground itself was alittle disappointing to be honest. There is a small stand and small covered standing area on the far side, the rest of the ground is a bit featureless with hardstanding, rail and high fenceing. The clubhouse is tiny although I understand that plans are afoot to improve this facility.
There's a tea hut along a sort of alley which supposedly does the greatest burgers in non-league football according to the PA announcer although I'll have to take their word for that. I did find all the staff and volunteers to be incredibly friendly and welcoming and they all seemed to be really enjoying their day and success in this competition.
The PA announcer was worth the admission money alone. Desperately keen, he spent the whole afternoon whooping up the fans and although it seemed a little over the top for a crowd of only just over 300, he was very entertaining and cannot be faulted for effort.
The match itself was a bit of a stalemate. Larkhall had a couple of efforts hooked off the line but other that that, there were a few long range efforts tipped over the bar and not a lot else. You're never going to score if you don't shoot!
Extra time was inevitable but fortunately, limbs were getting tired and the game finally opened up. 10 mins into the first period, Sholing scored with a nice angled finish as a striker got in front of his defender. A few players worthy of mention. The Larkhall number 9 ran his socks off and didn't deserve to be on the losing team. The Sholing number 6 wasn't pretty to watch, I'm sure is a nightmare to play against, but was bloody effective and the Sholing number 16 who put his foot on the ball, spread the game and despite one fairly horrendous lunge, was the one player whose game was really pleasing on the eye, I wish he'd been on the whole 90 mins.
Not the gretest of grounds, not the greatest of games but so good to finally have a normal Saturday again.