Date: Saturday 29th August
Venue: Osborne Road, Warsash
(All pics by Roz H.) Click to enlarge - Kristian Hewitt gets ready to pull trigger
The queen gazed into the distance with cold eyes. I didn't blame her for having the hump, her head was partially buried in the dry dirt on the face of a twenty pence piece, along with a broken amber bicycle wheel reflector, a warped plastic cherry Coca-Cola bottle top and an endless scattering of small stones that fight for space in the dead yellow grass of Osborne Road, home to Warsash Wasps. The pitch is flat though and with the changing rooms located directly behind the goal there's no need to eye up decent sized bushes in case you need to take an emergency leak, or worse. This ground has happy memories for Burridge. Eight years ago Rich Allan and Jay Schwodler scored the goals that beat Bold Forrester in the Southampton Cup semi-final.
There's forty-five minutes 'til kick off when I arrive, but Warsash are changed and ready in their yellow and black kit, an enthusiasm no doubt drawn from last season's junior one title win in which they lost only a single game. I watch them as they stand in a circle passing a ball around. Everyone of them seems immaculately turned out with short coiffured hair, polished black Adidas boots, with even a degree of care going into the neat binding of electrical tape that wraps around their socks to hold their shin pads in place. Rich Allan attempts to restore the balance by arranging cones for Burridge to run around. Ben Hutton takes a few pot shots at goal. When he misses the target the ball hits a garden fence that makes a cracking noise that sounds like it's about to die.
Chinese Monkey Allan holds off his man.
We return to the dressing room for Pete Lyons to name the team. When the referee put his head around our door two things became very clear. His Scottish accent is so broad it's just a noise I can't quite understand, and his pallid complexion looks as though it's made up entirely of Wensleydale cheese. He wanted to have a quick chat with us about what he wouldn't tolerate during the match, Burridge eyes turn to Greg Baker, because although he's been to Lesotho to help children in poverty, and is due to start a job with an initiative that's sole purpose is to help vulnerable people living in the poorest places in the world, he does need reminding before every single game that if at all possible could he reduce the verbal abuse directed at the referee to a minimum. Baker's dad is a referee. He used to referee our games when we were kids. He's also a keen follower of Gillingham FC and is known to fall into catatonic despair should they lose a game. You have to feel for Greg's mum. At this moment the referee is more preoccupied with the state of the goals, muttering something about needing another peg or two for the net if we're to get underway.
Justin Newman takes another breather while Fielder gives him the magic sponge. Sam Schwodler looks concerned.
Burridge start the game well. Kristian Hewitt collects a squared ball thirty yards out, waddling forward like some blind animal, allowing his bristled jowls to become hundreds of tiny blond antenna, all able to calculate the exact velocity in which to strike the ball that thuds against the underside of the crossbar and bounces back up into the roof of the net. He shuffles away to mark this goal with a raised index finger pointed towards the sky before being mobbed by team mates. Ten minutes later Justin Newman concedes a hotly contested penalty which Warsash score. Mark Judd then heads home unmarked from Hewitt's pinpoint ring wing cross to make it 2-1. During half time Kevin Willsher is unsure which is going to give in first, his back or his football boots. The sole is left clinging to the size ten Umbro boots he bought in the cut price sale at West Quay five weeks ago. He wraps reels of gaffer tape around them and hopes for the best.
Burridge gaffer, Pete Lyons, plots his next move.
It's difficult to tell from Pete Lyons' team talk if he's happy or just surprised at how Burridge are playing. There was little evidence of this kind of performance during the winless seven game pre-season. Wasps equalise in second half, their forwards rousing each other in reassured and earnest tones that the winning goal will come, but Burridge resist the temptation to fall to pieces and play out a draw. Players file off the pitch at the final whistle, asking how Saints were doing and were Liverpool still losing to Bolton. Without a transistor radio nobody could be sure.
Kristian's goal was a combination of this and this.