Monday 19th April
Clayfields Sports Centre
Burridge and Hythe are five miles apart. They are also separated by an almost two mile wide stretch of Southampton water. Getting to Clayfields Sports Centre in Hythe from Burridge, means driving north-west on the M27 until you reach Totton, then heading south-east on the A326. It's a twenty-five mile journey. Players were forced to sneak out of work in order to arrive in plenty of time for the 6pm kick-off. It didn't bode well when Burridge walked out onto the pitch for a kick-about with no sign of the opposition. It was with some relief when a man appeared to put up the corner flags. The rim of his baseball cap covered his face. The only thing visible beneath it was a bristly grey moustache. Burridge used the time waiting for Hythe Aztecs to arrive to have a spot of shooting practise. Their shots regularly cleared the twenty-foot steel fence summit behind Ryan Jones' goal. The introduction of a second ball disrupted a group of teenage girls' netball practise.
Burridge defender Paul Dyke ignored his swollen ankles, insisting he had forty minutes of play in him. Once the game was underway his booming voice quickly became the game's main feature. Backing vocals came courtesy of Burridge captain Kristian Hewitt. Justin Newman received no prior warning from his team-mates of the opposition sneaking up from behind to dispossess him of the ball. Hewitt screwed up his face and let rip. It was the sound usually reserved for Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant when he treads on an upturned plug.
Burridge took the lead when Justin Newman found Marc Judd, who dropped a left footed cross to the far post that Bryn Schwodler headed in. Hythe's manager stood on the sideline with his arms folded. A second Hythe substitute arrived from the changing room and asked his manager what happened. "Free header," he replied, shaking his head.
It's five years since Ben Hutton played as a striker for Burridge's now defunct rivals Burridge Sports. Since then he has gained a position in the heart of Burridge's defence, and four extra stone in weight. This comes in handy when clattering the opposition. Every time Hutton makes a challenge it's quickly followed by a Hythe player shouting fucking hell ref. Hythe drew level shortly before half-time. Kristian Hewitt tried to shepherd the ball back to Burridge goalkeeper Ryan Jones, whose fractional hesitation allowed Hythe to score past him. Jones got a quick blast of Led Zeppelin for his troubles.
Many of Hythe's better players wore bandages strapped around their legs. They looked knackered. Burridge, on the other hand, were full of beans. Paul Dyke could be seen regularly galloping down the left wing, leaving his defensive position far behind him, along with any understanding of the offside rule. Burridge's wining goal came inevitably from Bryn Schwodler. At one stage it took four hacks from Hythe's midfield to stop him. Ben Rowe's defence splitting pass asked questions of a Hythe defender, who at full stretch headed the ball back to his goalkeeper. Bryn Schwodler intercepted the ball before the keeper could make a catch, or the ball had time to bounce, and rolled it into an empty net.