Pre-season fixture 3 of 6: Wednesday 10 August, Botley Road, Burridge
Hedge-End's goalkeeper, Phil Kinally, stood defiantly in his six yard box. Martyn Barnett had given our penalty kick a good wallop, but Kinally dived low to save it. Any chance to make something of the rebound disappeared when the ball - a slightly worn Mitre, was cleared high behind the goal by a defender, who joined his team mates in whooping it up in a quickly assembled huddle around their goalkeeper, while members of our team began hopelessly searching for the ball amongst a tall patch of stinging nettles.
The penalty save maintained Hedge-End's 2-1 lead with around fifteen minutes left to play. It was vindication for Kinally, who had a spot of bother during the first-half, when he swung his fists like a drunk at Kristian Hewitt's thirty yard free kick. It was an element of good fortune, as opposed to judgement, which diverted the ball against the crossbar; although any rest bite was short lived, as Marc Judd followed in to acrobatically score an equalising goal. Hedge-End regained the lead in the second-half, leaving the game nicely poised for the final thirty minutes.
The penalty kick was awarded for hand ball against Hedge-End's left-back – a decision he was strongly opposed to. He appeared to lean into the ball with his upper arm. Four letter protests may have warranted further punishment, but referee, Marcus Hewitt, found himself in a fairly hopeless position. Not only is he related to two of our players, he was also referred to on several occasions by some of our players by his first name, which certainly didn't make his task any easier. Marcus recalled his telephone conversation earlier in the week, when he told the Southampton Refereeing Association that he was refereeing Burridge's friendly games. He was told, in no uncertain terms that: "There is no such thing as a friendly – only FA sanctioned matches."
This had been a much anticipated fixture, for many of us at least. Hedge-End are fresh from winning last season's Hampshire League. Although there is only three miles between our grounds, any rivalry between the two of us seems to exist mainly within our camp, and has been largely manufactured since former top scorer, Bryn Schwodler, left to join Hedge-End in 2010. Other than Ross Bryant, another former Burridge player, (who was turned out in a lovingly polished pair of Copa Mondials), and Kinally, Hedge-End's squad of twenty was made up of what was to me, a group of complete strangers, most of whom I imagine would have had no emotional connection to this fixture.
Regrettably, I have to accept a certain amount of responsibility for Hedge-End's third goal. Having made a meal of bringing a throw in under control, I then sold Dan Allen hopelessly short with a return pass, in what was the proverbial 'hospital' ball; which Hedge-End intercepted on their left wing. Our goalkeeper, Ryan Jones, exceeded expectations by making a reflex save from their attack, but he was still on the floor when the rebound was tucked away by Bryn Schwodler, who had the grace not to ruffle my hair on his return to the half-way line. By now, time, and the game as a contest, was all but over.
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