Saturday, October 08, 2016

Havant & Waterlooville FC

Havant & Waterlooville 5 Harlow Town 2 - Isthmian League, Premier Division

Havant is a town in the south east corner of Hampshire, approximately midway between Portsmouth and Chichester. Its borough comprises the town and its suburbs including the resort of Hayling Island as well as Rowland's Castle, the smaller town of Waterlooville and Langstone Harbour. Housing and population more than doubled in the 20 years following World War II. This was facilitated by a period of major conversion of land from agriculture and woodland to housing across the region following the incendiary bombing of Portsmouth and The Blitz. It is reputed that the name Waterlooville is derived from a pub that stood at the centre of the village, then known as Wait Lane End, where the stage-coach horses waited to change places with the team that pulled the coach up and over Portsdown Hill. The pub had been named Heroes of Waterloo because, on its opening day, in 1815, soldiers who had just disembarked at Portsmouth, returning from the Battle of Waterloo, decided to stop there and celebrate their victory. According to local legend, many of them settled there. There is no proof of this assertion. The pub was thereafter renamed in their honour and the area around the pub became known as Waterlooville. 

In 1998 Havant Town FC and Waterlooville FC merged to play at Havant Town's West Leigh Park ground. In their first season as a merged team, Havant & Waterlooville won the Southern League Southern Division under the management of former Crystal Palace and Portsmouth defender Billy Gilbert. There was also instant success in the FA Cup, a penalty shoot-out defeat to Hayes was all that denied the Hawks an opportunity to visit league side Mansfield Town in the first round proper.

The second international weekend of the season enabled another opportunity to visit a new ground. Many years previously, following the very late postponement of a Spurs friendly match at Fratton Park. I was able to visit Waterlooville FC's Jubilee Park for a Southern League match v Corby Town. 

That venue is no more and this was my first visit to West Leigh Park. Cheap train tickets from London Victoria were secured early for just over £8:00 return. On arrival at Havant, a short walk enabled this Pieman to visit The Parchment Makers (J D Wetherspoon) for lunch and ale. This establishment is situated immediately behind the bus station and was already busy with shoppers when we arrived around noon. 

From the railway station, heading in the opposite direction to that taken earlier, it took no more than a twenty minute walk to reach West Leigh Park. On the site of the ground there is a public house The Westleigh and a brief visit was made to this establishment prior to entering the stadium.

I was really impressed with the ground. There is covered terracing on all four sides, rare for this level of football. Along one of the sides is a superb seated stand affording an excellent view of proceedings. The club shop is situated in the corner of the ground nearest to the entrance turnstiles. Catering facilities are situated in each corner at the opposite end of the ground. One particular aspect that I liked is that one of these facilities only sells sweets and hot drinks which is good to know if wanting to avoid the possible longer wait where people are queuing for hot food too.

Havant & Waterlooville were second placed in the table going into this match. Whereas Harlow Town had been struggling to acclimatise to this level following last season’s promotion. Away from home has been a real struggle and in the previous week defeats at Lowestoft Town and Grays Athletic had seen them concede seven goals. On this occasion there was barely four minutes on the clock when the home side took the lead. The eventual 5-2 win did not flatter the home side but I did see evidence of revival in Harlow's performance. I expect to see Havant competing for promotion throughout the season, they are a good side to watch.

Attendance: 682
Admission: £12:00
Programme: £2:00 (32 pages)
Tea: £1:00

Click here for a full set of photographs

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