This was Hamworthy’s first ever trip to the new Stoneham Lane Sports Complex, and a win would put them in the top half of the table. Stoneham though would not be easy opposition, having won nine and drawn one league games on the bounce since drawing 2-2 with the Hammers at the Specsavers County Ground in November. At least the new 3G pitch held no worries for the Hammers, but the high crosswind was always going to be difficult.
In a match that was to be fraught with controversial decisions by the officials, it was United who had the early edge. They passed the ball well, but it was the Purples who opened the scoring on 23 minutes. A cross by Matt Bainbridge appeared to hit Fawzi Saadi on the chest.
To the complete surprise of the United camp, the Referee who was behind play, awarded the hosts a penalty for hand-ball. This was despite his Assistant being much closer, and in a better position to see, having kept his flag down. After the commotion had subsided, it needed a well struck penalty from Callum Laycock to beat the valiant dive of Tom Rees just inside the left post.
Three minutes later, home stopper Tom Parker-Trott made a superb save. He turned a rasping Eddie Hodge shot that looked destined for the top corner of the net, round the post. Soon after, Hodge again fired just over the bar following another good passing move. Lee Francis almost scrambled in Jamie Beasley's corner, before United deservedly levelled the score on 45 minutes. Beasley's long corner from the right was headed back across goal by the jumping Connor Cocklin. This enabled Declan Randall to finally force the ball into the net. There was still time before the interval for another near miss by Hodge, following some good footwork by James King. Jamie Gleeson then saw his long effort pushed out for a corner.
The Purples did get on top for a brief period after the break, with Rees doing well to punch out a number of difficult corners. Unfortunately for Hamworthy, King soon had to retire from the game follwing an overzealous kick to his ankle from Will Wiseman; who was duly booked.
In the 65th minute the Hammers were again on the wrong side of a highly contentious decision. Beasley's corner looked to be chested into net by Adam Costello for what everyone assumed, and was signalled to be a perfectly valid goal by the Referee. However the Assistant Referee had pointed his flag for a goal kick. He had presumably thought Costello's effort had passed wide of the post. However, instead of admitting his mistake, he then raised his flag to indicate that Costello had handled the ball over the line. After consultation between the two officials, the Referee changed his mind and awarded the hosts a free kick. The United bench was understandably livid, with even the normally placid Ben Sullivan received a yellow card for his protestations.
The Hammers responded positively with a well crafted effort by Ollie Davis chipping the outside of the post. The Purples though were the beneficiary of yet a third very debatable decision on 85 minutes. Callum Laycock appeared to blatantly push Costello in the back when rising to head in Nathan Clements' cross, but the referee allowed the goal to stand. Costello's reactions saw him sent to the sin bin. If three key decisions going against United was not bad enough, luck also deserted them a second time too when Lee Francis headed against the woodwork.
The Hammers now pushed players right up trying to salvage a point, but Stoneham’s Scott Hills found himself clean through in injury time to prod the ball home past the advancing Rees. The final score gave the appearance that this had been a routine comfortable win for second placed Stoneham. The truth is it was never that; United had dominated for long periods of the game, whilst Tom Rees barely had to make a save, unlike his opposite number.
Hamworthy United: T Rees, T Cooper, F Saadi, J Gleeson, A Costello, D Randall, J King (O Davis 55), L Francis (c), C Cocklin (L Coulson 65), E Hodge, J Beasley (C Munn 85)
Unused Subs: J Filkins, O King