Sydenhams Wessex Premier League (Saturday 19th October 2019)
S Cooper, T Cooper (D Randall 75), J Gleeson, F Saadi, C Cocklin, T Rolls, A Pope (H White 80), L Francis (c), E Hodge, D Cann, C Beard
Unused Subs: R Watkins, B Randall, H Cooper
Goals: OG, Saadi, Hodge
MOM: Tony Rolls
A resurgent United were hoping to make it two league wins on the bounce under their new manager Tim Sills. Brockenhurst however would have other ideas, being second in the league, and currently on a rich vein of form. Making their Hammers' debuts were Fawzi Saadi, arriving from Blackfield & Langley after doing a long stint with neighbours Poppies, and Tom Cooper, a promising young full back making the switch from nearby Christchurch.
The game started at a lively pace with no shortage of chances at both ends. United's Eddie Hodge soon rounded Brock keeper Matty Taylor, only to see his effort headed off the line. The Hammers' stopper Shane Cooper, who was in for the unavailable Ollie King, saved well with his feet from Badgers' captain Will Tickle, before being well positioned to deny Ben Kemplen. In a fast end to end game Taylor was then at full stretch to turn Ash Pope's low shot around the post. The game continued to remain very open and very even. United were indebted to some good defensive work by man of the match Tony Rolls and his fellow central defender Connor Cocklin, with Brockenhurst being also a big threat in the air.
At the other end the Hammers were now beginning to pierce the Badgers' defence more often, but just lacked that quality final touch. However it was the visitors who opened the scoring on 33 minutes. Cooper under pressure got a decent punch onto Tom Sykes' high cross, but the ball dropped to Brock captain Tickle. His low shot then cannoned into the net off the right post. United almost equalized immediately, Hodge's downward header from Saadi's corner bounced just over the bar. The Hammers were certainly looking the more menacing as the first half drew to a close. Lee Francis arrived late for a corner to head over then Cameron Beard shot wide when it looked easier to score and finally Pope brought a good save from the Brock keeper.
A double chance went begging for the Hammers five minutes after the restart. Pope, superbly played in by Dan Cann, hit the post before Francis's follow up was deflected for a corner. Ironically the Hammers, having missed so many chances of their own, relied on a bizarre own goal on 52 minutes to get back on terms. Pope saw his cross suddenly fly into the net off the boot of the hapless Ronan Moore when he sliced the ball as he tried to clear it.
The Brock though regained the lead against the run of play on the hour. Will Tickle's free kick from just outside the area, one of many conceded by the hosts over the afternoon, was pushed away by Cooper, but it was not cleared. The ball reached Moore whose spectacular overhead kick found the net, this time at the right end.
The Hammers however continued to look the stronger team and equalised for the second time on 69 minutes. Fawzi Saadi bent the ball round the wall from a free kick from just inside the "D" leaving the keeper stranded. United finally and deservedly got their noses in front on 83 minutes. Saadi's ambitious effort aimed towards the far post was only parried by Taylor into path of Eddie Hodge who duly slotted the ball home albeit off the hand of the goalkeeper. The Hammers held out for the remaining minutes with some under pressure clearances as the Badgers fought for a late equaliser.
This was an exhilarating end to end game of football, and a credit to the Wessex League. The team certainly showed remarkable character and determination to come back twice after conceding preventable goals, to then finally deliver the knock-out blow.