Sydenhams Premier League (Saturday 14th September 2019)
Hamworthy United: S Jones, R Watkins, J Gleeson, H White, D Randall (c) (B Randall 30), T Rolls, E Hodge, L Francis, C Beard (M Steer 45), D Cann, A Pope
Unused Subs: J Filkins
Red card: R Watkins
This fixture had been hastily rearranged with the Specsavers County Ground being out of commission for three weeks due to Health & Safety precautions caused by a broken lamp. United were hoping to narrow the five point gap on leaders Alresford who were engaged in FA Vase action. Although the Rockies had not made the best of league starts, they always give United a close game, and this game could be one too. They took four points off the Hammers last term, and their FA Vase encounter was only settled by two very late United goals in a match that Shaftesbury had led and largely dominated. The Hammers welcomed back Jamie Gleeson from work commitments, and Dan Cann now fit enough to start. Shaftesbury included ex-Hammers Nick Patrick, Chia Khider and Steve Walker.
Both teams had early chances, but it was Shaftesbury kicking down the slope who came close to scoring on 9 minutes. Greg Peel’s effort from just outside the penalty area bent in flight, and just brushed the outside of the angle between the post and bar. United were creating more chances and playing the better football at times, but it needed a heroic last ditch tackle on the half hour by Declan Randall to halt Mali Benjamin's dangerous burst into the penalty area.
This fair but crunching tackle prevented an almost certain goal, but sadly the United captain's effort that was even acknowledged by his opponent Benjamin cost him dear. He had to retire from the action a few minutes later clutching a painful hip. The first half ended with the teams still fairly evenly matched. Hamworthy had created more chances, but the slightly more physical Shaftesbury had the better ones. However Sam Jones' handling was equal to anything that he had to deal with.
The Hammers were on top in the early stages of the second half and finally broke the deadlock on the hour with a very well worked goal. Following good work by Lee Francis and Matt Steer, Eddie Hodge was found left side of goal. He went past a couple of defenders before turning and slotting the ball home into a narrow gap at the far post.
Ash Pope was then picked out unmarked in front of goal and should have doubled the lead, but his attempted header looped tamely over the bar. United were now in control of the game, until a very controversial decision by the referee in the 75th minute. Hamworthy's Tony Rolls and Shaftesbury's Matt Hindle competed for a loose ball just inside the penalty area. When Hindle appeared to go to ground very easily, the referee incensed the United bench, and surprised many of the spectators by awarding the hosts what appeared to be a very soft penalty. After all had calmed down, Ali Zintany's spot kick found the left hand corner of the net despite Sam Jones getting a finger tip to it.
Five minutes later more controversy erupted. Ryan Watkins played the ball off Khider for what appeared to be a clear cut corner. As Watkins hurriedly collected the ball in readiness, the officials instead awarded a goal kick. A tussle for the ball followed that led to Khider injuring a finger. Both were duly booked, but sadly for Watkins it was a second yellow, and therefore a sending off.
With the game now quite petulant, Steve Walker became the second Rockies player (following Greg Peel midway through the half) sent to the sin bin for dissent. Both teams then had good late chances.
A United free kick from just outside the area was played short to Cann who unusually for him misfired well over the bar. Finally, at the other end, it needed a superb tackle by Gleeson to halt the run of Hindle who had been put through on the break as United pushed up. For the second week running the Hammers will see this as two points dropped, and feeling a little perplexed at the officials. However, when the dust has settled, United may see it as two hard worked draws on the road, and hoping that their early season form returns soon, hopefully at Alresford next Saturday.