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The Hammers 2021- a review

As we are at the end of the Calendar year 2021, time to reflect on the previous 12 months and what a 12 months it has been (ok, really 9 months with matches only resuming in April!).

After seeing the 2020/21 season curtailed whilst sat at the top of the league with an impressive P14, W12, D1, L1 record, the Hammers missed out on promotion due to their inferior 2019/20 curtailed season record with the FA taking both shortened season's records into consideration. This inactivity in the league meant no games were played in January, February, March and the majority of April, but then games started again!

There was the small fact of the Wessex League Cup to be decided and having only won this Cup once previously, the Management were 100% focused on getting something from the season. Whitchurch were the first opponents in the Quarter Finals and the Hammers saw them off 3-0. Next up 2 weeks later were Bashley. The affair ended up quite one sided with a 5-1 victory and a Final date against the FA Vase Semi Finalists from Wessex Division 1, US Portsmouth. The final took place at AFC Portchester's ground and in front of a sizeable crowd, the Hammers claimed the silverware along with kind comments from the then outgoing US manager stating that of all the teams they had faced in the league and Vase, the Hammers were the best they had seen!

So, the 2020/21 season was not a fruitless one and Tim Sills, the rest of the Coaching staff and Players went down in Hamworthy folklore returning Silverware to the County Ground.

Without any other games scheduled, there was a break of 72 days until the Wessex League kicked off on 3rd August with what turned out to be a double header with Brockenhurst. First a league match on the Tuesday night followed by a FA Cup Extra Preliminary round on the Saturday. The Hammers ended up wining both 2-1 but little did we know that the league result was actually a lot better than initially thought!

The games came thick and fast after this with the league trying to get as many games played in case COVID decided to play it's part again and FA Cup matches would be played every 2 or so weeks for as long as we stayed in. 2 league games away at AFC Stoneham (1-1) and home to Portland (3-1) which yielded 4pts preceded the next FA Cup qualifier, away (this became something of a theme!) at Westbury from the Hellenic Premier. The Hammers cruised to a 2-0 win and returned to league action with Alton visiting and returning to Hampshire with 0 points after a 3-0 win to Hamworthy.

Those first 6 matches all took place in August and 7 more were played in September with 3 league matches and 4 Cup matches which suggests Hamworthy must have done well? Read on. First up was a long, long day out to Merthyr Town of the Southern Premier South Division, 2 leagues above the Wessex. A daunting task but Merthyr also played on 3/4G and were near the foot of the table, could the Hammers provide a shock?? The first 45 minutes were pretty even and then the Hammers went down to 10 men but showed superb defensive resolve to force a replay. Unfortunately, this had to take place at our friends and neighbours Wimborne Town who looked after us superbly and oversaw probably the best single result in the Hammer's history knocking out the once of European football (they were Merthyr Tydfil at this point), Merthyr Town 2-0 on the night in front of nearly 200 people.

The next 2 matches were in the league and saw identical score lines of 5-0 to Hamworthy, firstly against US Portsmouth and then Hythe & Dibden before a return to cup action and another away day. This time, we headed north to Cirencester Town from a league above. They were probably on paper a harder opponent to Merthyr being at that time 3rd in the table and full of confidence. They proved to be too strong for Hamworthy on the day who actually went ahead for a few minutes and we all dreamed....just for a few minutes. Cirencester eventually won 3-1 but were also complimentary towards the team claiming that if promoted and playing like that would see no problem in surviving. Again, lovely to hear but the possibility was months away in a Wessex League which was shaping up to be widely fought out.

With the FA Cup run over and a club record equalling appearance in the 2nd Qualifying round and some welcome prize money, attention turned to the FA Vase which is a competition the Hammers would dearly love to go far in. First up..a trip to Corsham Town of the Hellenic Premier. A below par performance saw the match taken to penalties and the Hammers would have been perhaps a little apprehensive due to a few league penalties already being missed but overcame their opponents 4-2 to proceed. The rest of September saw 1 more league fixture, a midweek trip to Alresford and what turned out to be another sub standard performance and a last minute goal managed to salvage a point, but the Hammers were still undefeated in the league after 7 matches.

October was a very busy month with 8 matches played and injuries started to see the available squad getting smaller. However, due to that squad of about 19 players consisting of all potential starters, the constant enforced re-shuffling didn't seem to affect results. The 6 league matches returned 5 wins against AFC Portchester at home (3-0) and then 5 away league matches on the bounce - Bournemouth Poppies 2-1 (2 penalty misses!!), Moneyfields 2-1 (coming from behind to win), Hamble 2-0, US Portsmouth 3-0 with a tough encounter against fellow title hopefuls Shaftesbury which ended 1-1 on a windy, drizzly night.

In the Cups, a trip to Bemerton with a youthful side and some good experience for a handful of young Reserve players saw a 2-1 win in the Wessex League Cup whilst the FA Vase dream continued with, you guessed it, an away match and a trip to South East Bristol and Cadbury Heath of the Western Premier league. A glance at the league tables would have suggested an away win, but like any cup, on the day things can be different and so o it proved to be. After going 1-0 up in the first half, the Hammers stuttered their way through the second half and while down to 10 men for a sin bin offence, Cadbury equalised and then pressed but Hamworthy ended the stronger, but should have surely gone out of the competition when a final chance fell to Cadbury with their player about 6 yards out with only Tommy Scott to beat......the Hammer's stopper guessed correctly and saved brilliantly and ensured another penalty shootout. I mentioned before about the Hammer's poor league penalty record which had got worse still but again, when the pressure was on, 6 out of 7 penalties were taken superbly and the Hammers went through 6-5.

So we came to November with a league record of 10 wins and 3 draws and still undefeated. We were also still in the FA Vase and Wessex League Cup with the Dorset Senior Cup yet to start.

Another 8 games this month with 5 leagues matches and a match in each of the remaining cups. The start of the month saw a tough test at the then high flying Bashley who were 2nd in the current undefeated table behind the Hammers, would something give? A tight affair followed with some good saves and a couple of big chances missed but ultimately, it ended 0-0 and both continued their undefeated runs. It was the first time in 17 league matches that the Hammers had failed to score! Next, the Hammers could enjoy a run of 4 home games on the bounce with the visitors being Christchurch (7-0 win), Hythe & Dibden (2-1 win), Blackfield & Langley (0-0, how cold was it??) and Alresford Town (4-0 win). These match left Hamworthy with a record of 13 wins and 5 draws and still undefeated.

Back to the cups and a match in each competition. First up was a "localish" derby with Shaftesbury in the Dorset Senior Cup. Both teams fielded weaker sides than those the drew 1-1 just a week previously. The Hammers came out 3-1 winners to book a Quarter Final tie home to Bridport of the Western League. The next fixture in the Wessex League Cup saw a midweek trip to Portsmouth to take on Moneyfields. Injuries and unavailabilities meant a weakened side made the trip and nearly came away with a win but for 2 goals in the last 5 minutes which ended the reign as Cup holders. Although a loss, this season, this competition was not top priority so whilst a loss is never enjoyed, it wasn't reflected on that much. That leaves the next instalment of the "Road to Wembley" and the draw, whilst another away match was against Wessex Division outfit Andover New Street who have ambitions of promotion and was a potential banana skin. A murky day saw Hamworthy start strongly and in fairness, should have been out of sight by half time but went in only 2-1 up after ANS had equalised with a penalty. The 2nd half was a tight affair but the Hammer's goal never really came under threat and it remained 2-1.

December and a quiet month of just 5 games, 3 in the league and 2 in the cups. The first match of December and a big match at Baffins who were fast becoming the team to beat and managed to inflict the only league defeat of 2021 on Hamworthy. Though will the Hammers rue not managing to get a point with constant pressure for the last 20 minutes and only good home goalkeeping and wasteful finishing causing the loss. The undefeated run was never going to last all season with a top 8 all capable of beating each other, the camp was not too despondent and nor could they be....the next 2 fixtures were cup matches, one offs.

Bridport were the visitors on the Tuesday with the FA Vase 4 days later. Not ideal with some squad members with niggles but with youngsters again given minutes to impress, Bridport who sat at the foot of the Western Premier by some distance didn't get a foot hold and Hamworthy ran out 4-0 winners to advance to the Dorset Senior Semi Finals.

Next was the FA Vase, had to be an away draw, right?? Of course and the 8th FA competition draw on the trot for 2021/22 (what are the odds? actually, 1 in 256 or 0.391%!!). Anyway, this was another chance to visit somewhere new and this time it was up to Wiltshire again and Wootton Bassett Town who sat midtable in the Hellenic Premier. Previous rounds taught us that this meant little and for 44 minutes, Wootton Bassett were the better side and led 1-0 but a goal from a mis control and "swinger" levelled on half time which effectively changed the tie. The 2nd half saw the Hammers exert their on paper superiority and ended up with a 3-1 win. Of course their were a few chances for the home team, but the Hammers could also have added to their tally and on refection, the correct result. The Hammers have now equalled a club record of reaching Round 4 (last 32) which was set during the 2018/19 season. Can they go one better in January 2022? Come down and find out on the 15th when the visitors are Glebe from the South Eastern Counties League.

The final 2 matches of the Calendar year were tough ones, a trip to Fareham where a crowd of over 340 witnessed a very good 1st half display against the league's most entertaining side (who can beat league leaders 5-1 yet lose 3-7 to a lower team). Which Fareham turned up in the 2nd half? the one capable of beating the top sides and although missing an early penalty, fought back from 1-3 down to get a point against the Hammers. For once, the Hamworthy defending wasn't at it's usual tight standard. They became the 1st team to score 3 against the Hammers in a league match since AFC Portchester in February 2020 or 38 matches!!

The final game of the year, Brockenhurst at the County Ground with 224 brave souls who ventured out being entertained to a 4th v 2nd (but both had dropped the same number of points) match which showed in increasingly testing conditions that both sides will be in the mix come season end. 1-0 it finished to the Hammers who could go into the new Year on a high.

Let's hope 2022 carries on in the same vein.

Thank you to all the supporters and volunteers for your support/help during 2021, hope to see you all at the next home game on 8th, another "big" one against AFC Stoneham.

Summary of 2021 matches:

League - Played 21 Won 14 Drew 6 Lost 1 - Goals For 52 and Goals Against 14 - Pts 48 and sat 3rd in the table.

Cup - Played 16 Won 11 Drew 3 Lost 2 - Goals For 35 and Goals Against 14

FA Cup - Played 5 Won 3 Drew 1 Lost 1 - Goals For 7 and Goals Against 4

FA Vase - Played 4 Won 2 Drew 2 Lost 0 - Goals For 7 and Goals Against 4 - Penalty shootouts Won 2

Wessex League Cup - Played 5 Won 4 Drew 0 Lost 1 - Goals For 14 and Goals Against 5

Dorset Senior Cup - Played 2 Won 2 Drew 0 Lost 0 - Goals For 7 and Goals Against 1

Total Matches Played - 37 Won 25 Drew 9 Lost 3 - Goals For 87 and Goals Against 28

Hope you enjoyed this 2021 Summary/Review, thank you for reading. I tried to be fair in my match comments from memory.

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