AFC Stoneham 0 Bashley 1 (Match abandoned after 45 minutes)
To go out on a high note is everyone’s wish but on Saturday, fate had other plans. This was expected to be a celebration: the last game played at AFC Stoneham’s aging HP Arena before encampment to their £9 million Stoneham Lane Football Complex facility a mile down the road.
The overcast weather did little to raise expectation neither did the encroachment of new development which gave the entrance, via a muddy lane and high wire fencing, an apocalyptic touch, not helped by the ground layout with the pitch and facilities being a sodden walk apart. A lack of brightness in the dressing room and tearoom before the start was not thought a problem and a flicker from a one floodlight being the only clue of what was to come.
The pitch was heavy and in poor condition which wasn’t surprising in the circumstances, but this was of little concern to Bashley who appeared at home right from the start. They took commanding control and it was only the regimentation of the Stoneham back four that kept the floodgates locked. Brad Morris dominated midfield and, like Santa, spread his largess by force-feeding his front line as they battered the home defence.
It took twenty-five minutes before Bash keeper Dan Kempson saw action with a courageous block to nullify a rare Stoneham attempt. The breakthrough came minutes later when a defence clearing high ball from Morgan Browning set Cameron Beard free and, by managing to keep his footing in the heavy ground, his half-scuffed a shot was enough to beat the advancing keeper and find the net.
Bash continued to dominate, and it was only as the half ended that a sense of foreboding permeated the players and Bashley fans with the realisation that the lights were not coming on and the game was over. The fault was in the electricity supply leaving the whole ground victim to the fast falling darkness.
The challenge of exiting from the sensual confusion of pitch-dark dressing rooms and the mud-traps of a darkened car park may well be seen in hindsight as an adventure: but having a potential victory die with the light, was a sad way to end an afternoon that had started as a celebration.
Bashley: Kempson, Browning, Smith, Thompson, Strickland, Ross, Beard, Morris, Whiteley, Morgan, McGrath.