Baffins Milton Rovers FC
Date: 16th March 2019
Baffins Milton Rovers 3-0 Portland United
Wessex League Premier Division
Baffins Milton Rovers FC - History
Baffins Milton Rovers were founded in 2011 as a merger between Baffins Milton and Milton Rovers, two successful Sunday league clubs in the Portsmouth area. The new club initially joined the Premier Division of the Portsmouth Saturday League and finished as champions in their first season. After finishing as runners-up the following season, the club moved up to the Senior Division of the Hampshire Premier League.
In their three seasons in this league, the club dominated, winning the title in their first season, finishing as runners-up in their second season before winning the title again in their third season. After this second title win in the 2015/16 season, the club were promoted to Division 1 of the Wessex League.
The step-up saw little change in the club's fortunes, as they finished 2nd in the 2016/17 season to earn promotion to the Premier Division. Their first season in the Premier Division saw the club's rapid rise up the leagues halted, but they still finished a respectable 9th-place in the league and are looking like potentially beating that this season.
The club competed in the FA Cup for the first time this season and reached the Preliminary Round, beating Tadley Calleva before losing to Hartley Wintney. As for the FA Vase, this is the club's second season in the competition and this time they made it to the 4th Round, having reached the 3rd Round in their first season. To achieve that run this season, the club beat Fairford Town, New College Swindon, Bashley, Bournemouth and Bradford Town before losing to current semi-finalists Cray Valley Paper Mills.
Originally, the plan was to head to Woodstock Town today, but as the week progressed and the weather failed to improve, I started to have a few concerns about it. However, as I've had a very busy week dealing with coursework and the like (was possibly going to do a groundhop on Wednesday, but had to go into London instead for a book discussion event), I didn't start looking at other options until late yesterday morning.
When I did, two alternatives stood out: this and Reading City. Fairly quickly though, I decided to have this as an alternative to Woodstock, as I may be going to Reading City soon (more on that in a bit). I briefly put this as first choice, but I then saw that another groundhopper had contacted the Woodstock secretary and confirmed no pitch inspection was planned, which sent Woodstock back to first choice.
It wasn't until this morning that I decided on this over Woodstock, with the main influencing factor being the quicker and more convenient journey for this game: this was important in this case as I'm going out for most of tomorrow, so I wanted to have as much time as possible this evening to get this done (as I obviously won't have time tomorrow).
With my decision made, I ordered my train tickets and headed out after lunch, only to find that all the trains were substantially delayed due to high winds. At this point, I was very frustrated (as you may have seen by my postings on Twitter at the time) as it honestly wasn't very windy at all, and it soon became apparent that I'd be getting to the ground later than my planned arrival time of 2:30pm.
Eventually, the train left at 1:25pm, roughly 22 minutes later than intended. By the time I changed at Fratton, it was 2:30pm, meaning that I missed a reasonably-timed connection to Hilsea by a matter of minutes. At this point, I briefly considered walking from Fratton station to Moneyfields instead (as I'd seen that a game was on there from the train), but decided against it due to it being a half-an-hour walk (which I wasn't exactly keen on given how poor the weather was).
Eventually, I got to Hilsea station at 2:45pm, with the ground being a fifteen-minute walk from there according to Google Maps. However, I lost a few minutes trying to figure out how to leave the station so as to be on the right path to the ground, meaning that I had to run a decent amount of the journey to the ground (the best part of half a mile) to get there in time for kick-off.
Somehow, I just about managed it and paid for my admission and programme mere moments before kick-off and found myself a seat in the stand just after kick-off. At this point, due to how unfit I apparently am I was absolutely exhausted and out of breath, so I spent the early stages of the game only half-concentrating on the action.
About ten minutes before half-time, I went and ordered a tea and a burger (the burger is my only real complaint about the footballing part of the day, as it wasn't very warm and was kind of hard) from the tea bar to warm up, before following that up with my circuit of photos at half-time (although the reduced time for it meant I took notably fewer photos than normal, which is slightly unfortunate).
Looking at the league table and recent form of the two sides, I was expecting a fairly close contest, with Portland perhaps being slight favourites due to their higher league position. Taking the wind into account as well, a tight game only seemed even more likely.
Here's my report on a game that initially matched my expectations before being turned on its head by a red card midway through the first half:
The opening ten minutes of this game were dominated by heavy wind, with both teams initially failing to adapt to the conditions and spurning any decent opportunities as a result. As such, little of note happened early on until Portland's Jamie Beasley had the game's first real chance after 13 minutes: a long ball over the top set him through into the box, but the angle was difficult and he placed his shot into the side netting. Four minutes later, Baffins had their first chance, Harry Wedlake spotting Portland keeper Mike Edgar off his line and audaciously shooting from range, but the ball didn't dip quickly enough and went over the bar.
A few more chances followed after this, but the next ten minutes or so were again dominated by the conditions, with misplaced passes and aerial balls with too much strength on them making it hard for either team to do much. However, everything changed on the half-hour mark when Portland's Sean Stewart was sent off; I didn't see the incident myself, but it sounded like there was an off-the-ball incident of some description. This opened the game up and Baffins were quick to take advantage in the 34th minute: Blu Boam placed a low curved shot past Edgar from the edge of the box to make it 1-0. Six minutes later it was 2-0 to the home side: I didn't see it (as I was ordering a burger and a tea), but I heard that Brandon Miller shot from just inside the box to score. 2-0 at half-time.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first, with the only notable difference being that Baffins were pushing forwards far more and with greater intensity than Portland could manage. The wind-influenced deadlock lasted for fifteen minutes this time before Baffins finally forced a third goal: a free kick from range was expertly played to the far post and someone was there to tap in and make it 3-0 (I think it was Ashton Leigh, but I'm not entirely certain of that). Baffins were then inches away from making it 4-0 four minutes later: Dale Mason made an impressive run into the box and got a shot away, but it went agonisingly wide of the far post.
After this, the game started to peter out somewhat, with Baffins fairly comfortable with their lead and Portland knowing that the game was done. This did at least allow Portland to play with a bit more freedom and create a few more chances, while Baffins pushed forwards on occasion and always looked threatening. The best chance in the last twenty minutes came in the 79th minute for Baffins: there was some neat interplay on the right wing between Carel Kayembe and Ashton Leigh before the latter played a short pass to Miller, whose close range shot was charged down well by Edgar before being cleared. Other than this, the only notable aspect of the last ten minutes was Baffins being forced to finish with ten men after one of their players suffered an arm or shoulder injury of some sort. Still, little changed despite this and it finished 3-0.
Overall, this was a reasonably entertaining game that could have been so much worse than it was given the conditions. Ultimately though, I'd say that the red card was the turning point that turned the game in Baffins' favour, as before this there was very little to separate the two sides. Also worth noting that Portland were apparently playing with a very depleted side today, but they competed well until the red card and the two goals that quickly followed.
Overall, if we ignore the absolute nightmare that it was to get to this game, this was an enjoyable but cold day out (the hat, scarf and gloves were out for the first time since early February today): despite the best efforts of the wind, we got a reasonably entertaining game to watch. More importantly, I was grateful for the warm hospitality I received upon arrival after my awful journey, and I'd certainly recommend other hoppers to visit.
The journey back on the train was nowhere near as calamitous as the way there, but the speed restrictions that caused the delays then were still in effect, so my train got back ten minutes later than it should have done (though after everything else that barely even bothered me).
As for what's next, with next Saturday not an option and there seemingly being nothing on in the Surrey/London area next Sunday, I'm going to have to look for a midweek option instead. However, there's not a lot of those about either, so it's looking like one of two on Tuesday the 26th of March: I'll either be heading to Reading City for their Hellenic League game against Shrivenham, or I'll be staying in Wessex League territory to visit Hamble Club (a club who I've wanted to visit for quite a while) for their game against runaway leaders (and champions-elect) Sholing.
In terms of deciding, I'm going to see if I can get in touch with Matt beforehand about his Easter plans (in terms of determining which Yaxley home game in April we'll be going to, and in turn which Saturday (the 6th or the 20th) I'll be groundhopping on instead) and I'm also going to have a look at the trains to see if they're actually feasible or not.
Kendall's Stadium (currently called The PMC Stadium for sponsorship reasons) is a fairly new build (having only opened in 2015, I believe), but is pretty good compared to others at Step 5 that I've visited.
All the cover is on one side of the ground, with a 120-seater Arena stand providing covered seating. Next to this is an area of covered standing with a couple of steps of terracing, which could probably hold a further 100 or so people. There is further standing cover next to the tea bar, though for practical purposes not many people could or would stand here (partially because it would disrupt the tea bar, but also because you can see very little of the pitch from under there).
The clubhouse is behind the near goal and there are some wooden benches and tables in front of it to provide uncovered seating. Other than this, the rest of the ground is open hard standing, though it seems that the dugout side is closed off to spectators despite having hard standing (the players' changing rooms are on that side). Behind the main ground is a second pitch, which is used by the Reserves (who were playing today and won their league title apparently).
In its current form, the ground is a fine addition to Step 5 and could probably be upgraded to meet Step 4 criteria should the club rise to that level (as seems to be their ambition in the long-term). The ground is also shared by Portsmouth Women.