The View from the Bar 

  Amazing the difference a few days can make, isn’t it? This time last week I opined in this column about how 2022 hadn’t got off to the greatest of starts and (forgive me) cast a little doubt on whether that would change as we welcomed title-chasing Baffins Milton Rovers to Westwood. Ninety minutes (of the best football seen here in recent years) later and we had a richly-deserved three points to our name and the beleaguered and thoroughly crestfallen visitors (including familiar faces in Presley and Ed Sanders) were trudging off wondering what had just happened. In The News the next day Baffins boss Shaun Wilkinson suggested that Max should have been furious after the game, because if we played like that every week we’d be top of the league. It’s hard to disagree (at least with the second part…)

  It did feel rather like the bad times were back on Saturday though, as those of us who didn’t make the epic journey down to Portland were furiously checking our phones for updates, only to be met with the news that we were one, then two down by the interval. Hmm. I managed to resist (somehow) checking during the second half – I wasn’t sure I could take any more bad news – but come full-time I buckled and, lo-and-behold, was greeted with the revelation that we’d fought back to earn a very creditable 3-3 draw. It’s not an easy place to get to, Portland, and history has taught us it’s even harder to then come away with anything, so a great result all-round, I’d say.

  Back to last Tuesday, and I was supposed to be taking nipper home at half-time (well, it was a school night), but I have to say I didn’t take a whole lot of persuading when he asked for just a few more minutes after the interval. And then a few more, and then a few more, and before I knew it we were 2-0 winners and he was having a distinctly unscheduled very late night. He got up for school okay the next morning though, and something must’ve inspired him because he was man-of-the-match playing for Gurnard under-8s on Sunday – I don’t know where he gets his talent from (definitely not from me…) Great atmosphere too last Tuesday night. Evening games definitely seem to be bringing the best out of the players and the crowds this season – let’s hope for more of that tonight.

  Now, around this time of year – assuming we’ve already been knocked out of the F.A. Cup… (ahem…) – I tend to look back on how the competition is panning out and where we’d be had we kept winning. Of course, our own road to Wembley had the gate firmly shut on it by Blackfield in the extra preliminary round back in August. They went on to beat Portchester before losing out to our old adversaries Wimborne, who next disposed of Basingstoke Town before losing to Hampton & Richmond. They then handed over the torch to Ebbsfleet United who carried our (tenuous, admittedly) hopes into the competition proper, only to be narrowly edged out 1-0 at Leyton Orient in the first round. Orient went on to defeat Tranmere 4-0, but dipped out to Stoke City in the third round, and it is The Potters carrying the ‘could’ve been us’ flag into the last sixteen after a 2-0 win over Wigan on Saturday. Stoke have now been drawn at Crystal Palace in the fifth round, so what price we’ll be rooting for another side come the quarter finals in March?

  One day (well, one year), I’m determined to rewrite Brian James’ excellent 1977 tome ‘Journey to Wembley’ as ‘From Westwood Park to Wembley’, and follow the progress from our early outings in the competition and attend all the subsequent matches right through to the final. Knowing my luck, that’ll be the year we actually make the final, but thinking about it, that wouldn’t be such a bad book in itself. I wonder…

  I’ll be missing the game with U.S. Portsmouth on Saturday, but hope to catch up with a  few of you the following week when we travel to Bashley for an eminently doable away day. Anyone fancy it…?

  First things first though, and the visit of Brockenhurst – long one of my favourite Wessex clubs. Fingers crossed they roll over tonight in a bid to retain that status. What are the chances, do you think?

   Enjoy the game.

           Toby

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