FLEETLANDS FC returned to the pitch after a tough week on Tuesday evening (03/08), which saw them mark the passing of a club stalwart and open their Hampshire Premier League campaign with a local derby versus Locks Heath at Lederle Lane.
And fans who wanted to attend were treated to a fiery match of football, which featured one red card and two late goals that preceded a large melee at the end, marking a dramatic end to 90 minutes that started peacefully and respectfully.
Before kick-off there was a minute’s applause from both sets of players and officials to honour George Mason who sadly passed away last week, with wreaths and photograph laid out in the centre circle. But all bets were off in the first minute of the match when Locks Heath came flying out the blocks with a passing move reaching Jim Cuthbert, who fired straight at Fleetlands goalkeeper Derek Harding.
Fleetlands did have their chances in the first half but were unable to test the visiting shotstopper Owen Craig, who was sent off the pitch after 40 minutes. Attempting to reach a long ball forward, he seemed to handle the ball outside the penalty area; with the keeper shown a red card after referee Harvey Small deemed ‘deliberate handball’. This enforced the visitors into a change with no replacement goalkeepers on the bench, so striker Jordan Whitley was placed between the sticks as this goalless game drifted towards half time.
Despite having a numerical advantage Fleetlands were unable to take full advantage and couldn’t test the makeshift visiting goalkeeper throughout the second half, with the Locks Heath defensive unit standing firm. Substitutions also disrupted the flow of play and the game looked to be drifting towards a goalless draw; but as fans began to consider leaving early events suddenly sprung into life.
On a rare foray forward Locks Heath looked to score the winner on 89 minutes as Jamie Hall sent an effort towards goal, with the stinging shot plucked out of the top corner by the Fleetlands keeper. The ball then fell kindly to Ryan Bath who guided a simple header into the bottom corner of the unguarded net, sparking huge celebrations amongst the away coaching staff and players on the bench.
However their joy was premature as Fleetlands equalised with the last notable kick of the game, a long ball forward was misjudged by Jordan Whitely and was seized upon by substitute attacker Liam Gouge who rolled home. This equaliser tipped the frustration into a melee featuring both sets of players, but attention quickly turned back to the Fleetlands goal-scorer as he seemed to be struggling and laid down on the surface.
After medical examination it appears that Gouge had twisted his knee and an ambulance was called to Lederle Lane; with Fleetlands hoping the injury isn’t too serious (although it did look a nasty one).
The Coptermen’s next league game will be held away from home against Paulsgrove, with this match kicking off at 3pm on Saturday afternoon (likely to change however); with no FA Cup ties due to their position in the English football pyramid. Fleetlands will then travel to Stockbridge, before Lederle Lane will play host to their fourth league encounter versus Lyndhurst on August 21.
Image shows Locks Heath goalkeeper leaving the pitch after red card