This would be my first visit to Hampton but I have seen Knowle play before in the 2019 Les James Challenge Final at the Banks's Stadium (Quickfire Borough Thwart Robins).
Hampton play at The Boggery, a strange name for a football ground but there is a good reason for it. The Boggery was actually the name of a Folk Club opened by local comedian and long-suffering Birmingham City director and fan Bob Davies, better known as Jasper Carrot. The club had three different venues in its lifetime, the second of which, opened in 1974, was the Old Moseleyans Clubhouse on Lugtrout Lane in Solihull. I can't find any reference to Old Moselyans now but the current clubhouse that is used by Hampton FC is on the junction of Lugtrout Lane and Field Lane. That can't be a coincidence. Is this, in fact, the former folk club?
The Boggery forms part of a very large football complex. Aside from the main pitch there is another full sized pitch and numerous small-sided pitches that seem to stretch for as far as the eye can see, although some of the ones in the distance are part of an adjoining site called The Glades Football Cetre. It's clearly a big football area because, on the opposite side of Field Lane is Coldland Colts FC which also has an array of small-sided youth pitchs.
The Boggery has a fairly large car park, big enough to cope even on a local derby day. The first team pitch is situated on the opposite side of the clubhouse, accessed by a small path on which a man is stationed to take your entrance fee. Having more than one pitch certainly came to their rescue today because, I was told, the top part of their normal home pitch was still too hard to play on, which meant the game was switched to the other full sized pitch adjacent to the car park. Whilst it was great that the game could go ahead, it was a bit of a shame that the game wasn't played on the main pitch, which is quite an impressive set-up for this level, having two covered spectator stands along the Field Lane side. The pitch we were on today does have a couple of dugouts on the Lugtrout Lane side but does not have any spectator cover. Instead a respect barrier had been set up along the opposite side of the pitch. The main thing was, we were going to see a game of football after this fixture had already been postponed twice, once for a waterlogged pitch and once for Covid in the Knowle camp.
Thgis game is very much a local derby. Only just over three miles and the M42 separates The Boggery from Robins' Nest. The sides have also been in the same division now for over a decade, so plenty of local rivalry has had time to build up. Looking at recent history also points to the sides being quite closely matched. In the last eleven meetings, including one in the abandoned 2019-20 season, Hampton have won four, Knowle three and there have been four draws. Six of those games have taken place at The Boggery and, again, it is even-steven, two home wins, two away wins and two draws. Knowle have current bragging rights in light of their 2-0 win at The Boggery in the last meeting on Boxing Day 2019. Goals from Brandon Hague and Zak Harbon sealing victory.
This season Knowle have also had the upper hand in terms of league position, although this would be the first meeting of the teams. Prior to kick-off Hampton were sitting fourth from bottom with 15 points from their 16 games and had not won in the league since a 3-0 victory at Bolehall Swifts in late October. During this time they had also suffered a couple of damaging results against teams also in the bottom half, losing 1-0 at home to Barnt Green Spartak and only drawing at home with bottom side Bolehall. Knowle, meanwhile, were very nicely placed in second spot, seven points shy of leaders Cadbury Athletic but with a game in hand. However, after a run of four wins on the bounce they lot last time out, 1-0 at home to Fairfield Villa. Even so, all pointers would suggest an away win but you never know, especially in a local derby.
If Knowle started the game expecting to cruise to victory they had a shock in store as early as the 3rd minute. Kori Edinborough drove forward and tried a speculative effort from outside the box. The shot was mis-cued but fell perfectly for Hamza Siddique who made no mistake to give the hosts the lead. 1-0
Knowle tried to recover from the early setback and on 11 minutes produced a lovely flowing move which was only ended when Matt Allely rushed off his line to smother the ball. Good save from the home stopper. His efforts were doubly rewarded when, after 19 minutes, his team went two in front. Winning a free-kick way out on the left side, the ball was pumped into the mix in the Knowle penalty area. It was not cleared properly and the home side managed to slide the ball out to Will Simons who guided it past Tregartha. 2-0
The goal was a signal for Knowle to final work out that they were in a game and they started to show some of the form that had seen them into such a lofty league position. Just past the 20 minute mark they were unlucky when Jay Payne's 20 yard free kick had Allely sweating as the ball went narrowly over his bar. On 32 minutes the visitors had a massive chance to pull a goal back. A superb crossfield ball setting Nathan Corry free on goal. He bore down on Allely but slid his shot narrowly wide of the near post.
Four minutes later Knowle shoudl have been made to pay even more when Tom Parnaby was put clean through but shanked his effort wide of the mark. It was end to end stuff at this point with KNowle almost immediately breaking up the other end and winning a penalty. It looked a clear cut foul from my angle, despite the protestations form the home defenders. Penalty given. Zak Ahrbon, who scored in the team's previous meeting, stepped up but his spot kick was saved well by Allelly diving to his left. It was at a good heght for the keeper, but credit to the save, keeping his team two up. The first-half action was not finished though. With a couple of minutes remaining Hampton won a free kick some 30 yards out and to the right of the goal. The ball was swung in by Luke benham, looking for someone to get a touch. Neither striker or defender coudl get on the end of it forcing Jack Tregartha to throw himself full length at the last second to divert the ball around the post.
HT Hampton 2 Knowle 0. Something of a strange half in some ways. The visitors certainly had more of the ball them their hosts but lacked that killer final ball and were punished by two clinical finishes from Hampton.
When the match restarted it was clear from the very start that Knowle had been given the hairdryer treatment at half-time. Their play showed an increased urgency and they looked sharper across the entire pitch. Their reward for the quick start was not long in coming. 48 minutes were on the clock when Nathan Corry made up for his first-half miss. Collecting the ball some 25 yards out he hit a superb dipping drive which left Allely almost motionless as it crashed in, clipping the underside of the bar on its way. 2-1 and game well and truly on. Knowle were now full of confidence and looked as they would get the equaliser in quick fashion as they pushed their hosts back. Thomas Cullen saw a shot well saved by Allely on 56 minutes as the visitors went for the jugular. However, as was the case in the first period, their final ball was letting them down time and again.
Hampton did well to ride the wave of Knowle pressure at the start of the half. They gradually steadied the ship and, as we approached the last 15 minutes, started to look a little more confident themselves. That was when potential disaster struck for the hoists. A rash challenge from Parnaby seeing him pick up his second yellow. Now it really was backs against the wall for Hampton. Knowle smelled blood and were pretty much pinning Hampton in the own half. Still they could not find a goal. A combination of solid defending, good goalkeeping, untidy finishing and, it has to be said, a dose of luck, served to keep Knowle at bay. The Robins' cause was not helped when substitute Ethan Galloway was sin-binned in the final minute.
FT Hampton 2 Knowle 1. The hosts held strong in the face of almost constant second-half pressure. I'm not sure even they know how they managed to hang on, but hang on they did and you have to take your hat off to their resilience. Knowle maybe took the game for granted in the first half, thinking three pounts were in the bag. In the second half, however, they showed why they are pushing the top teams as they strung move after move together. On a different day they would probably have had four or five goals. Overall though, a cracking game for a neutral to watch.
If you would like to catch either of these teams in action, both face away games next weekend. Knowle travel to mid-table Alcester Town while Hampton face a six-pointer at Barnt Green Spartak. Both have the potential to be excellent games, so why not go along to one of them?
Best wishes to both Hampton and Knowle for the remainder of the season and apologies to Knowle who I have now seen lost 2-1 twice. When I get me moped back on the road, I'll be back.
Hampton: Allely, Considine, Chapman, Wyatt, Morris(c), Benham, Connaire, Simons, Parnaby, Edinborough, Siddique. Subs: Knight, Fletcher, McGrath, Mitchell
Knowle: Tregartha, Fox, Payne, Regan, Cosgrove(c), Delaney, Harbon, Andrews, Hague, Cullen, Corry. Subs: Bennett, Galloway, Arthur, Seeley
Ground Number: 301
Footnote: If the former West Brom season ticket holder, with whom I had a conversation in the second half, is reading this. We could have cleaned up at the bookies between us. I seem to remember me saying "This has 1-0 to QPR written all over it" and you said "Charlie Austin to come on and score the winner". There's years of bitter Albion experience and disappointment in those comments, we've seen it all before.