As I said, this ground has been on my list for a little while now. So long, in fact, that I still think of it as the Denplan Stadium whereas it is now The Simplyhealth City Ground. There seems to be ample parking at the ground but I parked on a smallish, free, car park opposite the entrance, thinking it may be easier to make a getaway for the long journey home.
The ground is accessed through a turnstile block that brings you in at the corner of the ground that houses the clubhouse and changing facilities, which are set back a short way from the actual playing area. There is a separate snack hut on the rugby club side of the ground. Adjacent to the snack hut is the main covered seating area and then just a little further along is a small, uncovered seating stand. On the opposite side of the ground, between the dugouts, there is a covered standing area, with another, smaller, covered area at the car park end of the ground behind the goal.
Look out for the impressive variety of club stickers on the cistern in the Gents toilet, including quite a few from German level 4 outfit Alemannia Aachen.
Winchester City are in their fifth consecutive season of Step 4 football after a period of yo-yoing between the Wessex Premier and the Southern League for just under a decade. Stoneham gained promotion to the Wessex Premier for the first time in their history last season. Promotion, and the title, was clinched following a thoroughly entertaining 3-3 draw at Totton & Eling, a game that I had the privilege to be present at (Grand Finale).
There is no previous FA Cup history between the sides but, as the grounds are only around 12 miles apart, it's safe to assume that there have been meetings in local and county cup competitions over the years.
The opening encounters of the game gave pointers to the tight game that was to follow. Neither side was able to establish any kind of real dominance. However, it was Stoneham who seemed the more fluid, moving the game much more quickly than Winchester, an observation backed up by frequent shouts from the home bench to make their passing sharper and move the ball around more quickly.
In a game of few clear-cut chances, we were approaching the 15th minute before we saw the first shot on target and it was the away side who managed it, with Laycock forcing Pryce into action for the first time.
Winchester finally got a shot on target after 35 minutes when Danny King forced Fredericks to get down low at his near post. However, The Citizens were clearly missing the presence of top-score Simba Mlambo
HT Winchester City 0 AFC Stoneham 0. A close encounter. AFC Stoneham looked the more dangerous of the sides but Winchester started to look a little more lively towards the end of the half
On 65 minutes City's Olly Balmer got free and cracked an effort against Fredericks' left-hand post, reminding the away side that possession doesn't win games. They've not been threatened too much all game but could easily have found themselves a goal down.
After a little lull in the game, Stoneham seemed to be upping the pace again before, as often happens, getting caught out at the back by a rare Winchester foray on 79 minutes.
A defensive mistake or maybe just a slip - hard to see from where I was - gave Citizens captain Jamie Barron a sight of goal from inside the box. He made no mistake, threading the ball past Fredericks to make it 1-0. Somewhat harsh on Stoneham who, despite playing in a division below their hosts, have looked the better side for large parts of the game.
Winchester almost immediately started finding more space on the pitch as Stoneham pressed forward searching for an equaliser. The last 10 minutes promised to be the most action-packed part of a game that, to be honest, has failed to spark.
Sure enough, in the tradition of last-gasp cup drama, Stoneham grabbed an equaliser in the 91st minute, when Matt Palmer popped up in the box to guide the ball past Pryce. 1-1 and a deserved leveller for Stoneham, and what sounded like a sizeable away following.
FT Winchester City 1 AFC Stoneham 1. I'm sure neither side particularly relishes a=having to wedge another fixture in but they will have to go again in midweek.
Winchester City: Pryce, Williamson, King, Emmerson, Douglas, Flooks, Griggs, Barron(c), Bailey, Hill, Balmer. Subs: Hayward, Birchnall, Smith, Gilbert, Nurse, Davis, Haylor
AFC Stoneham: Fredericks, Stupple, Dunne, J.Parker-Trott, Palmer, Clarke, Clark, Welch(c), Laycock, Bainbridge, Hills. Subs: Jiminez, T.Parker-Trott, Kerton, Galloway, Laptas, Snelling, Hogan
Ground Number: 206
Entrance: £ 10.00