With Amesbury now managed by former Whitchurch boss Jim Macey and featuring several former Jam Boys in their squad, it was expected to be a lively encounter.
The Longmeadow Sports Club is in the heart of Whitchurch, a small Hampshire town situated between Newbury and Winchester. The football team, Whitchurch United were formed in 1903 when two teams, Albion and Rovers, amalgamated.
They get their nickname, The Jam Boys, from Long's Jam Factory which used to be located in the town centre. The proprietor, Mr J Long, I am told was also a Whitchurch player at one time (source: Whitchurch Utd committee member).
The ground itself is accessed through the main car park. The entrance brings you into the ground close to the halfway line with the clubhouse and snack bar to your left and the main stand to your right. The dugouts are directly opposite the entrance and the rest of the ground is given to hard-standing with no spectator shelter apart from the main stand and some standing cover outside the clubhouse.
Overall it's a nice, tidy ground with a good main stand and a fair bit of a traditional atmosphere to it.
When the teams made their way out even the very enthusiastic announcer couldn't raise a cheer from the assembled spectators. First game nerves perhaps? I gathered from some locals that Whitchurch didn't start too well last season, so maybe they were worried of a similar start to 2016/17? Either way, the minute silence for committee member Bob Haynes who recently passed away was impeccably observed by players, staff and spectators alike. Always good to see this level of respect.
The last time these two sides met Whitchurch rattled in 9 unanswered goals. This time it was not to be and, in a strange coincidental way, it was the 9th minute when Amesbury broke the deadlock, ensuring there would be no repeat of the previous score line.
The Whitchurch defence was caught napping by a direct through ball which Ben Cook ran onto and slipped neatly under the advancing goalkeeper into the net. It was a very calm and accomplished finish especially when
you consider it was so early in the first match of the season.
Amesbury continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides and it was no real surprise when, on 15 minutes, they made it 2-0. Another long ball, this time a slightly deflected clearance, found Luke Walker (surely nicknamed Sky?) running clear down the right. As the keeper once again advanced Walker expertly lobbed him from the corner of the 18 yard box. Another very accomplished finish from a player who, in the 9-0 previous meeting, had scored a hat-trick for Whitchurch.
Whitchurch tried manfully to get themselves back into the game but were constantly being caught on the break by Amesbury who looked very sharp.
After 27 minutes a deep cross from the Amesbury right was expertly taken down and controlled by Grant Powell. His shot was beaten away by the Whitchurch keeper Jon Page only for Luke Walker to hammer the rebound back into the goal. As the ball went in a Whitchurch defender managed to get a hand to it and despite the ball going in the referee appeared to consult with his assistant for a while before awarding the goal.
After going three goals behind Whitchurch finally seemed to awaken from their slumber a little. They certainly managed to stem the tide of yellow and black shirts but did not really manage to put too much pressure on the Amesbury goal.
The sides went in at half-time at 0-3. Amesbury, without doubt, had benefitted from the early goals and the confidence that this had instilled in the team was noticeable.
Whitchurch kicked off the second half, kicking down the slope, and immediately looking a little more spritely than in the first half. Amesbury seemed to be happy with their three goal advantage and unsurprisingly sat back a lot more than in the first half.
For the most part the away defence, including former Jam Boy Ali Brown, looked assured with Paddy Creese, in the away goal, not being stretched too much apart from having to collect quite a few crosses.
This changed in the 70th minute though when referee Jake Topp awarded a penalty to the home side. Cameron Hough stepped up and struck the penalty quite well to the keepers left. However, Creese flung himself at the ball and superbly turned it away. It was clearly not going to be Whitchurch's night.
The game, getting increasingly niggly, played out to a conclusion without either side adding to the score. A great start to the season for Amesbury with, it has to be said, a very much deserved three points.
From a neutral's perspective, it was a good start to the new season. A good game, another ground ticked off and another very friendly club. To any hopper out there who has not visited, I recommend that you do.
Whitchurch United - @whitchurchutd
Amesbury Town - @amesburytown_fc
Sydenhams Wessex League - @sydwessex