Hanworth play their home games at Rectory Meadow, known locally a The Ranch. The ground is situated adjacent to the A316, accessed via Park Road and quite a long service road that is easy to miss if you don't know where you are going. I didn't see any signs at the end of the service road pointing to the football club, but maybe I missed them? There is ample parking next to the ground but watch out for the potholes near the entrance. They are big and deep (and full of water on this occasion). The entrance to the ground is via a single turnstile just off the car park although, due to the current restrictions, there was also a Covid check-in station before the turnstile where everyone had their temperature taken and were give a small sticker to signify that they had been checked. There was also QR scanning or manual detail logging available. Nice friendly guys doing the checking too. A warm welcome for a first time visitor.
Both of these sides have started the league season very well. Unbeaten Hanworth currently sit fourth in the Combined Counties Premier, six points adrift of Sutton Common Rovers but with two games in hand on the leaders. The Southern Counties East Premier looks even rosier for Corinthian who are second only on goal difference to Chatham Town with both sides having played the same number of games.
In the FA Vase Hanworth have made the Fourth Round twice in their 44 year history. In the 2012-13 campaign they eventually went out 3-2 at Walsall Wood. The following season saw them crash out 7-2 at home to Eastbourne United. Last season they failed to make it out of the qualifying rounds, going down 5-1 to Broadfields United. To get to this stage they have disposed of Rayners Lane (a) 4-2, Deportivo Galicia 4-0 at home and, probably most impressively, hammered Corinthian's league mates Welling Town 6-1 in Round One. Corinthian made it all the way to the Semi-Final least season, eventually going out on penalties to Hebburn Town after a 2-2 draw. This is their first game in the competition this season.
Prior to the game a minute's silence was observed in honour of former Villa manager Bobby Dawson who lost his battel with Leukaemia on the 21st November. Bobby led The Villains to the brink of the FA Cup First Round, when they were narrowly edged out 3-2 at AFC Totton in 2011. He was clearly well respected at the club and will be sorely missed.
The first half was a fairly even contest. Initially Corinthian seemed to take the initiative but Hanworth worked their way into the game until possession was pretty much 50/50. Having said that, neither goalkeeper was stretched at any point. Both sides had shots off target but neither managed to sting the hands of the opposition number 1.
Hanworth did cause some issues to the Corinthian defence and from one such raid forced a corner. In the melee that followed the corner, Corinthian midfielder George Snelling picked up an injury, diagnosed by their physio as 'the same ankle he hurt before', presumably indicating an injury picked up in a previous game.
Initially it looked as if Snelling would not continue but he decided to play on. The significance of this showed a little while later when the same player went in late and a little over the top of the ball on Meshach Williams. My first thought was that he could well be walking for the challenge. I don't think there was any malice in it and maybe the after-effects of his injury caused the tackle to be mis-timed, but it didn't look good at all.
The tackle certainly raised the hackles of a Villa fan standing next to me and he launched into a verbal tirade that lasted throughout the referees consultation with his assistant and the treatment of Williams. It was very clearly audible to the players and officials. The more he ranted, the more I found myself hoping it was only a yellow and I do wonder if it had any influence on the fact that the referee did only book Snelling. Shortly after this Snelling's earlier injury forced him to leave the pitch anyway, much to the disgruntlement of the aforementioned fan.
Sometime later, after another tackle in midfield, there was a coming together between a Villa and a Corinthian player. The Hoops player appeared to push the Villa player over. Again, my first thought was a red card because, these days, raising your hands to an opponent is seen as a red card offence. Once again, the Villa fan next to me was apoplectic. Once again the referee, after consulting with his assistant again, gave a yellow. Now, I'm certainly not saying the the referee made his decision purely because of the hectoring from the Villa fan but I will say that I don't think the supporter did his team any favours.
In some ways it is a shame that I find myself talking about this incident rather than the entertaining and highly competitive match on show. Although, it has to be said that the supporter, although loud, did not swear at the referee at any point.
HT Hanworth Villa 0 Cornithian 0. The home side definitely created a few more chances than their visitors. Corinthian, in my opinion, can count themselves lucky to still have a full complement on the pitch. The Villa fan who was next to me really needs to calm down before he gives himself a heart attack. To be fair, we've all been there. I once got threatened with expulsion from Fratton Park after giving Graham Poll the benefit of my knowledge. Sometimes the moment gets the better of all of us and, fair play to the guy, he's clearly passionate about his team.
Well, no. Oddly, Corinthian seemed boosted by going down to ten and, although they were playing deeper, started to look dangerous on the break. Maybe losing a player worked to their favour in a way. They are a direct side anyway, s pulling players behind the ball and then trying to hit their opponent quickly can work effectively with a player fewer. It may also have meant that Hanworth relaxed a little, leaving that little extra space in behind for Corinthian to exploit.
Just before the hour mark they forced a corner on their left. It was swung into the box and only half-cleared. The ball fell to Jack Mahoney on the edge of the box and his snap-shot beat Buss to give The Hoops the lead. 0-1.
If that was not enough of a warning for Villa, nine minutes later they were caught out again. A long ball downfield was aimed at Luke Tanner but seemed to be easy enough for the home defence to deal with. Unfortunately the defender (I couldn't see who) slipped at the most inopportune moment leaving Tanner to drill the ball past Buss to make it 0-2.
The walls grew weak; and fast and hot
Against them pour'd the ceaseless shot,
With unabating fury sent,
From battery to battlement
Sam Merson stepped up and fired the home side back into contention. 1-2.
Two minutes later, amidst constant home pressure they won a corner on the Villa right. The ball was played into the box where Ben Merson rose highest to power his header past Prall for 2-2.
The clouds beneath him seem'd so dun
Their smoke assail'd his startled beak,
And made him higher soar and shriek --
Thus was Corinth lost and won!
The Hanworth faithful, including a full size cut out of Marilyn Monroe in Villa kit which I am told even goes to away games, were now in full voice in the covered standing area just a few yards from where I was standing for the second half. I have to say though, as a former West Brom season ticket holder, standing so close to a group of supporters singing the praises of 'Villa' did make me feel uncomfortable. Thank god Hanworth don't play in claret & blue. To give credit to Corinthian they did not crumble where a lot of teams probably would have done. In fact, they pulled themselves together and even managed to muster a couple of attacks themselves before the referee blew for an end to proceedings and we were heading straight to a penalty shootout.
The first five penalties from both teams gave the goalkeepers no chance whatsoever. Then Hanworth made it 6-5 before Buss in the Villa goal made himself the hero by saving the sixth Corinthian effort low to his right (at least I think he saved it. I know it didn't go in but I didn't see if it was saved, hit the post or went wide). Whatever happened, Hanworth progressed.
FT Hanworth Villa 2 Corinthian 2. (Hanworth win 6-5 on penalties). From a neutral's perspective this was a very good game to watch. Two evenly matched sides with contrasting styles of play. It felt good to be back out watching games, even if it was a bit on the chilly side and it's not often you get the chance to quote Byron in a non-league football blog. Good luck to both sides for the rest of the season. Let's just hope we get to see it completed.
Hanworth Villa: Buss, Ansah-Palmer, Akono-Bilongo, Kamara, Tanner, Thoroughgood(c), Barzey, Simpson, S.Merson, Walker, Williams. Subs: Taylor, Dack, B.Merson, Jjie, Wiredu
Corinthian: Prall, Holland, Trueman, Snelling, Billings, Bath(c), Oloyede, Mahoney, Tanner, Housego, Morgan. Subs: Tobon, Dembele, O'Neill, Sawyer, Stirman, Miller, Clarke
Ground Number: 252