The next step on the road to Wembley once again took me south as I headed to "the oldest club in Dorset" as Western League Gillingham Town hosted Southern League AFC Totton.
The football club were founded in 1879 and the trip gave me a chance to visit the current set up at their Hardings Lane home. In the very near future the club are due to move off this site to a pitch further down the lane. The timescale is still a bit up in the air but the pitch has been laid and the hard standing is in place, but funds still need be secured to complete the project, so it is unlikely they will moving this season.
The chap I spoke to about the project was keen to point out the it's not a ground move as such but an expansion of the clubs' facilities. The current pitch is the only pitch in the town and once the move happens it will still get used by other teams.
I liked the set up at Hardings Lane, there is small seated stand on the half way line (which proved a godsend when there was a torrential downpour in the second half) and a pre-fab stand near the top corner of the pitch. The busy social club also served up an Exmoor ale, which was an added bonus, and a sly half of 'Fox' went down a treat.
After scoffing a delicious pasty it was time for the main event as step 5 Gillingham went into battle with step 4 Totton and it was the lower ranked visitors who got off to a fantastic start.
In the second minute a long ball found it's way to Aiden Chainey who lobbed the advancing Steve Mowthorpe to give the home side the lead. The game settled down and both teams played some good football, despite the strong blustery wind blowing across the pitch. Chances were few and far between but Gillingham deserved their interval lead.
I was fully expecting Totton to come out all guns blazing after a half time talking to, but it was Gillingham who attacked from the off and they were rewarded with a second goal after 57 minutes, when Will Agbo fired home.
The Gills had chances to extend their lead, and could have been left to rue those missed opportunities as Totton finally applied some pressure in the closing stages, but Gillingham held on and will now meet Cirencester Town in the 1st Qualifying Round
|The AFC Totton dreams are dashed in the downpour.|