Beavers Left Frustrated By Postponements
Wouldn’t you just believe it? A stunning pair of victories over Christmas saw Hampton & Richmond Borough move up the Ryman League Premier Division table, finally recording the results that recent performances have deserved. And then the weather happens. Their last two matches – very winnable looking fixtures at Cray Wanderers and at home to Bury Town – have fallen victim to the horrendous rain and storms that have hit the majority of the country, leaving fans and players alike frustrated at the stalling of their season.
Those two wins over Christmas were the first time this season that the team have strung together back-to-back league victories. And the most impressive thing about the wins? They were against the top two sides in the division. Boxing Day saw a fourteen minute second half hattrick from top scorer Charlie Moone help Beavers to a stunning 4-1 win over local rivals Kingstonian. Two days later, Moone again scored as his teammates recorded a 3-1 success at leaders Wealdstone. Perhaps the most striking thing about these wins, other than them coming against the two best sides in the league, was that in both matches they came from a goal down. This really goes to show that team spirit and confidence is high.
All in all, December was a good month results wise, but it could have been so much better. While they remained unbeaten in their five league games with three wins and two draws, those two draws could so easily have been wins too. Late, late equalisers for both Lewes and Margate saw victory turn to draws, and four points lost. Instead of being in thirteenth, the club could be sitting in the top ten, and only be eleven points off a playoff place. As it stands, the gap is a rather too large for comfort fifteen points to fifth placed Maidstone United, but with the team in such good form, that gap could shrink quickly.
Towards the back end of last season, the club changed managers, with Mark Harper departing and being replaced by a joint managership of former Camberley boss Paul Barry and Hampton legend Darren Powell. They took the reins for the final nine games of last season, and immediately supporters saw an upturn in the team’s performances. Three wins and three draws followed, and a busy preseason of signings and squad rebuilding has led to Paul and Darren assembling an excellent, youthful squad – including bringing back Moone from a spell at Boreham Wood – that is showing great potential and signs of putting together a great run.
And then we get the weather enforcing an unwanted winter break. Just two defeats in thirteen league games has seen The Beavers climb up the table after a poor start saw them not win any of their first five league encounters, despite playing reasonably well. Now, though, the results are starting to match the performances, fuelling faint hopes that a playoff push could be on the horizon. And lets face it, if they were to put that sort of run together, they would be hard to stop in said playoffs!
More New Signings
Recently, Paul and Darren have added yet more quality young players to the squad, along with an old favourite returning. Dave Tarpey, a striker who scored 42 goals in 125 games in his previous spell at Beveree, has rejoined after being released from his contract by Conference South side Farnborough. With Charlie Moone being far and away our top scorer with 26 goals already this season, it has long been a priority to get in another proven goalscorer to take some of the responsibilty. “Tarps” was prolific before in the Conference South, and should be a lethal frontman in the Ryman Premier. He also provided one of my most memorable moments in my relatively short time as a Beavers’ supporter – hooking in a volley to secure the Middlesex Senior Cup against Wealdstone back in April 2012. Whether he can form a successful partnership with Moone could be the key to Hampton’s season.
The other three new players to join the club are all about potential. Former Chelsea and Spurs youngster Freddy Champion joins from QPR to add numbers to midfield, along with Jake Hicks, who has been promoted from the reserve team. Hicks was at Woking last season, and was voted their Under-18 Player of the Year. Finally, striker Ben Harris joins from Windsor, where he had a better than one-in-two strike rate. All three are sure to get fans excited, and hopefully they can have a big impact on the remaining portion of the season.
The Coming Months
Despite already being into January, Hampton have played less than half their scheduled league games. With twenty four matches still to play, that means it’s going to be Saturday-Tuesday for the next few months, as on top of the league games there are County Cup commitments too. No other team in the division has played less games, and Hampton have as many as three games in hand on the teams above them. Of course, as the old cliche says: points on the board are better than games in hand, but if you’re in form when those extra matches come around, then it can end up being a blessing in disguise that they were postponed in the first place. Every player in the squad will get plenty of time on the pitch, and it will be up to them to show that they are worthy of a place in the team.
Back in August, I predicted – rather biased perhaps – that Hampton would win the playoffs and gain promotion back to Step Two. Who knows, despite the weather’s best attempts to derail our season, maybe I will be proved right!