Hampton & Richmond Borough Press Officer Rob Overfield reports on a dramatic local Bank Holiday derby between Staines Town and Hampton.
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!
Hampton & Richmond Borough were defeated in a match they started dominantly on Canvey Island, with John Sands netting a brace for The Gulls on his debut.
The day saw plenty of rain in the morning, and several postponements up and down the leagues (even Concord Rangers’ home match was called off!), but the pitch at Prospects Stadium was in fine fettle for the clash. And it was Hampton who started the brighter of the two teams, with Charlie Moone firing The Beavers in front after just six minutes. A fine move, one of many in the first half hour, saw Belal Aite-Ouakrim spray the ball out to Joe Turner on the right. Turner’s first time volley cushioned the ball perfectly into the path of Moone, and the club’s top scorer fired a first time shot through the legs of Canvey keeper Joshua Vickers. It was Charlie’s seventeenth goal already this campaign, and his eleven league goals make him the second top scorer in the Ryman Premier. The home defenders, and fans, felt there was a strong hint of offside about the goal, but it stood and Hampton were ahead.
The Beavers dominated the opening exchanges, but were unable to add to their lead. Just three minutes after the goal, Karle Carder and Aite-Ouakrim combined well, before the ball was worked out to Turner. The winger shot, but a deflection looped the ball harmlessly into Vickers’ hands. It wasn’t until the 26th minute that we saw the home side have their first chance, John Sands firing wide, wasting a very presentable chance.
Another good break from Hampton saw a pacey curling cross from Turner met by the head of Moone, but the striker’s glancing header went wide. The next chance again fell to Moone, this time a left foot half volley on the turn that went over the bar. The shot was the culmination of good buildup play involving James Simmonds and Aite-Ouakrim.
As is so often the case, though, the home side equalised on forty minutes, somewhat against the general run of the game. Like Hampton’s opener, it had more than a hint of offside about it. John Sands – signed for an undisclosed fee from Bury Town, where he was the league’s top scorer last season – latched onto a good through ball and powered an emphatic shot past Rodney Chiweshe. Sands then had a chance to put the hosts in front before the break, but his scissor kick went wide. Half Time Canvey Island 1 Hampton 1
If it was Hampton who started the first half the brighter, it was the home side who came out of the blocks quickest in the second. A long range shot from skipper Matt Game was straight at Chiweshe, but just minutes later they were in front. Sands hit a volley from distance which Chiweshe tipped away. However, the ball was put back into the box, and after an almighty scramble ensued, Sands smashed the ball home from close range to make it 2-1.
Charlie Moone had a chance to equalise just before the hour, but he dragged his shot wide. Marcus Rose then almost gifted Canvey a third as his loose pass allowed Harrison Chatting a clear run on goal. As he bore down on goal, Chiweshe came out to meet him and close down the angle, eventually gathering the ball bravely at the winger’s feet. Warren McBean then got on the end of a cross from the right, but his header went straight to Chiweshe.
Luke Wanadio, on as a substitute for Simmonds, went on a driving run and hit a powerful shot that narrowly missed the angle of post and bar. The last couple of Hampton chances fell to Moone, but on both occasions he dragged his shot wide. In fact, Canvey could have made it 3-1 in the dying minutes, but Chiweshe tipped over Simon Thomas’ shot.
Canvey Island 2 (Sands 40 & 56)
Hampton 1 (Moone 6)
The club is delighted to announce 3 new signings, Lewis Taylor, Belal Aite-Ouakrim and Luke Wanadio, all of whom are eligible to play in today’s FA Cup Third Qualifying Round tie against Arlesey Town. Read the rest of this entry
Hampton & Richmond Borough (can we just start calling them Hampton FC again please!) suffered another defeat, but played well and were unlucky not come away from Imber Court with at least a point. Read the rest of this entry
Hendon FC claimed an important victory at Hampton & Richmond Borough to lift themselves to within four points of the Isthmian Premier Division playoff places. The defeat all but eliminates Borough’s fading hopes of finishing in the top five. Read the rest of this entry
Hampton & Richmond Borough and Wingate & Finchley shared six goals in an end to end match at Beveree Stadium, but both teams may feel they should have taken all three points. Read the rest of this entry
With three home matches in seven days, the next week could well be pivotal if the Beavers are to make an immediate return to Conference South. Read the rest of this entry
As most of you will know, I support Hampton & Richmond Borough. Even if you didn’t know, I would say that it’s pretty obvious if you look through the archives on this site! This weekend, Sunday 30th December to be precise, the club’s board issued the following statement on the official website regarding the club’s recent poor form and the future of manager Mark Harper:
“The Board understand and agree with our supporters’ current frustration and disappointment at our recent form culminating in the Boxing Day defeat at home to Carshalton Athletic. As a Board we set our expectations high at the start of the season and these have not altered.
Whilst we still support Mark Harper and the players and believe that they can turn the current slump round we expect to see an immediate improvement over the next three league games as they are crucial for the club in achieving our aims this season and Mark has been informed of our expectations of both him and the squad .We are constantly monitoring performances and results and will make whatever decisions we believe are in the best interest of the club in order to fulfill our ambitions for the season.
We would ask all our supporters to make the short trip to Kingsmeadow on the 1st January to get behind the team and management for this crucial game against our local rivals.“
Pretty interesting reading, I’m sure you’ll agree. To the casual observer, it might come as a bit of a shock that the manager would be under pressure just yet; after all, the team are only two points off the playoffs, and ten off the leaders. However, there has been an alarming slump in form, and in more than just results; the performances to go with those results have been below average at best, and downright awful at times. After a sensational start to the season which saw the team go nine matches unbeaten before succumbing to their first league defeat, the wheels have spectacularly fallen off the promotion wagon. That first defeat came at Wealdstone, when The Beavers threw away a two goal lead to lose 3-2, and sparked a dismal run of seven defeats in nine league games.
The home form in particular has been seriously depressing. The Beveree faithful have not seen a home win in the league since October 13th, and that was a scrappy 1-0 victory against Whitehawk courtesy of an 85th minute Charlie Moone goal. Four successive home defeats have followed, and the team have plummeted from top spot to ninth in the Ryman Premier Division table. In fact, Borough have not won a single home match in any competition by more than a one goal margin. While you can argue that you only get three points for a win regardless of the score, the fact that we seem to struggle to break teams down while not keeping things tight at the back is worrying. It almost seems as if the team is set up at home as if they are the away team; try and soak up pressure while looking to break. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work when the opposition are also doing the same thing.
The goals of Charlie Moone have papered over a lot of cracks this season. He has netted seventeen times already this season in all competitions, but quite often they’ve been a wonder strike or a goal from very little. He is not the tallest striker on the planet either, yet the tactic repeatedly seems to be to hit a long ball and hope that he will win a header against a much bigger centre back. And while we are on the subject of tactics, Harper’s substitutions are sometimes a little, well, strange. A few weeks ago, Borough were trailing 1-2 at home to Margate, and Harper took off striker Joel Ledgister and replaced him with Malvin Kamara, a right back! There were two strikers on the bench at the time! And a lot of the time, he waits until the last ten minutes of a game before making his first change. Hardly enough time for a player to make an impact, and probably puts added pressure on that player to do so.
I’ve thought for a while that the squad is unbalanced. There is only one goalkeeper on the books, which is understandable at this level. Paying a reserve to sit on the bench with very little chance of them playing does not make good business sense. However, there are no wingers in the squad; instead Ledgister and Mo Harkin tend to be used as makeshift widemen, and often on the “wrong” side for their stronger foot. There are plenty of central midfielders at the club, but only two spots in the team, and most of them are idenikits of each other. Upfront, there are four strikers, yet two of them – JJ Bates and Mo Bettamer – very rarely get any game time despite looking decent when they do get on the pitch.
Harper recently gave an interview in which he said that some players were “in the last chance saloon”, which is harsh in the extreme considering that he very rarely changes his starting lineup, and doesn’t give his substitutes much time to influence a game or his opinion. Shortly after, he also said that he might do a “two in, two out” deal, but as yet nothing has materialised on that front either. It is things like this, together with poor results and performances that have alienated a sizeable portion of the fans. The crowds are well down too; last Boxing Day there were just short of 700 fans to see the match with Staines Town. This year, just 269 turned up for the match with Carshalton Athletic. Yes, last season was a local derby, and yes we have been relegated since then, but that is a huge downturn in attendance.
Since taking charge at the start of last season, he has overseen sixty league games, with a win percentage of just 30% (thanks to @RavitAnand from Football Exclusives for that statistic). All of this has led to the inevitable doubts as to whether the team are still playing for the manager. This statement from the board is the perfect opportunity to see whether the players are onside or not. I sincerely hope that the performances and results improve, and that Mr Harper saves his job, but the writing could well be on the wall.