It was script that almost came together for Fawley, what drama to the very final minute at the bottom of the Sydenhams Wessex Premier division! With five games remaining the threat of relegation was looming large at Fawley AFC as we were seven points adrift of fourth from bottom Cowes Sports.
This prompted the start of an incredible final month of football for Fawley starting with a highly entertaining 4 v 3 away victory against Fareham Town. A second half collapse against Horndean meant no further points from Five Heads Park, however a convincing 4 v 2 away win against Amesbury followed by a 3 v 1 away win against Whitchurch meant that we had clawed our way back to within a point of Cowes Sports with one game remaining!
The messages coming from the management team had been to play with no pressure, as we had nothing to lose at this stage but everything to gain. This change in approach as well as a more experienced squad started to give us hope that maybe something was possible on the final day of the season at home to Brockenhurst, although the odds were still firmly stacked against us with Cowes having an extra point, a home game against already safe Amesbury Town, and a far superior goal difference.
We were backed by a great crowd in the sunny weather at Waterside club, with between 1-200 people in attendance including a small but noisy Brockenhurst contingent! We had a well supported raffle and Mettricks Beaulieu had also kindly donated some food including baguettes, salted caramel chocolate brownies and chocolate mocha cake, we managed to convince Jeff our Bistro manager to don the Mettricks apron in a sign of solidarity!
The first half was pretty uneventful, with Fawley perhaps playing a little more cautiously than they had in previous weeks which had got them into this more favorable position. There was a couple of last ditch challenges from skipper Dane Sayce - who has been converted to a centre half in recent weeks - which kept the scoreline at 0 v 0. Steve Green was serving up his usual pinpoint set pieces but no-one had managed to connect on them. With the score remaining goalless at Cowes Sports too, as it stood the Oilers would be heading down to the Wessex Division One after seven years in the top division since promotion in 2009/10.
The second half was more open and clearly neither side wanted to end the final day with a draw. Brockenhurst drew first blood with a ball into the box from the left hand side, and Ryan Long met the delivery and guided his header down into the back of the net. Cue celebrations from Brockenhurst who clearly wanted to end their season on a high, still with the possibility of finishing above local rivals Lymington Town.
Kieran Roche had a chance at the other end as he was put through by a lofted pass from Callum Tanner but had his shot well saved by the Badgers keeper.
Fawley didn't look out of the game and started coming on stronger winning a succession of free-kicks and corners. The pressure eventually told as Aaron Lucas - who has been on a hot streak in front of goal - rose highest from a Steve Green set piece to deflect his effort into the net and take his tally to 7 for the season. At this stage Cowes Sports had also just taken the lead 1-0 in the 80th minute, which meant that Cowes would be safe regardless of the outcome at Fawley.
Despite the scoreline at Cowes and with supporters at our game frantically checking their phones for updates on the other side of the solent, the players weren't aware of the situation and continued to press for the winner.
Fawley began to ring the substitutions with last seasons top goalscorer Dan Fry coming into midfield and Zac Willis up front. With Fawley pressing for the winner there was a couple of scarey moments with Brockenhurst outnumbering us on counter attacks, and what for a superb stop one on one by young Petersfield Town dual-signed keeper Connor Beattie we could've been a goal down and our outcome well and truly sealed.
With time running out Kieran Roche - who had been a doubt before the start of the game but passed a fitness test - managed to fire a ball low into the box which was hard to deal with, and Aaron Lucas - who had thrown caution to the wind and turned into a make shift striker - managed to get the all important touch to send the ball into the Brockenhurst net with 30 seconds remaining!
Cue the wild celebrations from the players! It was clear moments later that the Cowes Sports scoreline hadn't changed as some of the supporters who had been hitting refresh on the Sydenhams Wessex twitter feed for the past few minutes didn't share the same elation as the players, and so it turned out that despite a remarkable final few games for Fawley we couldn't quite manage to beat Cowes to that all important fourth from bottom position.
Thanks from everyone at Fawley AFC for showing your support on the final game of the season, it was brilliant to see so many people in attendance! Also big thanks to all of our volunteers who have managed to keep our club open in uncertain times. Shame the script didn't quite go Fawleys way but what a valiant effort!