Cripps spot on as Paulsgrove end their penalty misery against Fleetlands
Paulsgrove leapfrogged Fleetlands and back into the top two of the Hampshire Premier League after beating them on Bridgemary School’s artificial pitch.
Grove claimed a 4-2 victory with the final two goals coming after the hosts - who had won their previous three games - had been reduced to 10 men.
Defender Kevin Chatfield was dismissed for handball on the goalline with about 20 minutes remaining.
The pressure was on John Cripps, with Paulsgrove having previously missed penalties in both their previous games against Fleetlands this term.
But Cripps converted and Billy Butcher sealed victory with a thunderous effort from 30 yards.
‘It was the goal of the season,’ said Grove boss Wayne Grant. ‘I’ve never him known hit a shot like that.’
Craig Ralph, from 25 yards, and Archie Scott had twice previously put Grove ahead, with ex-Grove favourite Tommy Woodward and Jamie Wrapson twice levelling.
‘Overall, it was very pleasing,’ said Grant.
‘The facilities weren’t very good and the pitch was rock solid, but we were glad to get the game on.
‘It was very much old school Sunday League - no changing rooms, no showers, nowhere for spectators to get a drink.
‘We had to change in a function room next door to a girls’ dance class.’
Victory maintains Grove’s record of having not lost in the HPL to Fleetlands since November 2016.
They are now just three points behind leaders Infinity, but have played five games more.
Grant admits it’s frustrating to see the other three clubs currently in the HPL top four - Infinity, Fleetlands and Bush Hill - hoping to win promotion to the Wessex League at the end of this season.
Due to their Marston Road facilities, Grove have not been able to apply to go up themselves.
‘Having been in the top three for the last four years, we are keen to progress,’ he said.
‘But we haven’t got the facilities or the finances of the other clubs.
‘That’s why we can’t hold onto our better players.
‘We lost Josh Benfield to Fareham - we beat Fareham twice last year but they’ve got far better facilities than we have.
‘We always knew this would be a rebuilding season.
‘We sat down at the start of the season and said we’d be happy with a top six finish.
‘Hopefully we’ll achieve that.’
Grove hope to welcome back striker Alex Miroy for next weekend’s home game with Stockbridge, another club who have applied to join the Wessex League in 2020/21.
Miroy scored four times in four matches in August prior to starting a suspension.
Eight-goal top scorer Moulay Ousman should also be back.
He missed the Fleetlands win after his mother passed away earlier in the week, and both sides observed a minute’s silence as a result at the weekend.