It’s where?

FA Cup, 1st Qualifying Round (replay) – Moneyfields FC v Godalming Town FC
Tuesday, 2oth September 2011, 7.45pm
Moneyfields Sports Ground
Distance 59 miles, Attendance 219
When the draw comes out each round I make lists. Two lists to be precise and I rank them both. As a card carrying man this of course is no chore, it’s a pleasure, an obsession. We love lists, and top 10s. I’ve got old programmes stacked and bound chronologically, books shelved by author, and CDs currently sorted alphabetical by band name or artist surname AND then chronological. Well you can’t put “Abbey Road” before “Revolver” can you?
The first list ranks the games I could attend based on newness of the ground/teams, then location, and then whether they might go to a replay (I try to avoid matches I might need come replay time). The second list contains possible replays. When the 1st Qualifying Round matches had run their course, the draw God’s had not been kind… and so one grey Tuesday I set off early for somewhere on the outskirts of Portsmouth. It seemed simple enough; A3, A27, A2030 and turn right into a dense area of housing. As every road looks pretty much the same round here the final part of the journey wasn’t so straight forward but I made it. Having found the ground (which is very clear IF unlike me you drive up the correct street) the next challenge was parking. If you’re visiting, don’t even bother with the club car park. It’s small.

The ground is tightly nestled between streets and the main train line to Portsmouth. From the turnstiles, the dugouts sit on the far side of the pitch backed by a thick hedge which separates us from a second pitch. The playing area is railed off on all sides though only one contains cover for the fans. Thankfully it didn’t rain. Down that side, to my right, is a giant protected area backing onto the club buildings, in the centre its open then where the tea bar with delightful service is found, and quite bizarrely, the small stand is situated in the corner of the ground to the left. I say bizarre as whilst the seats may be more comfortable than Kenilworth Road away end the view of the near side of the pitch must be trying at best.
To please the large partisan crowd (the turnstile operator ran out of tickets, and still they came in) Moneyfields deservedly took the lead. Sadly this was to prove fruitless in a very tight, niggly game officiated by a whistle-happy ref, and Godalming eventually ran out 3-1 winners. For the 90 minutes, whilst the atmosphere off the pitch was one of celebration, on the pitch things weren’t so cordial. That night when I posted my pictures on Flickr I stated, “Fouling. The second most common sight throughout this game with at least; one player leaving the field injured, 6 yellows cards, and 32,457 incidents both on and off the ball. By the end of the game I knew where the ref could stick his whistle.” Other game facts include; 7 trains passed within spitting distance, the pitch is visible from the gents, one ball made it to the train lines, and this is the only ground I’ve seen, EVER, using a blackboard for the team sheet. Truly wonderful!
My final note comes with a Paddington hard-stare at the country’s “big clubs”. When teams play in the FA Cup they should always field the first team, they should embrace the community, and all fans (their friends and family included) should always feel welcome. The “EPL” (whatever nonsense that stands for) could learn a lot from Moneyfields and their ilk in non-league.
*puts soap box away*
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