Greener on the other side

FA Cup, 2nd Qualifying Round (replay) – Leatherhead FC v Biggleswade Town FC
Tuesday, 4th October 2011, 7.45pm
Fetcham Grove
Distance 8 miles, Attendance 240
Tonight I met a man. A man from Leighton Buzzard and a Villa fan to boot (as in Aston, not Hanworth). His story went that he was in the Morrisons petrol station near home when heard there was a match on over the road; Aylesbury United v Bracknell Town, so he went (Aylesbury currently lodge at the home of Leighton Town, Bell Close stadium). After The Ducks had won 4-0 he decided to go to the next round, following the strand through. This took him to North Leigh , and then Leatherhead. Sitting in the stand near the bar, I found him wowing the locals, and loving every minute of being there. That’s the thing about Fetcham Grove; it’s just so easy to feel at home there. Of all the grounds I’ve taken in over the past few weeks I fit The Tanners’ the best. Of course you could blame my middle-class upbringing, or just the fact that I appreciate a nicely tendered lawn and lick of fresh paint, but trust me everyone was incredibly friendly.
Having got my ticket and programme I walked round the back of the stand and into The Grove bar. Drink downed, I exited through “the beer garden”. At one end the smallest club shop I’ve ever seen, and shopped at, at the other the entrance to the back of the stands. You remember that scene in The Blues Brothers where they play a gig at Bob’s Country Bunker? Well that’s what the beer garden reminds me of. It’s the chicken wire that does it, put up to stop the match ball from knocking glasses over. You can imagine Jake and Elwood standing there running through Stand By Your Man.

Evidence my photography degree is wasted?

Turning to the pitch… For the first time the players lined up right in front of me for the now customary TV-driven-handshake-thingy, and the action ebbed and flowed like any good cup game should. Of course I’d swear it was down to the floodlights but everything was amplified; the stadium announcer behind me, the crunching tackles, the heckles from the crowd, and the chink of glasses behind me.
Just as I couldn’t have wanted more of a club to visit, Tanners manager, Chris Nunn, said after the game that he could not have asked more of the team who ran out 2-1 winners. They’d been on top for most of the match but were pushed close in the last 15 minutes after Biggleswade pulled a goal back. After the whistle I wished the Villa well for his now forth-coming trip to Billericay Town, and walked back to the car wondering if we’d bump into each other again. Maybe next time I’d get his name…
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