Woking’s finest

FA Cup, 4th Qualifying Round – Hayes & Yeading United FC v Cambridge United FC
Saturday, 29th October 2011, 3pm
The Kingfield Stadium (Woking FC)
Distance 14 miles, Attendance 452
When you’re young, you want to be someone. We all do it, whether through peer pressure or not, we start out looking up to others. Watching their every move, copying their dress code, mimicking their movements, even reciting their opinions. It gets dressed up in youthful swagger and growing pains, and it’s tolerated by others like many adolescent journeys.
Looking back, I’ve been to Woking, many times, but unlike some of my peers, it was never to stalk Paul Weller, idol or not. I’ve seen him in concert countless times, but realised early enough that the risk of disappointment that might come from meeting ones heroes, could be a private hell. Since then I’d dropped all the disguises and taken my own path.

Last May, driving to Woking my focus was clearly on the Conference South Play-Off where Farnborough would be visiting the Kingfield Stadium. Though the result went against Woking FC, that night the atmosphere was buzzing. This afternoon was totally different. This afternoon I was here to watch the tenants, Hayes & Yeading United, a team I’d seen challenging for the same event two years earlier. That night, their fans in the crowd were in celebratory mood, proudly chanted “Working Class!” at the Hampton & Richmond fans, whilst their team starting with a goal from Scott Fitzgerald walked away with a 3-2 win. This afternoon the mood had changed.
Like the adolescents going through their tricky personal journeys, Hayes & Yeading, despite plans for the future are, not for the first time, going through troubled waters. The merger of the Missioners and the Dings came about to save the two struggling clubs, their old Church Road ground has been bulldozed, and the new Beaconsfield Road ground is still an uncompleted pile of bricks and mortar. To make matters worse they haven’t the piles of pretty green found in other West London clubs. It’s true you don’t have to fight through the West London traffic to see them anymore, but due to their distance from home fans are staying away. So small do they now number that even the sounds from the street are audible in the ground. It’s certainly not The Great Depression, but it’s also not an enviable position.

As the tannoy played music for the last couple of minutes leading up to kick-off it was clear that against a well supported and effective Cambridge United side this was going to be a tough from the outset. Deprived of loanees and the suspended, the home side remarkably took the lead midway through the first half, but from that point onwards the match was anything but even. Left, right and centre, they were second best in every area of the pitch. The next time Hayes & Yeading scored the game was drawing to a close, and being 5-1 up Cambridge had taken their foot off the accelerator, though to add insult to injury they scored another before the ref could finally blow up. Cambridge might be ghosts of their former selves but they have some good players who could fly higher up the football pyramid. Ashley Carew scored a couple and was nominated by the FA for Player Of The Round, something he’d have won easily if he looked up when shooting. He could’ve got a hatful from the chances he had though seemed to find boots more interesting than the target. Danny Naisbitt did well in goal and Harrison Dunk had a solid ninety, but for me Luke Berry was the true star of the show. Cambridge United – Three times the quality, three times the goals, three times the fans.

Luke Berry helping out with defensive duties

Away from the numbers this is still one of my favourite clubs to watch. I walked back to the car hoping the club recover from their troubles someday, hoping they and their fans are happy together again, and hoping that come Monday my mind would be elsewhere, with other clubs, planning my trip to a replay…
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