The Four Fs

Conference South – Staines Town FC v Hampton & Richmond Borough FC
Sunday, 1st January 2012, 3pm
Wheatsheaf Park
Distance 11 miles, Attendance 592
The Christmas holiday: A time for families, and festivities, and fun, and of course football. Going hand in hand,  in days gone by,these four easily made for glad tidings. The fixture list too took note, and always seemed to give The Four Fs equal billing. It was a simple calculation; if teams played matches near their home towns, the crowds would be bigger, and their families would be happy to have them home again in time to share food and charades. Now of course we have two far more important factors* influencing the festive fixture selection; MONEY & TELEVISION. Thankfully, lower down the great pyramid (of football) The Four Fs still seem to hold sway.
With this in mind, this year, the Football Conference South (Blue Square South in new money) produced a fixture list that pitted Hampton & Richmond Borough against Staines Town twice over the festive period. Such careful consideration gave fans a whopping seven mile journey across West London to attend games. The first meeting was Boxing Day, and the second, New Years Day (Boy do I wish our “best league in the world” would learn from this).
With larger crowds the only down side is of course parking. Driving down Wheatsheaf Lane I knew the car park would be full but didn’t have a clue what the alternatives were. Then, proving the festive period can bring out the best in people a man flagged me down. “You can park here, in front of these cars”, he offered, “It’s my drive and I’ll be at the game too”… He already had one extra fan’s car parked in his drive. For my third game in three days, there couldn’t have been a better beginning. I hardly noticed the rain was driving down on us.

I entered the ground, bought the biggest programme I seen in a long while, and a rain-sodden 50/50 ticket, then photographed the team sheet, and found my way out of the downpour into the impressive main stand. There was a feel good factor running through the unsegregated crowd around me, and surface water running through the centre of the pitch.

Remember at school when you kicked a ball into a puddle and it spun to a halt? Well that happened a lot during the next ninety minutes. Even though Staines had the first notable chance with centre half Jake Goodman blasting over, Hampton & Richmond (recognising that the conditions could play to their advantage) put plenty of early pressure on the Swans keeper. In the 8th minute there endeavours were rewarded. David Tarpey put in a fierce shot which the keeper could only parry, and rushing in Louis Rae Beadle tapped in the loose ball. Having lost the first of the two games it was clear The Beavers were determined to not to lose all the festive bragging rights to their neighbours.
Water continued to influence proceedings; nonexistent drainage, balls skimming uncontrollably, passes going astray, slipping players, mistimed tackles, and both keepers failing to hold the ball. It was great entertainment. I had feared someone would be sent off, but the ref having booked Goodman early seemed to realise the players contact was hardly intent as most struggled to keep their footing. The action came in thick and fast. Scarlett and O’Brien both had great chances for Staines, and Beadle should’ve grabbed a second before half time. The standard wasn’t great, but it was a very evenly poised derby.
Having met James Bartaby, of Under the League fame at half time, I moved to stand with him and the Hampton & Richmond fans for the second half. Soon they were celebrating. On 55, a soft challenge sent Beadle down and Tarpey narrowly tucked away the resulting penalty. Two minutes later captain Matt Ruby powerfully headed home from a fine JJ O’Donnell corner. The game was moving so fast their way that the away fans hardly noticed as the rain continued to pour down. “Where’s your massive gone?” they cheerfully taunted, before moving on to “Small lake in Ashford”. As the game wore on to its now obvious conclusion, tackles flew in and the cards began to reappear. Then came another O’Donnell corner, Evans, The Swans keeper carrying a injury from the Boxing Day win, came to punch and completely missed the wet ball which then hit sub Charlie Moone and bounced in. He probably knew nothing about it. 4-0 up away to you local rivals, this is what dreams are made off (how the memories came flashing back to that sunny Bedfordshire day in  October 1997). I doubt Staines deserved to be this far behind but The Beavers had rode their luck and taken their chances. When the home side did eventually find the net it was an unstoppable Ali Chaaban penalty, courtesy of another weather driven challenge in the box. They also hit the crossbar before the final whistle but a second goal would’ve only been false hope, and little consolation to their fans, some of whom had started to drift home. The three minutes stoppage time took an age, but eventually the Beavers celebrated their win. Though really, over the two games, it was an honourable draw and three points each.

I doubt some of our higher paid stars would’ve enjoyed the conditions, but it had been entertaining to watch, and a great third game for me, and a wonderful reminder of school games lessons where air-kicks were the norm and poor weather didn’t prevent a matches being played. I love local derbies.
(*not my opinion)
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One Response to The Four Fs

  1. Good article mate, it was good to meet you at the match!

    Hope to run into you again soon.

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