Hay-on-Wye (in miniature)

FA Trophy, 1st Round Qualifying (replay) – Ashford Town FC v Grays Athletic FC
Tuesday, 2nd October 2012, 7.45pm
Robert Parker Stadium
Distance 10 miles, Attendance 86
At half time I stood inside pawing over the sporting books; “real books” that is not the betting slip variety. I’ve been intrigued by this shop at the RPS for some time but never entered before. Usually club shops have a multitude of programmes and badges to peruse, but this one is more akin to Hay-on-Wye, in miniature. It’s the sale of old-reading-things attraction that I can’t overlook.
Moments later – having carefully avoided the orange scarves (it’s a Herts-Beds thing) – out I stepped, £1 lighter but clutching a copy of David Bacuzzi’s “How To Play Association Football”. Though I planned to avoid telling my wife of the true value of the 6 shillings price tag, I felt certain she’d appreciate the fine quality of this 1964 first edition instruction manual that I’d managed to acquire.
Choosing not to read it during the second half, I was still convinced this tome would give me all the clues I needed to become a better player/spectator/commentator (one of which was probably always beyond my grasp).

The first half had been rushed. Due to childcare arrangements I’d arrived just prior to kick-off, dashed through the bar, taken a few photos, entered the turnstiles, bought a programme, tried to find the one of the Ash Trees’ most genial club directors, bought a “cup of Rosie” and finally stood, out of the rain, near the tank end just in time to hear the final orders being barked in the warm up (and breathe).

Just prior to kick off Gareth emerged. As we caught up he filled me in on Saturday’s highlights (more of an anecdote); all the while our eyes were trained on the action. Neither team I would add fitted the description of success outlined by Mr Bacuzzi though some early chances fell to the home side. Originally my host summed it up as “infinitely better than Saturday” however in the main the first forty-five was easily edged by Grays, and their vocal support. Going in at half time, the 2-0 lead they had was fair if a little generous.
Earlier keeper Paul McCarthy made a good save to keep the score level but, in both goals he didn’t have a chance. The first, a low Jack West drive from the D was harshly deflected out of his path; the second was a superb shot to the far corner out of his reach. Up the other end a free kick clipped the cross bar, Dan Brown’s tame shot went nowhere, Alex Duffy had a cross deflected close, and all about the referee made some rather bizarre choices in dealing with players.
The second half was much better for the Tangerines though chances were still wasted. Duffy had a shot on the turn well saved, but in keeping with the night their only breakthrough came from a deflection. Duffy chipped the ball forward and Kofi Lockhart-Adams glanced it passed Jake Larkins. Special mention should go to Joe Bennett who performed well after coming on, and had a good shot or two, but fortunately (for the home ssupport) Grays weren’t fairing much better. Missed header’s, late tackles, and passes astray. It was fairly exciting but untidy when it counted. In a desperate finish, even substitutions, and having the keeper up for the final corner, couldn’t turn the game. The ref of course maintained his inconsistency of the first period though managed to blow up perfectly to signal time. In defeat Gareth, as usual, was fairly gracious and wished the visitors luck in the next round.
Being neutral I on the other hand saw things differently. Why was it so dark out, and wet, and cold? Why do Grays use squad numbers at this level? Why was the near lino wearing trainers which prevented him from keeping up with the play? Why was it necessary to have so much effing and blinding on the pitch? What does “chase back inside bundle!” mean? Why do players appeal when they’re wrong? Why do Ashford Town still add (Mx) to their name? Why was one Grays fan so surprised to see planes this close to Heathrow? Why couldn’t the ref see the fouls? How come the first Bovril of the season tastes so good?
There was no ET so no need to phone home, just ninety minutes where two teams tried. When all is said and done, it was hard on the Tangerines but the team with the most luck had won on the night. Can you make your own luck? I don’t know.
Until now I’ve struggled with teams playing in orange (a Herts/Beds thing) but, I left really impressed (not for the first time) with Russell Canderton, and noticed that Duffy had shown some good skill, and again really enjoyed an evening at the RPS. Most importantly I left really impressed with their book shop (and my purchase). If you cannot think of another reason, pop over to the Robert Parker Stadium on match day for a shufty. You know it makes sense.

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One Response to Hay-on-Wye (in miniature)

  1. Ted says:

    I tripped over a link to your piece about Ashford Town on the NonleagueUK website. It led me on to read some others of your commentaries. I don’t know why you do it but what i’ve read has been most entertaining especially as it has been written in English which is not always true of the club website reports (when there are any). Please keep watching and writing.

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