Evidence of a wayward shot….
I don’t like to make a habit of driving to football grounds (as I like a beer too much) but for the second game on the bounce I’m using my wheels. Possibly a good move however when the destination is several miles from the nearest railway station, and on a damp and dreary November evening I don’t want to be messing about with buses.
When I do have to drive I tend to arrange some business locally (I work for a graphic design company in the licensed trade) and use that as an excuse to fit a game in. Tonight I’m meeting an old acquaintance from a microbrewery, in a pub south of Bedford, and then it’s on to Barton Rovers, a village team in the Southern League Midland Division (level 8).
I find the ground more or less in the middle of Barton and pick my way through an overly muddy car park to the single turnstile entrance. Programmes are on sale for £1.50 just inside the ground and it’s a reasonable read, once you’ve waded through several pages of pre-printed advert copy early doors.
The club bar is inside the ground, and there’s a handpump with Charles Wells Eagle IPA in evidence. Big screen TV draws punters into the room, but the food hatch stays obstinately shut until virtually kick-off time. When it does open it’s the staple diet of hot dogs and burgers, plus chips and …. onions – well there’s no sign of any mushy peas or curry and I do like a two-course meal.
The ground consists of what looks like a seventies-build main stand of modest proportions and no less than five covered terraces on the opposite side, each no bigger than a school bike shed and looking like houses on the side of a Hovis hill, going down in steps to compensate for the wicked slope of the pitch.
The game is a local derby against Arlesey, just a few miles up the road, and you’d kinda expect more than the 109 who bothered to turn up. Both teams have yet to turn up themselves for this season, and the match is brimful of niggles but bereft of skill.
“You’re too effing nice!” informs the Barton keeper of his defence after they have parted the waves to allow the visitors winger to open the scoring, and the custodian keeps up a steady stream of smart-ass one liners throughout the game as his companions in blue generously allow their opponents a number of free shots on goal.
By the time Barton test the fabric of the net they are already two down and destined to remain stuck in the lower reaches of the table.
The 109 hardy souls pick their way back through the car park potholes and doubtless rue their decision to give the Champions League on TV a miss.