Chateau Roux Stadium, Hitchin Road, Arlesey, Beds
Ah! Back on public transport again, and it’s the 8.33 out of Nottingham after a hearty brekkie at the nearby Greasy Spoon. Notts County fans are in and out before their journey south to tackle the might of Sutton United in the FA Cup. Me, I’m off to Arlesey to renew my acquaintance with a team I’d never heard of six months ago, but were now watching twice within five days.
The route takes me via Peterborough where there’s time to nip into the Wetherspoons (Drapers Arms) just five minutes from the station. It’s beer festival time and amidst an impressive array of darker and malty traditional cask beers (I hate golden ales!) I choose Hilden’s Molly Stout – my second breakfast of the day.
Then it’s the train to Arlesey on the main line to King’s Cross. First lesson – the ground is two miles from Arlesey station which isn’t actually in Arlesey, but in Church End. Fortunately I’d done my research and knew that the M2 bus would take me into Shefford for a couple of pints in the Brewery Tap, owned by the local B&T brewery, and then doubling back to the Mechanics in Henlow. This pub not only has a good range of cask beers, it’s got sports on the big screen. Then it’s back on the M2 bus right down to the ground.
The Chateau Roux stadium is a bit of a surprise. The frontage is a modern building (like Didcot) which houses various offices and changing rooms, plus a spacious bar, again with sports TV. It just looks out of place in a one-horse village like Arlesley! There’s a couple of handpumps, and although it’s only Greene King IPA it makes a change from the Guinness I have to drink in most club bars. Then it’s out of the club and into the ground where the programme is sold just the other side of the turnstiles. At £1.50 it’s not a bad read but wouldn’t win any design awards. One nice touch, however, is that they stick an accurate team sheet in the middle, so you don’t have to deface your prog by jotting numbers next to names.
The food bar breaks all records (ie by being later even than Barton Rovers) by opening smack on kick-off time and although I’m stuck with chips again, this time I stick it in a butty.
The stadium itself consists of a small seated stand which backs on to the afore-mentioned admin block, with a covered terrace on the opposite side which extends much the length of the pitch. Behind one goal a narrow but steep terrace is cut into a bank. This houses the Arlesey vocal element (all 15 of them). In fact the crowd is a piss-poor 79, so clearly the locals don’t share the rosy vision for the feature that the surroundings would promise.
The game is a Southern League Midland (Level Eight) clash with rock-bottom (the Direby County of the Southern League) Malvern Town who’ve been nose-diving for a couple of seasons. Amazingly the visitors take the lead and should have doubled it before their hosts level it in the second half. Confident of imminent victory, the fifteen man Kop choir are stunned when Malvern scramble a late winner. The agony and the ecstacy.
Oh well, time for a 30-minute march back to the station and more beer in Peterborough.