Now that Andover decide to re-schedule their long-advertised 11.00am kick-off to 3.00pm (no doubt putting the mockers on the plans of a few score ‘hoppers and costing the club a few hundred pounds into the bargain) I decide to lessen the distance for my annual New Year’s Drive and target Marlow, in the Southern League Midlands Division. I get the news that the game is ON courtesy of the Chesham United fans forum (the Marlow site is next to useless) and start the two-hour drive down the motorways with 10-year old son for company.
We reach Marlow in good time and the car park attendant must be mistaking my big black four-wheel drive as visiting director transport as he directs me into a reserved spot by the main gate – I’m not arguing! The programme is £1 at the turnstile, but I think charging my lad £3.50 to get in is a bit steep – hardly going to encourage youngsters to attend. The antique main stand catches my eye; tall, narrow and erect and the main focal point of this 1920’s era ground in the middle of housing. Plans on the clubhouse wall indicate that this soon WILL be housing, as the club proposes an out-of-town move.
One of the sponsors of Marlow is the local Rebellion Brewery and a poly-cask of their ale sits on the bar – good news for real beer fans. There’s a big screen on the wall but no live TV game today so I’m not sure if they normally show them. Outside of the bar – which sits under the main stand – there’s a small TV/Snack hut which offers Sausage & Bacon Baps, as well as the obligatory chips. The pies are of the meaty variety.
We watch the game in the less-populated parts of the ground, in order that my ever-active son can act as improptu ball-boy whenever a stray pass sails in our general direction. When this happens too infrequently he sets himself the task of charging up and down the length of the pitch in order to be first to the ball. I wish I had his energy.
A latecomer asks me the score and if it’s a good game. I reply that it’s 0-0 and there’s too much shouting for it to be a good game. Much of the vitriol – from opposing fans as well as players – is directed at the unfortunate ref who I think is doing a good job, but inadvertently seems to be favouring the home side. He awards Marlow a penalty (they miss it) and denies Chesham one in similar circumstances. There’s no dispute over Marlow’s winner.
On the final whistle several of the visiting players want to continue the arguments and it takes a while for the ref to leave the pitch. The Respect campaign is alive and well in this part of South East England!
Floodlight pylons: 8