My first London Rail away-day of the year and it’s a gamble today as the weather is grim and I’m expecting late changes. I decide to base myself in Twickenham for the morning, constantly checking my Iphone for news of the intended Ashford v Hendon fixture and possible alternatives. I’ve already planned ahead by researching train times from Twickenham to Billiericay, Hornchurch, Harrow, Sutton United & Tonbridge, just in case.
In the meantime it’s a bit of pub-surfing and the inherent anorak in me takes me to the Turks Head, featured in the Beatles film Help. From there it’s just a short stroll to Ailsa Road, featured in the film’s opening sequence, the bit where the Fab Four each enter a different front door but it’s one big house inside. I try hard to pick out the right houses whilst attempting to not look like a nosy prat. In the meantime the Ashford game is confirmed as On and I can relax a bit.
From Ashford rail station it’s a half-hour walk to the Short Lane ground which lies in the shadow of Heathrow. The constant roar of jet engines forms a duet with the frequent sqwarking of the 1,000 or so ring-necked parakeets which pass through the pitchside trees on their way to the evening’s roost (if you live in South London, you’ll know!)
The bar is outside the ground and is a bit cramped, but does have the welcome site of handpumps dispensing Fullers London Pride. The big-screen TV is showing a Live Setanta match. Inside the turnstiles there is a guy selling the £2 match programme. This one is a little thicker than the norm but investigation shows it to be a double-header edition encompassing this game and a (postponed) December 30th fixture. So two lots of squad and league info but precious little else. There’s a queue for the food hut which has nothing for the Veggie, but as I’ve had a Wetherspoons brekky and a cheese & onion cob (sorry, roll) in the club house, I give it a miss.
The game is played on a bone-hard pitch, with a bit of frost still evident in one corner. Second from bottom Hendon stick to the task and although the better football is being played by the home team, they sneak the lead just before the break. Bizarrely, their centre-back is sent off during the half time interval, and so it’s ten-man Hendon who ride their luck before sealing it at the death.
At this point I remember I have a soft spot for the Green & Whites and resolve to see more of their away fixtures this season. I think it’s because I was always fascinated by a glimpse of their floodlights poking over the rooftops on my numerous trips to London in the 1970’s. I finally got to Claremont Road a couple of years ago, before Hendon joined the ranks of the nomads.
Floodlight pylons: 8