There’s a (snow)storm brewing but not likely to arrive until Sunday so I’m confident that today’s scheduled game in Fen country will be on. A lack of early morning frost reinforces that view. An old friend and fellow Forest man Nick Shaw has seen my blog and, sufficiently intrigued, offers to transport me to today’s game in his trusty Meriva, and we arrive in good time for the kick-off.
The stadium looks well-suited to this level, with a sturdy looking main stand dominating the half-way line, and much of the flat standing around the pitch benefitting from tin roofing. Just one side of the ground is reminiscent of a park pitch, being open standing with a good deal of space beyond. Earmarked for the new main stand, I muse.
The programme is on sale at £1 from just inside the turnstile. It’s pretty much the staple for the level; apart from the cover all is in black and white and full of league website stuff. I chuckle a little at a weighty two-page spread headed “Chasetown FC a BRIEF history’ – I suspect there’s not much more that could be said…
Into the bar and the sign of a handpump, badged up with Greene King IPA. The CAMRA devil on my shoulder urges me to shun this much-maligned beer, but the truth is that – when well kept – it’s not a bad drink. I also think the same about the cask version of John Smith’s Bitter. As I’m not driving I knock three down the hatch and we catch the tail-end of the Live game on TV. Then we go in search of snap, and head for the small snack bar besides the turnstile. They do the usual selection of meat in bread delicacies, and I am intrigued by ‘Dog & Bacon’. Needless to say I make do with a chip butty which – my world-wise travelling chum points out – is not really a butty as there’s no butter in it. Or even margerine come to that.
The game is against promotion-seeking Chasetown, and the West Midlanders are up for it, their on-loan 19-year old Walsall striker Harry Harris getting booked for a foot-in, netting the first from the spot, notching a second from a defensive howler, and then with his team three up, getting a second yellow and an early bath. Not before he’s vented his spleen on the base of a floodlight pylon, and run the gauntlet of an angry 70-something local who then threatens to take everybody on. Transpires it’s Mr Harris’s second Red in five days, and his third of the season – he should be one to watch when he eventually makes his Walsall debut in the Welterweight division.
By this time the natives who have spent much of the match mouthing politically-incorrect suggestions to the Lines-Lady on the far side, have had enough and headed back to the bar. Ms Helen Fulcher has to be admired for turning out on a bitterly cold day (as indeed do her male colleagues) only to be abused and harangued by both sides – and the spectators – for much of the 90 minutes. Even hard-bitten footy fans like our good selves can’t fail to be moved by the sight of the aforementioned Lino – the woolley hat on her head a half-time concession to the biting cold – shivering her way off the pitch at the final whistle.
The chap who earlier ungraciously suggested she ‘clear off and do some washing up’ had probably already gone off to do his.
Floodlight pylon count: 8
Parakeets: Zero (give ’em five years …)