What a novelty – a Saturday trip to London where I don’t have to worry about my plans being scuppered by the weather! What Joy!
After watching Isthmian League leaders Dover earlier in the month, I’m looking forward to seeing the other pace-setters Staines Town who should have a stiff test today against fourth-placed Carshalton. My early morning train into the smoke is a lot emptier than it was last year, no doubt due to East Midlands Trains cunning ploy of hiking up prices to try to deter us from traveling. Not me, I’m made of more resolute stuff!
I have to be too, as – and not for the first time – my planned Wetherspoons breakfast on the Mall is thrawted by the sight of a pub that has failed to open on time. One or two others outside grumble off in the direction of a nearby cafe, whilst I revise my plans to take in an earlier than anticipated trip to Battersea in search of some Battersea Brewery beers. Four hours later I give up on that, having trawled the area’s finest hostelries in vain. Either out of business or failing the LocAle free trade sales test.
So it’s off to Staines, a half-hour rail trip out of Waterloo, and a busy little place not far from Heathrow. A 20-minute walk to the ground and at first I think I’ve stumbled on some anonymous leisure centre as I’m faced with a large featureless brick building with minimal signage – shades of The Brittas Empire! Then I spot the Ryman logo in the corner and I’ve arrived.
I don’t need another beer but duty compels me to check out the ‘leisure centre’ bar for anything worth savouring. A No No there, although the large screen Sky TV is duly noted. So it’s back down the stairs, through the turnstiles, and head for the programme fella. The £2 prog is bright and breezy with a couple of interesting articles (Brian Greenhalgh, I remember him signing for Leicester in the late ’60’s!) but a bit top-heavy with ads for my liking. A quick glance at the snack bar menu confirms my worst fears – chips again! They do have a veg soup but it’s not really soup weather so I don’t indulge.
The flip side of that large featureless brick building is an impressive main stand which, aside from a long narrow covered slightly-raised terracing opposite, is about it as far as spectator facilities go. Flat standing rules OK. Still, with a crowd of only 349 for this Premier Division clash of the Titans, it’s as much as you’d need.
So it’s time for action, and the home team stroll into an early two-goal lead, with Carshalton looking like a side that’s expecting a tanking. Then they remember that they have one of the best away records in the country and get back into it before the break. It’s building up to the epic second half which never really happens. It’s scrappy until Staines step on the gas and score twice in a minute, both down to the wing wizardly of Howard ‘H’ Newton and the experience of Scott Taylor. H sets up S for the first, and then straight from the kick-off skips down the left flank again, skins a couple of defenders, exchanges passes with his centre-forward, sells a couple of dummies (one of them to the keeper) and ends up tapping the ball into an unguarded net from a foot out – a classic and well worth the entrance fee!
A quick trip up to the bar to check the scores and – no, can’t be…that’s not Gordon Brittas behind the bar, is it?. A quick rub of the eyes and he’s gone. Too much beer, I reason, and I head off for some more.
Floodlight pylons: Just the bog-standard four.
Parakeets: Only a disappointing 11 turn up for this London derby. Strange, when you think there’s a 1,000 or more roosting just a few miles away at Ashford.
and a few new things……
Club Shop: Garden shed (literally!)
Tannoy Music: mostly modern Indie
Bogs: well-maintained, under main stand