Phoenix Sports – Saturday November 7th 2015 (653)

There's kick-off delay at Phoenix Sports while they wait for the 3.05 from Charing Cross to go through...'

There’s a kick-off delay at Phoenix Sports while they wait for the 3.05 from Charing Cross to pass through…’

I’m on the way down to London and – with obviously too much time on my hands – I’m wondering if there is any difference between ‘good fortune’ and ‘pure luck’. I come to the conclusion that good fortune is something bestowed on you (by some entity, perhaps, or maybe even an unknown diety) whereas pure luck is what it is, fortune by chance.

For instance, during our trip to the South Coast last weekend we enjoyed a cracking concert by an up-and-coming indie band, Nothing But Thieves, in Camden. Lead singer Conor Mason, a gifted vocalist, went through his entire range as the band rattled off every track of their debut album. A packed crowd – including Aussie Jack and myself – got their money’s worth. Not so the following night in Cardiff where young Mr. Mason had lost his voice, and then the sound system went awry. Good fortune smiled on us in that we picked the right night, whilst those in Cardiff had the bad luck in that they didn’t. We certainly felt someone was smiling on us…..

That fortune continued only last night as my struggling first love, the mighty Tricky Trees, came out on top against the Shaggers from down the A52. Fortune still smiling in me. But would it last into the Saturday, however, with a pre-booked rail trip to London to tick off one of my three remaining Step 4 sides. Heavy rain is forecast after several days of similar, and I’m resigned to a pre-match session of uncertainty in the Crosse Keys in the City, albeit in the company of some decent ale, as I monitor Twitter feeds concerning any possible postponement. I fill my time by polishing off a Wetherspoons veggie brekkie ( which curiously appears to be one hash brown short of the menu-stated number) and a couple of darker beers, namely Long Man Old Man, a 4.3% dark fruity bitter, and Vale Black Beauty, another 4.3% brew, this time a fruity porter. Only a poor ratio of staff-to-waiting-customer precludes me from purchasing a third.

So, in persistent rain, I head down to Cannon Street Station for the 40-minute rail journey to Crayford on a 10-coach train with no apparent toilet – those with a weaker bladder than I beware! A couple of hundred yards up the road from Crayford Station is the Penny Farthing, a micro pub (a former bicycle shop, hence the name) consisting of one fairly spacious room but with no bar – the classic scenario, along with no background music and nothing for the lager swillers. The ‘patron’ points out the six-strong beer list (there’s cider too) and fetches my choice from the chilled cellar room. With half the beers on the list neither gold nor pale, that’s a fair balance, and I go for a Loddon Russet, which is really more copper than the ruby signified on the beer menu. It’s 4.5% and quite a tasty brew although I’m not sure it’s of a sessionable strength.

This pub has a ban on mobile phone use, although the penalties for misdemeanour are not stated! It’s also the gaffa’s birthday and I spend the session with a ‘Happy 60th’ balloon floating over me – hey, I remember 60! With the rain still coming down and the wind swirling it about, a second pint seems to be inevitable, so I go dark with Hanlon’s Devon Darkness, a 4.2% stout. My only slight disappointment is the dearth of genuinely locale beers on the day, with examples from Devon, Somerset, Sussex, Oxfordshire and Suffolk, but nothing from London or Kent. However a chat with the owners and a look at the recent beer orders book reveals I have arrived on a rare non-locale day. My bad luck.

From here I move up the hill on the 15-minute walk to the ground, passing a few promising-looking pubs on the way, and still with one eye on the weather situation which, although not as bad as it was earlier, is still a trifle inclement. The Phoenix Sports Ground is only a goal kick’s distance from the Oakwood home of local rivals VCD Athletic, a yo-yo team in recent seasons and currently propping up the Isthmian Premier. Phoenix Sports have high hopes of passing them on the way, having started the season reasonably well, sitting 9th in a 24-team Isthmian Division 1 North.

One barrier to their elevation up the leagues might be the ease in which you can watch the game from outside the ground, just a low fence allowing all but munchkins from getting a reasonable view. The ground itself boasts not one but two seated stands, which along with a curious flat standing structure set at a slight angle behind one goal – I suspect it’s real purpose is to provide protection for the barbecue machine housed within – provides adequate shelter for spectators. The clubhouse is of modest proportions, but does have live TV football, although nothing for the discerning ale drinker. Likewise the snack bar, tucked away behind the afore-mentioned barbecue shelter, offers the ubiquitous chip, but nothing else for veggies save the inevitable cup-a-soup. At least they do have some choccy (shame on you, Molesey!)

Visiting Witham Town, struggling after relegation from the Premier last season, have the noticeable support of a one-man kop choir, who keeps up a relentless series of chants and songs – often accompanied by impromptu dancing and much waving of the arms – throughout the game. Gossip within the stand reveals that this character is being featured on Channel 4 in January, on a programme called ‘The Undateables’. That’s harsh. There’ll be a woman (or man, to be perfectly PC) for him out there…..maybe.

The games itself is quite entertaining, on a pitch that’s had a fair soaking but stands up well. The home side are soon out of the traps, and you get the impression from some powder puff defending that the visiting players are not up for it. The opening goal on 16 is no surprise and we settle back for more. Whatever is said in the Witham dressing room at half time obviously does the trick and much to the delight of the visiting kop choir, they play with far more purpose after the break, turning the game around with two goals in three minutes just before the hour. The first comes courtesy of a rebound off the keeper, but then you ‘make your own luck’ in football, so they say. Or is ‘fortune favours the brave’?

Answers on a postcard, please…..

Programme: £1 on the turnstile. Nice cover but not a massive amount of reading matter.

Floodlight pylons: 6

Birdlife: Parakeets a-plenty in this part of London

Club shop: No

Toilets: In the clubhouse

Music the players emerge to: Phoenix From The Flames by Robbie Williams

Kop choir: Yes but not the home team

Visiting fans: a few in the stand plus the one-man show pitchside

What’s in a Name? Presumably Phoenix’s Jason & Lewis Mingle are very popular at parties. The ‘Plain John Smith Award for Name of the Week’ goes to the home team’s Harrison Carnegie!

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