The fixture list has been “stop-start” so far this season and it seems like an eternity between home matches. However, between now and New Year we have an almost relentless run of fixtures, many down here at the Home of World Football, punctuated, of course, by two successive Saturdays to the extremities of civilisation, in Merthyr and Truro City. There’s a rumour we may actually play Blackfield & Langley next Tuesday, a nice place which is also, though, renowned to be between somewhere and the end of mankind – the tipping edge of the Solent, apparently, but no one really knows and few who have gone there on a cold November night have returned the same again, apparently. Our game against Blackfield & Langley has been postponed so many times that it feels like one of those social gatherings that becomes such a chore trying to fix a date for both parties that in the end, it just never happens and fizzles out, with both sides just keeping their heads down and not mentioning it. Imagine being allowed to get away with that in football, the league table at the end of the season that has asterisks next to it along the lines of “couldn’t be bothered in the end” to denote games that never happened? This, of course, would be a shame because when the fixtures came out, the thought of an early October trip to a scenic part of Hampshire, maybe taking in the Hythe Ferry and Pier Railway (which is a combination of a narrow-gauge railway, followed by a boat across the sea) was compelling. Now it’s so inconveniently re-arranged, I suspect even Staggers and Alan won’t be there, which is saying something.
On the subject of away fans, a word for our beautiful faithful at Beaconsfield. If you watch the footage of our two goals on social media, the noise is deafening and you would be hard pushed to genuinely believe that the crowd was a feeble 77, or more, likely, you’d think, that 76 of them were Stags fans. There is also some audibly triumphant whoops of joy and a choice word from what sounds like our General Manager, Duncan Saunders in the background when James Ewington gets the equaliser. This made me titter, but there wasn’t much laughter 10 days later when our Surrey Senior Cup game away at Banstead was postponed 45-minutes before kick-off due to a miniscule scrap of mud in the centre circle. Both teams, along, no doubt, with hundreds of Stags fans had dodged rush hour traffic and packed Southern Railway’s trains under police escort to get to Banstead for kick off and were desperate to play the game but overly cautious officials were having none of it and contributed to our increasingly congested fixture schedule, made worse up the latest postponement of the “El Waltono” derby against Walton & Hersham in the Southern Combination Cup.
In local news, Hampton & Richmond pulled off the shock of the season beating runaway leaders Wealdstone 2-0 last Saturday. My missus failed to approve a “pass out” for Dorchester (“the coach leaves at 09:30, it will take out the whole day and you’ve jobs to do round the house”, she decreed) so I went to the Beaveree and must admit that, after our win over Weston-Super-Mare, it was the best game I’d seen all season. A miracle also happened at Wheatsheaf Lane as beleaguered Staines Town recording their first league win of the season – a 6-1 thumping of Chalfont. Meanwhile, in the same division, Chertsey Town drew 2-2 with Westfield in front of a crowd of over 400 – it’s good to see some of the success of the F.A. Cup being translated into decent attendances. Their previous league game saw hundreds of local school kids being given free entry, the team having gone into their classrooms the previous week to show off the F.A. Vase and tell them about their Wembley success. Elsewhere, Walton & Hersham have been having some fun – 16 goals in 3 games then preceded a 2-2 draw with Sandhurst and 3-4 home defeat to Bedfont and Feltham. Down here against Sandhurst, they were down to 9-men and conceded an injury time goal scored by the visiting team’s goalkeeper!
Talking of keepers, it must have been crazy down at Dorchester with Bradley’s heroics between the sticks, once Alex had been sent off. As great a battling performance that it was (there’s clearly no shortage of team spirit this season!), perhaps it was a case of 2 points lost, though, against a team in real trouble. I confess to being a bit over confident having read on social media beforehand the “View from the Opposition” article by the Dorchester fan as we learnt of a side in dire form and a manager who appeared to be on borrowed time. Perhaps, it was written to lure us all into complacency as we approached the game.
Anyway, what with our goalkeeper seeing red last week, this brings us full circle to Saturday’s opposition Poole Town and our last meeting here just over a year ago. In 44 years of attending football matches, I have never felt so enraged by the referee as I was with Gerry Heron who not only sent off our hero between the sticks, the lovely Denzel Gerrar in the most baffling of circumstances but preceded to spend the game winding up the home fans and also giving every decision in favour of Poole. To cap it off, there was a Referee’s Assessor at the match, monitoring Heron’s performance! Let’s hope that we’re talking about a great game of football come 5pm tonight and not the officiating. Come on you Stags!