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Pleasant Pastures in Perivale and Mad Marauding Muntjacs

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:

The opening lines of John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale”


Don’t the above words just fill you with foreboding? I’d recently taken possession of a new car. It was a red Honda Civic and it replaced my previous car, which by pure happen-chance was also a red Honda Civic! For the first match this week, Graeme and I travelled down to Hitchin Town. It was my ninth visit this season, but for Graeme, it was a new ground! It was an uneventful journey, but the ground at Top Field on Fishponds Lane always has something new to offer and Graeme, like me, was charmed by its ‘olde worldliness’. This evening, for the first time this season, I saw it in daylight!

Monday 8th April 2013 Evo-Stik Southern League k.o.:- 7.45pm
Premier Division

Hitchin Town                              1                                  Bedworth United                 1
John Frendo 81                                                                    Tom Lorraine 29
referee:- I. Rathbone                                                            attendance:- 243


Graeme got his club badge and we had a good wander around. The match wasn’t a classic, but then again neither team had been setting the world on fire this season. Hitchin have pulled away from the dreaded drop of late, but Bedworth are still deep in the mire. They should have won this game. They led for two thirds of the match and had chances to double that lead, but John Frendo, that reliable Canaries goal machine knocked one in for the home side,with fewer than ten minutes to go, and a draw was all that Bedworth took away with them!


Tuesday 9th April 2013 MDH Northants Combination k.o.:- 6.30pm
1st Division

Gretton                                           2                                  Medbourne                         2
Alex Booth 20                                                                         Mark Chilton (og) 73
Saul McCracken 69                                                               Kev Fisher (pen) 79
referee:- Adam Norton (Corby)                                           attendance:- 28

The following evening, I took in a match on my doorstep – almost literally! Gretton football (and cricket) pitches are on the green opposite my house and so it was a walk of some twenty metres to attend this match!

There were no programmes (but team lists were available). There was no entry charge, but there was a fairly healthy congregation for a match at this level. Gretton are some six points adrift of safety with six games to go. Their rivals, Medbourne, for whom my son played for a couple of seasons, are becalmed in mid-table.

It was a rip-roaring contest and after being outplayed in the first fifteen minutes, the home side took the lead through Alex Booth, with an exquisitely executed lob over the goalkeeper, and gradually their confidence grew. It was a great pity that a second lob, late in the first half, struck the bar rather than the back of the net!

In the second half, Saul McCracken, lurking at the far post, poked in a second goal for the home side and it all seemed over bar the shouting. Sadly, that was as good as it got. Mark Chilton unerringly headed into his own net  and then Medbourne equalised with a penalty after a needless push by a defender in the area, when John Fursdon had already headed the ball away for a corner.

I stayed awhile for a pint in the bar at the end with John and Saul, and Saul’s dad. Gretton are going through a difficult period. Four of Medbourne’s team were born and bred in Gretton. Why are they not playing for their home team? Money is particularly tight and there is some resentment at the league’s money-grabbing policies. There is, however, plenty of optimism and even if the worst should happen this season, there is plenty of faith in the future!

Wednesday 10th April 2013 Evo-Stik Southern League k.o.:- 7.45pm
Premier Division

Kettering Town                          1                                 St Neots Town                   0
Ben Ford 46
referee:- Ian Rathbone                                                        attendance:- 187


Kettering Town, until recently, princes of non-league football, have fallen on hard times. Their fine Rockingham Road stadium is now only used by the youth teams and their lease on it runs out in the very near future. They were locked out of their alternative venue at Nene Park in Irthlingborough for non-payment of bills. Now, they are playing their home games at Steel Park, home of Corby Town, but The Steelmen require the rent up-front before each game is played! They were deducted ten points for going into administration. Players left and at one point there was a serious possibility that they might not be able to raise a team! There is talk in some quarters that a ‘phoenix’ team will be formed for next season that will rival the existing ‘Poppies’, but that idea was regarded as unlikely amongst the Kettering fans with whom  I spoke. Many of them said that they would like to continue to ground-share with Corby!


I hadn’t seen one of my former pupils playing at this level for a long time, but young Aiden Bradshaw came on as a substitute at left back after only fifteen minutes and had a really good game. Kettering Town, already relegated and not entirely sure where – or whether – they will be playing football next season, deserved their narrow victory in a very competitive and entertaining match. The club has not been well served by recent chairmen and directors. How could they let the situation deteriorate so badly?

Thursday 11th April 2013 Molten Spartan South Midlands League k.o.:- 7.45pm
Premier Division

Hanwell Town                           1                                   Aylesbury United            1
Kyle Watson 70                                                                       Steve Hatch 26
referee:- Stephen Bates                                                           attendance:- 84


I took the train down to Watford Junction and there, I was picked up by Phil in his champagne three-and-a-half litre diesel-turbo chariot and whisked out to Perivale for a first visit to Reynolds Field, home of Hanwell Town. Amidst all the concrete jungle that is Ealing and South Greenford, there is a very large oasis of golf courses and school playing fields, all well hidden from the undiscerning viewer and Reynolds Park represented the tip of the iceberg! The playing surface is in remarkably good shape, the ground is neat and tidy and Phil, who has taught more than a few of the footballers on display and even found employment for one or two as ‘greensmen’ at local golf clubs!


Hanwell were up against it this evening, however, as Aylesbury United, who are second in the league and seeking promotion with runaway leaders, Dunstable Town, were in no mood to give quarter. They were dominant throughout the first half and at half-time, it only seemed a question of how many they might win by. Whatever was said in the home dressing room at half-time, or popped into the reviving cuppa, it certainly had the desired effect. Hanwell started the second half positively and from looking likely not to concede a second, they looked equally likely to score themselves, which they did in the seventieth minute through Kyle Watson. A draw was just about the right result.


At half-time I had gone off in search of the official attendance and was reliably informed from the boardroom that it was 78. Imagine my surprise, the following morning, to discover on The Molten Spartan South Midlands League website, that the posted attendance was 84! The previous evening, both Phil and I had been sceptical. The crowd looked well into three figures!


Phil’s elegant and comfortable limousine duly decanted me at Watford Junction Station with five minutes to spare before the 22.11 to Northampton. There, my troubles started. At first, the 22.11 was merely ‘delayed’, but then the announcement came through that it had been cancelled due to a shortage of train crews. That wasn’t too bad, because the next train was at 22.40 and that terminated in Northampton at 23.39. I hopped into my own transport and, dreaming of a substantial scotch on arrival home, I drove the twenty-five or so miles to Gretton. It was just as I was entering the last stretch, about two miles from home, when I was ambushed. Tootling along at around 40 miles an hour or so, I was suddenly assaulted by a marauding band of muntjacs. They piled into the side of my car like like an enraged rhinoceros. The wing mirror went flying off, I could feel the door crumple and the plastic wheel rim at the rear was half torn off. Then, as suddenly as they had arrived, ……… they disappeared!  Gingerly, I nursed my new two-week-old battered baby back to Gretton and wept over the damage caused. If I’d had a baseball bat in the boot of my car I would have been dining on venison for months!

 Saturday 13th April 2013   Leicestershire Senior League      k.o.:- 3.00pm

Division 1

Lutterworth Town                         0               Earl Shilton Albion                        2

Joe Palmer 18

                                                                                    Jack Stafford 65

referee:- Peter Bambury (Hemington)              attendance:- 15

We had a special birthday party to go to in Derbyshire in the evening. Chris will be 50 on Tuesday and he was having a bash at a splendid hostelry in Shardlow. Hence the relatively short visit to a step 7 match in The Leicestershire Senior League. Entrance was free, but they had programmes, modestly priced at 50p.


Lutterworth Town are the lowlier of the two Lutterworth teams (I visited Lutterworth Athletic of The East Midlands Counties League, quite recently). Their ground used to have floodlights, but pressure from the local populace and in particular a local councillor, saw them taken down. They have a perfectly adequate clubhouse, but no cover for the occasional itinerant football nomad, which was particularly unfortunate for this match as it poured down throughout!


These two teams are perched comfortably in mid-table with three or four games to go to the end of the season. Albion were undoubtedly the better side and won the match comfortably by 2-0. However, Town could have made things slightly more problematic for them if they had scored from a 65th minute penalty. They didn’t and the sparsely smattered crowd dispersed at speed when the final whistle sounded!

And my heart still aches and a drowsy numbness still pains my sense when I think of the damage that those marauding muntjacs practised on my newly acquired motor! I’ve often seen muntjac along that road, but only once before had I actually collided with them. That was twenty years ago  ………  and another story!


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