Ashford Town (Mx) FC versus Chertsey Town FC
Calor Gas Southern League Central Division
Saturday 18th January 2014
Final score: 0-2
There are days when the power of the world wide web really comes into its own. Rainy Saturdays being one. Forums and social media platforms such as Twitter become invaluable for those looking to see what games have fallen foul of the weather. These sites give free, instant, easy access for clubs and supporters to inform and interact with, which wasn’t possible on such a grand scale a few years back.
Since the turn of the new year, Saturday mornings have involved firing up the laptop and discovering who’s pitch has the balls to hold up to the constant deluge of rain that we’ve had. You have to feel sorry for some extreme cases (see: Leatherhead) or apathy to those who cannot be bothered to write in less than 140 characters if their game has been postponed or not. It does make you wonder if some clubs just don’t want extra bums on seats from those looking for their football fix.
Anyway, this past Saturday, I was scheduled to visit Hanwell Town, who were hosting Ashford United in the FA Vase fourth round. I’ve become interested in the club since I photographed Manager Ray Duffy and his four sons and nephew for a piece in the Non League Paper. I then travelled to Great Yarmouth Town in which Hanwell Town, down to 10 men for 89 minutes, defeated their hosts with a belting last minute winner. All at the club, especially Ray and his sons, have been very welcoming in every occasion we’ve met.
Unfortunately, like most matches, Hanwell’s game was postponed due to the weather. Whilst I saw their update on Twitter, Ray phoned me personally to inform me – How nice and personable was that? What a touch of real class!
So, it was a hunt around for a replacement. There were a few options, but at 1pm, the match that stood out to me was the bottom of the table clash between Ashford Town (another Ashford!) and Chertsey Town in the Calor Gas Southern League Division One Central. Ashford Town make good use of Twitter, promptly informing all that their pitch was passed fit and keeping potential visitors updated with any news. They were subsequently rewarded with their best gate of the season – 185, as neutrals flocked to Short Lane.
See… social media works!
Both sides went into this game with just six points each. Ashford had won two but lost every other game. Cherstsey fare no better; One win and three draws. With relegation bearing down on both sides even in mid-January, three points to either side could be the catalyst for climbing out of trouble.
I’d visited Ashford’s ground a couple of times in the past, but never with camera in hand. Today, with the rain since passed and the low winter sunshine breaking through, this was the ideal time to capture some of the ‘unique’ backdrop of the Robert Parker Stadium, Short Lane. Ultimately, I’ll let the photos do the talking. With three sides of the ground fairly typical of Step 4 football, one end is dominated by the industrial surroundings of nearby Heathrow Airport. Huge fuel tanks in Esso’s plant dominate the skyline and makes for an interesting photo backdrop.
Most of the time, I sit pitchside, as from an aesthetic reason, action shots of football look better from a lower vantage. Plus, there’s no obstructions to hinder your view. To get pitchside access, it’s always courteous to contact the club beforehand with your request. As this was a late call (though the power of Twitter once again makes contacting clubs even easier), I decided to just remain ‘fan side’. As the players prepared to take to the field, a club official asked if I wanted to sit pitchside. However, without my waterproofs, monopod and stool, I declined his kind offer. It might sound quite small, but you’ll be amazed at some clubs preciousness and pettiness about allowing photographers pitchside without prior notification.
Early exchanges were fairly even as the two teams got to grips with the heavy, but very playable pitch and although Ashford looked the more dangerous pressing forward, but it was Chertsey’s John Pomroy who opened the scoring in front of the Chertsey faithful and imposing fuel tanks. Ashford continued to dominate, but with shooting prowess appearing to have long since left the club, you could quickly see why they were in their current predicament.
In actual fact, most of the match continued in this vein. Ashford looked good in possession and threatened on the attack, only to be let down in the final third. Two incidents didn’t help in their search for an equaliser. Perry Luckins got a little feisty with one of the opposition and promptly received a caution for his troubles. Minutes later and obviously still pissed off, in a 50/50 challenge, kicked out at Chertsey player when felled. Although no harm came from the kick, the act in itself was daft and punishable with another yellow, followed by red. Luckins had to be restrained in leaving the pitch and no doubt, the changing room took the brunt of his frustrations.
Chertsey made good use of having an extra man and with eight minutes left, Billy Wilson blasted in a fine effort to give the Curfews their second win of the season. The Chertsey faithful (postie in full uniform included) celebrated a rare victory. From here, it was home, bath and a damn hot Vindaloo… fully satisfied from the day’s proceedings.
Was the win the catalyst for Chertsey to climb out of trouble? Well, they followed their second win of the season with a third on the Tuesday, recording a 2-0 away win at AFC Hayes. They’ve doubled their points tally for the season in the space of three days. It’s too early to call, but the Curfews may just make it.
As for Ashford, they remain optimistic in the face of real adversity. But whatever their fate, good drainage at Short Lane coupled with the communication to fans on Twitter makes Ashford Town a real, viable and interesting choice on a rain-affected Saturday.
Author – Stuart Tree