Friday, 15 March 2013

Harlow Town - Barrows Farm

Harlow Town FC
Barrows Farm Stadium
Elizabeth Way
CM19 5BE

01279 443196

Matchday Number: 254
Friday 15th March 2013
Harlow Town 1-1 Waltham Forest
Ryman League - Division 1 North

I only decided to do this one at the last minute. My usual Friday night of going round to my mate who I have known for over 25 years was off, as he was in London. And faced with the depressing thought of sitting in and watching the relentless scrounging (albeit for a good cause) and second rate comedy on Comic Relief did not appeal to me. My usual travel companion, Anwar, would not be with me for this one, but at under 50 miles each way, it was just about affordable on my own. I checked the website of both teams for players that I recognised, but there was only one - former Maidenhead United keeper Chico Ramos.

Tonight would be my 1300th game overall, if my calculations were correct, though I may have missed a few out as I only started recording what games I went to a few years back and had the long and arduous task of trying to work out what games I had been to in my 20 years of watching football. From a steady 24 in my first season watching football to a record 117 in season 2003/04, I had certainly seen a lot of football. And it had no doubt cost me a small fortune, but I had enjoyed it in the main and had lots of memories, even if most of them were lost the back of my head.

The weather was pretty grim and drizzly all afternoon, and so I was checking Harlow's twitter feed every so often up until I had my dinner, then just before leaving at 5.50. Before getting on my way I stopped at a cash machine and got £30 out as I only had a few quid in my wallet. As expected the M25 was being a right pain on a Friday night and so my sat nav advised me to get off and go via St Albans, Hatfield, Hertford and various other places. There were long and painful queues at each roundabout, but I got there at last just before 7.30. While I was driving I had a tweet and was dreading that it was going to say the game was off due to rain. My spirits were lifted when I saw the glow of the floodlights in the distance, then dropped when I saw a near empty car park. But luckily the game was on and the tweet was just from Facebook friend and Scarborough Athletic fan Rob Bernard who contributes to their excellent fanzine 'Abandon Chip'. It reminded me of how much I was looking forward to the Bridlington Town v Scarborough Athletic game as part of the NCEL Groundhop on Easter Saturday.

After paying to get in and getting a programme I went round taking some pictures. Sadly the club shop wasn't open so I went and had a look in the bar instead. I left one of my website cards in there and as I heard the bell for the players to come out, I went and found a place to watch the game from. I spotted fans from Farnborough and Millwall before meeting up with Rob.

The game itself was pretty decent. Despite being in the better side, Harlow went in behind. On 40 minutes a smart finish from Jack Leachman gave the visitors the lead. Harlow did improve in the second half and it did look as if they were going to be getting nothing from the game. They had an injury to one of their players too. A hard but fair tackle where the Waltham Forest player took the ball but also the player led to him having to be stretchered off. This lead to the Harlow fans, who had given their team fantastic vocal support all night having a go at the Waltham Forest manager and he gave it back in equal measure, which all added to the entertainment value. The home side finally got their equaliser with a close range finish, and well deserved it was too. Within a couple of minutes the game was all over and although it was no thriller, it was still worth the effort of going over there, and with my mate moving to London full time, I can see me spending a few more Friday nights watching football in the future.

I thought the journey home would be a lot easier than the journey there, but how wrong I was. I stopped at Asda on the way out of Harlow to get something to eat as I was peckish, and what with the game going on for  quite a while, I didn't leave there until 10.15. Another bad thing that was I had to pay to park and didn't get a full refund in the shop, madness from the council. Then, the road that I needed to take was closed, with no diversion offered, so I had to travel out into the back end of beyond before my sat nav would stop trying to tell me to do the impossible and go down a closed road. Eventually I got on a road towards home, and upon getting on the M25 was confronted by an average speed limit for miles on end, because of the invisible workmen that they had toiling away. I did eventually get home around 11.40 and despite the less than easy journey, was pretty happy and had a couple of pints before going to bed.

BARROWS FARM is a smart and modern stadium, and although I never visited the old Harlow ground, I believe it is a big improvement on their running track infested former home. Harlow Town have had some financial issues in recent times, but at least they have a home to be proud of. I visited there once on the way back from a Wycombe away game, if I recall correctly, a 5-2 defeat to Norwich City as we embarked upon a pretty poor season in League 1, which ended in relegation.

Although both ends are uncovered, the side stands are very good. The seated stand holds around 250, but has a great function room and bar facilities, which happened to be useful for getting into the ground on a non matchday. The other side is also covered, a terrace holding round 750 supporters. This is more than enough to cope with normal league crowds and keep everyone dry.

The tea bar has a basic range, but what was coming out looked pretty tasty and it was all very well priced. The bar was modern and big enough to accomodate the support that they get, but only had a basic range of drinks. The club shop wasn't open on my visit, so I can't comment on that. But overall a nice friendly club with decent fans and a good value day or night out, I think most fans would enjoy visiting here, I just hope they have better luck with traffic than I did! 

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