Friday, 12 April 2013

Fleet Town - Calthorpe Park

Fleet Town FC
Calthorpe Park
Crookham Road
GU51 5FA

01252 623804

Matchday Number: 264
Thursday 11th April 2013
Fleet Town 0-3 Burnham
Southern League D1 Central

Since my previous entry in this blog, I had done a huge walk from Adams Park to Oxford's Kassam Stadium to raise funds for Wycombe Wanderers, who in their first season of trust ownership, are set to make a big loss financially. At the last count, we had raised over £3700, with a target of £4000. With gift aid, it would be increased by a little bit more, and hopefully this will be useful to the club. It was certainly a painful and tiring walk.

It started at midnight on the Friday night / Saturday morning. We were seen off by team manager Gareth Ainsworth, as well as backroom staff Lee Harrison and Richard Dobson. I had already been up since 4am, as I had been working that day, but was feeling fine as we set off. We walked up to Lane End, through the middle of nowhere to Watlington, where a couple of people took a short breather in the car that was accompanying us to see to any medical or other emergencies that might occur. I was fine physically at that point, my head was a wee bit tired having been up 24 hours at that point, and I started having random cravings for roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. As it was I had to make do with Mt Kipling's mini Battenburg cakes and Irn-Bru, as it was all I had in my bag.

It was at that point the group split up a bit, as more walkers were feeling the strain. Me, being ever competitive, if only against myself, kept pace with the front group, who were going along at a fair old rate. I was glad to see light, and kept checking Google maps to motivate everyone into how well we had done so far, and how little there was to go in comparison. I think it was about 4.5 to go that I started feeling the strain, but I soldiered along, practically shuffling along for 3 miles, in minor pain and unable to lift my feet much. It must have been about 1.5 miles from our destination that my body gave up, I just collapsed on the floor in agony and could hardly move. About 25 minutes passed after the other 3 at the front went on, when the car with Paul (who had taken another breather) and Lana (the driver) came to my rescue. Paul practically had to drag me across the road I was that stiff and at that point I felt quite faint, like I was going to black out. After getting a lift for the final  mile or so to the ground, I was a tiny bit better, and was able to hobble with the aid of a walking stick to where we had some group photos taken, the others having arrived by then. Some much needed relief at the Priory Pub, in the form of some delicious Welsh cider was most welcome.

Everyone had done themselves and the club proud. I would say the majority did the complete walk, and no one had more than a few miles assistance in the car. I think in hindsight, I should have worn better footwear and thicker socks, as the blisters were awful and I couldn't put my right foot flat on the floor until the Tuesday lunchtime! And also paced myself a bit better instead of trying to be the leader of the pack, having a rest when I first tightened up, rather than trying to be at the front. We were rewarded with a 1-0 win, against our so called rivals. I've never had a problem with Oxford, they are a local team,  but they have never annoyed me as much as Reading did in our local clashes, back at the turn of the century. They have good fans too, and I am friendly with a fair few of them on Facebook, and they are as good as any football fan you could wish to meet.

Pacing myself was something that I had no intention or desire to do in my quest to watch football. Tonight would be my 105th match of the season, and I think that I could very well break my record of 117 games seen in season 2003/04. And after Fleet, I would only have Guildford City to do, to complete the Southern League Division 1 Central. I had actually been to see the ground before, on the way to another game and it looked a pretty smart place.

I left just after 6.15 and after having a look at the routes on my sat nav, opted for one that took the same amount of time as the others, but saved 10 miles by taking the country route due to traffic elsewhere. I got to the ground at 7.30, went in and sat reading my programme and checking Facebook while I waited for kick off.

A crowd of 93, including a fair few from Burnham watched the visitors edge the first half but fail to score. Their passing game meant they had more possession  but didn't create a huge amount of chances. Fleet were more inclined to play it long and they themselves had a couple of breakaways where they could have scored. I went to get my coat at half time as it was a bit chilly. For the first part of the second half it was pretty equal and Fleet came close to snatching a shock lead. I was hoping that they might, as it would force Burnham to throw the kitchen sink at Fleet. But eventually they took a hold on the game and wasted several chances before they opened the scoring on 72 minutes. The ball was crossed in low and Ashley Smith, the former Maidenhead right back and Wycombe football in the community worker slid the ball into the net. It was 2-0 on 78 minutes as Ryan Bird scored. And 4 minutes later, he got his second and Burnham's 3rd as he headed in a left wing cross. This result moved Burnham top of the Southern League Division 1 Central, above Rugby Town. They have played a game more than them, and only have a 1 goal advantage on goal difference, so it's going to be a close run thing.

After the game it was a quick drive home, taking just under an hour. I listened to the Europa League games on the way home, Newcastle sadly going out to Benfica and Spurs taking Swiss side Basel to a penalty shoot out. I got in just in time to watch Spurs lose the shootout, chief culprit was Adebayor, who fired high, wide and not very handsome to decide proceedings.

CALTHORPE PARK is a tidy non league ground, which fits in well for the level they play at. The main stand is their pride and joy, holding around 200. Views from here are pretty good, despite there being a post in the middle. The rest of the ground is mainly hard standing. There is a small bit of scaffolding behind each goal that provides cover to satisfy ground regulations. The clubhouse is pretty big and offers a limited range of drinks, but you should find something you like. There is a range of club merchandise for sale in a cabinet in the bar. There is also a tea bar selling a range of hot and cold food, but I didn't try anything on the night.  

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