Hampton & Richmond 1 Farnborough 1 (27/08/2011)
The day had started well, being sunny and a much quicker and easier drive in than imagined. Got served by a pretty barmaid in the club bar, and it went a bit downhill after that. £3.60 for a Guinness may be cheap by London prices, but still more than I was expecting.
I then had a pint and sat down to read the programme, only to find it was a double programme for the previous home game, being literally a programme of two halves, with two front covers, upside-down from each other, working towards the middle. Football programmes are never likely to match James Patterson novels for sales or page-turning readability, but this dual effort, seemingly with the interesting bits removed to fit both into the 40 available pages, made it the least satisfying one I’d read in ages.
The ground itself was something of a mixed bag. Three stands occupied one touchline. Two of them were seated, and the other was a decent covered terrace for this level. Behind one goal, along with the clubhouse, was a curious short seated stand. Named after Steptoe & Son writer and club president Alan Simpson, three rows of seats are perched up high behind the goal, offered the ground’s best view.
Behind the opposite goal, three steps of terracing are partially covered by a flat corrugated iron roof. As well as the frequent late summer showers, the roof also protects the occupants below from the flurries of falling acorns that batter off the roof each time the wind blows. In addition to providing a crunchy underfoot accompaniment to walking round two sides of the ground, the trees these acorns fell from also give the ground a rustic character, aided by an old house poking through the trees.
The game itself was frustrating. Farnborough looked stronger early on, but were rather ambitious with some of their shooting, rarely troubling the Hampton keeper despite plenty of pressure. When Hampton opened the scoring after 19 minutes, it was somewhat against the run of play. A good diagonal run into the box was matched by a composed finish, slid under the keeper.
That prompted better stuff for the home side, but it was their turn to display a frustrating repertoire of things they’d be “disappointed with” as they pundits would say. H&R’s stock in trade was to get behind the Farnborough defence, only to waste a very promising situation by seeming to forget which colour shirts their own teammates play in, playing direct to defenders instead.
Even when they did find their man, to shooting was less than composed. As one cut-back was blazed high over the Simpson Stand roof from 10 yards, maybe even Alan himself would appreciate how mis-timing can be as comical as perfect timing is.
As often happens, such wastefulness is punished. The latent threat Farnborough has posed throughout was realised with a low angled shot lashed into the bottom corner with 10 minutes left. With all the openings wasted in the last half hour, it was definitely a “Stone me! What a life” moment.