Enfield Town 3 Wrexham XI 1 (7th July 2012)
Fisher Athletic 0 Lewes 1
For my second football match in a row, I found myself watching the action across an athletics track. It’s fair to say though that the differences between the Olympic Stadium, Kiev and Enfield’s QEII Stadium, are rather more marked than the similarities. The £400 million refit budget in Kiev was slightly larger than the one available for bringing the QEII Stadium up to scratch, but there are some similarities. For a start, both stadiums re-opened for football within two days of each other. Enfield pipped Kiev to the post on the 9th of November 2011, even if Kiev did edge it on the gate, attracting a mere 69,500 more for their game.
With Kiev being a partial reconstruction, parts of the old ground still exist, and that is the case at the QEII Stadium too, which has one of the more unusual stands in the country. There aren’t many English stands with Grade II listed building status (in fact the only other one is at Great Yarmouth), and the feature that makes this one stand out is the glass-walled art-deco bar/cafe sat atop the changing rooms and offices beneath. With its curved walls and nostalgically dated styling, it looks like it’d be more at home on a seafront pier. The glass curves at one end towards a cylindrical atrium – a curved staircase, more glass walls, and a brick top, with the word “CAFE” picked out in white in large letters across the brick.
The spiral staircase had the look (and the slight whiff) of a municipal baths, and the list of regulations for spectators venturing out onto the seated area also had a whiff of public pool regulations about them too. “No running. No jumping. No skipping. No pushing. No climbing. No littering” implored the notice, as well as “no skateboards” – all for a stand where under 16s are not allowed.
To reach the seats you had to walk along a walkway on the outside cafe, with the metal railing on the other side giving it a slight feel of watching football from the deck of a ship. With skipping banned – who doesn’t enjoy a good skip at the football? – and not even thinking of bringing a skateboard , I walked down the side of the cafe to the seated area. Around 100 blue seats in three rows looked out across the track. Just as the art-deco era didn’t go in for plate glass, hence the small panes of glass in the cafe walls giving it its old time feel, the era didn’t do much cantilevering either. Even a roof covering just three rows required two thick pillars to hold it up. The stand would originally have had wooden seats, no doubt, which might not look so striking, would at least have stopped the old woman behind from jamming her feet into the back of my seat – a crime for which I’d bring back flogging.
The game today was actually a double-header run by Supporters Direct, for clubs owned by football trusts. The park across the road, beyond which lay the site of Enfield’s old stadium, was also hosting a supporters event. Here, amid wonky goalposts, scuffed goals and beer-bellies, teams of fans from across London competed for the honour of being the region’s best fan team.
For half of the first Fisher v Lewes match, I did wonder if staying and watching the football outside might have been a better option. Both teams looked like they’d started their pre-season training about 20 minutes prior to the match, and had forgotten what they were supposed to be doing on that big grassy area. I almost longed for the defensive ineptitude of the fans’ teams. Barnet conceded a goal from a mis-hit torpedo of a corner that scuffed along the ground and somehow bounced in, and Wimbledon scored a penalty past a keeper who seemed to just stand still and hope the ball hit him.
It did at least improve a bit in the 2nd half. An early thumping header from a corner proved to be the winner for Lewes, playing in a rather fetching racing green away strip, most appropriate for a match taking place at the same time as the British Grand Prix.
On a day when the weather could be most kindly described as variable, the gap between the first and second games was spent in the cosy cafe, watching Andy Murray take the first set in the Wimbledon final, with the Wimbledon sun contrasting somewhat to Enfield’s latest heavy shower.
I watched the second game from the other sides of the ground. There’s not a huge amount to say about the rest of the ground. There’s a running track. On the opposite side is a short stand for maybe another 100 seats, of the temporary “cheap by not very cheerful” variety found at many non-league grounds. These typically are so shallow that they offer a worse view than standing. Behind either goal, thankfully within the track, are similar temporary terracing units. More were located on the main stand size, in the strangely large gap between the stand and the track. At least some of these offered shelter from the rain that came down at the start of the second game.
As leaky as the weather was the Wrexham XI defence. Three down after 20 minutes, they barely knew what hit them, especially as they hadn’t been that bad. Enfield just had a purple patch. The opener was bundled in from a corner after nine minutes, with good work down the left resulted in a perfect diving header at the near post for the second a few minutes later. The third was the result of a ball breaking perfectly for a player to hit a low shot across goal into the bottom corner.
Wrexham had already hit an upright, and missed a good one on one, before a powerful low drive put them back in the game at 3-1. After that bright start, the game sort of petered out though, and hopes of a thrilling final were dashed alongside, Andy Murray’s a few miles south. It would be a long drive home for the Wrexham reserves, but for Enfield, who’ve had a rather longer “away journey” of late, it might just be a promising season.
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