Woodford United 0 Daventry Town 4 (1st April 2013)
Maybe we got what we deserved. After all, we didn’t drive for two hours up to a village in Northamptonshire because it was a great place to visit, or because the ground was inspiring, and it certainly wasn’t because we thought the football would be good.
No, the only reason myself and two others ventured up to see a Evostik Southern League Central Division match was because Woodford United are rubbish, and we thought we’d see a lot of goals.
You might think your team is having a poor season, but Woodford United in 2012/13 have rather redefined the term. Played 34. Won none. Drawn none. Lost 34. Goals for 16. Against 150. Had they had one match cancelled due to bereavement and a player or two without shorts, they’d have been a real life Barnstoneworth United of Ripping Yarns fame.
In their last four games they’d managed to let in 34 goals. Two 0-7s and two 0-10s, and with a vulture-like sense of Schadenfreude, we were hoping for more of the same.
Approaching the ground, located on the outer edge of a village which in itself wasn’t exactly in the middle of anywhere, still rural enough to have snow around, it’s not difficult to see why life must be a struggle at the club. Neither support nor local talent are going to be in rich supply.
Unsurprisingly the ground was basic. Two small terracing stands were located near one corner. With one wooden, and one with terracing made from decking, both had a homely DIY feel to them. The seats, the ubiquitous small prefabricated seating units found at many cash strapped non-league grounds, at least had the benefit of being placed on a bit of raised banking, and offered a decent view of the pitch, as well as the snowy hills beyond.
The rest of the pitch was surrounded by gentle grass slopes which were inexplicable fenced off as a safety measure. “Standing on grass banking is strictly forbidden” warned the signs, as if anyone foolhardy enough to step onto a slight grass incline would be putting themselves, and others around them, in mortal peril. If the health & safety official who ordered those signs to be put up had seen anyone using the children’s play area outside the ground, he’d no doubt have had a seizure at the thought of a child using a slide.
Other than some slightly (only very slighty) unusual floodlight pylons, and a set of corner flags that looked like they been stabbed, the rest of the ground was just a footpath, surrounded by yet more “death-trap” patches of grass.
Whatever had happened in the last 4 games, it was clear they’d be no Barnestoneworth-like performance today. The goalkeeper was no Hagerty F. for sure, seeming to have a good a pair of hands, claiming everything Daventry hoisted in his direction. Maybe it was the slight local derby edge, but Woodford, despite being utterly outplayed to the extend that they could have parked cars in the Daventry half without it having any impact on the game, seemed to have a determination not to be humiliated for once.
Once it got beyond about 15 minutes, you could see Woodford’s confidence grow, and Daventry’s anxiety increase. The thought of being the first team not to be Woodford must spur a few sides on. Regardless, it was a rather tense looking Daventry team who walked off at half time with the score 0-0.
It couldn’t last, despite the Woodford keeper’s good work, he was more exposed than a flasher on the local common 10 minutes into the half, and with him out of position to try to save the day, the retreating defenders could only watch as the ball was stroked in for the opening goal.
With it still only 0-1, and Woodford on occasion threatening to maybe have a shot, if perhaps not score, it took a further quarter of an hour for their resolve to be broken. A penalty box melee was ended by an impatient and ill-judged tackle, which gave away a penalty. It was tucked away to end any lingering doubts that this might still be a contest.
More relaxed now, Daventry added a third with more or less their next attack of the game, with a cross from the left met by a looping header at the back post.
If this should have caused the floodgates to open, they instead remained steadfastly no more than ajar, and it took a free-kick swiped in from close range with just five minutes left to add a fourth.
In truth it was probably the most one-sided game I’ve ever seen, and I include in that a friendly I once saw in Holland when a Tommy Burns Reading team was 8-0 up at half time against a local “Select XI”, and really ought to have been double figures. The Woodford keeper did have a good game though, although you have to wonder how much he enjoys the Sisyphean task of having to do it every week.