Slough 1 Chippenham Town 1 (1st Sep 2013)
Slough isn’t a town that gets too much love. Hardly anyone has a good word to say about the place. The Office was set there, to pretty much sum up provincial suburban grimness. Perhaps less famously Gerry Anderson’s “Thunderbirds” was created in that same industrial estate, and (as I’ve said before) it’s easy to see his inspiration for Tracy Island, as that’s exactly what Slough doesn’t look like.
If there’s one group of people who love to be in the town though, it’s Slough Town and their supporters. Ten years ago a rent dispute with the owners of their Wexham Park ground led to them being uprooted a few miles up the road to Beaconsfield to share with Beaconsfield SYCOB. Wexham Park is still there, largely reclaimed by nature, and totally trashed by vandals, and hopes are now pinned on moving to a new ground just a few hundred metres away from their wasted old place.
Until then they have to make the 7 mile trek up the A355. It’s not a bad little drive, though villages clearly posh enough to mean one homeowner thought it worthwhile to stick a homemade For Sale notice on his car’s windscreen, as if the area is full of people likely to impulse buy his Rolls Royce.
Naturally though, football grounds don’t get built in such areas, and the Beaconsfield SYCOB ground, Holloways Park, instead finds itself on a side road, rammed up against Junction 2 of the M40.
The main feature of the ground is the terrace backing onto the clubhouse. While not actually that big, the addition of a propped roof and enough steps to seemingly require a full two rows of football league style crush barriers, makes it look quite substantial. Indeed, with the slope of the roof continuing up to cover the clubhouse, it makes the end look much bigger than it is.
The main stand isn’t quite so appealing. While not one of the ubiquitous Atcost meccano style stands so common these days, this breeze block structure clearly had its brief aimed towards functionality rather than aesthetics. It’s OK in that sense, but it has six rather too shallow rows of red seats and a flat roof, and a rather jarring stark press box in one corner. It looks like it was thrown together as cheaply as possible using materials left over from someone building an extension – yet it was more occupied that most stands of similar size tend to be, so they obviously did something right.
Flanking this stand were two very small terraces. Standing in isolation a few metres from the stand, and couple of metres back from the pitch, and perhaps and ten metres wide, three steps of terrace rose up to give a basketball player’s eye view of the game. These little terraces, it has to be said, seemed to attract more fans than the terrace behind the goal. A high line of trees behind did a good job of shielding the roar of traffic from the M40 behind, as well as sparing the odd driver from being startled by a football landing on his windscreen.
The other two sides were pretty much undeveloped. One side had a tea bar, the dug-outs, and a temporary tv entry to enliven it a little, but the other end behind the goal was just flat, leading to a back fence which was struggling to win the battle of keeping out the wilderness behind. In the corner between these two stands was a baffling unnecessary 2nd turnstile block. Unless Ray Mears is likely to be hacking his way through the undergrowth behind in an effort to get in, it’s understandably kept locked and unused.
The crowd for this FA Cup preliminary round game was a healthy 200+. A large contingent, for non-league anyway, were wearing Slough replica shirts, with further shirts for Boca Juniors and one for the St Kilda Aussie Rules team implying Slough can attract a cosmopolitan support.
Whoever they followed, they didn’t see the best of games. Chippenham seemed content to play for a draw and a replay at their place. They barely seemed to even try to score until Slough took the lead with a finely taken lob after being put through on the right.
When they had to attack though, it took them just five minutes to draw level, with a determined run through the defence being matched with a calm finish across the keeper into the far corner. Rather than pushing them on with the belief they could win now, they instead just sat back again, and achieving that draw always looked the most likely outcome.