Leighton Town 1 Chalfont St. Peter 1 (1st Feb 2014)
Everyone has missed goals from time to time. Normally either getting to a ground late, or quickly nipping to gents or tea bar during a quiet bit of play “when it looks like nobody is going to score soon” or even just having somebody block your view. Yesterday though was the first time I’ve missed a goal I was looking directly at.
Unfortunately the low sun was setting behind the far goal as I walked round to the club bar to see the half time scores, and all I saw was a retina burning fog in the distance. I’d even managed to take a picture of the goal, anticipating a shot might be happening and clicking the shutter about half a second before the cheer came. Alas this pic became another addition to my annoyingly large collection of goal pictures where the ball itself appears to be invisible, so I’m still not really any the wiser. It’s not as if Southern League Central Division games get shown on Match of the Day either, so I was glad it wasn’t the only goal of the game.
As it happened missing a goal through being late had been a possibility. A nice looking leisurely drive through the Buckinghamshire countryside became a pretty fraught affair thanks to a two mile long 50 minute traffic queue crossing the M40 at Wycombe. That and being in a queue of cars stuck behind a learner driver for several miles going into Aylesbury. I can only assume the learner was a foreigner from the continent, who assumed the speed limit signs were in kph rather than miles.
I arrived 10 minutes late, by which time the morning sun had been replaced by a heavy shower. I headed for covered corner terrace, which also served as the tea bar, to seek out a drink to wash down a couple of Ibuprofen I needed for a headache which was starting to build. It was a popular, if not exactly ideal vantage point. Being tucked into a corner next to the end of the clubhouse, the clubhouse wall obstructed much of the pitch, depending on exactly where you stood. It was also flat, giving you a choice between standing at the front and blocking the view for others, or having your own view blocked. I suspect many were just there to get out of the rain.
Taking up about a quarter of one side was a small brick-built seated stand, with an usually angled roof, pitched steeply upwards like half-pulled ring-pull on a tin of beans. The seats seemed pretty popular, with the exception of one fan who clearly found sitting on plastic not cool enough for him, and perched on the brick end wall instead.
The far end, despite only having two steps of terrace, looked quite imposing thanks to the addition of a roof fascia, with Leighton Town, along with club badge, being picked out quite artfully directly over the goal. It didn’t look quite so good up close as chunks had been battered out of it, I assume by the odd wayward shot. The effect fitted in quite well with severely battered back wall, which looked to have been made from shipping containers that had been involved in some maritime disaster. The view from here was OK, unlike the hot chocolate I purchased, although the was partly my fault for forgetting to stir it. Hot water with a vague hint of chocolate isn’t really a taste sensation.
The remaining side of the ground, which backed onto a small park with a strange tall and stubby warehouse building beyond, only had terracing down one half of its length. I found this to my cost after following someone through a side gate from the covered end hoping to re-emerge somewhere down this side. Instead I appeared, after a detour outside the perimeter fence of the ground, through a side gate only used by club volunteers to retrieve footballs kicked over the fence. I could have hopped over the pitchside barrier, but I just had visions of it giving way, or me slipping and splatting quite embarrassingly into the mud. It actually wasn’t a bad spot to watch the game from, until it started raining again.
The rain didn’t last too long and wasn’t too heavy, thankfully, as the pitch was probably only just about playable in parts. Certainly the goalmouths weren’t areas where the keepers would be looking forward to making sprawling saves, and the general squishy heavy going was exactly the sort of surface commentators berate silky-skilled fancy-dan foreign footballers for probably be unable to play on.
Whether Barcelona or AC Milan would be able to play on this sticky pitch in Leighton Buzzard is one for the experts to debate, but the sad truth is that both the hosts and the visitors from Chalfont St Peter didn’t look too able to do so either. With players struggling for a footing, and a strong wind blowing through, it’s fair to say there wasn’t too much tika-taka on display, as both sides struggled to get their game together. I’d written off the first half and was waiting to go into the club bar when Chalfont opened the scoring right at the end of the half. As mentioned earlier, that’s about the sum of the detail I can give you for that goal. I didn’t even get to see the half time scores either as Stoke v Man Utd was (somehow) being shown live instead.
The 2nd half was a little better. Hopefully the heavy conditions were to blame for some equally heavy tackles, which threatened to make the game a little heated as times, but the drama really came in the last couple of minutes. With the home side pouring forward in search of an equaliser, it brought about a panicky-looking attempted tackle, a risk at any time but all but suicidal on this pitch.
The penalty came in, low to the keeper’s left, but there wasn’t quite enough pace on it, and a fine save tipped it away for a corner. From the corner there was pushing in the box (I think) and Leighton had a second spot-kick while Chalfont were still celebrating saving the first. The second spot kick was put in exactly the same place, but there was no save this time, and it was a goal. And from my point of view, at least I’d seen this one.