Carshalton Athletic 1 Ramsgate 1 (22nd October 2016)
With the demographic of non-league football fans skewed towards men with grey or very little hair, and small grandchildren asking how long until they can go home, it doesn’t seem the most obvious target audience for adverts for shops selling sexy lingerie, yet there’ll be a one in every Rymans League match programme. It’s explained by the fact that Rymans’ owner is ex “Dragons Den” star Theo Paphitis, who also owns the Boux Avenue chain. Every programme will also feature, along with an ad for Rymans, a photo of a comely model in her smalls, hopefully enticing you to buy their range of lingerie, nightwear and accessories.
Or maybe I’ve misjudged. The club secretary’s notes in the programme, the main introduction for the issue, had the innuendo-laden title of “Sec’s Talk”, and only this morning, when checking the site comments for approval, I found someone had decided my Slough v Chippenham write-up could be an ideal platform to advertise his website selling “anal toys” (I’m assuming he doesn’t mean Star Wars figures for people who are obsessively organsised).
Either way, there’d be nothing else in the afternoon, perhaps mercifully, that could lead my thoughts to stray in that direction.
This was my first foray into non-league football for three months, and it felt almost stereotypical. Lots of the grey and the very young, who often wandered off and played their own games. The true loyal hardcore, distinguished by their bar scarves in maroon and white, as opposed to the red Carshalton currently plan in. A few dads and sons, with the dads keeping tabs on the score of the other team they support elsewhere, and a lot of fans who appear to know each other. When a club averages 200 fans, regulars will get known pretty quickly.
It’s a friendly club, with a decent ground. A fair-sized terrace down one side, with roof sections dropping in height every twenty metres or so, hinted at considerably larger crowds in the past. English flags adorn the roof every few yards, adding small touch of class to the most impressive part of the ground.
Also looking good on this occasionally sunny afternoon was the 3G pitch – an increasingly common feature at a level of the game where they need every penny they can get. Whether it’s coincidence or down to the pitch, I don’t know, but Carshalton certainly make an effort to play football along the floor rather than in the air. It may not always succeed, but it’s good to see nonetheless.
Carshalton’s passing game meant they completely dominated the first half, but forwards constantly taking one touch too many, or perhaps trying to be a little too cute with lay-offs, meant that shots were either getting blocked, or not getting away at all. You could tell among the fans that our ingrained English football-DNA was feeling that we just need to give it a welly now and then. Frustration mounted.
Just before half time the Ramsgate goal led a charmed life. In quick succession a looping shot came back off the crossbar, was hacked away, fired back in, saved, half cleared again, then fired over the bar. The Ramsgate keeper collapsed to the floor for treatment, and it’s fair to say the home fans behind him weren’t overflowing with sympathy.
To make matter worse, during the time added on for this stoppage, Ramsgate did the inevitable, and made one of their rare breakaways count. A through ball wasn’t cut out, and cutting in from the left, the ball was fired across the keeper to put the visitors ahead, in front of their knot of travelling fans.
Carshalton again came out looking determined, but playing with a bit more width now, they looked more dangerous. It took just over 10 minutes to draw level. From a similar position to the opening goal, the ball was again hit across the keeper. He got a glove on it, and looked like he ought to have saved it, but somehow it just carried on rolling with no deviation at all, into the far corner of the net.
That ought to have been the platform for Carshalton to go on to win, but wastefulness was again their downfall. They hit the side netting, just as the did in the first half. One attacker even went round the keeper, but with the keeper on the floor, was unable to even get a shot away. Various other chances were skied over the bar, and far too many corners were wasted by training-ground short-corner routines coming to nothing.
In some ways you have to praise Ramsgate too. They did defend as if a defeat would mean they’d be forced to walk home, and it the last ten minutes, as Carshalton seemed to tire, there were even signs they were perhaps more likely to nick a 2nd. The last chance went to the home side though. Deep into injury time, a lofted pass put a home striker clear, but at an angle with bouncing ball. A deft chip would have won the game, but sadly a mishit slice meant nothing but a goal kick. For the Carshalton fans and officials, including one in a club tie who complained more than anyone else, to anyone who would listen, it was just one of those days.