Arlesey Town 0 Potters Bar Town 2 (26th Dec 2015)
In truth, there weren’t that many decent options for a 2nd game in a day of this non-league double-header, but Arlesey’s interestingly named Armadillo Stadium was just about the best of a not very inspiring bunch, and had the added “glamour” of being the place where ex-Reading legend Dave Kitson started his career. Had we gone a year earlier we might have seen him there after he returned to the club for a brief stint, but instead we had to make do with a framed Kitson shirt hung on a wall in the club bar.
The club bar was fine, if perhaps hinting at ambition outstripping reality in terms of the size of bar that a club like Arlesey needs. It was quiet enough in there, even with just half an hour until kick off, that the young woman at the tea bar serving hatch had given up waiting for custom, and was sat on top of the work top, gazing at her phone to alleviate at least some of her boredom.
Like all too many modern grounds, especially non-league ones, sites are invariably chosen on factors such as cost and a lack of NIMBY objections. In the case of Arlesey’s new(ish) place, it’s over the road from a cement works and not far from an office block of such spectacular ugliness that it makes you want to seek out the architect and applaud him for persevering with something so utterly terrible.
The ground, at least the main stand side, is built in the stripey “brown barcode” style of horizontal bricks, which almost seems to have been some kind of legal requirement for every non-league ground built in the 2000s. The 150 raised seats in the main stand do their job, and the small clock on the roof fascia gives a hint that maybe somebody wanted to add a smidgen of originality to an off-the-shelf design.
Opposite, was a section of covered terracing, which seemed to suffer a kind of mental confusion and become seated about halfway along. It’s the right side for metal confusion though, as visible behind it, half a mile away across fields, is Fairfield Park. This new housing estate is built in the grounds of the closed Fairfield Hospital, which in less PC days was known as a lunatic asylum, but has since been converted to apartments.
One end was flat, but the other had a small section of open terracing, providing a decent view from the top. Behind here was another much larger embankment, presumably the waste soil from when they levelled the site for the pitch. Weeds, nettles and brambles now abound on its slopes, making the job of returning balls from wayward shots no doubt one of the less pleasant tasks for the club’s volunteers.
In one corner here a floodlight and phone mast merged, and the wind that had picked up markedly since lunchtime whistled through the mast, sounding exactly like the dubbed on wind-noise soundtrack of every polar expedition tv series/film you’ve ever seen. Only the lack of snow stopped you feeling like Scott of the Arctic, but it did make you feel a few degrees colder than it actually was.
Had it been genuinely cold, for Arlesey fans, about to witness their 8th home defeat of the season, stepping out of the warmth of the club bar “for some time” might have seemed the ultimate sacrifice. As it was, few seemed to be too chuffed about how the day panned out anyhow.
Quite simply, the home side didn’t have much of a clue up front. It was quite an even game, but the home side’s best chance in the first half came from a cross the Potters Bar keeper flapped at, but the ball was cleared without a home player near.
Potters Bar had no such problems, hitting a fine shot round the keeper to open the scoring, then curling a free kick to double the lead, to the delight of a smattering of away supporters, who taken the brave decision to avoid a 2nd turkey dinner with the in-laws in favour of coming to the game.
Unlike the game earlier in the day, it never felt like the home side would get back into this one. In fact, with the ever-present arctic sound effect still whistling away, weighing up which of the other spectators I might have to eat if conditions didn’t improve seemed a more realistic daydream than that chances of a dramatic comeback.
Arlesey did manage to get a shot away with about ten minutes left, but by then it should have been at least 3-0 anyway. Had a Potters Bar player not slipped and miskicked from close in, it would have been, and they had two other shots hit the post.
For both though, the game just petered out, and it was a case of waiting for that final whistle. And there was a lot of waiting to do. The ref somehow found several minutes of additional time, as if he’d been bribed by the triads to make it an away win with both teams scoring. Eventually he did decide enough was enough, and the home fans, among a season high of 122, trudged almost silently into the bar.