“You know you’re at a tinpot level when there’s no Sutton sticker on the toilet cistern”

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Just as every single non-league programme article must apparently begin with the immortal lines “Welcome to the players and officials of….” so too must every Sunday morning scribe on here begin with a similar, pointless yet essential traditional preamble. So let us begin.

Beaconsfield. A fucking village. Tinpot. Hadn’t even heard of it until this season. Proper tinpot. What the fuck are we doing here?

Actually, Beaconsfield was quite nice.

Quaint, even.

It had all the hallmarks of a quintessential Berkshire village: Range Rovers, regional Conservative party office, UKIP posters and of course three village pubs – all gastrosized to the point that they lacked anything even resembling atmosphere.

The first pub we entered, the Saracens Head, was an abomination of a mix between faux-wood country pub cum bistro café. The type of place that had all the characteristics of having been touched by Eddie Mitchell. (That didn’t mean to sound quite so ‘Jimmy Saville’)

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(In Berkshire, even the local golf clubs have train stations it’s seems!)

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The Bistro interior design had obviously played havoc with Fred’s brain, as while Tom and I started the day off with pints, Fred opted for a latte with cinnamon. Proper Green Street stuff, this.

Already bored of the sound of screaming kids and middle class racism, we hopped over the road to the White Hart where the local landlord informed us that Beaconsfield “gets pretty lively in the evenings.” Of course it does, pal.

Sat down next to a roaring fire and screaming toddler and having not seen each other since October, we caught up on stories of house parties, weekend trips and the tale of my colleague who feel asleep drunk in a brothel and rather then getting chucked out, was instead charged by the hour, racking up a two grand credit card bill in the process.

 “There was another Tom in my halls at Uni. We called him ‘Pretty Tom’…. Hang on, that probably means I was called ‘ugly Tom’…. Shit!”

Arriving in the ground, we had time for another quick pint and a chat with the directors (read: Wind up Dave Ring about the Trust) whilst the three of us placed our bets on how long it would be until Evo would first mention that Slough used to be a big club in our old Dr Marten’s day. (13 minutes it would transpire)

As the team sheets came out, hearts sunk and hope evaporated as we realised that we would once again be without Smeeton and Robinson, but also Nathan who was apparently injured (although this seemed news to him). This meant that Robbie Matthews dropped into centre back, with the trio of Smithy, Odam and Walsh playing as a front three, whilst Connor Doe made his debut, bringing the number of pubescent right backs we have up to four.

The boys started brightly but as Slough began to grow into the match, it descended into a two-and-fro of aimless punts in the channels. The highlight of the opening half hour was Tom asking Dave Martin about the Hereford farce:  “What are you and your football fat cats doing about it” and Evo pointing out a Red Kite with the excitement that only a Biggleswade residing, bird-table owning person can muster. Meanwhile, we had a shot that went out for a throw in and Slough scored after five minutes of pressure.

Then we scored.

Out of nothing.

A free kick on the half way line was punted up to Matthews, who headed it straight up in the air. As the keeper came rushing out to claim it, Lanners somehow got to it first and nodded the ball over him and into the unguarded net. The goal, visibly gave the boys confidence and they finished the second half on top.

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(The sunset shot that was apparently mandatory to post on twitter this weekend)

The second half continued in much of the same vein. Odam, Critts and Walsh in particular looking to run at their back four. But as the game wore on and Slough made a couple of changes, we begun to lose the midfield and the fight began to drain from the players. We fold quicker than a napkin this season and right on cue, after five minutes of concerted pressure from the hosts, we conceded. Their centre back picked up the ball on the half way line, the substitute made a diagonal run behind the centre backs and in one pass the entire team was split in two. 2-1. Game over.

With the game over, we settled in to the now all too familiar routine of drowning our sorrows and dissecting another defeat with the players.

With AWH making his own way home after the match, he joined us for a couple back in the White Hart, where indeed the place had got livelier… if by lively, you mean families and log-fires.

As I waited half an hour to get a few drink, Tom had a mini “Stevie Hill” moment, going into a fit of rage and threatening to snap his glasses in order to demonstrate to AWH how passionate he is about this club.  And with that, it was a signal that it was time to head home. Well, that and the last train left in about 10 minutes, so a dash to the station – via the kebab shop of course – and another defeat and another away trip was done.

Up next two local derbies (if you can call Poole a derby match. I dont). I’m dreading Boxing Day right now, but come 9pm on Christmas Day, I’ll no doubt be buzzing for it, convincing myself that anything can happen in a derby match and comforting myself with the thought of singing “Bring home Jermyn” for 90 minutes. At worst, we’ll stay in the pub and chat about jackets for the afternoon. Either way, it’s better than spending the day with the grandparents at Moreton bloody Tea Rooms. CM

 

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(Another one of Stevie Hill’s calm, collected and definitely not over-the-top text messages)

 

“I turned down sex for this tonight.”

Imagine being addicted to heroin but this type of heroin has a high that only occurs once in a blue moon, with a massive come down mostly every time. That’s what following Dorchester Town is like. Probably worse than heroin actually. Yeah, being a Dorch fan is definitely worse than being a heroin addict. It’s a love/hate relationship and it’s addictive. “I had a really good weekend but I need something to be bitter about” was Luke justifying the fact he was about to spend 3 and a half hours in a crammed car on a Monday night to watch us. Erm yeah.. Fair enough. Redditch United away.

Luckily, in the week, Cam had informed Steve (who was driving) that Redditch was Birmingham way and not, as Steve had originally thought, “like Hereford” where we would need to drive through Wales. I know the Scottish are supposed to be tight fisted but driving through Wales to get to Birmingham just so he could charge us extra for the toll is a bit extreme.

With that sorted, we were ready to go. five of us crammed into the car and we headed for Redditch, where the talk quickly began to be about how many we were going to lose by. I thought someone had dropped acid into my Newcastle Brown when Steve predicted a 2-2 draw. This from the man who would have “been happy” with a draw at Abingdon in the FA Cup. I’d tell you how many leagues below us they are but I have no idea if I’m honest. Basically they’re a lot worse than us. And that takes some doing. The rest of us predicted defeats by three or four goals, with the rest of the journey consisted of a conversation about 3G pitches (which did seem to last about three hours) and a Burger King stop.

After driving into oncoming traffic and then having to travel six miles down and back up the motorway for the right turning, we’d made it to Redditch. We’d arrived at the ground and everyone went up to the bar, I’d planned to meet a mate from Redditch in the Royal Enfield pub which was, according to their steward “fucking miles away, mate.” Not sure if miles are the same in the midlands but after a 5 minute walk, I was there. The first Wetherspoons I’ve ever seen with a motorbike in. Culture. We had a couple of pints and then headed to the ground, ready for kick off.

It was an open game for the first few minutes, we had a couple of chances, one of which was skied over the bar from a few yards out. They also hit the post not long after. To be honest, I don’t remember much of the football, psychologists say the brain has the ability to suppress memories of traumatic experiences. So yeah. Anyway, same as usual, defensive mistakes and we go in at half time 1-0 down. I spent the second half in the bar, watching the game (bar maid) from the windows (across the room). Redditch scored two more and the rest is history. Full time. 3-0. After some words of ‘advice’ from certain individuals to certain individuals, we headed up to the bar to be miserable and talk about how shit at football we are.

You know when you’re three and a half hours away from home on a freezing cold Monday night in December having just watched your team get beat 3-0 and all you can think about is getting up for work the next morning? Yeah, that was made even better when we discovered the M5 was closed.

Because I have an iPhone, it had died several hours before so I was entertained only by everyone arguing about the youth set up at Dorch. Josh, who happens to be the chairman’s son was constantly getting “TELL YOUR DAD…” bellowed at him by Luke as we tried to navigate through the fog. I’m not exaggerating, for most of the journey home, you couldn’t see the road so I’d like to thank Steve Hill again for getting us home in once piece. “This is like ice road truckers” “It’s fucking worse than that, mate.” We were all deadly serious. Finally, we’d got to a clearer area, a village somewhere near Salisbury, where half of the car decided they’d lived. “Yeah, I think I lived here as well actually. Not sure.” Was a genuine quote.

We arrived back in glorious DT1 at 02:10. “I turned down sex for this tonight” – why do we do it? I’ll never really know. That’s now 13 goals conceded in 3 games. Are we all going to Bideford? Of course we are. Weekender.

Oh yeah, Tom Berry masturbates with his left hand. Pass it on.

JW

“That’s not central heating Tom, that’s the sun”

When I moved to London, had someone told me that in a years’ time I’d be looking forward to a trip to St Neots, , I’d have had to ask what a St Neots is, before politely telling them to fuck off. But what d’ya know, one year on, a trip to St Neots to watch The Magpies was on the agenda, and something that I was looking forward to. What has my life become!?

And I was not alone in looking forward the trip, with Fred texting me at 1015 saying he was ready to go. Well I wasn’t, and nor were any local pubs. Fred, the two Tom’s and Eames had done a circuit of the Finsbury Park area looking for a pub, but they were too keen to start the day’s festivities, and the pubs weren’t open yet. After eventually finding The Twelve Pins open, we found a quiet corner in which to drink (well, every corner was quiet as we were the only people in there) and started looking ahead to what the day might hold. We were minus one of the regulars as Cam as at the ‘Santacon’ in another part of London (dressing up as Santa and drinking lager). Not an excuse many of us thought was any good, but as Goddard pointed out, Cam does have the physique to dress as Santa, and it means he also gets to wear a hat to cover his hairline.

Having had a couple of breakfast Guinness’, we headed to Finsbury Park to get our tickets to St Neots (although Tommy Harrison still tried to use his oyster card), and found ourselves a seat on the train for the journey there. Tommy finding a seat posed a slight problem as he committed the heinous crime of asking a lady to move her bag off a seat so he could sit of the aisle seat. In an obvious strop, the woman moved her bags (we assume she had paid for both the seats she and her bags were using) and told him to sit by the window. When he pointed out he only wanted her to move her handbag so he could sit and talk to us, he angered her further and she angrily responded with “well I’m not moving it again”. Fear not lady, Tommy was capable of moving it for her. So with angry bag lady now back by the window and back in her box, we could talk freely, and consume the cookies Tommy had the foresight to bring with him.

After a short journey on what appeared to be the Southern League away day line (stopping at such giants as Biggleswade, Arlesey, and Hitchin), we arrived at St Neots, which turns out is actually a real place. The ground, a tidy little stadium, was right next to the station, so it was into the bar and to watch the whole Chelsea invincible’s season blow up in their faces, much to our amusement and Fred’s anger, before I then managed to spill a whole pint over an empty bar. Whoops. A look at the team sheet and a chat with AWH confirmed a 4-4-2 formation, and there was a faint hope we could nick a result. So what would happen on the pitch? Well, what didn’t happen on the fucking pitch?

After heading behind the goal to see that Paul Bastock was in goal for St Neots (Bastock is now aged somewhere between 44 and 73, we’re not sure), we were treated to Berry’s observation that there was central heating in the terracing walls to keep us warm. No, Berry, that’s just the warmth of the sun… Central heating or not, we were one nil down within 5 minutes as Drew Roberts got the first of his first half hat-trick. Fearing to worst, we were pleasantly surprised when we equalised through Robbie Matthews’ first goal for the club a few minutes later, after Bastock had dived roughly five minutes too late. 1-1 soon become 2-1 down as more slack defending left AWH with no chance, before Nathan Walker again equalised from a position that looked so far offside, he was almost on the terracing behind the goal when he scored. So, 2-2 after 20 minutes or so. The game would settle down now, right? Wrong.

3-2 down was soon to come as Roberts completed his hat-trick, but it was soon 3-3 as Chris Dillon got on the end of an Andy/Andreas Robinson free kick. Keep it tight until half time we thought. Well we hadn’t yet finished celebrating our 3rd goal when St Neots got their 4th, literally straight from kick off. For fucks sake. However, the half wasn’t done yet as Mason Walsh’s terrific finish from just outside the penalty area drew up level again at 4 all. 4-4 after 44 minutes, what were the chances? Thankfully we were able to keep it level until halftime and Bastock’s prediction of an 8 all draw didn’t seem that ridiculous. A halftime pint and much needed sit down got us thinking about what on earth the second half would bring. Could we get something from the game? Well, no.

Having made one change at halftime with Glees coming on, the first half an hour of the half saw us defend reasonably well for a large part (that was about the only time either team defended even remotely well), with the home side restricted to mainly long shots and over hit crosses. Then something bizarre happened, as for the first time in the game we took the lead. After seeing his initial effort saved by Bastock, Jack Odam smashed home the rebound, and we were now in an improbable 4-5 lead. With 15 minutes or so to go, a point was the least we could have hoped for, but we somehow contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as two late goals saw us go down to a 6-5 defeat. Gutting. The players couldn’t be faulted for effort, and it’s very difficult to try to gauge the side’s progress after a game that was so farcical. But you would expect to get a minimum of a point after scoring five away from home.

The mood after the game was more shock at what we’d seen than anything else, with Kempy providing some very honest opinions on how he wants to shape the side, and Paul Bastock saying that even in all the years he has played, he hasn’t played in a game quite like that. Looking at the positives, we scored five goals away from home, through five different scorers, and have proved in recent weeks that we can give anyone in the league a game. The side seems a lot more settled, and players seemed genuinely gutted to have lost. After seeing the side go through the motions at times last season, at least we can see that the effort and will to win is there at the moment, even if the results aren’t.  On the flip side of that, we were defensively all over the place, and have still won only once in the league in the last 6 games. AWH could do little to nothing with the goals, and the defending has to improve. This is the third time we have conceded 6 or more this season, and that isn’t good enough.

But not to let football ruin the day, we headed to the nearby Tesco to exploit the reduced to clear section, as between the five of us, we purchased about £25 worth of food for about £3. Bargain. So after working my way through a box of grapes, some chicken, 3 packs of sandwiches, and a couple of Goddard’s strawberries, I drunkenly teleported home when I got back to London, and woke up this morning in the flat with a horrific hangover and a chicken and bacon pasta salad for company. Wonderful.

As a day, it was highly entertaining, as a game it was unlike anything I’ve seen since I watched Portsmouth 7-4 Reading several years ago. The club do seem to be making some progress, but yesterday’s game is a nigh on impossible measuring stick for the side given how farcical the game was. With Smeets, Critts and Dan Smith all to return for the festive period, the side has good core to it, but needs to drastically improve defensively. With several big games coming up in a short space of time over Christmas, this month could either see us in a comfortable mid-table position, having aspirations of a late play off charge, or nervously looking over our shoulders. Here’s hoping for one of the former options.

So, after 11 goals, a hangover, and a packet of chicken reduced from £3 to 15p, that was St Neots. Three points on Boxing Day is my usual Christmas present request, but I’m usually left disappointed. Hopefully this year my luck changes, and Santa isn’t actually just Cam dressed up with a fake beard drinking Stella. SV.