Saturday, 23 October 2010

Basingstoke Town 0 AFC Wimbledon 1

FA Cup, Fourth Qualifying Round
Attendance: 1,726

Basingstoke park and ride is an unlikely spot to rendezvous with your extended family for a half-term treat but that’s how the complex arrangements for this round ended up. The girls went to a National Trust house while the boys went to the soccer.

As regular readers of this blog (if there are any) will know I love seeing reformed clubs play away – and was glad of the opportunity while down south to see the grandaddy of them all, AFC Wimbledon. About all I knew about Basingstoke was its Milton Keynes-like reputation and that it was once home to 80s songstress Tinita Tikaram (“Good tradition of love and hate”). Practically the only other luminary attached to the town is the football club’s current manager, Frank Gray. (You wonder how a Scotland 1982 World Cup veteran who forged his career at Leeds came to end up in this insignificant corner of the home counties).

As we approached the ground 20 mins before kick-off and with so few people around I wondered if I’d taken my three fellow spectators to the wrong place. “This could just be the queue for the toilets”, my brother-in-law mused as we joined a straggle of fellas shuffling towards a shed that housed a turnstile (which didn’t turn).

The only thing imposing aspect of the ground is its name: The Camrose. Like that. There’s one substantial grandstand that looks like it was made from Meccano and is beaten in stature – and almost architectural grandeur – by Toys R Us over the road. The rest of the perimeter consists of haphazard corrugated iron fencing and small stands. The gap between the long covered terrace and pitchside is broad enough to drive the team bus down. For Frank, this tatty, unappealing enclosure must seem a long way away from Hampden.

Soon after we’d taken our place behind the goal the turnstile operator appeared with a big drum and proceeded to pound it as though his life depended on it – or as if he was playing the explosive finale of the 1812 Overture. Good singing from The Stoke lads too especially given the challenges of adapting popular terrace ditties to their team’s name. “We all follow the Bay’stoke over land and sea,” then “We love you Bay’stoke, we do ...” Mmm. Try it. Just doesn’t work.

Three mascots were on parade: one for Kestrel FM and two others of contrasting credibility. The Stoke fielded a dragon by virtue of the fact that the club had nicknamed itself The Dragons “to add a bit more fire power to the squad”, so said the programme. Bit weak, honestly. And Wimbledon? What else but a Womble, the most merited mascot in the land.

The first half was scrappy, with few clear chances and evenly balanced. Low sun burst through the clouds in the second half and the tie brightened up a little too. Harris of Wimbledon scored the only game of the match on 71 mins when Basingstoke failed to clear a corner and he woofed in the loose ball. The home side missed two good chances to level and deserved a replay.

The majority of the crowd came from Wimbledon but they didn’t make the match quite as much of an occasion as fans of FCUM and other reformed clubs I’ve seen on their travels. Likewise, at the final whistle there was no wave of euphoria or much punching the air. I guess the Wimbledon fans are used to this sort of occasion by now. For them it was just another step in a decade of steps towards their real goal of a place back in the Football League – or, today, the small matter of a potential tie against the MK Dons.

Men of the match: Here’s my nomination for best Father Christmas of the round (following on from the Northern League santa previously covered on this blog). Ricky Wellard of Wimbledon also has to be worth a mention purely for his great name. Talking of smirksome names I recommend Midfield Dynamo, a football culture website full of the sort of funny things about football that Danny Baker likes. It has more top 10s than Pick of the Pops.


Ollers said...

Paul - nice to see you venturing south for a cup game! I quite like the Camrose, but not really sure why. Maybe the deep, shallow terracing? Or just the name? I also saw a Conference game last season where AFCW were visiting, in their hoardes. Almost tripled the normal gate but, like you, found them rather quiet! Where to next Saturday then for the next round? Guiseley? It looks like all be at the 'glamourous' Swindon Supermarine....

The Onion Bag said...

the onion bag has been busy = i also went to Chorley recently and you can view my pics of this great ground
hope you like them