22 October 2016

Beckenham Town 1 Lancing 3

Another enjoyable game in the world of non-league gave me what was surely a better experience than watching Charlton scrape a point at Gillingham. For one thing, it didn't involve going to Gillingham, that bit in the "Garden of England" where people have dumped their burst mattresses and old fridges.

Beckenham's ground is ridiculously easy for me to get to (5 stops on the Hayes line) and with admission at £7 (£4 concessions) why wouldn't I go there?

The game was one of 101 ties in the first round proper of the F A Vase which, if I understand it correctly is open to teams in Step 9, which both Beckenham and Lancing are. Although they play in different leagues, their level should be roughly equal.

That was how it turned out for the first half, both teams playing decent football. Either team, with a little more precision in attack, might have taken the lead but Beckenham's Alebiosu, a clever player on the ball, took a well-worked chance.

In the second half, though, Lancing's better organisation and teamplay overcame the increasingly ragged efforts of the home team and two goals in the first 15 minutes turned the game around. Beckenham didn't give up, but didn't have any ideas, and away victory was clinched with a sweet individual goal from Alex Fair with less than 5 minutes to go.

The travelling supporters, about 10 of them, celebrated loudly and their team will go into the draw for round 2 with some optimism.

17 October 2016

Charlton 3 Coventry 0

To the Valley for the first time this season, breaking my boycott to be part of the protest. Details of the Pigs in Space event have been widely reported, including - importantly - in the Belgian press, and video of the violent suppression of a peaceful protest made it to the Evening Standard. The irony of that is exquisite. I'd suggest that at the next game CARD try to make the stadium a sea of North Korean flags, with two possible outcomes. Either a striking image is created or there's a beautiful story of hundreds of symbols of an oppressive state being censored.

The game itself wasn't bad, in fact. Not high quality, but open and, in a way, flowing. Coventry weren't as clueless as you'd expect, except where it mattered (scoring and defending). Charlton played much more attractively than they have in the away games I've seen. With Ademola and Holmes both starting, they tested the opposition more.

The first goal was against the run of play but well taken by Holmes. A suspicion of offside but the replays showed the officials got it right. The second goal was apparently well made, but I was standing at the urinal at the time, and the third goal came as I was leaving, hoping to get home before the rain. (This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am not your man for a full match report.)

But I never leave early, I thought to myself, and I've cycled through snow to get to a match. Clearly I don't have the same attachment as I used to. During the pre-match build-up and at half-time it felt like being at an away game, observing the rituals from the outside rather than feeling part of them. It's a testament, I suppose, to the importance of Dave Lockwood. When he was trying to raise interest in the absurd fans sofa or the ludicrous pie-cam, I would feel sympathy for him, as for an actor lumbered with an awful script. I simply didn't care about what was going on on Saturday. I've searched hard and found I don't even have an opinion about the crossbar challenge.

And the stadium was so empty! Rationally, of course, I knew it would be, but I was still shocked. Presumably it's usually emptier still, without returning exiles. Without the Coventry fans and without the protests the atmosphere would have been dead. Once again, though, we saw that a protest can bring some life to the team, and the biggest win for some time.

So, despite the win, a rather depressing experience. This is not how it's meant to be.