Diary of a Ground Hopper
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 30 Risborough Rangers 2 Brimsdown 2
THERE’S another double header on offer today. Tring Town have a noon kick-off for their South Midlands Second Division game against Old Bradwell United. It’s an entertaining 2-3 encounter to set me up for the ‘main event’ this afternoon. Ten miles or so of backroads through Hertforshire and Buckinghamshire sees me at ‘Windsors’, home of Risborough Rangers. Whenever Risborough are mentioned on Hopping forums, reactions are invariably very positive, so I have wanted to visit for a while to check for myself. My welcome couldn’t be bettered and a club official goes out of his way to make sure my visit is an enjoyable one. There is a relaxed atmosphere around the charming ground and I immediately feel at home. The entrance shed is situated in one corner of the stadium. After paying £5 to get in and another £1 for the programme, I take my customary stroll around the ground. To the left of the entrance, there’s a covered standing area interspersed with seats running down the left touchline. The clubhouse and tea bar can be found immediately behind this stand. There’s a small covered area on the other side, apparently shipped in from Canada as a surprise present for Risborough’s chairman! Although it is a warm afternoon, autumn has definitely arrived: there is a carpet of dead leaves piled behind each goal, no doubt swept from the pitch by a hard-working volunteer. As soon as the whistle blows for kick off, it starts to rain. Eerily, this has happened to me several times recently, I am beginning to wonder if I have done something to upset the weather gods! I shelter in the wooden stand, which also serves as a base for the very busy ball ‘boys’ (the two gentlemen are much older than me!) but I soon have to leave thanks to a radio transmitting regular bouts of shouting from Premier League matches. It is immediately obvious that this is a higher level than this morning’s encounter; a division up, in fact. Brimsdown look particularly fast and skilful but cannot find the right pass in and around the box. An exciting to-and-fro half sees the sides level at the break. The entertainment continues into the second half. The visitors become distracted by internecine arguments and a lengthy injury stoppage and go behind once more. They manage to equalise and then bombard Rangers’ goal for the winner. Somehow, the home side hold out to claim a share of the spoils. My visit to Risborough is in stark contrast with my recent experience at Thame, just a few miles away. Rangers was a far more relaxed, pleasant, welcoming day out. I know who I would be giving my money to if I lived locally! As I am leaving the ground, the blue-lighted ambulance is arriving to whisk off the injured player to hospital to get his shoulder seen to. It just goes to show that a simple afternoon’s football is potentially life-altering. Personally, the seriousness of my task extends to choosing my music for the journey home. Hmm, Nick Cave; that’ll do nicely.
PRE-MATCH INFO: 8, WELCOME: 10, FACILITIES: 6.5, FOOD: 6, CHARM: 8, MATCH: 8, FANS: 8, PROGRAMME: 6, OVERALL TRIP: 8, OFFICIALS: 6