"As for Maidenhead, the conga (which was amusing) aside, quite a strange bunch really – some the oddest chants I've ever heard at a football match" ~ localboy86, Amber Planet forum, 26th April 2015

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Away Day Diary: Woking 0-0 Bristol Rovers (17/01/15)

One of the wife's colleagues is the partner of a Woking player. She (the wife) met him during a meal out, the night before Bristol Rovers' 2-0 home win over the Cards last September. He offered her complimentary tickets for the corresponding fixture. After a week spent painting and decorating our new home (including two visits to IKEA) - and the fallout from Maidenhead's Trophy exit - I was rather looking to forward to the game/ day out (despite the fact - as recently highlighted by 'Jinxy' Macleod - that he and I have witnessed two of Rovers' four league defeats this season!) and hoped that it would be at least as enjoyable (result aside) as our trip to see Portsmouth vs Rovers last April. As per that occasion, we would be getting the train down there - via Reading and Guildford - although Willie T would be giving us a lift home; the Exeter City/ Maidenhead United 2CW works in Woking (for the moment, at least) and, after finishing his shift at the bank, he would be joining us at HT. Well, that was the plan …

After a hurried walk to the station (which, owing to our new location, now takes about twice as long), we were able to catch the 12:04 departure as intended. Sandwiches purchased from Boots at Reading - and a coffee from the barista near the platform - before the 12:34 to Gatwick (just before; we were virtually the last people onto the train - thanks to the lethargy of the bloke pouring the latte - and only made it by a whisker). As we waited to change at Guildford I shared, on Facebook, the photo I'd taken there - in 2013, en route to Gosport - of a certain someone and a (sadly non-soggy) sombrero. It still makes me smile! We arrived in Woking shortly after 13:20 and headed into town. There was a Yates' and an O'Neill's - directly opposite each other; which must be fun, at kicking out time, on Friday/ Saturday nights - with a plethora of police riot vans outside. We carried on walking and entered a much nicer looking chain pub, close by, called the Ogilvy. Conversation, as I ordered a pint of Brains SA and half a cider, went as follows: 

Barmaid: 'Why all the police; is there a football match on today?'

Customer (who turned out to be a Rovers fan): 'Yes, there's football'

Barmaid: 'Who's playing?'

Customer: 'Woking vs Bristol Rovers'

Barmaid: 'Who?'


I enjoyed our time in here - Brains is fast becoming a brewery of choice; whilst we had an ideal spot for watching the world go by watching a twenty-something bloke spend an eternity eating a KFC as his mate stuffed Argos catalogues into plastic bags in the boot of their parked car - but, after an hour or so and a couple of rounds, it was time to embark on the 20 min walk, back past the station (and a couple of lampposts, newly plastered with Rovers stickers), to the ground. I'd previously been to the Kingfield Stadium to see Maidenhead play (and so did wonder where all the away fans were gonna go!), but travelled by car on that occasion. The route on foot was simple enough, however, and - despite being slowed somewhat by mud in around and the nearby park - we arrived in good time. Mrs Goggins ticked our names off the guest list, and we were in. 

We were stationed in the home end; the covered terrace behind the goal. We were, after all, £30 better off thanks to the generosity of a Woking employee. The travelling hordes were stood to our immediate left (on the uncovered terrace) and seated opposite (in an allocated section of the impressive main stand). 

The talk on the Rovers forums, in the build-up to the game, had been that between 1.5K and 2K would make the relatively easy journey. Decent form (no league defeat - although too many draws - since October … when the KSG were in Arbroath), new signings (ex-Wales international striker Jermaine Easter and Leicester City loanee Adam Dawson), and the fact that next Saturday's home game with Braintree has been postponed (owing to Alan Dev's charges continued participation in the Trophy), were thought to be other contributory factors. Whatever the reason(s), the away end was heaving. Less than ten mins into the game (Nb. it wouldn't even have been 15:10, at this point, as - for possibly the first time in my football-watching lifetime - I noticed that the referee had kicked off a few mins early) it became apparent that something was up. Chants, from outside the ground, of 'Let us in' - followed by 'Let them in' from those in the away end - identified the problem …

Some Rovers fans were locked out! I estimated about 50, but there may have been more out of sight. TBF, they weren't missing much (which probably explains why one bloke, who climbed a tree, didn't last long up there). The game was dreadful; worst I've seen in some time (and this includes Hayes & Yeading vs Maidenhead on New Year's day). Both goalkeepers could've stayed at home, and the result would still have been goalless. That may be a bit harsh (Will Puddy had to adjust quickly, in the first half, to stop a deflected shot; while Matty Taylor had a goal, either side of the break, chalked off by the Assistant's flag) but, generally, both teams cancelled each other out. Woking (who once again featured - in Adam Newton and Kevin Betsy - more RBWM bred players, in their starting XI, than Maidenhead United?) were hard-working and solid throughout with centre half Joe McNerney not undeserving of his MoM award. I was, however, disappointed by Rovers. Aside from a flurry of late corners (which amounted to nothing), they never put the home side under concerted pressure. I had written, in the aforementioned Portsmouth blog post, that the team were 'bereft of creativity in midfield and pace upfront … also conceded sloppy goals … a recipe for disaster'. They've seemingly cut out the sloppy goals, but the lack of creativity and pace upfront remains an issue. No longer a recipe for disaster, but neither is it a recipe for (automatic) promotion. Still, the gap to table-topping Barnet would be reduced to five points, thanks to the Bees' 3-1 defeat at Grimsby earlier in the day, while a promising cameo appearance from Easter - his touch looked a class above - was another definite plus (I am sure that he will score goals if someone - perhaps the aforementioned Dawson, rather than the decidedly one-footed and therefore rather predictable Jake Gosling - can provide the chances). Stuart Sinclair - Player of the Year elect - will also return after missing Saturday's game with an injury. So, not all doom and gloom. Far from it. [EDIT: I'VE JUST READ THIS]

TSOF sticker spotted in the gents at HT. On the subject of stickers, I've since seen a photo of a Bristol City 1982 Ltd one that was freshly attached to the stand we were in on Saturday; presumably, a group of London-based sh!theads didn't fancy Scunthorpe away (which helps explain the 'one team in Bristol' chants that could be heard throughout, if not '0-0 and you f**ked it up' at the end). The interval also saw the arrival of Willie … yet he wasn't allowed in! The (Head?) steward said that the ground was 'full'. Obviously, it wasn't. The away end might've been, but Willie wasn't an away fan. I think that they - the stewards (and/ or  the police) - were worried about upsetting those Rovers fans hanging around outside. (I've since read that only those with WFC season tickets were permitted entry.) We gave Willie the chance to go home, with us getting the train back, but he insisted on waiting. A good job that his wife doesn't read this blog! (At least I assume she doesn't?!)

Regrettably, I missed the opportunity to photograph Willie while he was locked out, behind the front gate, and surrounded by police. Subsequently cheered, however, after he sent a pic - from the Sovereigns - of him with a couple of Rovers fans … including, it would appear, comedian Sean Lock! (who, coincidentally, went to school in Woking)

While those denied entries were hanging around outside or being talked at - and photographed with - Willie, in a nearby boozer, there was plenty of room in the home end. More so, in the second half, as many of the Cards fans moved to be nearer the goal that their team was attacking. The group of middle-aged men, behind us, didn't move. Lamentably. Now, I'm someone who has previously been reprimanded for swearing (or allegedly swearing) at football - and I will defend the right of adults to use swear words (as a form of expression) at football grounds, in pubs, after the watershed on TV etc. - but the language from these blokes was, quite frankly, embarrassingly pathetic. The linesman was a 'faacking caant'; the Rovers fans were 'faacking mugs' who should 'jog the faack on'. 'Faack this'. 'Faack that'. Faacking tedious. Particularly as they were, quite evidently, more interested in the Chelsea game: 'Cahill has started', 'Costa has scored', 'Fabregas has another assist', 'Willian has hit the post', 'Swansea have a throw-in' etc., etc. A couple of them left before the end. One - a Scot - resembled a balding, grey-haired Liam Gallagher; glaring at the (impeccably behaved) away support before swaggering off. 'His missus is expecting him home, sharpish, to finish the weekly chores and babysit the grandkids,' reckoned the wife. More than likely.

It was something of a relief - as the temperature continued to plummet - when the final whistle sounded. 'Thank goodness we didn't have to pay to watch that'. We met up with Willie, outside the ground, and then spent much of the next hour trying to get out of the adjacent leisure centre car park (trust Willie to move his car there!). At least I had the time to catch up with the goings-on at York Road (TBF, when Drax said recently that the 'results will come,' he didn't specify when!) and the fallout from the Rovers contingent - now thought to total 200 - being locked out. A Woking spokesperson initially stated that Rovers had declined an offer to make the game all-ticket, but this has since been corrected. I've also read reports that the stewards OR the police (opinions vary) offered to form a human barrier to let the Rovers fans onto a hastily-segregated covered terrace. The 'other' group of fluorescent-jacketed jobsworths apparently declined. I very much doubt that it was the police being proactive in trying to help … not if the 11 (ELEVEN) who were stood in the car park, doing bu88er all, were any indication!

Willie dropped us at the Bell, and we had pizza. The wife was wrongly served a vegetarian one, instead of a meat-flavoured one - days after getting a meat-flavoured one, instead of a vegetarian one, following a visit to the cinema in High Wycombe - which, I think, rather summed up her day! I'm trying to persuade her to accompany me on a weekend trip to Newcastle - featuring Gateshead vs Rovers - scheduled for the same weekend as the second leg of the Trophy semi-final. The Heed are, for the moment, still in the Trophy; their replay with Grimsby has now been postponed on two occasions. The continued uncertainty is not helping, but neither did Saturday's bore-fest. 'Woking seem, generally speaking, to be more like Maidenhead than Rovers,' mused the wife. Indeed, but Rovers didn't beat them (and could, conceivably, be 'back again next year'). Gateshead in February, meanwhile, might be a (millennium) bridge too far …

Further reading HERE. Oh, and buy THIS book. Ta.


martin bull said...

Glad that wee Willie didn't pay to watch half of that (although I guess paying to watch just half of it would be strangely better than paying to watch all of it). And you two didn't pay either.

I got in with student card (yes, oldest stud in town) so had the smug satisfaction of denying Woking an extra fiver, which they would have just widdled up a wall on extra coppers.

Great book BTW. In all good bookshops, although there are only 4 bookshops left in the world.

Lenny Baryea said...

Willie was also on the players guest list. They still wouldn't let him in!

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