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Away From Home
Away From Home

London Calling

By: Chris Smith
Date: 11/11/2010

CAMBRIDGE away wasn't a possibility today due to finishing late for once, and being based at Heathrow meant a long rush hour journey across London and no margin for delay. I'd also thought about going to see Brentford at Swindon but was knocked back by the 7pm kick off.

I also had to pass on a free ticket to Pompey v QPR with a free journey there and back. It was therefore a toss-up between watching Hampton and Richmond or Bedfont Sports at home. It wasn't really a contest as I didn't want to sit in West London traffic, so I opted for Bedfont who are based just to the south of Heathrow Airport and a 10 minute walk from Hatton Cross tube.

I'm actually staying on the northern perimeter of the world’s noisiest airport so scooted down the road to pick up a bus. I thought I was well organised and paid the £2 fare without realising that the free travel zone extends all round the airport now, and wasn't aware of this until my money was waved away on the return trip.

I may have worked at Heathrow for many years but I'm yet to get re-attuned to the racket. Having dodged six lanes of traffic on the A30, it was a short right into Bedfont Lane where I was reminded of the U2 Beautiful Day video because the aircraft were taking off from the south runway every thirty seconds or so. Given that this is only about three road widths from where I was, they were very low. It’s a bit surreal and I was reminded of a previous trip to Bedfont Town where you can combine watching a game with plane spotting if so inclined. I'm not, just in case you wondered.

Talking of Bedfont Town, I saw the floodlights on there and was thinking perhaps Sports play there as well. After lurking with intent for a few minutes before sussing out that perhaps I was in the wrong spot, I had another reason to be grateful for the ban on indoor smoking and was directed to the Sports ground by a dedicated puffer stood outside the Town social club (where I have combined a game with a very good drink in the past).

I bet the Bedfont Town players who were turning up for training thought I was a daft ****.

Sports play just a few yards up the road in the park and have a very new ground which has apparently been built with the assistance of £1.2 million of funding. I assume the adjacent floodlit mini-pitches which were in use are part of this. Given that Bedfont is a village swallowed up by suburban Middlesex, there really is a wealth of facilities, although Bedfont FC is now defunct. I remember noting the growth of teams in this area in the NLP and being quite surprised.

It was £4 to get in for non-members such as myself and £1 for the informative programme which is par for the course with northern teams of a similar vintage (Step 6 or the Cherry Red Records Combined Counties Division One). This league has also seen the rebirth of AFC Wimbledon, albeit in the Premier Division. Tonight’s match was against Farnham Town (who are in the same division) in a Premier Cup tie.

A tight game was in prospect with Bedfont top with 33 points from 17 games and Farnham fourth with 28 points from 12. I understand Bedfont had a strong side out with Farnham fielding more second teamers. The record attendance of 152 against the exotically named Sports London Benfica was never going to be challenged on such a cold night which made my thoughts turn to a strong desire not to have to endure extra time.

Bedfont attacked straight from the off and the Farnham keeper was injured in the first minute after coming off worse in a collision as he sought to stop an imminent shot from an advancing player. Thankfully, he was fit to continue and after the initial Bedfont pressure, the first chances were fashioned by Farnham who always looked that bit sharper.

A loose ball in midfield was seized upon by one Farnham player who beat two Bedfont defenders for pace from the halfway line before drawing out the keeper. In scenes we can appreciate from BP, he wanted too much time to tee up his shot, and the chance was gone. Shortly after, a good ball from the left went to one of the several well placed Farnham players in the Bedfont area only for the recipient to take too much time with his effort, although the chance had to be cleared off the line.

There wasn't much goalmouth action but Bedfont forced their first corner after about 15 minutes with a free kick from their left shortly afterwards forcing a good save from the Farnham keeper. Five minutes later and a shot from the right went straight across the goal. Farnham did retaliate another five minutes later with a shot that was wastefully put wide.

There was a flurry of Bedfont corners about seven minutes before half time followed by an appeal fro handball which wasn't entertained. However, as had been threatened several times in this half, Farnham broke away just a few minutes later with the ball falling to who I thought was their number seven (which means it probably wasn't, nobody really seemed to be sure) who rifled it into the top of the net.

Just as my hopes rose that there wouldn't be any play beyond ninety minutes, Bedfont equalised just before half time with the ball slotted in after a good move.

Half Time: Sports 1 Farnham 1

One of the spectators had a son playing for the home team and his view was that Sports were fortunate to be level pegging. I thought they just about deserved to be level but the biggest threat had been posed by Farnham. The main Bedfont player who stood out was their number seven, Tommy Hedges, who regularly ran at the Farnham right and got some awkward balls in behind their defence.

I reluctantly dragged myself from the warmth of the clubhouse to watch the second half which was largely uneventful for the first ten minutes, after which Farnham took the lead after finding space in front of goal and another good shot found the roof of the net in what seemed to be a rework of the first goal. At this point I realised I'd left my pen in the clubhouse and tried to commit everything to memory just as the game looked to be warming up, in direct contrast to the crowd. The frantic search on my person probably made me seem flea ridden before I swallowed my pride and borrowed a pen from the tea bar (which did some grand cuppas). The plus was I forgot how cold I had been whilst my thoughts were concentrated on retrieving my pen.

A Farnham goal was disallowed shortly afterwards though I wasn't quite sure why though no-one appealed.

On 65 minutes, Hedges made a very good break down the left and put in a good cross only for his Bedfont team mate to squander a good chance. This created a hopeful but half-hearted appeal from some home spectators that there should have been a corner because "surely he couldn't have missed from there". And there was me thinking I was sarcastic...

A few minutes later, Bedfont’s number eight had a promising free kick on the left but the banjoed effort across the pitch and away from goal inspired him to shout "f*** off!" whether at himself or the ball I'm not sure.

Hedges again was to force a corner for the home side after a very good run down the left, but Farnham were beginning to look comfortable and again looked threatening and assured when they entered the home half. Apart from some late pressure, Farnham rode the game out comfortably.

Full Time: Sports 1 Farnham 2

Not a bad night out and I was back in the warmth just twenty minutes later. Bedfont Sports have only been around for eight years and are looking to re-grade their ground for the next step of the pyramid should promotion be forthcoming. I like the trestle tables by the side of the pitch which would be a nice way of enjoying a drink in more clement weather. As it was, we were gathering under a strip light under the covered area hoping it would throw off even a miniscule amount of heat. Well done to the small band of travelling Farnham fans who travelled over. Shame on the home support who drifted off because of the cold when they went two one down. Not that I blame them...Thanks to Gary and Grim Rob for passing on text updates of the Town game.

Highlight of the night? Using public transport for the first time in ages without having to tolerate chavs/chavettes and chavlings. Bliss!

Looking forward to Saturday, Town are playing just a short bus journey away. I'll be staying down here for that and reacquainting myself with the battle-bus on the way back. See you there.

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