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Tuesday 28th February 2012 ko 7.45pm

Spartan South Midlands League Division One

HARPENDEN TOWN 2 (Burns 52 B Warren 77) B Warren sent off 90 (2nd booking)

LANGFORD 2 (Forsythe 34 Garrett 45) Forsythe missed penalty 86

Att 32

Entry £4

Programme £1

Tea-in-a mug 50p

It has to be said that the Hertfordshire town of Harpenden is extremely well-to-do. You drive past wine bars and exclusive restaurants, en route to Rothampsted Park. The local supermarket is a Waitrose. Amongst the famous living there have been Eric Morecambe, John Motson, and Ellen Terry. There is however, nothing snooty about the welcome at the town’s football club.

You park in the “Pay and Display” car park (free after 6.30pm) which serves the local tennis, rugby and swimming clubs also, and the ground is tucked neatly away at the bottom right corner. Despite being in the centre of town, the ground has a rural feel to it. And that may have something to do with the club’s short-term difficulties. The League are exerting pressure on the club to improve facilities. The ground isn’t completely enclosed, and the turnstile while procured, isn’t used. The club see refurbishment of the clubhouse as equally pressing. And for all of that I absolutely loved the place, and anyone who knows me well will know why.

It’s because the club is full of people who will go the extra mile for their community. I learned how the club is fundraising to improve the ground firstly and foremost to maintain Spartan South Midlands League status. The future will be secured by bringing the colts and youth set-up under the same banner, and the club hope to make better use of the ground by installing a 4G pitch. It was a pleasure to talk football with such friendly, knowledgeable people.

With a club like this I’d have enjoyed myself even if the game had been poor. It was anything but as Harpenden are 4th, enjoying their best season for some time. It was a surprise therefore that they found themselves 2 down at half time. A defensive howler allowed Kim Forsythe to fire home from 6 yards, then Paul Garrett’s excellent volley across home keeper Matt Jones, from the left was a great coda to the first half.

With Harpenden protecting a season-long unbeaten record, it was inevitable that there would be a reaction. There was, and some! Tom Burns and Ben Warren were introduced for the hosts and it proved to be an inspired move as both scored! Burns scored after a needless free kick was given away, and the skidding free kick bounced out of Langford keeper Grant Beckwith’s arms for the substitute to stab the ball home.

Soon after Ben Warren was first to a through ball and volleyed past Beckwith to level the scores. At that point he probably should have walked away and got changed as a few minutes later he was booked for a nasty looking tackle, and in injury time collected his second for a bout of dissent for which he will probably, on reflection, be rather embarrassed. Between the two events Langford could, and should have won the tie. Ashley Fitton was brought down in the box for an obvious penalty, but Forsythe’s weak penalty was well saved by Jones.

No side deserved to lose this game, easily the best I’ve seen of the 150 or so I’ve watched this season. It’s a rare occurrence that you get a great club with a great game to back it up, this was a tick to savour.

Here’s a link to the club’s fundraising efforts. I wish them well.