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Wednesday 4th November 2020 ko 19.45

Southern League Division One Central

DAVENTRY TOWN 3 (Hayward 18og Bowen 40p Orosz 68)

Jackson sent off 46 (2nd booking)


Att 120

Entry £10

Programme- Online

With England’s second month-long lockdown due to start at midnight, Robyn and I knew we weren’t the only ones planning what was going to be at best our only live game in November and possibly longer.

I’ve long since accepted that 20 years into this hobby the chance to tick off a new ground midweek is a rarity for me and that goes double for a Wednesday. So it was an obvious time for a “Robyn Revisit” (so a new ground at least for Robyn my wife)  and one of the few advantages of hammering endless old matches into the “Futbology” App during Lockdown#1 was that I could reveal to myself that my most recent visit to Elderstubbs was 16 years ago! 

I was fairly quickly reminded of it too, as a fellow hopper spotted me and commented,

“There’s a bit more football furniture here than you’re used to!”

He did have a point, this season a mixture of restrictions and Robyn and I wanting to limit contact has meant we’ve mainly travelled to games lower than Step 4 on the footballing pyramid. But even taking that into account, Elderstubbs was quite different than on my previous visit. 

That said, the place still looks like what it was then, an out-of-town new build from 1990 to allow the club to capitalise on their historic home “The Hollow.” Back in 2004 I watched Daventry Town beat Blackstones 5-3 in a United Counties League game, but a major fire in the clubhouse a year later very nearly killed off the club, and since gaining promotion to the Southern League in 2010 the larger seating requirements have been met with additional “Arena” stands each side of the clubhouse. 

But for all of that I found myself peering up through the gloom and mist over towards the hill in the  far corner. On top of that hill was the Ford plant, and Ford Sports (Daventry) played UCL football at the Royal Oak from 1977- 2010. The club lasted only until 2012 (as Daventry United) when Ford withdrew use of the Royal Oak in 2010. Now nothing of the ground remains save for my memories of how cold it could get there on the top of that hill!

Back in 2020 that cold was present here too, the first real chill of the winter. I made a beeline for both a teamsheet that was readily available and a hot drink from a notably efficient cafe. While a fair chunk of the crowd were groundhoppers and football people in search of a final game before the break the club seemed at ease with itself, and that was carried forward into the game. 

It must be said I do have a soft spot for Didcot Town –knowing Andy Cooper rather does that to you! So with another Didcot legend Jamie Heapy as manager I was rather hoping for a good show from them- it is a fact of life I don’t see as much of them as I’d like to.

Sadly once Luke Hayward turned Jack Bowen’s cross into his own net they never looked like taking anything, even after Jarvis Orosz’s red card a few seconds into the second half. I report that with some sadness that heads did seem to drop and as the mist descended on Elderstubbs at least Didcot and Jamie Heapy will have a month to regroup and re-energise his charges.

That mist did feel like the curtain slowly being lowered on the first half of the season and as Robyn and I drove home we contemplated a minimum of 4 weeks of watching no live football. We took a phlegmatic view of it, there is a greater good involved and other ways to spend our free time. 

However while the vast majority seem to have heeded the new regulations whether or not you agree with them some haven’t. By far the worst breach involved a London-based hopper who travelled by train to Scotland-  Lockerbie to be exact, to watch a behind-closed-doors game at Lochmaben from outside the ground. 

Now I’m used to hoppers doing some fairly daft things in pursuit of the hobby- and god knows I’ve done my fair share too. That one does I think take lack of self-awareness to new depths and quite frankly if the authorities were to take action against him I would support it. The rules are there for a reason, and it is not good enough to find exceptions purely because it suits your own needs. I miss seeing my family, football, the pub, meals out and plenty more but I understand why I have to go without, and take a dim view of those whose actions might jeopardise a swift return to normality.

Writing as I am a minimum of 2 weeks into this lockdown I look forward to, I hope, a return to watching football on 5th December, but until then it’ll be a return to “Zoom” meetings, committee work, and once more dipping into the photo archive to tell a few more footballing tales. We’ll get through this.