Monday 7th June 2021 ko 18:30
Thames Valley Premier League- Premier Division
MARLOW UNITED 1 (Austin 90)
FINCHAMPSTEAD 3 ( Vallance 9 J Day 14p Payne 33)
Att c64 at Gossmore Lane
I haven’t checked but over the last 15 or so years you could have watched Marlow United at home on at least 4 different grounds. There was Flackwell Heath, Marlow FC, Bisham Abbey and Loudwater that I can name off the top of my head. The reason for the first two was to allow the club two stints in the Hellenic League, including a two-season stint in the Hellenic Premier from 2008-10. The issue for the club is always the same, there’s no lack of ambition, but having few facilities of their own makes progression extremely difficult.
At least now they’re home at Gossmore Lane, after spending last season playing in the Hellenic League Division One East at Marlow FC. Given the economics of the pandemic you can see why United have opted to drop back down to the Thames Valley Premier, by doing so, they’re making sure they have a club for the future. And from my own selfish perspective it was a chance to finally see them play a home home game!
I must have driven past Gossmore Lane hundreds of times on the Marlow by-pass, that’s the road bridge you can see in the background. Then there’s the River Thames that runs at one end of the park, so we were only in Buckinghamshire to the tune of a couple of hundred yards. These days its no great distinction but back in the day its probably why the club entered the Wycombe League rather than the more Berkshire-centric Reading (now Thames Valley Premier League).
You can see why the club have played away for so long. There is little more than a pitch (with grass that the local authority had let grow far too long) a changing room block- and precious little else. There’s also a curb around 3 sides of the pitch gently letting you know that this is part of Marlow’s flood defences. That must be a cleft stick for the club, on one hand it means that the facility is unlikely to be lost to housing, but on the other, how many games are lost to waterlogged pitches?
At one end the River Thames and Thames Path meanders its way towards Maidenhead under the by-pass. The interesting detail is the Pink Manor House you can see in the Chilton Hills behind. It’s on Quarry Wood Road, and I’ve wondered for years why it’s pink and who lives there? The reason for the colour will remain a mystery, but the owner is reckoned to be Ricky Gervais, who apparently saw that comedy colleague Russell Brand had bought a house in Henley-on-Thames so bought a house that had a view of the Thames too! I wonder if the additional view of Marlow United added a few pounds on the asking price?
Save for the frankly unacceptable pitch this was a game with plenty riding on it, but only if you were involved at Finchampstead. With then being involved in a race for the title with Berks County it gave a great many groundhoppers both the incentive and the confidence to attend.
As a groundhopper you see teams like Finchampstead on occasion. They are clearly too strong for the league they’re in but lack the facilities to go up. You saw it here, they had the game won in half an hour even if the penalty did look soft in the extreme. A Step 6 opponent would have pushed them harder than Marlow were able to. They did manage that, but only in the second half when all was lost.
It was though above all else a good game to watch, despite that pitch but as we left, I did ponder what we’d seen. It was a case of two clubs each a similar crossroads. Is there a way for either of them to progress either at home or elsewhere, or are their current stations the limit of their ambitions?