12/2/22 Wingate & Finchley V Cray Wanderers, Isthmian League Premier Division. Drawing Fuzzy Lines.

If I hadn’t already gone and bought advanced train tickets to London, I’d have been watching Blues at home to Luton. I’d suspected that the new super duper Covid mutation wouldn’t be anywhere near as bad as the ‘health advisors’ were predicting, but wasn’t expecting it to be more Omi con than Omi chronic either. I wasn’t going to go to the Maurice Rebak stadium originally though. Don’t worry, I’ve not been bitten by a new found love of commercialism. It was renamed after the Club’s co-founder and has no advertising/sponsorship connotations whatsoever. I’m perfectly fine with a ground being named after someone, especially as the renaming was done in memoriam. Anyway, I’m digressing. Originally after purchasing the train tickets, I’d pencilled in a game at Boreham Wood, but then Taffy informed me that Boreham Wood had advanced in the F.A.Trophy, and were due to play at Wrexham instead. Armed with this new information, I dug the Good Beer Guide out, and with the Non-League Matters website on my phone, worked out an alternative game to go to. I also had to bare in mind, various tube strikes and planned engineering works. Eventually, I settled on this one. So it was touchdown Euston and I hit the Northern line to Kentish Town. If there’s anywhere in London I really do like, then it’s Kentish Town. I’d drank in the area a couple of times before, and it hadn’t changed. Not only had it not changed, but I found I still liked the feel of the place. The Lion and Unicorn was first on the itinerary, a pub I hadn’t been in before.

“The first of the day”

The pub is probably more of an eatery than anything else, but it also runs a theatre. It’s kind of quirky in its own way, and there’s more than a cursory nod to historic socialism. From there, I got to the next place just before opening time, and there was already a queue waiting. Once inside, I could certainly understand the reason for the queue. I’d never been in The Southampton Arms before, but I can definitely see myself going in there again.

“My kind of pub”

Whereas I hadn’t been in the Southampton Arms, I had been in The Pineapple before.

“They then went and ruined the beer selection by adding Purity, Mad Goose to it.”

A GBG entry for many years and rightly so in my opinion. Not being a pub on a main road, it isn’t the easiest to find, but well worth the effort.

“After successfully suing its owner Kurt Zouma fo damages, the compensation then went to its head”

After the Pineapple, I was back on the tube for the last leg to Finchley. West Finchley to be exact. I had still two on the itinerary, both in the GBG. The first was The Elephant Inn. A Fuller’s pub with a landlady and staff who work hard to maintain standards. If only more pubs had people as dedicated. With time moving on, I dropped in on the last of the list. Bohemia is a brewpub situated in an old furniture shop.

“Beds to the left, three piece suits to the right”
“Kitchen department”

With time moving on, I almost left this place out, I’m really glad that I didn’t. It just meant that I needed to get a speed on to get to the game.

I’m not going to go into the history of the two clubs. If you’re that interested, you’ll look it up yourself. If I’m being totally honest, it was just another ground tick. If nothing else though, it’s worth doing just to gawp at the main stand. The fact that it’s the only stand, is beside the point.

“It would’ve been a travesty had I not taken a proper photo of what is, a magnificent example of art deco architecture”

I’m not just going to ignore the main stand and go straight on to the match. Like the ‘football’ stand at Headingley is, it’s multi purpose just like the stand at Leeds. By that, I don’t mean it’s got offices and a function room. It’s a double stand. One side you can watch the football from, the other side, you can watch the rugby from. Aesthetically speaking, (or is that just my own biases?) The football side is much more pleasing to the eyes. Right then, match time. Although both clubs reside in London, and this a North v South derby game, it hadn’t attracted a big crowd. Looking at the league positions both clubs found themselves in, I could probably understand that. What transpired gave the spectators that did bother turning up, a right treat. It actually only took the away side 2 minutes before they were in front. Cray were showing pace, power and direction. Around the 10th minute, that was to change. After a lengthy injury to the Wanderers keeper, he was reluctantly replaced. However, unlike the inflated matchday squads of the Premier League, Cray hadn’t got a replacement goalkeeper attempting to keep himself warm in the padded seats of the technical area. There’s no namby pamby attitudes at this level of the game. Squads are small. Players play for the enjoyment more than the financial rewards. If a player isn’t getting a game, he will look to move somewhere where he will get one. The further a player moves up the professional game, the better the wages and the more content they become with sitting on those padded seats. Cray would have to manage to get through the game with an outfield player in goal. It wasn’t long before Wingate and Finchley were on equal terms. Even with the substitute goalie/midfielder, the two sides were well matched though. They were different with their ingredients mind. Whereas W & F played more as a team, Cray had better players, it’s just that they played as individuals. Wingate and Finchley rattled the crossbar with an effort from outside the area that had it been slightly lower, Cray’s first choice goalkeeper had he been fit and able wouldn’t have saved. While the midfielder/goalkeeper was still adjusting to life between the sticks and the defence were still adjusting to him, W & F took advantage even further. 2:1. It was just before halftime. The second half was looking ominous for Cray Wanderers. I moved to the end that W & F were attacking. I was joined by the home ‘ultras’ . Much as I applaud the geeky half dozen late teens attempts to create noise and support their club, please please please, learn how to play the drum you’ve got. For the benefit of my ears, I moved back round to where I’d watched the first half from. If you hadn’t have known that the away goalkeeper was actually an outfield player filling in, you wouldn’t have guessed. Not only had he settled down well in his new job, but the defence were perfectly happy to trust him given the good job he was actually doing. The equaliser when it came, wasn’t undeserved. It gave the game symmetry. Two different types of sides matching perfectly. A couple of the Cray Wanderers players look like they could play at a higher level, but they do need to tweak their attitudes with playing as part of a team.

After watching yet another cracking Non-League game, I caught the tube back to Euston. I hadn’t been in the Doric Arch for a couple of years. Mainly due to the Euston Tap being so good, but I fancied a change.

“Been that long, I didn’t even remember what the interior looked like”

Will I be going back in there anytime soon? It’s not as bad in there as I remembered it to be if I’m being honest. It’ll definitely be an option for the future. Catching the train back to Brum, it was the usual earphones jammed in and sleep time. Waking up at Coventry, I resisted the urge to go back to sleep. I really didn’t fancy missing my stop and ending up in Wolverhampton. I wasn’t disappointed that I’d missed another protest at Blues, or the 3:0 win against Luton. I was just happy knowing we’d won and that one had taken place. Anyone for tennis?

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