AFC Newbury 2 Sandhurst Town 3 – Match abandoned 73 mins.
I left my home in Hertfordshire to glorious sunshine for what turned out to be a remarkably easy journey. Very straightforward and the ground is only a pleasant 5 minute walk from the station. As I passed through Reading the sun was still shining. No more than a minute later, it had gone, to be replaced by thick fog. I was slightly concerned as I reached Newbury as visibility was suddenly very poor.
The ground is situated within a park and is next to the river. Known as Newbury wharf, this was remarkably attractive and must be the swan capital of England, they were everywhere!
I had arrived in good time and was wondering how to kill an hour. As my wife will confirm, I have the ability to hear a referees whistle from a good half mile distance and heard a distant peep. I set off in the direction of the noise and was pleased to find a game of park football. The standard was terrible, but every single player was giving 120% and the passion was commendable. No goals were scored in my time there, mainly because the 18 stone forward was constantly being caught offside.
I returned to the ground at 14:30 and was slightly dismayed to find the gates shut. There were a few other fans there and we were all wondering whether the game had been called off. But eventually the gates opened and I entered for my first view of the ground which includes an excellent stand with a very effective portable PA system. The tea hut is behind the stand, my one quibble as you can’t see the action if you visit the hut before half time in an attempt to beat the crowds.
The fog was by this time, not so much a pea souper, more like a country vegetable. By 15:00 you could barely see the other side of the pitch and kick-off was delayed by 15 mins. As soon as the referee made this decision, the fog lifted. Why then did it take him virtually the entire 15 mins to start proceedings?
When the players did come out, the referee lined all 22 up in the centre circle so that he could check their studs delaying proceedings yet further.
The game finally started and although foggy, visibility was not too bad. The match started at a cracking pace and Sandhurst stunned the hosts by scoring on 25 mins as Anderson hammered a square pass into the roof of the net. Sandhurst also hit the post and Newbury missed a couple of good chances. The fog worsened during half time as darkness descended but the game re-started. On 50 mins, Sandhurst scored again as Mulvaney nipped in front of his defender to tuck away a cross. I was standing near the Sandhurst manager who after jumping up and down for a few seconds, turned to his assistant and said "Who scored then"! Sandhurst’s third came on 50 mins although the fog was so bad, I couldn’t see it. Apparently, Anderson burst through the middle and scored at the second attempt. Newbury then started a come back. A fluffed defensive clearance fell to Taylor who scored from 15 yards. We were treated to the strains of "Ain’t no stopping us now" from the P.A. Then 5 mins later, Vine deflected in a shot following a deep cross from the right. A grandstand finish was in order, but on 73 mins, the referee suspended the game. He really had no option, you couldn’t see the stand from the other side of the pitch. He waited 10 – 15 mins and then abandoned the match. The second abandoned game I’ve ever been to, both for fog.
Who knows how this game would have ended, but arguable, the whole destiny of the Vase was changed as Newbury easily won the re-match 2~0.
So home I went and yes, you’ve guessed it. The fog had completely cleared by Reading.
A great game of football, I just wish I could have seen it.