Tunbridge Wells 0 Moneyfields 0 aet
As the FA Vase reaches the latter stages, I'm grateful to be able to get to any of the matches. At the 1st qualifying round stage, there's so many choices of games, I didn't know where to start. 'Er indoors told me to pick somewhere interesting. So, interesting...Tunbridge Wells...It was the logical choice.
I decided on the game a couple of months ago and having worked out the travel arrangements, was delighted as British rail once again inflicted a replacement bus service around where I live, how many times...?
My spirits lifted about 20 mins outside Charing Cross as London's concrete towers were replaced by the beautiful Kent countryside on a lovely sunny afternoon.
I was surprised how old and small Tunbridge Wells station was, but was delighted that it was situated bang in the middle of the High street.
If you ever get grief from your partner about ground-hopping, take her with you to Tunbridge Wells. it has a fantastic array of shops in the High Street and a huge shopping mall with a further choice, shoppers paradise!
Now in 20 years of ground-hopping, I've eaten some nice food as well as some downright dreadful, but Tunbridge Wells provided me with the most fantastic lunch I've ever experienced on my football travels. I chose a small Chinese restaurant in the Mall as it had no queue. I ordered sweet & sour chicken which for 65p more, came with a can of drink and a duck spring roll. The food arrived within 3 mins, was piping hot and the taste was simply magnificent. It's worth returning just for that. Yep, 'Silks & Spice express' well and truely rocks!
I set off to find the ground and ended up getting slightly lost, all roads in Tunbridge Wells seem to start with Culverden! I ended up asking a guy on a ladder cutting his hedge for directions. Probably, taking somebody by surprise, who has an electric hedge trimmer, is not a good idea, especially if he gets angry. But this guy was very helpful although he did seem surprised that anyone would want to go to the local football club. Shame, as they don't know what they're missing. I arrived at the ground within 5 mins. You have to go down a wooded drive to the car park and ground, I can't remember any other approach to a ground like this and actually quite enjoyed the thrill of seeing what would be at the end of the drive.
Well I found a good sized car park and a square shaped clubhouse with a pool table in the middle, bar and tea/snack hatch. Reasonably good facilities and the service was friendly and fast.
There is height to view the ground from at one end which gives you an excellent view of the action. There is also a stand, as well as a covered standing area along one of the sides. The wide looking pitch was nicely mown although the grass was slightly long which meant that several passes early on were falling short. The red & white railings around the pitch were a simple but effective touch. The tannoy was crystal clear and the announcer certainly seemed the enthusiastic sort.
I enjoyed watching the youth team (Forrester's) kicking around on the pitch prior to the game. They'd obviously watched a lot of Premiership football as they spent most of their time trying to bring each other down. It was refreshing to see them bounce back up as they were fouled, killing themselves laughing. They then went off to be ball boys, a nice touch and meant that they watched the game rather than losing interest and wandering off to their own devices.
Tunbridge Wells have been in the National news recently following their record breaking penalty shoot-out win in the FA Cup. The programme came complete with a pull-out sheet giving details of the club and this record breaking event. An excellent addition to the normal programme.
So to the match itself. Firstly, a rarity to see a lady linesman. She was probably the most efficient of the officials.
Tunbridge Wells opponents were Moneyfields from Portsmouth. Moneyfields were easily the better first half team and should have scored when a chip found an unmarked striker, any contact would surely have produced a goal but the player headed fresh air and the chance went. Tunbridge wells then found a striker clean through, but he shot at the keeper who saved well with his legs. You can tell it's not the greatest game ever when spectators start arguing amongst themselves. One couple could take the complaining of another fan no more and moved away from him only for them to carry on their disagreement but from 20 yards apart, quite amusing. Tunbridge Wells were much improved in the second half and did have the ball in the net as a cross was headed home. The linesman however, had his flag up early and the effort was ruled out for offside. The game then disintegrated somewhat with errant passes and several long stops for injury. Extra time arrived and Tunbridge Wells so nearly scored early on, as their centre forward hit a 30 yard chip over the stranded Moneyfields keeper, but it went agonisingly wide. The game was crying out for someone to put their foot on the ball and try something a bit different. Moneyfields number 11 Vikram Singh seemed to be that man. But he must be so frustrating to manage. Beats players for fun and creates some lovely positions. However, his final cross, pass or shot were often so far off target, it defied belief.
In the end, the full time whistle was a blessed relief to a disappointing match. But as is so often the case, the replay will probably be a cracker.
So off I went until when almost home, the replacement bus driver got lost and I ended up sitting at the front of the coach giving the driver directions. Never a dull moment!
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the town. My advice to fellow ground-hoppers.
Visit Royal Tunbridge Wells and eat like a King!