Chipstead 1 Brockenhurst 2 01/10/05
I'm not sure how many non-league grounds I've been to, but despite a couple of aborted attempts, I'd never visited a Combined Counties team. My criteria for this round was to tick off my first such team. I picked on Chipstead for no other reason. The replacement bus service on my line will be running every weekend until at least Christmas (Sigh). This particular journey took me on the Thameslink line for the first time, surprising how little things excite us ground-hoppers. I won't be so excited next time as delays, signal failure and general chaos meant that I was waiting at East Croydon station for 45 mins. When my train finally arrived, it stopped at a signal for over 5 mins. I thought I'd never arrive. Now football fans and school kids are often given a hard time for making excessive noise on trains. Let me add into that mix, horse racing fans. I had a train full of people going to Tattenham corner and boy, what a racket! When I arrived at Chipstead I'd heard so many hot-tips for different horses in the 1:55 at Epsom, that I was sure that it was going to end in an 8 horse dead heat.
I decided to print off an AA route from the station to the ground. The first time I'd done this in addition to multi-map and it worked very well...It would have worked better if the station hadn't had two exits, fortunately, I picked the right one. I passed a little parade of shops on leavin the station and was looking out for food. I decided to give the Chipstead Tandoori a wide berth, in hindsight, a mistake as I never saw another shop. My route took me up quite a steep hill. A nice enough walk but cars flew up and down this quite narrow road at a hell of a speed, it was quite hairy at times and I was glad when I reached the High street. High Street? I'd hate to see the low street. I saw no shops and on reflection, no houses, just a rugby club and some kind of Nature reserve.
But I found the ground easily and headed hungrily for the clubhouse...Only to be informed that there was no food as the bloke wasn't there. So lunch was a bag of crisps and a kit=kat. How can there be no chips in Chipstead, should be called crispstead!
The clubhouse was quite nice with a well stocked bar and adequate room for a pool table. The ground itself was a white rail affair with one reasonable stand that sat about 80 people. The pitch was in quite good nick and it had very pleasant surroundings.
Chipstead and Brockenhurst had actually met earlier in the season in an FA Cup tie, don't supporters just hate it when you get drawn against the same team twice in a season?
Chipstead offered an excellent programme and I particularly liked the two articles on footballing greats, this week was Shearer and Viv Anderson.
I enjoyed watching the referee and linesman warming up and was amused when the ref instructed his assistants to join him in doing a Morecambe and Wise. This involved a knees-up run with the hands flicking up behind the head. They seemed to have a good relationship with plenty of banter and they worked well as a team during the game.
The first half was terrific and Brockenhurst took only 3 mins to score when the keeper could only palm a snap shot from the edge of the box into the top of the net. Chipstead easily had the best of the posession after this although it was end to end stuff, the Brockenhurst keeper pulled off one great full length diving save. But on half time, Brockenhurst scored again with a nice drive from the edge of the box that gave the keeper no chance.
Half time and I found a bloke serving tea and some food out of a little kitchen in the clubhouse. I had a cheeseburger, no offence to the guy who made it but Disgusting! It reminded me why I don't normally eat at football grounds.
The second half opened with a torrential downpour that lasted about 10 mins. It made conditions very tricky after this with several players imitaing Bambi on ice. The game was still end to end but Brockenhurst were a lot more comfortable and looked more of a threat up front. Chipstead did manage to score deep into stoppage time as a cross was put away with a bicycle kick that looped over the keeper and in.
An enjoyable game and a nice but quiet ground, kind of in the middle of nowhere.
If you're going to visit by train, avoid race days!