Mile oak 0 Slade Green 0
I decided to visit a Sussex league ground as I hadn't been to one for about 15 years. It was also a reason to see if the Thameslink service was always as bad as my first visit. In fairness, this time it was OK. At Gatwick airport a young lad got on the train and immediately made a call on his mobile. The Gentleman behind him on hearing this leapt out of his seat exclaiming "Oh, for God's sake" and stormed off into the next compartment. An interesting reaction, as the young lad was talking in a completely normal voice, the only disturbance to the carriage was this idiot throwing his toys out of the pram. The guy on the phone didn't even realise what was going on. There's nowt as queer as folk! I travelled to Fishersgate station and from there it's supposed to be a 1.8 mile journey. I walked it and was there in just over 20 mins, there's also a bus that goes from near the station to Mile oak. The walk was fine apart from the steep hills. Note to self. "Choose a ground in a flat area next round" A suggestion to Sussex, they should be called the Sussex ups, not downs and Mile Oak should be called Mile high! I was greatly encouraged to turn a corner to spot a fish and chip shop only to find it shut! I then came across a Sky Sports van, maybe Sky had finally seen the light and would be showing my game live, let's face it, it couldn't be any duller than live celebrity poker? It's always comforting to finally see something that suggests you're in the right location. this occured as I bumped into the Mile oak community centre, gospal hall and medical centre all in a row. Maybe that's the natural progression in Mile oak? You join the community centre, get roped into singing at the gospel centre and on over-doing it, finish up in the medical centre. Or maybe the lack of oxygen at such a height was getting to me. I found the ground easily enough and on attempting to find the entrance, was invited into the clubhouse for a cup of tea. I've seen some different set-ups in my time but have never seen a football club using a playgroup hall as their clubhouse. It was kind of surreal talking football whilst surrounded by pictures of Mr Men. I texted 'er indoors to let her know as she's a teacher and received back, her one witty text of the year. It merely said "How's their play dough?" I ordered a cheese burger and tea which was really good and was told by an official that Mile Oak's players are not paid a penny, no expenses or anything. Nice to see that the club seems to run so well for a small outfit who are actually based in the nearby Mile Oak pub. Both teams were written up well in advance on a blackboard, don't you just love it when clubs make the effort to do this? I was made to feel welcome, so much so, that the kick-off sailed straight to my foot and if I may say so, I had a hell of a first touch. This was the first time that Mile oak had ever been in the first round proper of any FA competition. Nice to witness such history. The pitch slopes (The views from up there are great), the grass was long, the ground was dry and bumpy and there was a fair wind. Control was never going to be easy and neither side never fully adjusted. Slade Green should have scored in the first half with an unmarked player meeting a corner 6 yards out, but it hit the keeper in the midriff and was hacked clear. In the second half, Mile oak hit a 25 yard screamer just over and Slade Green had a goal disallowed for a clear push. They also saw a man clear through but he screwed his shot badly wide. Extra time arrived and Slade Green immediately went down to 10 men as a player was sent off for 2 yellows.One player said to the referee in extra time "Why are you so busy?" and I'm afraid that somewhat summed him up and extra time became a bit of a battleground. It was all Mile oak until the end and they were unlucky to see one 18 yard effort crash off the bar. In the end they couldn't find a way through, so it'll be a replay in Kent on Tuesday.
An unusual set-up and a highly original ground to visit.