It's often tricky deciding which game to pick, so when examining the draw, I looked for a sign. Now, my confession is that I've just finished playing Captain Hook in my village pantomime, so I absolutely had to visit this ground.
It was a good choice. Remarkably easy to get to, train to London, tube to Vauxhall, train to Chessington South and a ten minute walk. A good view of Big Ben and the House of parliament are on show at Vauxhall station and I also got my first glimpse of a Eurostar train in motion. I understand it flies through the Kent countryside at record speeds, it was clearly only warming up as it struggled to hit 20mph when I saw it, looked very smart though.
I never know what to expect when arriving at my destination, some places make you feel uneasy from the minute you get off the train whilst in others, such as Chessington, you feel really at home. I wandered down the road from the station looking for lunch inspiration. I first spotted a kebab house, but having not just drunk 10 pints, ruled that out. Next to this was a little cafe that I considered but I spotted a pub in the distance. It was called the Harrow. Now I grew up in a town called Harrow, surely another sign? But something prevented me going in and I returned to the cafe. What an inspired choice. I ordered a 'Full Monty' comprising bacon,sausage, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried egg on toast, tea in a mug and bread and butter. The British are knocked for their cuisine, but you just can't beat food like this in a traditional British caf. So if you decide to visit this ground, call at Barwell Cafe, friendly reception, quick service, piping hot food and lots of it.
The walk to the ground took me right past Chessington World of adventure. I was worried that the child in me would persuade my better sense, that a couple of blasts around a roller coaster was a good idea before kick-off. Forunately, the park doesn't re-open until the end of March.
The ground is easy to find. I was in good time, so went int he clubhouse to watch the football on Sky. It's a reasonable sized clubhouse, with a bar at one end and a pool table at the other. I particularly liked the signs on the toilet doors, a cartoon of Laurel & Hardy for the mens, Marilyn Monroe for the ladies. It's worth getting to the last 32 of the Vase, the bar was doing fantastic business. There's an outside patio with tables and benches that looks just like a pub beer garden, great to sit at in nice weather, today being an example. There's also an enclosed 5-a-side pitch which is ideal for the kids to play on whilst the game is in progress. There was also horse racing being shown in the clubhouse with deafaning volume, go outside and the music on the tannoy was just as loud, is everyone in Chessington hard of hearing?
The ground itself has pleasant views and is on a bit of a slope. There's a rail around the pitch and one small covered area near the halfway line, but no seating other than some foldaway chairs that some people got from somewhere to use. Not the best ground to visit in the rain.
This was billed as the most important game in Chessington & Hook's history and there was a fair sized crowd.
Cammell Laird had the best of the first half and worked a couple of good moves. However, they couldn't create the space for a clear shot at goal and other headed opportunites were somewhat wasted. Chessington had a couple of reasonable breaks but shot wide when well placed. The second half was great. A 1~2 on 52 mins resulted in a cross being volleyed home by McGuire to give Cammell Laird the lead. Just after this, the impressive Cooke tried an outrageous overhead kick from nea the penalty spot. He was desperately unlucky to see it crsh of the bar. I had to smile a minute or so later as the referee teased Cooke, telling him that he should learn to hit the target, nice moment! The lead was doubled on 63 mins, a throw from the left was flicked on by Cooke to Jebb who completely unmarked, scored easily. Cammell Laird brought on a new striker with number 17 on his back. I didn't catch his name, but he was magnificent, great skill and surely will play at a higher level. Chessington got back into it on 73 mins. Heath burst through but was bundled over in the area by Collins. The referee didn't give anything, but the linesman started flagging frantically, the penalty was given and Collins was red carded for being the last man. Nicholls struck the penalty, it looked like it had been saved, but the ball flew up off the keepers hands and agonisinglt crossed the line. Chessington then threw the kitchen sink at Cammell Laird and there were a few hairy moments. But Cammell Laird hung on to win an entertaining game.
Visit this ground if you can, but best to visit in the warmer months.