On the day in July that the draw for the Vase was published, I was due to go to Blackpool on business. The draw was to come out at 11am, my train left at 12. What followed was some frantic printing & stapling, in good film style fashion, I completed the task with minutes to spare and rushed off just in time to catch my train. Sure, I could have waited another day to see the draw....hell, no I couldn't, now I had a whole evening in a Blackpool hotel to pick out my opening fixture. This I did & off to Birstall was my intention. But over time, I went off the idea of starting the competition in the Leicestershire senior league again, so I re-examined the draw and chose Pershore. And then the rains came and carried on and on and on, the forecast was dreadful, there was flooding everywhere & at the last minute, I chose London APSA as I hadn't been there before and there was more hope of the game going ahead. In hindsight, all three of my choices were played, but I'm happy with the decision that I made.
It was an easy journey to this ground, on reaching London I took the tube to the interestingly named Prince Regent station on the Docklands light railway. Many things worry me about the 2012 Olympics. Security, will the stadiums be built on time, strikes by workers... One thing that doesn't worry me is the Docklands light railway. It almost doesn't belong in London. It's clean, is not crowded, always seems to be on time and winds its way over ground through interesting London landmarks. If only the rest of the tube was like this. The London Expo centre is right next to the station, the surrounding area was nothing more than a building site and was most unattractive. Fortunately, I was going in the other direction and found myself in quite a quiet part of the East end, a nice little area! I searched for a suitable lunch venue and with not a lot of choice, ended up selecting a saveloy and chips from a local chippy. Is it just me who when in the East end, has an uncontrolable urge to 'Cockney up' my language. Before I knew what I was saying, there were darlin' & mate's coming out my mouth and I left happily saying something along the lines of "Cor blimey, wot a nice gaff" The food was fine and I sat and ate it in a nearby park. Again, this was extremely quiet and it didn't feel particularly like I was in the country's capital city.
The ground itself is about a 10 minute walk from the station. You have to negotiate a busy road but there are traffic lights as well as a bridge over this road. Theground is within Newham leisure centre and is surrounded by a running track, not a feature that I'm fond of at all at football grounds. Some kind of indoor running track is being built under the stadiums stand. It was due to have been finished at the end of August but the project was behind schedule. Please don't let this be an omen for 2012! Because of this, there was no cover to watch the game. Fortunately, we only had a couple of light showers, a minor miracle as most other games suffered a deluge of some sort.
I arrived in good time and was immediately approached by an official who asked if I was there to watch the game. He offered me a programme which turned out unusually to be in A4 format. I actually quite liked this for a change and it seemed to fit the personal attention that this club gives to all its match day duties. The same official then pointed me to a porta cabin where tea was on sale, he then hopped round the counter, served me himself and also found time to have a chat with me. I can't remember ever having a warmer welcome from a club and I have a huge amount of respect for the effort that the volunteers put in, despite them being very few in numbers. I then got chatting to a London APSA player who was unfit after fracturing his arm during his first game for the club. Again, a really nice feller. I hope he's fit to play again before too long.
Having plenty of time, I went for a walk around the running track. I can't remember the last time I did the 400 metres, it must be about 20 years ago, this time i completed the lap in about 7 minutes. I was taking photos on the way, at least that's my excuse. On my second lap, i met someone walking the other way who turned out to be a fellow groundhopper. It always interests me as to the different way people carry out the same hobby. This gentleman mainly visits grounds in the South East and only does so for FA Cup & FA Vase matches. Still, he was good company and we spent the whole game standing together, discussing the different places that we'd visited.
A big plus was that we were allowed across the running track and literally watched the game standing on the touchline. The pitch was both long and wide, was as flat as a billiard table and seemed remarkably dry considering all the water that had fallen on it over the recent weeks.
The game itself was tight early on until Oxhey scored two in two minutes around the half hour mark. London APSA got back into it on 70 minutes after a nice strike by a substitute, but Oxhey secured the tie 5 minutes later after a nice passing move.
The best team won but I was sorry that London APSA were knocked out. A venue that grew on me the more time I spent there, due to the warm and friendly welcome that I received.
Visit if you get a chance.