My other hobby is amateur dramatics and my run in 'Noises off' was so successful that an additional matinee was fitted in on FA Vase quarter final day. I was therefore probably the only non-league fan skipping and jumping as bad weather decimated another Saturday's fixtures as I was able to make this re-arranged fixture. A train to Coventry went without incident and my connection to Nuneaton arrived on time although I cannot remember ever travelling on a single carriage train before which was what I was presented with for this leg of the trip. Still, not a problem and I arrived in good time and headed off to the easy to find bus station for the final leg of my journey. I wasn't sure which stop to head to but you always know things are going to work out well when the bus you require suddenly swings round the corner and pulls up almost next to you. Local ladies were all apologising for standing in front of me and assured me they were not pushing in but were just sheltering from the wind. When the bus doors opened there was an almighty bundle and I patiently waited at the back with an amused inner smile. The bus driver had obviously taken a course in driving very slowly and then pulling out in front of oncoming traffic. Several other drivers were not amused and I was witness to several hand gestures and mouthed 'advice'.
But I reached Barwell in good time on a sunny but chilly afternoon and enjoyed a portion of chips on a bench in the centre of the shopping area. It was quite a nice little place although there was a congregation of the local youth mafia who eyed up everyone's comings and goings with snide remarks and giggles. It was just a 5 minute stroll to the ground which is set in an area that also houses a cricket pitch and indoor/outdoor bowls facilities. There is a traditional covered stand and a covered standing area next to this. The rest of the pitch is surrounded by a white rail and there is netting at various areas to stop the ball flying into gardens. The pitch has an end to end slope but wasn't in bad condition considering the elements it had contended with over the last couple of months.
Barwell had not lost a league fixture all season and were clear favourites for this tie. Norton recognised this and to the neutral, appeared to turn up intent on not conceding. The first half was short on chances with the Norton keeper making a good early save but neither side putting many good moves together although Barwell had most of the possession. The game turned early in the second half as the Norton keeper flew out of his goal and scythed down an attacker running across the area. The penalty was well converted. This forced Norton to chase the game and suddenly they looked a useful side, why did they not play like this from the beginning? A 30 yard volley dipped just over the bar rippling the top of the net and giving one of those optical illusions so that half the crowd and the shooter thought it had gone in. But Barwell weathered the storm and killed the tie with two excellently finished goals in the last 10 minutes by their gangly striker.
I had an enjoyable trip back to London on the bus and train talking to a fellow hopper from the Southmpton area.
All in all, a very satisfactory trip.