Ampthill Town 1 Hertford Town 0
Due to my wife's 50 th birthday and turning up at Stony Stratford the previous Saturday to find the pitch resembling Lake Windermere, this was my first game since the last round of the Vase at Littlehampton.
Two weeks before Christmas is never the best time to travel by train into London. The platform was heaving, the train was heaving and yet First Capital Connect still make the decision to just send out a four carriage train. Why oh why do they never think of their customers comfort. Still, fares will increase well over the price of inflation again in the new year and absolutely nothing will change - Rant over!
st Pancras was also heaving, but the platform for my train was a little tranquil oasis with only me and a couple of other people daring to head out of London on this prime Saturday shopping day.
It was a straightforward trip to Flitwick station where I was challenged to a walk of between 2-3 miles to Ampthill's ground. I was hoping to bump into somewhere for lunch but could only spot a Martin's newsagent. I bought a bar of chocolat in case of emergencies but there was no sign of a chippy. I set off on my walk and after about 10 minutes, like a mirage, Flitwick fishery appeared like a mirage on the other side of the road. There were two people ahead of my in the queue. I anticipated a short wait but was in the shop for the best part of 15 minutes. Why do chip shops so often not have chips ready? This, along with the guy in front of me buying most of the food in the shop contributed to possibly the longest wait I've ever had for food on a hop. The guy in front of me actually drank a whole bottle of tango that he was buying and had finished it before he paid for it. Still, my jumbo sausage and chips were piping hot and really good.
The walk wasn't particularly enjoyable as it was constantly along busy roads with traffic roaring by. When I arrived in Ampthill, it was quite an attractive little place, larger than I had expected with a good selection of shops.
I used to be the tannoy announcer at Hertford Town as well as doing live, local radio reports. After these roles came to an end, I left the club to groundhop on a full time basis and this is the first time I had seen Hertford Town since. Needless to say, I entered the clubhouse and immediately bumped into a couple of people that I knew. I have to say that the collection of 30 or so Hertford fans sang without and did their club proud.
I really liked the ground. The clubhouse was neat, modern and well run. There was a covered area with some selected seating up a bank on the far side giving a great view of the action. A really nice backdrop of hills, a small wood and a striking church cross at the top of a mound. Hardstading all around with a pitch that played really well after the recent bad weather.
Sadly, the game didn't live up to much. It was slow, in fact laborious at times with long stoppages and seemingly aimless passes from both teams. Hertford's number 11 was injured after about 20 minutes and hobbled for the rest of the half. Why he wasn't substituted, I'll never know. He clearly couldn't run it off and yet was left labouring on the right wing for 25 mins. He even came out at half time for a fitness test after the physio had strapped him up, obviously he failed the test! Ampthill hit the underside of the bar in the first half and the Hertford keeper performed wonders to claw out the follow-up. Hertford hit the outside of the post, these were the only real moments of first half interest. The critical incident of the game happended midway through the second half. The Hertford keeper was caught by a forward in a 50-50 challenge, he writhed around in agony and after lengthy treatment was carried off. An outfide player took over between the sticks. Ampthill after a period of pressing, finally scored on 78 mins. A 15 yard pass was delightfully laid off in a 1-2 move and a toe poked finish gave the stand in keeper little chance. Hertford finally started to play some good football and looked threatening. if only they'd played like this when the scores were level! But Ampthill held on to reach the next round.
An enjoyable afternoon and nice to bump into some old friends.