What did the Romans ever do for me?

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Sunday August 12th 2012, KO 3pm at the Irchester Sports Association Grounds. 

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, admission 5 pounds, programme 1 pound.

Irchester United 0-1 Huntingdon Town, attendance 67.

Ok, apologies for plagiarizing a line from Monty Pythons film ‘The Life of Brian’, I couldn’t resist! Perhaps in mind of having seen a few days ago a great cameo from python veteran Eric Idle at the London 2012 closing ceremony!

We had a most enjoyable overnight in Long Buckby the previous evening, which included a visit to the very good (beer and food) ‘Ward Arms’ which is home of Nobby’s Brewery and sited in the nearby village of Guilsborough. But today I was off to Irchester, just to the east of Northampton.

‘Chester Farm’ which is 1.5 miles from the village of Irchester apparently has the remains of a substantial Roman settlement, hence the club taking on the nickname of the ‘Romans’, which was highlighted on their programme cover, showing a Roman soldier with ball at feet! And I thought we invented the game 🙂

Before that we had a more modern phenomena to attend to. Ros had decided to photograph, which in my book means ‘tick’ all 27 of the Safari Northampton animals, which are a collection of fibre glass painted giraffes/gorillas/lions and hippos in 2012.
I managed to scoop 7 of them before heading east, one of which was magnificent giraffe outside the Holy Sepulchre church and  a couple of strikingly decorated gorillas in the town centre.

Upon arrival at the ground 70 mins or so before KO, I was met by a yellow jacketed steward who directed me down the road towards the parking in a rather scruffy recreation ground some 100 yards away. It was a short walk from here down a path to the entrance to the Irchester Sports association grounds, basically a dual facility with cricket and football played.

I expected better of Irchester, having noted that Northampton looked a slightly jaded and ugly place, with plenty of litter strewn around, actually I found Irchester to be even worse! A small kiddies seating/play area was absolutely covered with empty crisp packets, drinks bottles, sweet wrappers etc.
Maybe this is just a reflection on the youth of today, but also perhaps on the local council/s for not getting their act together. Such a shame, and not seen so readily when travelling to other parts of Europe, anyway, rant over.

On arrival at the ground, you enter behind the goal, which has a small atcost stand in place. All facilities are at this end, clubhouse, changing room, and a small covered terraced to the left of the stand. The cricket wicket is off to the left, and the right side of the ground is enclosed by housing. The setup is very neat and tidy, clearly there is pride for their respective clubs, the pitch was in tip top condition, and I could imagine the out fielders not experiencing too much in the way of cricket ball bobbling!

The game itself was a little dreary to be honest, on a warm day, honestly more suited to cricket, neither side created much in the way of clear-cut chances in the first half, and I fell into conversation with a Cambridge City fan standing next to me, both of us sheltering in the shade. Thankfully just on half time we got a goal, the red shirted Huntingdon striker Joe Jordan (no, not him!), poaching at the field end of the ground.

The second half saw the visitors take more of a grip of the game. What was a little puzzling was that they had won the UCL Div One in 11-12, and the programme had noted their squad was pretty much unchanged for this season in the higher division. Then to arrive with only 13 players, for a FACup tie with a bounty of 1,000 pounds to the winner seemed strange. Especially, as typically because of 2 first half injuries, by half time, they had already used all 13. One can understand players at Step7 and below not having the same commitment, but from Step5 and above if I were running a club I’d not expect my players to be on holiday or attending weddings etc .

During the second half a combine harvester was doing its business over the fence at the field end, thrashing away, and as my mind started to wander, suddenly in the 75th minute Irchester were awarded a rather fortuitous penalty for handball which was taken by Callum Ridgway. This was then well saved by the rather tubby, but decent keeper Dave Beeny.  One felt even then perhaps the Romans had played their last card, and so it was as  Huntingdon continued to look the more organised and committed team and it was no surprise they held out for the 1-0 victory, and look forward to a visit from St Ives (Camb), in the next round, will they have more than 13 then?

So, the team of Irchester really did nothing for me, I can see them having a season of struggle in the UCL Prem Division. But I liked the ground, the tea bar was knocking out some lovely cheeseburgers, and everyone seemed very friendly, why not give them a visit?

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