Marsh Hoppers

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Saturday November 17th 2012, KO 11am at Harlington Sports Centre, Middlesex County League Div One West.

Marsh Rangers (Blue/White Hoops/Blue) 2-3 Brentham (White/White), HT 1-1, att 62, programme available for 2 pounds.

Well publicised in the ‘Football Traveller’, I believe a one-off Saturday morning game in the Middlesex County league has now become an annual event. Not entirely sure if it’s just a Marsh fixture, the info at the bottom of my blog may indicate this is so. Basically it’s an early christmas present for ground hoppers and the first time I’d attended. Also the first time I’d ever watched a game in this particular County league. The Premier Division sits at NL Step7, and this, D1 West at Step8 in the NL pyramid. As it was generally of on the way ish to Selhurst Park for my 3pm championship fixture, and with a forecast of a dry day, I needed very little enticement.

The Harlington Sports Centre in Hayes is well signed as you approach the road it is located in, and even has a sign directing you down the road when you turn into it. But when you reach the entrance to it, the sign for the sports centre is NOT visible by car, so like me, I’d imagine quite a few had a nice tour up and down the road before locating it’s whereabouts, which I had passed twice already without realising.

I believe Tony Inzeno is the organiser of this one-off game,  journalist and QPR fan, and I assume involved in some way with Marsh. Club official Denzil Lobb was sited in the car park with his box of programmes (unfortunately dated Sep 17th), and on questioning had already agreed to read the teams out to the assembled hoppers by the pitch at 10:45. By the time I’d made it across there for that time, the home team had already been given out, but hey, with 50+ hoppers in attendance, this was not a day to worry about snaffling team lines from someone!

Already I’d spotted some familiar faces, Steve Jackson, Dave Reid, Eddie from Norbury, Ian from Eastbourne. All that I asked were of course heading off for a game after Marsh. Epsom Athletic, Amersham Town, Ludgershall Sports and BA were some of those to be benefiting from this 11am KO in West London. The pitch itself was enclosed by a chain link, at one end where one approaches the pitch, two wind turbines were located behind the goal, quite unusual. At the other end, the rattle and hum of the M4, just yards behind that goal. Not a pretty venue by any means. But the chance of a double and a programme for good measure is always enough to tempt hoppers, and although the eventual turnout of 62 must have been a little disappointing to the organisers, I did wonder if scheduling the game on an FA Vase day was such a wise move?  Asking around, its seemed that previous Middlesex County hop days had been quite well supported.

Any hop day generally causes a little bit of gossip or intrigue, and it doesn’t take much. The word had already gone round that two different programme colours had been issued, one with a blue cover, one red. The Red one was being handed out by Denzil. Having both was not of interest to me, as content was the same apparently, but unwittingly I had ended up with both. As a visit to the toilet highlighted a very large stash of them, blue covers,  in the changing rooms, far too many for the players!  So a friend gratefully received the spare copy later, ‘after’ of course they had both been photographed. But I should imagine there were a few anxious hoppers looking around for that elusive blue copy. When I told Eddie, he immediately replied, “oh really I needed a pee”  as he quickly turned on his heals toward the changing rooms at half time trying not to break into a run!

Chains up to keep hoppers back!

Marsh Rangers were originally formed by predominantly QPR supporters in 1980, and yes as a mark of respect to their club legend Rodney Marsh who is now apparently president of the club. In fact, the programme had nice obituary to co-founder Clive Goodman, who died in 2011, and the team also had his name emblazoned on the back of their shirts, a nice touch I thought.

I confess I had low pre-match expectations of the football I was about to see. But I was very pleasantly surprised. Perhaps encouraged by the sixty odd (and when I say odd!) spectators, as against the usual three men and a dog (if the dog hasn’t got something better to do), they put on a good show.
The pitch was heavy in parts, particularly at the motorway end where surface water was evident, but playable. Rangers, attacked the Turbine end in the first half in their blue and white hoops, well actually, the blue looked more like a purple to my eyes, and a couple of others I queried it with agreed, we came to the conclusion that the blue had run in the wash.
Brentham FC from Ealing made the early running, and took the lead from Captain Rob Aitken after 24 minutes, from 10 yards. On 29, their left back Ogbogbo was unfortunate to deflect a right-wing cross into his own goal, 1–1.
Neither goal was really acknowledged to any great extent by the hoppers, such is the usual odd  atmosphere, when the crowd is largely made up of partly interested neutrals, especially those scribbling into note books!

The second half continued to ebb and flow, with the skill factor, to my eyes, pretty high. Brentham re-took the lead with a fantastic bulldozing 20 yd free kick from Jack Townson after 57, which did produce a small ripple of applause from the Marsh hoppers.

Then almost immediately after an incident down in the left corner of the field, and seemingly after words between player/linesman and ref, Brentham’s Irish defender John McNight was dismissed. Against 10 men ,with 25 mins to play, game on for Marsh. Not so, two minutes later Ed Carter added a third, 1-3, and it was now a backs to the wall job. Marsh pushed forward, but didn’t seem to have the nous to use the extra man advantage, and apart from one or two goalmouth scrambles, and a consolation goal on 90 mins from Kpunpamo, that was it, 2-3 ft.

It had been a good early footy appetizer for our afternoon games, and I shall return to this league in the future.

Purple or Blue?

I little reasearch later showed that Marsh had actually been inbolved in 5, yes 5 hop games! See below, all to conincide with a QPR home game.

Feb. 2008 – MARSH RANGERS v Sutton Common Rovers @ Hillingdon Athletics Stadium in Uxbridge.
Sept. 2008 – Hayes Utd. v MARSH RANGERS @ Rosedale College in Hayes.
Oct. 2008 – Kodak (Harrow) v MARSH RANGERS @ Kodak Sports Ground (Zoom Leisure Centre).
Feb. 2009 – Indian Gymkhana v MARSH RANGERS @ Indian Gymkhana Sports Club in Osterley.
Nov. 2012 – MARSH RANGERS v Brentham F.C. at Harlington Sports Centre, Hayes.



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