Monday November 19th 2012, KO 19:45 at Palmer Park Stadium, Reading.
Hellenic League Premier Division.
Highmoor Ibis (Blue/White) 0-3 Binfield (Yellow/Black), HT 0-0.
Att 72, admission £6 inc programme, tea 80p.
I’d had this fixture pencilled in for a few weeks, as previously my playing committments around the various Reading area Badminton courts on Mondays had hindered my attempt to re-complete for the second time the Hellenic Premier. Last season, a last-minute ‘frozen pitch’ had aborted my one serious attempt to tick the venue, and with it being only 6 1/2 miles from home, it was of course far too close to bother with for a Saturday fixture, most serious ground hoppers will know what this means!
Of course I’d driven passed Palmer Park many times, easily visible on the left going towards Reading on the A329 approaching from the M4, Junction 10. As a venue for Reading Athletics club it would seem in winter the club use the venue pretty regularly, as the lights have often been on as I have driven by. Peppard FC played at the venue some years ago, but I believe a combination of issues with pitch dimensions with the FA and lack of agreement with Reading council scuppered that, and Peppard who’d been up to then a highly successful local team had to return to their basic but charmingly rustic ground. Due to lack of progression up the leagues that their players had deserved, and lack of officials behind the scenes, by 2004 Peppard has ceased to exist. Although I’d seen Peppard play at their own village venue, I never did see them at Palmer Park.
The stadium as you can see, is multi functional, built-in 1998, and hosts many sports, and is well used as a council facility should be. Palmer Park itself took its name from the Palmer family, part of the ‘Huntley and Palmer’ biscuit empire. But of course Palmer Park stadium is no venue for non league football. A large running track breaking any intimacy between the play and the fans in the grandstand, my least favourite type of football venue. Having said that, the stand is well elevated, you can sit, or stand at the top and lean on a railing, the athletics clubhouse ran a tea bar at half time, that had a tardis like feel as numerous people manage to squeeze in there, and the officials all seemed helpful and welcoming.
As does happens sometimes, the evening became more of a ground hopping social occasion, as Calcot based Reading fan and groundhopper, Gerry was in attendance, as were ‘Dr Love’, a regular poster on the excellent forums page at > http://www.nonleaguematters.co.uk/forum/gforum.cgi
Additionally, local journalist David Wright of the Reading post, and a number of other local ground hoppers I recognised from previous local games, and later near matches end I announced that I was still waiting to bump into regular poster ‘Royals26’, “well you have now”, came the reply from the guy standing at the end of our little gathering standing at the top of the stand.
The game itself, was for the large part tedious. Binfield had an excellent 5-2 FA Vase win at Deal Town in Kent the previous Saturday, and were sitting comfortably in the top six, but they looked a little hung over, tired or just plain unexcited by the venue and match that confronted them. Highmoor looked limited, and the first half they only seemed capable of long-range efforts, and never seriously threatened the Binfield goal. I wondered if my Binfield curse was going to strike again, as last season I’d seen them twice, in what had been a succesful season for them, they lost 7-1 at Tividale in the Vase, and 6-0 at Newbury in the League cup final v Highworth. However 45 minutes of this game confirmed that there was more chance of spotting Kate Winslett in the stand than of Highmoor giving the Moles a good thrashing.
The second half could only get better, and it did, marginally, as the assembled crowd were beginning to contemplate a 0-0 on this drizzly November evening, we finally got a our first goal on 63 as a cross from the left to the far post saw James Saurez stick out a leg and the goal deflected off the keeper, relief all round, especially for the Binfield fans, who were evident as any from Highmoor. Binfield then added two more from Davies (83) and Sargeant on 90+3.
The scoreline did slightly flatter the Moles, but only in so much as clear-cut chances had been few, although they did dominate for large spells. The match could be termed as ‘no great shakes’ or, as mentioned by Dr Love on the nonleaguematters forum page ‘where did you go’ as ‘forgettable’. That it was, but at least as we wandered back out into the drizzle of the car park, I was warm in the knowledge that at last I’d seen a game at Palmer Park, and that I’d become acquainted with Dr Love and Royals26. The venue and football chat had reminded me of days of old when I used to visit Croydon Arena for Monday night games when I lived in Surrey.