A Postcard From: A Groundhopper…

THE Buildbase FA Vase tie on Saturday 22nd October with a crowd of 101 in attendance for what was an entertaining encounter.

Amongst the crowd were a few groundhoppers, one of whom emailed the club to express his thanks. He penned a few words for fairfordtownfc.co.uk outlining his first ever visit to Cinder Lane…

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FA Vase 1st Round proper
Saturday 22nd October 2016
Fairford Town 1-2 Andover Town
Att 101
Admission £5
Programme £1

Coffee £1, Kit Kat 80p – free iced mint cake on bar – did not partake.

MY choice of game for the first round proper of the FA Vase was the picturesque town of Fairford. Situated near the Oxfordshire / Gloucestershire border the team are doing rather well this season, sitting top of Hellenic League Division One West. Their opponents, Andover Town play at a level higher in the Wessex Premier League and currently sit in mid-table, and I hadn’t seen them play since their Southern league days in the 80’s.

As a ground hopper, I’ve often found that the greeting received at the entrance gate sets the tone for the rest of the visit. You would have to go a long way to surpass that received at Fairford. First, a welcoming smile with the instruction to ‘park up and come and pay after’, followed by a shake of the hand and a genuine thank you for coming after discovering I was a hopper.

The ground itself is a good mixture of open space and cramped cover. Both ends are open with no furniture – but a word of caution; cars parked behind the goal nearest the entrance are at serious risk prior to the match and at half time from wayward shots at goal.

On the far side of the ground stand two covered seating areas (50 seats in each) – these are homemade affairs rather than Atcost clones, and both are in good order. Either side of these are sited the large dugouts – thus ensuring the two team benches are some distance apart. Beyond this touchline, there is a seriously large house building project.

The near side, once past the dressing room entrance, has the unusual spectacle of three washing machines and two dryers standing on the near covered terrace. Wander past these and there is the narrowing entrance to the clubhouse, quite congested at times and during the match much of this area is used to watch the match from. Beyond this, a small narrow section of standing room which ends abruptly, leaving no access to about a third of one side of the pitch. Not good if a lap of the pitch is your thing. Despite this, it’s quirky, has atmosphere and is strangely enjoyable.

Once in the clubhouse a number of signed football shirts adorn the walls and there are some other items relating to Fairford’s FC history. Service is fast and friendly, but for hot drinks a trip down the corridor is required – leaving no view of the pitch – so get the refreshment in before kickoff.

The game itself (played on an excellent surface) was strange in that, after a good start, Fairford conceded to Andover’s first attack. A second goal soon followed and that seemed to be that. Indeed, just before half time Fairford were reduced to ten men and the second half seemed a formality for the visitors. But after a couple of fine saves from the home keeper (one a penalty) the home side dominated and were perhaps unfortunate not to force extra time. Although perhaps hoping for an equaliser, I was grateful they failed, as a family party was calling and I had a long drive home!

Finally, a word about the match programme. This was edited by the chap on the gate apparently, and what a fine publication it is – certainly one of the best ones I’ve seen this season. I doubt there’s much to surpass it in the Hellenic league.

Overall, a most enjoyable trip to a very welcoming club. A number of friendly officials and a well maintained and interesting ground.

The next home game at Cinder Lane is Saturday 5th November when the Reds host Cheltenham Saracens. Supporters old and new are most welcome. KO 3pm or see our groundguide for more information ahead of your visit…

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