Monday, 18 August 2014

Horsham YMCA v Alton Town

The entrance to Horsham YMCA's Gorings Mead ground.
The goal that won this FA Cup tie for Horsham YMCA was an absolute corker. 80 minutes gone, the scores level at 2-2, with both sides having had several clear opportunities to win the game. A throw-in ten yards from the corner flag on YM's left. Two quick passes and the ball was rolling out to the home side's rollicking centre-half, Luke Gedling. A swift shuffle of the feet and the ball was in front of him, on his right, 25 yards from goal.

With no defender close enough to block, he let fly with a jet-propelled blast. You could sense a vapour trail behind it as the ball smashed in to the top left-hand corner, stretching the net so far back that it could have been cut down and remodelled as an XXXL string vest.

If there had been a terrace of 5,000 home fans behind the goal (instead of a row of suburban gardens full of rhubarb and runner beans), the crowd would have gone more bonkers than Dizzee Rascal after a wild evening necking nineteen Sunny Ds. The players would have rushed towards them, bundling over each other, shirts stripped off, swinging them round their heads like helicopter rotor blades. Some fans would have responded by breaking through the lines of stewards and joining in the bouncing on-pitch victory dance.

What actually happened was that there was some polite applause from the 70-odd people scattered around the pitch, then the old fella next to me turned round to his mate and said:

"That's the first thing he's got right all afternoon."

The Victor Gladwish Stand.
Horsham YMCA (0) 3 v 2 (1) Alton Town FC
FA Cup (with Budweiser) Extra Preliminary Round
Saturday 16th August 2014
Attendance: 77
Admission: £6
Programme: £1
Colours: White / black / red v Purple / white / white
National Grid reference: TQ1729 / TQ1730

The Andy Piper Terrace.
The last time I saw Alton Town was the inspirational occasion when nearly 500 people turned up to their home ground to protest against their less-than-friendly corporate landlords, Molson Coors. It appears as though the North American brewing giant eventually got the message after this match and agreed to delay the football club's eviction from their ground whilst another site in the town was refurbished ready for them to move in and carry on playing at the same level.

The proposals to build 85 new houses on the football ground and to move the club to a nearby facility are currently going through the planning process. You can look at the proposals on this site. The housing application's number is 30667/015; that of the redevelopment of Alton United's ground to accommodate their neighbours is 52457/002. Plenty of objections on the grounds of the council and the brewery ignoring the 1935 covenant to keep the land as open space; plenty more objections for other reasons. You can make up your own mind if you have a look.

Groundsharers Horsham FC's abandoned club shop.
The Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, was born near Horsham. There is a fountain in the town centre dedicated to him which has been voted the Ugliest Fountain In The World (who on earth votes in these polls?!). I rather liked it. It looks like a golden Petey Piranha from Nintendo's Mario games.

Shelley was an unpopular figure with the establishment during his lifetime due to his forthright views on overthrowing the corrupt and bankrupt old boy's network in order to build a new world, based on non-violence and increasing connections with the natural world. His poem, Ode To The West Wind, was an analogy about blowing away the materialism of the greedy and beginning all over again, all of us at one with nature.

Having recently read about the Tory MP, Mark Simmonds, who is stepping down from Parliament because he can't live on a minister's wage, plus £173,000 in expenses, plus £50,000 from a private healthcare company for a nominal 40 hours of work per year, whilst voting for benefit cuts and wage freezes for the rest of us (the sort of man who would tell us that "money doesn't grow on magic money trees" - unless you're him, of course...), I can see that Shelley may have had a point.

On first inspection, a mediaeval torture instrument. In actuality, Horsham YMCA's ball retrieving tool.
Horsham YMCA share their Gorings Mead ground with their traditionally more successful neighbours, Horsham FC, who used to play literally just over the fence behind the Andy Piper terrace. By all accounts, it was a classic old non-league ground, with an art deco stand and acres of crumbling terraces. David Bauckham (in The Non-League Football Grounds of Sussex) and Kerry Miller (in The History of Non-League Football Grounds) both loved the old Queen Street stadium. Miller called it "a match for any ground in the country". Sadly, they sold the ground for development in 2008, hoping to move in to a new, purpose-built stadium on the edge of town. Six years on, they're still waiting. A warning for Alton Town and any other clubs that have to move.

The Gorings Mead (and not Gorings Meadow, as it's called by the Bing mapbots on Bing Maps) football ground is situated at the end of a cul-de-sac. If arriving by foot, you walk through the open gate and turn right to go through the turnstile, manned by a fellow who used to follow Silsden in the North West Counties League before he moved to Sussex.

Turn left from the wooden turnstile hut and you walk behind a goal, along the road which leads to the ample club car park. Turning right at the corner flag, there are two small standard portable stands, one terraced, the other seated. Behind these is the clubhouse with a bar, tea station and toilets. Charlie's portable snack bar (not open last Saturday) sits behind the away dugout. Beyond Charlie's is the main stand, named in honour of Victor Gladwish. Five rows of blue plastic seats and one row of red. Plenty of room for everyone.

Around the rest of the pitch is hard standing, until you come to the small five step terrace, named in honour of former player Andy Piper. This is where the old men were standing who were unimpressed with the winning wonder goal. I stood there for some of the match, sucking on liquorice toffees and loving the FA Cup. The Real FA Cup, indeed.

A superb volley from Alton Town's Ash Peck.
YM have owned their ground since 1929, and can remain owners, so long as there is "no noxious or offensive business". With no bookings or sendings-off on Saturday, they're safely in charge of their own destiny for a little while longer.

I was rather taken with the home side's kit. White shirts, black shorts, red socks. It was like an obscure mid-European tricolour flag. During a lull in play, I tried thinking about which clubs play in similar three-colour outfits. Well, there's Pompey, obviously, with their classic blue/white/red get-up (the same as France until FIFA made up that ridiculous rule about countries playing in one colour only for the benefit of...well, whom exactly?); Carlisle United play in a similar kit this season (back to their glory days of Ray Train and Chris Balderstone leading them to the top of the league, if only for a few days in 1974); there's Man Utd (red/white/black)...then I got bored and had another liquorice toffee.

It never ceases to amaze me how big the sky is. Humans are tiny in comparison.
So much happened during the match on Saturday. Apparently, there were 25 shots on goal during the game, split evenly for the first 80 minutes or so.

The first goal came halfway through the first half, when YM's keeper made a right cock-up of a clearance down by his own corner flag, slicing the ball across the penalty area and straight to Alton's Matt Jackson, who couldn't believe his own luck as he easily side-footed home from 18 yards, dead centre. Alton deserved to be in front at half-time, having had several other good chances in the first 45, including a stunning volley from Ash Peck which was parried up into the air and caught again before it dropped over the line by the orange-shirted Simon Lockwood in YM's goal.

After dominating the early part of the second half, YM equalised when Liam Hunter sidefooted home a cross from Dan Sullivan (I'm doing this report from my own notes, by the way - I've not copied any other report - I decided keeping notes of all the germain incidents in a match would be a good idea partway through last season, instead of relying on my wobbly memory...).

Two minutes later, Alton retook the lead from a free header from six yards out by the bearded centre-back Tom Green. Alton's lead lasted five minutes before Hunter scored his deflected second.

Their second goal was to be the last time the purple-shirted visitors would bother the back of the net, although they came mighty close just before YM scored the winner when a point-blank shot was blocked on the line by the outstanding defender Dan Evans (a rumbustuous mountain of a man that the old fellas on the terrace heartily approved of).

YM grew in confidence as Alton became more ragged. Cries of "Slow it down!" and "Settle!" from the YM team followed the decisive goal. These tactics worked as the Sussex County League team progressed to a Preliminary Round tie against Redhill in a fortnight at the expense of the battling Altonians.

The sign above the terrace.
There is a match report which doesn't ramble on about poetry and politicians on Horsham YMCA's website here. Many photos from the game can be seen on both their site and copied directly on to Alton Town's website here.

And I didn't mention The Village People at all. Not once.


  1. Hi Andrew ! yet another very enjoyable read , thank you.
    I love the first photo of the entrance gate slightly ajar, as if it is 'seductively' inviting you inside. It has traits of an OB pic ;)

  2. It appears as though I've been subliminally influenced by your photography! I like that one too, and the abandoned club shop. I'll contact you in a day or two about my trip to the NW.

  3. That goal reaction is well written & so typically non-league