|And still there's another five minutes to go until we reach the ground...|
But then the worries started kicking in.
Worry number 1: I was going out the night before. Would I lose my discipline and drink too much, stay out too late and fail to get up on time? [No, I had a few beers, but I managed to get home before midnight].
Worries number 2 and 3: Would the M27 be blocked eastbound so that I couldn't reach Fareham by the time the coach left? Or would my car break down? [No and No].
There were other worries, including the fact that I always take a wrong turning on the way to Cams Alders (Fareham Town's ground) and somehow end up in Segensworth, but I managed it this time. I did it. I got there on time.
The coach came. The team kit, training cones and tactics board were all loaded. The fans were there. The club officials were there. It was just a few players that were missing. However, they turned up eventually and we set off.
First stop, Cobham Services to load up on Greggs and KFC. Second stop, AFC Croydon Athletic, or at least that was the plan. The coach driver was advised by a local not to go up the road leading to the ground, "as you'll never squeeze in!" So instead, we were dropped off over a third of a mile from the stadium. The players carried all the kit, the spare footballs and so on for 15 minutes up a potholed track to the Mayfield Stadium, but at least we were there (and of course, the coach could get up the track - it was tight, but the driver managed it so that he was waiting for us at the end)!
AFC Croydon Athletic play in the Southern Counties East League (formerly the Kent League). I won't describe the ground as I think the pictures here do the stadium justice. For the groundhoppers amongst you, it was worth the journey. However, I wouldn't want to walk along the track leading to the stadium in the dark.
The first half was quite scrappy, with neither side playing particularly well. However, the hosts probably just about shaded the play and scored the opening goal after 28 minutes, Rob Carter side-footing in from 10 yards when Fareham failed to clear from a corner.
The second half was all Fareham once they got in to gear. The fact that AFC Croydon's goalkeeper, Nic Taylor was man of the match should indicate where all the action was. He pulled off several decent saves. As Town became more desperate for the equaliser, they left themselves exposed at the back and the home team took advantage of this to score twice on the break, after 88 minutes and again deep in to injury time. The scoreline was what they call "flattering", but if you don't score, you don't win.
So it was back on the coach after what looked like a meal of cheesy chips for the players and a long journey home in the dark.
AFC Croydon Athletic's reward is a home tie against another AFC, AFC Uckfield Town of Sussex. Fareham can concentrate on the league (and the Russell Cotes Cup and the Portsmouth Senior Cup - maybe they can win a trophy yet this season).
|The club formerly known as Croydon Athletic FC.|
AFC Croydon Athletic (1) 3 v 0 (0) Fareham Town FC
Saturday 13th October 2018
Buildbase FA Vase 1st Round Proper
Colours: All maroon v Blue and black stripes / blue / blue
National Grid reference: TQ3067
|Stand and some of the terraces at Mayfield Park.|
There will be many more photos from the game on the HAH Facebook page here.
Fareham Town's photographer Nick White can be found on Twitter here. He posted a few fine pics over the weekend.
|AFC Croydon Athletic's stand.|
|Advert for the Ghostfinder Paranormal Society, in case you ever feel the need.|
|The Crematorium tower.|
|Covered terraces and dugouts in club colours.|
|Fareham Town fans watching their team trying to score from a corner. Looks like some holding going on in the box, ref!|
|The home substitute's job at this level is often to go and fetch lost balls. This one was on the roof of the end terrace.|