Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Snacktastic - Godmanchester Rovers FC Vs Ely City FC, Eastern Counties Football League Premier Division, Bearscroft Lane (30/09/20)

It’s only our second game and I'm already alone, but I should really get used to it, suck it up and be a big boy, because a change to Tom’s shifts at work means I’m going to be spending most evenings flying solo to games. It’s OK though, an upgrade to the blogmobile over lockdown means my radio now has a much greater scope of channels and I’m more than happy to spend the sixty minutes or so driving, sans my other half listening to a mixture of 90’s indie and 70’s rock.

The large white sign that welcomes me at the start of a long narrow gravel lane confirms I’ve arrived in the right part of Cambridgeshire, a rather soggy part at that. As I creep along behind the young man kicking his football in front of him, he kindly steps to one side to allow me to pass. Not even turning around to acknowledge me, the crunching of the loose surface under my tires enough to signal he needs to move, and once he does, edging past him, I catch a glimpse of the expression on his face in my wing mirror, it is one of a person who wished they had brought a coat.

It is of course apt that I pass a farm on the way to a ground known as The Farm and take great comfort that the nickname of Bearscroft Lane home of Godmanchester Rovers FC (GOD) is not because of the smell or abundance of bovine swanning about the place.

Stepping out of my car there is not much to feast my eyes upon, not helped by the inclement weather, everything is a little grey. The music playing from the single tiny speaker on the way in is of a very different genre to that I’ve been enjoying on my way here. If I’m not mistaken it's a spot of 90’s garage and Craig David to be precise. The couple of tatty looking flags atop their long white poles have seen better days. The rain is a constant, not heavy, just making itself known, however if we have learnt anything these last five years, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it's all about scratching the surface to see what's underneath.

In the distance some wind turbines slowly turn. Braving the camera gantry, a scaffold structure between the two dugouts on the far side of the pitch, a man attempts to thread a red golf umbrella up though it’s broken roof to plug a hole above him, to try and ensure he’s not utterly soaked come the end of the match. However his initial attempts look to have been fruitless and its soon folded away, but he’s clearly determined to make it work and not long after he’s back at it, the brolly sitting precariously above him, nervously holding onto the handle to stop it from blowing away.

The bright crimson umbrella the only bit of colour on what is turning out to be a very drab day.

Brightening up the place further, the arrival of a visiting fan, one of Ely City FC (EC) in his red and white scarf means things are on the up and the warm glow of the lights now on in the clubhouse, seeping out the small windows on its side, draw me in, past the now familiar sight of a sanitation station.

Blue dots with white footprints guide you around the carved up clubhouse, black and yellow tape on the floor makes sure everyone keeps a sensible distance from each other, the few tables scattered around the edges of the room, are all allocated their own intimate section. All the must haves of any good club bar are present: a dart board, aging silverware, old team photos, a club scarf pinned to the wall and a highly polished wooden honours board. A small TV in the corner is showing the local news at a deafening volume. However I can just about overhear the conversation among the group of EC fans, unsurprisingly it's about the weather.

Tom’s eventual arrival is somewhat dramatic and his time at our table in the corner is fleeting, sticking around only to tell me he got “lost”, “very, very lost” and “nearly died three times”. Dropping that bombshell on me before bursting through the door of the nearby loo, returning not long after looking a whole different man, “ohhhhh that's better”.


Outside the teams warm up in the rain, a man with an umbrella in the home team's colors, does not do a bad job of conducting the session from underneath cover, while the players as ever are seemingly unfazed by the downpour, all while everyone else clambers for shelter under the various lean toos and small stands dotted about.

Having caught wind that the tea bar is open Tom is off. A stray ball hits the roof of the metal stand I’m in and gives out a terrifying crash. Such is the combination of the wind and heavy rain, the roof is almost redundant, on the horizontal, I’m getting wet regardless. 

One of the referees assistants warming up as Tom points out is far from “into it” as the conditions worsen, however with Tom’s return he comes baring news far worse than a bit more drizzle and once over the fact his cup is either half full or empty depending on how you look at it, I ask him has he spilled it on this way back and he tells me that's simply what he was “given”, by who turned out to be the GOD “chairman” who he was instructed to accost by the man behind the bar, he finally breaks it to me, there is “no food”.

I’m half expecting tears to start rolling down his cheeks, the “woman who normally does it, is on a course”. He is gutted.

As at Windsor, there is no grand entrance by the players, just dribs and drabs, ones and twos filtering out of their respective changing rooms. There are a few GOD fans to welcome the home players with a high five or a word of encouragement, and there is now quite a crowd here to witness them take the field. The EC supporters are by far the loudest, the small contingent from the clubhouse, offer up a few shouts as the players limber up, “come on Ely, come on boys”, one from behind his red and white face mask.

“Start fucking bright” screams one GOD player loudly as the referee prepares to get things underway, the player is matched in volume by the cry of one away fan as the man in charge draws his whistle to his lips, “come on Ely”.

Despite all the available shelter, the EC fans have stayed out in the elements and the smell of Deep Heat from one nearby player is on the verge of overwhelming, I can almost taste it, and I don’t think there is even two minutes on the clock and EC have taken the lead, sending their nearby supporters into a chorus of woops, some waving their hands in celebration about their heads. “Good start” affirms one, “come on Ely'' shouts another.

Every time they get the ball, venturing forward, EC look dangerous, “too fucking easy” shouts one GOD player, they are not exactly making it hard for them. The visitors pony-tailed right back is at the heart of a lot of their attacks, flying down the wing he looks a threat and I'm not sure if it's Tom’s influence, but I can't take my eyes off his curly flowing mane. 

A spitting player catches Tom’s attention, who he quite rightly scalds, albeit under his breath, “oi Covid” and the proximity of us to the match, as is the non league way, means we both get to enjoy the


audible growl the EC captain gives out every time he jumps to challenge for a header.

With just over ten minutes gone the home players pleas for a red card, their player through on goal, is tugged back, go unheard. It's a free kick and no card. A free kick taken by one of the centre backs, “interesting” comments an intrigued Tom.

It may well be because of the rain weighing them down, pitter pattering on the corrugated roof above us, but the goal nets are unflatteringly saggy and one nearby EC fan recounts to another in a flat cap his exchange with his wife who thought he wouldn't be “going to football if it's raining”, laughing as he tells his neighbour just what he told her, “don't be daft.

The home side continue to be their own worst enemies, “stop giving away free kicks” barks one player, which one old voice responds to from the back of the stand, “shut up whining” and when they are presented with a rare chance in front of goal, they fluff it. “It would have been easier to score”, muses Tom. The deep cross is met by the intended player at the back post, but somehow he manages to head it away from goal, instead of towards.

It’s the first of a couple of quick fire wasted GOD chances, their “fast” front three as Tom highlights have plenty of potential, they constantly look for the same ball over the EC defence, but the crucial first touch or final pass is lacking.

“Aren't you a bit wet out there boys?” asks one EC fan of those still standing, quite unnecessarily out in the rain, they could take about four steps right or left and be dry.

A big challenge on a home player, which Tom brushes off as being a “50/50” all's fair in love and war is his opinion, leaves him in a heap. There are no theatrics, no screaming, so you know he’s actually hurt, but after a short break he’s thankfully back up.

In the twenty five minutes since taking the lead, EC haven't forged a chance on goal. The awarding of another free kick to the visitors doesn't go down well with one home player, “he’s taking the fucking piss” he suggests to the referee. His petulant reaction, one away supporter puts down to a case of “ohhhhhh just because you're losing”. After such a lull since scoring, it maybe explains the wild shot from the EC number 10, after robbing the home captain on the halfway line, surging goalwards, “go on son, go on” encourages one supporter, he lashes it way over the bar. “He got a bit excited” laughs one away fan.

Tom’s got “wet shins” he tells me, as the rain batters his lower legs. EC have a penalty appeal waved away and despite the bad weather Tom is convinced the referee is really “enjoying” himself, after suggesting earlier he didn't want to be here. Very rarely does he not have a huge smile on his face. 

Into the final five of the half and EC have decided to up their game a bit, after bursting into the GOD box it's only a fine low stop from the home keeper “a good save” as Tom puts it, that stops EC furthering their lead. 


The upturn in their performance inspires a few new shouts from their supporters, “come on boys, come on Ely”. Again they burst forward, “go on, first time” urges an EC fan, the player opts for a pass instead, finding his team mate with a well timed through ball, only for a GOD defender to be on hand for a last ditch block. The less said about their final chance of the half mind, the better. The shot in danger of hitting one of the coaches parked in one corner of the car park, way beyond the boundaries of the ground.

Some late home pressure sees plenty of “nice ideas” but “no end product” as Tom puts it and the half concludes with a bit of hands bags, and one home player after the whistle is helped to his feet by the clubs physio, the players wrist looking all sorts of odd and the man with the cold spray fashions a makeshift sling out of the players shirt as he leaves the pitch in clear discomfort.

“Good football that” says a satisfied EC supporter. Tom’s visit to the bar is a short one, a bar which is currently showing “Corro” he informs me. With an insatiable need to eat at least something everywhere we go, and with no hot food options, Tom instead opts for a packet of the well known crips brand Snacktastic, and a couple of bags of their Worcester Sauce flavour.

The away fans who were braving the wet weather have moved on, to stand behind the goal their team will be attacking in the new half, and someone on the home bench is clearly very displeased with the team's first forty five minute performance and is letting anyone in ear shot know about it.

“Come on boys” implores one home player and his words seem to have had the intended impact, as GOD are on the front foot right from the off. “They've come out very energetic” says Tom, one of the home side attempting a “little bicycle kick” he giggles. The player with the injured arm has not returned and the EC supporters sensing their teams decline, make their own attempts to arrest their teams slide, with a loud “come on Ely”.

A collision between the GOD keeper and a defender sees a long break, the physio is on, and that hush that inevitably descends when a player is down, and before everyone is sure its nothing too serious, shrouds the place. It’s only when the defender starts to slowly limp off, that the noise returns. 

“Unlucky Ely” shouts one nearby fan, following a header sailing just wide from a corner. “Ohhh” sigh both home fans and players sensing they are losing their momentum, that they got away with one there. One player demanding his teammates carry on where they “fucking left off” at the end of the first half.

It really is the least they deserved, and seven minutes into the second half GOD are back on level pegging. “Come on” screams one player mid celebration, a nice move down the wing, a low cross and a blocked shot, sees the ball drop kindly, and it’s thumped home.

“Was that a tannoy?” queries Tom, the tiny single speaker that Tom points out is “pointing the wrong
way” seems for a moment to have come to life, but it's far too quiet to know for sure if it was just a bit more Craig David or the name of the scorer. 

In the space of five minutes things go from bad to worse for the visitors, who looked so assured in the first half, “what a turn around, dear oh dear” sighs one one of their fans, as the scorer of GOD’s second knee slides across the slick pitch, having just scored directly from a free kick. A free kick he neatly slotted underneath the jumping wall and into the back of the net. It’s like something right out of Fifa.

The shouts of “come on Ely” are far less frequent now. The team look shell shocked, a bit all over the place to say the least. It takes a stunning finger tip save from their sides latest free kick to stir them, “come on boys”. The man in goal for GOD is just able to get enough on it to tip it over the bar. 

EC’s Pirates of the Caribbean looking number 2, the influential marauding right back from the first half then hits the post, he really should have scored, some of the EC fans hang their head in their hands. They go close again as their resurgence continues, putting wide from a set piece. “Keep going boys” urges one supporter.

Plenty of hardy souls are still braving the rain and despite a string of rash home fouls, the referee keeps his cards in his pocket. The the drama is ramping up, each team doing their best to buy as many fouls as they can.

The sight of the home team going further ahead is too much for one EC fan, “see you later mate” he says, as he beats a hasty exit. It’s a bit of a comedy of errors that leads to the corner that the goal results from. A shanked away clearance is greeted with a sarcastic “weyyyyy” and the goal itself is a near carbon copy of the first. The ball absolutely leathered in from close range, after a brief bit of six yard box pinball.

It feels like any sort of EC fight back has well and truly been squashed now, however the home bench want to make sure the team don’t give away anymore “stupid fouls”. The third goal has really fired up GOD, and it is attack after attack, they are “rampant” as Tom puts it. The bench are loving every minute, no more shouting or scalding, just excited sounds at the sight of a big crunching tackle won in front of them, “fucking love it”. 

EC look a shadow on their former selves, their number 9 is particularly angry, showing his anger from inside the pocket of his marker the home number 6, who won’t let him out of his sight. Nothing is falling their way at all, and when it looks like their keeper handled outside his area, things are close to full implosion, but the referee deems him to be just inside his box. “Come on boys some energy” demands one EC fan, to which one player responds bluntly, “we’re losing 3-1”.

A round of substitutes are displayed via some cards on the touch line Play Your Cards Right style. EC are well and truly pinned back, “get up the fucking pitch” screams one player, but they can’t and its only a last ditch tackle of the highest order, nigh on, on the line that stops a home fourth from point blank range. They might be on course for a loss, but the away fans appreciate the effort all the same.


There is nothing like a penalty in the final five minutes to help a fan base find their voice and give a team a lift. EC have just reduced the deficit by one, roused the supporters to let loose a few rounds of “come on Ely, come on Ely”, who then go close to equalising, only for another reaching block by an GOD player stopping the goalwards shot.

GOD gets some respite, winning a free kick, which leaves one EC fan fuming, “he didn't touch him, get up you wuss”. Frustrations are starting to show from all corners, players and fans. “Get up, get up” screams a home player as his team falls further and further back. 

A big home ball forward sees two players collide, and when the foul is given in the eyes of many of the EC players, the wrong way, many are sent into fits of rage. Ahead, GOD seem happy to try and see out the last few minutes hunkered down in their own half. “Forward, forward” instructs one EC fan, who have found their voice again, “come one Ely”, the chance of rescuing something from this match, is tantalisingly close.

“Keep working” beseeches someone on the home bench, with every hoofed clearance, the ball just comes back at them again. The attempt at a whistle from the crowd, does not surprisingly stop the game, a late EC corner has hearts somewhat in mouths and a final booming “come on Ely” can't will
the ball over the line, come the final whistle the plaudits of “unlucky Ely” from the traveling contingent, seem genuine. 

Perhaps because the din of the match has subsided, the PA is all of a sudden more than audible, thanking everyone for “turning out”. 

It’s nights like these, wet and miserable ones, that you see what your fan base is made of, and considering the gate I would say both GOD and EC’s are made of pretty stern stuff. Depending on the length on the woman's course, yes there is a chance you might have to just have crisps,  and don't be put off by the choice of music either, because if there is a chance of seeing more set pieces formulated on a PS4 then I’m game for another visit, and so should you be.

For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE

Watch our video from the match ↓ HERE


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