Posted by: musinganorak | July 23, 2010

What are the chances..?

A couple of weeks ago I got a text message from my other half that said simply “What league are Bradford City in?” An innocuous, yet at the same time baffling, question. Claire doesn’t dislike football, and she more than tolerates my obsession, but, nevertheless, this was a bit out of left field. It turned out that she had drawn the aforementioned Bradford City as her “team” in the office pontoon competition. That evening saw a constant barrage of questioning along the lines of “Can we go and see Bradford play?” “When are we going to see my team?” ad infinitum. I pointed out that I had already been to Valley Parade and didn’t currently have any plans to revisit. Eventually sleep intervened and I escaped the grilling.

I thought nothing more of it the following day until I read some information in a posting on the Tony Kempster Forum, and which I subsequently confirmed on the club website. Ashford Town (Middlesex), my local club and less than 2 miles from home, were going to be playing Bradford City in a pre-season friendly!

What are the chances?

Fast forward to this evening and our visit to the newly christened “Robert Parker Stadium,” home of the mighty Tangerines. I never normally bother with friendly games but there was no way I couldn’t go to this one. As friendlies go it was quite a good match with Bradford including a number of first team players in their line-up alongside the more usual trialists you get in this sort of game. The fact that the Ashford manager is a former Bradford City player probably had some bearing on this.

The League 2 outfit started the brighter against their lowly opposition but, despite the fact that Ashford Town’s goalkeeper looked more suited to darts, they were unable to create any clear chances. After 13 minutes the home side won a corner and the ball eventually found it’s way to the edge of the box from where a well controlled shot beat the keeper and gave Ashford a 1-0 lead which they kept until half time.

Within two minutes of the restart Ashford were 2-0 up. Jamie Lawrence, the player-manager, chased a through ball and went in for a 50-50 challenge with the keeper. In most games the referee would have given a free kick for a foul on the keeper but in this game he allowed play to continue with the result that in the melee the keeper lost the ball and Jamie was able to poke the ball home whilst lying on his back.

Incredibly Ashford went on to increase their lead further when an excellent solo run was converted with an equally good shot in to the bottom corner. The rotund home keeper then made an excellent close range reflex save to prevent an own goal before he was substituted. His replacement did even better. Firstly with a full length save, then an incredible triple save in the six yard box, and finally with another fingertip save around the post. It finished in an excellent morale boosting 3-0 victory for Ashford Town over their visitors from 4 divisions higher in the football pyramid.

The downside, for me, was the number of substitutions and this is the single biggest reason that I don’t normally watch friendly games. I lost count of the exact numbers but I think Ashford changed all 11 players in the second half and Bradford changed at least 10. I say at least 10 because at one point they brought back on a player who had previously been substituted. Only the Bradford City goalkeeper played the full 90 minutes.

I think Claire enjoyed herself, although I’m not sure she is quite so happy with “her team” now that she has seen them play! It was also good to catch up with fellow “Kempsterite” Barnsley Dave. For those of you who aren’t groundhoppers I should explain that the Tony Kempster Forum is the primary forum we use. It is a veritable goldmine of information, and gossip, and those of us that use it regularly refer to each other as “Kempsterites.” Over the years you inevitably bump in to more and more of your fellow posters at different grounds all over the country. The forum was founded by Tony Kempster who sadly passed away just over a year ago.

Reality sinks in for Claire!

Barnsley Dave in a typical pose.


  1. It’s normally a pie not a burger !

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