After last week’s trip to Oxford for some league two football, I ventured even further down the footballing pyramid today.
On a trip for the Non-League Paper I made way to the FA Trophy Quarter Final clash between Highbridge Town versus Tadcaster Albion in deepest darkest Wiltshire.
Last week I said it’s been a long time since I’ve been to League Two game, well it’s been even longer since I’ve been to see a game at this level. Having zero knowledge of either team, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.
What I got was a game played between two sides obviously desperate to get to the Wembley final and who were willing to throw themselves into every challenge with a passion sorely missing in professional football.
Sadly, what I did not see was any particular skill or temperament. At times it really was hard to see how these players were any better than those I’d seen having a kick about in the park on my walk from the car park.
Perhaps however, I am being a little harsh. The pitch was pretty uneven and made it difficult to play the ball along the deck, and the wind was ferociously biting, meaning that high balls could end up anywhere.
The game itself finished 1-1, a couple of dubious penalties bringing the only goals. The other chances were a mixture of goalmouth scrambles and goalkeeping mistakes. As this was the cup, we were then ‘treated’ to another 30 minutes of action. This half hour could still not separate the teams. But of course, for some unfathomable reason, in the FA Vase penalties can only be used to settle the result if both teams have agreed to do so. These sides hadn’t. There’s a replay next Saturday in Yorkshire.
If the football didn’t live up to expectations, then the ground and atmosphere certainly did. I can definitely see the appeal of this level of football. Sure, the quality is not great, but at £4 a ticket, it’s pretty decent value for money. There’s ample room to stand and watch the game too, and even a raffle at half time! There was a real community feel around the Highworth Ground and I was certainly the odd one out, as everybody else obviously knew each other.
Tadcaster were surprisingly well represented too. Despite having to make a 4-hour trip down to Wiltshire, they had brought 4 coaches full of fans with them. Clearly, even if the football sometimes leaves a lot to be desired, there is still a thriving community of non-league fans.