Groundhopper Girl: The Time We Went To Victory Road And A Random Fan Quacked At Us (Leiston)

(Originally published in The Kent & Sussex Courier on 2nd October as part of my weekly ‘Angel Eyed View’ column)

My dad, 'Big Col', surveys the opposition's ground.

My dad, ‘Big Col’, surveys the opposition’s ground.

26th September 2015, Leiston 3 – 0 Tonbridge Angels

The away day is a hallowed tradition for football fans across the leagues. Our Longmead ground is brilliant, but variety is the spice of life – and the more obscure and distant the location, the better. So Saturday’s FA Cup game at Leiston, a tiny, picturesque town in the Suffolk backwaters, was the perfect excuse for an away day.


For arduous journeys like this, the club organises a supporters’ coach. It’s nothing like the rowdy buses of beered-up fans that you see on TV: ours is a friendly, civilised group who spend the three hour journey making tea and taking part in a raffle to raise money for the club.
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We arrive to find that Leiston’s ground, the ominously-named Victory Road, is tiny. There are few seats for the few home fans, and behind one of the goals is a huge net to prevent balls from ending up in nearby gardens. Their clubhouse is decent, however, and the burgers stand up to scrutiny.

It’s the game that we’ve come for, though. There’s immediate joy as Tom Phipp heads in on 58 seconds, but he falls awkwardly and is stretchered off. Losing one of our best, most creative players early on is a huge blow, especially as we’re already missing Tom Parkinson and Jerrome Sobers, and Leiston equalise soon after.
Decent programme, £2

Decent programme, £2

We hold our own, but there are concerned mutterings among our ranks as Tommy Whitnell, Phipp’s replacement, also goes off injured.

The mutterings become more angry in the second half as foul after foul goes unpunished. If there’s one thing that creates solidarity among fans, it’s poor officiating. After a Leiston move that begins with them fouling Nathan Elder and ends with an offside goal that’s allowed to stand, we make our grievances heard over the highly enthusiastic (albeit error-prone) announcement man.
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Chasing the game, we concede again, and it’s all over. An elated home fan walks past, bellows “LEISTON!!” at us and, inexplicably, begins making duck noises. It’s a strange but amusing distraction after a long trip and disappointing result.

 

There’s plenty to think about on the journey home. Although the FA Cup dream is over for another year, the real concern is the number of injuries sustained. We’ll need our squad to be fighting fit to move on from this and get more league wins – so we’re all hoping that the boys are ready to play again soon.

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