Nicktor had a meeting in London today so, for our Nicktor Night, he arrived somewhat frazzled from the commute. He hates joining the crowds going in, wondering how they do it day in, day out. He’s always happy when he arrives at the house and I don’t think it’s just because we’re having a Nicktor Night!
Still, he had had a good day. When he arrives, I’m quite used to listening to just how bad his day has been. Today, on the other hand, he was almost punching the air with glee. Against the insuperable odds of his own management, he’d successfully achieved a work goal and was rather pleased with himself.
He was even happier after I’d allowed him a couple of Tim Tams with his cup of tea. And he smiled widely when I gave him his present from Oz (a Caloundra RSL golf shirt in lurid orange).
We were a bit concerned as the snow began falling once more. We were off to see the Mighty Shots play Northampton at the Rec and anxiously read the latest pitch reports coming direct from the ground. In the morning, the club had asked for volunteers to help remove the snow that had piled high on the ground covers.
I should explain. It’s not the snow that directly stops play (though a blizzard may change that somewhat). The problem is two-fold.
Firstly the pitch can become frozen. This makes it unplayable and the game would be cancelled simply because the game cannot be played. Given the covers had been in place since last Friday, this shouldn’t have been a problem. A lot of warning with last week’s dump of snow has led to a lot of things managing to continue through the worst of it.
Secondly however, is the Health and Safety issue. This concerns not just the players, who could easily injure themselves as they slip and slide around the pitch, but also the fans. As the snow becomes icy on sealed surfaces, the chances of injuries to paying customers increases exponentially.
So, we anxiously followed the progress of Mr Deadman, the referee, as he inspected the pitch every half an hour or so.
All was fine when we left the house for Aldershot. We had decided to have dinner in the Queen Victoria pub and, if the game was cancelled, just drive home again.
The Queen Vic is a Weatherspoons pub and, therefore, serves vast quantities of pub food at a very reasonable price. It also has a regular rotation of good ales. Tonight it was Ruddles Best Bitter, a lovely brew which we both enjoyed.
By 7:30pm, the game was still scheduled to go ahead so we left the warmth and comfort of the pub and set off into the falling snow for the football ground.
We had been discussing whether we’d stand on the, open to the elements, Slab amid the freezing, driving snow – Nicktor wasn’t keen but I thought it would be a bit of fun and show some respect for the players who had to brave the conditions without the benefit of a roof over their heads. Although Nicktor did make the point that they’d be running around while we’d be standing still. I conceded he had a point.
But the entire discussion was superfluous as the club had decided for us. The Slab was closed off for safety concerns. We joined the rabble on the East Bank instead.
The word ‘rabble’ tends to imply there was a lot of supporters at the game however, the crowd was a bit sad in size. No doubt, most supporters looked out their windows, shrugged off their rain coats and settled back for a night of cosy and warm television.
When the game started, the pitch was a very pretty white, with only the touch lines, which had been cleared with over sized hair dryers. The players stood boot deep in snow; the ball was flouro yellow. Mr Deadman blew his whistle and the players started to adjust their game to the conditions.
Almost before we’d realised it, Aldershot scored. With just a minute played, Northampton were stunned. To be honest, we were pretty stunned as well. In the first game against them, we’d been completely outclassed, not looking close to winning. This early strike was a gauntlet thrown down in the snow.
At some point, someone found a flouro orange ball, which made it a bit easier to see against the white but it made no difference as Northampton picked up the thrown gauntlet, dusted off the flakes and then dominated us for the next 89 minutes of the game. They also beat us 2-1. We played rubbish football. In a post-match interview, one of the players blamed the conditions but, as both Nicktor and I shouted in unison, Northampton played on the same pitch, in the same conditions. In our opinion, Northampton deserved the win because they just played better football.
The only good thing that came out of the game was that, in not being cancelled, it means our striker Danny Hylton, can now play in the fourth round of the FA Cup on the weekend. Danny had been red carded a few weeks ago, meaning he had to miss three games. Tonight’s game was the third of them. If it had been cancelled, he’d have missed the game against Middlesborough on Saturday. We could almost see his grin as the final whistle blew and the players left the pitch.
I took this no very good photograph with my phone during the first half…
But, I think, a better idea of what we watched can be seen from Nicktors Blip, here. Mirinda reckons we’re mad.