The New Lawn
Forest Green Rovers v Luton Town
Saturday October 27th 2012, 3pm
By Paul Willott
On a bright crisp autumnal morning my daughter and I departed home in Kent and following a brief detour into the Croydon area to collect a colleague from my workplace, returned to the motorway network to continue heading westwards. I must say I was looking forward to this match, not only has the achievements of what is effectively a village based club in staying in the fifth tier of English football pretty remarkable, but on the evidence of this season with both teams at the top end of the table, then the match promised to be a cracker.
We followed the M4 westwards up until Swindon where we left the motorway and proceeded along the 'A' road networks firstly in the general direction of Cirencester before bearing left towards Stroud. The beautiful sunshine enhanced what rapidly became a very scenic drive through Thomas Hardy country, although when we stopped for refreshments there was a really cold bite to the stiff westerly breeze that did make me worry that we might be in for a very cold afternoon.
We arrived in the picturesque linear village of Nailsworth, home to Forest Green Rovers, significantly in advance of kick-off but nonetheless drove up the hill from the town centre to the ground itself and parked in their car park. The lie of the ground indicated that it would be a complete bottleneck to get back out at the end of the game, but that was a price worth paying for being so close to the ground on such a cold day.
Once we had wrapped ourselves up in as much warm outer clothing as we could muster, we wandered round to the away fans terrace, applauded the Luton players and staff as they disgorged from the team coach and then made our way into the ground.
Fortunately there was a sufficiently high enough wall at the back of the terrace to shield us from the wind, and we inspected what sustenance was on offer. As the ground was now allegedly a vegetarian one, I was slightly intrigued to see Badger Pastie on offer, but decided to plump for the tray of chips , and what gorgeously big chunky chips they were too. So much so, that my voraciously appetited 8 year old politely demanded a second tray . . . . . well it would have been rude not to! they were pretty good!
As more and more Luton fans poured into this compact but tidy stadium, I was increasingly glad we were early birds with a place at the front, or else the little one may have struggled to see much of the action, It was a nice touch of the mascot to make a bee-line for all the children in the ground , not just the home fans, and hand out bags of maltesers and the likes to keep little faces smiling.
There was some lively banter between a small number of home support and the Luton fans, but police and stewards quickly moved the 3 or so individuals from the home terrace adjoining the away enclosure out of the ground, and things settled down. There was a noticable police presence, which I suspect was purely for the sizable Luton contingent and I doubt that normally there would be such numbers of police on duty. Worthy of mention is the policeman in full riot clobber trying to surreptitously "peep" round a corner with a video camera to film the "naughty" Luton fans; he was so indiscreet he might as well have worn a pink neon helmet....
The match itself wasn't actually a classic at all ; both sides seemed to cancel each other out in the midfield, and for most of the game, it looked as though a simple goalkeeping error would decide the match in the favour of the home team; but a moment of magic near the end from Luton's Stuart Fleetwood levelled the match, before a penalty was awarded and converted to send the Luton fans into raptures shortly before the final whistle.
As predicted, getting away from the ground took some time, but such delays seem far less inconvenient when you have won........
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