The middle of my adventures in London and, not able to contemplate a Saturday afternoon without live football, I weighed up my options. Arsenal were at home but there’s more chance of me getting a winning lottery ticket than getting in to The Emirates. West Ham were playing Portsmouth, a decent game but bound to be expensive. Charlton Athletic were the only other professional team at home in the Capital, but their match with Exeter City didn’t whet the appetite.
Then the week’s expenditure had to be taken in to account. I needed a game that was accessible and cost effective, so was basically left with the non-league. I chose Boreham Wood Town because it was the easiest to get to – I had stayed in nearby Elstree when attending an England international once, so would be able to find myself from station to ground quite easily – and could be done with change from a twenty.
‘The Wood’ had started the Conference South season poorly and attendances had been dropping off as the early season optimism evaporated. A 4-1 away defeat to Weston-super-mare in their last fixture had left them third from bottom, but this game, against newly-promoted Truro City, gave them a chance to seize three much-needed points.
Football, or mainstream sport in general, isn’t particularly big in Cornwall but Truro, backed by the millions of Kevin Heaney, are on a sharp upward trajectory after progressing from the South-West Football League (Step seven) to the Conference South (Step two) in five thrilling years. This success, married with an unusually large catchment area, has led to regular crowds of 500 or more, which isn’t at all bad for this level. There was also an FA Vase success at Wembley in 2007 in front of a competition record crowd of 36,232 to lift Cornish hearts further.
They’d also started strongly this season, winning their first three, before taking a reality check with four successive defeats. They obviously weren’t a dull side to watch, so I was optimistic as I stepped from the Bedford-bound express at Elstree and Borehamwood.
The place is obviously proud of its film and television-making tradition with the famous Elstree studios just down the road. Star Wars and Indiana Jones were just two of the prominent film series made there, and more recently it’s been the location of the Big Brother house. There’s a Hollywood-style walk of fame as you leave the station, with gold stars embedded in the pavement commemorating famous local stars, and billboards right the way down the High Street with classic movie scenes. Quite a nice touch.
It took me about 15 minutes to locate Meadow Park, a pleasant little ground just off the main drag which is also home to Arsenal Ladies, the inaugural winners of the Women’s Super League. I took my place in the main stand about 20 minutes before kick-off and couldn’t help be disheartened by the lack of people in the ground. There were no more than 30 in my section, and a grand total of four, all spaced out, in the covered terrace opposite. The two ends behind the goals were deserted. The official attendance was 290, so the vast majority must have been hiding in the bar, or sheltering from the rain which lashed down just before the off.
It did make me appreciate a little more that I follow a comparatively big non-league side like Boston, who can expect in excess of 1,000 for home games and at least a hundred on the road. I suppose it’s no surprise when there’s so many football clubs in such a small area, all competing for support. Truro must have brought about 50, including a noisy bunch who braved the inclement weather behind the goal, which is most impressive considering the round trip is 590 miles.
They were quickly rewarded as Marcus Martin headed in an excellent right-wing cross from Scott Walker after two minutes – an all-too-easy goal which had the Boreham Wood manager Ian Allinson incandescent on the touchline in front of me. Truro continued their bright start and, but for the reflexes of home keeper Michael Jordan, would have sewn the points up before the half-hour. The visitors had Barry Hayles, the former Jamaican international who helped Fulham into the Premiership, playing up front though he seemed a little off the pace as might be expected of a 39-year-old who had most likely gone down to Cornwall to look at retirement homes.
Both sides tried to play neat, passing football and I did notice a contrast between this and the shameless hoofball seen in the Conference North. It wasn’t until the early part of the second-half that they broke through, but Boreham Wood had looked the more likely to score for long periods. A classy finish from Inih Effiong in a one-on-one situation deservedly had them back on terms and they really looked the better team with some clever balls down the channels and surprisingly good deliveries from wide.
However, as seems to be symptomatic of their season at the moment, Boreham Wood were stung in the last minute. There was a sharp intake of breath when Truro won a free-kick in a great position and great frustration when Walker bent it perfectly round the wall and past the home keeper. A draw would have been the fair result but it was nice to see the barmy travelling support rewarded for their efforts. As I headed back for the train in to the Smoke, chants of “We are Truro-o-o-o-o-o-o-o” hung in the early evening air.
Next Match: There may be one before, but most likely Fulham v FC Twente in the Europa League on Thursday.