This summer I finally decided to cancel my season ticket. A wonderful seat in the East Stand, near the halfway line. Brilliant view. But I’d had enough. My Dad had given up a few years ago. 140 loyalty points down the drain. This version of Newcastle United wasn’t worth the sacrifice anymore. This decision is a lot easier when you now live over 300 miles away in London.
A few weeks ago I started thinking it would be nice to get along to a non-league game, I’ve always enjoyed the odd non league game when living in the north east but hadn’t really considered it since I’ve been in London. It was one evening after work, an internet search and I discovered the closest non-league team to where I live in Ealing is Hanwell Town FC of the Isthmian League South Central Division, and they play just about a mile up the road rather than in Hanwell.
It was time to look a little closer, first I see they play in black and white stripes – a coincidence surely and then I read their nickname is “The Geordies” – I was intrigued. It turns out that Hanwell Town were formed in the 1920s but a group from Newcastle that were working in Hanwell area and decided to set up a team, of course they adopted the famous black and white of Newcastle United, one of the best teams in the land in the early 1900s. As someone that was born and grew up in Newcastle but now finds themselves in London due to work it was a no brainer – I had to get a long to a Hanwell Town game and keep an eye on their results.
Hanwell had made an undefeated start to the season, and checking the fixtures were at home in FA Cup First Qualifying Round action against Staines Town. A text to a friend, who also lives in Ealing now but grew up in Newcastle followed and we were all set. Meet at 2pm on Saturday and we’ll head up for the game.
It turned out to be an FA Cup classic – it was 8 quid to get in, and a few more for a programme and a raffle ticket. We enjoyed a few pints in the clubhouse while watching the game from a prime view from the club house terrace, a scaffold platform with astroturf and if you get the right spot – a brilliant view of the pitch.
Hanwell started brightly and were ahead within just two minutes, when the Staines ‘keeper, the highly rated (according to the match day programme) Denzel Gerrar dropped the ball into his own net trying to catch a looping header towards goal- he protested he was fouled but it didn’t look like there was anyone near him – a great start for Hanwell.
There was only 10 minutes gone when Staines made their first team foray forward amd Hanwell centre back was turned and pulled back the Staines attacked as he advanced on goal, just outside the box and referee George Warren brandished a red card for Harry Tucker. It seemed a little harsh, but probably the right decision – but I’d like to see it again. As Tucker left the pitch he was heckled in typical non league style about his tan and then couldn’t get back into the changing rooms as they were locked!
Hanwell reshuffled and did well with 10 men and were soon 2 up, Andy O’Brien with a header. They play in black and white, they are known as the Geordies and now O’Brien has scored! For a Newcastle United fan, you really couldn’t make it up – who put the ball in the mackems net? I am in west London aren’t I?
Staines were soon back in it, Che Krabbendam with a wonder strike into the top corner from 25 yards. Unstoppable. Another couple of pints in I need the toilet, head into the clubhouse to find Alan Shearer guarding the men’s toilets! Not literally – obviously – but a framed signed shirt on the wall – it was great to see but perhaps should be moved into the bar!
As expected, 10-man Hanwell tired in the second half and Staines started to get on top and made it 2-2 from the spot, it was at the other end of the pitch but it looked very soft from where I was standing, Krabbendam tucking away his second of the game. As the game went on the talk on the terrace turned to what happens if it’s a draw – would it be penalties? Extra time? A replay? Nobody was quite sure – a replay on Tuesday seemed to be agreed scenario in the event of a draw but nobody was certain.
It didn’t matter in the end. With only a few minutes left of the 90, substitute Rob Laney turned in the box and was brought down, penalty to Hanwell! Laney stepped up, a chance to win it and send Hanwell into the next round, but its saved by Gerrar! It looks like Hanwell will have to settle for a draw and a replay (or extra time or penalties we’re still not sure) but in added time, Krabbendam, the best play on the pitch, waltzed through the Hanwell defence and slotted him another stunning solo goal to win it for Staines! The 20 odd travelling away fans behind that goal went wild as Krabbendam was booked for taking off his shirt as he celebrated the winner.
What a game! Not the result I wanted, and I’m sure Hanwell would have won this comfortably had they not been down to 10 so early in the game but it was a great game of football – a special mention must go to the Hanwell steward – manning the entrance to the car park as we arrived, he then guarded the tunnel as the players came onto the pitch, at one point was in the Bob Fisher Stand behind the goal cheering on Hanwell and then was back by the tunnel as the teams left the pitch to remind the referee his performance will be assessed by the FA! More importantly, this was a great afternoon of football, with lots of passion, desire and entertainment and you can have a beer – I was born a Newcastle United supporter and I always will be – but I’ll certainly be back following The Geordies in west London again.