After spending the last few seasons in the higher reaches of the division, Ardley have had a poor start to this campaign, losing their last 3 games. Binfield have started a little better with 10 points from their opening 5 games. To be honest, with an fidgety, easily bored little girl in tow, I wasn't really expecting to see much of the game. The friendly chap on the turnstile was more than happy for us to leave and come back in again should we need to visit the play area at any point during the game. I was actually quite intrigued to see how the afternoon would turn out.
We initially took up our position on the front row of the main seating area, took a few photos of each other and settled in to read the programme. When the teams entered the field of play we played a game of matching the names and numbers on the programme to the players on the pitch. I didn't have the heart to mention that programmes are rarely accurate at this level. It wasn't long before we decided to switch position. To be honest, this was mainly my decision. Just before kick-off the sun had come out and it was directly in our eyes making it quite difficult to watch the game.
We made our way to the refreshment window and ordered a cup of tea and a plastic cup of squash. Then we made a base next to the covered standing area behind the goal that Ardley were defending. This way, I could watch the match while my daughter was free to run around on the grass area. It hadn't taken too long for her interest in the game to wane. After being challenged to run to the other end of the field, and to play chase, I did manage to catch a little bit of the action on the pitch but, to be honest, there really wasn't too much to write home about anyway. We settled for a game of throwing grass at each other, which also allowed me to watch a bit of the match.
I did, however, get a very good view of the main incident in the first half and quite possibly the defining incident of the game. With just a few minutes left of the first half a Binfield attack produced a cross from their right. The Binfield number 4 went in for a header with an Ardley defender and the home keeper flying out to try to claim the ball. My first impression, as the players all landed in a heap, was that the combined challenges of defender and goalkeeper could possibly have warranted a penalty. Certainly the keepers challenge was robust to say the least. However, the referee did not signal a penalty, pointing to a goal kick. As the players untangled themselves and tried to get up, the Binfiled player appeared to stamp on the Ardley goalie leading to a lot of what pundits call handbags. After lots of whistle blowing, when the referee had finally regained control, the upshot was a red card for the Binfield number 4. I have to say, from my position just a few yards away, the card was justified. However, I do think the initial decision to give a goal kick was debateable.
Shortly afterwards the half time whistle went. We had made it through 45 minutes without too much complaining. Much better than I had first expected. I thought it was only fair that we headed over to the play area for a while, knowing full well that, once there, there was probably no coming back.
So it was to prove. The second half kicked off with us still in the play area which I have to say is excellent and worth a visit if you have kids under about 12 or 13. There are one or two vantage points where you can keep an eye on the little ones while still being able to make out a little bit of the game.
I did hear Ardley score quite early in the second half but I didn't see the goal.
Shortly after the goal celebrations died down there was the inevitable cry of 'Daddy' followed by that brief silence that all parents will recognise. You know what is coming. Tears. Lots of tears. A common occurrence when taking a little one to a play area with climbing frames, slides, rope swings and trampolines. It was only a matter of time.
To be fair, it was a genuine injury this time, not simulation.
She had caught her heel between the trampoline and the rubber edge. This combined with the onset of tiredness was enough for her to want to retire hurt. Despite being a massive Daddy's girl, all injuries can only be attended to by Mummy. Daddy just doesn't cut the mustard in these cases.
So, we jumped back into the car and headed off with the home side one up. I discovered, via Twitter, that Ardley had scored again to win 2-0.
All in all, it was a reasonably successful Non-League Day. I got my football fix (or, at least, some of it), my daughter got to have an afternoon out with Daddy, Ardley got a couple of quid to add to their coffers and my wife got a couple of hours husband and child free.
Ardley United - @ardleyunitedfc
Binfield - @binfieldfc