So it was that I set out on a short journey around the M25 to the shadow of Heathrow Terminal 4 for my first visit to The Robert Parker Stadium.
The ground is so close to the airport that they have to have lower than normal floodlights, although, as they point out on the website, they are still as bright. Although the actual car park at the ground is quite small, there is plenty of additional parking available on the grassed areas.
There is a clubhouse, outside the stadium, adjacent to the car park and the entrance to the ground (a double turnstile) is at the side of the clubhouse building. Once inside you are presented with the snack bar and th club shop, which is also where team sheets are available.
There are three covered areas around the ground which, on a night like Tuesday, is just as well. On the near side, the car park side, there is a low covered seating area and a covered standing area. Opposite this is the main stand, a covered seating area which has the dugouts on either side of it. As normal, I headed for the farthest part of the ground for the first half, taking shelter from the driving rain ad cold, blustery wind in the main stand.
A few minutes before kick-off I was surprised to see a spectator heading for the same stand dressed in just a short-sleeved, pink polo shirt. Now, it wasn't a freezing cold night by any means, but the rain was heavy and the wind was certainly making it feel colder than the 7 degrees indicated on my phone. Even Geordies may have considered a long-sleeved top. Still, pink-polo (as he will be known) took his seat in the stand and made himself comfortable for kick-off. Extraordinary.
If anything, the conditions seemed to suit the away side more than Ashford and so it proved in the 7th minute.
A Marlow raid led to Ashford conceding a corner on their right. Charlie Barton took the kick, swinging it in towards the goal, assisted by the wind. Although home keeper Tyler Tobin caught the ball, the assistant on the far side immediately flagged that it had crossed the line and the referee signalled a goal much to the displeasure of the home support. To be fair, the Ashford players didn't raise too many complaints. 0-1.
The remainder of the first half was a fairly even affair. Ashford looked at their sharpest when breaking down their right-flank. Right-back Samad Kazi had a couple of very good bursts forward but the final ball let him down. Meanwhile, Marlow looked quite dangerous on the break and maybe would have had a few more chances had Bossman not been caught offside on a number of occasions.
I think it is fair to say that Marlow, just about, dealt with the wind and the rain better than Ashford did. They also took every opportunity they could to slow the game down and break up play. Whilst I understand that this type of gamesmanship is all part of the game it is frustrating for spectators as well as the team on the receiving end. In my opinion the referee did not do enough to stamp out this time-wasting even after, or maybe because, the home bench berated him for it.
HT Ashford Town (Mx) 0 Marlow 1. A frustrating half for the home side in which the real winner had been the weather. Pink-polo was still happily sitting in the stand, seemingly hypothermia-free.
They mounted another raid, this time down their left flank and when one of their players was bundled over in the box the referee pointed to the spot. From the opposite side of the pitch it was clear that there was a coming together but it was very hard to see what sort of contact was made. The Marlow players clearly thought that it was a harsh decision and made their feelings clear to the officials. There followed a lengthy delay where the Marlow keeper decided to spend a minute or two re-lacing his boots whilst the referee was called over by his assistant to have a word with the Marlow bench. Alex Fisher, who had picked up the ball, managed to keep his nerve during the delay and placed the ball past Simon Grant to make it 1-1 after 57 minutes.
There was clearly belief in the home side now. The rain had relented a little and they were hungry for more goals. Just before the hour mark they broke again and, when Brunton's stinging drive was parried by Grant, Dan Fleming was on hand to blast the ball back past the keeper into the net. 2-1.
Three minutes later they were at it again. James Cottee latched onto a neat flick on the edge of the box and fired a shot over Grant and in off the underside of the bar. 3-1. Marlow were rocking at this point.
With 22 minutes remaining, Ashford made it four goal in a blistering 11 minutes when a low cross from the right was flicked into the net at the far post by Scott Weight. 4-1.
However, they stuck at it and, after 83 minutes, earned a free-kick on the edge of the box. Kevin Bossman tried his luck and, with the aid of a deflection, saw his effort beat Tobin. 4-2.
Marlow suddenly had a little more wind in their sails and maybe a little bit of doubt crept into Ashford for a few minutes. They certainly managed to give the ball away a couple of times, much to the consternation of their supporters. However, the home side saw the game out and claimed all three points.
FT Ashford Town (Mx) 4 Marlow 2. The game was turned by the blistering 11 minute spell of attacking play by the home side who, in all fairness, dominated the second half of the game after being slightly second-best in the first half. Pink-polo man made it through to the end of the game without addition of any extra layers. If that is his winter clothing I shudder to think what he wears in the summer but, I take my hat off to him.
Ashford Town (Mx): Tobin, Kazi, Fisher, Weight, Jonas, Gough, Cottee, Pooley, Fleming, Brunton, Beadle (c). Subs: Decabo, Laraba, Poley, Canderton, Tayler.
Marlow: Grant, Bailey, Etienne, Kerrigan, Gallimore, Welch, Chapple, Barton, Bossman, Ovenden (c), Osei-Tutu. Subs: Quail, Francis, Farrugia, Morrison, Brown
Ground Number: 147
Programme: Not purchased