On Saturday, warmish in the sunshine, I paid my first visit of the season to Three Bridges in Sussex. It’s the stop after Gatwick Airport going south.
Bridges are in their first Isthmian League Division One South season after promotion from the Sussex County League and are struggling near the bottom.
They had won their last four games, conceded just one goal in their last five, and I thought they might make it a bit of a contest against top of the table Maidstone United at Jubilee Field.
The crowd was bigger than I had expected (675) but it turned out to be an easy win for the visitors. Their No.11 had a huge throw and one of his missiles was flicked in at the near post for 1-0 on 16 minutes.
Stones won 3-0 and still lead Dulwich on goal difference at the summit. I’ll remember the game for two really odd refereeing decisions. But we’ve all got our opinions and the ref’s is ultimately the only one that counts. I got the train back to Purley and saw some miserable-looking Palace fans who had just witnessed a 0-0 at Selhurst Park.
Sunday morning’s entertainment, still sunny, was a Chiswick & District Sunday League Riverside Challenge Trophy quarter-final between Hanwell United and Whitton Athletic at Ealing Central Sports Ground. Watching from the touchline near halfway, one of 12 spectators, I thought I recognised Whitton’s No.10 in right midfield.
He is now 44 and used to play for Arsenal and England. It was Paul Merson.
This quarter-final went to extra-time and ‘Merse’ played the whole 120 minutes. His passing was immaculate, long or short. He took most of the free-kicks and the corners and only blotted his copybook by receiving a caution for deliberate handball. Whitton won 5-2 and he seemed to enjoy the experience.
Then it was one stop west on the Central line to Greenford and a short walk to the London Marathon Playing Fields. I knew there’d be something on in the afternoon. QPR Women’s U18 team in their blue and white hoops came out of the clubhouse as I arrived at 12.50 but they were about to have a substantial warm-up before the 2pm start. I heard the coach say: “Come on girls, this is important. It’s a cup semi-final”.
Their opponents were in all red. They emerged much later and certainly confused me when they shouted “We are QPR!” at the end of their pre-match huddle. So it was QPR v QPR, the first team against the reserves, in the Middlesex Junior Cup.
There were no goals until a converted penalty on the hour and 33 spectators, mostly mums and dads, saw a 3-0 win for the Hoops.
Games this season = 140
Games in total = 6,435