Friday, 5 September 2008

Off To Tinsley Lane

Tinsley Lane is the home of Oakwood FC and is notoriously difficult to find. My sense of direction is appalling at the best of times so the chances of me finding the ground for this, the first FA Vase game of my 'Chasing The Vase' venture, are slim. So much so, this season's plan may fizzle to nothing before it is properly ignited.

But of course I'll find the ground, how hard can it be, even for a simpleton? I'm actually quite excited about my trip down to Sussex tomorrow, to take in Oakwood v Chertsey Town in the First Round Qualifying (the FA's official description). If you have stumbled upon this site by chance in search of news about Keegan, Curbishley, Manchester City, or other football news stories of the day, you are excused for thinking that 'excited' is perhaps too strong a description to use in relation to a game that will attract a crowd of around 30. Oakwood's League games so far this season have been attended by between 19 and 47 paying customers. The old joke about announcing crowd changes to the teams flashes across my mind. But I am excited, and if you read any of by FA Cup blog last season, you will understand why. If you didn't, please join me for this season.

Oakwood have had a fairly innocuous start to their 2008-09 Sussex County League Division One campaign, and sit only six places off the bottom with four points from five games. Bizarrely, all five of those League games have been played at home; in fact, their first away League fixture is not until September 20th. This is something I certainly have not come across in the game before. What was the fixture committee thinking? Answers on a postcard?

Formed in 1962 (many years before I was born) Oakwood are a relatively new club and have been playing Sussex County football since 1984, one year after they moved into their current Tinsley Lane home. Located near Crawley, the club started out in life as a school team. Pupils from St Wilfreds School founded the club as an escape from the predominant school sport of rugby. Club honours include winning the Sussex County League Division Three (1984-85) and Division Two (2005-06) and runners-up in the Sussex Senior Cup (1993).

Oakwood FC is a Step 5 club in the English football pyramid, as are Chertsey Town. So one would expect an even contest tomorrow, but Chertsey (as I mentioned last week) are off to a flyer this season. However, after I built up their chances for 2008-09 following their marvellous start, Chertsey went and lost 2-1 to Sittingbourne in the FA Cup on Sunday and dropped their first League points with a Tuesday night 1-1 home draw with Bookham. The FA Cup result was rather disappointing with a last-gasp winner (only 10 seconds left on the clock) eliminating the Surrey club at the same stage of the competition as last year, and defeated by the same opponents to boot. Another strange fact is that the game down in Kent on Sunday was Chertsey's first competitive Sunday game; this for a club founded in 1890. I find that fact rather refreshing in this day and age when the 3pm Saturday kick-off is less and less the norm. A feather in the caps of all the traditionalists. Confidence is still high at the club though, and in the FA Vase there is a feeling that they could progress some way. That's the 'kiss of death' then from me; pucker up.

But with a Wembley Cup Final in May the ultimate target, Oakwood will undoubtedly want to have a say in matters. So off in the direction of Crawley tomorrow, another location I don't recall ever visiting before. A small ground to look forward to, an entrance fee that won't break the bank and an opportunity to meet some of the locals; 'grassroots' football in every sense of the word. The forecast is for heavy rain, strong winds and poor visibility, which won't help me trying to find Tinsley Lane. Although I have been given some very good advice on how to get to the ground by a number of readers. Apparently, just turn left at the postbox. How easy is that?

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