AFC Wimbledon 4 Luton Town 1
Sweeney (23) Marriott (59)
Taylor (25, 49)
Football League Div 2
Ground number 90 of 92 was Kingsmeadow Stadium near Kingston, currently home to AFC Wimbledon as well as their landlords, Kingstonian FC.
I travelled down to Euston on my usual and very familiar 06:48 London Midland train from Stafford and arrived bang on time at 08:45…OK, a tad early for a 15:00 kick-off! I took the tube to Waterloo and then the 09:12 train out to Norbiton and arrived there around 09:45. It is about a twenty minute walk from the little Norbiton station to Kingsmeadow Stadium which is approached under a metal-work arch on a little lane leading off the Cambridge Road. There was no one around at all but I had a good look round the ground and was able to take a few photos by standing on tip-toe and leaning over a yellow security gate! By this time it had started to rain quite hard so I decided to walk back up Cambridge Road to Kingston where I was due to meet up with a couple of Leeds fans later in the day. I probably should have taken the 131 bus.
Predictably I got soaked, as by now it was tipping it down but eventually I arrived in the ‘Kings Tun’ a pleasant enough Wetherspoon pub in the town centre. By the time Ricky, and then Mike arrived around midday, I’d already enjoyed a Wetherspoon ‘Large Breakfast’ and several pints of Doombar!
I’ve met Ricky and Mike many times at Leeds games over the years but I had never before realised quite how much they enjoy their beer! In the hour or so we had in the pub we threw down another couple of pints of Doombar before walking to Kingston station to get a taxi to the ground. I was already feeling pretty much at peace with the world!!!!! Ricky was clearly on a mission today though, so as soon as he’d collected their tickets (I’d received mine in the post several weeks ago) he was off into the bar with Mike and me trailing in his wake! On the big screen in the bar we caught the tail end of the Sunderland v Man U game and of course the 2 – 1 result was another reason for a celebratory pint!
By the time we left the bar to make our way into the Chemflow End terracing there was hardly a spare inch to stand in but the three of us eventually squeezed in right at the far end near the front. There was a great atmosphere in the little ground and it looked almost full. It is only tiny of course, the Cherry Red Records Stadium is listed on footballgroundguide.com with a capacity of 4,850 and the attendance today would later be reported as 4,439. The ground is tidy enough but very small and all of the stands are very low - some nearby trees towered over them. The Chemflow End is good old fashioned terracing that allows for standing only about 6 or 7 deep.
I recognised a lad standing next to us as a Leicester City fan who'd been talking with a group of Luton fans in the pub earlier; he was down for the Arsenal game the following day (Arsenal would win that 2-1 with a late, late Welbeck goal). As we were chatting, another chap, overhearing us explain that we were actually Leeds fans, mentioned that he’d seen my tweets from earlier when I as on the train down! It is a small thing this football world of ours!
The game was a helter-skelter affair with the most recognisable player being Craig Mackail-Smith in the orange of the Hatters. Predictably he came in for plenty of banter from the home fans. The Wombles took control of the game in the 23rd minute when Ryan Sweeney scored when his header cannoned off a defender to loop into the top corner! Two minutes later it was 2 – 0 as Lyle Taylor cleverly headed a bouncing ball firmly into the corner of the net from a left wing cross.
As half time approached, we lost Ricky! Then, as the whistle went Mike got the call explaining that Ricky was already in the bar and “he’d got them in!” We’d all demolished out latest pints in good time for the second half but then Mike and I headed for the bogs…and the queue was a mile long. By the time I got within peeing distance the news had filtered through that Wimbledon had scored a third and then, by the time I was washing my hands, someone shouted it was now “four f****** nil!”. Oh tremendous! I’d missed two goals, scored within the first four minutes of the second half and the Wombles were rampant. Thankfully, thanks to the TV coverage these days, I can now report on goals 3 and 4!
In the 47th minute, some trickery on the left wing from Andy Barcham resulted in a cross from near the by-line. The cross was headed away but only to the edge of the box where Sean Rigg was waiting to hammer the ball low and left-footed into the right hand corner through a crowd of players. Two minutes later, a low right wing corner was met on the half volley at the near post by that man Lyle Taylor again and that was 4 – 0! It was a shame I missed them as they were scored right in front of the Chemflow End.
Luton got a consolation goal in the 59th minute and we did see this one, albeit of course it was at the other end of the pitch. It was some special goal though! Luton knocked the ball about in a series of 10 or so sharp passes before Jack Marriot got the ball, back to goal on the edge of the area. He turned on a sixpence and then lashed the ball into the roof of the net! 4 – 1 and that was the final score.
At the end of the game Ricky had gone missing again…you guessed it, he was already in the bar and … “he’d got them in!” By this time I’d had so much ale today that I was pretty relaxed, relaxed to the extent that I wasn’t really keeping track of time and particularly the fact that I needed about an hour and a quarter to walk back to Norbiton station, get a train to Waterloo, a tube from there to Euston, and then make my way up to the concourse to find out what platform the 18:46 for Stafford was leaving from. I left the other lads at 5:30pm. You do the maths!
Predictably, I arrived about two minutes too late…my train was gone! A chat with the bloke on the information desk told me I could try the 19:07 Virgin train but when I got to the ticket checker I was told they wanted £61-50 for me to ride on that one. I told him politely where he could place that! Back to the concourse I spotted a London Midland train leaving for Birmingham at 19:13 and the memory of one previous predicament similar to this one reminded me I could get a connection for Stafford from there as long as I got in before 11 O’clock which I was sure to do…
Sadly, the train I was sat on suddenly came to a halt not far outside Euston…and we sat, without moving, for an hour or so while the fire brigade debated whether or not it was safe for our train to pass a building that was on fire further up the line. To prove I was destined not to make that Stafford connection, we then got going again only to stop at Bletchley. After another delay of twenty minutes or so the guard informed us over the PA that the driver had run over his legal hours and we’d have to wait for another train to hook up with us and then the driver of that one would take charge of the new elongated train! Time was ebbing away of course! Eventually, the train began to move again and the guard informed us that plan B had been scrapped and the existing driver would continue! Sadly though, at Northampton, we were told our train was going no further and we were to instead board another train that was waiting on platform 1! Another age went by and I calculated that I'd now not be in Birmingham New Street until around 11:35pm! I only had one option; an emergency call to Mrs W… on Valentine’s Eve. I called Mrs W and she “reluctantly” agreed to drive the 65 miles to Birmingham to meet me outside the station and I joined her in the car at midnight. My “Happy Valentine’s Day!” greeting didn’t go down too well! I’d had to confess that this whole fiasco had begun with that extra pint in the bar at the club! I did blame the overeager Ricky though!
Having collected my car at Stafford station, after another long delay while I worked out how to validate my parking ticket as the station doors were locked,(There was another small machine outside the station but for some reason you had to be a Krypton Factor winner to spot where it was!), we eventually arrived home at 1am Sunday morning. But you know what, I will never forget my trip to Kingsmeadow for ground number 90!