As one of our party remarked, you know that you are in the south when the match is sponsored by a computer software writing company. And we also knew, with alarming clarity after a mere few seconds into this vital game, played during these desperate relegation avoiding times, was that the referee was crap (un-euphemisable).

In a bizarre three minute spell of power crazed yellow card waving, he managed to book Shirtliffe, Campbell and McGinley (the latter was walking back from a goal-kick when the referee booked him), whilst Shirtliffe must surely be the first ever player to be booked at this level for the clearing the ball.

By now Mr. Ash was doing more bookings than a Travel Agent. Not content with his catalogue of misdemeanours so far, he added Steve Buckley’s name to his rapidly filling book – the only reason we could see was for slicing his clearance), and then two Farnborough players quickly followed into his book, producing the terrace chant from the BUFC away crew of 4-2, 4-2, 4-2 !!

The locals didn’t get the joke; which is hardly surprising since most of them did little to offset the popular myth of Hampshire people being tractor driving straw-suckers. A quick visit to the town itself revealed that everyone dressed with the fashion sense of a John Denver album cover pose, have a crappy concrete shopping centre called the Westgate, and inside the ground locals were actually shouting “Come on Boro, you can beat this shower.”

Meanwhile the, for once large, Boston away contingent were amazed at how anyone with a ground like Cherrywood Road could get elected to the GMVC; two of their stands, although possessing stanchions and pillars, contained no roof at all – during inclement weather these stands would be about as much use as a Peter Carr through-ball.

Do find time to visit the toilet block when visiting this ground, where you’ll be confronted with ladies and gents devoid of any outside or inside doors and the walls, roofing and basins had all been smashed to pieces which, along with the rest of their decrepit and roofless ground, resembled Coventry after the war.

Meanwhile on field proceedings had seen us go 1-0 down after 41 minutes from a scrambled goal by the home side’s centre-half Andy Bye.

Though we never really threatened, the decision to persevere with five at the back (Mark Cook at centre-half ??il) meant few chances were created, until late in the game when Hardy headed fractionally wide, and then Neville Searchwell did have the ball goalbound, but the goal was cancelled after Bruno was ruled to have needlessly fouled in the process. Then with the minutes ticking past like seconds, Searchwell subtly chipped the ‘keeper.

It was going in…it was going in….it was……….. aaaaarrrrggghh! Cruelly the ball missed by a (Jewish) gnat’s appendage. And before anyone accuses us of merely existing to criticise referees, we should point out that the referee in charge of the Tel ford game the previous week had appeared reasonably competent, a description which can not be extended towards Mr. Ash who appeared hellbent on assuring that the game became quickly reduced to a Ray Cooney type farce.

Typically, the worst foul of the afternoon, a quite breathtaking display of spontaneous decapitation by Martin Hardy, who crushed their left-winger as convincingly as a grande piano dropped from two hundred feet onto an egg, was not construed by Mr. Ash to be a cautionable offence (his book was probably full, anyway).

Whilst Gallagher persevered, Campbell battled, and even a few customary brilliant saves from McKenna could not disguise the desperate lack of Hamill, Willis and Cusack in the side. Without those three, the game had long reached the stage, familiar to most long suffering Pilgrims fans, when you begin to count the number of players on the field to ensure that it is still eleven versus eleven.

Also it was time for the customary glance at the programme to see who this referee was – an act which produced the interesting information that Mr. Ash originated from Rotherhithe – home of Fisher Athletic. Co-incidentally, Mr. Ash took charge of last season’s London Senior Cup final – strangely won by Fisher!

The crowd were awarding the decisions – the home fan(s) ensuring that Boro gained a succession of dodgy corners, whilst our own Tony Townsend awarded a free-kick for obstruction on Campbell – his shout of “Obstruction” being immediately recognised by Mr. Ash’s whistle, and had to also be prompted by Tony to raise his arm to signal in-direct in the correct and traditional manner.

A special fashion victim mention should be given to Farnborough’s ‘keeper Peter Guthrie (whom Barnet had bought for £60,000 from Tottenham seven months earlier) who spent the duration of the second-half wearing an entirely unfetching old-fashion checked cloth-cap; mind you, he did considerately clap the mobile United support at the end for our example of getting behind our team -whilst waves were forthcoming from only John McGinley and Mark Cook in amber shirts (or rather change-strip white shirts).

See the 1989/1990 season in full at Ken Fox’s BUFC site HERE

© Richard O Smith 1990 | This article originally appeared in From Behind Your Fences, issue 7. Reproduced with permission.

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