“Are you from the visiting team?” the woman behind the bar asked. If I’d said yes I’d have got my pint of Old Hooky for free. As it was, it was just cheap enough for my London-priced mind to wonder if she’d actually added up all the drinks in the order properly. As the beer, brewed within sight of the ground, settled, a cheer went up in the room: Newcastle had taken the lead against Liverpool.
In the Premier League players earn six figures a week. The gate receipts from today’s FA Vase first round tie didn’t even reach six figures even with the decimal point included. The man who took the money later found me to tell me they’d got 250 on the gate. He meant pounds not people. The official crowd of 93 (a 300% increase on their last home match) was enough to mean that one of the subs had to be cajoled into helping out at the half-time bacon roll stand.
By that time Hook Norton were 2-0 down to their Wessex Premier opponents. Better drilled, better organised, and better able to take their chances Newport had soaked up a lot of pressure before applying the full rope-a-dope. They didn’t add any more in the second half but, again, let the home team run around a lot without ever really looking like testing the keeper. That was a shame, if for no other reason than, as the photo shows, he wasn’t the lithest of goalies and it would have been fun to see him dive about.
But we had fun in other ways. ‘Reevo’, the home number 7, lost a tooth in a seemingly innocuous challenge, which caused the home coach to hold said item aloft and demand of the perplexed ref what he was going to do about it. There was also some decent banter (for once, an expression used here to mean, people in the crowd having fun exchanging comments rather than its uber-laddish unpleasant cousin) and, in amongst it all, a fair amount of skill and effort.
So, a win for the well-travelled visitors was the right result. They’re in the hat for the next round of the magical mystery tour that is the FA Vase. I doubt whether the beer will be as good at their next destination.