THERE'S something peverse about watching a penalty being taken as a neutral observer and hoping to see either a miss or a save. But this was the position I found myself in after another drop down into the Spartan South Midlands Reserve Division One to take in Oxhey Jets Reserves against Hoddesdon Town Reserves.
With about 20 minutes to go in a game that had ebbed and flowed both ways, Oxhey were awarded a lighter shade of dubious penalty that threatened to break the hitherto deadlocked teams.
However about five minutes before the offence I had resigned myself to this being a nil-nil after both teams had squandered a limited number of good chances - mainly down to composure in the box. And for some reason, I didn't want that deadlock to be broken.
Luckily for me the penalty taker (Oxhey number 8) had been having a poor game up until that point and I actually fancied him to miss. He duly obliged, hitting it low and to the left of the Hoddy (that's how they describe themselves in rallying cries) keeper but in a position that was completely savable.
This miss and the inevitable goal-less conclusion that then petered out left me pondering what is it that makes a game enjoyable or dismal? I'd enjoyed this match as a contest and it was actually more entertaining than the 4-1 win I'd seen between Leverstock Green Reserves and New Bradwell St Peter Reserves in this division on January 10th.
The standard of football appeared better as both teams got the ball down and tried to play for most of the game, just missing that cutting edge in the final third. And I was actually pleased that it ended nil all as it confirmed the prediction I'd made halfway through the second half.
Then again perhaps my brain was just addled by the permeating cold.
I'd made the journey from Braintree to Oxhey in just over an hour, (A120, M11, M25, M1, local roads) the Thursday night commuter traffic behaving itself impeccably. The Altham Way complex is abutted onto a housing estate, and skirted by a railway line and lays out like a sporting vineyard on a number of exposed terraces. The clubhouse is well appointed and is a short walk across the car park. Although the ground appears quite exposed, the weather conditions were just cold, not windy, which made spectating bearable, while keeping the run on Cup-a-soups from the snack shack a constant.
In fact there was quite a good turnout spectating from the neat main grandstand area - I'd estimate around 30 - another healthy SSMRD1 attendance, and I enjoyed the view that you got from this raised platform alongside the grandstand.
The spectators also provided some good banter and visual entertainment, from one home fan's description of Hoddesdon's beefy number 6 ("that's a f**king sizeable unit"), through to the abuse they hurled at the Hoddesdon 'homer' line-o which led to him flipping them one finger after a dubious flag-raising.
There was also a handful of Hoddesdon fans (well, three) including one dapper gent in a felt hat, polished brogues, expensive looking sports overcoat puffing on a large cigar. I assumed he must be the HT chairman.
Ground Rating: 3/5
Refreshment Rating: 2/5 (one Coke, one chicken Cup-a-soup, one coffee, two Breakaways)
Profanity Rating: Very Low (the crowd swore more than the players)