Walsall Wood FC last Tuesday evening (25 August 2020) got in what has been a very rare thing so far this year – a match at home. With full social distancing and pandemic safe measures, encouraging audience and gate, this will be a welcome return to business for all at The Wood whose faithful feared they might never see a match again.
The Woodmen and fans braved dreadfully windy weather and a rather wet pitch to face down Tamworth FC, and held the visitors to a respectable 1-1 draw in very challenging conditions. It’s good to see them back – and standing in the centre of a circle of respectful distance (I’m told they did this with him pre-pandemic, too) was the young and loquacious David Evans, pad and pen in hand, ready to record this momentous return.
David sent the following report:
Walsall Wood Fc vs Tamworth, Tuesday 25 August 2020: A genuinely friendly match…
Walsall Wood Fc 1 v 1 Tamworth FC
It had been such a long time since the hallowed turf of the Theatre of Dreams last saw a meaningful pre-season match of this calibre. With due respect paid to the regulations and full application of social distancing in place, Oak Park welcomed its first spectators this season to rejoice with hearts full of anticipation as they entered by the narrow door, newly installed by the track which runs along the back of the clubroom… To sign in, hand wash, and then glory at the smart club, the freshly cut green turf of the pitch, the bright new Ron Tranter shelter, and the corner flags, flying rigid in the thunderous winds.
Gone were the months of isolation, desperation, insulation, consolation, frustration; now the fresh air and open space, and two teams of players, busily warming up, stretching, dashing, dancing, leaping, tiptoeing through lines of cones, reaching to touch toes, flex muscles, loosening sinews and tendons.
Now, with a beautiful new refreshment bar and kitchen to grace the occasion, and that mouth-watering aroma of beef-burgers, hot-dogs and special chips sizzling away, paper cups, bottles of sauces all in regimental order, the scene was complete.
Visiting spectators from Tamworth and beyond were greeted with warmth and sincerity. We were all eager to see a live game of genuine soccer between two fine teams. We were going to thrill, applaud, sigh, lean forward in our seats.
The visitors wore an apple green strip bearing the word ‘Turpin’ on the back of their shirts. The visiting players seemd to be large, muscular, heavy body builders. Walsall Wood players, who wore their Lionheart Red strip, looked eager, and ready to take on their opponents with their fine display of nimble and fleet of foot soccer, accurate passing, and the grit and pluck that characterises Walsall Wood. [Grit and pluck indeed – Bob]
The whistle was blown and the match – contest – was under way with Walsall Wood showing their speed and deft play, to some consternation from the heavyweight opponents. The away dugout had a vocal assistant whose spirited guidance was for every ball, every pass, and whose obvious enthusiasm and perception… Was delightful.
This fixture, though classed as a friendly match, was full of meaningful play and thrust, especially from the visitors. Walsall Wood, as always, rose to this physical challenge with patient confidence and co-ordinated play. Two very different sides, two different approaches, and quite gladiatorial in its way. This kept all the spectators enthralled at the rapid to and fro, with the unpredictable and gale-force tempest also raging, and eventually Tamworth scored the first goal from a corner kick and the gift of ‘overwhelming physical presence’… In a blur of bulbous green figures bearing down heavily on the defenders.
Half-time brought the long-awaited break, A time, as is customary, when team managers serve their players a cup of tea and cucumber sandwich, and proffer gentle conversation. Meanwhile, spectators busily re-hydrate, and replenish empty bellies. Beefburgers, hotdogs, those special chips… And piping hot tea… All from the hatch to the posh spanking new kitchen.
The second half brought new players, new tactics and the playing surface continued to delight and reward determination. This real grass surface allows for a greater palette of playing skills to be presented and employed by players.
An eventual penalty… There had been quite a few instances of heavy play… Was awarded to the home team who scored the equalising goal in the final minutes of this entertaining and positive work-out for both teams. All the players contributed fully in their individual ways to the spectacle and joyful evening.
Thanks to David once more for taking up the reigns of star reporter and posting an honest, entertaining match report – it really is an honour to feature them.
Check out Walsall Wood FC’s website here.