Ipswich Town 2 Peterborough United 1

Henry VIII’s original ex, Catherine of Aragon died on the 7th January 1536 in Kimbolton, Cambridgeshire and was then buried in Peterborough cathedral, and indeed what is left of her still is.   This burial is perhaps the city of Peterborough’s main claim to fame, and I must admit to being quite impressed, although given that after Henry split up with her in 1533 Catherine lived in Hatfield, Enfield , Ampthill and a couple of other places too before rocking up in Kimbolton it seems like just a bit of luck for Peterborough that she finally conked out in the PE postcode area.  Peterborough’s other claim to fame is its football club’s impressive record in competitive fixtures against the mighty Ipswich Town.  In sixteen games since November 1955 Peterborough have won nine, drawn four and lost only three fixtures.  Amongst those victories for Peterborough were two FA Cup ‘giant killings’ as a non-league club in the 1950’s and then this century a stonking 7-1 thrashing live on TV, although this can excused by the fact that Town were at the time managed by Roy Keane, who if not insane is at the very least a bit odd and after ‘Hurst the Worst’ was easily Town’s most terrible ever manager.

Today sees the seventeenth competitive meeting between Ipswich Town and Peterborough United and just to make it memorable it’s kicking off at 12:30pm, presumably to ensure anyone travelling from beyond the Ipswich area can get home in time to watch England lose to France on the telly in the World Cup quarter finals.  For even more added interest, it’s a particularly cold day with a thick frost clinging to the windows of my trusty Citroen C3 and many other surfaces as I prepare to set off for what I now call ‘The Arb’ for my usual pre-match drink with friend Mick.  Having parked up the Citroen, the walk to Portman Road through Gippeswyk Park is glorious beneath a clear, pale blue sky across earth as hard as iron and frosted, quietly crunchy grass. The icy air feels clean and fresh as I breathe it in.  On Ranelagh Road I follow a man for whom the peculiarly low crotch on his trousers makes him look like he has very short legs and a long body, but then again perhaps he has. Constantine Road is quiet and what used to be Portman Walk is too. As usual I pause to buy a programme (£3.50) from the kiosk on the corner of Alderman Road.  The kiosk window is steamed up due to the cold and I can only see the middle third of the programme seller, who remains legless and headless.  To add to my retail experience, I go to pay by card, but the touch screen thing doesn’t work and I have to insert my card into the plastic contraption and tap in my PIN number.  “I hope I’m not charged twice” I tell the midriff, and a disembodied voice tells me to take it up in the shop if I am.

I cross the threshold of ‘The Arb’ at 11:15 and buy a pint of Mauldon’s Suffolk Pride (£3.95) which I take into the garden where I text Mick to tell him “Je suis dans le jardin”.  Mick soon arrives, pint of Suffolk Pride in hand, and asks if my sitting in the garden is still a reaction to Covid.  I tell him it is, but it also saves me having to take my coat off.  Our conversation as ever is about sex and death.  We finish our drinks by noon but hang on another ten minutes because we don’t want to arrive too early.

We join the match-bound crowd as we and it cross Civic Drive.  What used to be Portman Walk is full of people crossing paths and making beelines for their chosen turnstiles. The low chatter of the crowd, the purposeful walking and checking of tickets, the approaching kick-off, it’s all part of the mounting excitement.  There is a queue at turnstiles 59 and 60 to the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand and I find myself behind a man called Kevin. I compliment him on the 1970’s vibe of his cap, donkey jacket, Doc Marten’s and turned up jeans, he says he’s come as a Council dustman.

I step onto the former terrace of Churchman’s as the teams form parallel crocodiles onto the pitch and the crowd rises to applaud, it feels like quite an entrance.  I edge past Pat from Clacton and Fiona to sit next but one to the man from Stowmarket. Two rows in front of me ever-present Phil who never misses a game is here, but his son Elwood is not.  Phil and Fiona hand me Christmas cards and Stephen Foster the stadium announcer reads out the teams and then the match begins, with Peterborough getting first go with the ball. Town are rightfully in blue and white whilst Peterborough are sadly in black as if perhaps still mourning Catherine of Aragon, although apparently Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn both wore yellow to mourn her.  The Aragonese flag is of yellow and red stripes which would make a cracking away kit.  From up in the Cobbold stand comes the unlikely chant of “Peterborough, Peterborough FC, The finest football team the world has ever seen” to the tune of the Irish Rover.  As if in response the Sir Bobby Robson stand sing something a bit tuneless, which nevertheless ends with a joyful “Wo-oh-oh-oh-oh, Wo-oh-oh-ohh” and the melting frost that had been clinging to the roof of the stand drops in large, loud splashes on my SuperDry coat, which seems ironic. 

The first ten or fifteen minutes of the game are a bit frantic and formless. With half the pitch in deep shade the sombrely dressed Peterborough players appear as dark silhouettes in the gloom, a bit like the people in an architect’s conceptual drawing.  “Football in a library, de-de-de” chant the Peterborough fans tunelessly before going for the jugular with the Welsh hymn Cwm Rhondda, to which they apply the words “Your support is fucking shit”, just like everyone from every other club always does,  

Peterborough’s hefty looking, almost chubby, and extensively surnamed Jonson Clarke-Harris goes down in a very large heap. “Get Up!” bawls someone behind me not unreasonably, and with no one showing him much sympathy he does.   Peterborough get the ball to the by-line. “Come on Boro’, Come On Boro’ ” chant the away tribe supportively. “Addy, addy, addy-O” chant the home fans happily.  The flags on the Cobbold stand hang limply in the cold, still air.

It’s the thirteenth minute and it’s unlucky for Janoi Donacien who is laid low by a mystery injury, perhaps due to the extreme cold, and he is replaced by Kane Vincent-Young.  The first shot on goal arrives in the twentieth minute as Sone Aluko bounces a hooked attempt into the ground and past a post at the end of a move down the Ipswich right. Two minutes later and another move on the right ends with the ball played back and then crossed by Sam Morsy.  Running towards the ball Conor Chaplain leaps and twists his neck to glance the ball into the far corner of the goal and give Town the lead. It’s a beautiful goal, but one that unearths that tired cliché about the shortest player on the pitch scoring from a header, as if to say players under 1.8m in height aren’t allowed to jump.

I start to dream of another three points banked and more importantly a long-awaited victory over these upstarts with their medieval cathedral and royal tomb.  A third of the match has now gone to join the reformation and Catherine of Aragon in the past and a woman arrives in the gangway next to Pat from Clacton, who appears to be lost. It seems she went to the loo and hasn’t been able to find her way back to her seat. Helpfully, ever-present Phil, who has the ‘knowledge’ to be a Sir Alf Ramsey stand taxi driver, if such a thing were possible, gives her directions ‘home’.  Distracted by this incident perhaps, we have allowed Peterborough to win their first corner of the game and as a subsequent angled cross by Kwame Poku arcs towards the far post I spot Peterborough’s Frankie Kent lingering on his own and realise he is likely to score, and he does.  It’s almost exactly like one of the goals Town conceded against Barnsley; it doesn’t help that Frankie Kent sounds like he could have been an associate of the Kray twins if given the pre-fix ‘mad’.

The goal provokes chants of “E-I, E-I, E-I, O, Up the football league we go” from Peterborough which seems optimistic on the strength of one equalising goal, but you have to get your pleasures where you can.  “We should be shuttin’ ‘em down a lot quicker that what we are doin” says the bloke behind me by way of explanation for our disappointment.   “Fuck off you cunt” shouts a less philosophical character from further behind me as the Peterborough goalkeeper Lucas Bergstrom then takes his time over a goal kick after Sam Morsy has sent a pretty solid looking shot narrowly  wide of the goal.

Not unexpectedly the Peterborough fans now alter their words for Cwm Rhondda from ”Your support is fucking shit” to “You’re not singing anymore”, failing to spot the inconsistency in their song-based argument.

Seven minutes until half time and Sone Aluko produces a piece of skill worthy of the  great Clive Woods as he dribbles mazily to the by-line before pulling the ball back, only for Bergstrom to somehow get lucky and grab the ball as it is sent goalward by Wes Burns.  Bergstrom stays down on the turf to eke out some more time and I decide that with his short, lank hair and lanky stature,  from behind Bergstrom looks a bit like Gareth in ‘The Office’.   Sam Morsy has two more shots on goal, one at Bergstrom and one over the cross-bar before Stephen Foster announces that there will be 3 minutes of added on time.  A bit like the match versus Fleetwood, the game started quite well but has descended into uncertainty, but I take solace by chatting to Ray although his son Michael and grandson Harrison are absent today, having made one of their overly frequent visits to CenterParcs for rest and recuperation.  Ray tells me about his cruise to Madeira and Cape Verde and how he vomited in the Bay of Biscay.

The match resumes at 13:36 and Cameron Burgess lumps the ball up field.  Shadow now enshrouds most of the stadium and weirdly I have the sensation that I feel warmer when the ball is in one of the shrinking sunlit parts of the pitch.  “Come on Ipswich, Come on Ipswich, Come on Ipswich” chants the crowd at the north end of the ground as if having resolved over a collective half-time cup of hot-chocolate to help the team to win today.  It seems to work as the ball now stays mostly in the Peterborough half.  Ten minutes into the second half and Town win their first corner courtesy of a nippy and busy Kayden Jackson. “Come On You Blues” chant the Sir Bobby Robson stand just like in the old days, and a few of us join in around the ground. Down the right-hand side Wes Burns skips past one player and the crowd roars, he goes past another, and the roar is louder still producing a sound only ever heard when a wide player goes past a defender, and I’m reminded again of Clive Woods, Mick Lambert, Kevin O’Callaghan and Bobby Petta.  There is momentum building and Town win a second corner. The ball is crossed from the left, a Peterborough head glances it away but only to Conor Chaplin who instantly controls it and slams it high into the roof of the goal net to give Town back the lead. It’s another perfect goal from Chaplin and it’s the Town fans’ turn to sing “E-I, E-I, E-I -O, Up the Football League go”, and with some justification as the goal takes Town back to the top of the third division.

The pressure on Peterborough continues for a while and Sam Morsy gets his customary booking, unusually for supposed diving, which draws chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing” directed not at Morsy but at referee Ollie Yates; sadly and perhaps surprisingly neither assistant referee is called Stan, but strangely one of them does look a bit like Lionel Messi.  Peterborough make multiple substitutions including bringing on a bloke called Jeandro Fuchs, a case of Fuchs on rather than Fuchs off.  Mr Yates then achieves the ironic cheer from the crowd as he finally gives Town a free-kick.  Behind me, the bloke who was displeased by Bergstrom in the first half has spotted what a big fellow Clarke Harris is. “Looks like he could be a scrum half, that cunt” he says, using his descriptive powers to the full.

Town make substitutions, bringing applause for departing Kayden Jackson and Sone Aluko, and this afternoon’s attendance is announced as 24,849 with 1,230 of those being from Peterborough. “Your support, Your support, Your support is roughly 5% of ours (numerically speaking)” chant the Magnus west stand, whilst the Sir Bobby Robson Stand quickly chant “Here for the Ipswich, You’re only here for the Ipswich” before the away fans get the chance to claim that anyone has only turned up exclusively to see the Boro’.  Incidentally, Catherine of Aragon came to Ipswich at some point between 1517 and 1522 to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Ipswich which was somewhere near where Lady Lane is now, so just a couple of goal kicks away.  On the Clacton supporters bus Kieron is today’s winner of the guess the crowd competition with an estimate of twenty-five thousand seven hundred and something. 

After the excitement of the Town goal and the pressure that led to it, the game has settled down and Peterborough, despite being behind, are slow to get forward as they pass the ball about amongst themselves.  “Let ‘em fuck around with it” calls the bloke behind me in a “see if I care” tone of voice.  Soon however, both teams are succeeding in frustrating their own supporters as Peterborough continue to “fuck around with it” whilst Ipswich fans are expecting their team to get the ball and go and score a third goal as insurance against the late disappointment witnessed at Charlton and versus Fleetwood.

Peterborough make a fourth substitution bringing on a bloke called Kell Watts, reminding me of the Australian TV series Kath & Kim in which Kim’s mother Kath has a metrosexual boyfriend called Kel who proudly owns a ‘man bag’.  Town ‘score’ with two minutes of normal time left, but I’d spotted the offside flag so remain seated as all around me people rise and cheer.  Pat from Clacton admits to feeling nervous. There will be five minutes of additional time Stephen Foster tells us, and Peterborough chuck in a couple of awkward looking crosses preferring to rely on barging and jumping more than incisive passing football to carve open the Town defence.  “Smash ‘im, smash ‘im” bawls the bloke behind me every time a Peterborough player has possession.  Town attempt to waste time making two final nihilistic substitutions and the game wanders off into a seventh minute of additional time, but then all of a sudden, it’s over, and Town have won.

Beating Peterborough feels like a much bigger thing than it probably should, but that’s no doubt because Town haven’t beaten them in more than a decade, not that we have met very often, and Town have also lost the last two games to Peterborough at Portman Road.  Elated, our little group wish each other a happy Christmas and head off into the cold mid-afternoon with a farewell that says “See you Boxing Day”.  As for Catherine of Aragon, well at least she was still breathing when she visited Ipswich.

Haverhill Borough 0 Felixstowe & Walton United 3

Haverhill and Felixstowe are on opposite sides of the county of Suffolk, Felixstowe being in the far east, on the coast, Haverhill in the far west, almost in Cambridgeshire and as close as anywhere in Suffolk gets to a motorway, the M11. Unless you live within walking distance, getting to Haverhill is only possible by road, the town having been deprived of its railway by Dr Beeching in the late 1960’s; a really stupid decision given that in the same decade Haverhill was chosen as one of a number of small towns which would expand with ‘overspill’ population from London. Cambridge is where trains comes closest and then it’s a number 13 bus to Haverhill. The town now has a population of some 28,000 compared to the 5,500 who lived here before it was expanded; it could do with its own railway station, it’s one of the largest towns without one.
My journey by car to Haverhill, whilst not a good thing for the environment is pleasurable enough as I drive along the winding roads of north Essex, darkened by drying smears of damp from earlier in the day. A watery sun appears beneath and between dark clouds and brilliant yellows and golds from leaves that still cling to grey trees illuminate the roadside. Thatched and half-timbered buildings line the way, there’s a village green, a closed pub called the Sugar Loaves, two football teams observe a minute’s silence as I pass by; this is rural England on a Saturday afternoon in autumn.
Driving out of the wonderfully named village of Sturmer I reach the edge of Haverhill, with its industrial estates and business park and row upon row of bland estate housing. At its edge it’s a bleak looking place, a mini new town, out of keeping with its rustic, geographical location. But the grey cloud has cleared and the sky is now blue, I follow the orbital road around the north of the town carefully negotiating the rubber, traffic calming speed bumps. Just past a large school, or academy as it is now pretentiously known is the town sports centre and New Croft,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA the San Siro of west Suffolk shared by both Haverhill Rovers and Haverhill Borough football clubs as the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza is shared by Inter Milan and AC Milan. But this being England the two Haverhill’s don’t actually play on the same pitch, Rovers play on a grass one on one side of the sports centre and Borough play on a ‘plastic’ 3G pitch at 90 degrees to it.
Parking within staggering distance of the turnstile I stop to admire the club crest which features a spinning wheel, there is also a notice announcing rather ungenerously that there is no free entry after half-time. Disappointed by such stinginess I approach the turnstile. “Oi, there’s another one” a man says to the turnstile operator who is about to desert his post. He’s referring to me, bloody cheek. “Another one”!

Channelling the spirit of Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner I tell him, I’m not just another one (or a number); I don’t think he believes me. Entry costs £6.00 which is pretty standard for the Eastern Counties Premier League and the attractive looking, but 38286394166_3d8c45cd71_oultimately slightly dull programme costs a further £1.00. Boldly, the front cover features a colourised photo of what looks like quite a nasty two-footed tackle by a bearded Haverhill player. Just inside the turnstile to the left is the tea hut; it’s neat and new and its black weather boarding gives the appearance of a traditional ‘shed’, the type ofOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA structure that all non-league grounds should have. Its open door is welcoming and I venture inside and invest in £2.50’s worth of bacon roll and £1.20’s worth of tea, served to me by a pleasant young woman who is appreciative of the change I offer her in payment. As I turn to leave I recognise a group of Ipswich Town supporters sat at a table drinking tea; they are at a loose end because International matches have resulted in a blank weekend for the Town and they have chosen Haverhill to get their weekly football fix.
I eat my bacon roll and drink my tea outside, trying to absorb the pre-match atmosphere; but there isn’t any. There are a lot of Felixstowe supporters here today, probably because their team, who are known as the ‘Seasiders’ are top of the league, some 13 points aheadOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA of the team in second place having won eighteen of the nineteen games they have played. But the Felixstowe fans aren’t a rowdy bunch, although they add a splash of colour with their red and white scarves. I use the toilet facilities, which are round the corner by Haverhill Rovers’ pitch. Returning into the green cage that surrounds the 3G artificial pitch I detect that my hands and fingers smell as if the soap dispensers in the toilet were filled with washing up liquid; odd.

 

It’s almost time for the match to start and a bloke with a radio microphone announces that there will be a minute’s silence before kick-off and he then reads out the teams,

shirt numbers and surnames only. Being Haverhill, the announcer has a London accent and therefore a lot of vowel sounds are absent, but amusingly (for me anyway) it sounds as a result as if the Haverhill number 11 is called Bottom; he is actually called Botten. The Felixstowe left-back is called Stefano Mallardo and I don’t know why, but some strange word association forms in my head and I imagine a man called Arturo Mullardo, who had he been real might have been Benito Mussolini’s favourite comedian.
Respectful silence observed to a background of shouts from a match taking place on a neighbouring pitch, Felixstowe kick off booting towards that academy and the Haverhill Rovers pitch. Felixstowe wear red and white strips with red shorts and from the front their shirts look like Signal toothpaste; Haverhill wear a faded looking all blue kit which has a nasty sheen to it and on the basis of their kit I do not think they will win this afternoon. Less than five minutes into the match and a Haverhill player swings a leg to hoof the ball clear of the penalty area. Nobody laughs, but hilariously he misses the ball completely and instead poleaxes a Felixstowe player stood where the ball should have been. There is not much doubt it is a penalty, although it did look bizarrely accidental, and as a result Felixstowe quickly take the lead as Francis sends the penalty kick past Borough ‘keeper Smith. The Felixstowe supporters, many of whom have gathered on a small terrace which looks like an opened-up metal shoe box, cheer merrily.
Haverhill respond quite well to falling behind so soon and possess the ball all around the Felixstowe penalty area but don’t manage a shot. The Borough goalkeeper makes lots of encouraging noises and urges ‘more urgency’ for some reason; with over 80 minutes still to play I think he’s panicking. Has he never heard the phrase “Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey” I wonder. That’s English football for you though, with its “Get it in the mixer” mentality.
I am intrigued as to why Felixstowe are so far ahead at the top of the league table and search for something special amongst their team. It’s true that they are nearly all quite tall and they look more imposing than the Haverhill team, but their respective kits have something to do with that. Felixstowe certainly have fewer fat players and Borough are notable for having two or three quite portly fellows in their team. I attribute this to diet with Felixstowe probably eating more fish being coastal and Haverhill just eating pie and mash because they are displaced Londoners. One way in which non-league football has the edge over po-faced professionalism is in the variety of shapes and sizes of the players and the fact that a bloke who looks like he has just stepped out of the crowd can be the butt of terrace jokes but then deliver a defence splitting pass or make a perfectly timed sliding tackle. Haverhill’s left-back is such a player as he explains to the wide-man in front of him something about ‘getting there’ and a bloke in the Felixstowe crowd asks “Getting where? The buffet?” How we laugh.
The game has settled down into a combative affair; disappointingly Felixstowe are not spectacular, they don’t tear Haverhill apart with joyous, flowing football but they are the better team and most of the action takes place in the Haverhill half of the plastic “3G” pitch on which clouds of tiny rubber balls are puffed up with every kick and bounce of

the ball. There are clouds in the sky above too, slightly unusual ones and more beautiful than the game. Haverhill’s number four is the first player to be booked by referee Mr Cutmore and there are a number of discussions between referee and players as decisions are questioned and foul play admonished. Some discussions appear quite intimate as referee and players stand very close to one another.
At about twenty five to four Felixstowe score another goal, a corner sees the ball drop in front of Davies and he can’t miss from about four yards out; Haverhill’s players complain that the Seasiders’ goal keeper had bundled one of their players over; Mr Cutmore listens politely but dismisses their pleas without hesitation.
Another ten minutes of physicality pass and it’s half-time. I have edged my way towards the tea hut as the first half ebbs away and am one of the first to get another £1.20’s worth of tea. The air is heavy with smell of chip-frying in the hut so I head back outside where my tea cools nicely as evening begins to envelop the New Croft. I take a look about;

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there are lots of notices attached to the cage that surrounds the 3G pitch; smoking and chewing gum are banned within the confines of the “3G Stadium”, presumably not because of concerns about public health or unsightly, open-mouthed mastication but because of what cigarettes and gum might do to the plastic and rubber. With its plastic pitch, metal stands and fences and little wheels beneath the goals the stadium seems very artificial and temporary, as if after the game it will be folded up and put away in a cupboard inside the sports centre. I smile at a banner that proclaims that the Co-op funeral service proudly sponsors walking football; if I was a walking footballer I think I’d be worried and would be wary of men in black stood on the touchline. The Co-op must think they’re onto a good thing; middle aged blokes on a diet of pie and mash still playing sport, even slowly.
The return of Mr Cutmore and his entourage jolts me from my reverie.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I drain my paper cup and the game begins again, and Haverhill have more of the ball than before, but no more shots on goal than in the first half. Several times Haverhill break away down the left flank, but nothing more than that, and when they do shoot it troubles the high metal fencing more than the Felixstowe goalkeeper. I take up a seat at the back of the metal stand a bit further along from the shoe box. The floodlights are on and reflect off the bald pate of the man sat in front of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAme, fortunately the lenses in my glass are ‘reactalight’. Unusually all the spectator accommodation is on just one side of the ground and it’s not possible to walk all around the pitch, which is a bit disappointing as I can’t stand behind the dugout and listen to the managers cursing and swearing at their players, the linesmen and the referee. Bad language is an essential part of the game despite the Eastern Counties league’s entreaties in the programme to “Keep it down for the kids”. Substitutions take place. On the opposite side of the pitch the linesman is busy. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHis shock of orange hair is quite stunning and matches the autumn colours of the leaves on the trees behind him; as the light fades he almost glows beneath the beams of the floodlights. The other linesman is a slight figure with a thin beard, he looks like he’s feeling the cold and guiltily slips a hand into the pocket of his shorts when play is at the other end of the pitch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The second half is a bit boring. The football isn’t very good. It’s clear Felixstowe have this game won and its only half past four. A Haverhill supporter snipes that the Felixstowe players are from Ipswich, as if being from somewhere 10 miles away is a terrible crime in a local league for local people. A Seasider retorts spikily that the players are from Felixstowe, like the supporters, perhaps implying that most of the population of Haverhill is really from London, but I could be reading too much into that.
Sensing my boredom perhaps, the Seasiders push forward again and a cross from the left results in a shot which is blocked and then from close to the edge of the penalty area the ball is half-volleyed into the corner of the Haverhill goal by the fictional sounding substitute, Kye Ruel. The goal removes all doubt about the final result and ten to five soon arrives when Mr Cutmore blows his whistle to call time. Those from Haverhill leave quietly, whilst the Felixstowe fans wait to applaud their team. I am soon in my car and negotiating rubber speed bumps.

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