Intercity v Eldense, Sunday 17th November 2019, 11.30am

Prior to moving on to Elche, Jen and I had spent four nights in Alicante. It’s somewhere that I’ve flown into before but had never stayed longer than the time it had taken to collect a hire car and head off somewhere quieter. It was ok, although I imagine that I might have been less impressed had we come at a busier time of year. In November it was quiet, warm enough to wander around in a tee-shirt and with enough tapas bars and Spanish eateries for me to forget that I was somewhere that attracts three million tourists a year.

Another advantage of visiting in November, rather than the summer is that the football season is in full swing and earlier in the week I’d noticed that a local side, Intercity, was playing its first ever Copa del Rey fixture. The 9pm kick-off didn’t tempt me away from an evening of knocking back rioja and feeding croquettas to pigeons but I made a plan to pop back for their next game the following Sunday.

Jen claimed to have better stuff to do than sit through a Group 6 game in the Tercera division but had she changed her mind would no doubt have been astonished by the quantity of cars trying to park up close to the Poliesportiu de Sant Joan more than half an hour before kick-off. I ended up leaving the hire car in a country lane a few minutes’ walk away before handing over ten euros to get in.

The cost struck me as a bit on the steep side, considering that I could have got into the second division game at Elche the night before for a similar sum.  Still, it was their first season in the fourth tier of Spanish football and few people were actually coughing up as most had season cards. It felt a bit like when the Riverside opened and people who had previously had little interest in the Boro, or even in football, were caught up in the attraction of shiny and new.

My ten euros entitled me to a backless seat bolted to concrete terracing that ran the length of one side of the pitch. It was the only area that you could watch from and part of the pitch was obscured by sections of fencing. The artificial pitch was set out not only with the markings for this game but also with a couple of five-a-side pitches. The goals from those pitches further obscured the view.

The teams entered the field to the strains of ‘The Final Countdown’ although it sounded like a re-mixed version of the tune that assaulted my ears in the eighties, making that one not such a final countdown after all. Intercity were in black and Eldense in a white kit that, quite appropriately I thought for this level, didn’t include the player’s names on their shirts.

Intercity opened the scoring after a quarter of an hour with a tremendous edge of the box volley from their left-back captain. His teammates took inspiration from his example and were soon firing in shots from distance, although without any success in the remainder of the first half.

Not long after the restart the long range shooting policy paid further dividends when a speculative welly from thirty yards was fumbled onto the post by the away keeper only for it to rebound, smack him on the back of his napper and end up in the net.

The size of the crowd continued to grow throughout the second half with a lot of people pitching up after the finish of a cross-country race next door. There were also a lot of kids kitted out in their Intercity tracksuits, perhaps having arrived straight from a game or training session of their own.

Eldense had their chances to get back into it, hitting the post and then having a penalty saved. The fourth–tier newcomers held out though before adding a last minute third goal for a score line that I thought probably flattered them.

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