Lehigh Valley United Sonic v West Chester United, Wednesday 6th July 2022, 7pm

After the short stay in Lubbock Jen and I continued to head south, and we spent three nights in a cabin in the Davy Crockett National Forest in Texas. There weren’t any games going on nearby and at over a hundred degrees it was too hot to hike.

I saw some deer whilst driving into Crockett for supplies, but the only real wildlife we saw around the cabin were squirrels. Squirrels with white chests.

There were some large grasshoppers too, that appeared around the same time each evening and climbed a tree next to where we were sitting. I’d estimate that they were between three and four inches long. That’s Jen’s hand in the photo in an attempt to try and give a sense of perspective.

After the Davy Crockett National Forest we drove on to Mississippi for Jen’s Dad’s seventy-fifth birthday celebrations. With it being a large family gathering we stayed half an hour up the road at another cabin in the woods. Again, there were no nearby games and the nearest we got to any hiking was taking Roscoe for a walk in the woods.

With the party over it was time to head north to catch the boat back to England. Jen had been waiting for her passport back and it finally arrived a day later than expected. This meant a twelve hundred and thirty mile drive over a day and a half to reach our booked cabin in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.

Driving on the larger American highways isn’t too onerous but the nineteen hours or so at the wheel from Louisiana in such a short period of time wore me out. We arrived at Quakertown around five in the afternoon, giving me just enough time to empty the car before we got back in again and nipped down the road to the John Makuvek Field at Moravian College in Bethlehem.

The fixture we had driven seven hundred miles that day to get to was in the Mid-Atlantic Division of the fourth tier USL2 with Lehigh Valley Sonic United taking on West Chester United.

We left the car in a visitors parking spot outside the university offices and wandered over to where the players were warming up. The pitch wasn’t fully fenced and therefore there wasn’t really an opportunity for someone to charge for admission.

We stretched out on a grassy bank that ran the length of one side of the pitch. There were probably around another fifty spectators, most of whom appeared to be family members of the players on the home side. There was frequent and enthusiastic encouragement of the kind that I rarely hear at games in England. One wretched miscreant somehow missed an open goal and was consoled with “Alright Guys, good try, good try!” That’s something David Currie won’t have heard from the Holgate or the Chicken Run.

Both sides generally played decent football for this level, keeping the ball on the ground and trying to build patiently. West Chester, in black, were the better side though and they took the lead with a penalty after the keeper wiped out a forward whilst successfully collecting the ball. I doubt it would have been given in the UK, but, even as an ex-goalie, it seemed just to me.

By half-time, the visitors had added two more goals and could have been further ahead with better finishing and if the home keeper had not pulled off some decent saves. Surprisingly Lehigh swapped goalies at half-time, perhaps to share around the pitch-time, but the change had minimal impact and West Chester took the points with an eventual six-nil victory.

The game was the last of the American trip and two days later we were on the boat back to England. It had been another excellent holiday and whilst we didn’t have any close encounters with bears or snakes this time I enjoyed the hiking, particularly in the Colorado mountains, the wild camping and being out in the woods for most of our stay.

The driving was a necessary evil to attend two very enjoyable family celebrations and we ended up clocking nearly eight thousand miles as we did a four hundred and fifty degree circuit from New Orleans up to New York, across to Laramie and down to Colorado, then back to Louisiana again before re-visiting New York. Highlights of the driving hours were spotting a coyote trotting along in an adjacent field and unscheduled stops at places such as a Pony Express Station and the grave of Buffalo Bill.

We saw eight football matches, spread over five tiers and also five baseball games, including the Rockies at Coors Field and a variety of lower-level fixtures where the emphasis seemed as much on entertainment as a win. That’s not a bad return in seven weeks.

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