What better way can there be to sort out the true football fan from the dilettante than a windy, freezing Tuesday evening in the middle of nowhere? Or, in this case, mid Sussex.
So it was that, inspired by Pauline Goodlad's dedication to the cause of the Grecians, and within striking distance due to work commitments in London, I headed off to see Exeter City take a point off low-flyers Crawley Town. In reality it was two lost rather than one gained, but thankfully Burton Albion have somewhat lost the plot lately, so ECFC remain in the play-off zone with their fate in their own hands. Three points away to York City on Monday is a necessity, though.
It was, as Snoopy would put it, "a cold and rainy night", braved by only 841 people, 301 from the South West alone. The lure of the pub, the fireside and Champions League football on the telly probably counted for a nother few hundred. The chips at the Broadfield Stadium are, I must report, a good consolation; the football less so. Thankfully there were enough incidents to make it a more than bearable occasion - including a well-struck 25 yard free kick by Exeter's Rob Edwards inside 14 minutes, and Dean Moxey's opportunistic equaliser on 80.
Exeter should really have stolen the game, but they were a little off colour. Special mention should go to Crawley's Bradley Thomas, whose ability to grab hold of an Exeter shirt at set plays while avoiding the ref's gaze (no doubt entirely accidentally) was one of the most consistently impressive displays of the night. Unless you were a Grecians fan.
Perhaps the best entertainment of the evening, however, came courtesy of the, well, lack of courtesy of the Exeter fans. For some reason, Crawley's keeper was wearing a number 22 shirt, as well as a rather curious all-weather ensemble which made him seem less than battle-hardened. So the Grecians began a chant (to the tune of 'Knees Up Mother Brown') of "You're not num-ber one, you're not num-ber one; you're not number, you're not number, you're not num-ber one..." Yup, then two, three, four, five, six, and right through to 21. The whole thing must have taken ten minutes, and the final verdict a less than flattering "'cos you're sh*te." Poor boy.
Incidentally, the Crawley matchday programme is informative, well-written and well-designed. A good addition to the collection.