Football Kicks Off: Guinea pigs stuck in slough of despond: New rule exploited: Trevor Haylett fails to get a kick out of a dubious alternative to the throw-in

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that: loads and loads of big kicks. At Slough's Wexham Park, the opening fixture, a 2-2 draw against Hendon, was 30 seconds old when the ball ran out of play for the first time whereupon the home side's left-back placed it behind the touchline and sent it 50 yards upfield.

It was a rude return to English football for this World Cup observer, or at least to that corner of the game where the chance to use a kick-in instead of a throw threatens to put the boot into the progress secured this memorable summer through a tinkering with the laws. To kick or to throw is a rule change too far.

In practice the option is no option at all. Of the 51 occasions the ball crossed the touchline only six times was it returned the traditional way. Of those, all but one was a device for transferring the ball quickly to the goalkeeper who then launched it downfield. When Hendon sought that route for the first time they were penalised because the referee wrongly believed they had signalled a kick.

Only five seconds remained when the visitors executed a legal throw-in, by which time the Slough manager had seen enough. 'I would rather pack the game in than suffer matches where it is exploited like that,' Dave Russell said. 'The sooner it goes the better because all it does is give ordinary sides the chance to get in your six-yard box.'

His players were equally scathing, Graham Roberts, the former Tottenham enforcer, telephoning BBC Radio's Six-O-Six show to register his complaint. 'It is an absolute farce and takes all the enjoyment away,' he said. Lifelong supporter Mick Binks believes it will 'destroy' the game.

Yet in a sense Slough had the last laugh. Although Hendon shamelessly launched their missiles from afar they were unable to make them count; the hosts, looking to kick short to feet where possible, owed their second goal to a floated delivery from the right touchline.

Time stood still as Hendon placed the ball the stipulated distance (no more than three feet) behind the spot where it left the field and waited for their towering defender Nick Chilvers to take up his menacing forward position. Strange then to learn that the idea derived from Fifa's enthusiasm to make the game even faster.

Nick Robinson, the Diadora League secretary and an interested observer here, said that along with the Belgian and Hungarian Second Divisions they were willing recruits for a one-season experiment. A player has to signal his intent to kick by raising an arm. The ball must be stationary and opponents at least 10 yards away. Players cannot be offside and neither can goals be scored direct. The Diadora says it is a useful publicity tool but its managers are unhappy; rumour has it that some are colluding before games to disregard it.

In the thick of winter, when mud has supplanted grass, things might be different to what we saw here. Maybe it will encourage defenders to keep the ball in play more often. More likely it will prove one to lob back over the touchline into Fifa's dustbin.

Goals: Bushay (2) 1-0; McKimm (20) 1-1; Egbe (25) 1-2; Sayer (28) 2-2.

Slough (4-3-1-2): Bunting; Clement, Bateman, Baron, Lee; Hazel, Roberts, Catlin; West (Blackman, 80); Sayer, Bushay (Richardson, 60).

Hendon (3-1-3-3): Hudson; Stephenson, Chilvers, Dalton; Smart; Mathias, Richards, Sadler; McKimm (Lalor, 81), Egbe (Anderson, 76), Blair. Substitute not used: Nolan (gk).

Referee: M Stobbart (Guildford).