the real fa cup

Lucky escape

Northwich Victoria 0 AFC Telford 3
This was, technically, a bottle job. The best part of 5 hours travelling thanks to train cancellations and several changes and detours put us off, as did some Friday night engagements that would have made the journey painful. Not sure we’re quite cut out for this Cup journey but it turned out to be a gloriously fortunate piece of bottling and, instead, we went to see a potential upset with one of last season’s non-league trailblazers.

Crawley 0 Havant & Waterlooville 3
Attendance 1,253
Price £13

We got there just in time and with only just enough money to get in. The announcer said there were 187 H&W fans in the crowd, a far cry from the thousands that went to Anfield last year. It would seem the romance isn’t as strong near Gatwick as it is on Merseyside. A guy standing next to us asked a mate “Where’s Bill”? “At home. He refused to pay £13.” I wonder if Bill said that when they went to Anfield? Let’s not forget that here Havant are actually playing a team a division above them in the pyramid. The romance of drawing Kerry Katona in 4th prelim this year appears to have been somewhat spoilt for H&W fans by flirting with Heidi Klum last year.

The Hawks fans that did make it were in good voice and “Dirty northern bastards” was a hackneyed but witty favourite. Surely they can’t fit Havant & Waterlooville into a song? No, they can’t, instead they sing ‘Havantville’ in one song and another where they repeat “Havant, Havant Havant” and then shout “LOOVILLE”. For their part the Crawley fans bought mainly silence and left their hilariously pathetic attempt at riling the Hawks fans with a Pompey chime until they were 3-0 down. Losers.

Havantville stand

H&W’s defence was immense, the midfield terrier like and the lone forward a willing runner. They were under pressure early on but it was a very even first half that ended 0-0 with some neat passing, a few long shots but few chances. At half time we needed grub but had no cash. The steward told us the pub over the roundabout had a cash machine so we took a ticket and went. Like much of Crawley both pub and machine were broken and the clientele as transient as the nearby airport. We trudged back and, just as we walked behind the stand we’d been in, a ball came over, presumably from an errant substitute’s warm-up shot. I wasn’t going to miss this chance, like an excited child I rushed to the ball first and drop kicked it perfectly back into the ground. Yes!

Crawley were awful for a side on the brink of the league and, at the time, joint top of that league. Simpemba, one of H&W’s towering centre backs, headed in the opening goal and then Crawley’s most constructive player, Thomas Pinault, showed some gallic hot headedness and got himself sent off with a Cantona-style lunge at a H&W player who appeared to actually be on the floor getting treatment – might have imagined this bit but it seemed the funniest of the five red cards we’d seen so far. Simpemba headed an almost identical second and someone else scored to make it a very comfortable 3-0 win for H&W. On the way out I heard a fan excitedly proclaim “it’s happening again”. He was feeling the romance still but, sadly for H&W, the players weren’t. The fickle mistress of the FA Cup dumped them in the next round and started seeing some other non-league hopeful.

Crawley thrashed

And now it’s time for Sports Report. “Northwich .v. Telford, match abandoned at half time due to floodlight failure”. Woohoo, we dodged a bullet there, £70 and 12 hours saved. However, we vowed we would make up for not going to it by making sure we went to every game from now on and go to an extra game. And we’re on the highlights of the 3rd goal too, just behind the goal, laughing at the 1000 dismal Crawley fans.

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