the real fa cup

Looking For Beaver Jokes. Failing.

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“Ten to six, we’ve got plenty of time for a burger”. Famous last words in a relaxed rural boozer. 15 mins to kick off and still no sign of it. The landlord slowly picks up his coat, pushed his arms through the sleeves with an aloof air and trundles off into the night, who knows where but he left with words tailing off that he had “told the girl where we were sitting”. Comforting. We bolt them down and pop round to the ground via a scene of high street bus blockage caused by a foolishly parked Merc.

As we slipped through the gates a cheer went up, sadly not for us. In the distance we could see red shirts trudging away from a goal. “Hampton 0 Braintree 1, Purcell” announced the scratchy tannoy, “after 9 minutes” it added to tell us how much we’d missed thanks to burger sloth. Doh. “Would the owner of a beige Mercedes registration number ….” Doh.

We aren’t sure what went on in the first 9 minutes but in the next 29 H&R hit the post, had one tipped round it, had a shot tipped along the bar and two shots tipped over it. In that time Braintree had not played badly, they simply got carved open time and time again by a side who’s performance belied their lowly league position.

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Braintree appeared to have weathered the storm on several occasions, only for the clouds to gather again each time. Even when breaking well Braintree saw both lino and ref fail to spot a blatant push on Purcell near Hampton’s left touchline.

In the 37th minute the bells started to toll for Braintree, literally, the church next door started clanging out random peals. Within a minute the literal bells were joined by the metaphorical and the Iron finally fell, to probably the most fortunate shot all match.

Judging by the number 2 on his back, midfield is not the usual position of H&R’s playmaker Marcello Fernandes but he had caused all manner of problems in the large spaces between Braintree’s banks of 4. Unmarked outside the box he lunged in, scooped a long range shot up and over the keeper and celebrated with a sliding dive (below right).

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As we were noting the goal, a man ambled past with assistance of stick and, to nobody in particular, whispered “you got your food alright then?” The landlord failed to wait for a response and shuffled off like a ghostly apparition towards the tolling bells.

Just before the break the lino gave Braintree offside, again wrongly, and the actual bells started to toll again. I shit you not, the metaphorical ones followed again. H&R 2 Braintree 1, Dundas puts the Beavers in front just before half time.

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It was a really nice ground actually. Compact and consisting of a mish mash of very small stands built in different eras, they came together to create a whole that exceeded the sum of its parts. Decent looking bar too. That was a cracking first half though, quite frenetic at the Braintree end and Hampton’s fans clearly hadn’t seen this sort of display in months. To add insult to injury, the ref was giving pretty much everything to the home side.

The second half started with Hampton’s Jamie Collins taking what the collective intake of male breath perceived to be a stud-scraping to the bollocks. He was prone for two minutes, face down in the dirt, hands cupped under him. The massed ranks of men around the ground turned into each other, wincing, peering through narrowed eyes to see if he got up. The lenses of cameras all around the ground were dropped in respect for this private moment. A small ripple of applause accompanied the continuation of the game but Collins was not happy and lasted few minutes more.

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The second half was more even than the first, Braintree now picking up Fernandes before he could get into the hole and, as a result, were not under so much pressure and getting more possession. It was now going end to end, if Braintree scored next things could get tense, if Hampton did it was probably game over.

Fernandes was still having a big say, though now much deeper. We don’t know much about this chap but if he played like that every week he would be a lot higher up the pyramid.

The first great chance falls to Braintree, Matt Game’s free kick is tipped around the post by Lovett. A few crosses each and some nice moves later, Fernandes arcs an awkward bouncing ball wide right to McDonald who wrong foots the defence by volleying first time across goal to Yaku. The Yak controls, turns and shoots in one movement and the ball flies unstoppably just under the bar. 3-1 H&R.

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The Beavers fans spread their lungs at last, “Beavers, Beavers, Beavers … ” and the game continued end to end, Braintree still with belief. Then in almost identical fashion to Wingate’s 2nd goal on Saturday, Barrie Matthews placed the ball across keeper McMahon and in off the post (left).

It has to be said the Braintree side featured a good few changes to those listed in the programme, possibly due to work commitments, which was a little unfortunate. They were however still giving it a go until the end, not daunted by the three goal deficit. Beavers fans by now were Ole-ing anything more than two consecutive passes and five youths in the Accord Accountants stand started a Mexican wave among themselves.

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All very funny, Matt expressed his utter disdain for Ole’s and Simon noted Arsenal’s failure to ever score at the end of a series of Ole’s. I was silent, struggling to remember the last time I witnessed Ole’s at an Ipswich game …

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