the real fa cup

Pitch Battle On Red Bridge


Redbridge 2 London Colney 0
This year has been the year of the excuse. In the World Cup it was the new Jabulani ball and in the English Cup finals and play off finals it was the pitch. In the case of the ball it was clear to us and we blogged about it then. In the case of the pitches, we saw the FA Vase final and the Championship play off final and neither were adversely affected as a spectacle and not obviously from a technical point of view. And all four teams we saw in those games could be described as ‘passing teams’. So, either the pitch at Wembley wasn’t that bad, or the other teams playing on it were a bunch of moaning ne’er-do-wells. At the time, we thought the latter.

At Redbridge v London Colney there was such an issue, it did seem to affect the game but the players, to their eternal credit, got on with it. Colney had upset the odds on their FA Cup travels, especially in beating Marlow in the last round, while shorn of a net minder. Here, though, according to our man in the know, without the injured keeper, their top striker and key midfielder they were going to find it tricky.


Our day started at the Nightingale pub in Snaresbrook with its menu of seafood and an eclectic half dozen ales. I used to live round here so I knew this pub and it hadn’t changed, thank god. Much more convivial than most of the Sky holes in the area. The house opposite had a flip flop on the roof. The house next door had the other of a matching pair. If god had meant sunbathing to be done in the sky, he wouldn’t have put deckchairs on the floor. Just about made it to the game on time, it was kicking off just as we came through the turnstiles

This game was a little odd. Schizophrenic. There were clearly some good players on that Barkingside pitch, for both sides, and every now and then you got a glimpse, a touch, a pass, a feint, a dribble that showed it. But there was also a lot more misplaced passes, misguided dribbles and wild, frustrating shots than is usually the case at this level.


One reason, possibly the only reason, for the schizophrenia on the pitch was the pitch itself. According to both Adrian, the Redbridge kit man, and Adam, the Redbridge press guy, the pitch was a vast improvement on last season but it still looked tricky to play on in places. The slight slope was not really an issue but the undulations and bumpy surface were responsible for some embarrassing looking things. And so, here, we might have to rethink our position on team’s moans about Wembley’s dodgy pitch.

Having seen the glimpses of control, touch and sureness of pass in certain clean areas of the pitch, we can only deduce that the mistakes in the others were entirely down to it. Both sides set up 4-4-2, the home team occasionally had Agdomar in the hole and Colney seemed quick to release their left sided midfielder into an attacking three on occasion when they built up a spell of possession, which in truth wasn’t that often. Often, such a pitch can provide entertainment and even it up but Colney never adjusted to it and the home side knew the areas in which to not mess around.

But what a nice place to watch football. The slightly raised ‘home’ end and main stand give a perspective on the game than most non-league grounds don’t. And at the other end you can stand on a mound and, should you so wish and you don’t get told to move along, glance over the pretty, protected, grassland adjacent to the ground. And, despite the regulation lager frenzy, the club bar was a new, comfortable, sizeable place that is going ot be invaluable in the winter.


With mid range passing very difficult due to bobbles, the home side knew it was more worthwhile either working the channels and hoping the ball held up, or short quick passing. This made the game very schizophrenic, when the quick passes worked, it looked very good, when the channels were worked the subsequent crosses were rather aimless and hung up, presumably to hope for head and legislate against problematic bounces.

In all honesty, it wasn’t a bad game, the players got on with it without fuss and it started quite brightly, one of the first moments of note was the goal. A ball into the left channel appeared to herald another lofted cross but, one of the game’s stand out performers, Redbridge’s Julian Ashby, took his time, cut inside, beat two men, exchanged a one-two with Julian Edwards and passed the ball into the far corner. As a sign of things to come it was encouraging but the game never really burst into life.

It was a professional job by Redbridge and, bar a couple of mazy runs by Parkinson, London Colney never really looked like scoring. Though whether this was down to them being unaccustomed to the pitch, that they were missing key players or simply had an off day as underdogs is difficult to tell. For example, in the first half, Parksinson went on a mazy run, beating 3 or 4 players but rather than shoot he chose to try to beat another, although from distance it looked as though it bobbled away from a shooting position so he had to try to beat another. In the opening minutes of the second half we watched from the bar as he again twinkled his way down the left before disappointingly dragging his shot very poorly wide.


Not long after that Redbridge had the game won and it was a good move of swift short passes, this time down the right that worked a small window for Sonny Adams. He still had a lot to do but finished smartly and accurately from the edge of the box. If you’d just seen the highlights of the two goals you’d probably wonder what on earth we thought was wrong with the pitch but it was quite frustrating seeing players nervously awaiting the ball’s arrival or raising their heads skywards as it skipped away from them.

There’s definitely one set of rules for some and other rules for another. It would appear that if you are not a celebrity football player, you must just get on with playing your game and not blame the pitch, lose or win, as was the case here. Or, if you are a significantly better glamour player who should be more able to deal with the vagaries of a pitch, you can moan and bitch about it all you like. Conclusion: yet further example of the pampered superstar and his fragile ego and temparement, coupled with a deep and firm belief that it ‘wasn’t his fault’ if it went wrong – but it was all about him if it went right. Simplistic, I am sure, true, I am even more certain.

On a carpet both these sides should be worth a watch and we’ll definitely go back to Redbridge as it was a good place to watch football, was chilled out and is right next to the tube. What more could you want?

More photos of the day here and here.

Thanks to Nick Ames of lastseatontheplane and his accomplice ‘Del’ for added info and thanks to Adrian & Adam at Redbridge.

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Non League Day
Bobby Robson Foundation