the real fa cup



I’m sure Rob Edmans has grown about a foot since I saw him last, a year ago! I remember him playing well, remember him missing a sitter and setting up a goal but at no point during that game did I think, ‘he’s a big lad!’ But he is, about seventeen metres worth.

1,024 people popped down to Colston Avenue to witness a vibrant game, a good atmosphere but a good deal of frustration for both sides and the neutral. The source of frustration for everyone was the final ball. The main culprits in an otherwise competent and relatively purist display by both sides were the pair of number tens but, in particular, Chelmsford’s Anthony Cook. Ahhhrggghhh!!!


But first, and indeed last, there was the small matter of Bar Billiards, a fine pub, friendly locals and a mini beer festival. Having never been to Carshalton for either football or cultural delights, we didn’t really know what to expect. BeerInTheEvening for once came good, although the 7/10 their reviewers afforded The Hope must have meant there was a load of soulless Chelsea fans in recently expecting Stella, a fight and chicken in a basket.


In a week where modern football’$ headline$ have been dominated by court ca$e$, underhand contract negotiation$, cheating and, quelle $urpri$e, money, we’d found a pub with a bit of soul and olde worlde warmth and charm. We’d found Hope, The Hope, we hoped we’d find more at 3pm.

Having spotted a chalk sign outside that said they were currently serving Dark Star’s 5.2% Oktoberfest beer. Get in. “Two pints of Oktoberfest please”. “Pardon? We don’t have that on” said the barmaid. “Oh, it’s just, it says you do outside.” “Hahahaha, you don’t want to believe what you read out there” she said with a dismissive cheeriness that indicated we should have known better. We didn’t, we’d never been there before. But we do now. Humbled and slightly disappointed for about 2 seconds, we were cheered when a list of about 20 ales was thrust excitedly into our grubby, pasty-soiled hands.


A few minutes later we’d had our first sip of mini beer festival ale and were helping the barmaid remove the ‘florins’ from the antique bar billiards table so we could figure out how to play it. Wrongly, as it turned out, we noted, when briefly watching a spectacularly bearded local chap and fellow footy bloggers including Terry, Gary and Jamie post-match, before we had to hot-foot it back in to London.

The cosy pub front looked like someone’s lounge, the U shape round the bar busy but not packed, and when the downpour and grey squall hit, while we were drinking Red Squall, at about 2pm we were not in the slightest bit concerned. We’d happily have stayed there rather than brave the rain – fairweather FA Cup bloggers, aren’t we?


We parked ourselves behind the dugouts in the elevated side stand, as is our wont these days, and, seemingly, 60% of the crowd had done the same. Until the toss, that is, when ends were chosen and the usual but still amusing evacuation by fans to go to the end towards which their team were attacking. All of a sudden it was much quieter.

“Whats it like to see a crowd” was the opening gambit of the Clarets fans in the newly created away end. Carshalton started well and had 20 minutes or so where they committed players forward in numbers when on the attack. The game was quite even, there was tidy play but neither side could really produce that bit of quality in the final third.


The first time anyone did, Harrison was played in through the middle and skimmed the crossbar as the linesman’s flag went up for offside. He also hit the post moments after former Ipswich and AFC Wimbledon keeper James Pullen had been booked for a hilariously incompetent attempt at heading the ball away from just outside the right hand edge of his area led to him bundling over the winger.


Unable to find a way through Carshalton started to sit back, contain and play on the break. Chelmsford didn’t look particularly comfortable being encouraged to play this role. They had lots of possession that Anthony Cook often wasted when playing the final ball and the Clarets defence looked creaky when Harrison was running at them.


Chelmsford manager Glenn Pennyfather was far from being chirpy, he often appeared from inside the concrete dugouts to mutter expletives into the advertising hoardings. There were also some odd comments coming from the crowd around us. “Hello sailor!” ??? “He’s not a ladder” more obvious after someone was climbing all over someone else. Wags.

Just before half time I went on an expedition for toilet. We’d already noted the toilet signs pointing towards sealed corrugated fencing behind the ‘away’ end so had to try the door below the massive TOILET sign. Locked! Surely there isn’t just one toilet and someone is in it?  Eventually in the bar there it was.

The second half continued in a similar vein and the pleasure derived from watching two teams largely keeping the ball on the floor, not one lost ball in the first hour, was beginning to wither into frustration at the decent build up petering out with final ball wastefulness. Harrison, finding it increasingly obvious his marker couldn’t cope with him, was setting off in pursuit of throughballs increasingly early and was flagged off side time and again. “The offside intelligence of Sylvain Wiltord”, noted Simon.


Harrison was then booked for a dive that seemed less simulation and more desperate attempt to keep the ball in play. Pullen looked to have caught him but the ball was already heading out of play. Definitely no penalty but the booking looked harsh. The ref, though, injury time apart, had a pretty decent game where he wasn’t noticed.


But then a slip from the left back (I think) in the 89th minute let in Joseph who rather expertly chipped Pullen and sent Carshalton into the first round proper. At least that’s what we all thought because Chelmsford hadn’t really looked like finishing anything all afternoon, indeed both teams shooting had been woeful. Last year’s unfortunate anti-hero of Dartford v Chelmsford, Rob Edmans, had been brought on and had caused a few problems with the prodigious height we hadn’t noticed last season.

Like the first half, a baffling amount of injury time had been added on and rising like the proverbial salmon Edmans nodded a cross back across the face of goal and into the net. Cue wild scenes behind the goal and some unseemly ones in front of the main stand, where some things were thrown and some minor scuffles broke out. An old man stood by, ready, walking stick raised in case any young hoodlum dared come near him.


Carshalton 1 Chelmsford 1 (Replay Monday 25th October)

With a home draw for the winners against either Hendon or Met Police, the winner will fancy their chances of progressing into round two and a dream tie. We left swiftly and headed for a quick pint before the enforced trip back in to London. The Hope really is a great pub and the atmosphere was even better when we returned. After a quick hello and goodbye to the aforementioned bloggers we left happy that after a week of football dirge we’d had a good day and lived the anti-modern football dream. The Hope is still there for both teams, shame there can’t be a second replay …

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