the real fa cup

Paulton 1 – 2 Clevedon

noname Paulton Rovers 1 – 2 Clevedon Town – FA Cup Preliminary Round

2 years ago, Paulton Rovers made it all the way through to the first round proper and a tie against Norwich. There are some teams from the lower leagues who seem to have a knack for the Cup, but for Paulton it looks like a one off.

This game had some extra spark as a result of it being a derby, as well as it being a repeat of last Monday’s league game. 5 days ago, Paulton ran out comfortable winners (2-0) and played some excellent football. What happened in those 5 days is difficult to figure. Paulton have lost the influential Ben Cleverley to the town of my birth, Weston-Super-Mare but that alone cannot have been enough to explain the shift in the balance between the sides. Perhaps it was 5 days simmering resentment for Clevedon, complacency by Paulton, or just a case of the Clevedon players being really up for the cup.

From the off, Clevedon looked the better side – first to every stray ball, and getting a toe on almost every clearance the Paulton defenders made. Those toes were to no instant avail but really set the tone, letting Rovers know that they would not be given a moment to settle. Denied that time, Paulton really struggled to play the passing game they had employed in the league clash and had little answer to Clevedon’s industry other than the classic centre back’s angled punt to a forward line without the muscle to make anything of it.

noname_1 I should say, at this point, that I spent much of the first half looking nervously along the touch line. Not because of a particular fear of quick Clevedon wingers (although they both put in a good performance), but because I was desperately hoping that the back cover to my work-issue Blackberry was not going to be crushed under an onrushing stud. Keen to get some photographs to go with this report, I pulled out said Blackberry as the half kicked off only to find that the camera zoom was not working. This is apparently a known issue which is corrected by taking out the battery. Unfortunately, the wind caught the back cover as I popped it off and dumped it right on the touchline. I considered leaping the wall to collect it as the game kicked off, but the risk of making an utter arse of myself was just too high. Miraculously it survived until half time when a kindly Clevedon sub collected it for me.

The opening goal came from a silly moment of confusion mid way through the half. Clevedon striker Josh Klein-Davies was comfortably 15 yards offside and walking back with his hand in the air, averring his lack of involvement in the move. Paulton’s centre back (Mapstone) collected the ball and, assuming there was an offside, casually over ran it slightly, failing to realise that the main threat was not the man with his hand in the air, but his team mate, Cameron Ricketts steaming through from midfield. Having nicked the ball off the defender’s toes and driven forward, he pulled it back to his (originally offside) team mate for an easy, tidy finish. Perfectly legal. Perfect example of the modern offside rule being less than intuitive.

noname_2 Paulton didn’t really threaten in response and looked a shadow of the side which had won the previous encounter.

The occasional niggliness of the first half continued and grew in the second, with a handbaggsy spat between the two no.8s from the previous game gaining fresh momentum. If I’m honest, I love a bit of squabbling in these games, and an excuse to offer the referee the benefit of my consummate experience as a rotund and limited midfielder.

Clevedon continued to have the edge, winning the second balls and drawing fouls from the Paulton full backs on a regular basis. They got a second when the ball broke to an unmarked Lloyd Mills near the penalty spot following a scrappy few seconds in the Paulton box. He took one touch and span the ball, side foot, past Kyle Phillips in the Rovers goal.

noname_3 Rather too late, the Rovers management realised that changes were needed and subbed both their wide men (Jeffries and Bridges) for Darren Madhi and Ben Lacey. Bridges returned to the club recently from a lower level and had frankly made no impact. Jeffries is a solid midfielder, but no winger and its tough to understand why the changes weren’t made earlier. I’ve not seen Madhi before (he having been suspended since joining in the summer – which is quite some suspension, and must have been for something quite exciting….) but he showed some nice tricks and touches.

The man who made a difference, however, was Ben Lacey. A talented wide player – without the departed Ben Cleverley’s cultured delivery, but with real speed and a good football brain. From thereon, the match was hard fought, but Paulton were very much in the ascendency. With about 15 minutes to go Lacey burst through the middle, took a slick pass, beat his man and drove the ball under the despairing keeper’s dive. 2-1 and game on.

noname_4 Chris Lewis (or Shrek, as he is known – for reasons which are immediately obvious even from some distance) came on for the hard working but ineffectual Jamie Taylor, bringing some urgency to the attack. In the previous game, Lewis was subbed mid way through the second half having thrown up several times in the midst of an already messy and congested midfield. Ironically, he was much better this time, but he couldn’t influence the result. The final push never really materialised, bar one blazing Darren Madhi strike which came off the post, and the game petered out to a comfortable Clevedon victory. It was perhaps notable that the most incisive moments of the entire game for Paulton came from the two second half substitutes. One suspects they will start next time out.

Special mentions are due to the Clevedon widemen and particularly Cameron Ricketts and the excellently named Reeko Best who gave the Paulton back line problems all afternoon, having failed to have any real effect 5 days earlier. The ref was guilty of occasional fussiness which made it very difficult to seem impartial, though I’m sure he was. Clevedon support was pretty vocal and impressive – they realised it was the cup, even if Paulton didn’t until the last 20 minutes.

noname_5 In all, a deserved victory for Clevedon who played with enormous determination and commitment, throwing the home side thoroughly off their game. A frustrating afternoon for those of us who favour Paulton, but there was recompense in the proximity of Tesco and the ability to pick up a good selection of Belgian beer, some chocolate, and a card for the wife’s birthday on the way home. Oh, and a copy of “Octonauts and the Giant Squid” for my son. I might say that, on occasion, the Paulton right back (Ollie Price) may have felt he was under the attentions of a giant squid, given the number of arms and grasping hands preventing him from jumping at every high ball…. But that’s largely a bitter flight of fancy.

By Simon Field

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