When the draw was made for the FA Cup preliminary rounds we all licked our lips at the prospect of watching Lewes play someone new away from home. After all, all non league fans crave a visit to a new ground. We are all sad like that. Sure, Wembley is very nice, and the pies at the Amex are top drawer, but we really want a pint of local Wibbly Bottom and an old school bus shelter being used as a dug out.
Thanks to their relegation from the Blue Square Bet South, Lewes were thrown into the competition a round earlier this season, meaning that we would almost certainly get a new place to visit, and that is exactly what we got. Drawn to play the winner of Cobham/Badshot Lea or Chertsey Town. Now this to me is a great idea. My interest in the Extra-Preliminary Round was focused on the Cobham v Badshot Lea tie, because one of them could be our destination. Likewise in the Preliminary Round for the Badshot v Chertsey Town game, which got the better of a few members of the Lewes Lunatic Fringe who decided to do a bit of scouting as you can read about here. Why not do all of the draw right up until the semi-finals in the same way? What an incentive to know that if Cobham did overcome Badshot Lea, Chertsey Town and Lewes (and then for instance Bromley, Dartford, Darlington, Bury, Rochdale, Chelsea, Everton, QPR and Man City) they would be playing at Wembley. Incentive indeed. But they didn’t, and they wont.
So here we were off to Chertsey, or Certesi as the Doomsday Book called it. Sacked by the Danes in the 9th century for eating Marmite and drinking Red Bull (an in-joke there for us expats working in Copenhagen) it grew due to the opening of Thorpe Park in 1066 which was the first medieval theme park*. Just under 1,000 years later and it is the 2nd most visited theme park in the UK, with nearly 2million people a year paying for long queues, overpriced food and general disappointment – which when you write it like that should appeal to all Arsenal fans.
It is a shame that on this Saturday that just 1.5 miles down the road the “Magic of the FA Cup” was kicking into gear. Thousands of lost souls will have passed so close to salvation, only to end up in an endless queue for 30 seconds of “excitement” on Stealth. For less than the price of a burger at Wembley Stadium you could have gained entry into Alwyns Lane and experienced joy on the faces of the fans as Christian Nanetti danced his way around the home team’s defence. Well that was the theory anyway.
FA Cup day meant an early start for the Lewes Lunatic Fringe. We didn’t want to miss any of the fun. The special non league trousers© were getting their first airing of the season, rosettes had been pressed and rattles oiled. Buckle up boys the real thrill ride was about to start and it was 90 minutes long.
Chertsey Town 4 Lewes 1 – Alwyns Lane – Saturday 17th September 2011
Chertsey Town 4 Lewes 1 – Alwyn Lane – Saturday 17th September 2011
I don’t want to talk about it, ok? Even now, four hours after the final whistle I still get angry just thinking about it. How could they fail so miserably? After all, Non League football is all about the chips and Chertsey Town let us all down with none on offer. Oh, the football. Right. Well there was certainly goals, dubious refereeing decisions, thunder, lightning which was lyrically very very frightening.
Often you get two goals in a game that are almost identical, but in this game we had four goals that seemed like action replays of each other. Set piece into the penalty area and a decent header into the net. All good stuff apart from three of them happened to be from Chertsey as they powered to what eventually was an easy win for the team from the Evostik South Central Division One Southern League, or something. Their cause was helped by a number of factors.
Firstly the rain. This wasn’t just a “slight shower” that the good looking women on Sky told me personally this morning – “You will experience a few light showers this afternoon” she said, and I couldn’t not believe her when she gave me a cheeky wink too. This was possible game abandonment rain. Of course at 0-0 nobody wanted to see that, but after Phil Page had scored his second to put the home side 2-1 up it would have been the best decision he made all afternoon.
Ah yes, the referee. Or more so his two officials. Absolutely clueless. Idiot number one indicated that Lewis Hamilton should be red carded for a professional foul when the ball was running towards the touchline and he was in front of the forward, and then idiot two gave a goal when Bennett’s cannonball of a shot hit the bar, post and line. Quite how he saw this when he was five yards away from being level to see, and the speed of the ball made it impossible to see.
Stats never lie and in this instance Chertsey’s eight shots on target to Lewes’s one gives you an idea that this was as one sided as the result suggests. We left with our tails hanging between our legs and sought solace in the George Inn. When you are down it is not handy to walk into the most depressing pub in the world. But that just summed up our day perfectly. Hopefully, as Chesney Hawkes so famously said, this would be the “One and Only” time we would be coming down to Chertsey. Who wants to go to Wembley anyway.
*This fact cannot be verified, but a bloke in the pub told us and it is not on Wikipedia so it must be true.
If you want the 12″ Extended Shep Pettibone Remix of Chesney 4 Lewes 1 then head over to Stuart’s site The Ball Is Round. All words and pictures by Stuart Fuller.