As I’m sure we’re all aware, the FA Vase is drawn regionally up until this round so this is the last game before they go national. In events elsewhere that rather ominous FA Vase munching machine, Whitley Bay, strolled into the 4th round with a 5-1 humping of another former winner Bridlington Town.
Both of those teams are in about the same position in different leagues at level 9 in the pyramid. Bay 5th in the Northern League, Bridlington 4th in the Northern Counties East League. Why am I babbling on about two Northern sides in a report about a Kent league Vase derby?
Well, aside from looking to emulate the previous winners, the Kent League duo are also at level 9 in the pyramid; like Brid, VCD are 4th while, like Bay, Tunbridge Wells are 5th. These two teams should have no fear about going far in this tournament and, on the evidence of this game, either side has the individuals to do it but, as a group, not sure either has the temperament to actually go all the way. We’ll see.
VCD were born of the old Vickers (V) works team in Crayford (C), on the Kent/South East London borders. The (D) stands for, seems to be Dartford. A more anodyne little ‘burb you’d struggle to find. With its selection of bland, unappealing and uninviting pubs you could be forgiven for getting to Crayford and then immediately leaving. It would be foolish though, for the Oakwood sports ground is rather grand.
From opening turnstile you get a vista of a sloping runway down to pitch level. We’ve noted the aspect on The Ball Is Round and Tales From The Pigeon Stands before and both of them seem to have visited on much more pleasant days. Those two venerable sites have documented the whys and wherefores of a trip to VCD so while you click the links (not now, later!) we’ll concentrate on the day.
Today was bitter, Bovril was taken prior to kick off, which is a first for this season. Next to the turnstiles is a little building that tea bar manager Maxine told us would soon be a club shop (excellent, non league club shops rule) and next to that is the VCD committee room. It takes it’s place above the pitch looking imperiously down upon the action below.
For the first 20 mins or so the dignitaries watched over some engaging play from both sides until a shambles in the tightest defence in the Kent League (just 8 goals conceded thus far) gifted Cornell the ball about 6 yards out and he tucked it past the keeper – VCD 0-1 Tunbridge Wells.
It wasn’t that long until VCD were level, the goal was deserved but controversial when it arrived. Seconds earlier the VCD no.9 Aiden Pursglove, a rather annoyingly waspish Paul Dickov of a striker, had held the ball up well at the corner flag but lost it thanks to an obvious twinge in his hamstring. He stood there rubbing it while the ball was cleared, except it wasn’t cleared very well and came right back towards him. The defence stood statuesque waiting for him to be whistled for offside, he wasn’t taking part in play and was still oohing and ahhing like Kajagoogoo (look it up, youngsters) while the lino steadfastly, and correctly to the letter of the convoluted law, failed to flag. The overlapping Wheeler was not offside and his pin-point cross was headed home by Scotter.
Letter of the law or not, twas a bit of a tricky call for the lino because, although Pursglove was clearly not active, the ball was just a few feet from him when crossed. The Wells defence didn’t play to the whistle but, on top of that, they outnumbered the forwards in the box by at least 3 to one so how they failed to get to the ball first is beyond me.
In mitigation, they may have been lulled into a false sense of security by a linesman’s error just a couple of minutes earlier. A ball was lobbed forward and Pursglove had nipped past the last man as the ball was played, only to be flagged offside when he received it. It wasn’t offside when the ball was played, I and the ten or so other people standing serendipitously parallel with the lino and the last line of defence quite clearly saw Pursglove was onside when the ball was played. Pursglove isn’t that fast, for a start, the lino was ball watching – and we’re usually so very pro linos.
What? What? Nooooo? You’re shittin’ me, it is! An ice cream van sailed past the chilly ground, full jingle blasting. I tweeted. Dangermousebot came to the rescue. I was distracted back to the game by a roar of “DON’T BE TOO PRETTY” from one of the benches. I assumed it was VCD as they had possession, although they may have been talking about Darryl Hannah [later].
Just a few minutes before half time and it was 2-1 to the home side, Pursglove turning his man, taking a touch and lashing into the roof of the net, his mysteriously healed hamstring not restricting him at all.
Half time, more Bovril. Brrrr. For those who follow our tweets you may have noticed mention of chazzundave. Pre-match it appeared to be Chas & Dave Live, at half time my hands were too cold to care. I nearly spat out my hand-warming Bovril when I saw Darryl Hannah in the match programme looking like a terrible genetic experiment with a fish had gone horribly wrong. Hang on, no, not the mermaid thing, that Bride of Wildenstein thing.
Up to now the game had been pretty good without really kicking on and after just a few minutes of the second half it looked to have gone horribly wrong for Tunbridge as they shipped a third. But, with an hour gone, Tunbridge got one back and the game got all proper Cup match.
VCD had looked in control but the goal gave them the proverbial jitters and after a period of classic end to end shenanigans, xxxx pulled back a Wells forward who was through on goal and got his marching orders. Cue ten minutes of kitchen sink and Tunbridge equalised. I then spent the rest of the game wondering why Tunbridge hadn’t turned the screw and how VCD managed to compose themselves and get back in to the game.
What I’d failed to notice was a shove and second yellow for brace-scorer Cornell. Durrrr. My excuse was I was watching the Tunbridge fans. I was standing beside one of the goals and the Wells fans were mostly on the turnstile-side but there were half a dozen or so on the other side and they started singing “Tunbridge, give us a wave” to each other across the pitch.
Mission: Generate an atmosphere in a crowd of about 80. Mission Accomplished. Briefly.
My frozen fingers were praying for a winner but it failed to materialise. Extra time was 30 minutes of endeavour, more end to end action, chances for both sides, but, although both were trying to win it, they were tired, weren’t over committing so chances were of the half variety. A post may have been hit, some onion bag minder’s palms were warmed and some time was wasted, most notably by the home keeper who then wasted some more yapping to away fans when they called him on it.
Actually, an amusing afternoon and some good play. No idea who will win the replay, if I had to have a bet, probably Tunbridge now.
This is so late I can tell you the replay score was 2-0 to Wells.