the real fa cup

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Sutton United 0 – 2 Notts County
FA Cup 2nd Round 2011/12

So, Notts County are now definitely, officially, the English Anglo Italian Cup Winners Cup Winners!

Last time we went to Sutton was in the second qualifying round. One of us was suffering very badly from ‘lunching’ very heartily the previous day. As a result, our match report was … errr … compact and bijou, Peter. This time, no such problem. Fresh juice was supped, salad was  eaten, oxygen tents were used. And then we went and spoiled it all by drinking something stupid like a porter. Or two. The pre-match lunch of nutty 6% food in the fabulous Hope was, perhaps, a foolhardy choice of solids. As a result, who knows what will follow?

We picked up our tickets from the club and bumped into realfacup stalwart, Agent Gerard, Sutton United’s club secretary who secretly wishes he worked for us, not Sutton United, and one day he might when the whole of the world’s media bow at our feet and realise what they actually need is rambling half-memories of games featuring some, lots, little or no actual discussion of the game [yawn – ed].

There were queues, we dodged them, a rare excursion round the tradesman’s entrance, up the back stairs and down through the main stand. We were ushered into a darkened room. Behind a velvet curtain lay a glass cabinet. In the glass cabinet was a relic. It was imbued with the dull warmth that only a biege car coat can give. A coat of few colours, a coat that had itself been imbued with some of the finest cup shocks known to man. Here lay John Motson’s crib sheet from 1989. Yes, here were his pre-match scribblings from Sutton United 2 Coventry City 1, the biggest Cupset of the last 30 years, or more. Fresh from this brief brush with greatness we were emboldened. As the crowd hove into view this most familiar of grounds, to us, was transformed from one usually well-garnished with fans to one heartily fed but not bloated with people. There was a hubbub too. If all games were like this, the footballing world would be a much better place.

Where we stood on the Curva Sud as the game started, it was oddly subdued. There was some distant noise coming from the usual yellow hardcore but, among the general bluster of a fuller ground, it seemed slightly lost. Though it may have been the aural perspective on the exposed terrace, in the second half down the other side it sounded much louder. There were, apparently, some Notts County fans in.

Here it starts to go a little fuzzy. Mr Porter really started to take its toll and, ultimately, led to an uncharacteristic expletive-riddled outburst straight down aerials and onto our Twitter feed. Tsk, norty boys. Sutton were arguably the better side in the opening half an hour. Sure, there was some last ditch defending but it was, largely, not the Blue Square South side who were having to do it. Sodje was proving an immovable object though and, against the run of play, typically, fresh from being accused of further misdemeanours, Lee Hughes’ predatory instincts were forensically sharp.

Oh, no, you see, what we did there was to pretend not to know it was Jeff Hughes just so we could get some hot news in!  Though, in fairness to people who are hair-blind, it would have been difficult to tell the difference as Jeff turned in a very swift cross-cum shot, to which he had only a fraction of a second to react.

The previously reliable Sodje hauled down the busy Watkins and Griffiths put the penalty too close the keeper. Not the best pen but not the worst. Had Nelson gone the other way, it would certainly have gone in. It wasn’t Sutton’s day. “No more dreaming about tomorrow, forget the loneliness and sorrow.” [heh – ed]

At this point, there was a tape-loading error and I must rewind the tape, adjust the sound levels and try again …

Errr, what happened next … ?  *rubs eyes* *thinks hard* Half time.

What we really needed was a spot of supper. Go out of the ground, you say? Get into the bar round the back? OK. Here we found a new bar we’d never been to before, THE MAIN ROOM! And it had a supper of Tribute! (It may not have been Tribute but it was something of that ilk, something good, a filling food substitute that would make us feel better). And there were some men setting up a variety of noisy looking instruments on the stage. Ooooh! At non-league clubs you often get tribute bands, beveragely apt here. It’s always just one band though. By Jovi! Jeff Leppard. Faux Fighters. The Southmartins. We want them all on one bill, man. Make it happen!

Sutton had dancing girls. They looked freezing. I can’t remember what they danced to. It wasn’t Chaka Demus and, indeed, Pliers, which was number one when Notts County beat Sutton in 1994 and it wasn’t the aforementioned Kylie & Jason, number one when Sutton beat Coventry in 1989. More. Is. The. Pity. Especially for us.

The sureness of touch you get when a professional footballer is confident seeped through County’s players after the first goal and returned after the penalty miss and half time. Sutton prodded but never really looked like scoring. A few headers floated past the post but few close enough to cause any but a few Sutton fans to inhale sharply. Unfortunately, some of County’s players were going down a bit easily to kill time, they may even have had just cause at times but it was a little irksome after a while. Although our blind partisanship may be obscuring this a little.

But, enormous credit to the Magpie coloured team from the middle of England for avoiding the cliched bananaskin, they did enough, professionally enough, to hold out. When Murray got his second yellow and Sutton were down to  ten, Hughes poked in from close range for County’s second. Once again therealfacup were left scrabbling around on the floor for a mislaid piece of genuine cup shock. Underdogs will start turning us away from gates soon. So, if you run a big club and you’re playing a small club, guarantee yourself a place in the next round by sending us tickets. *Waves in Brighton & Hove Albion’s general direction – we’ll need about eight tickets*

Sutton were out and we retired to watch Pete Loaf. The Tribute ran out so we moved on to a pub, the name of which we can’t remember to meet with a few Sutton fans, led by Morph, sans Tony Hart and Chas but with the mysterious Amber Rambler. Commiseratory tea was taken. We missed the last train. We had a kebab. We had to get a taxi home. Thirty sheets! Thirty! Monday was very painful.

And Simon left his camera in the cab – photos to follow. [hic]

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