the real fa cup

The Other Nirvana

Stuart Fuller takes a trip to Lincoln to see a United – and a Nirvana.

You can tell it was an FA Cup day when I woke up ridiculously excited about going to football, just because one of the sides had a funny name. I love the early rounds of the cup where teams like Pilkington XXX, Blackstones and Jarrow Roofing Boldon CA have you frantically searching Google maps to locate where these mystical places are.

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But today I was in for a treat. There are few teams left in the FA Cup who share their name with a world famous band. Whilst (Mick) Hucknall Town and (George) Formby were at home, they were simply crap singers. Today was all about the Team Spirit of Thurnby Nirvana, and their away tie at Lincoln United.

Few people probably knew Lincoln had a United – in fact in English football I think only Manchester, Cambridge and Oxford can boast a City/United rivalry. Their indelible mark on the FA Cup was losing 7-0 in the 1st round to Huddersfield Town twenty one years ago. But their picturesque Ashby Avenue ground is today hosting some of the biggest name in the game, as it is the home ground of FA Women’s Super League side Lincoln Ladies.

Thurnby had made the trip up from the edge of Leicester. I can never lay claim to visiting, or even passing through the village but with just the single pub I doubt I ever will. Exactly the sort of place that would lead you to experience the “profound peace of mind that is acquired with liberation” – aka nirvana. However, they had actually acquired the name after merging with Leicester Nirvana back in 2008. Hmm, Leicester is many things but I’ve never seen it referred to as a place of profound piece of mind.

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Since 2008 the club have been on an upward curve in the East Midlands League, and earned a place in the FA Cup for the first time last season. But this was to be a tricky tie against Evostik League South Division Lincoln United.

So why was I here and not watching my beloved Lewes FC? A long story involving a trip to Düsseldorf and Marrakech and collecting the young Fullers from various relatives in these parts.  My brother-in-law, Northern Steve was also coming along as an escape from the decorating. He doesn’t normally need an excuse, but today pulled out the one about going to see a “man about a dog” – quite literally (Jamie) he had arranged to meet someone about looking after his dogs when he was away.

So did we get £7 (and a free programme’s) worth of entertainment. In a one word answer, oh yes. Whilst the goal count stopped at just three, with Nirvana progressing to the next round with £1,750 in their back pocket, the drama echoed all around the pitch. Tackles flew in, handbags were raised, bars were hit and we went without a beer – something unheard of at any non league game at this level.

Lincoln started the brighter, hitting the bar early in the game. But after 15 minutes Thurnby realised they actually had 10 outfield players and started passing the ball to the flanks (take note Allardyce). They started exploiting the Lincoln full backs, including Player-Manager Terry Fleming. It came as no surprise when George Himan deflowered the game when he netted from close range on the half hour.

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Half time and time for a slice of Jeff Stelling and a contribution to the Lincoln United budget at the bar. Except there wasn’t a bar for us paying fans. Directors, officials and guests could sup in the bar, watching the latest scores roll in, but we were directed to the Willy White Suite, which was a small counter from which the strongest thing on offer was some stewed onions for the hot dogs.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first. Lincoln started on top, then Thurnby realised they had two wingers and started using them. The ball started pinging around the home team’s box and Matt Melbourne made it two nil.  Game over surely?

Not quite.  The tackles continued to fly in and the game teetered on spiralling out of control. The touch paper should have been a Lincoln United goal, bundled home from a corner but it failed to ignite them. In the end it was Thurnby who finished the stronger and after what seemed like an eternity of injury time the referee brought an end to the contest and sent the visitors through to face Gresley at home in the First Qualifying Round in 2 weeks time.

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