the real fa cup

Stags Culled

Waltham Forest 1-2 Hoddesdon
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round, 16 August 2014

Aaah, Walthamstow. I used to live here you know. It was once called Wilcumestowe (“The Place of Welcome”) and, my, it was all fields. It was, those fields were strewn with bodies, admittedly, much like Waltham Forest’s pre-season, heavy with defeats, their blood running the length of Wadham Lodge …

As I’m sure you know, Waltham Forest were previously called Leyton Pennant, a club in itself born out of a “merger” between Leyton and Walthamstow Pennant, though two years after that merger a new Leyton club was formed that, subsequently, won the legal right to follow on from the original Leyton. That Leyton now doesn’t exist, they went bust, though not before we popped down to watch them get hammered by Ware in one of our early forays. Everything clear?

Though I Skyperbolised that first paragraph for modern consumption, Waltham Forest’s pre-season was strewn with metaphorical bodies, as much of a sad shambles as Walthamstow’s once brilliant cinema. Even when I last went there, which must have been in about 1996, there were seats only in the circle. Peer over the edge and all that was below in the stalls were broken chairs and piles and piles of rubbish.

I digress, the Stags followed up pre-season with another defeat in their first league game. But, on Tuesday night they beat Aveley 4-2 to get their season under way. Hoddesdon’s start has been one win and a draw, preceded by their own early season ignominy, a heavy defeat in the Herts Charity Shield.

Waltham Forest have a penchant for decent FA Cup runs of late, frequenters of the 2nd Qualifying Round twice in the last three seasons, despatching higher opposition on each occasion, Hitchin and Hemel Hempstead.

Hoddesdon have a more lengthy but no more illustrious cup pedigree, though they did win the FA Vase in 1975. They’ve been donning their cup gloves, in one guise or another, since the 1880s and got to the 3rd Qualifying Round in 1969/70, losing to Braintree & Crittall Athletic.

As far as I can tell these two have never met in the FA Cup before, though the Lilywhites did despatch one of the Leytons in successive FA Vase campaign in the early 2000s.

You go into these games, usually, as a complete neutral. However, it’s nigh on impossible to remain impartial and, given I used to live here, and the Waltham Forest Twitter folk have been unbelievably friendly, my neutrality was always going to slant towards one side.

For about as long as it takes to wander the length of Walthamstow’s street market (the longest in Europe!), both sides endeared themselves to us, tidy passing football and a clear intent to keep the ball on the deck. But, sadly, it didn’t last, it gave way to mediocrity and some niggle. But, regardless, it remained an engaging game throughout a first half bereft of many chances.

The home manager was entertaining, the away one also when he finally found his voice. “BE’AVE”, the latter shouted at a quite clear foul, in a manner our accomplice Gary Andrews pointed out owed more to Frankie Howerd than Brian Clough. Matron. He followed it up with “That is a piss poor decision”. He was wrong, not that you’d have thought so, such was the conviction in his rhetoric.

But, just before half time, Waltham Forest broke the deadlock with a goal I cannot remember, because it quickly became clear that I’d Tweeted the wrong score and everything in the minutes around the moment suddenly became irrelevant and the need to make changes to the internet was all-consuming.

At half time I skirted some filth in the club bar [a signed Nodge shirt, something somebody Johnson?] … no beers on tap but a cuple of choices from the bottle. And a nicely appointed bowls lawn next door. Carpet.

The (post) half time tea bar looked inviting, especially the nicely sizzling sausages. “No, sorry, they’re for the players”, was the response when Gary asked for one. Cooking post-match food for the players 3 minutes into the second half? How odd. With 40 odd minutes to go until they were consumed you have to wonder how much the players enjoyed them

The second half was a lively affair, starting very end to end and then evolving into Hoddesdon domination, punctuated by a man with the rattle [non league tick]. geeing up the home troops. Hoddesdon scored earlyish and then a very late winner from a headed corner – and later than we realised at the time. As I was typing in the score update the final whistle went and the away side had won, just about deservedly so though Forest probably shaded the first half. My memory of the goals has been coloured by the beers entertained in Ye Old Rose & Crown before hand and the several more in the Bell after, but the cross and finish for the equaliser was clinical and worthy of the Old Jug.

As an end point, this was one of the most disappointing attendances we’ve seen in the FA Cup early rounds, about 70 or 80 were evident in the ground but probably only 50 or 60 were paying punters. Given the level of engagement Waltham Forest give on social media, the locals need to sharpen up and get down there. They have a decent local side and they deserve a bit more support. Maybe the narrow defeat would have turned into a narrow win with the kind of support seen elsewhere this weekend.

That;s nearly 1000 words and I HAVE RESISTED AN E17 PUN, worship at my feet.

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