the real fa cup

Six o’6

The number 606 has entered the popular football consciousness as the title of a BBC football fans’ phone-in from the early days of Radio 5.  The estimable Danny Baker was one of the early hosts, and it wasn’t always about the Premier League.

I can’t bear listening to it any more. The same few controversies are stirred up over and over again whilst deluded fans offer their opinions of how certain multi-millionaires should spend their money.  I think they are still talking about Luis Suarez’s teeth.

Here’s an alternative six o’6 – six sides from Step 6 of the pyramid who have a decent chance this weekend to earn some FA Cup prize money and take a stride closer to some national recognition. There is still a great chance of finding sport, drama, quirkiness and romance in these early rounds. Plus, of course, you can combine the game with some other activity of cultural interest for a balanced hipster day out and a chance to make yourself even more interesting at dinner parties.  Read on.

All matches are scheduled for 3.00pm on Saturday 29 August as far as I know but please check! [ed: they are] Likewise, all opening times for listed tourist attractions have been given in good faith but I am occasionally incompetent.

Game 1: Newmarket Town v Peterborough Sports

Get ITK: At first glance this looks like a home win. Newmarket have made a very decent start in the Eastern Counties Premier and are unbeaten with a DWW record. The Step 6 visitors from Peterborough, however, are also unbeaten and scoring plenty, and with a cup scalp from the division above (Eynesbury Rovers) already in the bag for this season.  I really can’t see this one finishing 0-0. Newmarket beat another Peterborough side, Northern Star, away from home in the last round and they should start as favourites, but Sports can point to 9-0 and 7-1 league wins.  For the winners, a home draw awaits against Hitchin Town of the Southern Premier.

Goal threats:  Put your money on Ross Paterson or Joey Abbs for Newmarket.  Both have been on the scoresheet more than once. For Sports, it is hard to look beyond Avelino Viera who has scored in every game including a hat-trick in a total of seven. Jordan Macleod also has a hat-trick within his four.

What to do on Saturday Morning in Newmarket: It’s not the best time of year to visit the National Stud, I am told. Whoever he may be. Never mind, as The National Horseracing Museum in the town centre opens at 10.00am and is only an 11-minute walk to the ground. It is a museum about horseracing, apparently, and is very good. Maybe firm in places, who knows. There are plenty of footpaths around and you may get to see thoroughbred horses being put through their paces on the gallops.  The good old www suggests that Warren Hill is your best bet but the horses do their training stuff between 6.00 and 11.00am so you will need to be early. Do not feed sugar lumps to the horses.  Or amphetamines.

Game 2: Cheltenham Saracens v Milton United

Get ITK:  I picked Step 6 Saracens for possible progression for several reasons. Firstly, they were Step 5 last season and are new arrivals in the Hellenic Division One West. Secondly, they are unbeaten this season including a giantkiller FA Cup win over Western League Winterbourne. Thirdly, some quirk of fixture computers and cup draws has given them a whole string of home games at the start of the season, at least five. They are up against Milton United of the same league, level above, who have stuttered. They will take heart from an away win in the last round against a Step 6 Hellenic side, Holyport from the East division, and their first league win of the season earlier this week. The prize is a home game against a Step 5 Wessex Premier side – either Blackfield & Langley or Bemerton Heath Harlequins.

Goal threats:  For Cheltenham, Paul Holmes has three so far including the Winterbourne winner in the cup game, but the goals have been shared around. Milton have Niall Hodgkins and Ashley Searle with a brace apiece before this week, but not much else up to now.

What to do on Saturday Morning in Cheltenham: If there isn’t a private function at the Pittville Pump Rooms you can sample the Spa waters, thereby curing you of whatever illnesses you may have in your inner core and nether regions. I believe that it is chemically mostly saline but maybe with a touch of iron salts too, and probably on the smelly side because of dissolved compounds of sulfur and nitrogen. (Note we spell sulfur with an f these days even over here, a bargain driven by the f-in Americans with The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, trust me.) Whoever persuaded the population, including Royalty, that the waters are good for you was a marketing genius. If spa waters are too risky then the heated open-air pool at Sandford Lido is open from 11.00am if you bring your Speedos. Other coverers of embarrassment are available. If time, pop into the Regent Arcade and push a few children out of the way so you can have a good look at the Wishing Fish clock.

Game 3: South Normanton Athletic v Lincoln United

Get ITK:  Athletic play in the East Midlands Counties League and won three in a row in addition to their Cup win over AFC Mansfield, before a goalless away draw this week. Like Cheltenham Saracens, they had a string of home fixtures to start the season. All of the wins have been by a single goal, but they also have three clean sheets.  Lincoln United of the NPL Division One South (for teams on the Southish side of Northernness) had an indifferent start with just a solitary league win and a stuffing at Stafford Rangers.  Maybe things turned on Tuesday evening when two late goals gave them a first win. This is their first Cup game as they enter the competition in this round.  Unlikely to be a goalfest, this one, and the prize is an awayday at either Clipstone or Cleethorpes.

Goal threats:  Shane Newton and Kane Jellyman for South Normanton have two each so far. Scott Ruthven and Andy Hutchinson only have one each for United this season but they are an established Step 4 partnership. Midfielder Jack McGovern was Tuesday’s hat-trick hero.

What to do on Saturday Morning in South Normanton:  Stay in bed. Have a lie in. Watch Soccer Saturday if you must. Alternatively, the East Midlands Designer Outlet is here and hordes of retail experts have conspired to raise your brand awareness and optimise your therapeutic retail experience. If you are new to groundhopping then maybe it’s a good place to pick up a rucksack or a fleece with a pocket big enough for a standard non-league programme.

Game 4: Burscough v AFC Emley

Get ITK:  Step 4 Burscough won’t be happy to be in my list but I saw AFC Emley’s spirited 7-1 demolition of Parkgate (from the next tier up) in the last round. Stuart Fuller’s take on the game is on this site too. The home side have one league win, two defeats and a draw so far and come into the Cup at this point.  The win was a good one and came earlier this week. Emley needed a last-ditch equaliser in their first game but are undefeated for the season and have plenty of creativity to back up their top scorer.  I am writing this on Tuesday and they have another league game on Wednesday. Alsager Town or Shaw Lane Aquaforce will host the winner in the next round.

Goal threats: For Burscough, hard to say, with no dominant name either this season or last.  For AFC Emley, Ashley Flynn has twelve (yes, twelve) in five in all competitions, including an FA Cup eight-minute hat-trick on his way to four in that game.

What to do on Saturday Morning in Burscough:  A towpath walk along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal is a healthy pastime if you can tear yourself away from another retail trap at Burscough Wharf. The Wetland and Wildfowl Trust has a site at Martin Mere, open from 9.30am, which is a 5-minute drive from the ground and has lots of wet, wild and fowl things to see. Best bring binoculars. There are plenty of birds of prey around at the moment and you have a fair chance of seeing a marsh harrier or a common buzzard. There’s been an immature peregrine there this week, presumably the one making pfffffft noises as it flies past. The raptors will zoom around in the sky while the ruff, snipe and black-tailed godwit paddle around more sedately. Remember to treat birdwatchers with respect – they know as much about flight patterns and feather markings as we do about the organisation of the football pyramid and the history of the offside rule.  Plus they get out more than we do.

Game 5: Bromsgrove Sporting v AFC Hinckley

Get ITK: No risk here, I can guarantee a Step 6 presence in the next round because both these clubs play in Division One of the Midland Football League. Both the home side aka The Rouslers (no idea, ask a policeman) and the visitors are newish re-formed clubs starting over from ancestors in financial difficulty. Sporting got to move in to the ancestral pile, AFC are tenants over at Heather St Johns. The odds marginally favour the home side who have had a more consistent and settled unbeaten start to the season, and a very decent away victory at Gornal Athletic in the last round. AFC Hinckley have scored more but also conceded more. However, their away replay victory over Walsall Wood of Step 5 means they have already slain a giant. Both teams had home league wins in midweek. The teams already know that a home tie against Redditch United of the Southern Premier is up for grabs.

Goal threats: Reece Hewitt gets about one goal every three games for Sporting, but their goals have been shared around this season. Marco Adaggio has five this season already for AFC including a hat-trick in a recent mauling of Studley.

What to do on Saturday Morning in Bromsgrove:  The Avoncroft Museum of Buildings is only 7 minutes away by car and it opens at 10.30am. It is an open-air museum. Of buildings. Lovely. Alternatively, follow the Housman trail. A E Housman wrote the Shropshire Lad collection but was brought up in these here Worcestershire parts. Poetry innit. Get your passenger to recite some en route and then make a “poetry in motion” gag to anyone who will listen, especially if they answered your Rouslers question. By the way, AE is no relation to 1970 Chelsea FA Cup Winner Peter Houseman, who has an e.

Game 6: AFC St Austell v Bodmin Town

Get ITK:  This tie also guarantees Step 6 progression but is mouthwatering nonetheless because the teams are lying second and first in the SW Peninsula Premier. As a geographical extreme, Cornwall has Step 5 and 6 sides that belie their nominal status because of midweek travelling times being such a barrier to the semi-professionals. Promotions are not always taken up and there is some talk of the formation of another Step 5 league in these parts. St Austell recently lost a longstanding unbeaten home league record but that thumping by Plymouth Parkway is the only blot on their season so far. The four other wins have all been with clean sheets, including 4-0 over Saltash of the same division in the last round. Bodmin are unbeaten and lead the league by a point, and already have a Western League Step 5 Cup scalp this season with their home win over Brislington. This game is too close to call but the victors will have a very winnable home tie against either Almondsbury or Verwood Town.

Goal threats:  For St Austell, look towards Liam Eddy with six goals in five games. Bodmin have Ryan Richards with six and Adam Carter with four.

What to do on Saturday Morning in St Austell:  The visitor centre at St Austell Brewery opens at 10.00am. That is all you need to know. There are 90-minute guided tours of the brewery too but they need to be booked in advance. It is a six-minute walk or twenty-six minute stagger from the ground. Please get legless responsibly. As a sober alternative, the Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre is a 7-minute drive from the ground and it opens at 10.00am.  It’s a museum with all sorts of interesting artefacts. From shipwrecks. You’re welcome.

Whichever game you choose, I hope you have a great FA Cup day out and get to listen to something else other than 6-0-6 on the way home.

Words: Graham Yapp. See MUCH more hopping action at Modus Hopper Random, Graham’s Blog.

TR-606 photo courtesy of Illuminated Sounds
Pittville Pump Room photo courtesy of Cheltenham Town Hall
Meat photo courtesy of Stuart Fuller
Tudor buildilng photo courtesy of Avoncroft Museum
Beer photo courtesy of St Austell Brewery

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