the real fa cup

Brockenhurst 1-5 Wealdstone

Brockenhurst 1-5 Wealdstone
20915/16 FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round, 10th October 2015. Attendance: 477

Wealdstone Raid Breaks Brockenhurst Bunting

Brockenhurst rolled out the bunting to welcome Conference South side Wealdstone to the New Forest. They actually did put up some bunting for what was a big afternoon for the village team three tiers their junior, who had won an impressive four FA Cup ties to progress this far. It was certainly a quaint scene with a cattle grid stopping local ponies from venturing into the car park, local Ringwood ales behind the bar and flocks of excited children running around waving scarves and flags.

I was just hopefully glancing around for some little old ladies selling slices of cake for 50p a pop when the kids opened their mouths to shit all over the vibe. ‘You got no fans’, one shouted, with another adding ‘got no ground, deal wi’ me!’ They were referring to YouTube celebrity The Wealdstone Raider, who would no doubt be attending the game. With the average age of home supporters being relatively high, however, I’m not sure all that many people knew what they were going on about.

The game itself was almost over before it had really got going as the big boys carved the home defence open with relative ease in the opening stages, but fortunately for the neutral they were unable to take an early lead. ‘Brock are settling into things quite nicely now,’ I noted to my friend just as Wealdstone put themselves a goal to the good. According to the matchday programme Jefferson Louis is famous for baring his bottom on live TV when Farnborough drew Arsenal in the FA Cup, but the number nine is also noted for his eye for goal and he showed great vision to loop a backwards header into the net from the edge of the area, an effort that took everybody by surprise as it didn’t appear to be an obvious goal scoring chance.

In my defence, The Badgers, as they’re wonderfully known, had actually just started to get a foothold in the game just before they fell behind quarter of an hour in. Luckily heads did not drop and they contested a miraculously even first half, with both sides having decent chances. Louis later headed an easier chance against the crossbar but the home side’s number nine Scott Joyce also proved a menace, clearly relishing the chance to pit his wits against a Conference South backline.

When Mark Barker pulled Brockenhurst level just before the break it was no more than they deserved, but I’ll still admit this twist in the game took me by surprise. As I drifted towards the clubhouse for a half-time pint the stalwart winger cut in from the right and unleashed a shot which clipped a defender’s head, skimming it out of the grasp of grumpy keeper Jonathan North and into the net. The locals gathered in the grandstand embraced each other as the kids made the most of their opportunity to wave those flags and scarves some more and the players ran in the direction of a video camera. A real high and a moment to cherish.

Then the second half happened. Wealdstone haven’t had a great start to the season in the league and boss Gordon Bartlett must have told them off a bit at the break. Their lead was quickly restored by Tom Hamblin, who showed a calm head to control and lift into the roof of the net in a crowded area.

Matt Casey had a header cleared off the line as the Wessex League side chased another equaliser, but then the big boys turned the screw.

With 20 minutes remaining, right back Jude Nwachkwu turned the ball into his own net to realistically put the game to bed at 3-1.

The entertainment didn’t stop there however, as the impressive Callum Maher got down brilliantly to his left to push a firmly-struck Louis penalty kick around the post. Maher more than deserved his Man of the Match award, having pulled off an impressive combination of solid stops, tidy handling and intelligent distribution in front of the noisy travelling supporters, who could have easily proved a distraction for somebody accustomed to playing in front of a double digit crowd.

Brock threw super sub Kabba Jack on as they tried to nick a goal back at the death. Hilariously my mate had seen the Maverick striker sprint to the ground from a delayed train around an hour before kick-off, but it was the visitors who would pull away from the platform* when Scott Davies struck from his own half. In true ‘magic of the cup’ style, Brock had thrown everybody forward in an attempt to Nick a goal back, but when the ball broke to Davies, he looked up to see Maher nowhere near his goal. He drew deserved applause from all areas of the ground – and invoked memories of strikes from Beckham and Adam – with a strike from midway inside his own half that’s well worth taking a look at on YouTube. A sensational strike hit with such accuracy that it only bounced when it hit the goal-line. Johnny Wright hit a left footed fifth in injury time to bulge the scoreline to a somewhat flattering 5-1.

They often say ‘it’s a game of two halves,’ but this tie had three sections: a competitive first 45, the period where Stones pulled away and sealed victory, then an almost exhibition-style frantic finale including Maher’s penalty save and a wonder goal. As one of my photos shows, the bunting did eventually snap, and Brockenhurst were eventually overpowered, but it was great fun while it lasted. Bravo.

*I’m so sorry

Words & Pictures: Andy Lloyd Williams

Andy is author of Robin van Persie – The Biography, which is available here. Tweet him here @A_LloydWilliams

THAT GOAL

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