the real fa cup

Millers Scrape Past Stones

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Thanks to our little chat with Ashy earlier in the week and the few League two sides dumped out of the cup on Saturday, we were rather looking forward to this. The pre-match atmosphere around the Stones relatively new home did nothing to quell this. The locals were excited and we met a few Rotherham fans, erring on caution with predictions given recent form but reasonably confident of avoiding the proverbial banana skin

Partly thanks to averageness of height and partly because of the decision not to get a seated ticket we struggled to get a meaningful view of much of the early action. It’s obviously difficult to cater for 1600+ fans with a ground set up for a 1000 less than that and with little banked standing room. That said, the officiousness of the presumably non-regular stewards who had been drafted into the match perhaps didn’t help. On with the cliches.

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The cameraman was on the roof and he got an early touch of the ball from a Wealdstone clearance. One could lazily depict the opening exchanges with analogy to the Haye/Valuev fight, both the big man and the smaller but potent challenger swapping some tentative jabs. A promising underdog move snuffed out with a clearance from a weak shot after a nifty backheel on the Wealdstone left.

The lino was getting some light hearted banter thanks to some questionable offside calls and a slight resemblance to Ashley off of that Eastenders. Wealdstone enjoyed some good spells of pressure, they showed no signs of being overawed and no signs of being out of their depth. Rotherham had a few corners but they were dealt with well and Wealdstone had a questionable penalty turned down. The partisan crowd were convinced but we didn’t see enough of it to tell.

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Inevitably in such situations the League side broke the deadlock with some outrageous fortune. Thomas in the Wealdstone goal tried to clear a backpass, got his angles slightly wrong and hit the advancing Le Fondre, off whom it returned past the unfortunate ‘keeper and into the goal. We thought it was an arse goal and shocking bad luck for the home side. An undeserved lead for the away side.

Wealdstone 0 Rotherham 1

The Wealdstone lads did not let their heads drop and they passed the ball around as neatly as their more illustrious opponents, if not more so on occasion. They had a shot blocked and some through balls didn’t quite find their target. They did ride their luck too, surviving a penalty box free kick given, we think, for Thomas collecting a back pass.

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Rotherham had probably only created 3 or 4 half chances, the next one however was a rasping drive from Ellison that Thomas could not get anywhere near. 2-0 Rotherham and it was a bit harsh on the Ryman Premier side. An error and a class finish was all that separated the teams at the interval.

HT Wealdstone 0 Rotherham 2

It was ruddy cold but the sun had come out. Pies – sold out. Burgers – sold out. Chips. Hotdogs. Nice chips. Some people moved at half time and we managed to settle down to the second half with a view.

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The Stones came out with some purpose, which was good because they had some work to do and they had showed they were capable of causing the Lge 2 promotion challengers some problems. Undaunted, the sparring continued but there was more urgency about both sides, particularly the home side. The game ebbed and flowed.

Wealdstone attacked with purpose and from a ball across the box, Ryan Ashe unleashed a volley that Old Man Warrington in the Rotherham goal had no chance with. Warrington had been getting a few comments about his age, he did look old, although the programme suggested otherwise.

Wealdstone 1 Rotherham 2

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Wealdstone were having some good moments and seemed to have unsettled the Rotherham defence since half time. E’Beyer shot just past the post. Was that the chance? There was still pressure so maybe not.

Rotherham finally broke out and a rash challenge brought them respite in the home side’s half. A free kick was floated into the box and Broughton flicked a deft header past Thomas. That was surely it.

Wealdstone 1 Rotherham 3

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Wealdstone had other ideas. They piled on the pressure and the home fans drove them on. There were a few half chances and some tension in the Rotherham defence but they just couldn’t find a way through and were running out of time. After a bit of pin ball the ball fell to Ashe on the right of the box, he turned inside leaving the defender behind and floated a ball over the keeper into the corner. Another cracking goal from our favourite Wealdstone player.

Wealdstone 2 Rotherham 3

Was the equaliser on? We moved right up the end the Stones were attacking, the refs assistant had apparently signalled 4 mins and it was looking unlikely. Rotherham may well have been three leagues above but they had to fight for this. In the last couple of minutes a shot went narrowly past the post and Stones had a corner or two that caused some ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ among the nervous home fans but the ball just wouldn’t go in. A valiant effort but not quite enough.

FT Wealdstone 2 Rotherham 3

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Rotherham were a bit fortunate and the Wealdstone fans had played their part in attempting to overcome the odds. It was an impressive performance from the Ryman side but wasn’t quite enough this time. Nevertheless, Gordon Bartlett’s tactics were good and his team did him proud. It was perhaps enough to put 10-20% on Wealdstone’s next home gate though. A lot of the fans we passed talked a good game, as if they were regulars but there were more than 4 times the last home gate there so some of them were fibbing. A lot sounded as though they’d be back. One can hope that Wealdstone do get those extra fans, the team certainly deserve it with their good football.

Final word. The ref. Well done. Barely noticed him. Thanks to Andy Taylor for the photos.

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