the real fa cup

South 5 North 2

 

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You would have thought with seven goals to keep us occupied this game would have been a cracker. Some very good goals were scored, well, the executions were good but the defending left a little to be desired and the general play was somewhat bitty and more even than the scoreline suggests.

However, before all that we had a task. It was 6:30pm ish and we had about 70 minutes to visit the famous four pubs of Brentford, one at each corner of the ground. First up, the South West corner. The Griffin. All four realfacupsters were present and the first post-work beer slipped down effortlessly. Nice boozer, very tidy, more of a locals chill pub than a football boozer. Well kept booze too, in fact the nicest Pride I’ve had in a while.

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A mere ten minutes later and on our way to pub two some charity chuggers asked for our pennies. The fella chugger said the lady chugger would kiss for a quid. We declined. Next pub, the Princess Royal, was less salubrious and devoid of tables and chairs but replete with more hardy locals (replica shirted), vibrating floor (no idea why), cockle basket man (excellent) and toilet man, urinal-side with trousers and pants round ankles (not a good look). The chuggers entered but no kisses were offered in here.

Third pub was the New Inn, another nice pub but somewhere between the Griffin and Princess Royal in style, had a big screen or two dotted around but was a cosy old pub. We flicked through a heavily thumbed copy of Frank McAvennie’s autobiography on the dresser (yes, the dresser) as we all made the unwise choice of Directors. Bit much for a swift pint but swift it was.

It was now pushing 7:40 so we cheated with a half in the Royal Oak, which was probably wise given the dreadful beer choice and the lurking rozzers. Grotty boozer

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We got in just as the match was kicking off. In the first few minutes, Gateshead settled well and forced two corners, one after a Daryl Clare shot that was tipped away unconvincingly by the Bees ‘keeper Lewis Price. For the first half an hour, very little goal action came at either end but the visitors looked fractionally more likely to break the deadlock. The best moments of the game so far, however, were a beautifully timed tackle in the box from Gateshead’s Craig Baxter and a superb block from Williams.

The natives were getting very restless by this point and some audible rumblings and shouts were emanating from Brentford’s three sparsely occupied stands. Whether this served to ignite Brentford or not it’s difficult to say ut they did start to have more of the possession. On 42 minutes they then took the lead, somewhat fortuitously, when a spot of pinball in the box saw Ben Strevens force the ball over the line at the back stick.

Brentford are not having a great season thus far but the hand gestures and fury that was directed at the Gateshead fans when Brentford broke the deadlock, was somewhat odd and uinnecessary. What went on in the first game to spark that? It was only a small section of Brentford fans but why they couldn’t just celebrate going in front is beyond us.

Three minutes later and the game was effectively over. A long but very accurate ball out of Brentford’s defence found Cleveland Taylor wide on the right. Taylor stood up the kind of cross that screams ‘HEAD ME’ and Charlie MacDonald duly did. 2-0. It was tough not just on the Gateshead team generally but primarily Paul Farman in the Heed’s goal, who had marshalled and cajoled his team mates through an otherwise very satisfactory 45 minutes

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Half time saw the landmark introduction of Bovril to the season. This means that winter is officially here. This was good, indeed significantly better than the high price low content meat products that several of us sampled.

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The teams came back out, the Brentford players sprinted over to the touchline in front of the away fans and proceded to warm up by doing frantic shuttle runs up and down a line painted stand-side of the pitch. What the fuck? We were a bit bemused by this, it smacked of intimidation or cod-psychology but just ended up looking very camp. If it was intended to generate some response from the away fans it did, hysterical laughter. Why not do it down the side in front of the Brentford fans, surely it would gee them up more

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After a disallowed Brentford strike, a long ball over the top caught out the Bees backline and Graeme Armstrong had enough pace to get to it and keep the defenders at bay. He arrowed the ball past Price and Gateshead were back in it. Our collective half time thoughts that the next goal would change the game had possibly come to pass.

This proved wrong. Marcus bean sliced through the Gateshead midfield and slipped a pass through the defence to MacDonald who slipped the ball past Farman. Game over this time, surely.

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Even after the goal Brentford didn’t look convincing at the back or with the more defensive duties of the midfield. Gateshead had a fair amount of possession without creating too many chances but when Brentford broke they broke with pace and with unerring accuracy. By 75 minutes Brentford were, deceptively, 5-1 up and Gateshead were looking at a hiding.

Armstrong scored a second, identical to his first, with 10 minutes left but it was too little too late and Brentford played out the remainder of the game looking dangerous every time they went forward. 5-2.

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On the night, stewards outnumbered away fans, not that there was a particular dearth of away fans, just a glut of stewards. The most amusing steward had the difficult task of monitoring the shut and empty half of the bottom tier of the away stand. He kept casting admiring and provocative glances to the occupied half, as if willing someone to breach the barrier and enter his domain. At least he smiled.

To the absent, the scoreline suggested a fantastic game. It was OK but Brentford shone mainly on the break and mostly when the pressure was off. The visitors lived with and even bettered their League 1 opposition for the first 40 minutes or so but then two quick goals before half time effectively ended the tie. Brentford’s confidence boosted, they upped their game and looked a more assured outfit but they were really just picking off a team pushing up to get a goal back. Gateshead were solid until goal 1, played some decent football but, ultimately, were two leagues lower than the Bees and the end product illustrated that. A side nearer the top of Blue Square Premier may well have given Brentford more of game.

More obvious though was the atmosphere and the clear aura that we were now in the big leagues. The league crowd were more tribal, the stewarding over-zealous and the second half warm up was just crass and classless. I can only assume Andy Scott is a disciple of the Adie Boothroyd school of management, in which case, his current standing in the up-and-coming manager pecking order may be fairly short lived.

There were signs of life lower down and the serious attempts here to aspire to a higher league were belied by the half time chalk-board draw and sparse terraces. The FA Cup is heading towards the upper echelons so it will soon by time to go back in our nice warm lower league hutch.

1 Comment
  1. Interesting to see what happened next in this tie. Nice account of the occasion. Like you, “my lower league hutch” beckons … I will perhaps emerge at the end of winter, hibernation-like, for the latter stage of the Vase providing there’s on in the north.

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