the real fa cup

Daggers Double

262553_10150764491535223_613700222_20161920_2330315_n[1].jpg August not only brings the start of the domestic league season, but also the start of the long, long campaign for the FA Cup. Of course, none of the teams that start the competition in the summer sunshine will realistically get all the way to Wembley next May; that is more than likely going to be competed for by teams at the top end of the Premier League. But for those starting this weekend, there is always the chance that, with a few wins, they could meet one of the bigger names outside the Football League, or even get a plum tie and a lot of media attention if they make the first round proper. However, that is still a long way away; it will require six wins to give them a chance to play against Football League opposition.

The competition started on Friday night, with the ceremonial first kick off coming at Ascot, in front of a large attendance. The competition continued on Saturday, but for me, the competition begins on Sunday, with a double header. As I was unable to get to a game on Saturday, the idea of doing two games to make up for that was an offer too good to turn down. So, a trip to Barkingside awaited us for a 4pm start, but first up is a journey to Waltham Abbey.

301545_10150763616600223_613700222_20150722_5963821_n[1].jpg Sunday 21st August, AFC Dunstable 3 – 1 Eton Manor

Wadham Lodge – FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round

There is occasionally the need to switch the venue for a cup tie, and that is what happened here for this one. With their own ground unavailable because of building work, the tie was switched to the home of Eton Manor, who have recently moved from their previous temporary home at Barking, to their new venue of Waltham Abbey. So, as the editor’s notes in the programme observed, they were welcoming Eton Manor to their own ground.

The generosity extended further than just allowing Dunstable to switch the tie, as within three minutes of the start, Manor had conceded a penalty. From my viewpoint at the other end of the pitch, it looked like a push on the forward, but Dan, who was level with the incident, reckoned that it wasn’t. Unfortunately, the referee wasn’t about to pay any attention to either of us, and gave it anyway. The kick was put away quite nicely by Craig Butler, and so the home team (for the purpose of this cup tie only) were in front.

310191_10150764494020223_613700222_20161983_6604730_n[1].jpg The half doesn’t really kick on from there, although there are more than a few tackles that could develop into something further. Despite the referee rarely straying further than the centre circle, the teams manage to maintain a full compliment of players, and as we reach 30 minutes, the game (and tackles) have calmed down a bit. The game is clearly not that interesting, as the one person who had been watching proceedings from the next door cemetery has left.

The only other thing to happen in the first half is that Manor manage to get the ball into the net, but it is disallowed for offside. This brings forth the usual questions about the linesman’s (sorry, assistant referee’s eyesight), but although we are behind the goal, it looks like about the right decision. At half time, Dunstable have held on to their 1-0 lead.

318789_10150763616850223_613700222_20150730_5861693_n[1].jpg With no tea bar open in the ground, the whistle starts a stampede across the car park to the club house, where a queue quickly forms for the chips and tea. The actual bar is fairly empty, so while Dan stands in the queue to get the chips, I head across to the bar to get a drink. It’s been a very nice warm day to watch a game, so the cold coke is really welcome. After drinking it as quickly as possible, we head back out to the car park, and back into the ground. The teams are just heading back out, and we’ve beaten some of the ground hoppers who are in attendance.

The queue for the chips in the club house has barely shortened when Dunstable get their second goal. A long, unopposed run down the left wing ends with the ball put into the area, where Christie finishes with aplomb. Dunstable look a much better team than Manor, and it’s already clear that, barring some total Indian batting style collapse, the Essex Senior League side will be exiting the competition this afternoon.

Or will they? Just after the hour, Courtney Linton gets a goal back with an excellent volley, and now we have a game on our hands again. Up until now, Dunstable were easily going through, but that may have just changed.

320031_10150764493895223_613700222_20161979_1954429_n[1].jpg With ten to go, Dunstable hit the post with a free kick, and on the occasions that they have got past the Manor defence, the goalkeeper has been in good form and kept them in the game. In stoppage time, it’s all over, as the up to now impressive keeper leaves his area to deal with a through ball, but unfortunately for him, so does one of his centre backs, and O’Brien nips in to toe poke the ball away from both of them to walk it in to an empty net. It’s harsh, but probably accurately reflects the game overall. There isn’t much time left, and when the final whistle is blown, Dunstable have won 3-1, and advance to the preliminary round.

Sunday 21st August, Barkingside 1 – 3 Hertford Town

Oakside Stadium – FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round

As the final whistle blows at Waltham Abbey, we make our way from the ground, back to the car to make the short journey to Barkingside. Having spotted several that we think will also be at this game, it’s comforting to know that, as we pull up in the car park, there are already two making their way to the turnstiles.

320290_10150763617130223_613700222_20150742_1645215_n[1].jpg Originally scheduled for 3pm, the game has been put back an hour to allow those ground hoppers that wish to attend both games, the opportunity to do so. Not only that, but if they have already notified the club that they would be attending, then they could get in at a reduced rate, and have the possibility of a club pennant as well. This has tempted a few to make the trip, and we spot a few faces that we noticed at the first game.

It has actually got hotter as we take our place in the covered terrace at the start of the game. We have another good start to the game, with the visitors hitting the crossbar in the first few minutes, and Barkingside lashing a shot over the bar a few minutes later.

One of the things you notice about the early rounds of the FA Cup, before the introduction of the official match ball and the same advertising boards is that some of these things don’t exist in these rounds. For example, the match ball; we’ve kicked off the game with a standard white ball, but less than a quarter of an hour into the game, the ball has now been changed for a luminous yellow effort. Presumably the white isn’t quite visible enough on this bright sunny day.

320760_10150764493270223_613700222_20161962_1091440_n[1].jpg The game has been a good one to watch, but we don’t get the opening goal until five minutes before the half time interval. A left wing corner is flicked home at the near post by Mark Draper to put Hertford in front. Although Barkingside almost respond immediately, it’s Hertford who get the second just before half time, when Dave Hunt gets the final touch after a goal mouth scramble caused by another left wing corner. The whistle for half time goes very soon after, and Hertford probably deserve their 2-0 lead.

We move out into the sun for the second half, and Barkingside almost get back into it early on, but once again they are made to pay for their miss, when Lee Roberts makes it 3-0 to Hertford with a shot across the keeper into the far corner of the net. This has practically finished the game off, and there is still 35 minutes to go.

Despite a small pushing and shoving match just before the hour, Barkingside don’t look like scoring, and Hertford could probably score again if they really wanted to, but look content with what they have already got. It would have probably played out that way, if one of the Hertford substitutes hadn’t managed to get himself sent off only eight minutes after coming on. With this, it has now become a game where Barkingside think they may be able to get something.

320876_10150764493470223_613700222_20161969_3833191_n[1].jpg Within seven minutes of the red card, they get a goal back through a Jordan Tolan header, but although they go close on a couple of occasions, they still look a bit on the suspect side to a quick break. Despite the best efforts of the two teams, there is no further scoring, and Hertford are comfortable 3-1 winners.

And that ends our FA Cup double header. Two games, eight goals, one red card, one portion of chips, and the start of a sun tan as well. It’s been a good day, and it’s always nice to be present at the start of the FA Cup. It means that we can, when watching the final in May involving either Chelsea or Manchester United, say that we were there at the first round back in August.

Cheers to Brian Parish and Daniel Campbell, you’ll find more of their work following Dagenham & Redbridge on The Ball Is Round‘s Daggers Diary

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