the real fa cup

Marathon To Pegasus Via Hercules

1.jpg The FA Cup 4xtra Preliminary Round

It’s struck me that I can’t actually remember everything that happened in the 4 FA Cup extra-preliminary round games I’ve seen this week. I’m sure if I looked closely back through my twitter feed I would find some semblance of reality, but all I can confirm is that for £14 I saw 390 minutes of football (one lot of extra-time included), 16 goals, 3 red cards, 3 penalties, one broken corner flag, the world’s smallest goalkeeper, a log cabin acting as changing room, a last minute winner, a double-glazed tunnel, spectators watching from the car park, a team named after a mythical creature and lost a load of followers on twitter. The FA Cup is brilliant isn’t it?

So welcome to a week in my personal hell, taking in games at Castle Vale, Epsom and Ewell, Continental Stars (none of which have their own grounds) and Bewdley Town. Due to hazy memories (FA Cup lesson number one – always make notes) [Ed – Nah, I don’t think we’ve taken notes yet this season] some of the events below did not happen, some are half-truths and some actually exist in the history of this planet.

Game 1. Friday 19th August- Castle Vale 3-1 Heath Hayes

Despite what Budweiser tell you (multi-national evil conglomerate company lies, who’d a thunk it….), the FA Cup did not kick off this season at Ascot, instead it began in Sutton Colfield (and some ground up north) as Castle Vale hosted Heath Hayes. The initial pre-match buzz (in our 3 man party, and, yes, 3 men constitute a party, in certain parts of the West Midlands) focused on the name of the host’s president, a certain Mr D. Ellis, a name to strike fear into the heart of a Birmingham-based football fan, it couldn’t be, could it? As it turned out, we never got a definitive answer, but the fact the programme did not list the letters O, B and E after his name, makes me suggest that the biggest ego in Brummie-land has eyes for only one football club, (ignoring his stint at Birmingham City).

2.jpg After we saw the FA Cup kick off before our actual eyes (the competition, the trophy wasn’t engaging in agro), the early stages were dominated by a rogue corner flag that refused to stay in its traditional position (in the ground), and instead it insisted on falling over at every possible opportunity. In terms of the action on the field, I have a vague recollection of Heath Hayes taking the lead through a penalty given by the linesman (possibly the first one awarded in this season’s competition), before a header from a set-piece restored parity for Castle Vale.

Aside from the corner flag, which stubbornly refused to take up its role in the proceedings, the other, pleasing oddity of Boldemere St Michael’s ground (where Castle Vale play), is that the side of the pitch that we were watching from was a car park, nothing else, just a car park, full of cars and the majority of the 100+ crowd, an impressive number for a game at this level, another tip of the hat in the direction of the fizzy American pop makers. As for the rest of the game? I know it finished 3-1 to Castle Vale, and that Heath Hayes ended up with 10 men. And despite my sober, lucid state, I’ve no recollection of how and why it ended up like this. Game one. DONE.

Game 2. Sunday 21st August- Epsom & Ewell 3-1 Croydon

After a day off the FA Cup for some Ryman League glamour (Aveley 0-0 Kingstonian for those of you interested), I returned to the cup in the lush surrounding of Merstham FC’s Moatside (the shared home of Epsom & Ewell). Surrounded by hedges on all sides, with a gate two gates into the surrounding park, it seemed a fair assumption that this would be most picturesque place I would watch football that week (a car park in Sutton Coldfield and a hole in Aveley meant that competition was not fierce). Perhaps the most wonderful aspect of the ground was the double glazed tunnel, from which the players emerged into a gorgeous Surrey afternoon. The game kicked into life with a bang as a Croydon striker did his best Gazza impersonation by flicking the ball up on the edge of the area, before powering it home to give his side a first minute lead. He continued his Gascoigne impression by disappearing from view for the next 90 minutes.

3.jpg The home side struck back as Ks-loanee and England schoolboy captain Jamie Summers rose preposterously high to volley in a close range equaliser from a corner, before his defensive colleague gave away a penalty to give Croydon the chance to re-take the lead. The resulting effort was thumped, nay smashed, onto the bar and the sides went in level. In front of us, the astro-turf booted linesman shook his head with a sly grin on his face.

Croydon were not an elegant side and their manager seemed to take issue with any pass of less than 40 yards, and yet despite the nuances of such tactics, his side fell behind to two rebounds late in the game, in a half that Epsom and Ewell dominated. I would love to add more colour to this picture (IS A DOUBLE GLAZED TUNNEL NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU?), but once again, the hazy blur of a week of football means that such an effort is impossible. I seem to remember really enjoying this game though. And the locals were lovely. NEXT.

Game 3. Tuesday 23rd August- Bewdley Town 2-1 Pegasus Juniors

I will say it straight off, Bewdley’s ground is the most picturesque I have ever come across. Set in the middle of the Worcestershire forest, banked on one side by a river, and the other by the hillside trees I didn’t know whether to watch football or paint a picture, the lack of easels amongst the other 100 or so attendees made my mind up for me and with words of Keats and Wordsworth flowing through my head I arrogantly settled in for my first replay of the season.

4.jpg My initial attraction to this game had nothing to do with the location, instead the name of the visitors, Pegasus Juniors. Now, I hope from the words that I have imparted into your eyes thus far you will appreciate that I am not one to delve into cheap puns and hence there will be no mention of Herculean efforts here (primarily because Pegasus did not put in a Herculean effort). As game time approached, Bewdley’s ground, the wonderfully named Ribbesford Meadows, continued to out-do Moatside in every respect as the double-glazed tunnel was gazumped by the players emerging from a log-cabin, nestled into the hillside. The first half was, to sugar-coat it, intriguing, to be honest, dull.  Yes, Bewdley took the lead through a well-worked goal, but this was of no interest to an audience full of love for our Grecian heroes, with dreams of an FA Cup run. Yet after the break, a comeback, a penalty awarded for our Athenian Gods, and upon its conversion the Junior’s charge towards glory was no longer a flight of fancy (for those of you unaware, Pegasus had wings).

Our second half observation points came in a wooden stand built into the hillside, with mats provided and only accessible via a scramble of some shrubbery (or at least this was the case if you went the wrong way), our companions in said establishment, some refereeing assessors whom, when not discussing the performance in front of them discussed the decisions of the last week, notably those made by Howard Webb in Sunderland. But my, what a performance they had to lay their eyes on. As the game crept into extra-time, the official’s decisions became more erratic, verging on drunken. Two footed challenges went unpunished, and yet one hair out of place on the barnet of our Spartan soldiers and cautions were handed out. Invariably Pegasus’s wings were clipped and they ended the game with 9 men, and despite Bewdley missing more chances than you could fit in a large wooden horse of chance, eventually one was taken and Pegasus  went home defeated, but still legendary, or perhaps, mythical.

5.jpg Game 4. Wednesday 24th August- Continental Stars 3-2 Cradley Town.

And so our journey comes to an end, our hero (me) inspired by tales of ancient mythology took on his 6th game in 6 days (Monday saw a Ks defeat at home to Horsham, a 7 gaol [Ed – I think ‘goal’, Mr Cutteridge? But ‘gaol’ lends a foreboding air to Kingsmeadow so with ‘gaol’ we shall go] thriller, that needs 5000 words of its own to even get close), despite a quick and inappropriate change to the 3rd person. Continental Stars were the home side of choice (once again a team chosen by their name) and the home of Rushall Olympic the venue. The immediate point of interest came in the goalkeepers, the host’s keeper being perhaps the smallest man I’ve ever seen trying to defend 3 metallic sticks, the visitors a large, large man. Our midget demi-God was forced into early action as his side gave away a penalty, and despite conventional wisdom suggesting that one would go high against a keeper of such stature, the set-piece was rolled down the middle which still provided enough of a threat for the white Gary Coleman to dive out of the way, 1-0 Cradley.

6.jpg The game continued to be dominated, if only in mistakes, by goalkeepers, as the Star’s equaliser came after a fumble from the large man taking up most of his net. Behind me a small child shouted “Go Daddy, Go Daddy, Go Daddy” and my investigative instincts led me to the conclusion that the scorer may well have been the father of said child. The game then took a turn for the ridiculous as a mishit back-pass appeared to be flying out of play for a corner before the little-legged one decided he would rather give away an indirect free-kick inside the area than a corner, diving full length to palm the ball back into play. Unfortunately, the ball landed at the feet of a Cradley striker who was left with an open goal next to a splayed out goalkeeper to knock the ball into and give his side the lead going into half-time.

Perhaps inspired by the stars in the sky matching the names on their shirts (this is the fourth match ok, it’s not easy), Continental came out firing in the second half. Just a couple of minutes in, their striker blasted one into the roof of the net from the edge of the area to bring the scores level with a shot that the Cradley goalkeeper mistook for a doughnut travelling slightly too fast and was left grasping at ironically thin air. 40 more minutes of constant Continental pressure refused to tell and, yet, in this period the best chance fell to the visitors with a soft shot rolled straight at the now happy dwarf.

7.jpg As the game, and our (we are now on this journey together) week looked set for extra time, a cross from the Continental substitute floated and yet seemed to hang in mid-air, the assembled masses took sharp intakes of breath, the Cradley goalkeeper looked, stumbled, fell, the ball, now back to moving fell, arched straight into the top corner, the fans went wild (one definitely made a noise that sounded a lot like ‘brapp’), the players (Continental) were jubilant and Continental were into the preliminary round of the FA Cup.

And so the week came to a close. The extra-preliminary stage was a lot of fun, even if it wasn’t all memorable. Roll on Non-League Day and the preliminary stage, that’s if I remember its existence.


Much thanks to Jamie Cutteridge for the recollections of FA Cup Extra Preliminary weekend. [Ed – This should have been in Greek but fricking WordPress wouldn’t have it, damn them]

Note: Photos:

“1 is me missing the kick off of the FA Cup, 2 is fans in a car park (both game 1). 3 is the hedge surrounded ground, 4 is a gate to the park, 5 is the double glazed tunnel, 6 an astro-booted lino (all game 2),7 my new favourite ground (game 3).”

1 Comment
  1. What, so I go along to 2 of these games (and tell you of the 7:30 kick off) and get no mention at all? Scumbag 😉

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