the real fa cup

Thank Heathens For The Cup

Flackwell Heath 0-0 Binfield
FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round 16/08/13

Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Well how about this to prove his point? Over the past few seasons the non league football programme has been decimated by bad weather and with climate change now part of the footballing calendar, these weather extremes will become the norm.

For lower league clubs, football pitches are their main asset and so losing any game is a financial hit they can ill afford. Which is why I am a strong supporter of 3G pitches (Maidstone United have one and last season had just one game postponed and were promoted via the play offs).

But one simple and less artificial way of outwitting the weather is to start the season and play more Tuesday games early. After many moons of watching football, I can confirm that it’s a lot more pleasant watching a Tuesday night in shirt sleeves rather than long-johns in January.
 So I had to groan when the fixtures for the Southern League came out and by the time I got to see Slough play I had already watched Ramsgate, Lewes and Flackwell Heath kick a competitive ball.

The FA Cup still gets me all weak at the knees in these early rounds and I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to watch an extra preliminary round tie. Binfield tweeted ‘Huge FA Cup game tonight’ and a run in this cup and some cash in the bank can transform clubs at this level, as well as give a fixture pile-up later on.

Flackwell Heath had helpfully moved their game against Binfield to a Friday night. This simple act must have trebled the crowd, with a busy bar and a queue to get in, which if listening to the regulars waiting patiently in line, isn’t the norm in these leafy parts.


I wanted Flackwell Heath to win but, being so near Wycombe and with many Wanderers fans in attendance, this felt more than a little wrong. Even the Flackwell pitch had the wonkiness of the old Loakes Park ground but thankfully they played in red not blue. And even the moths were at it, dive bombing us from the floodlights, shouting ‘its still summer, play more games now before we are all dead from the cold.’

Looking at the team sheets both sides will expect themselves to be in contention for promotion from the Hellenic Premier League and just to hammer that point home, on their opening games they had scored 9 and 8 goals respectively against their opponents. So tonight was gonna be a goal fest!

The last time I had been to Flackwell was against Slough in the Berks and Bucks Cup 1977/8 when I was a small lad. There was snow on the ground but this didn’t stop 800 Slough and Wycombe fans cramming into their ground. We won 2-0 and I can remember the ref going into the crowd to take someone’s whistle off them!

Wilks Park is a tidy, compact little ground and if they can manage to a little covering behind both goals when the winter heavens open why can’t teams in Slough’s league? 
The first half hour dished up some pretty dreadful football or what you might call a proper full-blooded cup tie. These two were definitely up for the cup! But just before half time Flackwell sparked into life and the teams began to play.

I love watching football as a neutral, listening to the fans and players moan about the official’s decisions when you can see they got them right. The rather plump lino was one of those friendly officials who just laughed it off, was up for some banter and seemed like he was an official just cos he loved the game. 
The goal-fest never came, thanks in part to Binfield’s keeper who pulled off some fantastic saves to keep them in it. So 0-0 it finished, a replay Monday night and a fight to the death to see who pockets £1,500 and who plays Cheltenham Saracens or Slimbridge in the next round. Magic.

Replay this very night at Binfield, 7:45pm kick off.

Words by Warren Carter, from the Slough Town Soapbox also known as @BrightonRebel.
Photo by Peter Miles, who is the The Itinerant Football Watcher.

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