the real fa cup

Tring 0-2 Arlesey

Tring Athletic 0-2 Arlesey Town
FA Cup Preliminary Round 29th August 2015

In theory at least this game should have been a fairly comfortable win for the away side. But Tring, roaring along in the Spartan South Midlands league at level 9, are hosting a woefully off-form Arlesey: winless, pointless and, until last week, goalless from the tier above (central section of Evostik South Division 1.

An old-school, rural commuter belt town North of London, a short train trip to Tring is one of those things it’s good to do on a warm late summer afternoon.  That is especially the case when there’s FA Cup football on offer and the town’s got a bank holiday weekend beer festival with which to whet one’s whistle.

Pre-match, the talk is about Tring’s Chris Vardy, who has 6 goals in 5 games, carrying on from his form of last year where he was both players’ and fans’ player of the season. Tring had won their first five games of the season but lost 1-0 to Oxhey Jets last week.

Tring’s Grassroots Stadium is a fairly standard but nicely appointed non league footy ground surrounded by lush greenery, with a satisfyingly DIY painted badge at the turnstiles. There should be more of this sort of thing.

This is Tring’s 11th FA Cup campaign and their best is twice to the 1st Qualifying Round where they’ve lost once to Kings Lynn and once to Wealdstone. Arlesey got to the 1st Round in 2011, losing to Salisbury, and again the following year, losing 3-0 to Coventry. We’ve seen them play twice before, once in the Hitchin derby and once when they beat the mighty Dulwich Hamlet and got all giddy meeting Dutch journalist Patrick van IJzendoorn – who then wrote about us in in his FA Cup book. Heady days.

Slightly worse for wear after rather too long sampling a ‘Raw Blonde’ with ‘Lord Marples’ and getting into a ‘Dogfight’ with ‘Ninja’, 116 people stumbled into the ground. As the players and officials emerged it looked like they’d done the same. The dead-eyed drunken stare of a Tring player about to lose in the FA Cup and the whistful distant gaze of a lino hazily day-dreaming of running the line at Wembley.

Look at that font! Look at it. Marvellous. Especially the ‘7’. Any thoughts of impartiality were cast aside when we noticed Tring’s numbers. Woof! And with a campsite in the next field it felt like we were on holiday.

The game started quietly, in terms of clear-cut chances, but, in terms of action, it was harem-scarem, even end-to-end. Arlesey, currently bottom of Southern League 1 Central without a point, looking like a team who had forgotten how to play football. But, midway through the half, they were in front courtesy of a fine shot from Wilson from the edge of the box.

Arlesey going in front was the worst thing for the game but the advantage was nearly cancelled out just before half time when Tring had two good chances. The second chance fell to Ollie Hogg whose shot was somehow cleared off the line by a defender.

After half time, a chink of light for Tring when Arlesey’s Louis Lee was sent off. That light was extinguished just five minutes later when Tring keeper Matt Evans dropped a cross under minimal pressure and the ball was bundled into an open goal. Effectively, game over, as Arlesey shut up shop and Tring didn’t have the guile to break them down.

As the clouds gathered and light faded the crowd was illuminated by Arlesey’s keeper’s headache-inducing kit. A decent game lacking in genuine final-ball quality, Arlesey just about deserved their win. ‘Bountiful’, it was not, ‘Dogfight’ only slightly and most certainly was ‘Death Or Glory’ for either side. Actually, just some of the beers on offer at the Kings Arms’ beer festival. But, in this instance, it was Death for Tring and Glory for Arlesey.

Arlesey now face Brentwood Town of the Ryman Premier League in the 1st Qualifying Round.

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