Paying The Penalty


Att: 347

BISHOPS STORTFORD – 1    [Langer 80]

SUTTON UNITED – 1    [Collins 76]



So, the U’s FA Cup crawl (well, it’s hardly a sodding ‘run’ is it?) struggled into Bishops Stortford yesterday evening, with us hoping to improve on Saturdays somewhat dour showing so we could make the next round.

Still, just a decent shot on target would do for starters.

Although with the lads low on confidence and struggling for form, it has to be said, I think ‘hope’ covers it pretty well. An early dash from work is undertaken and there’s even time for a pint at Liverpool Street with Chalmers & Bob before jumping on the choo-choo bound for a certain part of

Essex Herts.

The U’s are forced into a couple of changes for tonight’s game, with Hodges failing a late fitness test and Williams still not 100% after taking a knock at the weekend. Fletcher & Collins come in to cover the gaps and Williams at least manages to make the bench. Paul Honey, who also hobbled off on Saturday is passed fit however.

Sutton kick off and start the brighter of the 2 sides. Moving the ball around and looking to get forward and at the home defence as much as possible. But despite the positive start, not a lot is created and it’s almost a quarter of an hour in before something worth noting happens & I reluctantly pull out my notebook to start scribbling.

Eddie makes a burst from deep with the ball at his feet and almost makes the box before he’s rather crudely chopped down by the Stortford no5 who rightly goes in the book for the challenge. The lads work the resulting free-kick well. Everyone, including us, expects Danny Bolt to have a poke from this range, but he slips the ball out to a central spot 20 yards out, where Bailey has found himself space. He blasts a low effort through the crowded box that deceives Desborough in the Stortford goal and flies through his grasp and into the net. We celebrate wildly as do the players, only to have those celebrations cut short by the linesman’s flag.

Our confusion soon turns to dismay as the ref spots this and rules the effort out, pointing at Watson as the ‘culprit’. We can only assume that the ball has clipped him on the way through the crowd and he was in an offside position when doing so. Although it certainly didn’t look like it to us.


The lads keep their heads up and carry on attacking. With 19 minutes played, a deep free-kick from the left (one of a string won from some distinctly dodgy defensive challenges by the home side) is swung in towards the back post. Fletcher jumps, but can’t quite get a good contact on the ball and it drops for the lurking Collins. But his snap shot on the turn is blocked by a defender at the expense of a corner. Stortford have their first serious chance not long after, with a long range effort from around 25 yards that Iga gathers without too much difficulty.

But, the U’s keep up their pressure as they look to break the hosts down. Another free-kick on the edge of the box is won and Bolt this time decides to have a pop. His effort hits the wall, but rebounds to Gonsalves who then lofts it back into the danger area. It’s a great ball and Watson charges in, leaping ahead of the ‘keeper. But his glancing header drops just the wrong side of the post.

On 28 minutes, Bolt is again delivering a free-kick, this time from the left. It finds Collins at the back post, but he’s always stretching for the ball and does well to direct his header towards the target. But it’s too high and doesn’t trouble Desborough. Collins continues to cause the home side problems, with one break from deep on the half hour taking him to the byeline. But the rest of his team-mates are slow to support and the delay in the cross allows the defence to cover and escape at the cost of another corner. Bolt puts the set piece in and Gray jumps well at the back stick, but again, we fail to find the target and his header drifts wide.

Sutton’s momentum is then somewhat upset when Honey pulls up after one challenge. It’s soon apparent that his back injury from Saturday has flared up again and that his race is run. And within a couple of minutes, he’s unsurprisingly replaced by Hanlan. The sudden loss of our ball winner in the middle of the park upsets our rythm and Stortford are soon right back in the game.

With 9 minutes to the break, the ball is cut back from an attack down the left, setting up a thumping 20 yard effort that zips just wide of Iga’s upright. A poor ball out of defence sets the home side up shortly after, allowing a run & shot from the right. It bounces awkardly in front of Iga, but he does well to get down & parry the ball to safety.

With almost the last act of the half, a long ball forwards is allowed to bounce towards the edge of the area. The Stortford no9 nips in behind Palmer & with Iga coming off his line to close the angle, the striker hooks the ball over his head. To our huge relief though, the ball thankfully bounces back off the bar and the covering Fletcher hooks it clear.

We decide not to bother with the sparsely stocked bar at the break & instead park our arses behind the other end. Where we spend most of the time ducking & dodging wayward ‘practice’ efforts from our subs. Having survived this intense bombarment (cheers boys) we settle down for the second half. Again the U’s start positively and within a couple of minutes, another good run by Collins takes him to the byeline where he skips past one man, but can’t quite beat a second. The danger is only half cleared and Bailey tries his luck from 20 yards out on the left, but his effort is always curling away from goal and drifts just wide of the far post.

Several minutes in, we win a corner. Bolt as usual puts it into the box, but Stortford clear. Hanlan is first to the loose ball and chips is straight back into the box. Again, Watson times his leap perfectly and nods the ball past the oncoming Desborough, but somehow also past the post once again. Heads are placed in hands, naughty words are used and we start to wonder if we’ll ever get a sodding goal in this bloody tie.

The home side slowly start to assert themselves again and our iffy marking from set pieces causes us a little concern, with 2 examples headed clear at the expense of corners. The second of these is claimed well by Iga and launched upfield.

At the other end, Collins darts forward to pressure the 2 covering defenders. Whether his presence distracts them or not, it doesn’t matter as both leave the matter of dealing with Andy’s huge kick to each other. Whilst they discuss matters like the weather and who’s fault the ensuing fuck up is, the ball is allowed to bounce 20 yards out & the lurking Collins seizes his chance. Racing onto the ball he toes it past the advancng ‘keeper and with the 2 defenders desperately chasing back, he slots the ball into the empty net. Much to our delight.

14 minutes left. Can we hang on?

Sadly, the answer is a big fat, fuck off ‘no’.

Only 4 minutes later, we’re right back to square one. A quick ball out to the right sets an attacker on a run down the right, getting in behind Matt Gray. Matty catches him, but not before he’s able to hook a low ball across our 6 yard box. 2 defenders and an attacker slide in and apparently all miss the loose ball, but Iga is deceived by the pace and can only look on as it flies past him and bounces off the inside of his far post, Rebounding back across goal, where he’s unable to stop Langer from bundling the ball into the net from a couple of yards out.

Most of the lads take a moment to delve deeply into their vast repertoire of finest Anglo-Saxon and curse whatever deity may be listening in at the time. Personally, I think the versatile word that is ‘Bollocks’ covers this situation nicely.

For the last 10 minutes, it’s slightly backs to the walls stuff from the U’s as Stortford, bouyed by their goal, push for a winner. One chipped ball in from the left ends in a low shot narrowly across goal & wide, another forces Matt Gray to dive in and head almost off the boot of a forward behind him and worst of the lot, almost right on time, a ball over the top catches our defence flat & the blues no9 legs it into space. Iga comes off his line and although he manages to force the attacker wide, he’s left sprawling on the turf. And can only watch as matey delivers a ball back across goal that is a good few feet too high for anyone in a blue shirt to apply a finishing touch to. Once again, we all breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Despite this, the lads muster a couple of late forays forwards, winning a corner from one. Bolt swings it in from the left and Desborough comes to collect, but fails, allowing the ball to find it’s way out beyond the far post to Palmer. He pulls it back into midfield where a clever cross field ball finds Bolt in acres of space out on the left. He heads for goal, but with both Bailey & Watson wide open & screaming for the ball, he instead elects to have a poke. His fierce, swirling effort flashing a couple of inches over the bar.

Soon after, the ref signals the end of 90 minutes. Which means another 30 minutes to endure and more importantly, completely destroying our hopes of getting back to the Hood for closing time. Which is really upsetting.

As per the 2 previous periods of play, we start the first extra 15 minutes the better. Almost immediately, a free-kick is won, but Bolt’s low effort lacks real power and the ‘keeper makes a relatively straight forward stop to his right. Gray has a pop soon after, cutting inside from the right, he runs infield and drives a shot from the corner of the box across the Stortford goal. Our hosts respond with a crisply struck 25 yarder which despite having plenty of welly behind it, is straight at Iga.

Then, with a couple of minutes of the half left, Eddie Akuamouah makes a surging run down the left, pulling the ball back across goal. Watson steps over it, leaving it for Bolt arriving behind him. But Dan fails to get a decent contact and weakly scuffs the ball into the arms of the ‘keeper rather than bury it in the onion bag. By now, the U’s are starting to flag a bit. Collins limps off for Williams and many of the Sutton lads are seemingly out on their feet at the break. Our fears are confirmed in the second extra period, as we spend virtually the whole 15 minutes desperately hanging on for penalties.

Stortford have 2 great chances to snatch the win here, both presented by the tired U’s inability to clear their lines or hold onto the ball when they actually do. First up, Mr 9 collects his hat-trick of misses, running onto another ball over the top, he’s left with only the ‘keeper to beat. But in his haste, delivers a week chip that Iga comfortably grabs. Then a deep cross from our right with around 5 to play is met on the volley at the back post, crashing back off the underside of the bar.

Somehow though, our completely shagged out troops hold out to the final whistle and it’s the unbridled joy and fun that is a penalty shoot-out that is our reward.

The home side start us off and Rainford scores to put the Blues 1-0 ahead. Matt Hanlan steps up and despite much ribbing from the home fans, who’ve moved down to our end to watch, about his stylish hairdo, confidently sends Desborough the wrong way to make it 1-1. Southam is next up for Stortford and strikes his effort low to Iga’s right, but Andy guesses correctly and beats it out much to our delight. The celebrations are are again short lived though as the ref decides that our man has either moved too early or come too far forwards off his line and orders the kick re-taken. Understandably miffed, Iga thrashes the ball into the net in disgust and is booked for his trouble. Naturally Southam makes no mistake second time round. 2-1.

Matt Gray then steps up and despite the ref’s petty insistance that the ball be on the correct blade of grass, he holds his nerve & thumps the ball home to make it 2-2. Gwillim then sends Iga the wrong way to make it 3-2 to the hosts, leaving ‘skipper Mark Watson the task of levelling things. Watson strides up and sidefoots the ball against the base of the left hand post with Desborough stood rooted to the spot.

And now that is us proper fucked.

Langer tucks away his effort and the blues 4th to make it 4-2 and leaving Bailey with the task of keeping us alive. He does. The youngster confidently slamming his kick right down the middle.

So 4-3 Stortford. But despite this, we’re still relying on Iga to make a vital stop or a miss to give our last man a chance of levelling. Sadly, McKeown sends Iga the wrong way to send the home side through 5-3 and once again, we’re out at the first time of asking.

Mildly narked, we trudge out to the car park to begin our journey home at the end of which we can’t even have a beer, where Mr N T Greek sums it up best.

“Awwwwww CRAP!”

Oh well, there’s always the Surrey Senior Cup to defend.

MAN OF THE MATCH – Rob Collins. Easily our most effective attacking player.

ENTERTAINMENT – 7. Not a bad cup tie. Plenty to see, but not a lot of quality on show.

TEAM : Iga, Palmer, Fletcher, Gonsalves, Gray, Akuamouah, Corbett, Honey, Bailey, Collins

SUBS : Davies, Hanlan, Williams, Dray, Hamlin

THE REFEREE’S………probably one of the better ones we’ve had, but that still didn’t stop him being petty at times.

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