Mind That Banana Skin

FA CUP 2nd QUALIFYING ROUND

Att : 420



SUTTON UNITED – 2   [Cornwall 20. Castledine 56]

MALDON TOWN – 0

Ah! It’s that time of year again. The start of our annual FA Cup adventure. And, on a couple of occasions in recent years, the end of our FA Cup adventure as well.

Our involvement in the worlds oldest cup competition recently has been littered with, well, crap performances. Last season being an especially frustrating example. Having won an absolute corker of a cup tie down on the south coast against Eastbourne, we went out in a replay to a decidedly average side from 2 poxy divisions below us.

Todays oppo, Maldon Town, are your archetypal FA Cup banana skin. Their position towards the wrong end of the Ryman Premier division would normally be enough to worry us, but the fact that they’re from Essex and even worse, situated just 4 miles up the road from previous FA Cup conquerers Heybridge is enough to give even the most confident U’s fan some sleepless nights!

Putting such thoughts to the back of my mind, I stroll into the pub before half one. And no other bugger is there. Ho hum, pint please!

Everyone else rolls in around 2ish and Greek finally appears at about 20 past. And he looks absolutely shit! Sure, he’s nicely tanned but he’s had precisely 2 and a bit hours kip in something like 27 hours. And he’s got at least another 2 and a bit before he can turn in.

I’ll have a fiver he’s nodded off by half time………

On arrival at the ground we find that our injury worries have lightened somewhat. Elliot has passed a fitness test and starts in the defence. Tony Quinton is also declared fit and takes his spot in midfield. But with Mackie returning to Exeter, JR has to decide on a new partner for Cornwall up front. Steve Douglas gets the nod. One noteable absentee is Carl Emberson. Rested after picking up a knock against Stortford, Phil Wilson gets his first start.

What we want is a bright start from the U’s and this is exactly what we get. With the visitors still trying settle, 2 chances come our way within the first 5 minutes. First a searching ball from midfield sends Douglas free of the defence towards the right, but his final touch in the box is too heavy and this allows the ‘keeper to smother the ball. A minute later, Akuamouah plays a pass down the left touchline for Douglas. He attacks the full back and delivers a cross that a defender manages to head away for a corner with Cornwall lurking.

It seems like the Essex boys are going to be swept away in this blistering start, but we fail to create anything further thanks to our insistance on playing balls early into the channels for Cornwall & Douglas. Unfortunately quality is lacking and despite plenty of pressure, the visitors weather the storm.

18 minutes in, their first ‘moment’ arrives. A ball foward to the edge of the U’s box really should be dealt with by Palmer, but his touch is poor and it looks like a lurking forward will nip in to pinch a chance on goal, but Patsy manages to recover enough to get his foot in and prod the ball away, bringing some half hearted calls from the Maldon players for a penalty.

Just as it seems the visitors have seen off our early pressure, settled into proceedings and probably no doubt starting to think about causing us a serious pain the arse, we go and open the scoring.

Ah ha! Weren’t expecting that was ya my slippery little Essex friends?

Gray plays another super long range pass forwards (can someone take that David Beckham “101 Hollywood passes” DVD off him please?) finds Douglas and allows him to attack the area. With the defence backing off,  he slips a pass along the 18 yard line for Cornwall. Luke finds his path about to be barred by a defender, but a neat drag back lets him spin back the other way and stroke a low shot between a completely wrong footed ‘keeper and his near post.

And breathe out………

Still, Maldon don’t seem to let this upset them too much and they go looking for a route back into the tie. On 28 minutes a quick throw in on the left catches us dozing a little and a quick cross is whipped across the face of goal. Palmer thankfully pops up far post to nick the ball away from the arriving attacker at the cost of a corner.

The game then enters a phase that one could only describe as ‘boring’. Very little of any note happens, with the Maldon defence looking a little more settled and being typically no-nonsense and Essex like in dealing with any threat (ie. Hoofing the ball as hard and as far away from thier box as possible) and the U’s still trying to be a little too clever at times.

Then in the last 4-5 mins of the half, there’s a little flurry of activity. Gray picks up a loose ball out on the right and drives forward, before cutting infield, but his shot lacks power and it’s an easy take for the ‘keeper. But it’s Maldon who finish the half brightly. Another quick throw in, this time on the right results in a cross into the box which is met with a glancing downward header than bounces not far wide of Wilson’s far post.

And with the final act of the half, a huge throw is launched in from the right touchline. No one wins the header and the ball drops invitingly around the penalty spot. But Palmer is again on hand to make sure nothing nasty happens and hoiks the ball clear.

We hit the bar and to his credit, Greek is still standing. Although he’s not looking any livelier than he did about an hour ago!

The second half starts with the visitors on the attack. A poor ball gives away possession on the right and the resulting pass across the edge of the box presents a good shooting chance, but it’s wasted and Wilson easily saves the rather weak effort. A good opportunity is wasted by the U’s a few minutes later when Gray’s floated corner hangs invitingly at the back post, but Castledine mistimes his jump and his header loops harmlessyl up and drops into the arms of the waiting goalkeeper.

But he makes amends 5 minutes later, cutting out a pass around 25 yards from goal in his own half and advancing into the opposition half before slotting a quality pass through for Cornwall on the right. He tries to step inside a grounded defender, who appears to handle the ball before then upending the U’s forward. But the ball runs loose across the 6 yard box and Castledine, who has continued his run, arrives to sidefoot into the empty net.

Right, that should do it!

Gray has the ‘keeper flapping just shy of the hour with a wicked curling free-kick from the left, but he gets enough of a hand on the effort to cause it to drop the wrong side of the far post.

Again, the game becomes a rather dull affair after this, with little to really get the pulse racing. Pitcher drives just over from the edge of the box after the ‘keeper flaps at a Cornwall cross from the left and Quinton plays the pass of the afternoon to play in Gray down the right, but the ‘keeper does well to stay on his feet and dives to push away Matt’s close range effort.

Changes are made to the line up and from here on in, the U’s pretty much cruise through the last 15 minutes. The visitors have some opportunities though. Wilson in action to save a decent low effort from 20 yards and a header guided over the target from a good position.

Their best chance comes on 83 minutes with a ball in from the left finding a worringly unmarked attacker at the near post, but he wastes a good opportunity by lashing an attempted volley embarrassingly into orbit from about 6 yards out. Oooops!

The only other moment of note comes in the last couple of minutes when the defence misjudges a bouncing ball on the edge of the box allowing an attacker to nip in. But despite a bit of a mix up between Patsy and Wilson, the dependable defender is on hand to nod an effort away from goal and then clear his lines.

Thankfully, the final whistle isn’t long in coming and a the possibly dangerous banana skin has been successfully deposited in the FA Cup waste bin.

Back in the bar, Greek gamely manages 3 pints before finally raising the white flag of tiredness and arranges a lift home from his missus. Which is probably a good idea considering he’s got to be up early tomorrow to play football!

The rest of us head back to the Hood where we find Dave the out-of-the-FA-cup-AFC Wimbledon fan.

Oh and the Bobbins, now shorn of their grossly incompetent management duo (booo! They’re no fun that lot!), went out 1-0 to Margate. 5th minute own goal apparently.

Aw bless.

MAN OF THE MATCH – Stewart Castledine. Classy performce.

ENTERTAINMENT – 5. Not very exciting at all. Still, job done………

TEAM : Wilson, Palmer, Castledine, Elliot, Gonsalves, Gray, Akuamouah, Quinton, Pitcher, Cornwall, Douglas  SUBS : Iga, Welton, Rivers, Adams, Charalambous

THE REFEREE’S………not that bad to be honest, But the game wasn’t exactly about to explode at any moment. Couple of pretty bizarre decisions though.

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