FA TROPHY 3rd QUALIFYING ROUND
Att : 204
UXBRIDGE – 2 [Nicholls 37. Swaysland 54]
SUTTON UNITED – 2 [Elliot 22. Castledine 90]
Now, I’m all for maintaining traditions and that, but this is getting ridiculous.
Yet again, we’ve faced lower ranked oppo in an FA Competition and failed miserably to make our supposed ‘superiority’ count. Already this season we’ve been dumped out of the lucrative FA Cup to Chippenham with a performance that stank so badly that if you had to sit & watch it again on DVD, you’d need a gas mask to last the 90 minutes.
So you can probably understand the reaction of “Thats us out then!” when Southern League Eastern strugglers Uxbridge came out of the hat in the trophy.
Still, at least it’s not miles away, so the miserable trip home afterwards won’t be that long…….
Windy decides that pissing about getting into town & then back out to West Drayton would make things unnecessarily painful in the event of a disaster occuring and voluteers to drive. Which to someone as pink-lint as my good self is wonderful news!
Greek is a late addition to the party, having risen earlier than we’d expected after a night out on the piss in Kingston for a 30th the night before and it’s a slightly hungover fat bloke who is picked up just after half 12. With Chalmers & the missus on board soon after, we’re finally on our way.
Traffic prevents us from trying out any local hostelries beforehand and we eventually find our way to the ground, via the holding yard of a nearby Volvo dealership with enough time to partake in a pint or two. There’s a few weary looking U’s fans in attendance after a heavy night at the clubs quiz the previous evening.
Makes a change for us to see them hungover!
Team news is quickly obtained. JR has dropped Lewis to the bench & re-instated Gary Elliott to the defence. Pitcher comes straight back into the side in place of Castledine and Sean Rivers gets his anticipated start up front with Luke Cornwall.
A brief, yet steady downpour prior to leavnig the bar does little to raise the temperature and we head out into the chilly afternoon air to await the start of the match. To our surprise, the expected minutes silence for George Best fails to materialise. Strange.
The match itself takes time to get going. The U’s are seemingly mindful of avoiding another Chippenham-esque start and conceeding an early goal, so keep things tight at the back. But despite quite a bit of possession, we don’t really test the hosts defence in the first few minutes. After 12 minutes, our first real penetrating attack comes. Pitchers clever flick in the centre allows Quinton to release Akuamouah down the left on the overlap. He gets to the byeline and delivers a low ball across, but the ‘keeper is alert and smothers the centre without a great deal of fuss.
Rivers makes his first contribution shortly after, playing a great ball on the turn into the left channel for Cornwall. He takes on a defender and gets a ball across, but it’s overhit and Gray recovers on the far side. Unfortunately he’s ruled offside when going for the return pass of a 1-2 with Pitcher. The midfielder delivers a free-kick a few minutes further on that Scarborough meets in a central position, but the header is well over the target.
The breakthrough we’d hoped for isn’t far behind. On 22 minutes, a Gray corner from the left is headed clear, but only as far as the edge and the ball is immedaitely returned to the left and the immediate curling cross is met 8 yards out with a powerful diving header from Elliot into the far corner. Thank god for that! Fully aware of our record when scoring first, we start to feel a little more relaxed about matters.
But, for some strange reason, the U’s fail to build on this breakthrough and within a couple of minutes, the home side are finding themselves with just that little bit more space and time on the ball.
A warning comes on the half hour when Elliott gives away possession on the left and a swift counter is launched down the line. The ball is eventually moved well across the edge of the 18 yard box before finding the unmarked no11 at the far post. With the goal at his mercy 10 yards out, he miskicks horribly and Palmer nips in to clear the danger. The U’s respons soon after when Pitcher sidefoots an effort straight at the ‘keeper from the edge of the box after Eddie has once again got round his man to pull the ball back from the byeline, but almost immediately after, Wilson is called into action for the first time.
The defence drops a little deep with the hosts in possession and their man tries his luck from around 25 yards out on the right. Wilson having to step back and then acrobatically tip the dipping effort over his crossbar at the expense of a corner. Another warning.
Again, despite this, we fail to reassert control on proceedings and the Uxbridge has a feeling of utter inevitability when it arrives with 37 minutes played. A deep cross from the left finds the no11 once again in too much space on the right. This time, he takes the ball down on his chest, steps inside the static Gray and rifles a shot under the advancing Wilson from 10 yards.
Oh dear. This’ll be where things go tits up again then?
Of course, the home side take heart from drawing level and put us under some pressure before the break. The closest they come though is a poor Quinton ball out to the right intended for Gray is cut out by the lively no11. He bursts into open space down the right, with Gray desperately trying to make up the lost ground. Fortunately, the Sutton mans pace gets him out of trouble and he manages to get back and harass the 11 into a snap shot from the 18 yard line that finds it’s way safely into Wilson’s midriff.
Naturally, mutterings are not positive as we head round to the far end at the break.
The second half starts a little more positively for Sutton, with Ed getting down the left in the first minute or so. But his good cross, is eventually cleared after causing a little bit of chaos in the box. A couple of minutes later, Pitcher threads a good pass through for Cornwall, but the ‘keeper is quick off his line and manages to smother the strikers stretched effort.
Our hosts weather this early spell and slowly resume where they left off in the first half, taking advantage of our woefully anonymous midfield and breaking quickly wherever possible.
One such break on 51 mins almost catches us out. A quick surge down the right once again from the no11 results in a searching low diagonal ball towards the far post. Thankfully for us, Eddie has tracked his man all the way back and gets in ahead of him to prod the ball out to the relative safety of a corner. But, once again, it’s another warning we fail to heed.
Three minutes further down the line, Cornwall has the ball in the left corner of the Uxbridge half. Turning out, he plays a loose ball back infield and it’s siezed upon by a red shirt. It’s immediately switched to the right, finding the no11 taking great advantage of a huge hole left when Gray had come forward to join what he’d expected to be an attack. The 11 has ample time to set his sights and pull the ball across the 18 yard box for a team mate to meet in the centre and steer a half volley into the turf on it’s way into the far corner.
Now we’re fucked. Were’re really really fucked.
Naturally, as per previous occassions, our lot haven’t got a clue how to respond, apart from of course lumping balls as far forward as possible to no-one in particular and the passing, if it can be called that, gets even more ragged and half arsed.
The home side smell blood and go for the killer third. It almost comes when an Uxbridge man tries his luck from 25 yards or so from out on the right. His dipping effort can only be watched by Wilson as it drops over his head and clips the top of his crossbar. Several minutes later, Wilson comes to the rescue saving with his legs after poor marshalling out on the left has allowed an attacker to wriggle through and hit a low effort on goal.
Entering the last 20, Wilson again is called upon to keep us in the tie with another excellent save. A corner from our right causes all sorts of chaos in the box and it’s poorly cleared to only a couple of yards out on the right hand side. The ball is immediately clipped straight back into the danger area and Wilson reacts superbly to tip a free header from the back post over the crossbar.
JR throws on Fear and Castledine for Pitcher and Rivers to maybe try & shake things up a bit. But it does little to really alter the pattern of play. Our only real ‘chance’ of seemingly rescuing the tie comes with a little under 15 to play. A Gray throw from the right is nodded back to the edge of the box from the 6 yard line and Paul Honey charges in to crash a shot goalwards. But, displaying total commitment to the cause, no fewer than 3 red shirts fling themselves into the path of the effort and block it’s route to goal.
As time ebbs away, we’re looking more and more unlikely to create even a chance, let alone snatch an equaliser. But as we enter the final few minutes, it seems the home side tire slightly and they try everything they can to break up play to try & prevent us from getting any momentum going. This earns them a little clutch of yellow cards.
Just as we’re preparing to accept yet another piss poor exit from a lucrative and prestigious cup competition, the unexpected happens…….
Deep into the time added on for the silly antics a few minutes before, the U’s press forward one last time. The ball is played out to Gray on the right, supporting this final attack. He flings a cross into the heart of the box and there rises Steward Castledine to guide a header down and beyond the reach of the ‘keeper into the corner of the net to snatch an unlikely replay.
The goal is greeted more with relief and an outpouring of frustration than celebration behind the goal. It seems the players sense our mood and return quickly to the centre-circle for the restart with little celebration themselves.
A quick chorus of “You lucky lucky bastards!” from us behind the goal sends them on their way.
Moments later, the ref brings proceedings to a close and understandably, the team gather together for their warm down rather than acknowledge the support. Not that they’d probably have got any in return mind you!
Pissed off, most of the U’s support seems to head straight for the car park to head straight home. And we’re among ‘em. Our departure is soured by news that the Bobbins have finally broken their duck. 2-0 away to Chippenham of all fucking places.
Pub please Mr Miller. I need a pint. And quick.
Back at the Hood, the mood improves little with the addition of alcohol. After a couple of pints, skint and increasingly hungry, I head home for some scoff. As I hop on the bus, a bloke sat about halfway down spots the badge on my Oldham jacket.
“Eagles!” he exclaims.
Eagles??? EAGLES??? It’s a fucking owl you imbecile!! It looks sod all like a bloody Eagle!! Obviously not a fully paid up platinum member of the RSPB are we mate? Twat.
Fucking ‘Eagles’. I ask you.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Gary Elliott. Solid on his return to the side & a goal to boot.
ENTERTAINMENT – 5. Another lame performance against lower ranked oppo.
TEAM : Wilson, Gray, Quinton, Scarborough, Palmer, Elliot, Honey, Pitcher, Akuamouah, Rivers, Cornwall. SUBS : Fear, Castledine, Gonsalves
THE REFEREE’S………bit shit really. Put up with shedloads of dissent all day, from them especially and also made a few rather random decisions. If he’d booked a couple early on, none of the tedious crap that came later would’ve happened. Linesman was shite as well.