FA TROPHY 1st ROUND
ATTENDANCE : 303
SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Alimi 7]
FOREST GREEN ROVERS – 4 [Fleetwood 27. 90. Stonehouse 75. Giles 87]
Having taken two attempts to dispose of Dover in the last round, we were naturally hoping for another slightly ‘easier’ tie next time out to try & see if we could claim another confidence building win. Then it dawned on me. The only way we could get an easy tie in the first round was if the FA drew us against ourselves.
And even then it’d probably need penalties. A lot of penalties.
Instead, they gave us Forest Green. The hapless side who we all remember from our disastrous Conference Premier foray several years ago, mainly because we beat them 3 and a half times. The only side we met at that level that season who we actually managed to avoid losing to. Which took some doing.
Since then of course, we’ve been back to the funny little club on the hill in 2003 and they wound up beating our young side that would eventually sweep all before it to finish runners up in the Ryman, by an ever so slightly flattering 4-0 scoreline.
Then, they were still the perennial strugglers towards the foot of the Conference table we’d left behind a couple of years before. Today, the job will be much much harder.
Since then, they’ve gone full time, sold their ground for a nice few quid and moved into a state of the art place just a couple of hundred yards up the road. Plus they’re having one of their best seasons ever, sitting just outside the play-offs and can boast the country’s top scorer in Mr Fleetwood. Who has a pathetic 25 goals to his name this season. Which is about as many as our entire side has managed in all competitions so far.
Gulp. Seems like today’s mission is going to be all about doing our best and trying to avoid a jolly good gubbing.
Having been out at the company Crimbo party the night before, just 48 hours after flying back from the USA, I’m naturally somewhat interested in a lie in this morning.
Sadly, my hopes are shattered by Windy who calls a good couple of hours before I was planning on leaving my pit. Seems he’s off to do the Santa visit to the kids up the local hospital with some of the squad and won’t be back in time to sort out opening up the tea hut for the afternoon.
Ho hum, there’s always tomorrow for a lie in I s’pose.
A quick stop off at Thomas Cook to change up some useless US currency to eminently far more spendable british beer tokens and it’s down to the ground to open up the tea bar. Things go swimmingly and I wander into the bar about 1.45 and persuade my already flagging liver that another beer really is a good idea and won’t make the slightest difference in the grand scheme of things.
Windy is already parked at the bar and Chlamers is also nearby, grinning like a four year old and showing to anyone who will look (and quite a few who don’t want to) an ever so slightly mangled finger he’d managed to drill into at work the previous day.
Er, yes, it’s lovely PC. You’re very clever. Now put it away will you, it’s making me feel a tad queasy you disgusting little man. A coulple of pints go down a treat as we watch the rather entertaining second half of the West Brom – Charlton game on the box.
Unfortunately, team news isn’t forthcoming until we’re outside and manage to work it out for ourselves from the side emerging from the tunnel. The only major change is the loss of the cup tied Dundas up front, with Harry Ottaway getting his full debut alongside Warren.
Somewhat unfairly, the visitors have decided not to rest their top goalscorer as we’d all hoped and he trots out with the rest of his colleagues. Bah! Cheating bastards. They must be scared of us. Yeah, that’s it, they’re scared. The big bunch of poofs.
The game gets underway and for the first few minutes our visitors don’t come at us looking to deliver an early knockout blow (unlike a lot of other sides this season) and allow us to settle. This gives us confidence and we actually look quite up for it, closing down and chasing hard all over the park.
Still, despite this somewhat promising (for us anyway) start, it’s rather a surprise when we go and take the lead after just seven minutes.
Green picks up the ball in midfield and breaks forward on the right. He tries to slip a pass into the channel for Ottaway, but his marker just manages to stretch out a leg and divert the pass. Harry chases down and recovers, playing a low ball across the box. Greene, who has continued his run, steps over the ball inside the box and just as we start to mutter “Fucks sake” because the ball is trundling towards goal at a painfully slow rate, Alimi pops up from nowhere a couple of yards out and takes advantage of some hesitation between the ‘keeper and a covering defender to prod the ball into the back of the net from close range. Bloody hell. We’re in front!
It seems the players are somewhat surprised as well judging by the rather muted celebrations.
Millsy, slumming it at the open end for a change, sums up our sense of bemusement best….”Are we sure we’re not wearing green today?? It’s usually us that defends like that!”
The goal of course gives our lads a bit of belief and for almost the next 20 minutes, there’s really not much to tell the two sides apart. FGR move the ball that bit better, but we’re competing well and actually looking reasonably composed.
Our guests first effort isn’t long in coming though. 23 minutes gone and a free-kick is conceded 20 yards or so out to the left. It’s hit hard and low through the wall and Wilson has to be down quickly to push the shot away. We’re further heartened by the sight of a U’s defender being alert and on hand to hammer the loose ball away from the danger area instead of looking on like a rabbit in headlights whilst the lurking attacker gobbles up the loose ball and scores.
But, as we’re starting to get that bit confident, we naturally fuck it up. A throw in from the left drops in the box and Scooby gets too tight to that bloke with lots of goals. He lets it bounce over them both before turning the Sutton defender and tumbling to the ground as Scoobs tugs at his shirt.
For a second, we think we’ve got away with it as the ref, despite being about 90 yards closer and with just as good a view, appears to have seen bugger all. But his lino is a little less shit and starts flagging away on the touchline.
Shit. This is where it all goes wrong isn’t it?
Despite having seen nowt and not actually conferring with his lino, the ref awards a pen and naturally produces a straight red for our skipper. Now, the pen we can’t argue with, but the red card is a little harsh considering toss face hasn’t actually seen the offence and hasn’t conferred with his linesman. So how the fuck does he know what happened and whether there was anyone covering in the middle?
So, not only does Mr Top Shooty Boots get a simple strike from 12 yards to level the score, we’re down to 10 men. Cheers.
Naturally, Fleetwood doesn’t miss and sends Wilson the wrong way to tie things up at 1-1.
God only knows what’ll happen now we’ve got to last a shade over an hour with 10 mne against a rather useful side sitting in the upper reaches of the Conference.
Naturally, FGR proceed to take charge for the last 15 mins or so and we try to hang on in there until half time. On 37 mins a quality ball from a central position out to the right picks out it’s target and the attacker is in behind the defence. But his well hit effort is smothered by Wilson at the foot of his near post. Phil is in action again a couple of minutes before the break when Sammut isn’t strong enough on the byeline to the right and the FGR man nicks the ball away as the young full back tries to usher it out of play for a goal-kick. Fortunately Phil has his angles sorted and again smothers the resulting ball across at his near post.
Having had our backs to the wall for a while, McBean has a decent sight of goal right on the whistle to maybe put us back in front, but having made the most of Ottaway’s persistence, his low shot from right to left across goal skips narrowly wide of the far post.
Still, we at least go in level at the break. Only another 45 minutes to hold out!
Right, I’m sodding freezing. Time for a cuppa and a pie I reckon…..
For the second half, Ernie sends the side out with a slight re-jig. Henry is playing in a more withdrawn role towards right back, which leaves McBean and Ottaway to patrol up front. And from the off, the full timers are looking to make that extra man count and put the tie to bed.
48 mins played and cross in from the left is knocked back across low in front of goal. It looks to us like this is it, but a U’s defender again pops up in the right place to clear the danger from what looks to be horribly close to our goal-line.
A bit of a battle ensues as we press the visitors and battle for everything, trying to deny them as much space as possible and make things as difficult as we possibly can. This sees us through to around the hour mark where we again hae a near miss. More progress down the left and a ball is put into the box. It’s half cleared & drops to a green shirt about 20-22 yards out. He doesn’t need asking twice and hammers a rasping drive just past the near post.
Fleetwood shows some of his quick feet several minutes later when he skips in to collect a ball pushed into the channel on the left. Darting in to the box, he rounds Wilson and with the goal gaping, the angle defeats him and he pulls his shot into the side netting.
Thank gawd for that!
Still though, despite it being pretty much 1 way traffic, we’re sticking to the task well and it’s at heartening for us on the terraces to see the side pulling together, with several players outstanding, simply by digging in and fighting for everything.
Ably led by Paul Honey, Bash, Haverson, Henry and Ottaway toil away, running their bollocks off for the cause.
But the effort seems to take it’s toll and as the half wears on, the openings for FGR whilst no more frequent than before, just seem to carry that bit more threat.
And on 71 mintues, it takes a desperate header off the line to keep the scores level. Caught out by a quick counterattack down the left ends in a cross to the far side. Wilson is quick off his line to block the initial effort but the ball breaks loose and sits up nicely to be nodded back towards goal, only for Gonsalves to pop up on the line and head away.
Still, we can’t hold out for ever and with 15 to play, the pressure finally tells. Having moved the ball around patiently in the final third, the visitors make the most of an opening and a cross in from the left is headed back across goal and sneaks inside the far post with Wilson stranded.
The away support celebrates a little more vigorously than you’d expect for a higher ranked side taking the lead at a relatively poor team like ourselves, but I guess they’re just relieved that a replay is now looking unlikely. And they’re not the only ones to be honest!
We keep plugging away though and pleasingly, the workrate doesn’t drop because we’ve gone behind. But we’re not making much headway attacking wise and our efforts to clear our lines are coming straight back at us. So, it’s no real surprise on 87 mins when a short corner on the left catches napping a bit. A cross is drifted in from the near corner of the 18 yard box and an FGR man just gets in ahead of his marker to guide a header inside the near post.
Game over I’d say!
But again, we continue to try & maintain our fighting stand and with injury time ticking by, a moment that pretty much sums up our season confronts us.
A free-kick from the right is swung in by Honey and is headed up into the air and drops towards the far corner of the 18 yard box. Liam Wright, on as sub, gets up and hits a curling volley that flies through the crowd and thumps back off the far post. Naturally, FGR instantly break down our right and 10 seconds later the ball is being squared across our box at the other end for Fleetwood to almost apologetically roll it into an unguarded net. Ho hum.
Back in the bar, we take heart over the performance, which saw us show some rare steel in the face of adversity. If we stick to that sort of application in the coming weeks, then we’ll at least give ourselves a vague chance of maybe pulling ourselves out of the mess we’re in.
We pass the time with a few beers are shared with a local guy and a scouser he knows who now works for FGR as a scout and we keep ourselves entertained with a fair bit of chatter and banter before we finally decide to head on down to the Hood to complete the night.
Here we find out that next weeks oppo, Bishops Stortford, have edged out Canvey 8-0 in their Trophy tie today.
MoM : Paul Honey. Opitimised the battling spirit of the side this afternoon.
TEAM : Wilson, Sammut, Scarborough, Haverson, Alimi, Honey, Greene, Henry, McBean, Ottaway.
SUBS : Bray, Right, Hughes, Goodchild, Williams