Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Quarter Finals - Rushden & Diamonds Vs York City

Once again I must apologise for the lack of recent blog entries. My last ever set of chemistry exams and the drinking that followed them has held me back somewhat. Hopefully I’ll make up for it with these final few entries.

The day of the Rushden Vs York match started badly. Despite not being very far away at all, the railway network required me to change twice and fork out over twenty quid for the privilege. I expected that Coventry train station would be running replacement bus services for the first leg of the journey, due to the same maintenance that has been going on for the past fifteen years. (Not an exaggeration). Unfortunately, the bus driver that came to take us to the relative train-laden haven of Nuneaton decided that his bus door was broken, and that he’d have to go and fix it. This didn’t take a long time, but long enough that it meant that I missed my connection from Nuneaton and my subsequent connection from Leicester. Thank you Travel Coventry.

Luckily enough Jake had managed to blag a lift from his housemate Courtney’s ‘friend,’ Jack. They managed to navigate the one-way nightmare of Leicester city centre, to pick me up at the train station. We raced down towards Rushden, arriving at the ground just in time to hear the whistle blow for kick-off as we approached the turnstiles.

Public transport based disaster successfully averted, Jack and myself got on with watching the football, whilst Jake got on with trying to eat his own body weight’s worth of processed meat. On the pitch, it didn’t take long for York to assert their dominance, forcing the Rushden ‘keeper into a few early saves, albeit comfortable ones. Off the pitch, it didn’t take Jake (who claimed that he hadn’t eaten all day) long to polish off a steak and kidney pie.

Despite a few forays into the York half, the home side were behind before half time. One of several corners being headed home from close range by the impressive York centre half. At this point I should apologise for not being able to give more detail about the match. It was a long time ago in truth, and it was far too cold to think about writing down any notes, or even storing them on my phone.

The locals were starting to get restless by half-time. They were clearly frustrated by the lack of goals for the home side, despite a few decent opportunities. One forward in particular coming in for a huge amount of donkey related abuse after mis-hitting a lob straight into the goalkeeper’s hands. Half-time also saw Jake consume a disappointing cheese burger, and half of Jack’s tray of cold chips.

The second half started in the same way that the first finished, with York looking the classier side, but with Rushden pressing hard for an equaliser without having much luck. The home fans were still restless, but in good voice. As the half drew on, Rushden started to look more and more likely to score, as York seemed content to hang on to the 1 – 0 scoreline. My exams were due to start in a week’s time and the prospect of a draw, and a midweek trip to York started to fill me with fear. The longer the game went on, Rushden looked more and more likely to score, and the more that I dreaded a replay. We’d missed enough games in the competition already. A draw would mean yet another one or a massive amount of time spent not revising. Stood right at the front of the increasingly irritable home fans trying to suck the ball into the net, I was silently cheering every scuffed shot and wasted freekick. Meanwhile, Jake struggled his way through the glamourously titled ‘Diamond Burger’ which turned out to be a disappointing cheeseburger, topped with disappointing bacon.

Deep into injury time and the equaliser nearly materialised, with a scramble in the box somehow ending up with the ball cannoning off the crossbar and being cleared. The throngs of angry home fans vented their frustrations at the final whistle, whilst I clenched my fists and punched the air as discreetly as I could.

Not only had the dreaded replay been avoided, but York is a much nicer place to go than Rushden, and the two legged nature of the semi-final ensured a trip to at least one nice place in the next round. We sneaked out of the ground quickly and drove off back up North looking forward to the semi-final draw.

Attendance: No idea
Final Score: Rushden & Diamonds 0 York City 1

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


Right, so the more observant of you will have noticed that there have been no blog posts in a while. That is sadly because we have been unable to attend any recent matches.
The replay between Halifax and Stortford finished in a comfortable win for Halifax, but unfortunately, I couldn't afford the time to go, and Jake was in an important meeting all evening.
With my final year exams on the horizon and numerous looming essay deadlines, I could again not afford the time to get to the next fixture, Halifax Vs Rushden. That morning the Shay stadium was covered in snow, and quite rightly (based on recent history) decided to save £30 by not travelling, assuming the game would be called off. Unfortunately the game went ahead, and ended in a Rushden victory.
We are both very dissapointed by the events of recent weeks, and apologise to our abundant and adoring public. However, we remain positive, and will continue to follow the Trophy until it's completion, despite having already failed in our mission.
I did travel to Margate on a cold Tuesday night for nothing!
The next match in the schedule is Rushden Vs York on 23rd Feburary. We will definitely be there this time (weather permitting!) and will provide an extra specially good match report to make up for our previous failings.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Third Round Draw

The third round draw saw Bishop's Stortford or Halifax get drawn at home against Rushden & Diamonds.

It would have been so much easier had Rushden been at home, but never mind.

The game will/should take place on Saturday 2nd February

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Waterlogged pitch in Halifax!

According to the Halifax website the game tonight is off. Looks like the 2nd round replay will now be played next week, 19:45 Tuesday 22nd Jan.

I don't mean to offend any Halifax supporters out there but how often do you play home games during the inter months? Of the 4 times we've been due to come up to watch a game it's been postponed 3 times.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Second Round - Bishop's Stortford Vs Halifax Town

January 12th 2008

After such a long wait to see the first round, the second round was sprung upon us just four days later. I have to thank my Dad for driving down to this match with us. The savings on transport cost, and pre-match pint bought for us was well worth the considerable drop in 'coolness.'

We found Stortford to be a lovely place, with a very friendly bunch of locals, and an impressive little stadium. We were greeted upon arrival by a smiling man with a London accent, selling raffle tickets. After politely declining at first, we gave into his charm when he stopped us in the bar a bit later. We each lost a pound, but felt happier and more at home for it.

I was very pleased to receive a phone call from a man called Gareth, when we were in the clubhouse. We had sent brief emails to each other the week before the match and Stortford fan, Gareth told me that he had brought us some goodies, in the shape of programmes from previous rounds of the competition. He told me that he was currently in a pub chatting with some away fans, but would try and catch up with us later.

With the atmosphere around the club being so immediately friendly, I was surprised to see that the ground was being segregated to keep home and away fans apart. I'm not sure how many away fans were expected, but only 50 or so turned up and the barriers put in place seemed a little unnecessary. The home fans, however, turned up in good numbers, with horns and loud voices and spurred on their team to a very impressive performance. That is taking nothing away from Halifax town, who looked a far better side than they did just half a week ago against Leamington.

It was Halifax who started the game brightest, creating several scares for the Stortford fans. Coming forward in the first 20 minutes or so, Halifax seemed to find space far too easily, and only the final product was letting them down. Stortford were struggling to cope with Jon Shaw and Nathan Joynes in particular. Stortford grew in confidence as the half went on. After initially resorting to long balls and frantic clearances, they started to play some flowing football and should have taken the lead when top scorer Greg Pearson rounded 'keeper Legzdins before hitting the side netting with a strike which lacked composure.

Both sides played with an open, attacking style, which was a credit to non-league football, and it was a slight surprise to see the half end goalless. The second half started in similar fashion to the first, with Halifax making the running, before Stortford began to edge their way into the game. And it was Stortfod who grabbed the opening goal. An Ahmed Deen freekick from just outside the box evaded everyone, and ended up in the corner of the net. Five minutes later, the Shaymen had equalised. A scramble in the box eventually saw the ball fall to Jon Shaw, who slotted home from close range. Stortford scored the goal of the game another five minutes later, as a flowing move found Fazackerley in space on the right. His inch perfect cross found Roy Esandoh at the far post, who made no mistake in heading home. Greg Pearson then had an opportunity to seal the win, but his shot from a tight angle was pushed around the post. With a little under ten minutes left, Halifax equalised for the second time. Another scramble saw the ball cannon of the crossbar, and fall kindly to a grateful Kearney, who put the ball in the net despite calls for offside. Even then the visitors had chances to win the game, and only a fantastic save from young goalkeeper Welch denied Jon Shaw from close range.

The final whistle brought an end to a game which nobody wanted to finish. A draw was probably a fair result, but both sides looked a little disappointed not to have snatched a winner. I cannot make it to the replay, but I'm looking forward to watching the victors in the next round.

Halifax will start as favourites on home soil, but if Stortford can produce a similar performance to Saturday, then another cup upset could be on the cards. Good luck to both teams for the replay.

Final Score: Bishop's Stortford 2 Halifax Town 2
Attendance: 731

Thursday, 10 January 2008

First Round - Halifax Town Vs Leamington

8th January 2008

Finally! After a month of waiting, I arrived at Halifax's Shay Stadium, only to be greeted by absolutely everything that Mother Nature could have possibly thrown at me. Yorkshire was on occasion throughout the course of the evening, hit by thunder and lightning, torrential rain, snow and gale force winds. Often more than one of the afformentioned nasties coming at the same time. Some higher authority clearly didn't want this game to be played. After being postponed twice previously due to weather conditions, and with a bit more rain, the referee could have easily abandoned this one. Within about twenty minutes of play, the pitch was cutting up badly, and the ball was beginning to stick in the expanses of mud and water which were appearing all over the place.

With the half completed, very sorry looking main stand looking as if it was about to collapse under strain from the elements, Leamington got off to a dream start. Kicking towards their, vocal as always, away support and assisted by the wind behind them they were always likely to start strongly, but few could have predicted a goal within 3 minutes. A cross from Marcus Jackson broke to Ben Mackey on the edge of the area, who lashed an unstoppable shot into the top left hand corner. I have become accustomed to seeing the Leamington crowd go a bit mental over the course of this adventure and they didn't disappoint this time either. Slightly cold burgers and hot drinks went everywhere and the Halifax stewards had to put on very stern looking faces to calm everyone down.

Leamington held their own in the first half, whilst Halfax struggled to even run in the wind that was blowing straight in their faces. Despite being one up, you got the feeling that if Leamington were going to get anything out of the tie, they were going to have to score again. They didn't really threaten Craig Mawson in the Halifax goal until a game changing incident on the half hour mark. Striker Martin Thompson was sent through on goal by a brilliant chipped ball from midfield. Mawson came charging out, and as Thompson clipped the ball round the keeper on the edge of the area, was sent tumbling by Mawson's reckless tackle. It looked for all the world like Mawson should have been sent off, but to the away supports bemusement, and Mawson's relief, only a yellow was shown and the resulting freekick came to nothing.

Leamington's misery was compounded with the last kick off the first half, as Halifax snatched an equaliser. Marcus Jackson dallied on the ball when he really should have cleared, and his mis-kick under pressure fell straight to Lewis Killeen. Killeen was clumsily brought down inside the box and Jon Shaw cooly dispached the penalty kick past Richard Morris. The Leamington fans I was stood with booed the referee at half time, but in my eyes it was a clear penalty, even though it was at the far end of the ground.

When the players emerged at the start of the second half, the wind had died down drastically. The rain/snow was still lashing down and the pitch was getting worse by the minute, but the lack of wind certainly favoured Leamington as the teams switched sides. Despite the lack of wind, Halifax began to show their superior quality and were camped in visitors half for long periods, without creating any real danger. No doubt assisted by the terrible conditions (I can't stress enough how difficult it must have been for the players) fouls started to be committed all over the pitch and it was only good fortune that meant we didn't see anyone injured.

As feet began to stick in the mud and the tie looked destined to be taken to a replay, Leamington hearts were broken by a goal in the final few minutes of normal time. For almost the first time in the match, the dogged and resiliant Leamington defence allowed a Halifax player some time in the penalty area to fashion a genuine chance. Simon Heslop had time to steady himself and sent a low, skidding shot into the corner of the net. The travelling supporters stopped singing for possibly the only time in the 90 minutes and the players on the pitch almost universally sunk to their knees and held their heads. Heslop had got the home team out of jail and the relief around the Shay Stadium was tangible.

After the brief pause the Leamington faithful continued to strain their voices, but for the final few minutes the tone was one of pride rather than genuine encouragement. At the final whistle, the majority of the crowd breathed in a big sigh of releif, whilst around 100 Midlanders trotted down the stairs to pitchside where they applauded off their exhausted, battle weary heroes.

Over the ninty minutes, the Yorkshire side probably deserved the victory. I feel that if the conditions were better then they would have ran out comfortable winners. However Leamington should be congratulated for getting this far in the competition, beating several teams from higher divisions on their way. They performed valiantly and should take great hear from the fact that they had parity with their Conference level opposition for such a long period of the game.

Again I would like to thank all the Leamington fans for being so nice special thanks to Vince for the lift to the ground. I wish Leamington FC every success for the season ahead and for the future. Hopefully I will be able to meet some of the Halifax faithful in the next round, as I didn't get chance this time.

Final Score: Halifax Town 2 Leamington 1
Attendance: 805

Monday, 17 December 2007

2nd Round Draw

In the draw for the second round proper Leamington or Halifax will be travelling to Bishop's Stortford.

Bishop's Stortford play in Conference South so should provide a good game for either side.