The FA Cup descends upon the small clubs in the lower leagues very early each season – cannon fodder (or early revenue for the FA), the 3rd and 4th step teams are expected to knock each other out as soon as possible so as not to embarrass the overpaid members of the upper leagues by having to change in a dressing room with rotten benches and no ice-bath. Actually, if what I was told on a recent stadium tour at the Emirates is true… The ice-bath is not particularly popular 😉 But, you get the point – giant killers might be popular with real fans but not with the owners of multi-million (pick your preferred currency here|) franchises, so the big boys get a helluv a lot of byes to avoid meeting the riff-raff.

Our FA Cup began and ended this season against Biggleswade Town in two matches that were very much chalk and cheese. The Waders came to visit us on Sunday! Presumably this was related to the extended Yom Kippur religious festival – though it could also have been the FA mucking around! Either way, the Sunday was one of those grey days that gives bouts of drizzle and little to lighten the atmosphere. The match was a bright as the day – grim.

Lairdy is brought down on the edge of the box - free kick.
Lairdy is brought down on the edge of the box – free kick.
Biggleswade looked interested only in getting a draw and The Blues huffed and puffed with no effect. It looked at times as though Leon had lost any sense of direction regarding where the goal was situated, whilst Lairdy looked like he was walking in syrup. The wingers on both sides worked hard and Ola rightly got the Man of the Match award. A mention for Dan McGonigle in the midfield – he also had a good game but often found that he had to stand with the ball waiting for a passing opportunity to present itself – I could hear the cogs turning, but that’s not Dan’s fault!

That the game became a 0-0 draw was not entirely surprising in the circumstances – Lairdy hustled to get in the photographs quite a few times but was never able to make the killer pass and towards the end there was a minor flashpoint as the referee failed to deal with consistent elbows from the Biggleswade number 6. Fortunately it never came to more than waving fingers and a yellow card for Weathers – possibly for talking common sense, which seems to be a crime in the FA’s eyes.

So – a draw on Sunday means a replay on Tuesday 😦 This means a run up the Kings Cross line for me with the need to ensure I caught the 23:00 back from Biggleswade at the latest as things get tight on time after that. Travelling north from Kings Cross is always a little special for me – nightime journeys to Scotland as a child. That first journey to Newcastle at the start of a Rail Rover in my previous train spotter days. And this is the LNER where my Grandfather drove steam locos – so there is always that feeling of belonging somehow.

The trip north takes us through a continuous string of tunnels – something that was classically portrayed in opening sequence of the movie Get Carter with the music of Roy Budd. Before you start looking at your copy of the one with Stallone, get real… I’m talking about the original with Michael Caine – one of the greatest, grittiest, British movies ever. There’s something dirty and unwashed about it. It relies on pure acting and real locations rather than special effects and that’s why it remains a classic. For those who may not have seen it, a little taster down the bottom from youTube 😉

Mike tries to duck out of the shot at Biggleswade - the Blue scarf is a give-away ;-)
Mike tries to duck out of the shot at Biggleswade – the Blue scarf is a give-away 😉
So – there I was at Biggleswade Station weighing up the shots for Geograph when I espied fellow fan Mike limping up the platform. He did his knee a few months back – now it seems he’s done the ankle on the other leg! Well he should be in good balance after that. As Cameraman I’m a bit of a cat that walks alone but Mike was in touch with Simon who usually does the match reports on It Started With A Miss. So we both got a lift to the stadium which, given the weather, was very welcome.

Biggleswade Town’s Carlsberg Stadium is barely 5 years old, although the turnstiles are somewhat older having been recycled from Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground – clearly they get so few fans there that the turnstiles would get more use in Biggleswade! The buildings are nicely modern with good facilities and the bottled Tetleys ale was very nice 🙂 The pitch is also very good and would have been a great surface to play on were it not for the persistent drizzle / rain. The worst combination for players and cameramen alike – they slip around and I worry about water in the electrics 😦

Ahmet heads past the Waders keeper in a period of Wingate & Finchley ascendancy.
Ahmet heads past the Waders keeper in a period of Wingate & Finchley ascendancy.
Despite the weather, the game really sparked! After the coma inducing play at Summers Lane both teams were up for it and if I were a neutral I’d have been offering to make a donation for the entertainment I’d received at the end of the game. The lead changed regularly and there were periods when both sides were in ascendancy over the 90 minutes. It was a battle fought in very difficult conditions despite which, there were minimal fouls – just a determination to win the ball and go on the attack! It was just one of those games where the play on the pitch was enthralling 🙂

In the end, the small difference in level of play told and the Waders ran out winners by a 4-3 margin – it could very easily have gone the other way. I walked back to the station in time to catch the 22:19. A drift back into the capital with one of the newer players as company – you know, remiss of me – I never even asked his name despite the fact that we chatted about work and interests 😦 Must’ve been tired! Anyway – glad to get back to Kings Cross where the last commuters and the punters from the clubs and bars were still heading home.

I do believe the Defender is tickling Leon to put him off!
I do believe the Defender is tickling Leon to put him off!
The 23:06 Cambridge service at Kings Cross.   Ignore the Welwyn GC blind - the driver will correct that when he wakes up ;-)
The 23:06 Cambridge service at Kings Cross. Ignore the Welwyn GC blind – the driver will correct that when he wakes up 😉

A Tribute to Get Carter with the excellent music by Roy Budd…

All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC. Please click on the Wingate & Finchley Badge to visit the Official Club Website.

A number of other essential activities have been getting in the way of my football – A much needed family holiday and a Cub camp. So I’ve missed a group of games and seen a couple in the middle. Even so, I’ve been able to read the reports on those I’ve missed and correlate what I’ve read – with allowances for the ‘league approved standard’ reporting on the club website – with what I’ve seen and thus you read the title!

The Bank Holiday weekend saw, as usual, day-time games on Saturday and on Monday. The first against Kingstonian was played in rain that varied between persistent and go build an ark sayeth the lord proportions. It also saw Kingstonian demonstrate why many people have them pencilled in as favourites to get the automatic promotion spot at the end of the season – very well organised and very physical. Of course, it didn’t help that many of our players didn’t seem to have switched on that night and at least one – Hector – was forever slipping over! Wrong boot choice? I checked with him a couple of games later and can confirm wrong boots – moulded soles when proper studs would have been better. But choice – Hector didn’t have a choice. He only has the one set of boots 😦 Another example of the gap between higher leagues and the Ryman. Of the game, I can only say that Kingstonian deserved their victory but the referee contributed with a penalty decision that was expletive-deleted wrong. Weathers put in a perfectly good challenge to win the ball from the Kingstonian forward who then fell over his prostrate form. When challenged about the decision the referee said that he’d given the penalty for intent! Wow… wonderful decision… So lets have a penalty everytime a keeper comes out to punch a ball and any players head that happens to get in the way shall we? That’s real intent – absolutely ridiculous excuse for giving a wrong decision resulting in a potentially game changing goal.

Kingstonian defender takes out Ola in the pouring rain.
Kingstonian defender takes out Ola in the pouring rain.
A short while after a Kingstonian defender brought down Ola by the simple expedient of wrapping his legs around Ola’s ankles – yes he did touch the ball but the ‘Intent’ was to prevent the player from getting a cross in. What did the ref do? Expletive-deleted-All and he also allowed Ola to lie on the pitch injured for several minutes – an absolutely disgraceful example of refereeing 😦 Ola was unavailable for the next match due to the injury he received. I would like to think that the report from the assessor will result in this guy getting sent back for retraining but experience with the 5-card merchant from last season suggests that this is the best way to get promoted as a referee! 😦 So, a 4-0 loss on the saturday.

Leon's Nemesis - The young Hendon Keeper comes out to block yet another one-on-one!
Leon’s Nemesis – The young Hendon Keeper comes out to block yet another one-on-one!
The Bank Holiday Monday was away against Hendon – a close rivalry between clubs that generally get on well in a heated sort of way. A dour if end-to-end encounter, it resulted in a draw. Wingate should have won it, had the chances been taken. But the young Hendon keeper handled 3 one-on-ones with Leon very well and was only beaten when a defender tried closing Leon down and was unable to stop a shot which was then out of the keeper’s reach. Hendon equalised in the dying moments by one of those freaks of nature where the ball deceives everyone and creeps into the net from a free kick intended for an attackers head – you get 2 or 3 every season. Should have been a win – Two points dropped 😦

The following Saturday was a home game agains Lowestoft. Played out in glorious sunshine, it was a spectacle that sadly only a few travelling fans witnessed. Usually Lowestoft bring a lot of fans but this time there was just the players coach and a few cars – I guess the economic strictures on the poor imposed by the Etonians in Downing Street is having the desired effect in preventing travel to away games?

The angel of The North? - Hector levitates during his last match for Wingate & Finchley before leaving for Toronto
The angel of The North? – Hector levitates during his last match for Wingate & Finchley before leaving for Toronto
It was a game of even play by both sides with neither looking likely to land the killer punch. It was Hector’s last game for us, at least for the foreseeable future as he moves to Toronto to work on a Masters in Sport Science. I know all the fans and everyone else at the club wishes him every success in that endeavour (whilst gritting our teeth at the loss) – Good Luck Hector – Hope it all goes well for you – you’ll be missed!

The following weekend I was away camping with our Cubs and Scouts and so was unable to attend when the team went to Thamesmead. It proved to be a 2-1 win though I understand from my friend and AFC Wulfrunians supporter Nigel that the first goal was gifted to Leon – he won’t say no to that and it’ll help build confidence. Cub Camp was great, if a little bad for my aged bones. Some mad fool insisted that I take part in the Rope-o-phobia activity which really didn’t do my back any good but I also had a go at the rifle shooting and took top score with 47 out of 50 – though we rightly awarded winner status to Rohan with 42 – a bloody fine score for a Cub and not a particularly large Cub at that!

Alasdair tries his hand at Canoeing for the first time
Alasdair tries his hand at Canoeing for the first time
I put my consistency (all shots within the area of an old 5p piece) down to all that practice with the Camera – referees better look out in case I trade in the Canon for a Dragunov 😉 Respect to all our Cubs and Scouts for their efforts in Canoeing, Climbing and Abseilling – many of them trying these activities for the first time – well done all 🙂

Tuesday was an away match at Canvey Island – I would have enjoyed going there as I get on well with some of the fans and especially their webmaster. Sadly, work commitments meant it wasn’t acheivable without some Doctorin’ the Tardis so I awaited the result with a degree of concern – Canvey are another team that many would expect to be in the play-offs at the end of the season. that concern was justified as they ran out 2-0 winners. Danny Niels’ was disappointed with the performance. Like I said – green shoots! But a lot of growing still to do for the team. Next game – tomorrow – is an FA Cup match against Biggleswade Town. I’m looking forward to that one 🙂

ps – Take a look at Hector’s Blog and his latest post on Zero Hours Contracts at http://hectormackiesportpolitics.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/zero-hour-contracts/

All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC. Please click on the Wingate & Finchley Badge to visit the Official Club Website.