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. 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 😉
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 😦
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.
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.