Monday 15 April 2019

This Is Entertainment - Banbury United FC Vs Ardley United FC, Oxfordshire FA Senior Cup Semi-Final, Yarnton Road (20/03/19)

Although I know in my heart of hearts this is never going to become a regular thing, Tom seemingly does not possess the stamina to drive further than the shop at the end of his road and back or at a push to the local IKEA for the latest edition to his bourgeois house, I will enjoy the bearded reincarnation of driving my Miss Daisy for as long as I possibly can.

Tom is at the wheel tonight, its a fucking miracle.

Having been with my other half for over twelve years now, you would think I would have a good idea of the kind of person she is. Funny, generous, a little pessimistic, with a good streak of Northern level headedness. I am then a little shocked by her tirade when I tell her I’m playing passenger and Tom Mr Uber for the evening.

“Fart on his seats”, “leave mud in his footwell”, she scowls. My jaw hits the floor as the normally mild mannered and quite shy mother to my daughter, reels off a list of things she thinks I should be doing in retaliation to what can sometimes be Toms less than perfect etiquette when he is a guest in my motor.

Cup holders that work, my own seat warming dial, a Sat Nav with a modicum of intelligence, a boot that opens from the inside so Tom doesn't even have to get out of the car, popping it open as I approach so I can seamlessly put my bag in, a radio that receives more than one station, how could I be anything other than on my best behaviour when the in car experience is so agreeable.

With Tom driving, recounting a dream or should I say “nightmare” as he does, that he had last night, about a “sparking camcorder”, it's my turn to do that gawking out of the window thing he does, where he has clearly tuned me out, and instead is watching the world go by outside while he sucks on his vape. An old lady in driving gloves, trying to work out if the three large consecutive mounds on the side of the M40 are actually the remnants of the old Wembley Stadium or if someone was pulling my leg are just a selection of the things I see.

I only tune back in when he starts to get all excited about something, but soon tune back out when I realise it's because he is going on about “Bicester Village” Toms new home from home, some kind of retail centre, which by the way he’s going on about it, as though it is practically a place of worship. If he had his way, we would have gone “early” today, so he could have “done some shopping”.

When he starts to talk about his other favourite subject than discounted Levis, the weather, I keep one ear open, as I turn my head away from him and return to my safe space, “I hope it doesn't rain”. However his choice of radio stations is like a shot of late 90’s, early 00’s nostalgia straight to my heart, Pulp Fiction style and it's hard not to do anything but reminisce about sitting in his room getting stoned or thinking back about the various awful club nights we used to go to in Camden.

Emerging from the end of deep chalk lined cannon, the Oxfordshire countryside sprawling out in front of us, all sitting under a hazy blue sky, for the time being at least it looks like Tom will be getting his rain free evening.

“Oh cherries” he announces, as we pass a sign offering up some of the counties “fresh” bounty in a nearby layby, but on inspection, having turned off the motorway, we are greeted with no cherries, just an iffy looking public toilet. “How disappointing” says Tom and I hypothesise that the sign may be some kind of local trap to snare travellers such as ourselves, for nefarious means.

“Welcome to the city of Oxford” reads the next sign of note and I’m glad to report that this ones far more accurate than the last and by the looks of it doesn't look like an ambush. The myriad of dead things on the side of the road we encounter since passing the city limits, I’m sure are not in their tourism bumph. “Get sad when I see a dead badger” mourns Tom. “When you see a fox, meh” he adds, no love for what are affectionately known as ‘bin dogs’ in my house, its all for Bodger.

Tom is momentarily distracted from the road, when he is forced to stop me for the umpteenth time with fiddling with the vast array of knobs, buttons and switches that litter his centre console. “Whats that do, whats that do” I ask, giving it a push or a twist before he has had a chance to reply, hoping that the next one I touch will make an oil slick come out the back or the number plates switch to Swiss diplomatic ones.

I can't think of a journey in recent memory, where having seen a sign pointing to a place that shares its name with somewhere famous, but isn't actually that famous place, that hasn't got Tom all bizarrely giddy. “Woodstock” is today's location and I have to wait for a few minutes for him to get over the fact he won't be seeing the sight of the legendary 1969 concert. Talking of music though, my time in the left hand seat, means I’m sure I have just seen Sinead O'Connor in a Dacia Sandero as well a large metal elephant grazing on a roundabout.

The wildlife theme continues as we eventually turn into tonight's venue and are greeted by a large lamb and fish jumping towards each other over a dilapidated brick wall, that feature on the badge of the club that are hosting the game, that is emblazoned across a large board on the way in.

I do realise I must have mentioned now about four different signs and notices since starting this blog, and I’m pretty sure this is going to be my last comment about one, but what kind of a football ground is this that you have to tell people there will be “no horse riding, no golf”.

Tom’s car goes beep, beep, beep, beep as it reverses into our car parking space. In a car park currently full of lots of other cars, with people sitting in them, each with a similar look on their faces of, what do I do now. “I need a wee” is what Tom needs, but perhaps explaining the number of full cars of expectant looking people, just sitting around and twiddling their thumbs, the ground is securely locked up.

“Well someone is getting fired” says Tom pompously, “perhaps someone didn't get the memo its a 7:30 kick off”. Admittedly we are normally silly early everywhere we go, but there is usually some hint of life when we arrive, the faintest sign of activity, but Yarnton Road feels like a town abandoned after all the gold ran dry and when Tom realises he won't be having a wee anytime soon, he has a jaffa cake instead.

Unless they have seen something we haven't, the people in the car two along from us have started piling out, pulling an endless amount of kit bags out of the tardis sized boot. One of the party in a red and yellow Banbury United FC (BU) hat, hands amongst other things a foot pump to a man with an extensive amount of face tattoos.

More and more people arrive, get out, and quickly return to their cars with the same look on their faces of, there is no way in, a passing pedestrian gets everyone's hopes up, but when they keep on walking, everyone just slinks back into their chairs, “nope they don't have the keys” tut's Tom.

When the BU staff, now with some players in tow breach the outer defences, like a scene from Helm's Deep, sadly the waiting is still not over and the inner keep is another hurdle to overcome, the door to the changing rooms is still locked. “Shall we go into the city centre and have a pint?” suggests one fed up player, “what a professional semi final setup this is” grumbles another.

With the near constant buzz of low flying single engine aircraft above us, the BU players take to the pitch for a wander, “did anyone bring their wellies?” asks one stepping on to the playing surface, which I think in racing circles they would call, good to soft. One player who is not quite up for getting his trainers muddy, is tucking into some food from a Tupperware box, and then all heads turn at the sound of some jingling keys, but it's a false alarm.

As of yet there is no sign of BU opponents Ardley United FC (AU), and everyone frankly is looking a little bit like a lemon just standing around. Tom suggests we should just go back to the warmth of the car, where there are more jaffa cakes and music from our youth. I’m starting to think non of us got the right memo and we are all in the wrong place completely.

Breakthrough, the final barrier has been overcome, the man who did the honours had the eyes of at least twenty people glaring at him, lucky for him this set of keys worked and the players can take the long walk up the single file corridor to the home changing room. After all their griping about wanting to get inside, many of them are soon back outside, but on the realisation that they've already surveyed the pitch, and there is nothing else to do here, no clubhouse to loiter about in, they are soon all back inside again. Why are we out here?” asks one “it’s so cold”, he adds before turning about face and disappearing through the brown door.

Very, very, very slowly Yarnton Road wakes up , but no one is apparently in any kind of a rush. I would have thought with it being a cup semi final, admittedly a county cup semi final, which we have
learnt this season that no one cares about at all, that there might have been a bit more excitement, a tad more fanfare. I’m not suggesting anything too fancy or extravagant, so we put the lack of energy down to being here so early and just hope that things improve.

Judging by the faces of the newly arrived AU players, that’s not going to be anytime soon, the first of them through the gate has a expression of near horror across his face, when he sees the state of the pitch. Recent poor weather has not exactly been kind to it. Another AU arrival, another look of dismay, however this person doesn't just stand staring and grimacing, he is straight on to it giving it a good prod.

When I overhear one person explaining that BU are going to be playing in their “away kit”  tonight because AU have not been able to “turn around” theirs after a match at the weekend, it only cements the feeling Tom and I have had since stepping into the place, that know one wants to be here, the whole occasion an inconvenience rather than the opportunity to get themselves to a final.

There is one person who by the looks of it at least is embracing the moment, a the man in a bright red shirt, BU club tie and scarf draped over the shoulders of his suit jacket, one of the passing planes would struggle to miss him. The referees look the part, but they always do, a prerequisite for being an official, is an ill fitting suit and mirror ball shiny shoes.

When Tom hears the latch click on the other side of the snack bars green hatch, his mood improves, “ohh Harvey's is opening”, but it then nosedives again just as quickly after a quick scan of the menu on the inside of one of the doors written in chalk, seems to intimate they are serving, “just drinks”.

The AU players are greeted by a young girl offering up high fives as they make their way out for their warm up, the sun now setting its turned the sky a mixture of pinks and grey, and still no-one looks like they want to be here. To suggest Tom might be grasping at straws when he points out that the floodlights are “very bright” after coming on, could be history's greatest understatement.

I think we pride ourselves in trying to find beauty in the smallest of things, weaselling out nuggets of interest when they might not be first apparent, however tonight is testing us unlike we have ever been tested before.

Some spectators have arrived, but I wonder if they actually want to be here or have been forced at gunpoint. One is a young BU fan in full club kit, including shorts, which is brave, who much like the young lady with the AU players, welcomes the BU players out, who despite the very clear sign on the edge of the pitch saying not to, are doing just that.

If Tom is going to get some food, it looks like the only place or I should say person he is going to get it from is the very lonely looking man in the bright orange burger van otherwise known as Wazoo, home of the chrome plated megaphone of destiny, apparently. No I’ve no idea either and the man inside, doesn't look even 50% as jolly as the cartoon character with its tongue protruding which is plastered all over the outside.

The moon is full and bright, the nearby allotments are dark and verging on the spooky, Tom is yet to trouble the man in the Wazoo truck, although I’m sure he will soon, and he might be grateful for the human interaction, he’s not exactly busy. He’s just looking out over the teams warming up, “play like you're in the match” demands the BU coach of his players.

There is still much grumbling about the pitch from all corners and showing a level of sophistication that I’m not sure we have ever seen before, BU look to have their very own outside broadcast unit. A table covered in more switches and dials than Toms car, is being set up in preparation of what looks like a live commentary from pitch side.

“They're out late, fucking hell” baulks Tom, the referee and his assistants jogging out to warm up as everyone else is heading back inside for their final instructions, clicking and clacking up the concrete path. When those officiating give off the air of not wanting to be here either, and they are probably getting paid, it's a worry. Clearly having had to wrench themselves from their changing room.

As hard as it was to get in tonight, it would seem that it's even harder to get out. The word among the fans is no one is able to get to the clubhouse, that’s if there even is one and no one knows where the loos are, it all seems like a bit of a mystery. Tom really wants “a burger” but again he is so fixated on Harvey's and the fact it's “only drinks on the menu” and that tonight might be one of the very rare occurrences where he might not eat, he's not even explored any other possibilities. I’m not sure he’s even noticed Wazoo's. Its bright orange and staring him in the face, but he can't see the wood for the trees, such is his tunnel vision. However I’m far more concerned with if we will be able to leave come the final whistle.

Is the advertised game, just an elaborate version of the fresh cherries sign?

There is quite a sudden upturn in the attendance, everyone leaving until the last minute to squeeze through the turnstiles, many of whom are far from impressed with the poorly photocopied programme, I say programme, it's a piece of A4 paper folded in half. It’s hardly going to take pride of place in the special box under my bed, but at least they have one all the same. Most of those arriving seem to be in the BU camp, but there are a few hellos for the AU substitutes loitering about, so there will be some backing for the away team tonight, but they will find themselves outnumbered.

Much like when the players came out for their warm up, both teams have their own junior well wishers, when they appear for kick off. AU’s stands by the door to their changing room dishing out the high fives again, joining the front of line once the last player has appeared. The young BU fan stands the other side of the low barrier that makes up the walk out and is greeted with some solid handshakes.

For all the people here it's quite a reaction to the players being led out. One BU player jumps about four foot in the air and there is the odd shout from each set of supporters from the mass behind the goal and to each side of the non existent tunnel, but the players are much the louder, saying those kind of shouty motivational two word things that footballers say.

With the ends decided, the game under way, a small contingent of BU fans have taken up position behind the goal they are attacking, a single flag is being strung out as a looping cross is sent over from the left hand side and looks to be creeping inside the post. A BU player is on hand to poke it in, should he be required if it doesn't get there on their own, but when the ball reaches him he is only able to nudge it wide. With not even ninety seconds gone, it’s a bit of an early warning sign for AU, who are from the division below BU, who in their red and yellow kit, Tom has decided look like “McDonalds”.

In the AU number 8, I think we might have another fat Messi on our hands, a chap whose physique is testing the seams of his tightly fitting jersey, but who has all the skill of the mercurial Argentinian, but Tom is not convinced. Not having shown of any great flare early on, he does though have a bit of a shot on him, when he lines up to strike a free kick, he thunders into the guts of one of the BU players in the wall, and it sounded like it hurt.

A second flag has gone up behind the AU goal, the moon is looking majestic, but one man nearby is less than dazzled by the early showings on the pitch, “It's like watching Sunday league football”. Tom gets close to touching the ball as it bounces out into the crowd, but a much older man is far more spritely and intercepts. Next to him a person has smuggled in a blue carrier bag full of beer, “I’m not sharing” he says, but he’s not talking about the tinnies, but what looks like spaghetti bolognese in a Tupperware bowl.

I suggest to Tom that it might be the closest he is going to get to any food, but having done some investigating he confirms “apparently they do burgers from the funny van”.

The first ten minutes or so boil down to a bit of scrappy midfield battle between the two teams, where the most interesting thing I can comment on is that AU have a large black moustache on the front of their shirt. When the diminutive AU number 11 is hacked down on the edge of the BU box, “ref” shouts the bench, “ref” shout the AU players, and they are presented with another free kick in a dangerous positions. 

However this one won't be taken by fat Messi, but the number 11 who was fouled, who with his curly hair, I think has a bit of the Griezmanns about him, but again, Tom is not convinced.

Dispensing his provisions, the man with the bolognese who is now feeding all those around him, applauds the super save the BU keeper has just pulled off. Offering a bit more finesse, rather than just whacking it, the number 11 curls his shot around the base of the wall, the man in goal can't have seen it until late, but still manages to get down and across to it, to keep it out. “Save goalie” mumbles one of the well feed group next to us, with a mouth half full of quiche lorraine.

The decent sized crowd are well spread out, and the players and the benches are still the only thing I can hear. “Rugby tackle that” says the AU manager when their number 11 is hauled to the ground, his size and pace is about the only thing causing the “three or four bigguns” that Tom has pointed out in the BU team, any kind of issue. Tom has also noticed just how “pissed off” one BU centre back is getting. I don't know the BU team at all, but I imagine from previous experience, a few young guns would have been chucked into the mix, to give them a run out, and their experience is showing. “He’s got youth around him” says Tom about the towering number 5 in the BU back line, and “no one knows what they are doing”.

With just over a quarter of an hour played the BU fans behind the goal “ohhhh” when a scuffed shot dribbles right across the edge of the AU six yard box, but can’t be put away. The BU captain, their number 9, very Alan Shearer, is unable to capitalise. Chances so far have been at a premium, it's just more of the same in midfield, ping pong, you have, no you have it and so on and so on. With the ball now not sure it wants to be involved, it can't be found after a hoofed clearance, because it’s likely sprouted legs and ran away, one person has to remind one bench that it's the “round thing” someone needs to find so we can continue.

I can’t imagine the men huddled around the table illuminated by a small lamp with all the radio equipment on have had an abundance of things to tell their listeners about. I’m sure they sounded very excited when they went close following a flicked header at a corner, such has been the dearth of goalmouth action. If they were to ask Tom what he thought about the The Puritans, a winking Protestant complete with black hat looks out from their badge, he would tell them “they press well” but they might not be too happy with the fact he keeps referring to them as “McDonalds”.

If AU are going to get anything from this, they may well want to target the BU number 11, who Tom very poetically put looks “as ropey as fuck” his latest gaffe, a miss kick, almost gets his team into trouble and it's not his first error of the opening twenty five minutes or so.

The levels of sloppiness from each team are reaching stupendous epic proportions, “we can't keep losing it” barks someone on the AU bench. If the football Gods are going to bless us with a goal, which until now has looked unlikely, it may well come via a BU corner. Their taker is able to put a fierce bit of whip on it and the noticeable size difference between the two sides, BU the much, much
bigger team, are easily out muscling AU at set pieces and they just can't cope.

On the half an hour mark, the AU number 9 shows all the desire of the aforementioned Toon legend, winning the ball back on the edge of the BU box, with some great tenacity, but then sums this game up, with the most woeful of shots. A couple of minutes later and an almighty coming together between two players brings the game to halt. It sounded horrible and the BU player involved is flat out on his back. However when he sits bolt upright, imitating the Undertaker, the physio his very own Paul Bearer, he is apparently fine.

BU’s latest effort, that prompted me to note, shit shot, well wide, low and shit, also prompts Tom to exclaim “this is going to extra time, we’re going to be here forever”. I don't think we have watched a more turgid thirty five minutes of football all season.

A BU flick on from a long throw, almost causes a bit of hysteria, but is scrambled clear. The mixture of first team and youth in the BU startling line up, who are still not quite all pulling in the same direction, not gelling as they say, is hampering them in all areas. Beside us the bolognese squad are clearly prepared for the long haul, “are we here for two days?” one asks, as more and more food is produced. Tom has had enough, jealous of all the munching going on next to us, so strops off, falling just short of flicking his hair. “Right I better go find some food then” he says a bit like Eeyore.

The half comes to an end with me admiring the AU number 6’s stunning ponytail, as well as a “superb” save as one AU fan puts it, that their keeper has just pulled off one on one. “Good half lads” says the same supporter as the players walk off. You would think the team who have a whiff of the Coventry City about them all in sky blue would be the happier of the teams, but I can't imagine anyone could be happy after that half's performance.

Tom is back in what might be record time, but is in somewhat of a state of disarray, “it's all in bags, it's all in bags” he keeps repeating over and over. ‘It’ being his burger and chips that are each in their own white paper bag, which he rightly points out is “very good for the environment”, not a bit of polystyrene in sight, but at the princely sum of “6” it’s a little rich for his blood, as he reminds me almost every time I see him, “ I have a wedding to pay for”. For all that money he got some overly “salty chips” and what might go down on record as the flattest burger in history, fused together in a meaty bready puck, that in Tom’s opinion was “cooked a while ago”.

Between mouthfuls of burger, he tells me of an interaction he witnessed between the young AU mascot and a BU who she asked “please let us win tonight”. His reply was blunt, to the point and
brutally honest, “we won’t need to, we’re shit at the moment”

As Tom eats it gives me the chance to appreciate what is a sizable crowd, not bad for a midweek game, but I’m still unable to shake the overriding feeling, that most people from the players to the fans, would rather be somewhere else entirely.

Antoine Griezmann kicks off the new half, oh no sorry, my mistake, its the AU number 11. There is now only one flag up behind the goal BU are now attacking, the other one went home. Fat Messi has failed to come good, after what promised so much at the start of the first half, and someone on the AU bench really likes saying “good boys”, and it sounds a bit creepy.

There has been a marked improvement in the quality on the pitch since the restart, AU all of a sudden are looking very slick. Good pressure sees them win back possession, that they can't quite make it count, but the fans appreciate it. Mixing it up a bit, they almost find their man with a ball over the top, and again the supporters show their approval “ohhhhhh”, one of them pointing out about BU, “they like to push up” and it's screaming to be taken advantage of.

BU on the other hand are still a bit one dimensional, a bit “hit and hope” as Tom calls it, constantly “looking for the second ball of the big man” up front he adds with his Pep hat firmly on. Hands down the loudest person here now is the AU mascot, “come on Ardley” her small voice carrying all around the ground and she has every right to be upbeat, a great attack on the counter by her team, has just resulted in one player stinging the palms of the BU keeper, their “first shot from open play” says Tom.

They look a totally different side and the match is all the better for it.

Fifteen minutes gone and I’m praying for a goal, praying more than I’ve ever prayed for one in my life. “Well done” says one AU defender to another, after nicking the ball away from the BU player setting himself to connect with the in swinging cross. BU’s number 11 has departed, so they straightway look more assured at the back and Tom with his Pep hat still on, can't work out the mindset of either team, “how do you expect to score if you don't have a shot?” he asks me exacerbated.

Both teams look so reluctant to have a crack, “It's like they are trying to score the perfect goal” they are going the full Arsenal, trying to “walk it in”. If he was in the technical area his approach would be no nonsense, clear instructions to his players, from the Paul Ince book of management, “I'd be telling my team get to within thirty yards have a dig”.

AU’s mascot continues to be the loudest person here “Come on Ardley” and again her team are giving her every reason to shout, number 11 skips through the defence and draws another foul, winning them another free kick. It’s on target, straight at the keeper, but it's on target, maybe only their third one of the match, twenty minutes into the second half, but it’s something.

“First shot, first goal” mutters the AU fan next to us, BU have scored. Twenty five minutes gone and with their first effort of the half, a low long range finish after a driving run, the number 20 has finally got us what we have both been longing for. Leaping into the arms of a much larger teammate, they celebrate by exchanging a hug.

“Cone on Ardley. We've been the better team this half” shouts the AU keeper who is spot on. However the goal has them rattled, all that composure and neat passing of the first half an hour has slipped away and now they are rushing, wasting throw ins in good positions and are growing increasingly frustrated with the referee. “Who's running this game” asks one AU supporter angrily. 

The sound of the passing planes has been replaced with the squeak of the buses brakes coming to a stop at the bus stop just behind us. BU are dominant now, on the stroke of thirty minutes good feet gets one player into the box, side stepping his marker, with only the keeper to beat, he slots it wide. A groan rings out from the crowd, he looked nailed onto score. The BU forward can't believe it, clamping his hands to the top of his head in dismay. The AU players are trying to rally, and the BU keeper demands his teammate “switch on”” for the final quarter.

“Come on we gotta go to work in the morning” shouts a man in the crowd, after a long and unexplainable delay in proceedings.

If AU could just muster a little bit of magic, they might be able to get the equaliser they richly deserve based on their second half display. A corner is lobbed in, punched clear and they get a second bite at the cherry, but it comes to nothing. “Come on blue until the end” cries one AU player.

Chaotic probably doesn't aptly sum up the final five minutes of the match. BU almost bags a second, pouncing on a miss kick in the box, however the AU keeper is able to smother the ball and one hoofed clearance is so massive it’s only thanks to one of the trees that surrounded the ground on one side, that the ball is not lost forever. “This is entertainment” laughs one man to himself.

Into the final minute and BU flash another shot wide and then in a strange case of masochism, a BU fan is willing the opposition to equalise, “come on I bet they score” he says to himself, when AU are awarded a corner. The same BU fan who doesn't know why the AU keeper won't “go up for it”.

Our second big collision of the night, is a bang of heads, that neither brings about a WWE superstar impression or sees anyone hurt. The young BU fan, who is still in shorts and must be freezing, is watching on as his team start to panic. “Ohh here we go” says one BU supporter with an air of the inevitable demise about him, when AU are awarded another corner, now into added on time.

Again the keeper doesn't go up for it, and again one of the BU “bigguns” gets his noggin on the ball and hammers it clear. Back in possession, AU cross and for a brief second the equaliser they have been grafting for looks to have materialised, “it's in” gaps one supporter, as the AU bullet header sails towards the goal, only for the AU players effort to be stopped on the line by his own teammate. The AU keeper still in his area, drops to his haunches. That was it, last chance, no final for them.

Shorts boy breaks into muted song in what must almost be the last seconds of the match, "we're on our way". Most of the AU players drop to the floor at the sound of the final whistle, and despite both teams grouping together for their own debriefs, the fans hold back and the AU players are first off and are quite rightly given a rousing reception by their fans, "well played boys", "you should hold your heads high".

Still in place by the side of the pitch, the BU supporters applaud their players, who are somewhat humble in victory, having made hard work of a team from the division below, but all the credit to AU for keeping in the match all the way to the end.

It is about here that I should be wrapping things up, putting a bow on the end of my perfectly crafted piece, but there is a slight twist in the end of the tail, controversy at Yarton Road. Pitchforks were sharpened, torches lit and the wanted man is the referee, because unbeknown to me, the unexplained delay in the second half, was down to confusion about names on the team sheet, AU wanted to bring someone on, the officials said he wasn't on the submitted paper work and therefore was not allowed
to play

Calls for a "replay" and rumours that the AU manager went after the referee following him into his changing room, quickly do the rounds. None of this is of the slightest bit of interest to the BU players doing a bit for radio on the far side of the pitch, unaware of the drama unfolding.

I guess with any good story the twist comes at the end, and one has to endure the tedium of the previous two hundred pages before being treated to a bit of a surprise. Sadly though, the twist in our story tonight was just not enough, maybe if the referee had been clamped in irons then we could call it an OK evening, but I'm afraid this one goes down as a bit of a bust.

From the sad looking ladies in the snack bar, the players, most of the fans, except for the kids, they were having a blast, no one seemed all that into it, maybe these competitions have had their day. Eclipsed by things like the Vase, Trophy or FA Cup, they have fallen so far down the pecking order, that they are just an annoyance, something that causes fixture congestion's. Which is a shame, because I'm sure its a competition rich with its own history, local history relevant to the people and the teams involved.

Maybe I could suggest a shake up, a change to spice it up a bit, breathe a bit of va va voom back into it. Its a bit wild, but go with me.

You know the sign outside about no horse riding, ignore it, chuck it in the bin. Introduce a horse on the pitch, halfway through the first half, and people would come in their droves.

For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE

Watch our video from the match ↓ HERE


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