Monday 23 September 2019

He Can't Head The Ball For Toffee - White Ensign FC Vs Takeley FC, FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay, Burroughs Park (04/09/19)

I moved house yesterday, which meant despite getting up at the crack of dawn I was still struggling with an array of flat pack furniture come 22:00 and didn't even have the comfort of knowing I had my own bed to fall into. It doesn't arrive for another two days, so I flop onto the sofa, certain of the fact that I will be waking up in the morning with a crick in my neck and a bad back.

I’m too tired to even think about shooting Spurs’s new home a look, so plough on east, relieved that Tom is driving again, because I’d be a menace to other road users if I was. Such is my state of near exhaustion, I don't even have the energy to fully revel in this momentous event. Tom driving to two games in a row, will surely mean today will become some kind of national holiday, joining the other obscure ones you see on calenders, but quite can’t put your finger on exactly why it's there.

“False alarm” says Tom, ever so slightly out of breath, our journey to deepest darkest Essex getting off to a worrisome start, after he thought he had forgotten to double lock his front door, and we ended up doing a lap of the block at breakneck speed, the car not quite at a standstill before he swung open his door to find out it was a lot of rushing around about nothing.

He had looked so jolly and proud just ten minutes before, leaving his house and making a point to show off his new camera bag, his monopod strapped to its side looking like a katana and now he looks all flustered and red, muttering to himself because he can't decide if it's “hot or cold” which of course is playing havoc with his outfit choice. He is certain of one thing though, “its blustery”, which means I end up humming “let's go fly a kite” to myself for the next hour.

As like last time out the entertainment on offer is severely lacking, Tom admitting he has recently “got back into metal” meaning I'm subjected not to “metal” as he put it, more what one might call ‘nu metal’ more decks than thrash guitar, which I point out to him, so he revises his previous statement “ok, my metal”.

You can’t get much more Essex than Southend, with its beleaguered looking palm trees poking up out of the middle of a roundabout and as sure as I am that Tom wouldn't mind a go at Adventure Island, we are merely passing through, curious about where the woman with the dog in a pram we pass might be going, which in turn prompts Tom to tell me about someone he met recently who had a “pet squirrel”.

The music takes a noticeable up turn with a spot of Black Sabbath, as does the weather. Having looked on the turn as we barreled our way towards the coast, “it's warm here” points out Tom as we get closer to our destination or “the Essex riviera” as he puts it.

I can’t be sure, on the account of it being almost five years ago, but I’m pretty sure the last time we weaved our way down this narrow lane, that time on the Bowers & Pitsea team coach, it wasn't tarmaced, just a dusty track heading further and further away from civilization and closer and closer to the middle of nowhere.

I apologise if I have got that wrong, it may have just been the case of it being a baking hot May Bank Holiday and the thundering coach kicking up so much dust, it felt like we were on the set of a spaghetti westen. As was then, and as is tonight, what eventually appeared past the allotments and back gardens, is a very smart ground indeed, everything from the gates onwards, very charming indeed.

The handwritten notice on the way in, is more than most clubs get who groundshare, the sign fastened to one wall that reads “Welcome to White Ensign Football Club” (WE) suggests that tonights ‘home team’ are a bit more than just lodgers.

Very little has changed in the almost five years since our last visit, which is no bad thing, trust me. As someone called it on Twitter in the past week, Burroughs Park is a “hidden gem”. Except for the sheer amount of people in attendance, no Clapton Ultras marching all over the place, filling the covered terrace behind the two rabbit hutch looking dugouts, I think it’s exactly the same.

One could really not ask for better conditions, the sky is clear except for the odd wispy clouds, the sun is still just about hanging in there, slowly sinking behind some trees.

“Breakfast for dinner” states Tom, his bacon butty firmly secured in his right hand, the only thing stopping him from devouring it, is the Mars bar he’s purchased, that is proving problematic to put in his pocket. “We might be stopping at McDonalds” he murmurs, the breakfast bap all gone, the away team not even here yet and he’s eaten, which must be some kind of record, the minimalist menu means by the time we’re done tonight, and there is the chance of extra time and a shoot out, no amount of Mars bars are going to see him home without a pit stop.

“Biggest game in our history” I overhear a WE coach say to a supporter. WE in the FA Cup for the first time ever, each hurdle cleared a new line in the annals of the club's history, but you need an opposition, who are nowhere to be seen, and can now officially be considered late.

There are a couple of Takeley FC (TFC) players here milling about, like the one who has just appeared from the changing room, cleared his throat with a phlegmy cough, then proceeded to pull a cigarette from the box in his pocket and light it up.

The sight of the match day programme in the tiny turnstile is a welcome one, however the look the man manning it in his Portugal baseball cap, is a kin to one you might give a two headed creature that has just crawled from the sea and attempted to kidnap your first born, so I take it’s a no to them having a raffle or a half-time draw.

Vincent Kompany might suck at it, Edgar Davids was no better, but WE player manager Brett is making a much better hash of it then them two, currently “top goal scorer” he tells me, his starting place because of that a certain, “can’t drop me” he adds laughing.

“Not much chance of a badge here” Tom surmises, after telling him of my 50/50 woes. WE soon appear for their warm up and inject a bit of life into the place, that was feeling very, very sedate there
for a moment. “That’s the one” gasps one of the players, the rest all looking on in shock after one's attempt at a shot, which would have looked more at home on a rugby pitch, cleared the high net behind the goal, heading straight towards the car park.

TFC are still nowhere to be seen and the introduction of some music or “beats” as Brett puts it, coming from the tiny speakers at the foot of the wirey Meccano esq floodlights improves our surroundings even further. Whitney Houston the first on the very Best of the 80’s playlist.

“Might have to get some chicken nuggets” grumbles Tom, as nice as his bacon roll was, it was in his words “insufficient” and “barely grazed the sides”. He distracts himself by doing a headcount, “oh nine, oh ten”, the man on the gate is hardly overrun, and Tom even goes as far as to mime his own “clicker”.

See what I have to put up with, if only served some chips.

With less than thirty minutes to kick off, the sight of one TFC coach putting out the cones is a welcome one, “not much urgency” comments Tom. It's not like the away team are rushing by any means to get on the pitch, maybe there is an element of them thinking this is a bit of formality, with
them being from the league above. WE very much the underdogs, but with it being a replay, it only shows they can more than hold their own.

Verging on the explicit, one older lady is clearly enjoying the music. She glides, nah, sashays her way along towards the gloomy all seater main stand, impressing Tom with her moves, “Grandma having a dance”.

Showing about as much enthusiasm as an unenthusiastic thing, TFC finally finally appear. To suggest they are sauntering, might imply there is any haste whatsoever, as they walk out for their warm up. “Ohh here they come” says Tom, with an air of ‘nice for you to show up’.

It doesn't take long to realise that the request from the away team, for a postponed kickoff has been denied. “Residential problems” explains one coach, the clubs strict licensing means the floodlights have to be off by a certain time and any delay could see extra time or a potential shoot out, being illuminated by everyone's mobile phones.

“They told you how bad it is” asks a man to one of the referees assistants knowingly, who is currently dowsing himself in insect repellent from a can. “In my mouth” recounts another person, discussing the apparent midge problem that plagues Burroughs Park, which is news to me, but by the way the guy is napalming himself, it must be close to infestation levels.

TFC are still on the pitch with five minutes to go before the supposed kick off time, the referee with ball in hand and his two assistants with flags at the ready are limbering up outside the changing rooms. WE are going through their last few pre match rituals, judging by the noise coming through the slight crack in the window.

“Groundsmans getting a bit panicky” jokes someone, as the news of a five minute delay to kick off spreads like wildfire. The man with a clipboard and a TFC polo shirt though, doesn't feel the delay that has been agreed is sufficient enough, but he is comforted by the fact “there aren't any midges”.

How wrong that statement will prove to be.

The pause in the wedding reception playlist allows for the low key announcer to make himself heard for the first time. He’s far from showy and although I wouldn't go as far as saying he is amateurish, there are few pauses, dead air you might say. A muffled conversation happening off mic, that can just about be heard.

It’s a rather frantic opening first five minutes, with plenty of early away pressure, the home keeper spilling a relatively straight forward shot, that is scrambled clear, showing maybe a few signs of nerves. “Relax” shouts a WE player in his red and blue kit, in front of what has turned out to be a half decent turnout. I’ll have to check with Tom quite how many it is, the main stand is well occupied, and something has already bitten me. I use one foot to try and stop whatever it is feasting on my calf, but to no avail.

A big TFC tackle sees nothing more than a talking to from the ref for the offending player, “be mindful”, presenting WE with a chance to alleviate the onslaught, but the lumped set pieces is lacking in any guile and comes to nothing. All it does is give TFC the ball and allows them to put the home side back under the cosh.

“I think they’re going to get battered” says Tom under his breath, not holding out much hope for the hosts.

A few people are milling about on the terrace that last time we were here was the setting for an anti Thatcher tifo, smoke bombs and a whole forest of flags. The midges are going to town on my legs and with almost ten minutes gone WE produce their first real bit of quality, a well timed pass forward finds the lead attacker, but he just can't get the ball out of his feet, which brings about the first “ohhhh” from the home crowd, one of which to our left seems a tad more invested than most. Any foray forward by TFC normally results in a chorus of “no, no, no, no” until the attack has danger has passed.

“Ohhhh” go the home crowd once more, a long range shot across the TFC goal signifies WE’s entry into the game, having weathered the early storm and the attempts by TFC to deploy a few dirty tricks. A well timed fart noise just as one WE player was taking a free kick works a treat, putting him right off and gets a solid “fuck off” in reply.

Another free kick, that from what I could hear was not accompanied by the sound of flatulence, is this time delivered with eagle eyed precision. Very, very nearly finding the head of a WE player, only to be reached just before by a TRF defender whose leap was just that little bit more salmon like. All of this action being witnessed through a dense fug of midges now hovering around us, the odd one dive bombing towards my nose or eyes and a strange almost luminescent green glow emanating from the floodlights.

“Unless you're city or Barcelona don't do it” snaps Tom, WE are almost caught out at the back, attempting the in vogue playing the ball out via their defence, but as is so often the case, almost balls it up and nearly concede. Tom then continues the Cataluna theme, with more talk about the WE strip. “Their kit confuses me” he confesses, the mash up between two of Europe's super clubs, “the backs PSG, the front Barca” has him a bit perturbed.

“Like statues” barks an angry WE player, the movement in front of him or lack of it at a throw in is somewhat lacking and someone else glued to the spot, is the quiet voiced lady living every second of the match, “go on, go on, go on” she repeats to herself as a WE attack gets closer and closer to the TFC box.

After somewhat of a lull in proceedings, the inevitable aftermath after such a rampant start, the pace picks back up, and we once again have ourselves an end to end encounter. WE have a penalty shout waved away, then one TFC player looks like he might just score the most sublime goal, his long winding run towards the home area unstoppable, he unleashes a shot from a tight angle, that skims the crossbar on its way over.

Such was its proximity to crashing up into the roof of the net, one teammate starts to celebrate, cutting it short when he realises it's only a corner. “Goal” says a traveling away fan confidently, following the drilled in set piece, only for the WE keeper to manage somehow to get something on the point blank header and touch it over. “Good save, that” says Tom with his goalkeepers union hat firmly on.

This time the latest crunching TFC tackle sees the player in the book. “How many times ref?” asks a particularly vocal home fan from the main stand, “every time” points out another having noticed quite the pattern starting to develop. “The one who was having a fag” as Tom points out, somewhat of a repeat offender.

“That could have been good” exhales Tom, understating quite what a spectacular goal one TFC player almost scored, only for an overly exuberant attempt at a finish, just when a spot of coolness was required, scuppering it. No more than ten yards out, having been found with a wracking pass from the left, which was dropped right onto his right boot, his first time volley is hit so hard, “he’s absolutely taken the leather off it” says one man, it flies well, well over the bar.

I honestly think some kind of press release may be required for future matches at Burroughs Park, because to our left the second person of the night and I’m sure she is not alone, is liberally applying repellent  to her legs and all Tom can do is snigger as I swat away wave after wave of attacks on my bare flesh.

TFC go close again, this time hitting the post directly from a corner, the ball just about scrambled away in time before the rebound can be pounced on. WE have shown a few glimpses of promise, but TFC don't look like they have even got out of third gear and at any moment could kick on and brush the home side away.

Thundering a clearance against a charging WE player, the TFC keeper just about gets away with his kick and then the home stopper is almost caught out himself. An underhit passback reaching him moments before the chasing TFC player, which is greeted with a few revelling laughs and “that was close” through puffed out cheeks.

The most perfect crescent moon now hangs over the pitch and shouts for the home team from the stand are getting more frequent. “Goal” predicts a nearby TFC fan again, but their skills of the clairvoyant are a little off. The curling shot from the edge of the box is reached by the most acrobatic of dives, the shot destined for the top corner tipped over by the very edges of the WE keepers fingertips.

“Gotta beat the first man” laments one TFC supporter, the resulting corner is straight out of the Tottenham Hotspur playbook, not even getting as far as the six yard box. The same person then suggests one of his team “have a go”. Latching on to the loose ball outside the box, he lets loose a shot, only for it to be about as good as the corner, which is greeted with plenty of laughter and a worried “that's a car” as it headed for the car park.

Well out of his goal, and with the ball at the feet of a TFC player in midfield, the WE keeper is neither here nor there and the increasingly demanding TFC fans want the player in possession to take advantage and “finish” with a sixty yard lob and although he considered it, you could see the hesitation written across his face, he thinks better of it and does not attempt the Beckham impression.

A late TFC runner almost gets them the lead that on reflection they probably deserve. “Back door” warns the home crowd, but it's too late and the TFC player is in on goal. He takes a touch to steady himself, then unleashes a rising shot towards the by far the busier of the two keepers, who reaches out with his other hand, going across his boy, instead of using the one closer to the ball, sending is squirreling up into the air. Dropping kindly to an away player in the box, he looks certain to break the stalemate, only for it to be cleared.

Conducting his team loudly from the back, the home keepers counterpart is booming, the referee is in Toms words “very precise” I would say anal in his desire for each throw in to be taken in exactly the right place and the sharp blast of his whistle, followed by a series of claps, brings the energetic first half to an end.

“The bars open, please indulge” says the voice over the PA and Tom suggests I should try and “get
some bottoms” anything to cover up my ravaged legs. With the players all departed and many taking the advice of the announcer, the life somewhat drains out of the ground, except for the bats flitting in and out of the main stand, and the odd nose from the subs warming up.

Like the flick of a switch, as the players return, so does the soul. “Come on boys” demands one WE player, and they are going to need all they can muster, because following the whistle, TFC are right out the traps. There is the distinct feeling that they have no desire for this to go on any longer than it has to, however Tom feels quite the opposite, “it's got extra time written all over it. The neighbors will be moaning”.

A change of seasons is in the air, the breeze chilly at times, many are retiring their shorts for another six months and Tom is considering his winter fashion options, “I think it's time for a winter jacket. Think I might go the full Arsene Wenger”.

Fifty one minutes on the clock and the deadlock has been broken, but I must admit I didn't expect it to be by WE. Many of those shrouded by the gloom of the main stand are on their feet, and by the sounds of it the scorer of the toe poked effort following a sumptuous back heel, has his very own fan club, one small section of them going bonkers.

The quiet muttering lady is close to the edge, the insistence of “don't switch off” by one WE player is almost completely ignored, as moments after the restart they very nearly give away a penalty. “Touch and go” says Tom, who reckons that TFC are unlucky not to have it awarded and he thinks with still over thirty minutes left to play WE are really going to have to “dig in”.

“Oh you are joking” says one woman, breaking away from the conversation she is having on her phone, TFC have equalized, WEare  in front for all of about four minutes. “Not sure what happened there” ponders Tom, “odd goal”. An odd goal indeed, witch a heavy touch of good fortune for TFC, a header blocked, the rebound falling to the denied player, who was able to score at the second time of asking.

Like pulling a plug out of a bath, the buzz that had emanated following the WE goal, drains away and Tom is fearful for the home side, “it's like they've angered a monster”.

TFC’s party is almost as short lived as WE’s lead, a blinding solo run, a Bale Vs Maicon kind of deal, push the ball into space and put on the afterburners, almost results in a goal, only for a covering defender to be on hand to tidy up, which results in a hefty groan from those who thought we were going to see something a bit special.

“Brett” shouts a WE player towards his centre forward playing manger, who gives a quick look up, finds him the box, only for him to put his header just over, leaving the gaffa with his head in hands.

The chances for both sides are coming thick and fast, WE’s opener has kicked open the floodgates, one TFC player tries his luck at a Beckham from just over the halfway line but its tame and then WE are beaten by a “big save” as Tom puts it. The kind of save that gets a round of applause from both sets of fans. “Save keeper” says a WE supporter. Praise tinged with a heavy dose of annoyance.

Almost every home fan sitting is as close to the edge of their seats as they can be, without falling off. The home side go close again with a looping header and then there is a collective sucking of the teeth as TFC surge forward, but nothing comes of it.

“He’s fine, he’s being a tart” says one WE supporter sympathetically, when an almighty collision between the TFC keeper and a WE player sees him laid out on his back. Looked like a fair challenge to me and by the time the physio has made it to him, he’s back on his feet and is waving them away.

The back of the stand commentator is getting increasingly loud, “well played Dave” he bellows and Tom is completely transfixed by the TFC keepers outfit, “horrible kit” he sneers. The all yellow and purple socks combo I admit would not be my first choice.

Swinging back and forth, back and forth the match feels poised for some last minute heartbreak. “Shut him down, shut him down” mumbles the nearby fan in response to the latest TFC attack. Whenever TFC have the ball the mood turns, the feeling of an impending goal infectious, only picking up again when the home side take up possession.

“Oh go on” she shouts, a fine WE through ball looks inch perfect, but again the skilled keeper is there to snuff it out.

The home bench is deserted, and not because the midges have descended upon them, but because every single person on it is warming up. A flying home counter attack is cut down by another TFC hatchet job much to the displeasure of the home crowd, “every time”.

Moments after asking me how long is left, Tom psyching himself up for extra time, the promise of chicken nuggets getting further away, with about a quarter of an hour left, WE lash home their second of the night and take the lead.

The players rush to catch up with the scorer, who ends up almost right in front of us. After being mobbed by his teammates, his reason for ending up where he did becomes clear, it was seemingly no accident, pointing to the sidelines to a member of the crowd. “Keep your heads” counters  a supporter, Tom thinks they have “scored too soon”, if they are going to pull off the upset, they were going to have to score much later on, “fifteen minutes is a long time to hang on”.

A bizarre decision by the WE keeper has home hearts in mouths, a decision to punch, and not a very good one at that, puts them under some unwanted pressure, but they get away with it.

“Come on Ensign” shouts one of the expressive WE supporters. A brave stooping header by one of their midfielders sees him win the ball from a position he could have easily lost a few molars and then off he charges with the ball. Unleashing at the end of his run a squirming shot that squeaks just wide and gets a resounding “ahhhhh” from the crowd.

The introduction by TFC in the last ten minutes of the half of the “blond man mountain” as Tom describes him, unbeknownst to everyone quite yet, is an absolute game changer. The big chunk, who Tom rightly points out “they’ve put up front” will end up having more of an impact on this match then I’m sure anyone could have imagined. Except his manager of course, who will put it down to his own tactical genius.

Another bat swoops above our heads, feasting on the veritable buffet hovering around us. “Come on Ensign until the end” pleads one player and then a move from a TFC winger gets the crowd a little anxious. “Sold him” giggles one away fan, a drop of the shoulder and a burst of pace sees him easily away from his marker, the lady next to us can hardly bear it, but after all the preamble, his final ball is severely lacking.

The departering WE manager gets one of the biggest rounds of applause of the night, “well played Brett” shouts someone as he begrudgingly drags himself off.

Still hanging in there, WE have only got to survive a few more minutes. A big home block just inside the box brings about the most vociferous cries from the crowd so far “come on Ensign”. TFC are quite literally throwing everything they can at the WE back line, their keeper is tossed into the mix at the awarding of a free kick, and it's fortunate for WE “he can't head the ball for toffee” as one person puts it, because on reaching the cross, he makes an absolute meal of it.

“Times up, a minute over” states someone close by, all the added on time they are sure has now been and gone, the WE players are now only seconds away from being history makers. TFC almost hand them a much needed third, not only can he not head a ball, but he’s not exactly got twinkly toes either. The TFC keepers attempt at a Cruyff turn almost goes tits up, and the next pass back to him gets plenty of sarcastic “wooooo” in anticipation of a clanger.

Deep, deep into added time, TFC draw level, every single player, coach and substitute erupting into near fits, a mix of relief and joy, the “man mountain” having hooked the ball over the line from close range. The latest “come on Ensign” is deflated to say the least and there is barely enough time to think come the restart. The blast of the whistle to get things back underway is shortly followd by one to signal we will be heading towards extra time, much to one persons displeasure “fuck off”.

“That was a blatant handball” snarls one of the home bench, which is seconded by one seething home fan passing us, “one hundred percent a hand ball”. “Come on Ensign you can do it” pleads one lady from the main stand and on the pitch a spat has broken out between the two sides, which is quickly squashed.

A hush descends across the ground following one last attempt to unite the team from the crowd and soon it gets even quieter, near silence, people are overcome with shock, because minutes into the first half of extra time, the “man mountain” has done it again, 3 -2 to TFC.

Heads are low, the optimism around the place has bottomed out, WE are on the ropes, one fan tries to rally, “heads up” but it falls on deaf ears. In fact various home players look like they have lost their heads altogether, diving into challenges, committing needless fouls.

A save of the highest order then stops WE drawing level. From point blank range old purple socks in the TFC goal makes himself big, starfishing Schmeichel style, taking a full blooded shot in the midriff he denies WE their third.

“Go on, go on” stutters the lady nearby on to her final nerve. WE’s number 11 shows some classy footwork, laying up a teammate, only for his shot to be woeful at best, one man can't bare to look and turns away in disgust. WE are giving their all, TFC are on the cusp of just being outright dirty. Both benches almost going toe to toe, when one home player is cut down. The awarding of the foul gets a jeering “weyyy” from the home crowd, who have seen too many similar tackles go unpunished so far tonight.

TFC have the chance to wrap it up, one on one with the keeper, but it goes begging and the player fires over. On the far side of the pitch, one home coach is making his way towards the changing rooms. By the purpose in his stride he doesn't look like it’s because he thinks he left the tap on, its an angry gait. Occasionally looking back over his shoulder, Tom wonders if he has been “sent off”.

“Referee! Handball! You bottled that son” screams one home fan, who along with almost everyone else rooting for the home side thinks they should have been awarded a penalty. A headed clearance from a TFC defender striking the hand of a teammate, but the man in charge is having none of it.

The first half of extra time comes to an end with WE doing plenty of huffing and puffing, but just not having the cutting edge to draw things level and one man is being told off by his wife for calling the TFC keeper a “nonce”.

There are plenty of motivational quotes being fired off by the crowd in the break, “heads up now” and such like. The turn around is blistering, Tom pointing out its surely because of the “lights”.

It’s now or never as Tom would say, a quarter of an hour to play and by the looks of it every WE player is fully aware of quite what it means, because they come out all guns blazing. Their main threat is the howitzer of a throw one player possess. An overhead kick is inches wide and gets a loud “argh” from fans and players alike. “Come on Ensign to the end” utters someone offering up yet another quote from a self help book. Another long throw results in a header that brushes the paintwork as it goes the wrong side of the post.

The tension is mounting and the referee is close to losing control, shouting from the main stand is reaching near noise abatement proportions. The latest launched throw in causes problems, but WE just can't capitalize on the panic its causing among the TFC ranks. A fierce shot looks to have been touched wide, but no corner is awarded, they are just not getting the rub of the green.

TFC’s only answer to the onslaught is to foul, racking up one WE free kick after another. The homeside pack the box every time, but just can't make anything stick. On one occasion the ball traveling all the way through the box completely unscathed. The whole place is on tenterhooks, as time slowly ebbs away.

“Get in the mixer” roars a home fan, as the long throw specialist winds up for another chuck. They go close again, another header wide and one person who now seems resigned to the fact in just might not be their night, sums it up perfectly, “they’ve had their chances”.

At every opportunity he can the TFC keeper falls on the ball, quite unnecessarily, each time eating up those vital extra couple of seconds. One optimist shouts, “ there's still time” but there isn't.

The majority of the crowd stick about come the final whistle, TFC's celebrations are hardly raucous, more along the line of 'thank fuck for that'. WE ran them close all the way to the end, it just came down to one side taking their chances.

Both squads gather in their respective halves for a debrief, to talk over a few pointers from the past two hours. When they finally trudge off, the home crowd let the players know, that despite the result what a cracking job they did.

Burroughs Park until today was always just the place we first encountered the Clapton Ultras, but making our way home, we now have some new memories forged in a place that really is a "hidden gem". Burroughs Park will now be the place that the spirit of the FA Cup was once again confirmed to be alive and well. Where the underdog almost triumphed and the unrelenting passion that most if not all the players from both teams showed undeniable.

I'm not a huge fan of the overly exposed former Manchester united and French international fullback, but his tag line, his much used catchphrase repeated by one departing TFC player, seemed apt, "I love this game".

For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE

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