Replay Winners to Face Clipstone

Our second visit to Lees Lane, the home of South Normanton Athletic, our Quest team, was a tense affair. Lincoln United, the host’s opponents in this FA Cup Preliminary Round tie, are two steps higher on the non-league pyramid, so South Normo were the underdogs despite having home advantage.

But, in a cagey first half which saw little goalmouth action, the side from the East Midlands Counties Premier were marginally the better side, and were more then holding their own against higher opposition.

Shiners coach Tommy Leighton had seen his side go unbeaten in all competitions so far this season, and was hoping to claim another scalp over Evo-Stik First Division South side United

But, although a Kyle Johnson strike looked like it would be enough for the Derbyshire side, United’s late pressure paid off, and as the Shiners tired, United levelled to force a replay.

The winners will play Notts side Clipstone away, as the pre-determined draw for the 1st Qualifying Round pitted them against either Clipstone or Cleethorpes Town. But, as we contemplated fish ‘n’ chips, slot machines and beers by the seaside, those away day dreams were dashed as Clipstone were 1-0 victors. I’ve nothing against Clipstone – and we look forward to going there whoever comes through the replay – but there’s no beach as far as I know. Unless you go to nearby Center Parcs, which, ironically, I am the week before that tie. I digress.

Sadly, as the replay falls on a Tuesday, when my other passion (music) gets in the way (a Paul Smith from Maximo Park solo gig at the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham for the record), we won’t be making the trip East to Lincoln. But may the best team win, and we’ll see you in Clipstone on September 12.

Another big name, another (relatively) small club

In the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round on Saturday, August 15, our team (for now) South Normanton Athletic came up against Mansfield. Not Mansfield Town, the League Two club with a 118-year history, but AFC Mansfield, a small community team based in the Mansfield district of Forest Town, making their first appearance in the Cup.

In the Preliminary Round on Saturday (August 29) another big name visits Lees Lane, the tiny yet welcoming home of South Normanton Athletic. It’s Lincoln. But, although Lincoln City are a non-league side these days, it’s not them making the journey westwards. It is in fact their smaller cousin, Lincoln United, who ply their trade in the Northern Premier League Division One South, two steps up the non-league pyramid from their hosts.

But although Lincoln United are three steps down from their city rivals Lincoln City (from the Vanarama National League), they do have some pedigree. On their books are two players with league experience: defender Stuart Reddington and forward Andy Hutchinson. The latter played for Lincoln City, and scored his only professional goal against Bradford City in 2009. He then suffered relegation into non-league with City before drifting between non-league clubs.

Reddington, meanwhile, has a very interesting career. In 1999, aged just 19, he was spotted playing for Lincoln United by a scout from Chelsea whose enthusiasm about him was enough for then Chelsea manager and all round legend Gianluca Vialli to sign him professionally for the 1999/2000 season.

However, he never broke into the first team at Stamford Bridge and was loaned to Swedish side Kalmar FF, where he scored four times in 16 appearances. Not bad for a defender. He then had a spell at Mansfield Town before dropping into non-league football via Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, who were far from the League One side they are today.

Another note of interest, for me at least, being a Forest fan, is that Lincoln United were founded as Lincoln Amateurs in 1938. However, in 1951, they signed a professional player from Forest, which meant they no longer qualified as amateurs. So the club were rebranded as Lincoln United.

Anyway, the clash at the weekend promises to be a real test for South Normanton Athletic. But myself and my hirsute companion will be there, impartially, on our Cup quest. We’ll also have one eye on the game between Nottinghamshire side Clipstone Welfare and Cleethorpes Town, as the winner of that game will provide our destination for the First Qualifying Round on September 12, such is the pre-determined draw at this early stage.

We continue…with South Normanton Athletic

For a large portion of the game between South Normanton Athletic and AFC Mansfield in the Extra Preliminary Round of the FA Cup on Saturday, August 15, it looked as though AFC’s first ever appearance in the famous cup competition may be followed by another one after they had dominated their Derbyshire hosts for much of the first half.

But, after both sides had been reduced to 10 men following a scuffle that involved almost every outfield player, and which resulted in Athletic’s ‘keeper and a Mansfield player (I’m not sure whom I’m afraid) being shown red cards for exchanging punches and general unpleasantries, the game began to swing in the home side’s favour.

After the break, as myself and my companion, Mr Mark Bunting, watched the game with a pint in the sunshine in the patio area just outside of the club house, Kane Jellyman put the home side in front with a relatively easy tap in.

It was all too much for one AFC supporter; a female who was reprimanded for swearing by a bloke behind me whom I believe to be a member of Athletic’s board who then instructed her, jokingly I might add, to “Get back in the kitchen”. Much banter ensued, with the bloke who may or may not have been involved with the club seemingly coming out of the closet and announcing “I’m gay!” in response to accusations from the same lady that he is hopeless in the bedroom! Top bantz.

Anyway, back to the footy, and AFC equalised shortly after the banter with some comedy value of their own. From our vantage point it wasn’t exactly clear what happened but it appeared that a Mansfield player hit the bar with the goal at his mercy – remember, Athletic were playing with an outfield player as their keeper as no substitute keeper was named on the bench. What at first looked like a huge let-off for the stand-in stopper was in fact a mere extension to his time without conceding, because as the ball failed to be cleared, AFC equalised in some style as their man delightfully volleyed home.

With a replay on fans’ minds, Athletic stepped up a gear and it was no surprise when Shane Newton cut in from the left and drifted a right-footed ball over Jason White in the Mansfield goal for a classy winner.

So with that, in-keeping with the rules of this quest, we stay with the victors, South Normanton Athletic, and we’ll be back at Lees Lane on August 29 when pre-determined visitors Lincoln United (not City) are the visitors. I’m quite glad. The burgers are good (“proper footy burger”, enthused Mark), you can have a beer whilst watching the game and you never know, it might be my turn to win the half time prize draw this time. Mark won it last week, the Jammy git.

It begins…

After last season’s cancellation of my FA Cup Quest due to factors which included my wife being ill for the Extra Preliminary Round match, to weddings getting in the way, and then a massive trip to Australia, this year I can at least give my time to games. Looking at the calendar of planned cup dates, I have a clear run, so let’s get started.

If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, read the About My Quest page, but basically, my plan is to plot a route to Wembley, bouncing from team to team as they meander along a course through the World’s oldest and best cup competition.

This year’s starting point has been changed from the original plans. I was due to attend Leicestershire side Kirby Muxloe’s game against Heanor Town. The rationale being that I have friends in Kirby Muxloe and I was born in the Derbyshire town of Heanor. However, those friends are away for the weekend. So with one vital component of the plan now missing, I decided to start a little closer to home. And you can’t get much closer to home than East Midlands Counties League – Premier Division side, South Normanton Athletic.

The town of South Normanton is just about bang on 3 miles from where I live. It’s 2 miles from Alfreton and 8 miles from Mansfield; it sits close to the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border in Amber Valley.

The significance of the mention of Mansfield is in reference to the side South Normo (colloquial) will be playing – AFC Mansfield. They are a new team in comparison, having only formed in 2012. They play in the Northern Counties Eastern League Division One, the 5th tier of the non-league pyramid, the same as South Normanton Athletic. The game will be their first ever in the FA Cup.

Because of the close proximity of the two sides, it’s a bit of a local derby: Derbyshire versus Nottinghamshire.

So come 3pm tomorrow at the MJ Structures Arena, or Lees Lane in old money, my FA Cup Quest will have begun in the Extra Preliminary Round, the very first rung on the ladder.