Holders Progress Thanks to Good Parkin

FA Trophy, Third Round Qualifying

York city 3 – 1 Coalville Town

Bootham Crescent is one of those classic-sounding grounds with oodles of character and history, apart from the PR disaster that was the KitKat Crescent era.

Of course labeling anything classic automatically dates it, and Bootham Crescent is certainly dated. That’s not a criticism, well, not too much of one anyway. Don’t get me wrong – I love a ground steeped in history and dripping with nostalgia. But at York, it’s as though time has stood still. Again, not a bad thing, and they are potentially moving into a purpose-built stadium, but my first experience of Bootham Crescent was a strange one.

There was an oddness to its layout. Once through the away turnstiles, and having reached the top of the stairs on the second tier of a two-tiered stand, a small but noisy gathering of Coalville fans were ushered into an area consisting of old wooden seats (not that anyone was actually sat on them much). Nothing wrong with that, but it soon became apparent that once in, there was no bar or food stall. I asked the steward if there was a bar. He seemed unsure. “Er…I think so. You’ll have to go down the stairs and out that door”, was his uncertain response, pointing to a door down the stairs next to the entrance but with no exit sign. So he gave me a slip of paper with ‘Admission’ printed on it – so I could return later – and I made my way through a door I wasn’t convinced I had permission to go through such was his uncertainty. But he was right. And out into the surrounding complex I went, where there was a food stall, toilets and a club shop. But where was the bar? Well actually you can’t get to it from the ground. You have to leave the complex, under the ‘Welcome to Bootham Crescent’ sign and onto the road. Turning right I spotted the door. Blink and you miss it, as many Coalville fans did, instead choosing a local pub for their pre-match beers.

Returning to the ground, I handed my ‘Admission’ slip to a steward who let me through the ‘exit’ and back into the stand. It was all very odd, and for punters with weak bladders, a thirst or a hunger, it’s certainly not ideal as you have to collect the admission slip and repeat the process every time you wish to pee, drink or eat.

Anyway, to the game. York, who managed to get back into the league a few years ago, are now playing in the National League North. Their visitors, my Trophy Quest team Coalville, are two steps below them in the non-league pyramid, playing in the Evo-Stik Premier Division. With The Minstermen being the Trophy holders, they were odds on favourites to win this Third Round Qualifying tie.

But the game is not played on paper, and it was fairly equal for large parts. But York eventually began to look slightly the better side and took the lead on 36 minutes through striker Gary Martin.

After the break they went further ahead when they were awarded a harsh penalty. Coalville midfielder Kyle Dixon was adjudged to have handled a cross from Sean Newton, but it was certainly more ball to hand than hand to ball, and the midfielder had every reason to air his frustration at the ref. However the decision stood, and Journeyman striker Jon Parkin tucked away the spot kick with consummate ease.

You’ll remember Parkin. He’s a striker who has always carried a bit of weight, even when he was playing league football. I remember being at Preston for a FA Cup tie with Liverpool and noticing his impressive beer belly. He’s still got it. But he also got his 16th goal of the season with York’s third goal, which sealed the game after Coalville had quickly gotten back into the game with a sweeping goal from Daniel Creaney, straight after Parkin’s spot kick.

Substitute James Gray was tripped by defender Dean Freeman and the ref once again pointed to the spot. Up stepped “Big fat Parkin” – not my words, but the words of a Coalville taunt – to seal the win for the home side.

So I now follow the holders as they go in search of a win at Kidderminster.

I’ll end by saying how excellent the Coalville fans were at Bootham Crescent. They hollered chant after chant, with some humour added in, with Parkin’s belly being the target for many a chant. He’ll have heard it all before though, he won’t mind.

I was pleased they had a goal to cheer because they deserved that, and, at 2-1, there was a real belief that their side could perhaps earn a replay.

So good luck to them for the season ahead. Meanwhile I’m off to the land of carpets on Saturday.

Pics from the game

 

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Ravens Glide Past Plucky Church

A sending off. Six goals. The Home manager attacking one of Coalville’s players after the final whistle…

It’s fair to say this FA Trophy Second Round Qualifying tie was a humdinger.

Let’s begin at the start, shall we? First of all I was late leaving the house so the kind invitation via Twitter to meet a few Alvechurch fans in a local pub was unfortunately missed, although I did drive past the pub as I had to do a swift turn in the village after completely missing the ground’s entrance. To be fair to myself, it’s a very small, easy-to-miss entrance, as Church’s Lye Meadow Ground is plonked behind houses off a main road.

It’s a small ground with an uneven pitch and a welcoming club house which was showing the Donny v Rotherham game. After a quick pint, I positioned myself just left of the away dugout.

At this level, being so close to the pitch, you really do get to hear what goes on in the two dugouts. Alvechurch’s outspoken manager Ian Long always likes to air his opinion loudly in his West Midlands accent, while the Coalville gaffer also had a lot to say, including an argument with an Alvechurch fan. But petty arguments and officials-bashing was nothing compared to what was to come.

On the field, Church, who were missing their two-goal hero from the Cambridge City win, Babucar Sauane, were soon finding their opposition from a level above very tricky customers, and it wasn’t long before Coalville took the lead. A cross from the left wasn’t dealt with by the Church defence and Tom McGlinchey bundled home in front of the travelling fans from Leicestershire.

One became two when another excellent delivery from the left met Daniel Creaney’s head, giving Church ‘keeper Lewis Gwillians no chance.

Just after the break, in the 46th minute, there was a complete game changer as Coalville’s Kyle Dixon was given a straight red card, much to his chagrin. It was the catalyst for the home side to capitalise, and that’s exactly what they did. There was a renewed energy about them and after forcing two fine saves from Ravens ‘keeper Matthew Coton, he was eventually beaten by a floating header from Church defender Jamie Willets, which he met from a free kick on the left and which arced perfectly into the top right corner.

This should have been the start of the comeback, and sensing this, I moved my position to see the Church onslaught. But it never came.

Instead, having weathered the Alvechurch storm, Coalville grabbed a third, and in some style. Creaney latched onto a stray pass, saw Gwilliams off his line and, from just inside the Church half, sent a curling, lofted attempt goalwards which landed in the empty net much to the ‘keeper’s embarrassment and Creaney’s joy. In fairness, he had every right to milk the celebration. It was an excellently executed opportunistic goal.

From that point on, Coalville never looked back. Despite being a man down, they scored a further two goals – Creaney completed his hat-trick with a low drive into the left-hand corner of Gwilliams’ net, and then, in stoppage time, McGlinchey got his second with a rising drive into the opposite side.

That was the end of the goal action, but what followed was unsavoury to say the least. Church defender Jamie Ashmore attempted to clear his lines and made contact with a Coalville player on the follow through. This sparked a commotion, as tempers spilled over and insults were exchanged. But it also served as the catalyst for a bigger brawl upon the ref’s final whistle.

Unhappy with some of the Coalville players’ conduct during the recent fracas, Church boss Ian Long headed straight for a Coalville player and began to tell him in no uncertain words or actions what he thought of him. It kicked off a mass brawl which involved every player, members of coaching staff and probably the bar staff! It was a sad and unprofessional end to a cracking game.

I didn’t see any problems amongst supporters as they mingled over beers, but for me it was time to head back home.

I now follow Coalville into the Third Qualifying Round in which they go to Trophy holders York City in what will be a really stern test for them.

Not so long ago York were a league side, and have a ground worthy of league football, so it’ll be a big transition from Alvechurch’s quaint, cosy little home. But it’s another new ground for me so I shall look forward to November 25.

Images from the match

 

 

 

 

City not given a prayer by in-form Church

Arriving at St Ives’ Westwood Road Ground, the temporary home of Cambridge City, there was a feeling that this FA Trophy fixture could be a free-flowing, high-scoring affair.

In City’s previous game, they’d put seven past Arlesey, conceding two, and Church are riding high in the league, playing some entertaining football along the way, so all was set for a hi-octane game.

But that’s exactly what the crowd of 177 didn’t get, certainly not in the first half anyway, as both teams struggled to create clear cut opportunities, both frustrating the other.

As the half progressed, Alvechurch started to become more of a threat, but City themselves were unlucky not to take the lead when a free kick was floated into the area, and the ball seemed to deceive the visiting defence before going narrowly wide of the post.

Alvechurch were then gifted a chance whenthe home ‘keeper came out to clear a ball with his head, but only succeeding in getting it as far as Church’s in-form forward Danny Dubidat whose attempted lob over the stranded stopper hit the post.

What it lacked in quality it made up for in fight, and tempers frayed as a coming together near the Alvechurch corner flag saw a City player allegedly pushedinto the advertising hoardings. Cue much arguing and bitterness since that moment, with the away management team getting plenty of stick from the home support behind the dugout. I’m not sure one fan’s view of ‘typical dirty northerners’ was accurate in terms of both legitimacy or geography.

After the break it was the visitors who were progressively growing into the game and it was no real surprise when they broke the deadlock.

An effort was blocked by City ‘keeper Conroy’s feet but rebounded kindly to Babucar Sauane, who fired Alvechurch into the lead.

However, the home side were unlucky not to hit back immediately when Jordan Gent met a corner but his effort was cleared off the line.

But that chance was rued a few minutes later as Sauane got his second.

He skilfully avoided the challenge of two City defenders before firing home. He, along with Dubidat and Yusefi Ceesay, look like a dynamic trio capable of cutting through any defence.

It was enough to clinch the game for Alvechurch and they have been awarded with a home tie in the next round against Coalville Town.

It gives me the chance to see the team I’m following on my Trophy Quest on their home soil. C’mon Church!

Pics from the day.

 

 

Trophy Quest Begins as Belper Bow Out

In the absence of my FA Cup Quest this season due to family commitments falling on at least three FA Cup weekends and a music gig on another, I’ve decided to pursue a different trophy, The FA Trophy to be precise.

And so, on October 7, my FA Trophy Quest began at the Marston’s Stadium, the home of The Nailers, Belper Town. As the crow flies, Belper is the nearest town to my house so it was a no-brainer to start there. Also it gave me the chance to visit a local ground which I’d actually never visited before, despite regular social visits to the pleasant town.

The Nailers’ visitors in this Preliminary Round tie were fellow Evo-Stik Division One side, Alvechurch – a meeting of 13th versus 7th in the early standings.

Belper started the better, putting pressure on the Worcestershire (not Warwickshire as first published. Sorry Church fans) side’s defence. But it was the away side who took the lead as full-back Jamie Ashmore played Daniel Dubidat in behind the Belper backline to finish smartly across the Belper ‘keeper.

It was a good finish, but it would be bettered a few minutes later. An Alvehurch corner was cleared only as far as defender Tom Turton who smashed a brilliant volley past the outstretched arms of ‘keeper Roberts and into the back of the net, skimming off the crossbar on its way in. It’s since gained Sky Sports Grassroots ‘Goal of the Month’, and deservedly so. If I see a better goal on my quest this season I’ll be very surprised.

Belper responded, and marauded forward, and they got lucky when the referee ruled that the ball struck the arm of full-back Ashmore in the box and pointed to the spot. It was a harsh decision, but Keiron O’Connell had no mercy and clinically dispatched the ball into the ‘keeper’s bottom right corner.

In the second half the game became stretched, and both sides were intent on winning the game and some excellent attacking football was enjoyed by a crowd of just over 200.

The rain was coming down by now, too, making the ball skid about and challenges a little poorly timed, and it was no surprise on 77 minutes to see a red card as Belper’s John Guy was sent off for a late tackle on Church’s Josh March.

But despite the numerical advantage and some fine counter attacking football, Alvechurch just couldn’t finish Belper off and were nearly made to pay deep into stoppage time as captain Eric Graves fired wide from distance.

So although the game promised more goals at HT, it ended 2-1 to the visitors. They, and I, travel to Cambridge City on Saturday, October 28. As always with these quests, my allegiance switches to the victors, so I’ll travel to St Ives – Cambridge City’s temporary home – with Alvechurch as my Trophy team. Come on Church!

Here’s THAT goal from Tom Turton.

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Welcome to Belper

Belper’s old and disused cotton mill, The East Mill, makes for an industrial backdrop.

The teams depart the pitch after the full-time whistle.

The travelling fans applaud their team off the pitch.

Empty Cup for 2017/18 as Quest is Cancelled

It’s with great regret that I have decided to cancel my FA Cup Quest for the forthcoming season. The Extra Preliminary Round begins this weekend, but having studied my calendar, there are at least four matches to which I definitely cannot attend, so I’ve come to the conclusion that there would be little point starting my Quest this weekend, knowing that it will be punctuated with gaps.

I planned to start with Heanor Town, who play host to Leicester-based side Aylestone Park on Friday. Even this game clashed with a Bluetones gig in Derby, so I contemplated diverting to Kimberley Miners’ Welfare, who are competing in the competition for the first time in their history, and are based just over the Notts border.

However, I know that I will then be forced to miss the next round (The Preliminary Round) due to a planned weekend away in Norfolk, plus the round after that (First Round Qualifying) due to a weekend in Liverpool, meaning two rounds on the trot would be missed, and the 5th Round weekend due to my son’s 5th birthday.

That’s three games definitely out of the equation. Add in a planned gig on the date of the First Round Proper, meaning I have to potentially miss that game too, and there are just too many conflicts already to formulate a proper run this season.

It would be shame to partake in a partial, fragmented run after the perfect journey to the Final from the Extra Preliminary Round last year, in which I didn’t miss a single game.

When I’ve attempted this Quest in previous seasons I’ve encountered conflicts along the way for one reason or another, but to have so many holes in my Quest from the off makes it seem pointless in starting it at all.

So, although it will pain me to see the draws being made, and this Saturday afternoon will be spent checking Twitter to see how Kimberley got on, a painful decision to take a year off has been made.

However, not all is lost. I have decided that I shall instead apply the same Quest process to the FA Trophy. Although it means I will stay with non-league clubs, I will still get a day out at Wembley in May.

I was hoping I could follow both the Trophy and the Vase, but there becomes a point at which the ties are played on the same date. And since cloning is still a way off, following both competitions is impossible. So I have chosen the Trophy, which is for teams who compete at levels 1-4 on the National League system. Luckily, I’m a big fan of non-league football, and although the Trophy is nowhere near as prestigious as the FA Cup itself, it’s a compromise, and at least I still have a target to aim for.

I’ve not yet decided where to start, but once again it will be with a local side. Belper Town, a short drive from my house, will be favoUrites, but I’ll decide nearer to October 7. And that’s another thing. The Trophy doesn’t begin until mid-Autumn!

Trophy Round Dates

Preliminary Round Saturday 7 October 2017
First Round Qualifying Saturday 28 October 2017
Second Round Qualifying Saturday 11 November 2017
Third Round Qualifying Saturday 25 November 2017
First Round Saturday 16 December 2017
Second Round Saturday 13 January 2018
Third Round Saturday 3 February 2018
Fourth Round Saturday 24 February 2018
Semi-Final first leg Saturday 17 March 2018
Semi-Final second leg Saturday 24 March 2018
The Final Sunday 20 May 2018

 

 

 

Alternative Route

In my last blog, I hinted at looking at the comparison between the team I started with on my FA Cup Quest – South Normanton Athletic – and the team I wanted to start with, Heanor Town.

Below is the route I would’ve taken had I started with my first choice team, Heanor. The reason I didn’t is due to my missus being out on the Friday night on which Heanor started their Cup run, leaving me on child duty. So I opted for South Normanton, whose game was on a Saturday afternoon.

It transpires that had I started with Heanor at Leicestershire-based side Hinckley on that Friday night, I would’ve eventually joined Lincoln City’s epic run to the Quarter Finals.

The Imps, who have since gained promotion back to the EFL, made cup headlines by beating 4 league teams on route to the Quarter Final, where they were defeated 5-0 by eventual winners Arsenal at the Emirates. With almost everyone in Lincoln crammed into a corner of the Emirates, I’d have struggled to get a ticket for that one!

Lincoln’s run started by beating Altrincham in the First Round Proper. Prior to that, my allegiance would have been with Matlock Town, until they were beaten by Altrincham.

Although I would’ve attended 17 games (one more than on my actual route), I would’ve only switched teams 5 times, largely due to Lincoln’s run, which saw them beat Altrincham, Oldham, Ipswich (after a replay), Brighton and, famously, Burnley away.

Here’s what I could’ve done…

Extra Preliminary Round
Friday, August 5, 2016
Hinckley AFC 1 – 1 Heanor Town 

Extra Preliminary Round Replay
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Heanor Town 5 – 1 Hinckley AFC

Preliminary Round
Friday, August 19, 2016
Heanor Town 3 – 2 Long Eaton United 

First Qualifying Round
Saturday, September 3, 2016
Matlock Town 4 – 2 Heanor Town 

Second Qualifying Round
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Kidsgrove Athletic 1 – 2 Matlock Town 

Third Qualifying Round
Saturday, October 1, 2016
Matlock Town 1 – 1 Workington  

Third Qualifying Round Replay
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Workington 1 – 3 Matlock Town 

Fourth Qualifying Round
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Altrincham 3 – 1 Matlock Town 

First Round Proper
Saturday, November 5, 2016
Lincoln City 2 – 1 Altrincham 

Second Round
Monday, December 5, 2016
Lincoln City 3 – 2 Oldham Athletic 

Third Round
Saturday, January 7, 2017
Ipswich Town 2 – 2 Lincoln City 

Third Round Replay
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Lincoln City 1 – 0 Ipswich Town 

Fourth Round
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Lincoln City 3 – 1 Brighton 

Fifth Round
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Burnley 0 – 1 Lincoln City 

Quarter Final
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Arsenal 5 – 0 Lincoln City 

Semi-Final
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Arsenal 2 – 1 Manchester City 

Final
Saturday, May 27, 2017
Arsenal 2 – 1 Chelsea

 

 

 

Wembley Wonder Completes Cup Quest

As I walked out of Wembley after watching Arsenal lift the FA Cup aloft last month, crammed in amid thousands of supporters waiting patiently to get into Wembley Park tube station, I started to recall where my FA Cup Quest actually began.

Readers of my blog will know that my starting club was South Normanton Athletic. But the decision to start with them, a decision which would ultimately plot my journey to the final, actually began on a wet and muggy July evening at a friendly between Heanor Town and Mansfield Town.

You see, the intention was to begin my Quest in Heanor, a small town in Derbyshire, as I was born there 39 years ago. So I thought it would be fitting to start with them. But, as I went for a half time pint at that friendly, I noticed a poster in the club house informing fans that Heanor’s Extra Preliminary Round tie was scheduled for a Friday night. And, with the missus already having plans for that night – meaning I was on child duty – the decision to once again start at Lees Lane, South Normanton, was made. I like to start local, with a Derbyshire team if possible, so Normo was ideal. I will, at a later date, compare the two routes. The route I actually took, and the route I would have taken had I have been able to attend Heanor’s game.

So as I waited amongst gleeful Gooners, I felt a sense of achievement. I’d accomplished something. I’d done what I set out to do 10 months ago. I’m not the only person who’s ever completed this journey of course. In fact there are probably a few who have done it this season (if you have, let me know. I’d be interested to see your journey). But to go to every game – all 16 – from the Extra Preliminarily Round to the Final, for me, at least, was something I can tick off my ‘to do’ list.

That’s not to say this is the end of my Quest. I’ll be back again in August – hopefully with Heanor Town this time – and I’ll start it all over again. But if it goes belly up and I simply cannot get to Carlisle on a Tuesday night, then so be it. Although I shall try my hardest.

The Final, as you will know, was a cracker. Chelsea v Arsenal could’ve been dull. They could have cancelled each other out. But it was end-to-end, and I’m pleased that the team I was officially following won. Not just because they were my Quest team, but because they absolutely deserved it.

Pre-game I’d spent time amongst Chelsea fans in their designated fan zone. I soaked up the atmosphere as the sun shone down and celery was thrown. Yes, celery. For some unknown reason, sticks of celery were flying over people’s heads as the Chelsea fan zone became vegetable warfare. The fan zone idea is great. A DJ whipped up the atmosphere while beers were drank and burgers were scoffed while a big screen showed Chelsea’s former Cup triumphs.

Although can someone explain why this is only made available for one club? Arsenal fans weren’t given the same deal. There’s only one fan zone and that was Chelsea’s. It was the same in the semi-final, with Man City supporters getting the zone. Maybe the deal is that the ‘home’ side get the zone and the ‘away’ side get the pubs. It certainly seemed that way in the semi as every pub around Wembley was Arsenal.

Despite the lack of balance over the fan zones, all around the ground the atmosphere was friendly. The week before, Britain had once again been targeted by terrorists, as a bomb at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester had killed 18 people. With the country’s terror alert maxed up to critical, meaning more terror attacks were imminent, many thought the Cup Final could be targeted. But that did not dampen the atmosphere. In fact, it probably bolstered the air of togetherness; a unity between rival London supporters seldom seen at matches. Fans mingled, selfies were taken with police horses, supporters chatted with cops and people just got on with things. It was heart warming to see a bunch of kids – in both Chelsea and Arsenal replica shirts – happily having a kick about outside the stadium.

It was my first ever FA Cup Final, and what a day it was. Hopefully I shall return next year. Until July, when next season’s Extra Preliminary Round draw is made, that’s all from me.

Pics and videos from cup final day

The obligatory pre-match Wembley Way shot.

Bobby Moore standing proudly outside the stadium.

The Arsenal end fills up…

 …as does the Chelsea end.

The teams are out.