Hendon (in green) nearly grabbed a draw on Saturday
By David Barber - Monday, 05 November, 2012
The superfan saw his 68th FA Cup First Round match
The weekend of The FA Cup First Round is probably my favourite weekend of the season.
In my 67 First Round matches before Saturday I had been present at eight ‘giant-killings’: Walton & Hersham 2-1 Exeter City (1972), Runcorn 1-0 Southport (1977), Hayes 1-0 Cardiff City (1990), Fulham 0-2 Hayes (1991), Woking 1-0 Barnet (1994), Brentford 1-3 Kingstonian (2000), QPR 1-1 Vauxhall Motors – VM won on penalties (2002) and Hornchurch 2-0 Darlington (2003).
League v non-League in The Cup is always a fascinating contest and my choice for Saturday was Aldershot Town v Hendon.
I travelled on the 12.53 from Waterloo, which to my surprise had a lot of Hendon fans on it, and was one of the first in the ground as usual. It was standing on the East Bank Terrace that reminded me that my last First Round match had also been at the home of the Shots, a replay against Maidenhead United last season which they won 2-0.
Aldershot, as a League 2 side, may have been clear favourites to win on Saturday but they were 23rd in the table and hadn’t scored a goal at home since mid-September. Having said that, Hendon were three divisions lower and near the bottom too.
I still fancied an upset and even more so when Hendon’s No.7 fired in a fabulous volley on 27 minutes. I was surrounded by home fans of all ages and moments earlier had made a mental note not to shout ‘Yes!’ if the visitors scored. They held the Shots at bay quite comfortably until the break and I was starting to dream.
How likely was it that Aldershot would score twice? Not very. But they began to bomb down the flanks in the second half and put the Isthmian Leaguers under so much pressure that a goal became inevitable.
Shots equalised with a smart header and then treated us to a masterclass in how to hit close-range chances miles over the bar before finally breaking Hendon hearts with an 85th-minute winner.
The combination of a late start, an elongated interval and seven minutes of stoppage time meant that I just missed a train back to Blighty that I thought I would catch easily. Then I had the most miserable Sunday of the season…
Entering Regent’s Park for the 10.30 kick-offs, I was initially encouraged by shouts from beyond the trees that suggested something sporty was going on.
But for me those shouts had been just a little too high-pitched and sure enough it turned out to be women’s lacrosse. The football? All off. Then I walked all the way back to the hotel for Braintree v Tranmere on the telly and that was off too.
I did see the Second Round draw though. I had identified ten teams that I could envisage watching at home and every single one was drawn away.
Games this season = 70
Games in total = 6,365
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