The first FA Cup Final was played in 1872 when I was just a lad. Wanderers beat Royal Engineers with Morton Betts’ goal on 15 minutes but the rematch at the same Kennington Oval venue last Wednesday, marking the 140th anniversary, had a very different scoreline.
Royal Engineers AFC was formed in 1863, the same year as The FA. Wanderers FC disbanded in 1882 after winning The Cup five times, their best players joining other teams like the Old Etonians, but the club was reborn just three years ago. It now competes in the Surrey South Eastern Combination and plays its home matches at Belair Park in West Dulwich.
The first Final had started a few minutes late before an estimated 2,000 crowd; the rematch began promptly at 7pm with an official attendance of 2,257. The teams played in their old colours but the match was played to modern-day rules, so we had crossbars, goal-nets, two handed throw-ins, corners, shirt numbers and substitutes!
This was a proper match with both teams trying hard to win and the tackles were flying in. Engineers, who had been 7-4 favourites in 1872, were quickly into their stride and might have scored three or four before Lance Corporal Jay Hubbard swept Lance Corporal Michael Williams’ cut-back home at the far post on eight minutes.
It was 4-0 after 22 minutes, 6-0 at half-time and 7-1 at the finish. Wanderers, to be fair, had put up a very spirited display in the second half.
A match in which one team attacks for 90 minutes and the other defends can be quite entertaining. You know you’re probably going to get shots from all angles, some blinding saves, perhaps a couple of penalties. All three of my weekend matches were like that to some degree: Whyteleafe 4-0 Sevenoaks Town, Zoo 6-0 Poplar and MSA Ladies 2-1 AFC Trinity.
The Whyteleafe fixture on Saturday was the second leg of a Kent League Cup First Round tie and ‘Leafe started 3-1 down. They tore into the opposition from the kick-off and had a penalty within three minutes, the Sevenoaks ‘keeper pushing the ball up against the bar and then grabbing it.
It was still 0-0 after 45 minutes, the same ‘keeper having continued in unstoppable form, but ‘Leafe scored twice – once with a twice-taken penalty – during injury time at the end of that half.
The home side were queuing up to take shots in the second period and two more goals took ‘Leafe through to the Second Round. That goalie wasn’t so hot at goal-kicks by the way, putting three in a row into the back of the stand. Actually that takes some doing.
Sunday was dry, sunny and milder than anticipated. I saw ‘Zoo FC’ blitz Poplar 6-0 in Regent’s Park before travelling up to Walthamstow, via tubes to Oxford Circus and Liverpool Street and an overground train to St. James Street, to watch an FA Women’s Cup Third Round Qualifying tie between MSA and AFC Trinity.
This was a curious match in which Trinity’s only shot at goal (that I can remember) made it 1-1 and forced extra-time. MSA won it with a goal inside the first minute of the extra period but they were guilty of some astonishing misses.
Games this season = 75
Games in total = 6,370