Fair Play to the Poppies and Highworth.
By - Monday, 19 August, 2013
The superfan is on the FA Cup trail again
A new FA Cup competition, the 133rd in history, kicked off at the weekend and I saw two typically hard-fought Extra Preliminary Round ties in the Bournemouth area. Christchurch lost 2-1 to Sherborne Town on Friday night and Bournemouth Poppies beat Highworth Town 3-1 on a damp Saturday afternoon.
I’ve now seen 431 FA Cup matches, including 41 Finals, and plan to take in an EPR replay at Hanwell Town tomorrow.
When I left my hotel in Boscombe on Friday, moments after Mo Farah’s triumph in the 5000m in Moscow, it had been 97 days since Wigan Athletic’s unexpected victory in the Wembley Final.
Christchurch’s ground at Hurn Bridge was reached via a four-minute train journey from Pokesdown and a taxi from Christchurch station.
My taxi driver turned out to be a season ticket holder at AFC Bournemouth who had followed Spurs in his younger days. He told me he had seen the legendary Tommy Lawton play in the 1950s, one of the greatest headers of the ball to play for England (22 goals in 23 internationals). My dad’s favourite player, he was a major star for Everton, Chelsea and Notts County.
There were very few guests at my hotel but one of them, a well-travelled chap into salsa dancing, told me the only football match he had ever been to was Ecuador v Chile! Admission in Quito was the equivalent of £10 and he remembered there were no Chilean fans in the crowd. But they did have a band.
It’s been something of a dream for me to be present when the first goal of an FA Cup competition is scored and to be near enough to photograph it. It’s still a dream. ‘Church’s match was one of the 7.45pm starts but the Wessex League side didn’t take the lead against Western League Sherborne Town until the 36th minute.
Sherborne’s goalie had done well to keep them out up to then, before the blinding sun finally disappeared below the line of trees. Close to half-time they equalised and then went 2-1 up early in the second half.
‘Church kept trying to the end but a young side full of enthusiasm just came up short. The visitors from Dorset, who had brought a surprising number of fans with them, now travel to Corsham Town in the Preliminary Round on 31 August.
The weather in Bournemouth on Saturday was appalling: cold, wet and windy. But it was almost a relief after all those hot, sticky afternoons this season. I decided to walk the three miles to Bournemouth Poppies’ Victoria Park ground in Winton, the hotel manager having kindly lent me an umbrella.
There was rain all the way there and it became quite heavy in the first half of Poppies’ tie with Highworth Town, a Hellenic League outfit from Wiltshire. I sat in the back row of the stand, on one of the few seats that wasn’t covered in bird droppings. Poppies were pointless and goalless in the Wessex League but they started confidently and went ahead with a penalty on 14 minutes.
They won 3-1, Highworth’s added-time consolation also a penalty, and their reward is a home tie against Hallen or Whitchurch United. When I got back to the hotel after another three-mile trek in the rain, I joined Peter (the manager) in the bar to watch Swansea v Manchester United on the big screen. I thought my match was better.
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