By David Barber
191 of the 758 teams in this season’s FA Cup with Budweiser are already dreaming of next year after being knocked out at the Extra Preliminary Round stage.
One of last night’s 30 replays featured Barking of the Essex Senior League and Staines Lammas of the Combined Counties League Division One. The teams had drawn 4-4 on Saturday at Short Lane Stadium, the ground Staines Lammas share with Ashford Town (Middx).
After a hot and sweaty 21-stop tube journey from Edgware Road to Becontree, changing at West Ham, I was at Mayesbrook Park at 7.20 for a 7.45 kick-off. Admission was £6 and the programme £1.50. It was warm, still sunny, a little humid, and everyone seemed to be sipping from a can of pop.
Barking, the former Isthmians, haven’t played in The Cup’s competition proper for 29 years. They got through to the Second Round before losing 2-1 at Plymouth. Argyle famously went on to reach the Semi-Final that season. In Barking’s last home tie against a League club, in 1979, they beat Oxford United 1-0 in the First Round.
Staines Lammas had a decent run to the First Round Qualifying last season before Chesham United ended their hopes. The club was founded in 1926 and merged with Laleham Village in the ‘80s. ‘Lammas’ is 1 August, a harvest festival, and the name derives from the old English ‘hlaf-maesse’ or ‘loaf-mass’.
The prize to last night’s winners was a home tie with Barton Rovers in the Preliminary Round on 25 August. Barking, urged on by a crowd of 80 or so, held the upper hand in the first 15 minutes and might have scored a couple. Then Lammas started to win some important challenges in midfield and they soon had crosses raining into the home side’s box.
One of those, driven in hard and low from the left, was spilled by the very tall Barking ‘keeper. As the ball rolled along the six-yard box, parallel with the goal-line, the Lammas No.7 was perfectly placed to blast it high into the net. I was standing directly behind that goal and ‘ducked’.
That was in the 38th minute and it proved to be enough to take Lammas through. Now they must win five more ties to line up in the First Round Proper. They certainly have some spirit – and a left-back with an amazingly long throw – so they deserve to keep their dream alive.
By David Barber