Falling back in with the FA Cup

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Tomorrow marks the start of the Third Qualifying round of the FA Cup and I for one will be at a ground embracing what is readily coined the “Greatest Domestic Cup Competition in the World”.

We all know that this phrase will be milked by the media over the coming season and their chase of the great underdog tale.

Pretty much similar to the approach used this week to glorify the trades of San Marino or as any normal person can see it, outwardly mocking a nation.

Little do the media know but that the San Marinese could quite openly mock us. They have one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe and have a highly stable economy, something which is alien over the majority of the Earth.

My point here is that ‘minnows’ should be respected and it is the respective domestic minnows that are fighting to be a part of a major tournament this weekend.

The attention of the media will not turn to the ‘Greatest Competition’ for over a month now, when the first round proper begins on November 8th.

The lowest rank team left in the competition at the Third Qualifying phase, Willand Rovers, have already been sniffed out by the BBC.

Luckily they now have the pressure of this tag.

Willand succeed last year’s title holders Daventry Town as benefactors of the lowest rank.

Daventry proved last season that they were anything but ‘minnows’ as they graduated to the first round for the only time in their history to face Chesterfield at the ProAct Stadium.

I was there during my stint working with the Spireites and it was clear to see that Daventry had been mightily underestimated by their Football League opponents.

The Northamptonshire club were confident and comfortable in possession, whilst at stages creating chances with relative ease.

This is about the time I list the actual professions of the team that played that day.

Footballer, footballer, footballer.

That is what they were that day and arguably the better ones if you had never seen a football game before.

In the end, the pace of the fixture took its toll on the team from the ninth tier of the English footballing pyramid and they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat thanks to two late goals.

At the end of the day, they had won in many people’s eyes.

In the chairman’s eyes even more so, as his club were £30,000 richer. (This figure does not take into account gate receipts and everything else that goes along with success in football.)

Winning a couple of games is massive at this level and every chairman, regardless of whether the manager agrees with them, wants to have a successful cup run.

This is why when we come to the nitty gritty tomorrow, almost all, if not every, team will be playing a full strength team.

I have been following the exploits of Gainsborough Trinity, my hometown club, this season, writing for the local paper.

They came out with their first XI against Farsley AFC in the round prior, where they entered the competition, against a team two divisions below them.

The fixture ended 4-1 to Trinity but there was not a significant gulf in skill on show, but a clinical edge was shown by one team.

This was my first qualifying experience for a long time and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The opportunity to potentially play a team like Sheffield United at Bramall Lane or even a return to Chesterfield, is high on my list of achievements for this team.

They have had another ‘helpful’ draw in the form of Marine of the Northern Premier League for tomorrow and I am already looking forward to the game.

People will of course be talking about pressure but that is the nature of the beast in football and in every other profession.

Another day at the office if you will.

Personally, I have not felt this excitement for the FA Cup for a long time. It is definitely a dying ember at the top level, as they hastily choose to rotate the squad without a moments thought to the paying public.

The thought of being so close to playing at a football league ground, will mean a sleepless Sunday night for many fans, who’s team will be involved in Monday’s draw.

I share the same view of the Gainsborough chairman, Nick Tinker, that a local draw with either Lincoln City or Grimsby Town would be the best option for the club in terms of finances. Obviously another kind draw would be preferable to give the opportunity to spar against Football League opposition.

There are still many an obstacle left, no less the arrival of the Vanarama Conference teams in Monday’s hat.

That is the danger of a knockout tournament. You could face the highest ranked teams consistently and win every time.

On the flip side you may face the lowest and be eliminated.

That is why I will head to the Northolme tomorrow knowing that whatever happens, the fondness of the FA Cup from yesteryear has truly been rekindled within me.

To me that is a fantastic conclusion.

PS. I also vow to cease rotating my squads on FIFA or Football Manager when it is FA Cup weekend.

Match Report from the FA cup first round

This is my match report from Chesterfield versus Daventry Town in the FA Cup first round.

Debutants Daventry Town received a standing ovation from the crowd as their heart warming performance ended in defeat as Chesterfield got back to winning ways after a period of 5 games without a win.

It was a difficult game for Paul Cook and his players as a defiant non league opposition defended stoically for 90 minutes until Gary Roberts broke the deadlock in the 69th minute.

It was a fairly lively start with both teams enjoying possession of the football, a bruising tackle from Liam cooper left Daventry’s Tom Lorraine sprawling on the floor and the spirieite was lucky not to find himself in the referees book in the early proceedings.

In the 12th minute of the game, a marauding run from Ollie Banks let the central midfielder with time to shoot. On his weaker side, the effort drifted past Vikings keeper Richard Morris’ near post.

Lorraine was again brought down minutes later, this time by Chesterfield wide man Gary McSheffrey, and the former Coventry star was booked in the 18th minute.

The first real chance of the game fell to the yellow carded McSheffrey. Following a brilliant run by Drew Talbot down the chesterfield right, his cross ricocheted off a Daventry defender into his path. The first time effort was drilled across the six yard box, millimetres in front of eoin Doyle and wide of the post.

Another chance escaped Doyle in the 28th minute. The ball broke from a mcsheffrey cross around 12 yards out on the left hand side of the Daventry box. The curled effort from the Irishman was headed clear by marcel Simpson in front of his goal line.

From the clearance Daventry had their first real chance as Mykel Beckley ran clear of his man, crossing to find Lorraine who headed over the crossbar.

The pressure increased from the Northamptonshire club as they forced their first corner of the game. Curled in by Beckley, a half clearance from spireites keeper Tommy Lee fell to skipper Liam Dolman and his shot bobbled around before being cleared. The momentum continued as Lorraine ran clear, as the ball came back, forcing a save from Lee low down at his near post.

The weather began to turn for the worse, as the rain pounded down at the ProAct. Doyle continued to be bright as he had a penalty appeal waved away. He intercepted in the opponents half, taking on two defenders before being rather abruptly stopped by centre half Dolman. The referee quickly waved away any appeals, believing the big centre back had nowhere to go.

Against the run of play, Daventry nearly took the lead. A slip from Cooper left right winger Ross Oulton in space on the edge of the Chesterfield area and his curling left footed shot was easily saved by lee diving to his right.

The half ended in a stalemate much to the disappointment of the home side. It had been surprisingly equal despite 4 leagues being between the two sides. A lot of discontent was bubbling within the home support.

The second term started as miserable, weather wise, as it ended 15 minutes prior.

Chesterfield were certainly buoyed at half time as only a few minutes had transpired when McSheffrey stung the palms of visiting keeper Morris. The attack was built from the right flank and a pass into Doyle outside the opposing box, was controlled by the former Hibernian man and caressed into the path of number 28 mcsheffrey, who let off a ferocious strike.

A minute later and the home fans were incorrectly elated as Ollie Banks side footed strike from a corner appeared to go in. However, his effort narrowly went past the post rippling the back of the net for good measure.

Following a lengthy pause in play after an injury to Daventry man Beckley, Chesterfield broke clear and a whipped ball from Banks across the box left Doyle stretching and he duely fired over from around 4 yards out. It was the clearest opportunity of goal all game thus far and it was in the 67th minute.

A minute later, a foul on Drew Talbot down the right hand side gave the spireites a chance. The free kick, taken by substitute Jay O’Shea, arched over the Daventry defence to the far post, where Gary Roberts who was unmarked, volleyed home. A lovely controlled finish from the Liverpudlian eased the heavy burden on his manager and teammates.

The goal galvanised the league 2 side and the pressure began building once more. Good work from Talbot left O’Shea with time to take on his man and fire a left footed strike inches over the bar.

The 75 minute mark resulted in another chance. Slow build up down the left gave way to a further Doyle opportunity. Armand Gnanduillet, another substitute, chipped the ball into the Irishman who controlled on his chest and poked wide after a good low stop from Morris in the Daventry goal.

It was the substitutes which changed the game for the home team and the three of them combined to force another save from Morris. Tendayi Darikwa, the third change, lifted the ball over Vikings left back josh Blake, which O’Shea trapped before turning and firing his shot away. Morris parried it badly into the 6 yard box but had a lucky escape as his defence cleared.

The combination was reaping rewards as another quick break from Darikwa left him in the opposition box. The Nottingham born winger squared the ball across to O’Shea who had another shot tipped over by the away stopper.

From the corner, the ball came out to Jimmy Ryan who’s effort from the edge of the box sealed the game. The strike took a major deflection before hitting the crossbar and bouncing in. The 88th minute strike was his first for the club he joined in the summer and settled the nerves of the 5,000 home fans.

The second goal didn’t dampen the spirit of the away side as they pressed for a goal on their fa cup debut late on. Substitute Joe Henderson out strengthened Banks before pulling the ball back for Oulton who’s side footed effort from the penalty spot was blocked by Ashley Robinson, his own teammate, as the ball looked to be going in.

When the final whistle blew after 6 minutes of injury time, the Daventry players, staff and fans were mightily impressed with their own teams performance, of whom several avid fans ran onto the pitch to celebrate with their team. The Vikings will take a lot of heart from their performance today and can focus on building momentum towards a hopeful promotion campaign.