Gangneung v Honam University, Saturday 13th April 2013, 7pm

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The second round of the FA Cup is the stage where the teams from the third tier National league come in to the competition. I hadn’t yet seen Gangneung play a home game so their tie against Honam University seemed an ideal opportunity to put that right.

The evening kick-off meant that Jen and I had been able to fit in a hike in the nearby Odaesan National Park before catching a bus from Jinbu to Gangneung. There are plenty of motels around the bus terminal and we were sorted with a place to stay by tea-time.

I pointed out the restaurant where I’d been served what I’d thought was raw liver soup last time I’d been here only to be told that it’s a place that specialises in blood clot soup. Wonderful. Somewhere to avoid later on then.

At six o’clock I took a taxi to the ground, it’s only a couple of miles away from the bus terminal and the fare wasn’t much above the minimum. There’s not a lot going on around the stadium that Gangneung share with K-League Gangwon and it actually took me longer to find somewhere to buy some beer than it had to get there.

Home of both Gangwon and Gangneung.

Home of both Gangwon and Gangneung.

I took a seat right on the half-way line, behind a girl’s middle-school football team. How could I be so precise? Well, they’d parked their bus outside. I’ve never been to a school that had anything more than a mini-bus between the whole school, certainly not a coach dedicated to just one of their sports teams.

They don't know they're born.

They don’t know they’re born.

In addition to the school kids, we had about another three hundred people or so dotted around the stadium. There were fifteen home ultras with a drum behind the goal and judging by the cheering whenever the students went on the attack, a fair few parents in the seats around me.

The Gangneung hardcore.

The Gangneung hardcore.

Gangneung were dressed up as Chelsea, whilst Honam were wearing a red and white Adidas kit reminiscent of the one that the Boro wore around 1983. No surprises as to which team I’d be cheering on in this game then.

The home side had the best of the opening twenty minutes, although Honam had a couple of chances on the break. It was noticeable just how much better the National League side were at ‘earning’ free-kicks. The slightest contact would result in the victim going to ground and the referee blowing for the foul. One of the Honam players tried to get in on the diving  but was lucky to escape a yellow for his ‘Best Man Dead’ effort.

Gangneung’s superiority paid off ten minutes before half-time when a high cross into the box was headed back across the goal, dropping over the line just inside the far post. It didn’t take Honam long to equalise though, the chance coming from a ball played through to their right-winger on the edge of the area. He had enough time to take a touch, glance across at the linesman to make sure he was onside and then sidefoot it home in the way that Bernie Slaven did so often. There wasn’t a Holgate fence for him to climb on, but he looked happy enough with his goal.

The posh seats.

The posh seats.

At half-time we had a few fireworks going off outside the stadium. Perhaps they’d only just got the news about Thatcher.

Gangneung continued to dominate after the break, although both sides were playing good, fast passing football and creating chances. The home side hit the bar from a direct free-kick, whilst the visitors almost scored on the hour with a shot that just drifted past the post.

Nothing to see here.

Nothing to see here.

As we approached the end of normal time Honam seemed quite happy to take the draw, perhaps with one eye on eventual penalties. They managed to hang on until the final whistle and take the tie into extra-time. I was out of beer at this point and so called it a night, heading back into town to meet Jen for something to eat at anywhere that didn’t specialise in blood clot soup.

A quick check the following day revealed that Gangneung had got a second goal to give them the victory and take them into the third round.

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