Maldon and Tiptree v Felixstowe and Walton, Saturday 9th October 2021, 3pm.

For the last couple of years I’ve been doing some college stuff in Chelmsford. It means that I go down there for the weekend every two months or so for what they call ‘workshops’. I’ve always kept an eye out for the Chelmsford fixtures but generally we don’t finish until it’s too late in the day for me to get to see them.

For this trip Jen and I were staying in Maldon, which is about half an hour away from Chelmsford. It’s a town famous for salt and that fella out of The Streets of San Francisco, the one who isn’t knocking off Zeta Jones. To the best of my knowledge anyway. We’d picked Maldon because Brooks Williams had a gig there on the Friday night. He’s someone who I was aware of from his State of the Union work with Boo Hewerdine but I’d never heard or seen solo before. He was really good.

Next day the college session finished early and I was back in Maldon for around quarter past four. That meant that as I reached their Wallace Binder ground there was still around half an hour left in their FA Trophy Second Qualifying clash with Felixstowe and Walton.

Had I arrived earlier it would have been a tenner to get in but by this stage the turnstiles were long deserted. I had a chat with a fella on the railing as I went in and he filled me in on what I’d missed. The away team, Felixstowe and Walton were in red and white and one up. Maldon were the team in the Barca-like strip and they should have had a goal of their own courtesy of a first minute shot that bounced down off the cross-bar and, according to the fella, went over the line. Both sides were in the eighth tier Isthmian League North.

The attendance was announced at two-hundred and seventy-two but presumably that didn’t include latecomers like me. Most were congregated along the railing in the top corner but there was a covered seating stand along one side, another opposite and one more behind a goal.

Felixstowe had brought a few with them and there was a friendly atmosphere from a crowd united in their derision of the ref. Normally I’d side with the official but in this instance he really was poor. There were fouls where the body language of the defender clearly indicated guilt, but he didn’t pick up on it.

With not long to go Maldon nabbed an equalizer when a shot hit the post and bounced in off the away keeper. Felixstowe could have nicked it in the dying seconds when it looked like they had won a pen but the ref took the easy way out and pretended to have seen nothing amiss. There was no extra-time and the tie went straight to a penalty shoot-out.

Most of the crowd made their way down to the action end for the penalties which looked as if they might go on well into the evening before a Maldon miss sent Felixstowe into the next round with a 7-6 victory.

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