Posts Tagged ‘FA Cup’

Middlesbrough v Chelsea, Saturday 19th March 2022, 5.15pm

March 24, 2022

I suppose the Boro’s cup run was always likely to come to an end against Chelsea. They are a step above the two Premier League sides that we’d put out in earlier rounds and if we were to have progressed then we would have needed to be at the top of our game and for Chelsea to have an off-day.

We played ok, but the gulf in class on the pitch was just too much and at two down in the first half hour I feared the worst. We didn’t crumble though and whilst they might have taken their foot off the pedal, we just needed a bit of luck to bring us back into the game. Even up until the final few moments I kept thinking that if we could just nick one…

Harry and I were in the front row of the West Stand Upper again. The atmosphere wasn’t as good as against Spurs, but early goals conceded tend to have that effect. The crowd picked up in the second half though and if we had scored it would have lifted the roof off. I though Tav was immense. If there are any haters still around then that performance should surely shut them up for good. Or at least until there’s a misplaced pass.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed about the cup run is that we took it seriously. There was a strong side against Mansfield and then we were at full-strength for the three ties against Premier League opposition. That’s how it should be, so it’s another well-done to Chris Wilder.

Boro bowing out ended my personal cup run too. I’d started off in August at Ryhope in the Extra Preliminary Round and took in a match in each subsequent stage, ticking off eight new grounds. The Boro got involved after that and I was able to follow them to Mansfield and Man United before the home ties with Spurs and Chelsea. Twelve rounds in all. The only way that I could have continued the streak to Wembley would have been if we’d got there. And I suppose that’s how it should be as I wouldn’t really want to take the seat of a fan of the competing clubs at that stage. It won’t be long until August though and it will all start again.

Middlesbrough v Tottenham Hotspur, Tuesday 1st March 2022, 7.55pm

March 4, 2022

Well, well, well, how good was that? Outplaying Spurs in the fifth round of the FA Cup on a night when the game had displaced EastEnders and the like on national telly. I love the idea of people sitting down to with a cup of tea expecting to watch the Mitchell brothers gurning their way around Albert Square but instead getting a Jonny Howson masterclass and then seeing the Boro defence hardly giving Harry Kane a touch of the ball all night.

I’d switched seats for this one and so Harry and I were in the front row of the West Stand Upper. It’s the same row that Gibbo sits in, albeit around fifty yards to our right. The atmosphere was one of the best I can recall at The Riverside, maybe the best. The Liverpool game in ’98 usually gets a mention in conversations like this but that was in the pre-Red Faction days of just one singing end. When songs are started and taken up at both ends of the ground it makes it much more likely that those down the sides will join in too. And we did.

The performance was so much better than when we rode our luck to beat Man Utd in the previous round. We grew into the game in the second half and took it to them in extra-time. What a finish from Josh Coburn. He’s a fella with an eye for a goal and his strike rate per minute on the pitch must be up there with the best at the moment. Here’s hoping for a home draw in the Quarter Final.

Mansfield Town v Middlesbrough, Saturday 8th January 2022, 12.15pm

January 12, 2022

I’ve been attending each round of this season’s FA Cup since the opening Extra Preliminary round back in August. As we’ve now reached the Third Round I had the option of continuing my streak to a ninth successive round by taking in a Boro game away at Mansfield.

The bad news, however, was that we had only been allocated 1700 tickets. At fifteen quid a pop they would be in high demand and I knew that I wouldn’t have sufficient priority points to get one. With that in mind I got in touch with Mansfield early on and nabbed a couple of hospitality tickets in the 1861 lounge for forty quid each. Result, as they say, and a bargain too.

Stadium parking wasn’t included in the price but I was ok with that as I didn’t want to be trapped at the ground after the game. We ended up in a car park about five minute’s walk away and Jen and I just followed the locals on a route that included a short cut through someone’s garden.

We had an hour to while away in the lounge before the 12.15 kick-off and after my second breakfast of the day, this time a full English, we were entertained by the recollections of former Mansfield player Micky Laverick. His heyday was the mid-seventies and I got the impression that era was Mansfield’s peak to date.

As kick-off approached we made our way out to the Ian Greaves Stand and our centrally located seats in the upper tier. My records state that I’d been to the ground before, thirty-five years previously in the first Rioch promotion season. Even after looking around, I’ve no recollection whatsoever of the game or even the day.

We were sat two rows behind the media people. I’ve no idea who does the Boro commentary these days as I gave up trying to connect when I was in Russia. I didn’t see anyone behind a microphone that I recognized but I was able to keep an eye on the young lad from the Northern Echo typing his updates.

The Boro support had the stand to our left. They kept up a decent volume throughout the game and the “Mansfield’s a shithole” ditty raised a few laughs from the home fans around us. “It is, mind” said one, “but it’s our shithole”. I know the feeling.

I was a little worried to learn that this was the strongest team that Mansfield had been able to field for a while. As we only had three players starting that I’d consider to be in our first-choice XI there was potential for an upset. It all went well to begin with though and we were two up early on with chances to put the tie out of Mansfield’s reach within the first twenty minutes.

The home side were better in the second half and we struggled to stay on top. It seemed to take a while for Wilder to get his instructions understood and as we gradually replaced the fringe players with regular starters Mansfield got back into it.

There were joyous celebrations all around us as they pulled one back and then equalized. Had the game gone to extra-time then I’d have made them favourites to win. As so often happens these days though Isaiah Jones made the difference when his injury time cross was diverted into the net for a match-winning own goal.

Roll on Round Four.

Harrogate Town v Wrexham, Saturday 6th November 2021, 3pm

November 9, 2021

It was FA Cup time again, with this First Round tie extending my run of attendance to all seven rounds to date, starting back in August with the Extra Preliminary Round at Ryhope. I’d picked Harrogate Town on the basis of proximity to Teesside and that I’d not been before. They are also in the Football League these days so it’s another tick on the ‘92’ list.

Parking could potentially have been a nightmare. I drove past the ground and followed the parking signs which took me into the town centre. The first option was full and the second so far away that I turned around and retraced my route back past the EnviroVent Stadium, eventually finding a spot in the housing estates about fifteen minute’s walk away.

I’d bought my ticket online in advance for the Black Sheep Stand. At sixteen quid it was a pound cheaper than the adjacent seated stand but that one looked a little on the small side and I thought I’d have better prospects for distancing if I stood. There was a good view despite the single stanchion plus I got a barrier to lean on and nobody came too close. Ideal.

I missed the Wrexham goal just before half-time as I was making my way around the back of the stand to join the line for the tea hut. The visitors had started well and had brought close to six hundred fans with them which meant that they filled the stand behind the far goal and most of the stand opposite me.

The tea-hut queue had a much shorter separate line for those just wanting a drink rather than food or both. I joined that one and then switched to the stand behind the goal for the second half. This was much smaller than the Black Sheep Stand, effectively three or four rows deep and with the benefit of less wind and rain ingress.

Harrogate turned it around late on with two goals at the far end. Wrexham gave it a go and had a couple of corners in stoppage time where, with the goalie up, they came close to an equalizer. It wasn’t to be though and it’s Harrogate that will be in the draw for the Second Round.

Pontefract Collieries v FC Halifax Town, Saturday 16th October 2021, 3pm

November 1, 2021

Jen and I had spent the night before this game staying in Shipley on the outskirts of Bradford for a Boo Hewerdine gig. As usual he was very good and as he so often does was collaborating with someone else. We’ve seen him with Eddi Reader and Chris Difford in recent years and this time it was Heidi Talbot up on stage at the Live Room with him. In addition to their own stuff they covered Tom Waites’ ‘Time’ and Blondie’s ‘Sunday Girl’ which both went down very well amongst the sold-out capacity crowd of 120.

It was also a sell-out at the Beechnut Lane stadium the next day for the FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie between Pontefract Collieries and FC Halifax Town. I’d been looking to keep my FA Cup run going and as this one was pretty much on the way home it seemed an ideal choice.

I’d bought twelve quid tickets online within a few minutes of them going on sale and then watched with interest the build-up throughout the days leading up to the game.

We actually arrived at the ground two hours before kick-off. Not through excitement but because I’d planned to park up and then go for something to eat. Beechnut Lane isn’t really handy for anything though and once were in the car park the best option was probably to get in early and nab a couple of seats.

The plan worked and we ended up in the main stand next to a lady whose son had played for both teams in his younger days. Whilst it was good to have a seat and I’m fine with sitting quietly I’d have enjoyed it more if the DJ had brought enough records to only have to play each one the once. Most of his songs were from the seventies and good as a lot of them were, I didn’t really want to hear some of them three or four times over.

It was a big game for Pontefract and the first time that they had reached the final qualifying round. They play in the eighth-tier, in the same division as Stockton whilst Halifax are a former Football League club and currently third in the fifth-tier National League.

The crowd was a record and not far off fifteen hundred. It seemed as if the whole of Pontefract was there with a mix of lads on the beer, kids scoffing crisps and old blokes wondering why their regular spot on the railings was already three deep with half an hour to go to kick-off.

There was a good turnout from Halifax too, some of them in the seats near me but the majority behind the goal to my left. They also made the most of being allowed to drink at the pitchside, something that I don’t think that they can do at their level.

The size of the crowd put a strain on the tea hut but fortunately I’d got my chips and gravy not long after entering the ground.

Pontefract created some half chances, but Halifax always looked the better side and more likely to create something from nothing. Their pressure meant that the home goalie had plenty to do and he did it extremely well in a man of the match performance.

With the game in added time Pontefract had a man sent off for a second yellow. It was late enough for it not to matter though and they hung on for the goalless draw and a place in the draw for the First Round proper.

Spennymoor Town v AFC Fylde, Tuesday 21st September 2021, 7.45pm

October 5, 2021

Whilst I’d missed the opportunity at the weekend to get to an FA Cup game, the replays allowed me to keep up my streak of seeing a game in every round so far. This was a Second Qualifying Round replay, which is four rounds into the competition and was a consequence of Spennymoor’s one-all draw away at AFC Fylde three days earlier.

It was a tenner to get in and whilst I saw some people with programmes I didn’t see anyone selling them. Jen and I were there early enough to nab seats in the main stand which offered covered seating and a central viewpoint from the side. We could have sat behind the goal to our right or stood opposite or behind the goal to our left.

There was a decent bar that I wandered into whilst looking for something to eat and a couple of food kiosks where at one of which I was able to pick up pie and chips for my tea.

I noticed that former Boro Youth Cup winner Jason Kennedy was on the bench for Spennymoor. I watched him in the warm-up and whilst his hair has now gravitated to being around his chin, it’s good to see one of that team still playing. He didn’t get much of an opportunity at senior level with the Boro, although I’ve a vague memory of him coming close to scoring with a shot from distance against someone, but he carved out a good career for himself between then and now.

The standard was good with both sides playing a fast-passing game. The home side had a first half penalty appeal turned down that looked about fifty-fifty to me. There was a second shout from Spennymoor for a spot-kick moments later that I’d say was sixty-forty. That, perhaps combined with the one that wasn’t given, was enough to persuade the ref and Spennymoor converted it for a one-nil lead.

A lot of the home fans who had been sitting in the stand to our right switched ends at half-time to be closer to the Spennymoor attacks. That’s one of the perks at this level. The Brewery Field attendance was announced as being 1094 with 54 from Fylde.

Fylde applied pressure in the second half and forced a good save from the home keeper but Spennymoor held on for the win and a place in the Third Qualifying round.

Sunderland RCA v Stockton Town, Saturday 4th September 2021, 3pm

September 16, 2021

After attending matches in the Extra Preliminary and Preliminary rounds of the FA Cup I thought I’d keep my streak going with a game in the First Qualifying Round. There were a few options but I took the opportunity to see Stockton Town for the first time this season in their tie with Sunderland RCA at the Meadow Lane ground in Ryhope.

The ground wasn’t the easiest to find. We could see it from all sides but it took a while to locate the entrance. Once parked up we headed into town for something to eat. The Guide Post pub looked promising but weren’t doing food and so in the end we had to settle for fish and chips from Ryhope Fisheries next door.

With rain in the air, we returned to the ground a good half an hour before kick off to try and get a seat under cover. It was six quid each admission with another pound for the programme. A decent attendance looked to be on the cards and the bar area was already busy as we made our way towards the main stand. There were flags from Stockton and plenty of Teesside accents.

We spent the first half in the main stand with the beagle tucked between my legs. He’s generally fine sitting quietly at a game but every now and then he perks up when he smells food. Bit like me really. Stockton took an early lead through a Kev Hayes free-kick and with Mikey Roberts adding a second mid-way through the half.

At that stage it looked as if Stockton, who are one division higher than RCA, were on for an easy win, but the hosts pulled one back on the half-hour and then equalized a few minutes later. They could even have taken the lead just before half-time but were denied by a decent save from the keeper. It was quite a turnaround.

With the prospect of rain diminishing we watched the second half from behind the goal. Stockton were getting on top again but struggled to make the extra possession count. Former Boro player Jonathan Franks was having a decent game. He’s someone that I’ve kept an eye on throughout his career, mainly because he went to school with my kids. I saw his Premier League appearance in the relegation game at West Ham and Jen and I saw him at Hampden in the League Cup semi-final victory over Celtic a few years ago. More recently I’ve watched out for his team’s results in Iceland and it’s good to see him back where he started.

With around twenty minutes to go Stockton regained the lead with another goal from Hayes. There were still chances going begging at the other end though and I wasn’t convinced that Stockton would see the game out. For one thing they had a few players carrying a bit of weight. It’s not unusual to see the odd player at this level with a bit of a belly on them but Stockton had at least three. Mind you, a few of the Sunderland lads looked as if they could do with a decent dinner so perhaps these things even out.

With play stopped for some reason we had a chat with the lady lino about dogs and football. She mentioned that in one game she had been reffing it had been a nightmare getting a stray dog off the pitch. There were at least six dogs at this game so it’s not surprising really that you get the odd one that gets up to mischief.

With time running out Stockton clinched the game with a fourth goal to see themselves through to the Second Qualifying Round and only three more wins from a potential tie against a League One or Two club.

Marske United v Pickering Town, Saturday 21st August 2021, 3pm

August 30, 2021

After seeing an Extra Preliminary tie, I thought I’d keep my FA Cup streak going with a trip to a game in the Preliminary Round. It’s still thirteen steps from the Final, so I doubt that anyone will be thinking of Wembley yet.

I’ve been planning on seeing a game at Marske for a while but not managed it yet so the Marske United fixture against fellow Northern Premier League Division One East side Pickering Town at Mount Pleasant seemed like a good choice.

It was a tenner in with another two quid for a programme. As is the way I was then relieved of more coins for golden goal and raffle tickets. A mince pie and can of coke followed before I made my way to the far side of the pitch and took up a position on the rail.

There was a covered and seated stand opposite and a small raised standing platform a little further along. That one looked to be occupied by a group of regulars. To their right was a covered area with an ultras flag in front of it. The ultras consisted of four young lads who spent most of the game on their phones

Marske took an early lead that was created by a long throw from defender ‘Leabo’. His long flat trajectory was as good as a corner and hurling it into the box was a tactic that Marske used whenever they won a throw-in in the Pickering half.

The hosts doubled their lead inside the opening ten minutes when a cleverly weighted through ball from Matty Tymon was hit strongly enough to tempt the keeper to come for it. The pass didn’t carry sufficiently for him to reach the ball and fellow striker Adam Boyes was able to nip around him and make it two.

It’s the first time I’d seen Matty Tymon play since he was on the same under nines team as my son Tom twenty-two years ago. Matty was streets ahead of the rest of his team in those days, laying the ball off to players who would all then just run with it until dispossessed. He even made off the ball runs in an attempt to draw defenders who were not aware enough at that age to do anything other than move toward the ball.

Matty still looked a class act all these years on, with clever flicks and headers coupled with an ability to draw a foul if nothing was on. He added a third goal after twenty-odd minutes when it was his turn to receive the long throw, directing his header across the keeper and into the far corner.

Second half I moved around a bit and watched from the other side and then from behind the goal. It was more of the same on the pitch with Marske totting up the goals as the half went on. They got to seven without reply by the final whistle with their big striker Adam Boyes scoring five of them. One step fewer to Wembley.

Middlesbrough v Tottenham Hotspur, Sunday 5th January 2020, 2pm

April 13, 2020

I went to this one with my grandson Harry who hadn’t been very impressed with the Northern League game we’d gone to on Boxing Day at Stockton Town. I think a lot of his disappointment had been due to him thinking that we’d actually been going to the Boro and so I thought I’d make it up to him with our first visit of the season to the Riverside.

I took him last year over Christmas and whilst he didn’t seem disheartened by an hour and a half of Pulisball and a defeat, I’d had no real desire to go back since then. It’s strange the way that something that was once so important can become so much less so.

Maybe the pricing is part of it. If this had been a Championship game it would have been fifty quid for the two of us. With it being a cup game it was a much more reasonable twenty quid for me and a tenner for Harry. The kick-off was scheduled for 2.01pm, to allow for the showing of a mental health video before kick-off. Whilst it’s a very worthy cause, everyone’s eyes were drawn instead to one of the mascots, the two year old son of Robbie Keane who dribbled from the halfway line, finished with a flourish and then stood glaring at the ball which was resting at the back of the net.

Last season we’d gone in the South Stand where Harry had to stand on his seat to see. This time we had seats in the West Stand Lower just in front of the disabled section. Boro were on a roll with four wins on the trot and I thought that we played very well, considering the number of young players we had and the strength of the opposition.

It was nice to see the two loanees from Man City get a go and nicer still that the business had been done right at the beginning of the transfer window rather than in desperation with an hour to the deadline remaining. We had a good view for Ashley Fletcher’s goal and were close enough to the dugouts to witness the rare sight of Mourinho in a good mood, joking with the Boro staff.

Harry enjoyed himself, which was the main thing, and his Mam reported later that he was singing Boro songs in the shower before bed. Hopefully it wasn’t the one about us being dynamite. I’ll have to take him to see his team more often.