Sunday, 30 September 2007

Game 5: Dartford 2, Camberley Town 2

2nd Qualifying Round
Saturday 29th September 2007
Kick Off 3:00pm

Attendance: 906
Weather: Mild, a little drizzle

Distance travelled: 97 miles

A twisted ankle and a twist of fate.

Only a matter of hours after writing Friday's post on the eve of this game, I find myself taking my wife to the A&E department of St. Peter's Hospital, Chertsey. On Friday lunchtime she turned her ankle playing volleyball. It was a nasty accident, and as we helped her off the field my first reaction was that she had broken it. After a lengthy wait at the hospital, the X-ray showed that there was no break, but badly sprained ligaments. My wife now has a foot the size of a balloon and is a nice shade of black to boot. We left A&E with my wife on crutches, in a lot of pain, and with instructions to rest with her feet up for a week. I am now at her beck and call. I sense it is going to be a very long week. At least she does not have a bell by her side with which to summon me...

Now, even before September is out, I have my first tough decision on this Road to Wembley. Do I stay home and look after my wife or do I head off down the M25. Do I stay or do I go?

Well, I did what every good, caring, compassionate husband would have done.

I went to the match.

We decided it would be best to take my son to the game, so giving my wife a bit of peace and quiet in the afternoon. And do you know what? My son was actually keen to go. Positively looking forward to it. Contrary to every single word I had written in this blog on Friday. Shows what I know.

And so, back on the M25 (it felt as if I'd never been away), my son chatting excitedly about the game and me feeling a little guilty.

The game itself was very good. It wasn't so much a cup shock, but certainly a little tremor of a surprise. An excellent away draw for Camberley, who produced the two best goals I have seen so far in this FA Cup journey.

Dartford took an early lead (16 minutes) with a neat goal from Brendan Cass. From there on in Dartford seemed to do exactly as they did in the home game against Sittingbourne, that is squander any real chances they had. Intent on hitting long balls most of the time, completely by-passing midfield, they lost possession on too many occasions. Camberley seemed physically tiny compared to Dartford. I could have sworn one the Camberley players was only about five foot tall. My son asked if he was their full back, Jason Short.

What Camberley lacked in height and physical presence they made up for with pace. Camberley certainly played better than I expected, and weren't afraid to have a go at Dartford. They began to find space for themselves and were rewarded on 27 minutes, when a beautifully struck 25 yard snap shot from Ben Cobbett brought the game level. 1-1 at half-time.

In the second half, Dartford began to bring their midfield into the game a little more and started to gain the upper hand; they won a series of corners and free kicks around the box at the height of their control. It was from one of these free kicks on the right that Dartford regained the lead. A high ball swung over caused a bit of panic in the Camberley box and it was nodded home by John Guest to make it 2-1 to Dartford. This after 55 minutes.

Dartford now were turning the screw, and Camberley's involvement in the game seemed to diminish. But, once more, Dartford failed to take their chances. A case of déjà vu.

And then, almost out of nothing, and with 15 minutes left on the clock, we were treated to a cracking goal from Camberley. A sweet strike from 30 yards, hit fully on the run by Dan Ker, gave the Dartford keeper Tony Kessell no chance whatsoever. With the game seemingly heading for another draw, Camberley may well have snatched a win late on when a cross into the Dartford box was just missed by the on-rushing forward. Now that would have been a smash and grab.

The exuberant manner in which Camberley Town celebrated both their goals and the final whistle demonstrated how much this result meant to the club. There is no doubt that they will be the happier of the two teams as both names go into the hat for Monday's 3rd Qualifying Round draw.

A couple of things happened at the game that accentuated the difference between this level of football and the higher echelons of the game, and both made me smile. Firstly, before the game started, there was a tannoy announcement reminding spectators that Princes Park was a no-smoking stadium. However, the gates would be opened at half-time for people to step outside for a smoke. Could you envisage the same flexibility at Old Trafford? And secondly, during the game, there was a stiff challenge on the touchline which propelled two players and the ball towards the perimeter fencing which resulted in a gentleman in the crowd getting his hat knocked off. A pretty amusing bit of slapstick in it's own right, but what made me smile was the Dartford defender who (on his way back to defend the quick throw) stopped and diverted his run to collect the said hat and return it to the supporter. A friendly gesture from a friendly club.

And there you have it; another replay and off down to Krooner Park on Tuesday evening. My son really enjoyed this game; there were even chants of "Come on you Darts!" from him during the match. I thoroughly enjoyed it as well, another great advert for non-league football. Albeit my enjoyment was tinged with a little guilt. But by all accounts, my wife had a relaxing afternoon with her feet up.

And on that note, I'd best sign off. My wife is calling me. Something to do with wanting me to go out and buy her a bell.

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