*AET, Dartford win 4-1 on penalties
2nd Qualifying Round Replay
Tuesday October 2nd 2007
Kick Off 7:45pm
Distance travelled: 35 miles
Camberley on a miserable, wet, damp, dank, dark evening. A replay which simply did not live up to the first billing but ended with a few minutes of excitement in a penalty shootout. Dartford squeeze through, but only just. And about 150 Darts fans go home happy.
Four of us made the short journey to Camberley, and one of our friends even came out especially for this game on his birthday. His 40th to be precise! Having already celebrated (drowned his sorrows) at reaching this mid-life point at the weekend, the draw of the FA Cup could not be resisted. Turning forty does strange things to a man's mind. You start to reflect on life past and life future. Some people struggle to deal with it. They do crazy things in an attempt to rekindle lost youth. Mid-life crisis. And last night, as my friend saw out his 40th birthday in the drizzle at Krooner Park, it suddenly hit me.
Good god, I'm having my own mid-life crisis! This whole FA Cup thing. This is my black Porsche. This is my trek across the Andes. This is my long-legged brunette from accounts. You know, the one with the big personality. That explains everything. I feel I can justify this crazy venture. I'll be fine once I get through it and out the other side all in one piece, my marriage still intact and my family still talking to me. I'll be just fine. Phew.
Might as well enjoy it while it lasts!
Enjoyment is not a word I feel at ease using in the context of last night's game. But then again, maybe. The game was poor. But I still enjoyed the evening in a sad kind of way. You know what I mean; I'd rather be at a bad game of football than dozing in front of Eastenders. And the evening had it's snippets of entertainment, which I'll come to later.
But as for the game, it was, believe me, not very good. The pitch was very wet and heavy from a couple of days of constant drizzle. The kind of drizzle that is the poor relation to rain, it just kind of hangs in the air. Stand in it long enough and your skin starts to wrinkle.
The Camberley ground was very much like Chertsey's ground, probably fairly typical at this level. One main stand, a single turnstile entrance, a small refreshments hut, an ageing bar. One end was partially covered with a wooden roof which provided shelter, a good view of the pitch and an equally good view of the club car park behind. The Camberley folk were friendly and welcoming. I take my hat off to two young girls who were selling raffle tickets before the game. They were brave enough to walk around the ground and into the travelling Dartford fans calling out "£1 a strip". Well, I assume it was raffle tickets they were selling.
No goals in normal time or extra-time and that kind of sums the game up. In the first half, only one significant event to comment on; the sending off of Dartford's Jay May for kicking out at a Camberley player after he was felled with a tackle from behind. The rest of the half was really a non-event. Lots of misplaced passes, long hoofs out of defence, rough tackles and hard challenges. And a great deal of niggle between the two sets of players, which seemed to have spilled over from the first game last Saturday. I guess this had a part to play in the sending off. To see this kind of hard, uncompromising football, up close and almost within touching distance, can make for quite a spectacle. Poor football, but entertaining nonetheless.
The second half saw Camberley attacking down the slope toward the end we stood at. All the Dartford fans (who had provided the best entertainment in the first half) had swapped ends and were just visible in the half light and drizzle a pitch length away. This made for a quiet half for us and I hate to admit it was quite painful to watch. The only positive to come from the game was that Camberley started to play some football on the deck, and for this they looked the more likely to score. The Dartford fans in the distance were getting more and more frustrated with the standard of refereeing and some of the delaying tactics of the Camberley players, but other than that there wasn't a great deal to shout about.
Camberley did have an opportunity to score with just under 70 minutes on the clock when a high ball into the box evaded the keeper and fell to an unmarked Camberley forward. It seemed easier for him to score into the unguarded net than miss, but he somehow pulled his shot across goal and beyond the far post. As the game stumbled towards extra-time, my friends started to pray for a goal. An additional 30 minutes would be difficult to take.
0-0 at 90 minutes (more like 97 minutes with all the injury time, where did that come from?) and into extra time. The Dartford fans began to make their way back to our end as the players lined up to kick-off. At the last moment, the players swapped ends which meant that Dartford were now kicking away from us. Some Dartford fans realised this and carried out an about-turn manoeuvre, whilst others carried on regardless. This caused a rather amusing mass crowd collision around about the half-way line. I think this was probably the highlight of the match. I'm glad to report there were no serious injuries.
The extra thirty minutes went by quite quickly, with Dartford having the best chance in the last few minutes when John Guest missed from all of five yards. It was to be one of those nights. Still no goals. And so to penalties.
Jamie Coyle, Steve Norman, Eddie McClements and Adam Flanagan all scored from the spot for Dartford. Camberley scored their first penalty; Tony Kessell in the Dartford goal saved two. As Flanagan sealed the tie with the winning kick, the Dartford fans (now down at our end) went berserk and the Dartford players, subs, manager, coach, physio, coach driver and tea lady ran to the Dartford fans to join in the celebrations. An exciting end to a poor game.
Over the two games, I think Dartford deserved to go through. Last night they defended resolutely with ten men when they needed to, a task made harder by the heavy pitch. I felt a little sorry for Camberley as they did try to play some decent football in the second half and they must surely be agonising over that missed chance late on.
Meanwhile, on the same evening, Bromley were disposing of Aylesbury United in their replay; final score 4-2 after extra time. This now sets up a Bromley v Dartford 3rd Qualifying Round game on Saturday 13th October.
I can't wait. I need to crack on with my mid-life crisis.