Staines Town 1, Stockport County 1 (aet, Staines Town win 4-3 on penalties).
Stockport County may well be writing to the FA today to suggest that, in the FA Cup, the goals are just a tad bigger. The difference between success and failure (as my wife far too often reminds me) is just a matter of inches. Stockport had so many shots, so many near misses, that they really should now be contemplating a Second Round Proper date with Peterborough United.
But the beauty of the FA Cup was there for all to see at Wheatsheaf Park last night. As Dave Sargent, an Estate Agent, tucked away the winning penalty, the record crowd erupted with joy and spilled onto the pitch. This was another shock in a competition that continues to deliver.
On a bitterly cold night (I now have frostbite to go with the trench foot I acquired Monday) I returned to Staines Town to witness the third attempt to complete this tie. Just to clarify, this was an "extra curricular" FA Cup game for me, and not part of my Road to Wembley journey. With Staines a mere stones throw away, I simply had to see this one.
And I'm glad I did.
It was a typical cup tie, the type I enjoy so much. A small ground packed to the rafters; non-league part-timers versus League Two opposition; precarious TV camera gantries constructed especially for the game; a few non-paying customers scrambling over the wooden perimeter fence at half-time; young children watching the game from bedroom windows of adajacent houses. And a shock result to go with it.
The game finished 1-1 after Staines had led at half-time, with a powerful header from Adrian Toppin following a corner. Stockport deservedly levelled on 78 minutes when Matty McNeil arrived unmarked at the far post to poke home. Against all expectations, Staines, who were visibly tiring and cramping up, held on through extra time to take the game to penalties.
My "man of the match" was the Staines keeper Shaun Allaway who put on a near faultless display to deny Stockport, and going into the shoot-out you felt that Allaway might make the difference. And he certainly did, with two wonderful penalty saves.
Cue Dave Sargent, cue the ecstatic scenes.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening.
So whilst I am up at Cambridge United on December 1st for the Weymouth tie, Staines Town of the Ryman Premier League will be hosting Cambridge rivals Peterborough United. Stockport County will have the Saturday off. Time to practice shooting on target perhaps?
Take a look here to see some great photos from Andy Nunn