This weekend for the first time ever I went to a double header of senior games, amazing what changes in your personal circumstances can do! The early kick off was never in doubt, the Emirates FA Cup tie between Langney Wanderers and Harrow Borough.
The timing of that at 11.30 gave me scope for a second game of the afternoon and my choice was a second FA Cup tie between Newhaven and Corinthian, but more about that one in the next blog.
My last trip to Priory Lane where Wanderers share with National League South Eastbourne Borough was many years ago before the days I could drive, well that’s what I remember! Langney have managed to become a fairly stable Southern Combination Premier Division side and have plans to move back to Langney with their own ground once again, for now they enjoy a ground with enough grading should they win promotion.
They are also the first club to feature my work. Last season Steve Roberts invited me to interview a few of their players and the then first team manager Simon Colbran, all of which featured on their website increasing viewing traffic and this season that work has moved into their online matchday programme.
Before the game I caught up with Wanderers boss Alex Walsh who I spoke to during lockdown not long after he was appointed as the new manager to find out how things had gone in the first few games. I also managed to catch up with Boro’ chairman David Blackmore during the game, nice to put faces to names of people I’ve spoken to in the past few months and to hear about some the things clubs are now being asked to do in the wake of the Covid-19 issues.
The game itself was a real test for both teams, the visitors playing their first competitive game of the season while for Langney pitting themselves against a side two steps higher on the 4G surface. Borough certainly had the better of the opening exchanges with a combination of blocking from defenders and keeper Neil Di Lucia making some crucial saves stopping them from opening the scoring.
As it was Wanderers came closest to breaking the deadlock, Harry Ducatel crashing a shot off the bar on 17 minutes and Langney not looking too out of place against their higher placed opponents, a draw the fair scoreline at half-time.
Borough looked to have come out with more purpose early in the second half and certainly looked the more likely to score, sustained spells of pressure left Wanderers playing out on the counter-attack more often than not.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 68th minute, a fine finish from full back George Moore to give the Southern League side the lead. The visitors should have added a second not long after, their turn to smash a shot against the bar with Di Lucia well beaten.
With Wanderers needing to push forward in search of an equaliser Borough began to open the game up more and should have added a second and even a third to kill the game off, but being the first game in action there was a hint of pre-season rustiness shooting.
As it was that failure to put the game beyond the hosts came back to haunt them as a clumsy foul given away outside the box gave David Smart the opportunity from the free kick and he duly obliged in the 89th minute sending the ball through the wall and past the out-reached hand of keeper Matthew Hall to send the game to penalties, no extra time in any FA games this year.
Whilst both keepers saved penalties, Hall with three and Di Lucia with two, Borough went through to the First Qualifying Round winning 3-2. Wanderers to their credit matched their opponents for a good percentage of the game, Ian Lagwai looking impressive in his positioning and all-round play from right back while Tim Bennett made sure the two centre halves didn’t have an easy afternoon.
Borough can now look forward to Monday’s draw while Wanderers head up the A22 to face AFC Uckfield in the Southern Combination Premier Division on Tuesday evening looking for a first league win of the season, if they put in a similar kind of performance and add goals to it then three points won’t be too far away.