When is a shock not a shock

I did open up the floor to my Twitter followers earlier on Sunday for ideas to write the next blog but it seems most were asleep on the sofa after a roast dinner but one idea did come out so here it is.

What do we class as an FA Cup shock these days? Of course a club from the predominantly part time section of the footballing pyramid has to be classed as upsetting the odds defeating those above them.

But when it comes to the National League and their clubs knock out a League One or Two club is it really as unexpected as it happens on the day? I sat through Chesterfield’s magnificent win over Salford City, themselves once a National League club but always with aspirations higher up the food chain, no doubt no different to a lot in the current top flight of non-league football.

Despite Salford’s ability to control possession they rarely threatened Scott Loach in the Spireites goal and we all know, no ball in the back of the net doesn’t win you games. Sometimes games rest on fine margins, a fingertip save from Loach preceded a second goal for the visitors, the difference there between a replay and an automatic place in the next round.

It’s not just Chesterfield at it, Yeovil also claimed a 3rd round place after a 1-0 win over Stevenage. The Glovers have that fantastic record of scalps over league clubs, 21 now in total, but I didn’t see this one as anything of a shock. Yeovil aren’t among the National League front runners granted, but considering Stevenage only survived being a non-league club last season by virtue of the Football League working out nicely how to move the Macclesfield problem away did they stay up.

This season they’re not exactly in much better shape and in that respect they’re not on a different level to Yeovil. We saw Stockport really take the game to Bolton in the last round and narrowly lose 1-0 at Rotherham on Friday night, there is certainly much less of a gap between League Two and the National League for sure and even going a little higher some sides might well hold their own.

Those of us that follow National League sides know how strong the division looks and actually is, it takes some to get out of it at the right end especially with only two places up for grabs. I think I’ve said it quite a few times I believed back in August 14 of the 23 sides would have said they’re in the hunt for the title or at least aiming for the play-offs.

That’s some number and a lot of disappointed teams come next May! So far though we’re not yet half way through the season and there is time for some of the clubs that are somewhat adrift of even a play-off spot to come good.

So, we come back to the original question that was asked and in my opinion when a full time National League club knocks out a League One or Two club in the FA Cup then I don’t consider it a shock, I’m not even convinced a part-time club knocking out a league club is as huge as it used to be, these clubs are just as organised as their full time counterparts and there is often the argument non-league’s top division should become League Three given it’s professionalism.

‘Shocks’ should be reserved for those teams in the lower levels of the pyramid who knock out someone higher up, feel free to say what you think, is a shock the same if you’re not Buxton, Bromley, Beaconsfield or Bexhill Utd? Let me know………….

Cupsets galore but not done yet

Sometimes sitting at home and watching the day’s football unfold across numerous teams and leagues seems just as enjoyable as watching one game take place in front of your eyes.

When it also happens to be FA Cup weekend it’s almost a double bonus. Those of us non-leaguers know the competition started way back in early August, not the First Round proper when the TV companies become a bit more interested and not the Third Round when the Premier League sides introduce their second string to the nation.

Making it to the Fourth Qualifying round when the National League sides enter for the first time is the final time it’s solely about non-league but 90 minutes away from being in the draw to entertain a Football League side.

The draw had pitted the chances of numerous upsets among the sixty-four teams, some made it, some went very close and some found the gulf in class and depth against them.

Starting closest to me in Sussex, Isthmian League Premier Division Horsham in front of a crowd a shade under 2,000 shocked National League Woking with a solitary late goal to book their place in Sunday’s draw. League form definitely went out the window with the Hornets struggling to get going so far this year whilst the Cards had picked up some great results over the past few weeks.

Not to be outdone Bowers & Pitsea from Horsham’s division also knocked out National League opponents in Aldershot whilst Harrow Borough who reside in the Southern League also at Step 4 sent National League South Chelmsford City packing having been 2-1 behind on the hour mark.

Two more South sides in Dartford and Bath City found themselves on the wrong end of score lines, AFC Sudbury accounting for the Darts while Banbury Utd needed just a single goal to dispose of City.

Some sides came very close to an upset, Corinthian Casuals Step 3 Isthmian Premier were denied victory by a last minute St Albans equaliser while Folkestone Invicta from the same division let a 3-0 half time lead slip and also conceded the equaliser from Eastleigh in the final minutes, Spitfires boss Ben Strevens no doubt with a huge sigh of relief they’re still in the competition.

Marine, who enjoyed a fantastic run in last years competition before finally going out to Spurs were seconds away from knocking out the big spenders of Wrexham. Hayes and Yeading looked as if they would account for South division Dorking Wanderers but a replay is needed to separate the two sides this coming week.

Both Chertsey and Hungerford took the lead against National League opposition but Southend and Bromley proved too strong in the end with 4-1 and 2-1 win’s, respectively.

Talking of replays there are fourteen happening this week, where in all bar two of those ties there are twelve more chances for an upset and of course those sides will know by then who they face in the First Round Proper.

Watching it all unfold this afternoon was actually pretty good fun having taken in Grimsby starting the day off with a 5-0 away win at Bromsgrove Sporting but back to watching the live stuff this midweek and next weekend.

Sevenoaks stunned by Redhill comeback

Midweek football took me to Sevenoaks for an FA Cup replay against Redhill, perfect timing with needing a trip to Tonbridge to pick up the youngest daughter’s birthday cake sometimes these fixtures just fall into your lap!

Sevenoaks is my home town, growing up in villages around there and actually living a 5 minute walk from the Bourne Stadium (or Greatness Park) for some of my life.

I did make it there last season to watch Oaks take apart Three Bridges on a sunny Saturday afternoon, my first visit since moving to the South Coast some 15 years ago.

Two on their coaching staff in Jason Bourne and Julian Leigh, guys I know from Otford Utd and Tunbridge Wells days in the past always assure you get a friendly welcome and their boss Micky Collins has been kind enough to provide a few bits for blogs in the past, always grateful for that.

When it comes to blogging the first port of call is the team board, now I’m not sure if this is available at all clubs from Step 4 upwards but I was directed to a pile of team sheets to help my cause, the gentleman I believe was called Ray, possibly Ray Miles a former manager of the first team in years gone by, but very helpful this was for me.

After a 1-1 draw at the weekend, tonight was replay night and thrown in a little bit for me, a bit of scouting for East Preston this coming weekend, Redhill’s opponents in the FA Vase.

Sevenoaks would have hoped to hit the ground running and see the tie through and a place in the next round away to Phoenix Sports, but it took a little while for both sides to settle into the game despite some good movement from both sides across the pitch.

Redhill were the first to threaten, Nathan Hogan forcing a save from Ben Bridle-Card a couple of minutes in while on 10 minutes a surging run from Stefan Wright saw Jack Minchin get a hand to the ball, defenders scrambling the loose one away from the line.

It did threaten to spill over early on with one or two niggly tackles from both sides but the referee seemed to manage to calm the situation with a few yellow cards issued.

Just before the half hour Oaks went in front. On a quick counter attack Bradley Schafer shot’s was out of the reach of Minchin and went in the net via the inside of the post.

Sam King thought he had pulled Redhill level within a minute with a fine hit from distance but Bridle-Card was equal to it.

Six minutes later the Lobsters suffered again, another break at pace from the home side and the livewire Louis Collins skipped past two or three challenges before firing past Minchin. Collins spent last season at Dover Athletic until they finished for the season and looks a cut above at this level.

The home side were in cruise control three minutes later, Collins darting run down the right crossed for Jason Thompson to tap home, nine minutes, three goals and seemingly one foot in the next round before half time with the visitors unable to cope with the quick break football.

The two half time team talks must have been of complete contrasting words, for the early part of the second half it still didn’t look like Redhill were going to find their way back into the game but suddenly a lifeline appeared.

11 minutes into the half Aiden Brown poked the ball home after the ball pinged it’s way around and you could sense the Lobsters felt there was still a chance to get the game going their way, Sevenoaks just feeling they needed to find a way to close the game out.

Collins had that chance after the hour, his pace taking him clear of the defence but forced slightly wide by Minchin and hitting the post instead of opening up a three goal lead once again.

Brown would have felt he should have reduced the deficit minutes later but his shot went agonisingly wide of the post as momentum was starting to build for the visitors.

Thompson though had the chance to put the tie beyond Redhill with 17 minutes to play, forced to backheel the ball towards goal it didn’t quite have enough on it and was cleared away, Collins unable to get there quick enough to help it into the net.

Three minutes later and the Lobsters were finally back in the tie, Hogan’s cross from the left found an unmarked King in the penalty area and he scored to set up a nervy last 14 minutes for the home side, a case now of stick or twist?

Seven minutes from time the visitors got the equaliser, King put clean through to finish past Bridle-Card and complete what looked to be a remarkable comeback and send us all into extra time, at the very point of the game when the rain, thunder and lightning was at its height.

A minimum of five minutes of stoppage time went up on the board, but the visitors only needed two of those to complete one of the most unexpected comebacks, Hogan finding Brown who turned one way and then the other before unleashing his shot into the back of the net much to the delight of the visiting support whilst groans around me from Oaks fans.

With the final few minutes played out without incident Redhill had completed what seemed pretty impossible at half time, outplayed and 3-0 down but great character to believe they could do it and to use the cliché it was most definitely a game of two halves.

The FA Cup has certainly pulled up some results for me, a 5-4 at the weekend and a 4-3 on Wednesday evening, the next game I go to has got to have something special to match that I feel!

Littlehampton fall just short in FA Cup drama

Photograph courtesy of Martin Denyer (@MartinDenyer)

The FA Cup! Last season I managed to get to a game in every round until the 4th qualifying round when National League teams entered and of course they were barred from having spectators.

Without really realising I’ve managed to do the same so far this time around with Sunday’s 1st qualifying round tie between Littlehampton Town and their Sussex neighbours Whitehawk.

Having seen Town dispatch Sittingbourne a week and a half ago in the Preliminary Round, it was time to see if they could repeat the feat of sending another Pitching In Isthmian side out of the competition.

A glorious afternoon of Sussex sunshine greeted the crowd of 525 and the players as Town wasted no time in getting started. An early goal and a high press is the way Littlehampton seem to start in most games and this one was no different.

A floated Dave Herbert free kick into the box was met by an unmarked Dion Jarvis whose header was saved by Nathan Stroomberg, but George Gaskin was on hand to tap in after just two minutes. That certainly signalled to the Hawks they were in for a game this afternoon.

The lead however only lasted nine minutes as Town struggled to clear the ball when it came into their box and Henry Muggeridge, who was pivotable for the Hawks all afternoon, made sure the ball ended up in the back of the net for the equaliser.

Ten minutes later the visitors were in front, a clumsy push on Muggeridge by Lewis Jenkins gave the referee no option but to point to the spot and James Fraser gave the Hawks the lead for the first time of the afternoon.

Gaskin had a chance to pull the scores level again two minutes later, after beating the offside trap, he lifted the ball wide of the on-rushing Stroomberg but with not enough purchase on the ball it was cleared to safety.

Just after the half hour, Town had a penalty of their own. Lucas Pattenden’s strong run down the right found Jarvis in the box, who was brought down and Herbert made no mistake with the spot kick restoring parity once again.

With the game flowing end to end Jarvis then found himself clear of the Hawks defence and while his chip beat Stroomberg, who came then stopped and found himself in no man’s land, it also beat the crossbar.

It was Hawks then back in front, once again the Town defence unable to clear the ball convincingly and Muggeridge slotted home his second and the visitors third, a half time lead for Whitehawk and a chance for the 525 to catch 15 minutes of breath.

Just before the hour mark Town should have levelled once again, Joe Benn with an exquisite through ball to Gaskin saw the striker lift the ball over Stroomberg but unfortunately just over the bar. The Golds though didn’t have long to wait for their third goal, Jarvis with a strong run to the by line, the ball finding it’s way to Benn at the far post who volleyed past Stroomberg for 3-3.

Town then created the better chances and looked the more likely to score with Hawks struggling to break through the Golds back line and giving away possession cheaply in the middle of the park.

And out of nothing came two sucker punches, six minutes to go and Callum Edwards struck home a fourth goal for the visitors, Binfield a little slow getting down and the ball was past him. Worse to come two minutes after that goal Omarr Lawson scored a fifth with Binfield slightly unsighted from the bodies in front of him and looked a now comfortable passage into the next round for the visitors.

However, Gaskin and Town had other ideas as the front man curled in his second and Golds fourth in the final minute to leave a nervy five or so minutes of stoppage time for Hawks to negotiate, but for all the pressing from the home side they couldn’t find one more goal to take it to a replay and bow out after the most pulsating game of football of the 10 I’ve watched so far this season.

Having seen a lot of the home side so far there is no doubt they’ve competed very well against two sides from a division higher and with a strong start to their league season as well they are certainly heading in the right direction.

Great to see a fantastic attendance once again, as has been the case at grounds up and down the country, I just hope people enjoyed what they saw and carry on coming to watch the football on offer.

Littlehampton cause cup upset

Photograph courtesy of Gareth Spinks

Wednesday night football this week for a change and an FA Cup replay, as Littlehampton and Sittingbourne met at The Sportsfield for a chance to host Whitehawk in the First Qualifying Round.

I must apologise for almost putting the kiss of death on the Golds after they went 2-0 up on Saturday, tweeting ‘FA Cup shock on the cards’ and Sittingbourne then promptly scoring two goals to force the replay despite being down to ten men.

With a slightly delayed kick off due to the visitors traffic issues on the journey over from Kent, the crowd of 220 didn’t have to wait long for the first goal, indeed not even a minute on the watch.

Less than 30 seconds from kick off, Golds striker Joe Benn timed his run perfectly behind the Bourne defence and with extreme precision lobbed the visiting keeper Magnus Lewis from outside the right hand side of the penalty area to give the home side a dream start.

The ball over the top was to be a thorn in the side of the visiting defence, both Benn and George Gaskin almost profiting, the latter almost surprised he wasn’t flagged offside and scuffed his shot wide.

The constant press that Littlehampton employed last week at Steyning was evident again, Bourne with no time on the ball to retain possession without a Littlehampton body in front of them and despite a flurry of corners, Town were equal to everything thrown at them.

Dion Jarvis was inches away from extending the lead midway through the half, his shot fizzing over Lewis’ bar while Gaskin stung the palms of the keeper as he tipped his shot round the post.

It took until seven minutes before half time for the home side to increase their lead, Dave Herbert whose set piece deliveries into the box were causing all sorts of problems, sent another corner into the six yard box which ended up with the ball in the net, both Herbert and Jarvis claimed the goal with defenders in close proximity, it could easily have been an own goal.

Town keeper James Binfield had relatively little to do throughout the first half and kept his goal intact with good save just before the interval to give the Golds a 2-0 half time lead.

With Sittingbourne needing to push forward in search of goals, Town were given more space but defensively repelling everything coming into their box and looking dangerous with every attack going forward.

The third goal arrived just after the hour mark from Tom Biggs, who excelled in the no 10 role behind Benn, 20 yards out and fired home to the right of Lewis and the tie effectively over for the visitors.

Despite a change in personnel Bourne still struggled to make an impact on the Littlehampton goal, a point blank save from Binfield with 13 minutes remaining showed it wasn’t going to be their evening.

Gaskin put the icing on the cake with five minutes to go, slipped in by the impressive Benn, the winger slotted past Lewis to ensure an emphatic look to the scoreline and a First Qualifying Round home tie against another Isthmian side, Whitehawk, in just over a week’s time.

Benn was the stand out performer, occupying the centre halves all the time and holding the ball up well to bring the team into play. His customary goal added as well, and if his red hot form continues Town might struggle to hold onto him for a full season.

Both Jarvis and Herbert were combative in the middle of the park, an unfamiliar role for the former more used to being on the left wing and with Biggs picking up pockets of space Bourne found it hard to penetrate through the Golds team.

Despite matching the home side for corners and a good delivery into the box on the whole the visitors couldn’t find the net nor cope with the counter attack from Littlehampton and after coming back from 2-0 down with ten men at the weekend I was expecting a tougher test, maybe the disruption before the game made a difference, you can never tell with that at times.

Town’s remarkable goal scoring spree continues and with the attacking prowess they possess it’s hard to find ways to stop them playing in the final third, and with the press from back to front, it’ll take a very patient combative outfit to take points off them this season.

East Preston exit cup with a whimper

After Saturday’s exciting FA Cup Extra Prelim Round game involving East Preston and Badshot Lea ended in a draw, Tuesday evening was the night for the replay.

Having dispensed with replays last year due to time pressures in the early part of the season, it was a little odd to have them back and being a programme contributor for EP it meant an extra column to be written in time for the game.

The reason for the replay, a 3-3 draw at the weekend with EP 2-1 up at one stage but needing to pull out a 95th minute equaliser courtesy of Matt Storm’s second goal of the game.

On a beautiful sunny Sussex evening it was the visitors who drew first blood once again, Dean Rule being allowed to run pretty much unchallenged down the left hand side to eventually slot the ball past Sam Marsden inside the first five minutes.

The early goal looked to knock the stuffing out of the home side, unable to keep possession and Storm ploughing a lonely furrow against the tall, imposing Lea centre halves.

With EP struggling to create anything of note and the visitors playing tidy football it wasn’t a surprise to see Badshot extend their lead on 36 minutes, Rule involved again on the left hand side, brought down in the penalty area needlessly and Nick Medcraft stepped up to put the spot kick into the right hand corner to give the visitors a comfortable half time lead.

EP certainly had it all to do in the second half and did begin brightly, pressing much further up the pitch but unable to carve out a single clear cut opportunity on goal. Lea were managing the game time very well and didn’t really need to step out of second gear throughout the 90 minutes, content to shoot from range without seriously troubling Marsden.

The home side did have changes from a host of set pieces, but while the delivery into the box was good, no EP head was able to make contact with the ball leaving Badshot to progress safely into the Preliminary Round in a couple of weeks’ time leaving EP boss Simon Hull to reflect on the slow start which ultimately sent his game plan out of the window before it had even been put into action.

A home tie against Isthmian League outfit Corinthian is the reward for Badshot, a side who have done consistently well over the past few seasons culminating in promotion under the FA re-structure and they will provide a very stern test for Tuesday night’s victors.

McKimm: Bradford were excellent on the day

This week I caught up with Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm after his side’s FA Cup exit to League Two Bradford City at the weekend:

TK: Looking back to the FA Cup tie on Saturday, were you a little disappointed or frustrated maybe that the boys couldn’t quite get to grips with Bradford?

SM: No, not really. I knew it would be a tough game and they would have had to have 4 or 5 players having an off day and we would have needed everyone to have a stormer. Bradford were excellent on the day but my lads never gave up.

TK: Did you see it as a compliment to yourselves that they felt they needed to field a full strength team to ensure they progressed to the next round?

SM: Most definitely, they made a host of changes against Oldham on Tuesday night and lost so maybe if they hadn’t had gone so strong on Saturday we may have had a better chance. That will always be a question that can’t be answered unfortunately.

TK: It certainly wasn’t as if Tonbridge didn’t have their chances to score at crucial times in the game, did you feel you had to go for it a bit at times which opened you up at the back?

SM: We had a couple yeah. The free kick which led to their 3rd goal, if that was given to us as it should have been right on the stroke of half time we’d have loaded the penalty area and possibly had a decent chance from that.

That was the goal which really killed off the tie for us and it seemed from then every time we went forward we left ourselves exposed and they punished us for it.

TK: A great occasion for the club, yourself and the players live on TV, but unable to have spectators inside Longmead to watch first-hand, are you hoping that after lockdown we see some progress towards their return?

SM: I hope so for everyone’s sake, supporters need their football. The players and the clubs need them back too, we want to see this happen.

TK: A mention for Bantams fan Jonnie Carrington, a fantastic gesture to set up a JustGiving page which has raised in excess of £6000 at the time of writing for your club, it just goes to show the strength of the football family.

SM: It’s something we didn’t ask for or were expecting to happen, but an unbelievable thing to do that we are grateful for. I’ve spoken to Jonnie a couple of times, he’s an absolute diamond and welcome to Longmead Stadium any time.

TK: How pleased were you to go to Chelmsford 48 hours later and return to Kent with three points give the short turnaround between games?

SM: It was great to get a positive result on Monday night and pleasing that we had a game straight away so the lads didn’t have any time to dwell on Saturday’s result, very pleased.

TK: With a lot of football still to be played this season especially midweek, do you think it’ll be a while until the league table settles down a bit?

SM: After the first ten games are done it starts to give you a bit of reflection in the way things might turn out, but with squads being stretched with a lot of games on top of each other it might take a little longer this time around.

McKimm: Let’s just say we’ll be doing our homework on them

This week I caught up with Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm ahead of the visit of Bradford City this coming weekend in the FA Cup:

TK: A bit of a mixed bag of results so far this season, are you reasonably satisfied with how things have gone so far?

SM: Yes I think so, 1st Round of the FA Cup and more points out of our first three league games than last season so it’s an improvement for sure.

TK: How have you and the players found not having fun inside to watch games?

SM: Different. I’m pleased to be playing obviously but you always love the banter, grief, and support you get from the terraces, so it does seem very strange at times. #LetFansIn

TK: I managed to get to watch you and the team in action at Chichester in one of the earlier rounds where there were fans, was that a bit surreal in a way?

SM: Most definitely it was a bit, it’s what we all love though, watching a game and we want fans back close to the action ASAP as it’s not the same without them there.

TK: How pleased were you to get the club through to the 1st Round for the first time since 1972, a long time to wait?

SM: Very proud! It’s something that myself and other managers/players have tried to do in the past and it’s finally happened. I’m so pleased for everyone involved in the club from the chairman to the board members, supporters, volunteers, absolutely everyone.

TK: And now selected for the BBC live game as well announced as we chat, do you hope the players rise to the occasion and show the watching public what Tonbridge Angels are all about?

SM: I do, but it’s all on the day. I hope and believe the players will not freeze on the occasion but we will be right up for it.

TK: Has there been a ban on any FA Cup talk until league games are out of the way?

SM: The game is actually our next one as because of less numbers in the National League South this Saturday falls as our week off so it’s worked out quite nicely.

TK: With the current restrictions have you managed to get out and scout Bradford City?

SM: Let’s just say we’ll be doing our homework on them.

TK: As a club have you felt having to play in empty stadiums that’s it’s brought you, your staff, and the players closer together?

SM: Not really, I always make sure we have a changing room that sticks together, hopefully you will see that this coming weekend. With our recruitment of new players they have to fit in with what we’re about on and off the pitch.

TK: Has the chairman promised a trip to anywhere not on the government’s quarantine list should you win?

SM: Haha! No he hasn’t, but a mate of mine, Paul, who sponsored a board around our ground this season (tables or businesses) said he’d take all the players and staff to Vegas if we get to the semi-finals!

Bloor: It’s a fantastic tie for the whole football club

I caught up with Eastbourne Borough manager Danny Bloor this week ahead of their FA Cup tie against Blackpool:

TK: Four league games into the season so far, how pleased are you with the start to the season?

DB: Yes, I’m satisfied and particularly pleased with the team spirit but there is plenty to work and improve upon as the season goes on.

TK: And the goal scoring form of Chris Whelpdale is impressive so far, was that something you tried to encourage to take the burden off the strikers?

DB: Not particularly, but of course it’s a major bonus when goals come from all over the pitch and not just one or two players.

TK: How easy or difficult is it to get the players mentally prepared to play in empty stadiums?

DB: It’s not been easy at all but it has meant really getting the boys fired up in the changing room. We have had to make our own atmosphere which so far seems to have worked.

TK: Do you feel that it has created a real togetherness amongst you, your staff, and the players?

DB: 100% as a whole group

TK: Turning attentions to the FA Cup, what was your initial reaction when Blackpool were drawn out of the hat to come to Priory Lane?

DB: It’s a fantastic tie for the whole football club and we are delighted to host a club with such an outstanding FA Cup pedigree.

TK: Is it tempered with a slight disappointment that spectators won’t be close to the action on the pitch?

DB: It’s the way the world is now in all aspects of our lives, we just have to get on with it but I know our supporters, the best in Sussex, will be supporting us from a distance.

TK: Bearing in mind the restrictions currently, is there a plan to scout the opposition before the tie?

DB: We had them watched on Tuesday night at AFC Wimbledon and we will watch them again at Burton on Saturday, I may go myself to watch them at home to Wigan on Tuesday night.

TK: Are you confident you can spring a surprise and take the club into the Second Round for the first time ever?

DB: How can you be confident, they’re a football league side! What we can be is very well prepared and committed to trying to cause a shock result. The pressure is all on Neil (Critchley) and his Blackpool team, they will be massive favourites to progress but in every round there are one or two upsets.

TK: Have the players been fairly grounded despite this big tie looming on the horizon?

DB: Honestly, before our win at Hampton on Tuesday night I banned all talk of the Blackpool game until after 5pm this Saturday following our game at home to Welling.

TK: What would it mean to the club as a whole to have a good cup run this year?

DB: Well I think we have already had a very good cup run so far this season but now we want more, we want the icing on the cake.

*Since speaking to Danny on Thursday afternoon Borough’s game has been selected for TV coverage on Sun 8th November ko 2.30pm live on BT Sport 1.

Angels take cup plaudits

FA Cup football once again took over midweek action, and for me the first time ever that I’ve managed to watch a game in every round so far, however depending on how kind the draw is on Thursday for the 4th qualifying round, that might be it for me this season given the inclusion of the National League Premier clubs and still no fans allowed in at that level.

My Tuesday night game saw me take in Chichester vs Tonbridge Angels, my first ever visit to Oaklands Park despite living down here in West Sussex for fourteen years, but also a chance to catch up briefly with Angels manager Steve McKimm who was kind enough to give me a blog interview over the lockdown period and as we are unable to enter Longmead Stadium currently with the restrictions this was the next best thing.

I used to live a five minute drive from that stadium before moving here and even played on the pitch in a cup semi final for my school a long time ago and also spent some junior years watching a very good Angels team smash their way through the Winstonlead Kent League.

The FA giant-killers of last season were a team McKimm was wary of when the draw was made despite Tonbridge hailing from two levels higher, Chi having also started their season a few weeks earlier than their visitors that might have given them the edge.

The game began on a damp pitch from the afternoon rain but both sides were set on passing the ball and not resorting to long channel balls which was pleasing to see, wing backs from Chi and wingers from Tonbridge were the name of the game.

The early chances fell the way of the hosts but were unable to find the target and as the visitors began to get a foothold in the game, they took the lead. Panic in the Chi defence after allowing a ball to bounce caught the home keeper Steve Mowthorpe in no-mans-land and Joe Turner nipped in between the keeper and defender to slot home the opening goal.

The goal however didn’t knock the home side out of their stride and they were level just five minutes later, a ball from Josh Clack squared across the box to Kaleem Haitham found it’s way into the back of the net to give the capacity 400 crowd something to cheer.

The remainder of the half was a trade off of chances but neither side were able to make the breakthrough to go in front before the half time break.

The first chance of the second half came immediately for the visitors, the impressive Khale Da Costa forcing Mowthorpe to tip the ball round the post within two minutes of the re-start. Both sides certainly appeared more intent in an open game this half as play swung from end to end, and the midfield area seemed a lot more stretched.

The Angels once again took the lead on 65 minutes, Da Costa appearing to score straight from the corner with no Chi player on the front post to attack the ball. The hosts did have the ball in the net four minutes later but Scott Jones comfortably fouled the keeper at the same time.

Chi made a couple of substitutions to try and change the nature of the game, the young impressive Ethan Pritchard arrived just before the goal and was involved after trying to get his back into the game down the left wing, with Lewis Hyde replacing Matt Axell to drive the team forward.

Tonbridge had their chances on the counter attack to add a third, but seemed unable to hold onto the ball when they attacked the final third of the pitch which gave their hosts the chance to put pressure immediately back on the visitors defence and goal for the final fifteen minutes.

McKimm’s defenders dealt with everything thrown at them including stoppage time, Sonny Miles marshalling the back line alongside Rian Bray headed, kicked and put their bodies in front of everything to give the Angels victory and a place in Thursday’s draw.

Very impressed with Chi and the way they played throughout the game, will definitely be making another visit there this season, facilities look pretty good for this level.

I caught up with the Angels boss on Wednesday morning and here are his thoughts:

‘It was a tough game as I expected, a proper game of cup football. Despite all the pressure towards the end I was comfortable with my defence dealing with all the crosses coming in and with a touch more quality we could have had another goal.’

‘It was really nice to hear other voices than just the players shouting at each other, good to see a crowd watching football again.’