Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cup Fever

"Match Of The Day" Had Nothing On This One.

Sheffield FC were at home to Kendal Town in the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy yesterday. And even without instant replays, numerous camera angles and paid experts; this was really something.

Kendal play in the Unibond Premier Division, which is the League that Sheffield are seeking to gain promotion to. So this was a key test of the progress we have made this season.

Yet the match only attracted half of last weeks crowd - 208 compared to 411. It was a sign that three home games in the past week could only finally cater for the regulars. Even I had missed a mid-week victory over Grantham Town in the President's Cup. But I had the excuse that I got the dates mixed up. It is the sort of thing that happens when you pass three score years and ten.

What No Mascots?

We had none of the celebrations which I reported from last week's game. No guard of honour from 50 children and, therefore, no crowds of parents with cameras. But the sun shone and my cloth cap came in handy to block it from my view. It was also much less crowded in the Club's Pub.

Kendal set off at a cracking pace. But with Martin Kearney (who isn't our regular keeper) in fine form and a sound defence in front of him, it looked as if we would weather the initial storm. But in the 7th minute disaster struck.

As Kendal moved forward two players ran past the Sheffield defence (whose line was some 30 yards from their goal) and one of them took a through ball and hit it into the back of the net. I was amongst the home supporters in line with the incident and we had never seen a clearer offside. Unfortunately both the linesman and the referee took a different viewpoint and we were 1-0 down.

A Turning Point?

As with last week, it took us 15 minutes to threaten the visitors. Our attack was soon slipping on the fallen leaves near the visitor's goal. Leaves which no-one had bothered to sweep up.

On 28 minutes Asa Ingall slithered in an equaliser. With the scores level at half-time, the home supporters felt that (given justice) we were really 1-0 ahead.

Whilst our defence remained sound in the second half, it began to push up field as we attacked. Gavin Smith our right-back scored with a fine shot from outside the visitors penalty box in the 62 minute.

4 minutes later it was the turn of Paul Smith the left-back. His fine work down the line from the half way mark led to a situation where a well executed shot from Rob Ward put us 3-1 ahead.

Never Leave Before The End

In added time just as we seemed to have things wrapped up, mayhem broke out.

First, the regulars were convinced we would be given a penalty. But as the ball rolled out of play, the referee decided to give us a consolation corner instead. It could only be a consolation as the ball seemed to go out of play off one of our players.

But then the referee's tendency to compromise did not last long as he gave a penalty at the other end of the pitch for "something-we-know-not-what". Kendal's Wright scored and it was now 3-2.

The Kendal player who had earlier scored the off-side goal then rushed to recover the ball from the back of the net. When our goalkeeper held on to it, Mulvaney then whipped his legs from under him. The culprit was red carded and a free for all broke out. Even the Kendal goalkeeper was shouting, although he had earlier received a yellow card for abusing the referee.

When the referee managed to get the game restarted, he immediately blew his whistle for full-time. A grumpy Kendal left the pitch in an argumentative mood. Wisely Sheffield held back near the leafy end of the pitch until the coast was clear. Half the crowd stayed on to cheer their heroes off back to the dressing room. Tom said that he could imagine the Kendal players hammering on the walls in the next room.

Bring On Inter-Milan

Anyone who had stayed away from the game to watch the Arsenal v Man United game on the telly made the wrong choice. It was the die-hards who had all the fun and the exercise of their lungs. Then in the end we could be philosophical about the two goals against us, which should not have been. For with fair decisions (including the penalty we never got) we could have won 4-0. Yet we are into the next round.

After all the fun I had at the match, I thankfully missed the Premiership scores so I was able to watch "Match Of The Day" last night without knowing the script in advance.

We have now won 11 out of our last 12 competitive games. It is only the celebratory friendly games we lose. So I won't get upset if Inter Milan manage to nick the big game against us at Bramall Lane on Thursday night. For I know there will be plenty more excitement in store for the loyal 200 just down the road from my home.

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