After leaving the Badshot Recreation Ground in 2007, The Baggies have had a nomadic existence. Groundshares with Farnborough, Godalming Town, Ash United and, most recently, Camberley Town have finally been replaced with a ground of their own. Westfield Lane was officially opened in July of this year when a crowd of 660 saw local rivals Aldershot Town run out 3-0 winners.
The new ground is situated in the village of Wrecclesham, just to the South-West of Farnham town centre. There is a reasonably sized car park adjacent to the ground. However, this was completely full for this game and there is not really much extra parking nearby (my only gripe about the ground). Access to the ground is through a new turnstile and to the rear of one of the goals.
One thing that I could never get used to, however many times I visited this ground, is the Welcome to the home of The Baggies sign. As a former West Bromwich Albion season ticket holder, there is something not right about this sign being written in claret & blue.
The cup draw had thrown together the current two top teams in the Combined Counties Premier League both Badshot Lea and their opponents Ascot United went into Saturday's cup tie having played two and won two in the league. Badshot Lea opened with a 4-1 win at Sutton Common Rovers and followed that with a 5-0 thrashing of newly promoted local rivals Frimley Green.
Ascot, who due to ground resurfacing were forced into playing away from the Racecourse Ground at the opening of the season, had started with a 2-0 win at Cobham and a 3-0 win at Egham Town.
The meeting between the sides on Saturday (also played at Westfield Lane because of Ascot's ground refurbishment) had, by all accounts, been a very good game. The Yellamen raced into a 2-0 lead before The Baggies came back at them, equalising with practically the last kick of the game to force the replay.
Neither side has ever managed to make it out of the Qualifying Rounds of the FA Cup. Badshot Lea's best effort came in the 2012-13 season when they got to the 3rd Qualifying Round before going down 3-1 at Step 3 outfit Chippenham Town. Ascot's First Qualifying Round replay defeat to Tonbridge Angels signifies their best run but after a 2-2 draw at home the Yellamen were defeated 7-0 in Kent.
The Baggies clearly had learned a lesson from going two goals down on Saturday. They started the game with a much higher tempo and verve than their opponents, pressing Ascot back almost from the kick-off. The pace and trickery of Danilo Cadete on the right-wing was obviously an area that they had targeted as a means to get in behind the defence. With former Farnham Town winger Nick Medcraft on the opposite flank and the very lively Meshach Williams through the middle, they were giving Louis Brouwers and his Yellamen defence plenty to think about.
The home side came close to taking the lead on a number of occasions in the first 25 minutes, with both Williams and Hutchings missing reasonably good chances. Ascot spent a lot of this time in their own half, but did look a threat when they managed to break, James Richardson causing some concern with his runs.
Then, on 27 minutes, Ascot forced a corner with some very neat inter-passing play. The ball was sent over from the right and met with a powerful header from captain Brouwer. The effort was blocked on the line but fell invitingly for Harry Laflin to make no mistake from close range. 0-1. Against the run of play, but the Yellamen were not going to be concerned about that.
The goal had the dual effect of boosting Ascot and deflating Badhsot Lea. For the remainder of the half the side looked very much evenly matched, Cadete's runs down the right were curtailed and the Ascot defence didn't look under as much pressure as it had done earlier on. It was, in fact, Kallum Lunn in the Badshot Lea goal who was probably the busier towards the end of the half making a great save from a Lalustani effort to keep his team in the game.
HT Badshot Lea 1 Ascot United 0. After a fairly one-sided opening 25 minutes, Ascot snatched a goal from nowhere and the game evened up. The Baggies will wonder how they managed to go into the break a goal down.
That was until the 67th minute when a period of two minutes completely changed the game.
First of all, a break down the left from The Baggies resulted in a superb cross being played into the gap between the last defender and the goalkeeper. Meshach Williams forced himself in front of his marked and was able to fire the ball into the roof of the net to make it 1-1.
Before the Yellamen could even draw breath, Badshot Lea were at them again, winning a corner on the right. The delivery caused some chaos in the Ascot defence, the ball falling to substitute Nic Ciardini, who lashed it past Gray to make it 2-1.
In the blink of an eye, just like a Basil Brush punchline, "Boom, Boom!" Badshot Lea had gone from a goal down to taking the lead.
Ascot were reeling but soon picked themselves up and tried valiantly to get themselves back into the game. This led to a breathless last 5 minutes where the away side completely laid siege to the Baggies goal. They had one cleared off the line, one saved and also hit the post, but it just wasn't to be for them. The home side were hanging on a bit at the end but, overall, just about deserved to win the game.
FT Badshot Lea 2 Ascot United 1. The Baggies will now face Wessex Premier side Christchurch in the next round.
Badshot Lea: Lunn, Blake, Roberts(c), B.Hutchings, Flanaghan, Lloyd, Cadete, Matthews, Williams, Hawker, Medcraft. Subs: S.Hutchings, Thrupp, Carter, Ford, Ciardini, Smith
Ascot United: Gray, Burdon, Haworth, Carey, Bouwers(c), Ellis, Merrick, Denton, Lalustani, Laflin, Richardson,. Suns: Lock, Taylor, Carlisle, Hodges, Wensley, Bennett, Davies
Ground Number: 205