I am starting this match blog not with the run up to the game, or a description of the ground. Rather, I am starting with my journey home and, more to the point, the radio programme that happened to be on in my car. I'm talking about Radio 5 Live. Now, I normally focus my match blogs on positives. After all, the whole point is to promote non-league football.
However, what I heard on my way home and, more to the point, the tone of voice with which it was delivered, just got my back up. It's good that the BBC have been playing lip service to the early stages of the FA Cup. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that they give it some coverage. Two things that really irk me though. First of all, if you are going to talk about the early rounds of the cup, involving these 'little' teams that clearly no-one is that bothered about, at least get your facts straight. Don't announce that the FA Cup, incredibly, starts on Saturday, when there are games being played on Friday (one of which, I was actually driving home from). Secondly, I know that the Haverhill derby is of very little consequence to a BBC commentator who is very busy watching Manchester United, but the condescending way it was referred to as 'the big derby game' and, more so, the tone with which the sentence was delivered, really grated. I am sure that the supporters of both Borough and Rovers were screaming at their radios. I don't know, maybe i'm just turning into an old cynic?
Rant over, onto the game. Winslow United v Easington Sports, with both sides making their FA Cup debuts (fact courtesy of @FACupFactFile). It's not been long at all since I last visited Elmfields Gate but, there has been a change at the ground. A lovely new piece of signage has appeared above the main stand (see photo).
Having said that, it was the home side that possibly created the most promising chance when they had a goal-bound shot well blocked by a defender. A minute or so later, though, they were quite lucky to survive some sustained pressure from Easington, eventually clearing the ball off the line amidst a real scramble in the home penalty area.
It was certainly a very open first 15-20 minutes. After that period, both sides seemed to hold off a little. United had steadied their ship, the defence looked more assured. Maybe the initial surge of energy and Adrenalin had worn off?
Chances were now coming less frequently but Easington did come reasonably close before, on 40 minutes, a fine Winslow effort saw the visitors keeper, Adam Rimmer, pull off a good one handed save to put the ball out for a corner. The right-wing kick was hit deep where Aaron King rose well to power a header over the defender on the line and put Winslow in front. 1-0
The response from Sports was almost immediate. Within three minutes of going behind, they earned a free-kick some 35 yards out on the left. The ball was hoisted to the far post by Convey where Henry Rose got above everyone to head in a fine equaliser. 1-1.
HT Winslow United 1 Easington Sports 1. All square at the break and probably rightly so. The game was shaping into a very good cup tie. We had seen two very well taken headed goals and there was a definite sense of occasion around the ground.
Just past the hour mark, on 66 minutes to be exact, United went back in front. A ball was played into the right-hand channel for King to chase. He reached the ball as it sat up invitingly, inside the penalty area but at quite a narrow angle. He unleashed a stunning volley, flashing the ball across Rimmer and into the far corner. 2-1. A great finish from King to get his second goal of the game.
The home side had clearly learned from their first-half mistake and, this time, they did not concede and equaliser within a few minutes. In fact the goal seemed to take the wind out of Sports for a while, with the home side looking as if they were going to take control of the game.
Sports, however, were not going to let their FA Cup run die off that easily. With 79 minutes on the clock, they launched another raid down their right wing, again getting in behind the defence. Goal-scorer Rose drilled the ball across the Winslow six-yard box where it was met by the on-rushing Andrew Stidder to make it all-square again. 2-2.
It was Easington's turn to look the most likely to win now. The home side, however, composed themselves and stemmed the flow of red & white shirts. Whilst I am sure that neither side really wanted, or needed, an extra game at this stage of the season, neither could find a winning goal in the last ten minutes.
FT Winslow United 2 Easington Sports 2. Both FA Cup debutants live to fight another day, and that day is Tuesday. A thoroughly entertaining cup tie between two evenly matched sides. Best of luck to both in the replay. I'm sure that it will be a cracker.
Easington Sports: Rimmer, Snelling, Fitton, Josh Rose, Robinson, Stidder, Spaull, Henry Rose, Convey, Eyre, Watkin (c). Subs: Pearman, Cramond, Hill, Higgins
Ground Number: Not a new ground