Structurally, I don't think much has changed at Haywood Way since my last visit. The stadium has been renamed to the Greenfleets Stadium and, as you would expect, the new club colours (yellow and blue) and logos have replaced the old Moles red and black. The ground is situated on the North-Eastern edge of the town just off the A41. Parking is quite limited at the ground but there is plenty of parking available in the roads around the stadium. The approach to the ground, on Haywood Way, leads to the clubhouse, which can be accessed from outside the ground. Access to the stadium is through a single turnstile to the right of the clubhouse. Inside the ground there is a snack/tea bar and, of course, access into the clubhouse. On the Haywood Way side there is also a covered seating area which appears to be two smaller stands next to each other. There is also a covered standing area behind the goal at one end of the goal. It is, and always has been, a really good example of a non-league football ground which unfortunately suffers from having the River Thame directly behind it. The river often floods, leaving the ground completely under water which must be a an absolute nightmare for the club, and probably explains why the clubhouse is raised above the playing surface. The pitch today, however, looked in perfect condition for this game.
Even though this was my third visit to Haywood Way the blog format has changed considerably since the previous visits, which didn't inlcude much in the way of background. So, where to begin? Well, as we are approaching the end of the Olympics, maybe the best place to begin is with Stoke Mandeville Stadium which sits next to the hospital of the same name, just to the South of Aylesbury town centre. The stadium is the centre for disability sport and is widely acclaimed at the birthplace of the Paralympics. More significantly on a personal front, Stoke Mandeville Hospital is also the birthplace of my daughter, so it has a very special place in my life. Aylesbury can also boast its very own England super-striker. I am, of course, referring to Ellen White who was born in the town 32 years ago. Musically the town can lay claim to one of the quirkiest and most prolific live acts around in John Otway, who I have seen perform on many occasions, once or twice in Aylesbury's Queens Park Arts Centre.
Enough about Aylesbury though. If you want to know a little bit about Longlevens why not check out my blog, Sumas Squeezed Out, from my visit to Gloucestershire for the FA Vase tie between Longlevens and Wokingham & Emmbrook last October.
As for this FA Cup tie. The sides had not met before and neither have much of an FA Cup pedigree. For Dynamos, this was only their third campaign since the merger of Aylesbury and Bedgrove Dynamos in 2019. They passed this stage in that season before going out 5-4 at home to North Leigh. Last season they went down 2-1 at home to Windsor at this stage. In their previous incarnation as Aylesbury, the best they manged was in their first ever venture, reaching the 4th Qualifying round in 2009-10 before going out 4-2 at home to Wealdstone. Longlevens are into their 6th FA Cup campaign but have only reach Qualifying once, losing 2-0 at home to Portland United in 2019-20.
The rain that had been threatening all day was still being held at bay as the FA Cup got under way here in Buckinghamshire. As this was my first visit to the the ground since the merger and name change, it was a little odd to see the away side playing in red and black, the colours of the old Aylesbury team. However, nowadays Vale Dynamos play in yellow shirts and blue shorts. They were defending the A41 end of the ground in the first half.
I think it is fair to say that, despite both sides playing some neat football in midfield at times, chances at either end were at a premium. Both captains, coincidentally both wearing number 8, Alfi Touceda for Aylesbury and Shaun O'Connor for Longlevens, did their best to drive their teams forward from midfield but neither could force a clear cut opening.
Longlevens edges the half, looking especially dangerous down their left flank where Charlie Holliday looked to have the beating of his defender. His raids down the left, however, were nullified by the Dynamos central defensive pairing of Terry Griffiths and Paul Bagatti, who mopped up everything at the back. Cam Williams was lively for Longlevens, buzzing around and always trying to make himself available, but his best work was in the centre of the pitch where once again the Aylesbury centre-back duo were more than capable of preventing any significant inroads.
In fact, the first time either goalkeeper got their knees dirty was in the 45th minute when a Joe Haswell free-kick for Levens was scooped around the post for a corner by Dan McAteer in the Aylesbury goal.
HT Aylesbury Vale Dynamos 0 Longlevens 0. Two closely matched teams, effectively cancelling each other out. Neither side has been able to a significant upper hand despite the away side edging the possession and looking dangerous down their left side. A half of very few clear cut chances.
On 57 minutes Aylesbury created their best opportunity of the game when Touceda's perfect through ball found Callum Shortt bearing down on goal. McGuirk was quick off his line forcing Shortt to try a lob which beat the keeper but fell just wide of the far post. Hopefully this was a sign of the game livening up in terms of goal attempts.
Just past the hour mark this came to fruition. A Longlevens attack saw the ball fed to Joey Haswell on the right-hand edge of the penalty area. He unleashed a wicked drive which beat McAteer and appeared to hit both the underside of the bar and the far post as it clattered into the net. 0-1.
With just under 30 minutes left to play, Aylesbury needed to up their game and, although it took a few minutes for them to recover from going behind, this was exactly what they did. Touceda was again instrumental, prompting for the central midfield spot as the home side began to wind it up in search of the equaliser. Ten minute after going behind Dan Wilson came close with a header but saw a Levens defender get in the way to deflect the his effort away. Five minutes later Aylesbury had the chance they were looking for. Shortt's long-range effort was spilled by McGuirk. Shennan just about beat the keeper to the loose ball but lifted his effort just past the post. In a game of so few chances, that was probably going to be the best chance the home side had and that was how it proved to be. Despite huffing and puffing for the final 20 minutes, they could not engineer any more clear cut opportunities and the FA Cup dream was over at the first hurdle.
FT Aylesbury Vale Dynamos 0 Longlevens 1. There really was not a great deal to choose between the sides, who cancelled each other out for most of the game with the consequence that it was not the most thrilling of cup encounters. One piece of excellent finishing swung the game in the end.
Aylesbury Vale Dynamos: McAteer, Ball, Wilson, Bagatti, Griffiths, Oxley, Nugent, Touceda(c), Shennan, Pobbe, Shortt. Subs: Salmon, Boateng, Lemon, Mistretta, Clarke, Zammit, Carter
Longlevens: McGuirk, barnett, Long, Talbot, Westrip, C.Williams,O'Connor(c), Haswell, Martin, Holliday. Subs: Martin. Rea, Dunbar, B.Williams, Emery
Many thanks to the SevernSport team for letting me take a photo of the team sheets.
Ground Number: Re-Visit
Programme: Online Only