The F.A. Cup is renowned for its giant-slaying acts. Who can forget the exploits of George and Radford for Hereford against Newcastle, and the veteran Ray Crawford for Colchester against Leeds. I was fortunate enough to be at a couple of near-upsets, including the legendary Leicester v Leatherhead match in the early seventies, and Harlow going to Filbert Street and securing a replay (which they subsequently won) a few years later.
These hic-cups apart though, it is generally the higher league team that prevails, and for every success for David, there’s a dozen or more for Goliath.
I remember taking a flyer in the mid 1980s and driving up from Leicester – where I was running a pub at the time – hoping to squeeze in to see Burton Albion take on Leicester City at Derby’s Baseball Slum, the F.A. having agreed to Albion’s request to switch the match to a larger venue. It was my one-and-only time stood on Derby’s ‘Pop Side’ as I’d decided to cheer on the underdogs for the day. Burton duly got stuffed 1-6, although the match was subsequently replayed due to crowd trouble, after Leicester fans cheerfully dismantled parts of the decrepit old stadium and lobbed chunks of it at the Burton keeper. Sadly, Burton lost the replay too.
Two of my games so far this season have been F.A. Cup ties, and in both of them the higher league team has dominated and gone on to win by three or more goals. So would tonight at Heybridge Swifts be any different?
Our route down the A12 from our north Suffolk base takes us past the new ground of seventies giant-killers Colchester, and beyond until we strike out cross country to the town of Maldon and its satellite, Heybridge. The Scraley Road ground of the Swifts is probably better suited to Isthman Premier life than the two other stadiums we have visited over this Bank Holiday weekend. There’s a decent sized main stand on one side, with a covered terrace with seating options on the other, covered terrace behind one goal and raised step terracing elsewhere. The clubhouse is a decent size and has Greene King IPA on handpump, big screen TV with Sky Sports News, a pool table and, uniquely as far as I know, a resident ‘bookie’ offering odds and taking bets on the first home scorer – a variation on the Golden Goal scheme! The snack bar has the ubiquitous chip.
And so then it’s giant-slaying time, or rather it isn’t. The visitors are Suffolk-based, Eastern Counties League side Felixstowe & Walton United FC, who commendably held higher division Swifts to a draw on Saturday. Tonight they start brightly but are so knocked out of their stride with a 10th minute goal from the home no10 – consigning my £2 on the first scorer being no8 to the bookies wallet – that they never really show after that and are two down by the break. A third early in the second half and a fourth near the end consign United to their fate.
Not a night for giant-slayers, at least not at Scaley Road anyway.
Programme: £1 on the turnstile. Minimalistic and functional
Floodlight pylons: 8
Parakeets: the night sky tranquility is shattered during the game as a noisy flock of geese fly across the pitch on their way to roost.
Club shop: yes but not open
Toilets: Seem to recall they were by the side of the snack bar
Music the players run out to: ‘Get Ready For This’ by 2 unlimited. A nice selection of Beatles oldies is played at half time
Kip choir: bunch of mature lads giving the United defenders a bit of banter in the second Half
Away fans: a handful but had nothing to shout about
Whats in a name? United’s Ben ‘Offie’ Licence is presumably in charge of refreshments