|The day of the big match at Whitchurch United.|
My three previous cup games this season had produced surprising results of varying magnitude. It was the sort of fun that I couldn't easily let go - immediately post-Hartley Wintney, I was feeling like a normally docile domestic cat let loose in a garden full of high-grade catnip. Thus, I was looking forward to the draw for the 2nd qualifying round. It turned out that the choice was going to be between Whitchurch United v Gloucester City and Havant & Waterlooville v Sholing. As I grew up in Havant, I didn't want them to lose (after all, I had deluded myself into believing that I had become a lucky charm for the underdogs so far), so it had to be Whitchurch. Anyway, it was probably the biggest day in the club's history, whereas at Havant, it would be just another match for the home side. It wasn't a decision I regretted.
|The friendly megaphone mums relaxing at half-time.|
Whitchurch United FC (0) 0 v 2 (0) Gloucester City AFC
Saturday October 1st 2011
FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round
Programme: £1 (plenty of interesting articles relating to the two clubs)
Club shop: No
Colours: Red and white stripes / Black / Red v Sky blue / Dark blue / Sky blue
National Grid reference: SU4647
Video highlights: Yes!
|Football clubs often share their facilities with other sports. Whitchurch are no exception.|
How much better things look in the sunshine! As has been mentioned many times over the last few days, it was unseasonably hot for October on Saturday. The sun was sparkling on the River Test, which was alive with ducks, frisky fish and the greenest of green river weed. Just lovely.
|Flying the flag for Whitchurch United FC.|
Oh dear. It turned out he was quite harmless, but eye contact was avoided anyway.
|Whitchurch attack in front of their packed stand.|
There were also a large number of Tigers in the bar. These hadn't escaped from the zoo, but rather had travelled down from Gloucestershire for the day - The Tigers being Gloucester City AFC's nickname (the AFC distinguishing them from the more popular RFC, or rugby club). Scattered amongst the Tigers were a few local Jam Boys - no, not a Paul Weller tribute band, or even a euphemism for something that only happens behind the most metrosexual of closed doors, but the nickname for Whitchurch United fans.
How in bejeeber's name were the Jam Boys going to make the Tigers toothless today? After all, there were four gigantic steps separating the two clubs - Whitchurch being only one of six sides from their level to qualify for this stage of the cup (the others being Hebburn Town, Bodmin Town, Cadbury Heath, Barrow Town, and our very own Hartley Wintney). An excess of extra sugary jam might make a tiger toothless eventually, but slipping a banana skin into the recipe might do it quicker. Everyone knows that banana skins are what scare big clubs the most (especially "potential" banana skins).
|Penalty to Gloucester City!|
Gloucester City had a drummer and plenty of cheery chants, well-honed from their travels around the steppes and tundra of the Conference North. What an atmosphere for this small ground!
From the get-go, it was plain that the semi-pros of Gloucester were the quicker, fitter, more skilful side. But Whitchurch had zest, zeal and potential banana skins to wave in front of their opponents if they became too cocky.
The Tigers rattled the bar early doors, but hadn't had a shot on target until around the thirty-minute mark, when Whitchurch's keeper was adjudged to have brought down an onrushing forward for a Gloucester penalty. It looked harsh from where I was stood, a hundred yards away - I thought he'd knocked the ball away and the forward had fallen over him. However, there are match highlights on Youtube, filmed by three lads going under the name of Tigers TV (see the link in the "details" above), which show that perhaps the ref was right - although it still looks inconclusive as the cameraman twitched at the moment of contact.
Whether correct or not, the decision stood...the keeper dived to his left...and saved the day for Whitchurch!
And so it remained 0-0 at half-time.
A few minutes later and it was game over as Gloucester scored a second. Their superior fitness in the heat prevailed. The only other real moment of note was a stupendous save near the end by Whitchurch's keeper, who didn't put a foot wrong throughout the match. Seventeen minutes of match highlights have been saved forever for anyone who was there to relive the day, so I don't need to describe any more on this occasion.
|The empty stand after the match. The Visiting Committee had all retired to the bar to celebrate their victory with real ale and cider.|
I'd like to carry on catnipping with the FA Cup in a fortnight, but my options are becoming tinier with each round, so we'll see what happens.