|Sholing FC on the march to the arch.|
When I say the best free gift ever, what I really mean is the most-used gift. The best might have been the Bob Wilson sticky stamp books given away by Nabisco in the early 1970s, or the collection of plastic Wallace & Gromit figures given away with Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies from around 15 years ago (and where are all the plastic toys in cereals these days? Did somebody really swallow one once and they've been banned ever since? Bring them back, I say!).
Anyway, me and my son have had many hours of enjoyment from our plastic friend ever since. It's our ever-present companion on family trips to the countryside or the seaside. We'll sneak it out and start tossing it to each other ever so gently....at first. Then we'll ramp up the action and throw it harder and harder and aim at specific parts of the other's body. It invariably gets out of hand and somebody usually ends up getting injured - a sore finger or bruised shin is not uncommon.
We have names for each type of throw. If you aim for the other's ankle, you have to shout "Ankle Snapper!" as you throw. A direct hit on the knee is a Knee Nobbler; a wild whang to the hip area is a Groin Destroyer; above that is the Rib Crusher. And so it goes on.
|Sholing's club shop: scarves, shirts, ties and badges all at low low prices.|
Sholing FC (2) 3 v 1 (1) Hullbridge Sports FC
FA Carlsberg Vase Fourth Round
Tuesday 21st January 2014
Colours: Red and white stripes / black / red and white stripes v All yellow
National Grid reference: SU4610
|Approximately 250 miles there and back on a wet Tuesday night for Hullbridge Sports. Screenshot from Edinburgh University's Digimaps For Schools, using Ordnance Survey backdrop mapping.|
Way out west, Alresford and Blackfield & Langley played on Saturday, where the rain had presumably not been as relentless as it had been over Southampton since...I don't know, was it mid-December when it first started? I love awaydays and would probably have gone to Larkhall v Blackfield, but I was expected back in Southampton for a pub quiz by 7pm, which would have been tight (sample question: How do you write the year 2014 in Roman numerals?).
The original scheduled match day of Saturday 18th January was a wash-out for Sholing and Hullbridge Sports, which meant that the game was rearranged for Tuesday. There was some controversy over this (as reported here), as Sports had a 250 mile round trip to make on a weekday evening, which unsurprisingly meant that several of their first choice players were unavailable due to work commitments.
|Hosepipes and trenches keeping the floods out.|
Reading Hullbridge's history, it appears that they won the French Cup in 1952, joining such greats as Olympique Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux as former winners. Hang on...on closer inspection, it appears as though the French Cup was a trophy competed for by members of the Southend & District League, which probably means that the likes of St Etienne are unlikely to have held the trophy aloft.
They managed to keep most of their successful squad when they started the season in the Wessex League. Looking through their profiles on the club's website, most of the players have been with the club for years. A loyal and committed bunch, which shows on the pitch. They have won all but two of their Wessex League fixtures so far this season. It will be a big surprise if they lose at all in the league between now and April. Champions-elect. Far and away the best side in the league. And far too good for their opponents on Tuesday evening. The only surprise was that they only managed to score three goals.
I think Sholing's fans are enjoying their time back in the more local league. They know where their opponents come from. It's cheaper (£5 instead of the usual £8-10 in the Southern League). It's fun winning every week.
|Walking towards destiny.|
Hullbridge equalised out of the blue three minutes later after Sholing's keeper misjudged a cross and Rob Hodgson looped in a header that was the equivalent of throwing a frisbee upside-down - it wobbled and dipped alarmingly before dropping over the line.
Wort restored Sholing's lead after 27 minutes when he whacked in the most accurate Ankle Snapper I've seen since my son walloped me one with gusto on Highcliffe Beach last summer.
Byron Mason thwacked in a Groin Destroyer in the second half to put the result beyond doubt. There were many other chances in the drizzle and subsequent rain, all falling to Southampton's only stripey team, but no more goals to bother the FA's statisticians.
The Echo report on the match can be found here. There are some photos from Essex-based photographer Peter Dudley here.
|Hullbridge Sports' number 14, Harry Long, standing in the January rain.|
Alresford Town went to Bristol's Hallen and were (by all accounts) unlucky to lose 2-0. The photographer Paul Paxford was there to shoot the action.
Blackfield & Langley lost 3-0 at Larkhall Athletic, the unbeaten leaders of the Western League. By coincidence, The Larks will be Sholing's opponents in the last 16 on February 15th. It should be a tremendous match-up between possibly the two strongest clubs outside of the Northern League. The winners have every chance of going all the way to Wembley. If you're at a loose end that day and you fancy watching a heavyweight match-up for a fiver, I'd recommend that you go. Tie of the round, I've no doubt about it.
|Some of the crowd of 193 at the Silverlake Arena attempting to keep dry.|
2014 in Roman numerals is MMXIV.
Plastic toys are no longer found in cereal packets due to the cost of the oil used to produce the plastic.
And in case anyone was asking, the most painful frisbee-style disc throw is the Groin Destroyer.