Midweek fixture: FA Cup 1st Round memories

On Sunday we head off on another FA Cup adventure with the trip to Hayes and Yeading. Previous 1st Round ties have conjured up a range of emotions from record highs to record lows. Here are seven of the best, and worst, from the last 24 years.

2016 – Merstham 5-0

Six months after promotion, we were the epitome of a team in a good place. A draw away to unknown commuter town Merstham was a great opportunity to try out our new status. TV cameras were there baying for an upset, but even with key players rested, we strolled to a classy win.

2013 – Gateshead 1-0

By 2013, our post-promotion glow had worn off and further progress up the divisions seemed just out of reach. The malaise tested the loyalty of the biggest fans. Following a desperate 2-2 draw with Gateshead at the Kassam, we travelled very very north for the replay. A postponement minutes before kick-off left fans stranded hundreds of miles from home. Still, two weeks later a Dean Smalley penalty sealed a workaday win.

2009 – Yeovil Town 1-0

An often forgotten and somewhat insignificant game in the context of the rest of that season, but important for other reasons. We were on a roll in the League, regaining confidence lost over a 10 year period. We were raucous off the pitch and aggressive on it. It was only the 1st Round, and it was only Yeovil, but it was also our first win over any league team for four years. We were on the way back.

2006 – Wycombe Wanderers 1-2

The significance of this game was the fact it happened at all. Relegated from the Football League we’d started the season well. For the first time in a generation we were required to qualify to the FA Cup. We did, with a win over Dagenham and Redbridge, drawing Wycombe Wanderers in the first round. A solid display and narrow defeat wasn’t as satisfying as the knowledge we registered our existence in the competition for another year. 

2005 – Eastbourne Borough 3-0

Labouring to a 1-0 lead at little Eastbourne Borough in the FA Cup, they introduced, to the obvious excitement of the locals, a whippet quick van driver from Nigeria. Yemi Odubade ran our lumbering centre-backs ragged, winning them a last minute penalty and earning a replay. In the replay, Odubade ran amok, but somehow a Steve Basham hat-trick saw us triumph. The result was a travesty. Days later Brian Talbot brought Yemi to the club, where he became a rare bright spot in a bleak time.

1995 – Dorchester Town 9-1

God we needed this; having failed to gain promotion the previous season, the 95/96 campaign was faltering. When Dorchester Town arrived in November some were doubting our credentials. The avalanche of goals was cathartic, keeping the baying hordes at bay, a major stepping stone towards finding our feet and heading for promotion.

1994 – Marlow Town 0-2

Perhaps the grimmest day in the club’s history. We were top of League 1 and looked to be heading for promotion. We drew the architects and IT consultants of Marlow Town, which featured Les Phillips and Peter Rhodes-Brown in their number. On a potato patch pitch we put on the most fancy-dan performance and were out battled. It popped any bubble of positivity. 

Dorchester 1 Yellows 3 (aet), Histon 5 Yellows 2, Yellows 1 Kidderminster 0

Boo! We won.

Have we become drunk on failure? We know it’s bad for us, but we’ve consumed so much in the last decade, we can’t live without it. The penalty on Tuesday was greeted with apoplexy, the final whistle with boos. We don’t know how to enjoy our football.

But we won, against a team in 4th, and rarely looked like surrendering the lead. Kidderminster were prettier, but it was all a bit ineffective.

Of course, most of the booing was an echo from Saturday’s hammering at Histon. First, however, some perspective. As unfashionable as Histon is, they are the best team in the division. Take the names and reputations out of the equation and a defeat to the best team in the division is not quite the shame it might be.

But that’s too simple; of course, we have our pride built from our glorious history. We don’t get beaten by teams like Histon. So while Darren Patterson grapples with creating a squad that can compete with next to no money, his biggest challenging is taming the beast that is The Club and all it stands for.

It’s not Patterson’s team that’s failing; it’s his ability to exert authority over the club. His repeated use of the phrase “I’ve got to be honest with you.” opens him to ridicule, his use of the transfer list as a ‘naughty step’ seems cack-handed.

A manager needs to demand the respect of not just his players, but the media and the fans. In this respect he seems a dead man walking; every home game is one to save his job, and when that happens it’s only a matter of time before he goes. After all, we will, inevitably, lose at home at some point – which is likely to be the tipping point.

Still, I say keep him, we’re in the cup following the win against Dorchester – where, again, we obsessed over the manner of the win rather than the win itself. This is Patterson’s lifeline at the moment.

Yellows 0 Dorchester Town 0

Football is a series of themes and trends punctuated by moments. It is frequently analysed the other way around. An individual mistake is evidence of total hopelessness, a goal is shows how utterly brilliant everything is. This is reflected in the post-game phone-ins where the contributors are views a polarised and wholly dependent on the result of the preceding game.

Our overall trend is upwards – won 5, drawn 3, lost 2 in the last 10 (counting the Setanta Shield game with Forest Green as a draw – no good competition ever ends with winning a shield). The fact that we’re only a handful of points off the play-offs is no fluke. Yesterday’s draw with Dorchester is not evidence of us being useless. Within the game the overall trend was with us, we had more possession and territory. The fact that Dorchester occasionally pieced together a couple of passes was not proof that we were being outplayed.

Then there are the ‘moments’ – the shots, saves and goals. That’s what we struggled with yesterday. We didn’t take the chances in the first half when things were fast and loose. Once Dorchester had dug in, the midfield struggled to unlock the game and everything petered out.

A lot of responsibility is put on Adam Murray. But Murray’s impact is defined by those around him. Last season he had Jamie Hand – who couldn’t pass, but gave Murray space through his tackling. Behind him he had Foster and Quinn. Earlier in the season he was partnered by Joe Burnell.

Yesterday he had Hutchinson next to him who is frustrating because he’s all action, with almost no control. This means Murray is constantly stretching and tracking back, rarely on his feet looking up. Behind him was Willmott and Day, neither of whom have any pace meaning he’s forced back, reducing the prospect of supporting any attacks.

The draw with Dorchester is not proof that everything has gone wrong. It is indicative of our lack strength in depth, which in turn is evidence of the lack of funds. In these circumstances, we’ll have wobbles. Yesterday was a wobble, which was frustrating and may ultimately cost us our place in the second round, but there was enough evidence to suggest all is not lost for the rest of the season.