Saturday, 8 November 2008

Curzon Ashton 3 Exeter City 2

FA Cup First Round
Attendance: 1,259
“Fancy seeing you again” I thought as I arrived for what was to be a cup classic. I previously saw Curzon playing at Stocksbridge back in the no man’s land of the Second Qualifying Round. What a difference three rounds make. Then it was a beautiful late summer’s day and the outcome of the match wasn’t of any great consequence. Today we were into autumn and Curzon played the biggest match in their 43-year history. This is the first time they’ve ever reached the First Round Proper, they played League opposition and there was only one lower ranked club left in the competition. On top of that their ground was acclaimed as the best new non-league ground by the esteemed Groundtastic magazine in 2005. A tasty tie, or what? I simply had to be there.
If ever a team needed a Cup win to put it on the map this is it. Curzon play at the Tameside (which no-one’s heard of) Stadium; some home fans wear Man City hats; the stewards come courtesy of Oldham Athletic; and the local town is actually Ashton-under-Lyne. The map on the AA website confused me further. It sent me to the old ground and only after asking at a ten-pin bowling alley did I finally arrive. The ground is very smart and well appointed if rather characterless (inevitable being so new) but then I’d had plenty of scenery at the two previous venues in this season’s FA Cup trail.
Whatever you call it this corner of the industrial north it seems a long way from Exeter. ‘Lyme Regis Grecians’ it said on one banner. What a lovely place to be a football fan – and what a genteel bunch Exeter are. One chap drank out of a hip flask, their Michael Stipe look-a-like manager wore a cravat and two ladies in the grandstand wore headgear the like of which I last saw at Elm Park in the 70s (when I was probably wearing it).
So to the match – and what a match. Exeter hit the post before Curzon open the scoring. The home side extend their lead in the second half with a stunning goal from James Ogoo, a carbon copy of that Justin Fashanu finger-in-the-air volley. The boys collapse in a scrum of joy in front of the dugout. When Exeter hit the bar we kinda know it isn’t going to be their day even though they continue to plug away. Bursting with confidence and playing some great football, Curzon make it 3-0 when Norton finishes off a mazy run just as it looks like he’s held on to the ball too long. Full marks to the Curzon goalie, incidentally. He performed heroics throughout.

The final 10 mins are thrilling. Exeter get a goal back. (“Deserved consolation”, we all think) then have a player sent off. Deep into injury time Exeter leather in a second goal. (“Ooh-err”, we all think). The final whistle soon blows, there’s a pitch invasion (commendably ignored by the stewards) and Ogoo is chaired off. All that’s missing is a few Parka anoraks à la Hereford 1972. These are the things that dreams are made of. There will be dancing in the streets of Curzon tonight – in a “dancing in the streets of Raith” sort of way.

Programme notes:
Commentators could get tongue-tied if Curzon draw Arsenal in the Third Round. James Ogoo could be up against young Gunner Abu Ogogo. Remarkably, the programme listed an even more impressive name than James’s. On the bench for Exeter was was the jaw-dropping Emmanuel Ugochukwa Ezenwa Panther. Or Manny Panther to his friends (and ex-York City team-mates). He’s Scottish, of course. Great story about the origins of the club too. It’s forerunner was established in 1955 by lads from Hurst Wesley Sunday School. The now vice-chairman Ronnie Capstick and Chalky White of the groundstaff (both setting a club precedent for fine footballing names) together with co-founder Gordon Taylor (current PFA chief exec) raised money for the first kit by chopping up firewood and selling it door-to-door. (Cue Hovis music). The team changed its name to Curzon Road Methodists after the Sunday School was re-named and, when players left the school, became just Curzon Road. The club merged with Ashton Amateurs in 1963 to become … yes … Curzon Ashton. So now you know who they are and where they are.

Forever autumn:
It seems fitting that the first round of the FA Cup and Remembrance Sunday share the same weekend. Something, perhaps, to do with them both being about tradition, camaraderie, supporting “our” boys against the odds, and blood, sweat and tears. For once a minute’s silence before kick-off couldn’t have been more fitting. For me the second weekend in November is the essence of the English autumn and I absolutely love it.
See it for yourself:
Click here for 2½ mins of ITV highlights and here for my exclusive footage.

1 comment:

Joe Lawton said...

Glad to see you enjoyed it down at Curzon. I must have been stood about two foot to your right on the picture of be minutes silence. I was part of the noisy clan in tbe main terrace. Come down when you can please, we need the support!!