Saturday, 26 September 2009

North Ferriby Utd 0 FC United of Manchester 1

FA Cup second qualifying round
Attendance: 838
Talk about Groundhog day. Another Cup tie, another beautifully sunny day (so much for the last round marking the end of summer) and another trip to the East Riding. I was again close to water too: not the sea but the River Humber. The Humber Bridge looms behind one of the goals at North Ferriby United’s trim little ground near Hull. Surprising, then, that the structure doesn't feature in the club's nickname. They are known simply as the Villagers but, as I came to realise, the monicker couldn't be more fitting.

You approach the ground down a lane beside allotments which extend right up to back of the terraces. There's a gap in the terrace wall, today manned by a security guard, presumably to provide a short-cut to retrieve the ball. Great looking pumpkins, by the way. An arable field lies immediately behind one of the corner flags and a church steeple pokes above the main stand. The players emerge from beneath a lean to which gives the stand a cricket pavilion appearance. "The pitch could be the village green," my nephew and occasional FA Cup companion Toby observed. The ground isn't in a particularly scenic or remarkable location but somehow the ambience of its immediate environment creeps over the stands and onto the pitch especially on a sunny day. North Ferriby began life in the East Riding Church League in the 1930s and, in spirit, it's as if they never left.

Into this idyll come the boisterous hoards from the big city. Four coach loads of away supporters is unusual to see at this level of football as was the large police presence. The FC fans outnumbered the home fans by about 5 to 1. I like the way they bring a sense of occasion to every match they play especially a cup-tie like this and I'm sympathetic to their ethos. "Our club, our rules" was the slogan on t-shirts while the banner attached to the scaffolded FC radio commentary gantry on the main stand read "New Order". Sadly no sign of the "Dad and Lad Together" banner from the Wakefield game, though. Classic, that one.

North Ferriby start at a heck of a pace, nearly scoring in the fourth minute and having a goal disallowed shortly afterwards. FC have plenty of chances too. The match disintegrates as half-time nears and, to be honest, becomes a pretty scrappy encounter. FC dominates in the second-half and scores what turns out to be the winner when a cross from the left is bundled in at the near-post. A messy goal that reflects the match. North Ferriby's cup campaign goes up in smoke rather like the bonfires on the allotments behind the goal they defend as swallows swoop and a plane lazily burs by.

At the final whistle the FC fans and players roundly applaud each other in a corner of the pitch. In itself this is hardly a momentous victory but – and despite FC’s poor league form – you do get the feeling that they are marching inexorably towards the first round proper for the first time in their short history.

Toby and I returned to the car via the Humber footpath, the evening sun at its most golden. Three lads were having a barbecue on the shore and pointed out a seal.

Common grounds: Stuart Pearson, Man United star of the 70s, opened the main stand at North Ferriby in 1985. He originally played for Hull who use the ground for reserve matches. Phil Brown lives in the village. He can keep an eye on the new lads and have a pint at his local all in the same evening.

Programme notes: This (right) is Nick Swirad of FCUM. Now if his nickname isn't Babyface it should be. The lad’s practically embryonic.

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