Saturday, 7 March 2015

Wembley ways: cup-ties at North Ferriby and Bradford City

How important is getting to Wembley these days? Ahead of a Vase quarter-final last week Paul Marshall, manager of my local lads, Tadcaster Albion, was asked whether he’d prefer to win the Vase or promotion. Promotion, he replied. I’d have thought that leading your side out at Wembley would top anything especially for a club at step five of the pyramid.

“One of the biggest matches in our history,” is how the North Ferriby website billed their Trophy semi-final second leg against Bath last week for which the prize was also a final at the national stadium. OK: they’ve been to Wembley before (in the ’97 Vase final) but perhaps the Conference North play-off final last season was a bigger deal. Triumphant Ferriby’s opponents in the Trophy final will be Wrexham who will be making their third trip to Wembley in just a year. You could hardly blame their fans for letting this one pass them by. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, literally. Nowadays it’s more a matter of who hasn’t played there (any League sides?) rather than who has ...

The Ferriby match ended 1-1 after extra time and 3-3 on aggregate, the hosts winning 4-2 on penalties. The attendance was a 1,871. A gripping cup-tie at one of my favourite non-league venues but I haven’t blogged in full about it as I’ve written about a visit to Ferriby before. Here are three pics, though.

This weekend’s FA Cup quarter-finals also, of course, lead to Wembley and present victorious fans with the poser about whether to go to the semi-final or keep their fingers crossed (and wallet closed) and hope for a visit to the final. A competition with three finals: what a nonesense.

For the first time this year it was warm enough today not to need scarves but my son and I still donned them (and had them flapping from the car windows) in the colours of my home-town team, Reading, for their quarter-final against Bradford. There was a 24,000 full house at Valley Parade, a complete contrast to my previous visit in the Northern Counties East League Cup final last May. I like the ground. It’s not without its quirks such as a higgledy-piggledy corner featuring traffic lights on the legs of the floodlights above the tunnel. Equally singular are the club songs blasted out in the build-up to kick-off: Take me Home Country Roads and Depeche Mode’s Just can’t get Enough. Bradford has a genuine, old fashioned community feel to it. Even the ticket office manager and company accountant are asked for the their FA memories in the (superb smelling) programme.

Reading have hardly blazed a trail to the quarter-finals. I saw them at the start of the run at Huddersfield. Least said about that snooze fest the better. They were then drawn away to similarly distant, unglamorous second division opponents in Cardiff and Derby and, thus, have sneaked almost unnoticed into the latter stages, a stowaway on the great ship FA Cup. With promotion hopes and relegation fears banished Reading have never had a better opportunity to focus on and reach the semi-finals for the first time since 1927 especially given that today’s opponents were a division below. The Bantams’ run couldn’t have contrasted more including those defeats of Chelsea and Sunderland.

Pity the game didn’t live up to the pre-match buzz. The contest was as unsatisfactory as any goalless cup-tie is bound to be and very scrappy with it. There was only one shot on target throughout and pass completion was just 50%, reported Match of the Day. And what about Taddy Albion? They lost today’s Vase quarter final replay 0-1 to Highworth Town (from Swindon). It all ended in tears with a scuffle between players and spectators after the final whistle. Oh, well. Losers in the Vase, Trophy and Cup are probably happy to concentrate on the league. Wembley? Pah!

Faces in the crowd: My son and I were featured momentarily in the TV coverage (top right of still, below) as spotted by my brother watching at home in the US. I later texted him to ask him about an injury that had stopped the game for ages right at the end. “Bloody nose,” he responded. Tele-technology still amazes me ...

1 comment:

John said...

The US pundits liked the Country Road's connection: "I love this rendition of Country Roads, way better than John Denver!"