Saturday, 10 November 2007

Altrincham 1 Millwall 2

FA Cup, first round proper
Attendance: 2,457

The first round took me back to where it all began. My fascination with non-league football, that is. I was at university in Manchester in the early eighties and, while the other students were heading off for Old Trafford or Maine Road, I was was pedalling off in the opposite direction to Moss Lane. Always was a bit of an odd kid.

Reassuringly, the ground is pretty much the same as I left it other than one new small stand, a giant mobile phone mast and a new turnstile block that was built by the Alty left-half only last week. The most notable addition to the groundscape was the TV cameras. A gantry was hung from the roof of the main stand with a ladder leading up to it and a lone cameraman stood on a scaffold tower behind the Millwall end. What crap away fans, incidentally. Hardly any of them and very unvocal. "Where's ya famous Bushwackers?" indeed.

Millwall started brightly but Alty took the lead against the run of play on the stroke of half-time with a Goal of the Month-contending volley from Senior (cue "Senior Service" headlines) which fully merited the Romario baby-rocking celebration. Was Alty about to add to its record-breaking tally of 16 League scalps?

Sadly, no. Millwall equalised from a penalty when an Alty defender accidentally handled on the line trying to keep a shot out and was sent off. It was the turning point of the tie and, even more significantly, the point when I made my long-awaited debut on MOTD. I was the man lurking behind the goal to the right of the red card as the ref held it up. When I saw the clip I was beside myself with excitement. It almost beats appearing on Top of the Pops next to Kid Jensen as he introduced Billy Ocean c. 1980.

The Millwall winger with bandy legs and red boots (Simpson, an Arsenal loanee) was causing havoc with his in-cutting runs. The Lions were threatening to eat up and spit out the Robins and they soon got a second goal from Hoskins, a good East End name. At the end the Alty goalkeeper went up for two late corners. "Go on, Stu!" we all urged as he checked the clock with the bench.

The final whistle blew. "Oh, well. We won the first half," said the bloke next to me, as we turned and headed towards the smell of Barney's fish and chips. Not quite the same though, is it?

How not to report the Cup: Refer to Harrogate Railway as "Harrogate Motors" as Talk Sport did.

How to report the Cup: "Sixteen of Non League's finest fought their way into the second round draw to keep our flags flying high - and the League's big boys sweating" - from the front page lead of the Non League Paper. That's more like it.