It is not easy being in love with the FA Cup. Such a relationship brings delights and dreams. West Ham and Arsenal beaten at Swindon, Manchester United routed at Bristol Rovers top mine. Then there are the matches that may not be won, but are so good they leave warm wonderful memories. FGR versus Swindon and Derby come into that category. They were so much more than mere defeats.
Love however brings the pain and punishment that of course this wonderful football competition can so easily cause. We will all have our own examples. Arlesey is top of mine.
How does the Dartford game figure on the delight to despair graph? Closer to despair I am afraid. At 3.15pm on Saturday hopes were high. A wonderful James Norwood goal had put Rovers ahead. The team were playing well and controlling the game – nothing could go wrong could it?
But of course when you are in love judgement goes out of the window. Assisting Bob Hunt with commentary, I wondered on air about who we may draw in the next round. I should have realised one goal is never enough. Perhaps the team should have thought the same as well, because like me, they may have been taking too much for granted.
We have seen this season that on many occasions they put their foot on the opposition’s throat, but how often do they put the boot in? How often do they use the bayonet and finish the job? Not enough I am afraid. "I am confident of their ability to play but not of their ability to win," no that is not Dave Hockaday, but John Bracewell talking about Gloucestershire cricketers. It could be Dave however, "My team must learn to play as if they are all 26. Too often they play as if they are 21 years old." Another cricket quote that surely has a New Lawn relevance. I have heard both men say, and say so ruefully. "However good your players are you cannot legislate for individual mistakes."
This was certainly the case on Saturday. One player, efficient all season, gifted Dartford a goal they never looked like scoring. Good luck and determination saved them from defeat. I am sure neither side wanted a replay, but by the time you have read this one will have taken place – with an attractive tie for the winners. I hope FGR have practiced penalties.
What went wrong on Saturday? Why is the Port Vale tie not a certainty? The truth is the match was typical of the season as a whole. Good football played possession not a problem but not enough goals, and of course that is always the biggest problem of all. We always blame the strikers in such circumstances. Not this time however. Midfield was limp and passes forward often went awry. The all important goal was given away by a defender and poor marking gave Dartford an easy chance at the end. Happily they missed.
Al Bangura was on the bench and must be near full-fitness. His incisive play will be needed in Kent, as will Recce Styche. His ability and determination, when unleashed for the last half hour must ensure he is on from the start in the immediate future. A word of praise for James Norwood, his goal was worthy of winning the game. He could have scored two more. After a brilliant run and dribble he shot wide and only a fine save prevented him scoring with a header. This is an aspect of his game that has improved considerably. Often he heads on Sam Russell clearances and this has given his game an extra dimension, as his new sideboards have to his ever changing hairstyle. A real match winner is James and I am sure we will see him in that role many times this season.
I know the sensible way forward is one match at a time, but I must look forward to the Luton game. The New Lawn is a well ordered, well organised ground and I find the police decision to make it all-ticket suprising. The club are doing their best to make it easy for supporters to get tickets, but this is a situation that should not have arisen, just like Tuesday’s replay.
My day did not improve on getting home on Saturday, Mrs Light had been working hard so I took her out for a drink "make sure you record strictly" she said firmly. Yes – being in love is really tough. What trials one has to endure.