Here Comes The Summer

Middlesex Senior Open Cup Final – Brentham FC v FC Romania
Saturday, 12th May 2012, 3pm
Honeycroft Stadium (Uxbridge FC)
Distance 14 miles, Attendance 156
“You’re lucky to be on there. It’s all going on Monday.” declared the groundsman as I stepped off the hallowed turf an hour before kickoff. Up and down the country clubs are putting into action their pre-season ground improvement projects; for Uxbridge this means a new pitch.

   

Wandering round football grounds has been a guilty pleasure for as long as I can remember, so turning up early at Honeycroft the temptation was just too great to resist. I circumnavigated the terraces and stands (anticlockwise), unlocked the gate, stepped onto the tidy yet gently undulating playing surface. Looking back at the main stand FC Romania supporters were hanging advertising whilst suited match officials inspected the pitch and discussed tactics.

Uxbridge FC in ’76

Back at the bar, lined with wonderful memorabilia, convivial staff busied themselves in preparations of the day ahead; groundhoppers gazed up at the TV showing Huddersfield beating Winkelman’s Thingamajigs (one to warm the cockles), and outside gathered more Romanians than I’d seen anywhere since a stopover at Bucharest airport. They’d bought scarves and flags and horns, and were clearly intent on enjoying their Cup Final.

Out on the lush turf pre-kickoff huddles were replaced by formal team poses, the kind I’d stared in awe at as a child on Panini stickers. Romanian supporters, clearly in the majority, cheered every name as the announcer ran through the teams. Behind Yasser and I, jovial county officials predicted a win for the “much stronger” Eastern Europeans, but as the game kicked off it was clear Brentham were determined to prove them wrong. Their first chance, the first of the game, fell on ten minutes, but Martin Mee fired high over the bar. Moments later a Romanian freekick did likewise. Whilst the forwards were missing their lines, the goal keepers were the main talking point. The Brentham custodian, Fraser Coxhill, in yellow two-tone shirt, was resolute and agile throughout, making some superb saves to thwart Romanian attacks, both on the break and at set pieces. What Romania’s number 1, Teodor Ursachi, lacked in agility and kicking power, he gained in height. He was quite literary a colossal obstacle but Brentham were still determinedly pushing to find a gap. A quarter of an hour in, their endeavours were rewarded. After Anghi Laszlo missed a clearance, Robert Aitken who’d came narrowly close to heading home moments earlier, rushed down the right wing, squared perfectly and Luke Budden hammered the ball home. Within minutes the score was level again, as Romania’s Sergiu Pitaru breaking at speed slotted the ball coolly past Coxhill. Again Brentham pushed forward but too often Ursachi effortlessly just picked the ball out of the air. “You’ve got to keep the ball away from him.” came a call from behind before acknowledging this was somewhat harder than it should be.

The half was a great end-to-end encounter with both teams having chances, but only Romania were to find the net again before the break. whilst I wondered where his defence was, Coxhill brilliantly parried both the first and the second close range shots, but Ovidin Copcioae followed up leaving him helpless to prevent it going in. Straight up the other end Jack Townson blazed over. “HEAD OVER THE BALL!!!” screamed my mind, as his team mates berated their luck. Then the ref waved play on as Pitaru broke down the left, he crossed and Alin Sirbu acrobatically went for the overhead… but this sailed over too. The last chance of the half came after Mee won the ball in midfield, and fed Elliot Turton-Cumberland. You’d have thought he had no hope from such an acute angle, but the cross-cum-shot drifted over Ursachi and bounced down on the bar and back into play. Leaving the pitch the ref was accosted by a man excitedly waving a phone “You’ve had an emergency call” he called “…they want you to call back” (to some hilarity to bystanders). “It can wait ‘til after the game.” responded Mr D. Fenner calmly after a pause. I thought back… yes, I’m glad it’s not just me that has those “what do you want for dinner?” calls during important fixtures.

Having, over a cup of tea, put the world to right (FA Cup first half comparison, and the MKD dilemma) Yasser and I wound our way back to the pitch, to find Romania already on the attack and the ref blowing for a freekick right in front of us. It was hit low and hard at teammates in the box, the first dummied, the second in front of goal miss-queued his shot and the danger was averted. “Did you time the restart?” asked the affable Max Lea* “No we were having a cup of tea.” I replied wondering where this was going. “Disgusting!” he howled with a wink in his eye, then wandered back to the other Middlesex FA officials muttering about not being able to get the staff these days. Turning back to the action Ursachi was forced to save well from another Brentham attack. There wasn’t the same high level of play this half, it was clear players were beginning to tire, but it was still and fine game with some choice action. Midway through the half, Sirbu, evoking memories of France ’98 with his bleached head, deftly flick the ball with the back of his boot and sprinted away from his marker. Coxhill who’d been faultless thus far made himself as big as possible, but when the Romanian slotted the ball out of his reach into the corner he had no chance. Again the ex-pats wheeled away in celebration. Again their fans, horns blaring, danced for joy in the stand across the pitch. On the Brentham** team heads dropped. It was all over. They’d strived valiantly but the screw was being turned to far now. The substitutions began including the appearance of player-manager Jamie Cuttica (a Brian Glover moment maybe?). One of the first on was Dumitru Talpau who shot narrowly wide with the outside of his boot. Tackling increased and names started to find their way into the book. Whilst the MFA gang behind chuckled their way through the game, the girls standing to our left debated whether it was apt to applaud the awarding of cards. Some of the cards might’ve been red in the media-bullied premier league but it wasn’t that kind of game. These were just tired legs in an important fixture.
After one restart Gregory Sykes fired over, and then Talpau running in from the wing narrowly missed the apex. Pitaru also could’ve done better but opted to shoot, and hit the far post, when passing would’ve given Romania a clearer target. Then came a Romanian penalty appeal (given behind us but not so on the pitch). By now the Trophy table was being arranged, though this would later cause Goon Show-esque scene as it was later carried onto the pitch. There was a fine cup, and in front rows of blue and red boxed medals for the players and referees. After some debate it was decided the final to boxes would be awarded to the best ball boys (you really had to be there). As the game drew to a close, Brentham nobly tried to get back into the game. Aitken missed the target, as did Sykes, and Mee who’d had a great game throughout continued to shine in midfield. We just had time for a wonderfully good natured multi-ball moment before the whistle went. Following the trophy table, once again, I found my way out on to the pitch camera in hand, where professionals like Stuart were already hard at work.

   

It had been a glorious afternoon where fans and officials from all corners relaxed in bright sunshine, and players contested a fine “international” final. Both teams were equally committed but one ultimately was stronger. I glad I chose this game. Being there, as Max said “was better than sitting at home”. It really, was far better. After all the poor weather recently it felt magnificent to be basking in the sun at football again.
In the distance, tragically, the lady of stout stature is now limbering up and the curtain about to fall… Pitches will be relaid, stands rebuilt and paintwork touched up. Boots will be cleaned and put away, club blazers & ties hung up, and fans minds will wander aimlessly through the summer months longingly waiting for the new fixtures to be announced. For all of us it’s now time to find temporary diversion… it’s time to come out, time to discover what fun is about. Here comes the summer.

*Max Lea was awarded an MBE for services to youth work **Brentham FC had a bye to the final due to player irregularities at Interwood FC
This entry was posted in 2011-2012, Middlesex County League and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Here Comes The Summer

  1. Jamie Cuttica says:

    An enjoyable read. Our lads put on a good show but as you correctly noted, FC Romania were just too strong for us. As for my ‘Brian Glover moment’, the less said, the better.
    Jamie Cuttica

  2. Jonathan Byrne says:

    A great read!! Good to see someone still supports grass roots football and takes the time to put pen to paper. Thumbs up on getting all the names correct, but you forgot to the 43 year old Brentham No. 8 (Johnny Byrne – Brentham FC Captain). It may have been my “last chance saloon” but it was a great day to remember. We had our chances but just came up a little short !!

  3. doggers says:

    Great report. Sums up the day perfectly. Brentham supporter

  4. Pingback: On Location – MCFL Senior Open Cup Final

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