FA Cup, Extra Preliminary Round (replay)
Epsom & Ewell FC v Whyteleafe FC
Wednesday, 21st August 2013, 7.30pm
High Road (Chipstead FC)
Entrance £6, Programme £2
Distance 49 miles driven, Attendance 93
Much as I hate modern man and woman’s (that’s equality in action) unnecessary dependency on satnavs after last night, quite frankly I abhor the M25 almost as much, if not more.
The basic principal is fine; big motorway encircling London, joining all the main arteries in and out of the capital, so as to avoid any bottle necks where the middle classes do lunch. The overriding drawback is of course mankind’s total inability to treat said motorway with any kind of common sense.
The authorities dig it up and/or enforce superfluous variable speed limits, and sidestepping any Darwinian attributes, the public seem incapable of both staying to the left and/or avoiding other road users. As in our fascination of all things satnavvy, we’ve become devoid of any independent thought. Reaching its zenith last night, my plans were brought to a standstill, quite literally.
The preparation had been done, bag and camera checked, the kids dropped at the in-laws in good time and, a whole three hours before kick-off, I’d pulled away for a ninety minute drive to Essex. That programme I can’t be arsed to watch would have us believe it’s “the only way”; clearly the M25 hasn’t seen it either. Two junctions in, the alternatives were racing through my frantic mind. Could I still make the trip? Would I make kick-off? What other games were on? What grounds hadn’t I visited? Pulling on to the M4 towards London is a rash move at any time but these were desperate times… scouring Non League Paper, I both found a plan B and made my mind up to abort plan A. Weaving through the terminal traffic of Heathrow and the backwaters of Feltham, I was heading towards deepest Surrey. With no time to admire passing floodlights, there was a 7.30pm in Chipstead and I just had to make it.
Leaping from the car into the affluence of said deepest Surrey, I heard the call, “CAPTAINS PLEASE!” I’d made it, just in time (to the car park at least). Staring through a green mesh fence, the coin was tossed and kick-off, kicked. Soon I was darting between parked cars, past the enticing bar and through the friendly turnstiles. Programme and golden goal ticket bought, I photographed the whiteboard team sheet then utterly starving, I set my sights on the tea bar. Clearly also in need of food, an E’s shot went high and over before, The Leafe’s Gareth Williams tame attempt only found the keeper.
With fans at very close quarters around the ground, once again every word was audible; the three-all draw on Saturday had clearly bought great optimism to one and all. “Come on lino, you know it was” implored a voice behind me as I discussed the variety of condiments. Glancing back at the pitch, Jason Thompson’s low drive was parried by E’s keeper Keiron Campbell and, Taylor Smith fired home the rebound before defence could react. A cheer went up to my left: “here’s your bacon roll” came from behind.
Still masticating the fine pig product, wide on the right, Smith collected the ball and lofted over a cross before turning to celebrate. Whether mishit or intentional, from a tight angle, the ball somehow floated over the stranded Campbell and in the far post. Ten minutes later his hat-trick was complete. Tommy Smith (no relation to the other footballing Tommy Smiths) worked brilliantly down the right and swept over a pinpoint cross which Smith (no relation to any of those named before though his dad was present and rightfully proud) knocked in at the far post.
Having previously, clearly forgotten what had helped them to big score draw at the weekend, it was at this point The Es woke up. The next fifteen minutes saw a totally different ball game take shape. From both sides suddenly the marking was tight, passes on target, shots saved and when the whistle went, all twenty-two stood united outside the changing rooms.
As I got to the bar door, the players were still outside, waiting for the changing room to be unlocked. Inside, catching up with a couple of fine footballing gentlemen, the topic soon turned to cup memorabilia, the next round, Socrates and, the joy of scooters. The generous mood swept all else aside and before another photo could be taken with THE Cup, the players were back out and a penalty awarded to Epsom and Ewell.
Tidily put away, I’d like to say who scored but the clamour at the bar windows (thanks to FA rules about not drinking pitch side during Cup matches) meant our vision was somewhat obstructed. Finishing up we headed out; me, Al Gordon, The Cup Maker and other besuited Leafes. Under the influence of a finely balanced game and The Chips’ chips, conversation soon turned to length of chips, rules for kit-matching boots, scooter helmets, E17 wearing number 6, the missing cup bearer, Palace’s chances in the self-elevated league, the appeal of the cup and, what would happen if The Cup Final was actually, Epsom & Ewell v Whyteleafe.
Still daydreaming of the latter happening in my lifetime, out on the pitch more penalty appeals were waved away, yellow cards just waved and, Thompson fired home at the second attempt before, Josh Read got Whyteleafe’s fifth with a fine strike.
With no discernible conclusion, the ‘last time The Leafe scored five’ moved to top topic when all of a sudden a sixth, and best of the game, was rifled home. The build up play was good but as Roscoe O’Sane let rip from the corner of the box, we were right behind him and perfectly placed to see it hit the top corner.
In the end the margin of defeat was totally unfair on Epsom & Ewell; “Foiled by the Leafe” indeed but given my earlier evening, I couldn’t have been happier. Leaving I was cheered even further, overhearing two snippets that only our wonderful Non League could dish up. First a winning player leaving the pitch was reminded (in amusing deadpan manner) that dissent carried a £10 fine and, then in the car park I found out that one Es defender had “foolishly” missed this cup game to take in a league match at little Stamford Bridge.