FA Cup blog: Back on the road . . . back home in Essex
PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 September 2019
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The first qualifying round of this year's FA Cup means a return to my home county of Essex to watch Hornchurch play against Kempston Rovers today.
Having started my personal 'Road to Wembley' in Cornwall, watching Clevedon Town beat Saltash United 2-1 in an extra preliminary round tie on August 10, I was forced to miss the next stage, in a sense of not being physically present at a match.
The many preliminary round ties involving 'our' clubs taking place on August 24 clashed with an extreme, and previously unforseen, staff shortage, which meant my FA Cup experience on that particular weekend was limited to trying to monitor countless fixtures via my laptop.
It began with writing a near 500-word report on a Friday night fixture between Barking and Aveley, which ended in a 2-1 win for the Blues - my dad's old club - despite them having to forfeit home advantage and play at the Millers' Parkside Stadium.
And Saturday then saw 550 words penned on Romford's 2-0 win at Harwich & Parkeston, bagging Boro a valuable £2,890 in prize money, nearly 300 words to recap Barkingside's 4-2 loss at Bowers & Pitsea and Tower Hamlets 6-1 home loss to Horsham, and another 300 words on Wingate & Finchley's 2-0 home win over Welwyn Garden City.
There was also the small matter of retrieving details and writing up 260 words on Saffron Walden Town's 2-1 loss to Maldon & Tiptree, a further 200 words on Soham Town Rangers beating Biggleswade United 2-0 and another 200 words to briefly tell how Arlesey Town had beaten Peterborough Northern Star 2-0 and how Stotfold had lost by the same margin to Canvey Island, as former Hornchurch duo George Purcell and Tobi Joseph hit the target.
Oh, and I even managed almost 200 words on March Town's 2-1 win over Wellingborough Town - who I was delighted to learn are nicknamed 'The Doughboys'.
All in all then, approximately 2,500 words all told to capture the magic and romance of the world's greatest club competition, flowed from my keyboard to the information super highway that is the world wide web over that weekend. All in the time I probably would have spent travelling to a ground, watching 90 minutes in person and then writing about that one match.
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Thankfully, Josh Thomas did make a personal appearance for the North Somerset Times as Clevedon Town were beaten 5-2 by Bristol Manor Farm, while Dan Mason saw Wisbech Town (of Wisbech Standard patch) and Ely City (Ely Standard) battle to a 2-2 draw.
And Neil Metcalfe was in Suffolk to witness Colney Heath (Herts Advertiser) beat Long Melford 2-0 at Stoneylands - a ground I once took a quick look at on a summer's day while out for lunch in that part of the world.
But back to this coming weekend and the next step, which includes 19 ties with relevance to our many on-patch teams across London, Herts, Cambs and the South West.
The draw threw up some interesting options:
Barton Rovers v Romford, because I once went to cover a Ford United (?) match there when former Arsenal winger Ian Allinson was Barton's boss.
Little Common v Hendon, because the home team sounds like a lovely little village.
Royston Town v Rothwell Corinthians, because the visiting team sound like they mighr have played in the FA Cup in the 19th century (they didn't, as they were only founded in 1934).
But I chose Hornchurch v Kempston Rovers.
Partly because I'd promised to attend if the Urchins did get a home draw when paying a very quick visit to the club to collect a team jersey as a gift to our former reporter George Sessions, but also because I had accepted an invitation to the Upminster v Essex XI benefit match, taking place just up the road, on Sunday.
So, I'll be setting off after breakfast on a 167-mile journey to Bridge Avenue, a ground I've visited countless times over the years on behalf of the Romford Recorder, hoping to see in-form Hornchurch bank the £4,500 prize money and a place in the next round, before checking to see how the other 18 ties involving our clubs turned out, so I can plan where I might go on September 21 for second qualifying round action.