Saturday, 20 August 2016

Wembley 1 v Harefield United 1 - FA Cup Preliminary Round

A POSSE AD ESSE, which translates, as near as damn it, into: FROM POSSIBILITY TO REALITY; is the club motto of  Wembley FC, AKA the Lions, who were formed in 1946, as the result of a post-war amalgamation between Sudbury Rangers and Sudbury Ratepayers, two local junior clubs, who felt that the borough that housed the national stadium should have a football team of it's own.
Back in those days, Wembley was still a borough in it's own right and the lion that made its way onto the club's badge, featured on the municipal coat of arms.
As the 50th anniversary of England's only ever international tournament trophy win is taking place this year, I really also ought to mention, that during the 1966 World Cup, Sir Alf Ramsey used Wembley FC's home ground as a base for England's training sessions.
In 1980-81, the Lions reached the first round proper of the FA Cup (a competition that will always maintain a certain amount of prestige and magic in my eyes, until the greedy clubs join in after the New Year), for the first and only time in their entire history; yet the mere mention of the name of the club in the same sentence as the most famous cup competition in the known universe, is alluring enough to attract hordes of sad anoraks, non-league obsessives, football travelers, ground hoppers, hopeless football romantics and people like me, AKA those few who are beyond all help and far more absorbed in football than any of the aforementioned outsiders from the human race (I am well aware of what I have become and I'm unselfconsciously comfortable with it), from all four corners of planet football, to the 2,450 capacity 'Vale Farm' ground.
Well, there were slightly more than seventy of us there today, if the quick headcount I did is anything to go by, but bear in mind that Jesus only had twelve disciples and look how popular he became.
Either way, today was something of a pilgrimage for me.
Some of you will understand that rationale, but those of you who don't, are probably reading this blog by accident and you really need to fu... go away elsewhere and read about the Olympics, or Curling, or Rugby Union, or some other minor and unimportant sporting event.
Today was one for the holy order of seekers of the ultimate football holy grail and if you need that explaining, then it actually says more about you than me.
Mansfield Town 1987 inc. Keith Cassells (second left).
The self indulgent bit:
Prior to moving into the Football League with Watford (and several other clubs), before he reached the zenith of his career at Mansfield town, for who he scored 52 goals in 165 appearances between 1985-1989, the Stags legend Keith Cassells started out at Wembley FC.
He was a part of Ian Greaves team, that won the Freight Rover Trophy in 1987, on penalties, against Bristol City, at that slightly bigger ground just up the road from 'Vale Farm'... and he scored in the final too!
I felt that you needed to know that and you can thank me later for enriching your knowledge of this really important achievement.
For the record, Richard Caddette was also at Wembley during the formative stages of his career.
He wasn't ever good enough to play for Mansfield Town, but Sheffield United once paid a transfer tribunal decided fee of £90,000 for him, which equated to approximately £12,870 per goal that he scored for them, during his one and only season at Bramall Lane (1987-88).
Who wears short, shorts!?
Richard Caddette (right) alongside Tony Agana
"You'll do yourself a favour, when you shop at Arnold Laver"
Harefield United, in common with their hosts today, ply their trade in the Spartan South Midlands League.
The club have reached the second qualifying round of the FA Cup on no less than five occasions between 1980-81 and 2009-10.
The visitors can trace the timeline of their origins back as far as 1868 and have had several different names along the way, including  Harefield Victoria and Breakspear Institute, before settling for Harefield United when they merged with Harefield FC in 1934.
The Hares are justifiably proud of their claim to being the oldest football club in Middlesex... and why not!?
Purveyor of culinary delights at 'Vale Farm'
The Spartan South Midland League was formed in 1997 when the London Spartan League and South Midlands League merged.
Last season Wembley finished mid table in the Premier Division while Harefield United were relegated to the First Division, along with Bedford FC, with Wembley winning both league encounters between the two clubs, 3-0 at 'Vale Farm' in April and 2-1 at the Hares 'Preston Park' ground, at the turn of the new year.
Also in April, Wembley's 42 year old player manager, who joined the club in 1993, chalked up his 1,000th first team appearance for the club, a phenomenal achievement by anyone's standards. And when he's not creating records, direction operations from the touchline and pointing with amazed awe and admiration at his assistant Owen Clayton's genitals... he's also the club's groundsman.
In the Extra-Prelimnary Round, Harefield United beat Northampton ON Chenecks 9-8 on penalties, after their initial game at 'Preston Park' had finished 1-1, as did the replay at the 'Old Northamptonians', Billing Road Sports Ground.
Wembley had a more straight forward passage over their first hurdle, when they saw off Daventry Town 4-0 at 'Vale Farm'.
Prior to today, both clubs are unbeaten so far this season, but that will change when a replay at 'Preston Park' on Tuesday night, will decide who progresses through to the next round, after both sides played out a goalless 85 minutes before netting a late goal apiece, with Calvin Kasiyre putting Wembley in front after 85 minutes and Perry Price grabbing an equaliser as the game approached stoppage time.
The Geography:
There are other ways of reaching 'Vale Farm', but the easiest one I found, is by using London Underground's Piccadilly Line sevice (westbound) to either Rayners Lane or Uxbridge and alighting at Sudbury Town. Leave the station via the main entrance (above) and walk straight to the bottom of the road and turn left, following the copious number of signs that appear along the route of what is only a short walk, which only took an unfit and bone idle old codger like me around 7 minutes, up a very slight incline, which of course becomes a pleasant downhill stroll on the way back.
A cautionary word. 89% of westbound underground trains on the Piccadilly Line go to Heathrow, so make sure you're on the right service.
Halfway along the route you pass Sudbury & Harrow overground station. North Wembley station on the Bakerloo line is slightly further away as you approach the ground from the opposite direction, but the number 245 bus service that encompasses the route between the two underground outposts, passes 'Vale Farm' and there is a bus stop on Watford Road about 30 yards away from the sign depicted below, it is only the second stop from Sudbury Town, so I don't know why anybody wouldn't walk instead, but each to their own.
If you choose to drive, there is ample free parking around the ground and in the nearby side streets or a pay and display car park (£1.50 all day) approximately half a mile away from the ground.
Saturday 20th August 2016
The Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round
at Vale Farm, Watford Road
Wembley FC (0) 1
Calvin Casirye 85
Harefield United (0) 1
Perry Price 88
Admission £6. Programme £1.
For more 'Vale Farm' images and match action click HERE
There are 158 FA Cup Preliminary ties being played this weekend, my personal Saturday game of choice, was this Middlesex derby match, played at 'Vale Farm, a ground that has shelter on three sides, a very tidy stand along the length of the far touchline from the entrance and clubhouse and an array of smaller structures and several different examples of seating arrangements dotted around at various locations.
For those of you who don't like 'new builds' or big (and expensive) all seater stadiums, this one is well worth a visit if you're ever in the area. Or if you just happen to be in the vicinity, because you're treating the family to a trip to London that includes shopping, a show and tourist attractions tickets, while you nip off for a couple of hours because "Madam Tussaud's isn't really my kind of thing, but enjoy yourselves and I'll find something else to do for a bit". A mutually agreeable compromise and everyone's happy.
Who says I never make compromises for my nearest and dearest when family and football time overlap!?
Left click to enlarge image
Wembley had more than enough chances to finish this game off at the first attempt without the need of a replay on Tuesday night; but Harefield, driven on by an impressive range of long passing and free kicks from Adam Willis, definitely hadn't approached this game in a manner that suggested they were in no mood to sit back and slip into the 'plucky underdog' role against their Premier Division opponents.
Christian Barrett looked strong in the middle of United's defence while the Wembley left back, Charlie Weir, was getting forward down his flank in support of the Lions attackers and causing the Hares a few problems.
Sadly both of these players had to leave the field of play during the opening half a hour when they picked up injuries in separate incidents.
This was a competitive, yet never dirty game, well officiated by referee Matt Ball and his assistants. Alas, it was, ironically, the competitiveness of the two injured parties that proved to be their downfall today.
Calvin Kasirye, the home side's tricky wide player was tripped as he advanced towards the Hares goal area.
Jabir Laraba played the resulting free kick out wide to Carl Pearce on the right, but Toby Webb couldn't quite direct the right back's cross towards United's goal and the ball went out of play.
Joe Wright attempted to play the ball into the visitors goalmouth, but it hit Barrett on the top of the arm and though there was very little the Harefield captain could've done to get out of the way, a free kick was awarded just outside the penalty area.
Zaied Sabti beat Jacob Ballheimer with the resulting kick, but his effort dropped narrowly over the crossbar.
Willis picked up the pace for the visitors and when his run forward was checked by Kasirye, the referee blew up for a foul. Willis took the free kick himself, but with Josh Collis and George O'Malley homing in on goal Craig McCreech took control of the situation and punched the ball away.
Weir picked out Adam Humphries from a throw in level with the edge of the Harefield area and the Lions number 6 rode two challenges before his angled shot was saved by Ballheimer.
Sabti received the ball wide right, shimmied past two defenders and crossed into the Hares six yard box, but Barrett was on hand to clear the ball away and United counter attacked, but when Darrel Harris had the time and space to have a crack at McCreeth's goal, he sliced the ball wide of the mark.
Another long clearance from Barrett found Collis twenty yards out from Wembley's goal and with the wind whipping across the pitch, he took advantage with an audacious dipping lob, that cannoned off the crossbar.
Unfortunately Barrett appeared to tweak his hamstring when he launched the ball towards Collis and after giving it a few more minutes he had to be substituted.
Paul Underwood carried the ball forward through the right channel but Wayne Walters blocked his cross/shot at the expense of a corner.
Weir made two interceptions as Harefield upped the ante, but he took a knock getting a tackle in near the halfway line a few minutes later and had to limp out of the game.
The Lions had a great chance to break the deadlock, but when Laraba played Joe Wright in with a well aimed cross, Rob Ratcliffe put in a timely interception and the visitors cleared their lines.
But Laraba was soon back, when Sabti knocked trhe ball into his path but Sean Managan did enough to make things difficult for the live-wire attacker and Ballheimer saved with his feet.
The wind was picking up now and making things difficult as it got to grips with the ball.
Willis, Collis and O'Malley were trying to take advantage of the space vacated by Weir, but Webb who had moved back from midfield to slot into the left back berth, was doing a great job of covering that position.
Kasirye displayed some trickery as he slipped the ball through to Wright, but Hatfield's defence closed ranks and the ball was cleared out of the area, but only as far as Pearce, who tested Ballheimer with an angled shot from twenty yards that the Hares keeper did well to hold onto.
Gustavo Mota conceded a free kick when he caught O'Malley with a late challenge.
Willis, with yet another delivery into the Lions goalmouth picked out O'Malley at the back stick, whose first shot was parried by McCreeth while his second off the rebounded thumped against the upright.
The axis of the game swung the other way and Laraba released Pearce, but Ballheimer got down to keep his effort out.
The home side came close again, when Wright headed wide from Sabti's cross.
Harefield broke away again and Underwood was only denied by Webb's outstretched leg.
On the stroke of half time Ballheimer saved at Laraba's feet after Webb's long pass down the left had picked out his run.
HT: Lions 0 v Hares 0
Wembley bared their teeth straight from the restart, putting Harefield on the back foot, but the visitors defence was showing a lot of resilience.
The Hares also pushed forward, with Willis in the thick of things again. He delivered the flag kick that O'Malley had won to the near post, but the ball was cleared back towards him, so he dropped his second attempt onto the head of O'Malley who diverted the ball wide of the post with a glancing header.
But in the main it was the home side who were getting forward more as the second half ticked along.
Webb was getting forward and at the Harefield defence down the left, Wright crashed a shot narrowly over and Laraba's goal bound effort deflected off of a defender.
Wembley had a bit of a scare when Willis' cross caught up in the wind and evaded McCreeth, but dropped wide of the right hand post. If that one had gone in, 'the wind' won have got you some bonus points if you'd got it in your 'dream team'.
Joe Wright tangled with Managan on the edge of the visitors penalty area, but Mr Ball saw it as a six and two thirds honest collision and the LIons had to settle for a corner instead of a penalty kick.
Sabti swung a viscous kick into the goalmouth, but sadly for Wembley, when Walters connected with the ball, it was with the back of his head and he deflected the ball away from the goal and straight to a grateful Harefield player.
Darrel Harris tried his luck, when he dispossessed Brown and attempted a shot into the wind across McCreeth's goal from out on the left, but it was blowing so strongly now that the ball held up and fell wide of the near post.
Credit where it's due, both teams were battling against the difficult elements, but still providing the crowd with a half decent game.
Wembley's centre forward Wright almost opened the scoring, but his header from Webb's cross skimmed over the bar. And shortly afterwards Willis tested McCreeth with an inswinging free kick that took a turn in the stiff wind, but the Wembley keeper stretched backwards to hold the ball.
Wright once again, was the width of a Durex fetherlite ultra thin (for enhanced pleasure) away from heading past Ballheimer from Kasirye's long ball into the Hares six yard box.
In the 85th minute, it looked as though Wembley had cleared another hurdle on the road to Wembley (albeit a very short road), when Webb played the ball out wide to Pearce, whose inviting cross was met by Kasirye who connected well and scored with a great diving header.
As the Hares manager Jason Shaw reshuffled his pack, knowing that time was running out, he replaced Willis, who had done the work of two men this afternoon with Perry Price. "Bloomin' heck, look at him, you've got to be good to wear pink boots like those" chuckled an elderly onlooker.
Ballheimer had to move quickly off his line as Bogdan Patrianca flicked a long ball on towards Wright, but the visitors keeper held on tight.
Wembley were all for shutting up shop and seeing out the game down, but in their eagerness to keep Harefield out of harms way, they conceded a free kick just inside their own half.
With Willis now off the pitch, Underwood took over free kick duties and he whacked a long range exorcet into a scrum of players from both sides, to the right of McCreeth's goal. 
Amidst the jostling and pushing that ensued, a recently introduced player, going by the name of Price, looking resplendent in his pink boots, got across the front of Brown, picked out the trajectory of the ball to perfection and diverted it just inside the right hand upright, to grab the visitors a late lifeline... and they celebrated as though they had just scored a winner at that big ground across the other side of town. 
And that was it... neither side wanted to take any more risks so late in the day and they'll have to do it all again at 'Preston Park' on Tuesday night.
FT: Wembley FC 1 v Harefield United 1
The magic of the FA Cup is alive and well in Middlesex. I enjoyed that, a lot, we should have another family day trip again soon.