Buckland Athletic 2-1 Egham Town by Clive Hayward

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Clive Hayward – @Byehorse

Clive blogs about Buckland’s FA Vase 4th Round victory

The FA Vase is one of those things that I’ve always been aware of and quite fancied getting involved in, but never really have. A bit like raves in the 80’s or- until this week- Wordle.

I love Cup football, which is traditionally a bit of a problem for a Torquay fan. With our return to the FA Trophy final delayed by another 12 months, I jumped at the chance of a Vase game at our near neighbours Buckland Athletic who were playing Egham, a Surrey side a long way from home.

If you’re still in the Vase after Christmas you’re on a cup run, and this was a last 32 affair. A big game for South Devon’s other Yellow Army, a club who have made fantastic strides since starting on the Newton Abbot housing estate of the same name as recently as 1977. This absolutely mattered for the players of both sides. Egham were unbeaten on the road since August and this was Buckland’s fourth Vase outing having previously despatched Camelford and Falmouth and given Wellington the boot in Round Three.

Homers Heath is an easy drive for me (I could have walked if I was feeling energetic) and it’s a tidy set-up out in the narrowing strip of fields between Kingskerswell and Newton. Since I was last there for our pre-season friendly in 2007 they have added a stand and some rather nice covered standing down one side, which is where I watched from.

It was a cracking game: football red in tooth and claw. Egham made a confident start, shifting it well and looking dangerous with balls over the top to a pacey front man. They were an ethically diverse outfit, and included a mountainous holding midfielder who took no prisoners but surprisingly responded with a beaming smile to a local’s shout of: “Oi, Akinfenwa!”

Despite the visitors’ confident start, Buckland went in front after 9 minutes with their first attacking foray. Some lovely footwork on halfway found space for a killer through ball, a defender flew into the challenge, mistimed it and a penalty was awarded. Carter slotted it low past the correct-guessing keeper and it was game well and truly on.

The goal did Buckland a lot of good but they still had plenty of defending to do. Egham hit the post from a corner and would have counted themselves unlucky to be trailing at the break.

I stayed put near the halfway line but my companions changed. An elderly couple were replaced by a couple of local girls who spent the second 45 in detailed conversation on subjects that included fairly detailed descriptions of their developing sexuality, some recent dentistry and a devastating critique of a former best friend’s personal hygiene regime. One of them explained that she used to play football and I warmed to her complete lack of sympathy for any players taking a knock. “Stop crying mate”, and “Get up, you fanny” were a couple of her contributions. Her afternoon could have been ruined about 10 minutes after half time, when a chap in a Buckland polo shirt approached her waving a till receipt and pointing out that her card payment for the pint she was sipping hadn’t gone through! She didn’t bat an eyelid and accompanied him back to the clubhouse to sort it out. Buckland clearly haven’t got where they are today by giving out free booze!

A few years ago I watched Truro v Hereford in a Plainmoor FA Cup tie (crazy but true). On that occasion, I saw for the first time a rule tweak of the kind that the FA seems to be specialising in these days: an additional substitution being allowed in extra time. This time, I saw something I didn’t immediately understand: a sin-binning! Buckland’s Farkins may have just been shouting his own name at the referee having flown into a challenge which was deemed to be a foul, but most reckoned he took the 10 minute touchline bib of shame for a slightly more Anglo Saxon epithet.  

My old mate @nickhancock741 is a Buckland stalwart, having given up on Torquay towards the end of Leroy’s time. He tells me the keeper today was Andy Collins, who had a spell on our books last season. Nick was busier than normal on the turnstile, with today’s attendance of just over 300 being treble the average league gate. I am indebted to @OfficialBAFC for their tweeted record of proceedings, and it is from them that I can report that it was in the 67th minute when Egham got back into the tie. Although it was no more than they deserved on the balance of play, the afternoon’s second penalty award had more than a hint of good fortune. A Buckland defender, off balance, flung an arm into the air and connected with a high ball into the box. The referee had got most decisions right and there could be no real complaints about the leveller. Matthew shot right, the keeper dived left and all of a sudden there was a strong whiff of extra time in the air.  

The game opened up, with both sides making and missing presentable chances and tackles continuing to fly in. Buckland caused some problems down the right and the winner came from there, but it was a funny old goal: slightly difficult to describe. The winger, who had just got around the back and whipped a lovely ball across the face of goal, found the ball at his feet again on 85 minutes. This time it wasn’t really on, so he checked and rolled the ball inside. Everything seemed to stop for a second: the ball had virtually stopped rolling and neither Egham nor Buckland were competing for it 25 yards from goal. As we know, nature abhors a vacuum and it was filled by Carter, the Unstoppable Goal Machine. He reacted when nobody else did, and smacked a bouncing right footed drive past the keeper to spark delirium amongst the home fans.

This game and occasion had a lot going for it, and the icing on the cake was a 30 man brawl in injury time. A Buckland player was on the end of a scything challenge in front of the dug-outs, and it went off big time! It was dusk by now, the floodlights weren’t the best and it was way too far away for me to see the details, but I can only describe it as a three minute rolling mall. The ref sent off one from each side. The entertainment wasn’t quite over, because Egham’s right back reacted angrily to a free kick award right in front of us in the dying seconds, He had kicked his opponent up in the air and it was one of the easiest decisions of the day. He got up snarling, “Oh my days!” and “How much are they paying him?” It was at this point that I “may” have called him a knob-head, which he wasn’t overjoyed about. Fortunately there was a decent-sized fence between us and the ref blew for full time. I made my excuses and left.

What fun!

COYY – Clive


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