I was beginning to wonder if I’d become a curse for the clubs I was following. Last Saturday all five of my non-league sides lost, although one did it to extra time in the FA Vase before succumbing. Haringey Borough are usually my banker. They’ve won every game I’ve ever seen them play. Everything was crossed that they could get me a long-awaited win in their FA Cup trip to Brentwood.
In preparation for the tie, I’d been to Brentwood’s Preliminary Round replay against Sporting Bengal United of the Essex Senior League. It would be a good chance to scout Boro’s opposition. I didn’t glean too much from the game apart from the fact that Brentwood have had a few personnel changes since my visit there last season, but they were still a strong outfit. I did, however, learn that my baby daughter can’t sleep through impromptu firework displays, and Brentwood still have their big flag.
Ground: Brentwood Arena
Refreshments: £2 (two cans of Coke)
Dogs spotted: 3
The Road to Wembley
My daughter joined me again for the game meaning together we’d been to every round so far. My wife also came along for the day for her second FA Cup game of the season. Her run of games matched Brentwood and Haringey who both joined at the Preliminary Round stage. Boro beat Stanway Rovers of the Essex Senior League 1-0 at Coles Park to join Brentwood in the next round. The clubs’ FA Cup records are quite contrasting. Brentwood made the Second and Third Rounds proper in 1969 and 1970 while Boro’s best performance was a trip to the Fourth Qualifying Round last season.
I received a couple of tweets from the guys from the Bell End prior to kick-off and there was a loose agreement that might daughter could, at some point, ring the famous cowbell. Although she is already a fairly well-decorated groundhopper, with seven grounds in her romper suit pocket, she’s not quite old enough yet for that kind of honour. I did start to wonder if I was maybe pushing the groundhopping lifestyle on her a little too forcefully.
The traffic out to Essex was good allowing us time to take in the sights. I was able to get a better look at the town than my last visit that was under the cover of darkness. I spotted some enticing looking pubs, a hot tub dealership and a hooded teen being bundled into the back of a Police car. The preview on the excellent ‘Ew Tea Bee’ Haringey fansite had mentioned a history of ‘mob violence’ in the town, but this looked more like a loitering with a bottle of white lightning kind of misdemeanor.
Plenty in yellow but no big flag
The crowd for the game was listed as 199, but I’m going to say 200 as they probably didn’t count the baby. 203 if you also include the dogs that were present. It was a familiar trip for the fans in yellow as Haringey were of course in the Isthmian North Division alongside Brentwood last season. Brentwood had inflicted the Londoners’ first defeat of their promotion season at the Brentwood Centre before Boro won the reverse fixture at Coles Park. A more accurate prediction of the outcome came from the sides’ pre-season meeting that finished 3-2 in favour of Haringey.
They had both made solid starts to the season. Town had four points from three league games while Boro five points from their first five league games. It’s early days for the league campaigns, but the First Qualifying Round offers a very healthy cash injection of £6k for the winners of the tie. The potential rewards continue to rise as the rounds continue. The importance of the additional income, as well as the sense of occasion, really adds to the atmosphere at FA Cup games and it was no exception here.
The only thing that seemed to be missing was the big flag. Brentwood’s giant banner was conspicuous by its absence from the covered terraced end of the ground. Various yellow and blue flags flew in its stead. I hope it was in use somewhere else like the Oval and that it’ll return home again soon.
Haringey leave it late to progress
Boro had earned their place in the Isthmian Premier Division thanks to a playoff win that followed an excellent run of form at the business end of the last season. Brentwood were out to prove, however, how strong the North Division still is. They started on the front foot and took the lead in the early exchanges. Hunter got down the left-hand side and his cross was turned in by Sam Carter to give the Blues the lead.
Haringey were, however, able to quickly turn up the pressure and soon got themselves level. The ball fell to Aresti, who was well over 20 yards out, and he spectacularly volleyed the ball into the top corner. It was a pretty intense start to the game, but after the equaliser it settled into more of a pattern. Boro had lots of possession and territory. Going forward they had their usual verve. Defensively, however, they seemed unusually flustered. Passes were missed and clearances skuffed.
Brentwood were mainly relying on breaks but looked dangerous when they got into the final third. Aryton Coley had their best chance while Budd, at the other end, pulled off a couple of solid saves to keep Haringey out. The game continued in the same pattern after the break with Haringey huffing and puffing but failing to create many clear chances. Full on cup tie mode, that we’d seen in the opening exchanges, was once again initiated with 10 minutes left. Joseph won the ball back for the home side and found Coley who cut inside and curled the ball into the top corner.
It looked as though a shock would be on the cards and Pajatet was needed to save again from Coley to keep the visitors alive. Barker’s introduction gave Boro a little more incisiveness. His fellow replacement McKenzie then equalised as he powered onto a ball over the top and finished past Budd. All the talk on the terraces was now about a replay at Coles Park on Monday night. Akinwande had other ideas. A clearance found Barker who passed on to the forward who rifled a perfectly angled shot, Pythagoras would have been proud of, past Budd for the win. The Haringey players almost looked shocked they’d turned a loss into a win in the last five minutes of the game while the Brentwood players slumped to the floor.
The game was essentially quite stale for long periods. It was eventually defined by electric periods in the first 10 minutes and the last ten minutes. When the scores were 2-2 it felt like a fair result, but Haringey’s class and the number of match winners they have in their squad finally told. They continue on while Brentwood are left with ‘might-have-beens’ (the ones that don’t make it out of the Heinz factory) and some memories of a short but entertaining cup run.