Haringey Borough’s moment in the spotlight will be remembered by the 2,710 who watched at Coles Park rather than on TV as wet, hard to see but a lot of fun.
Over the weekend my little old website picked up a little of the splash (pardon the pun) from the national interest in my local Isthmian League club. People enchanted in by my SEO wizardry may well have read my write-up from my first ever trip to Coles Park in October last year. Somewhere in there, I mentioned that much of the ground is uncovered - not that I thought that mattered at the time.
It doesn’t normally. Two games from this famous cup run were played in a downpour. Everyone remained dry as Erith Town and AFC Sudbury were seen off. That was the old world though. The qualification rounds. This was the big time now. The BBC had taken over the car park while Dion Dublin and Alex Scott had made a home underneath the stand like a couple of hibernating badgers, occasionally tempted out for selfies and autographs.
Competition: FA Cup First Round
Ground: Coles Park
Refreshments: £1 (tea)
Dogs spotted: One
Lights, camera, action at Haringey Borough
Coles Park was a hive of activity as I approached on the W3. A club minibus was being used as base camp for a pop-up selling Boro merch, largely, soon to be soggy hats and scarves. Understandably, the main stand was the preserve of VIPs which meant a quick search for the ideal vantage point after a brief attempt at getting some property advice from Dion Dublin as he ventured out of his BBC den.
The previous record attendance at Coles Park was 1100 (and something) for an FA Trophy game against Leyton Orient last season. A crowd of over 2,700 was uncharted territory, even for the some of the more clued up regulars. Some jostling and repositioning of smaller members of the crowd was required as everyone adapted to the unique surroundings and searched for a dry spot.
The BBC had brought along its own floodlights. I’m not sure if this was a slight on the usual lights or standard practice to help all the dry people on their sofas to see better. Either way, they illuminated the area as the rain rolled in. First timers could be heard quizzing their neighbours on the players to watch out for and if there was a TV in the bar.
Form had been somewhat poor for both sides in the build-up to the game. Haringey had drawn away at local rivals Enfield in their last game. It was a positive result given Enfield’s impressive league position, but it meant Boro still hadn’t won a game since the dramatic victory over Poole Town in the last round. Wimbledon had won their last outing, a 4-0 Checkatrade Trophy victory over Stevenage. Not usually something to be too that proud of but it had at least broken their run of nine straight defeats.
Confirmation of the teams came through as the covered area on one side brimmed like the Northern Line at rush hour. Fortunately, a game of football was in store rather than a day in the office. Boro opted to pack the midfield area leaving Mikey Ademiluyi up front on his own. Wimbledon picked a strong side featuring former Maidstone striker Joe Pigott, who I’d seen score on his debut last season, and Mitch Pinnock who’d made the step up from Dover Athletic.
Once in a lifetime
The thronging crowd was reminiscent of something you might see in grainy black and white footage of old test cricket. From my position, it was hard to see where the crowd ended and the playing surface began. An occasional umbrella would go up at the front before forthcoming scorn forced it to be hastily withdrawn. Conversations raged as members of the crowd relayed the details of the game from the section of the pitch they could see. Mine was the section between the far penalty area and the halfway line.
Groups of curious local Spurs fans occasionally tried to reproduce chants from er... Block E at Wembley? They were thankfully soon drowned out by ‘We are Haringey…’ The Dons knocked the ball around with pace early on as Boro took some time to settle. The visitors' speed of passing, control, and size was impressive but they rarely looked too threatening. Pajatet comfortably gathered several corners and crosses.
Boro grew into the game gradually as their defence provided a sturdy base for them in testing conditions. Ademiluyi struggled to win many aerial balls that came his way but Nouble had some joy down the left. There were a couple of chances from set-pieces for the home side and Wimbledon whistled a couple of efforts just past the post. For one brief moment, it looked as if the FA Cup magic dust has settled in N17. Barker tore into the box and was felled by a Wimbledon defender. The ref waved away protests as fans around the pitch desperately pulled phones from their pockets to check the replay. The general consensus was that it should have been a spot kick but it was all square at halftime.
Boro were visibly lifted from keeping the professionals at bay for the whole first half. They began to play more football in the second half. In fact, some of the Coles Park virgins may have been forgiven for thinking the team in yellow were the Football League outfit. Staunton had the ball in the Wimbledon net but it was given offside. This was one even I could see from behind lots of large men, the dugout and several umbrellas. Just as everyone was discussing their travel plans for a trip to Kingsmeadow the ultimate glorious disaster unfolded. In stoppage time Pinnock burst into the Haringey box and his shot deflected past the helpless Pajatet. It was a horrible goal to conceded and Boro were left with only a couple of seconds to respond as well as several smoke bombs to clear off the pitch. It wasn’t to be and the Haringey Borough FA Cup adventure came to an end.
Next step on the Road to Wembley
It’s obviously quite a bitter pill to swallow when you’ve spent so much of your FA Cup journey following one of your favourite local clubs. I still haven’t decided if I’ll follow Wimbledon in the Second Round or maybe look at one of the remaining non-league clubs. Here’s hoping the Hendon old boys (Hampton & Richmond Borough) can shock Oldham in the final game of the weekend.
As for Boro, they have little time to reflect on their adventure as one of the top teams in the Isthmian Premier League, Tonbridge Angels, visit Coles Park tonight. I genuinely think they could challenge for the playoffs if the FA Cup hangover can clear quickly enough. There is also the elephant in the room. The inevitable shop window that displayed the many talents of their squad. Vultures may need to be fended off for some months to come.