FA Cup final day, or at least what should be, seems an apt time for the first and probably last ever TSOF three part blog to finish as we look at our most recent cup exploits. And there is plenty to cover. We have a trip to an at the time almost brand new £30 million stadium, a trip to one of the worst league grounds in England, our first ever televised tie, and a game one fan thought we’d won until he got to the minibus to find out a goal had been disallowed.
The cup run in the 2000-01 season proved to be a welcome distraction from what was a poor league campaign. As is somewhat of a recurring theme here, we drew Weymouth in the qualifying rounds, this time as we entered the competition in the second qualifying round. We’d leave the Wessex Stadium with a 1-0 win courtesy of a Danny O’Hagan goal. It was a game that club legend Andy ‘skunk’ Harris still has fond memories of:
“Any win against Weymouth was amazing as I hated them! I’ve made some good friends from there now but as a player they were the enemy! I particularly enjoyed the FA Cup win. Danny O’Hagan scored the winner and Elmo (David Elm) saved a David Laws penalty. Brilliant.”
Salisbury at home would be the next rounds opposition and we’d win a thriller by the odd goal in seven. Matt Lonnon with two and efforts from Owen Pickard and Andy Harris would ensure our safe passage into the fourth and final qualifying round. The home tie against Welling would prove more difficult. A 1-1 stalemate at home after an Andy Harris equaliser would see us travel there for a midweek replay. Goals from Martyn Sullivan and Owen Pickard would take the tie to extra time before a brace from substitute Matt Groves would guarantee our place in the first round proper for the first time in five years.
The reward was a trip to highflying Wigan Athletic, who were the highest ranked side in the competition as they topped Division 2 (League One in modern terms) and were in their second season at the new £30 million JJB stadium. We were second bottom Dr Martens Premier Division at the time with 90 places separating us and Wigan, who were managed by former Arsenal boss, Bruce Rioch. Who does Bruce Rioch have as a nephew? Matty Homes.
Several coaches from DT1 made their way to the game, including some youngsters who had managed to sneak a few cans of lager on, despite being a few years too young to drink. Upon arrival at Wigan, a steward asked the youngsters if they were old enough to drink that. They replied yes and duly had to pay the full adult price to get into the ground. Despite Wigan having a side that included future Swansea, Wigan, Everton and Belgium manager, Roberto Martinez, as well as Premier League experience in Arjan De Zeeuw, it would be us who took a sixth minute league as Matty Homes’ free kick from the wide right area would miss everyone and nestle in the bottom corner. Fans went mad and Andy Harris would be unfortunate to get booked for celebrating in an empty stand.
Joy was very short lived as Wigan equalised within a minute and they would go ahead before half-time. We’d give everything but it stayed 2-1 until 10 minutes from time when the unfortunate Jason McIvor would score an own goal of ‘Danny Baker’s Own Goals and Gaffes’ proportions. It was a spirited performance and a more respectable scoreline than the last time out against league opposition, but we’d unfortunately find ourselves relegated at the end of the season. There would be no panic though as our stay in the Eastern Division would only last two seasons as we were promoted as champions in 2002-03. But that’s another story for another time.
The 2008-09 cup campaign would start with a tough draw at home to Newport County, top of the Conference South at the time. We moved into a 2-0 lead after halftime with both goals from Ryan Moss, but were pegged back to 2-2 and faced the daunting prospect of a midweek replay in Wales. Having gone 1-0 down after an uncharacteristic error from Kevin Hill, after halftime Nick Crittenden would take over. His two goals earning us a hard fought 2-1 win and a home tie with Gosport in the next round. Another Ryan Moss goal would see us beat the then conference national side 1-0, before another Crittenden strike would see us beat Bishops Stortford at home and advance for to the first round proper for the first time in eight years.
Conference National side Oxford Untied would be the opposition, away at the new yet bizarrely three sided Kassam Stadium. Almost 400 fans made the trip by coach, minibus and car, with a stop the Sutton Scotney services providing some amusement. As one fan, for the purpose of this story we shall call Martyn, went to make use of the facilities and secured himself a cubicle, a friend who shall go by the name of Richard decided to throw water over the top of the door and soak him. Sadly, Richard got the wrong cubicle, so a totally innocent member of public got soaked, who in turn also threw water onto Martyn thinking it was him who threw the water initially. In hindsight, scrumpy on the minibus mid-morning may not have been the best idea.
The game itself was largely even, Gareth Stewart busier in the Magpies goal but by no means the only keeper in action as the Magpies played some of their better football of the season. The game seemed destined for a replay when deep into injury time a Jamie Mudge cross was turned in by Ryan Moss. Cue pandemonium the stands as fans celebrated the later winner. That was not to be the winning goal though as after a prolonged discussion between referee and linesman, the goal was ruled out for an alleged handball by Moss as he forced the ball home. It deflated the travelling fans as some took longer than others to realise the goal wouldn’t count. One fan didn’t realise until back at the minibus that it was actually a 0-0 draw and a replay would be on the cards. It had been a superb effort and the return on home turf at the Avenue would provide an excellent chance at progression.
But despite a 1,474 crowd, we were unable to overcome the higher ranked visitors. It started well after having missed an earlier chance, Jamie Mudge would put us ahead after 22 minutes. It was a lead we’d hold until the 77th minute as James Constable equalised and as extra time began, we were still more than competitive, but a second yellow card for Jamie Gleason would see us reduced to 10 men. Two goals in the second half of extra time would put the game beyond us and despite the excellent performance over both ties, it wasn’t to be. Mossy’s disallowed goal is still spoken of to this day and it is quite possible that one fan is still adamant we won the first game and it was all a wind up.
So, onto 2012 and one of the most memorable periods in the clubs history. Our entry into the qualifying rounds would be a home game against Hellenic League Division One West side, Wooton Bassett. Two strikes from Jamie Reid and a goal a piece for Ben Watson and Nathan Walker would see us ease into the next round with a 4-0 win. A lone Jamie Gleeson strike would then see us safely past Basingstoke, once again on home soil, before the final qualifying round would see us play another home game, this time Bury Town were our opponents. A Charlie Clough goal in the first half put us ahead before two Bury players were dismissed leaving us in total control. Nick Crittenden would add a second after 80 minutes but Bury pulled a late goal back to make things interesting. Ben Watson wasn’t interested in anything other than scoring though as he made it 3-1. We were back in the hat for the first round with hopes of a game against league opposition.
And that was what we got as we were paired against Plymouth Argyle at home. The Sunday clash against the League Two side was also to be televised on ESPN on what was sure to be a great occasion for the town. This was a game I was unable to attend as I had already planned a trip to Belgium to see my then parter. As most of the town would watch on at the ground or on TV, my partner and I would be sat in Brussels watching the game on her laptop. She even correctly predicted score. It is when I write things like this down and think them through that I realise there is a very good reason why I am currently single.
The day was by all accounts an absolute belter. The Vic was drank dry of cider, 3,196 fans packed into the ground and it was a cold wet and uncomfortable atmosphere for the visitors. Conor Hourihane, who now plays in the Premier League for Aston Villa, was obviously caught up in the atmosphere as he proceeded to appear to stamp on Jon Garcia and got an early yellow card. Hourihane was not done there as he quickly picked up his second booking and was sent off after only eight minutes. Even with 10 men Plymouth would have that quality about them and despite the numerical disadvantage, they didn’t just roll over. A Charlie Clough header off the post being our best chance of the half as the game ebbed and flowed.
But four minutes into the second half we would score and take a lead we wouldn’t surrender. Jake Smeeton’s deep cross from the left was cushioned back into the centre by Mark Jermyn for perfectly positioned Jake Gosling to slot the ball into the roof of the net. The crowd erupted as did a small corner of Brussels and despite the odd scare, we’d see the game out for a famous victory and a place in the second round for the first time since 1981. Defender Nathan Walker has fond memories of the day:
“At breakfast the boys were all bantering and we were in good spirits. We believed if we kept it at 0-0 we could nick a goal and what a goal it was. We never knew when we were beat that season, we had great togetherness on and off it pitch. To win in the FA Cup and on live TV was just amazing.”
A round two tie away at Conference National side Luton, who we would also play twice in the trophy that year, would be the draw we were given and we set off on a minibus with plenty of refreshments for the trip. Luton, put politely, is a hole, and all those liquid refreshments were needed to take the edge off of the surrounds we found ourselves in. But we weren’t just here for the day out and there was genuine hope we could cause another upset. After an initial bright start, we came under some more sustained pressure which resulted in Andre Gray, now of Watford, scoring the opening goal.
We saw out the rest of the first half and had been playing our way back into the game when a second goal seemingly put the game beyond us, Lawless’ effort after he was allowed time and space to shoot finding the far corner. It wasn’t game over though as two minutes later, Aaron Pugh turned in a Jake Gosling corner and it was game on once more. In truth, we should have forced a replay and would have done so had it not been for the inspired form of Luton keeper Mark Tyler. Saves ranging from good to incredible from Ash Nichols, Ben Watson, Sam Malson and Dan Thompson would deny us a replay that we felt the performance merited. But it wasn’t to be and the players were deservedly clapped off at the end after their monumental efforts over the course of the cup run.
The journey home was an entertaining one with the minibus seeming to acquire Christmas decorations from various pit stops en route back to DT1, and a slightly worse for wear Mark Derrien swearing blind we were in the Blue Vinney and they’d done it up really nicely, only to be told by Guyer that we were in fact at the Fish Inn in Ringwood. It was no better by train as Steve Hill elected to take the overground rather than following the rest onto the underground. The drawback? Steve was in possession of all the train tickets. This ended our most recent first or second round proper appearance, and to be honest, we’ve not looked too much like advancing to that stage since, with the only exception being a 7-1 pummelling by Bristol Rovers in 2014. In the meantime, here’s hoping I’ll have some more success to write about soon (although the history is fascinating, 1986-87 league winning season blog to come as well as ‘players choice’ where we have ex/current players picking their favourite games from a period of 40 or so years), if you want to or are able to help the club, the link to the Magpies Appeal will be below. Stay safe folks, SV.
Thanks to Steve Gould, Hedley Steele, Helen Curtis, Nathan Walker, Peter Morrell, Andy Harris, Peter Poore and several friends who have contributed pictures, newspaper clippings and memories across all 3 parts.