The road to Wembley or nowhere – It’s tense at the bottom of the FA Cup pile

Haringey Borough 1 AFC Kempston Rovers 3
FA Cup extra preliminary round

“Fuckin’ do somethin’” comes the anxious yell from manager Tom Loizou in the Haringey dugout, who is understandably tense – after all this is the FA Cup.

What that something was wasn’t clear, but with both sides playing their first competitive game of the season, they were desperate to start on a positive note.

And for the opening 45 minutes that meant the game being played at a frenetic pace on a hard pitch that had no respect for the expected bounce of a ball.

The thumping tackles and tireless running in the game exaggerated the importance and significance of the match both on the pitch and in financial terms.

With £1,000 up for grabs for the victors and an additional £750 on top of that for the winners of the next preliminary round the incentives are huge for a team like Haringey, who currently ply their trade in the ninth tier of English football.

The watching crowd was of no more than 100, but they too mirrored Loizou’s exasperations with clockwork cries of disapproval aimed at the officials emphasising the huge importance to all concerned.

And with a massive potential prize fund of £30,500 available to each side that navigates the six qualifying rounds to the first round proper the motivation was clear for the team for the Spartan South Midlands Premier Divison.

Hidden away though amongst north London’s suburban housing and an industrial estate on the other side of White Hart Lane the game’s importance was not reflected by its surroundings and it seemingly passed many by.

Instead the weight of the game was shared by a few, who saw Haringey open the scoring, when Dean Fenton’s free-kick was headed in by captain Darrell Cox on the hour, as the hosts looked on course for a second successive cup victory over Rovers, having beaten them at the same stage of the competition last season.

However, a lack of communication gifted the visitors an equally tragic and comical route back into the game when Cedric Lakole headed a harmless aerial ball past the stranded Austin Byfield in goal with 20 minutes remaining.

And it was Kempston who seized the initiative with a second five minutes later after Byfield spilled Ashley Farmer’s deflected shot and Danny Watson pounced to put the visitors ahead.

Haringey pushed forward in the closing stages in search of an equaliser, but were twice denied by the woodwork.

Dewayne Clarke found himself in space, but his near post effort crashed back off the post and Cox could only manage to hook the bobbling re-bound onto the bar.

In the last minute though Kempston took advantage of a sparse home defence and Watson’s running and square ball gave Josh Bamford an easy tap-in to secure the win.
Left to rue a missed opportunity Haringey boss, Loizou vented his frustrations.

“I don’t know who organised or who set it up. For the FA to give it as their first game of fixtures it’s not on.

“But then again we lost, it’s sour grapes coming from me, the opposition are probably thinking it’s the best thing that could have ever happened.”

And the authorities weren’t the only ones to get a hammering.

“You set out your tactics before the game and at half-time but then one or two players let you down and you can’t legislate for that.

“It’s a team game and all 11 have to be pulling in the same direction and it just never happened for us second-half.”

Having been dumped out of the nation’s premier cup competition, Haringey will have to be content with a improvement on last season’s fifth place league finish, a possible run in the FA Vase and of course the oddly worded carboot sale next Sun/Sat[ur]-day.

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