FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round Replay
The Oval, Eastbourne
Match Rating: 3
This evening I watched my first FA Cup match of the season, for an interesting clash for me personally, watching one of my local clubs these days take on the club that used to be my most local club before moving away.
There have been no noticeable alterations to The Oval since last season, surprisingly the metal stand that club purchased from Sidley United still sits out of bounds with its back to the pitch in one corner. The programme produced for this event's game was not up to the club's usual high standards, but this was probably due to the short notice of the fixture.
Eastbourne United finished last season in a comfortable 10th place in the 20 team Southern Combination League Premier Division, whilst Tunbridge Wells had a desperately disappointing season, which started off with them being one of the favourites but threatened to become a fight against relegation, although a late upturn in results led to a respectable 14th place in the 19 team Southern Counties East Premier Division. Although both teams have recent proud recent histories in the FA Vase - Eastbourne United reaching the semi-finals in 2014, whilst Tunbridge Wells went one better in reaching the final the season before, neither side has progressed beyond the first qualifying round of the FA Cup since the turn of the millennium.
At the end of a warm, sunny day, which became chilly as night fell, this game was a classic FA Cup encounter, played with plenty of passion but which resulted in a close fought game with few chances created, particularly in the first half. There was also an interesting contrast in styles of play on show, with the visitors always looks to knock the ball around and play, whilst the home side relied on more agricultural methods of hoofing the ball upfield. On the whole, the latter tactic worked the better, as Eastbourne United looked more threatening, and duly took the lead on 33 minutes. Peter Cooper ran onto a ball over the defence, ran forward and as the keeper was in two minds whether to come out or stay where he was, Cooper slotted the ball into the net.
Eastbourne United retained their lead at the break, and doubled their lead on 55 minutes. After a Tunbridge Wells was fired against the wall, Eastbourne broke quickly down the other end, with Scott Chamberlain running down the right wing before crossing the ball into the box, finding an unmarked Steve Dallaway, who kept his composure to tap the ball home. That really fired the visitors into life, and they created some decent chances to pull a goal back, but unfortunately for them, that goal did not arrive for them until the 75th minute, when Ollie Bankole stooped to head home a corner at the near post. The game was really in the balance for the remainder of the match, Tunbridge Wells carving out some good chances whilst Eastbourne United looked to have a goal in them on the break, but despite Eastbourne United going down to ten men, when Danny Andrews was shown a straight red card for a dangerous tackle, that was in added on time and it was Eastbourne United who progressed to the next round, where they will be at home to Newhaven.
Eastbourne United deserved their victory, even if their style of play was not always easy on the eye. Mention must be made of the excellent sizeable, loud and colourful support that Tunbridge Wells brought with them, but on this evening's evidence, another season of mediocrity probably beckons for them.