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Untold Non-league: Robins run out of town in the cup

Stamford AFC 4-2 Ashton United (attendance 301)

SAFCstart

With no Arsenal game this weekend Tony and I scoured the fixture lists and came up with what looked like an interesting tie in the FA cup.

For most us the FA cup doesn’t start till January when the 3rd round proper sees the big boys enter the fray. But the FA cup has already been underway for months by then as hundreds of non-league sides fight it out for a place in the magic bag of balls come December. So we packed a camera, waterproofs, a selection of hats, and a sense of adventure and headed into deepest Lincolnshire.

This could be the last time the FA Cup comes to the Daniels stadium on Kettering Road, Stamford, as next year the club are relocating to their new purpose built stadium at Ryhall Road. This £5.5m project will replace what is a friendly but rather tatty ground on the outskirts of town.

The current ground has stands on the two long sides, two for seating and one long narrow one where we stood in the first half. The clubhouse served very good local beer (Grainstore’s ‘Cooking’ at a very reasonable £2.50 a pint) and the burgers from the van were top quality too.  (They were however fresh out of chips).

The burgers are popular and perhaps that might provide a clue to the club’s rather odd nickname. The club became known as “The Daniels” after Daniel Lambert, the heaviest British man ever, who died in 1809 in Stamford weighing 52 stone or thereabouts, and is buried in St Martin’s churchyard a few hundred yards from the ground. Clearly we now know the answer to that perennial question… ‘who ate all the pies?’

I’d never been to Stamford but I did know one curious fact about it. From the medieval period to about 1825 the town held an annual bull run. This involved setting a bull loose on the green and letting the locals chase it through the streets until the exhausted beast collapsed and was thrown off the bridge into the river. The dead animals was then slaughtered, cooked and served up in the local pubs for everyone to enjoy.

The practice was only stamped out after a long campaign by the embryonic RSPCA in the early nineteenth century. I was pleased that the first local we spoke to – a steward working at the nearby school – confirmed that the local tradition is still remembered even if it doesn’t happen any more.

But (as usual) I digress…to the football.

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Stamford are struggling this season; they lie 21st in the Evo-Stick Premier League, 12 places below Ashton United and 15 from FC United of Manchester (whom Tony and I went to see a few weeks ago). Perhaps this explains why they ran out to the tune of the Great Escape playing over the tannoy…

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And the way they started you could see why they are fourth bottom: Ashton were all over them like a cheap suit. When a classy move from Stamford’s left winger Richard Wesley broke down the ball came to Ashton’s Kayde Coppin who ran down the flank, cut in from the right and beat Andrew Stevens with a superb long range shot that was every bit as good as Andros Townsend’s strike against Montengro.

First blood to Ashton after 7 minutes and we feared for Stamford, Tony said he thought we could see them collapse as Grantham had against FC United. It took Stamford about 20 minutes to register a proper chance on the northerners’ goal and Ashton seemed very comfortable. The game was noisy on the pitch, lots of shouting and encouraging. Ashton’s keeper kept up a constant conversation with his back four, one of whom (Nat Kerr) seemed more interested in debating tactics with his coach on the sidelines.

The game wasn’t pretty – most of the time the ball was in the air and heads seemed more effective than feet. At times it reminded me of a game of table football. It was very physical and Kerr was the first into referee Bramall’s book in the 35th minute when he hacked down David Moyo.

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Gradually, as Ashton failed to capitalize on their advantage, Stamford started to play themselves into the game. Shawn Richards looks a lively midfielder and he began to move things around a bit. Then Stamford got lucky. An innocuous cross into the box was fumbled by the Ashton keeper and fell to Jordan Smith who tapped the ball into the gaping net. 1-1 and game on.

This breathed new life into the home side and the crowd got behind them more. The Ashton coach was abused for being hirsute and then their trainer became the target when he came on to the field of play (without the ref’s ok) to treat their number 5. The crowd’s anger was increased when Stamford’s Nathan Haines was almost knocked out moments later.

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I think all of this rattled Ashton who lost their concentration and shape. With half time looming the home side scored again through Jon Challinor. So what had looked like an easy away win after 30 minutes had been transformed in the last 10 minutes of the half, and the team ran off to Bowie’s Heroes.

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Ashton fans take the ‘shed end’…

At HT Tony and I switched to the more sedate arena of the seats on the other side, partly for the change and partly to escape the rain that was now hammering down.

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Richard Jones, Stamford’s captain and MOTM

Again Ashton started the better in the second half and Stamford’s captain, Richard Jones, berated his players urging them to ‘get their heads on’, and quickly. And it worked because they pressed forward and within minutes were 3-1 up. Moyo turned his man and launched a brilliant shot past the Ashton goalie. Now the tie looked like it was beyond Ashton but credit to them, they never gave up.

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both players dispute the size of the one that got away..

Much of the next 30 minutes involved Ashton attacking and Stamford defending their lead. Far too often (and to the frustration of a particularly vocal woman close by) they resorted to hoofing it downfield to no one in particular. Moyo and Smith were the only outlets and most of the time it just came straight back at the home side. A goal seemed inevitable…

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Ashton players thought they should have had a penalty..the ref didn’t agree

I have to say I missed what happened but Ashton scored from what I understand was a bit of a scramble in the box. I did see the Ashton players trying to get the ball and what seemed like an assault on the Stamford keeper in the process! The ref can’t have seen anything or chose to overlook it and the game went on.

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Wesley scores!

As Ashton pressed again Stamford broke on them and Wesley scored a brilliant individual goal to make the game safe. While Richard Jones got the MOTM award (well I think that’s what the announcer said, the tannoy wasn’t great) I would have given it to one of the forwards because they worked tirelessly all match and took their chances when they came.

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The home crowd goes wild – umbrellas twirling!

It was a great cup-tie, end-to-end stuff played with heart and passion and very little quarter asked or given. For £9 to get in it was good value and Tony and I really enjoyed it. Again I would urge you, especially if you don’t get to many Arsenal games or have a spare day at the weekend, go and see your local non-league side play. It’s not premiership quality but its good honest football, the grassroots of the game, and it needs our support.   There are people who dedicate their lives to helping clubs like these, and the level of football we enjoy through Arsenal would not exist if the lower leagues didn’t exist too.

Most of all though, its good fun.

Blacksheep63

6 comments to Untold Non-league: Robins run out of town in the cup

  • rantetta

    I really enjoyed that write up. I can imagine the ball being limped up pitch and the general roughness.

    Good photo’s and captions too. Thanks.

  • rantetta

    *lumped* (up the pitch).

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Getting quite fond of these non -league games especially the nice commentaries and photos . Keep up the good work !

  • elkieno

    Yes i agree with Brickfields for sure.
    I read this one purely cos its SO FUKING BORING with no games on!!!!
    On another note my lovely Australia got humped 12-0 by France and Brazil in last 2 friendlies, works cup whipping boys here we come!
    In meantime COYG!!!

  • WalterBroeckx

    I also enjoy these articles. I will try to add one of lower league football in Belgium if the weather allows it in the next weeks as I seem to be getting a lot of Saturday evening games so could make it to a game on Sunday.

  • nicky

    Walter,
    Rather than that, what about a short history on Belgium’s
    chips/chocolates/ beer.
    You would do wonders for your country’s tourist industry.