It’s the final countdown

Except we’re not heading for Venus, which is a good thing because trying to land on that planet does no favours for your hair.

It has felt rather manic in the last few days, however you have to believe me when I say that I’ve had it very easy compared to plenty of people at Kingstonian. It is obvious that our FA Cup Second Round tie against AFC Fylde is no ordinary game, and it was even more obvious right from the get-go that to try to pretend that it was just a normal, average, every day, ho-hum game was sheer, unadulterated folly.

I will admit that I have been rather naive in thinking that there wouldn’t be a huge amount of interest in an FA Cup tie between two non-league clubs where there is still two divisions-worth of difference between the sides. Normally, you would expect a comfortable win for the away team, hello, goodbye, good luck, let’s look forward to Folkestone on Tuesday. However, the longer that time goes on, the less certain I have become that I even remotely know the definition of the word “normal”. Anyway, I’ll come back to this game a little later.

After our excellent win over Lewes, we came up against Enfield Town, and this proved to be a fine contest between two good teams going end to end in search of a winner. No goals were forthcoming, but it sure wasn’t without the want of trying from both teams. The end to end action more than made up for my almost obsessive panicking about not being able to identify an Enfield player in the event of a goal being scored, the only one I could possibly have got right was Muhammadu Faal, who not only was a popular player for Kingstonian in the recent past but is also at least eleven metres tall. The problem was the usual one in that the shirt numbers were very hard to decipher as the Towners wore their away kit of all green with either black or blue thin numbers on the back. My eyesight isn’t the greatest sometimes and Wednesday night was problematic to say the least. But, all in all, we got through the game unscathed, I was pleased to have won a point, equally as pleased to not have misidentified an opponent.

It took a while to thaw out after that game. There’s always one game in a season when you properly realise that you’re not very good at organising yourself and you don’t prepare adequately for cold weather. I’m hoping that this was that one game…

There’s always the temptation then to over-prepare for the next game, and indeed this is what happened as I probably had too many layers on for our FA Trophy tie against AFC Sudbury. It was nice to get some football played as the previous few days have been dominated by the Fylde game. Even though, as I said before, I’ve got it easy compared to a few hardier souls at the club, it was pleasing to ignore everything for a little while and actually do the thing I come to the football to do, which is watch the football.

Not only is the FA Cup tie coming up quickly, but we are in the midst of an incredibly busy period – I suppose this is what you get with a bit of success, so at the moment this is not a bad thing – Hayden decided to use a bit of squad rotation, a bit of a risk against a team as strong as AFC Sudbury (I don’t care that they’re a division lower than us, anyone who stuffs Worthing at Woodside Road is definitely worth taking very seriously indeed). But the thing was that all of the players brought in have previously done a very good job for us in certain games. Whilst you could say that we squeaked through the tie, having come from behind to score the winning goal with just two minutes to go, the squad rotation would not have been the reason had we met our demise at the hands of the Yellows (who were wearing blue…).

To be honest, the tie shouldn’t have been that exciting as we created (and missed) several very good chances early in the piece. Having not conceded, AFC Sudbury gained some confidence and became ever more threatening themselves. It was beginning to feel like one of those dominate-the-game-but-lose-one-nil days. And, right on cue, with two minutes gone in the second half Callum Harrison finished off a lightning counter attack with a very fine finish. We would need to get back into this game very quickly if it wasn’t going to become an angst-ridden afternoon. Calum Davies, one of the players brought in due to this attempt at squad rotation, duly did the job. Six minutes after going behind, Calum lashed in an equaliser from what looked like a fairly acute angle – two starts for him and four goals, not a bad return! The angst levels did rise as we realised that we were going to have to replay at Sudbury on Tuesday. Given that we had successfully got our home game against East Thurrock United delayed so we could have a clear week before our FA Cup game, this would have been a rather large spanner in the works. It wasn’t pretty, there was a bit of an unseemly stramash and it was a goal given by the assistant referee, but Dan Bennett once again did the business for us and gave us a hugely important win in the 88th minute.

The draw for the next round is, shall we say, very interesting. I was quite looking forward to something like Torquay, Salisbury or Yeovil away, they would have been nice weekends on the road, but the FA gave us a home tie against Woking. Not only a meeting between traditional rivals, but another reunion with Alan Dowson. It promises to be another big occasion. I’m not used to big occasions, so two in two weeks at King George’s Field is a little bit daunting, I don’t mind saying. It will be another tremendous test for our players, but they’ve become accustomed to this type of thing, so whilst it’s obvious that we won’t be favourites to win the tie, you can guarantee that they’ll give their best and the Cards will know that they will have to earn everything they get.

And so we’re counting down to the AFC Fylde game on Saturday. I said in one of my sets of notes for a recent programme, can’t remember which, that when the draw came out, you can visualise people from both teams saying “that’s winnable.” Of course, once again we will not be favourites against a team that after all are the current FA Trophy holders and a team that was one game away from promotion to the Football League, but we will not go out of the competition wondering if our guys had given their all or not, because they will. If that means it’s not enough and AFC Fylde win the game, then good luck to them, says I. There will be no fear from our players, they will be confident in their abilities and confident in their team-mates and I think we could have one heck of an afternoon on our hands.

In a way, I am both thoroughly looking forward to and absolutely dreading Saturday. I’m not used to big crowds at all (I usually try to avoid them), but we’re going to have a big crowd. So much will be unfamiliar, out of a comfort zone, so strange that I’m a bit worried as to how I will cope with the afternoon. It could well be one of those afternoons in which in years to come you say it was thoroughly enjoyable but in truth you don’t realise that at the time. But, we at Kingstonian have longed and ached for this type of afternoon for many a moon, now we’ve got one coming up quickly, let’s get it on!

The biggest question before the game will be: “Does David Bowie’s Laughing Gnome get on the playlist?” Rosey might give me a concussion if it does, but it might be worth it…?

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