A local affair at Lowestoft
Neil Redpath is attending a game in every round of the FA Cup. His latest match was his nearest yet...
ThereÃ¢ÂÂs nothing like supporting your local team, so I'm told, and they donÃ¢ÂÂt come more local to me than Lowestoft Town.
The joy of rolling out of bed on a Saturday afternoon and taking a leisurely stroll down to see your team play sounds a lot better than the 11-hour round trips I used to make for Liverpool home games.
So thatÃ¢ÂÂs precisely what I did.
Out of bed and then next door to the King's Arms pub for a swift half with my mates before we set off for the casual 30-minute drive down the A146 to Crown Meadow, home of Lowestoft Town.
The sight fills me with excitement as we enter Lowestoft, thereÃ¢ÂÂs people, and lots of them, walking towards the ground.
Blimey, I think, there might be a crowd at this one Ã¢ÂÂ maybe some atmosphere, which sadly had been lacking so far in my FA Cup venture.
A drive around the ground looking for anywhere to park is a mission in itself, there are cars parked in side streets with the only spaces the permit ones.
Not wanting to miss kick off, I ditch the car obstructing a drive way or three and hurry to the ground to join the ever-increasing queue to the turnstiles.
Five minutes to kick off and you can hear the atmosphere building.
Once inside, a pleasing gasp escapes me. This ground is good, very good.
My mates are regular Carrow Road-goers and they see it as a typical non-league ground Ã¢ÂÂ but if they had attended Aveley on a cold Wednesday night or sat in Aylesbury's 'grand' stand, they'd appreciate this moment with me.
The main stand is packed to the rafters, so standing will be in order for this one; we get to the front in time to see the players walking out to a thunderous reception.
Sadly there's no time for the bar, so we walk over to the end Lowestoft are attacking and find ourselves standing next to a madman with a drum.
It's probably not the best place to stand, but it's too late now, the match has kicked off and thereÃ¢ÂÂs nowhere else to go with this good a view.
The ground is packed with 1,210 spectators, Town's biggest gate of the season.
This could be due to the fact Norwich are playing at Carlisle and Ipswich arenÃ¢ÂÂt playing at all, but more than likely the fact people would rather watch live football than a fiver to watch England's dead rubber on a laptop.
There are no bright sparks or flair players for Sutton Coldfield, who find themselves under pressure. Two minutes in, Lowestoft's Gary McGee heads a cross onto the bar.
Soon after, Adam Smith is the next Trawlerboy to test impressive visiting goalkeeper Tony Breedon.
Unfortunately that's it for first-half chances. Sutton Coldfield sort out their defensive frailties by the simple tactic of sticking 11 men behind the ball, and the rest of the half is played in the middle of the field.
After being in the swing of it of the first few minutes, my mates go from talking about Lowestoft's chances to who has the best group in The X Factor.
I'm starting to wish I'd come to the match on my own.
The ref blows for half-time and a run to the bar is in order. With everyone surrounding a large plasma screen, the scores come in and Norwich are leading 1-0.
I wonder who these fans will support if Lowestoft get to the First Round Proper and are drawn against the Canaries. One thing's for sure, it would be an excellent atmosphere.
We take our place behind the opposing goal; surely this half will be more entertaining. With the drummer at full volume, the match kicks off and... still no chances.
Again Lowestoft have the possession but are unable to get past the 11 Sutton players setting up camp in their own half.
On 75 minutes, East Anglian legend Gary Holt takes to the field for his Trawlers debut. A former Norwich City Player of the Year, he collected 10 caps for Scotland.
And he nearly makes an impressive introduction in the FA Cup, only being denied a debut goal by the excellent Tony Breedon diving down to his left.
There's just time for one more chance, Lowestoft firing just wide. Immediately the ref blows for full time to signal a replay.
Running back to the car, I expect to see my wheels clamped, but to my surprise everything is fine and we make a quick getaway.
I try to organise how we are getting to the replay, but there are no takers.
Oh well, I might be going solo again for the next round...
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