Coke, poodle rock & half a fence

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Neil Redpath continues his quest to see a game in every single round of the FA Cup...

FA Cup Second Round Qualifier Replay: Aveley vs Burnham, September 30, Mill Field

“Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t!” I shout above the music from my car radio, as I see the turn-off for Aveley in my rear-view mirror while heading straight towards the Dartford Crossing.

A good two-hour drive so far on a Wednesday night and it seems to have gone swimmingly... up until now. With traffic cones to direct you around more traffic cones, the M25 is unbearable, which causes me to miss my turn off.

Once back on track, I head towards London on the A13 and arrive at Mill Field with an hour to spare.

I’m directed to the car park by a smartly-dressed man in tie-and-blazer combination. Walking over to him after parking up, I ask if the match is still on, thinking it slightly odd that mine is the only car there. “Of course it is,” he grunts, and with that welcome I head towards town to find a more welcoming place to pass the time with a Coke.

Good thing I did; after entering the ground I notice there’s no bar, just a refreshment stand, club shop and the toilets.

Both teams enter onto the field to The Final Countdown blaring from the PA system. This should get the teams going – it’s definitely woken me up.

It was 1-1 at Burnham on Saturday and from the programme notes, Aveley were very lucky, scoring in the dying minutes to snatch the draw.

The match kicks off and it quickly looks like both teams are playing for penalties. Burnham use the long ball, Aveley come back at them with some good play only to be dispossessed, and the ball is hoofed up field for another go.

It’s not even the most entertaining aerial attack. That would be the planes from Stansted flying over the stadium every five minutes.

The whistle blows to end a very poor half without so much as a memorable chance to report. I grab myself a cuppa and sit back in the main stand, reading my programme and texting my mates to see what the Champions League scores are.

From a high(ish) vantage point I can spy a wooden fence surrounding a ground that has evidently seen better days. At the far corner, a new fence has been erected and a Timber Fencing company sponsor board hooked to it. It’s a very nice fence and a good advertisement for the company. Shame they couldn’t finish the rest of the ground off.

Such thoughts are dispersed by another deafening rendition of The Final Countdown. Fans wince as the players run back out, but from the first whistle it’s obvious that something has been said in the changing rooms: both teams fly into their tackles and chances are created at both ends, one after another.

With the tempers edging towards boiling point, the referee has no choice but to book a few to calm things down.

One yellow card to Aveley confuses players and fans. Luckily Aveley manager Rod Stringer is on hand to clear it up: “He’s booking you for swearing. So shut the f**k up.”

Then the goals come. In the 57th minute Aveley’s Matt Johnson taps in a cross from close range, but five minutes later Ben Hudell’s 25-yarder deflects in for the equaliser.

Suddenly we’re having all the goalmouth action we were denied in the first half. Under pressure from Burnham attackers the Aveley keeper stumbles back over his goal-line; visiting players turn to celebrate but are interrupted by the referee’s whistle.

In the 74th minute, Sherwin Stanley slides in from two yards to put Aveley back in front. Junior Dadson’s injury-time third seals Burnham’s fate, and with work in the morning, I run to the car park to make a quick getaway.

Twenty minutes later...

“Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t!” I shout above the music from my car radio, as I see the turn-off for Norwich in my rear-view mirror while heading straight towards Heathrow.

The M25 does it to me again but at least I’m sure of one thing:

I will be heading north for the next round.

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