Dogs, daughters and dodgy tellies

We are part of The Trust Project What is it? blogger Neil Redpath contiunes his bid to watch a game in every single FA Cup round – despite being on a family holiday

FA Cup Preliminary Round
Ashford Town vs Mile Oak
Homelands, August 30 2009

So there I was, driving down the A28 from Canterbury, with the wife and daughter in the back.

The exhaust blowing from my Astra conveniently drowned out the noise from my daughter Sophie (and for that matter the missus).

We arrived at Homelands, home of Ashford Town FC in time to see a coach full of orange park up next to me.

You could easily have mistaken this for an international clash with Holland, but on closer inspection it was 60 Mile Oak fans who had travelled the 83 miles from Hove, all dressed in bright orange.

“Eight quid?! Eight quid?!” the wife kept saying as I bought the tickets and went through the turnstiles.

“This is cheap,” I told her, remembering the 35-quid Chelsea matches my dad would make me go and watch.

Once through, we were met by two old-timers in Ashford Town blazers with a smile and a “hello.”

It was a nice touch which made us feel welcome, as we were first through the gates.

Another round, another ground 

As per usual, I headed straight to the bar. A large projection screen greeted us on the way in; unfortunately, the projector looked like it was installed when the ground was built in the 1980s.

The picture it produced looked more like a re-run of the 1923 White Horse final than Portsmouth vs Man City in 2009.

Over in the far corner, a picture hung on the wall of a very quaint football ground. This was an illustration of the new-look Homelands Sports Village, to be completed in the near future.

The venture is to cost £10 million, and it will benefit the surrounding area for the people of Ashford.

This club has ambitions, I thought; they just need to sort things out on the pitch. As you may remember from the preview blog, both sides sit bottom of their respective leagues.

BLOG: August 29: Preliminary problems as giantkillings begin

The clouds were gathering over the stadium as the players made their way onto the pitch.

Strangely, the dugouts are situated over on the far side of the pitch, so the managers and substitutes needed a quick jog before the match could kick off.

The atmosphere from around 150 spectators was starting to bubble. With “Mile Oak FC” banners and a club mascot, you could tell the Mile Oak fans thought they had a chance here.

"What's the pitch like?" "Ruff" 

We sat at the back of the main stand, ready for the downpour that looked inevitable. Sophie had decided it was nap time, from which she coincidentally but typically woke at half-time.

Ashford took an early lead, with Mile Oak striking back almost straight away: 1-1 already and this was looking to be a very interesting game.

The gallows humour of the relegation-haunted team was in evidence: throughout the match.

“Going down, going down, going down” was followed by “So are we, so are we, so are we.”

However, the difference in levels became noticeable later on in the half: Ashford started to run rings around the Mile Oak back four, scoring two late goals to make it 3-1 at half-time.

I never thought I would be reporting on the baby changing facilities at a football ground, but once Sophie was awake, a quick run to the toilets was required.

As expected, no facilities were available, so after a quick nappy change on the toilet floor we were ready for the second half.

"I shall never forget your kindness, Father" 

With the Ashford fans changing ends for a better view of what was likely to become a one-sided second half, the ref blew to kick off.

This being an FA Cup match, you expect to hear someone singing “Que Sera Sera”; unfortunately, it was by just the one over-enthusiastic Mile Oak fan.

The man in question's uncanny resemblance to one of Peckham's finest prompted the home fans to regale him with “There’s only one Rodney Trotter.”

Whatever will be for Mile Oak this season, it won't involve any more FA Cup games. They didn't get a look-in as an increasingly dominant Ashford created chance after chance.

The rain never came but for Mile Oak it must have seemed like the heavens had opened as Luke Coleman bagged a second half hat-trick to send Ashford Town through 6-1.

End of the road for some 

Ashford will be hoping this is a sign of things to come as they now concentrate on crawling up the league – for a fortnight, anyway.

Mile Oak travelled back down to the south coast with not much to show for a good 20-minute first-half performance.

We got back to the car and set off to finish our holiday. Driving away from the ground, Sophie instantly fell asleep, perhaps to dream of future matches, or what the changing facilities will be like at the next ground.

--------------------------------------------- More to read...

BLOG: August 29: Preliminary problems as giantkillings begin
August 24: Dereham dreams still alive
BLOG: August 14: The long road to Wembley starts here

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