FA2: South beats North with ease
Our intrepid blogger Neil Redpath continues his quest to see a match in every single round of the FA Cup...
Nobody likes withdrawal symptoms, especially in December.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs over a month between the Second and Third Round of the FA Cup, so my pick of the Second Round ties had to be carefully considered.
I try for Staines Town tickets, but apparently you need proof you live in the area, ticket stubs from past games, and an Ali G beard.
So I decide to drive to Northampton.
Well actually I decide to persuade my mate to make the 240-mile round trip, given that my Astra has been run into the ground over the past few months.
We get to the Sixfields Stadium in plenty of time and park up in one of the many homemade car parks surrounding the stadium.
One pound is all it costs to park in the middle of a sodden grassy field Ã¢ÂÂ and you get a free trudge across the damp bog, avoiding pleasantries left by cows, to turn your once-white trainers a nice shade of brown.
We pick our tickets up from a portable toilet and enter the ground to see Ã¢ÂÂOFFERÃ¢ÂÂ blazened across the food kiosks situated every 20 yards along the west stand concourse.
Two beers and two pies for a tenner? Deal.
We whip out a fiver each and two minutes later the cold pie and flat beer make their way into the bins on top of the other pies and beers purchased that day.
We take our places right behind the dugouts in time to see the match kick off.
Northampton fly at the Saints defence, causing all sorts of problems, only for the post to prevent the Cobblers taking a very early lead from a scuffed Ade Akinfenwa shot.
Half of the 4,858 attendance is made up of Southampton fans, and the noise coming from the Alwyn Hargrave and South Stand is deafening.
It takes two saves from Chris Dunn in the home sideÃ¢ÂÂs goal to prevent the more Southerly Hampton taking the lead.
But Dunn is done for by two close range headers, firstly from Papa Waigo and then a carbon copy goal by Adam Lallana to put Southampton 2-0 up at half time.
We're treated to a cheerleading display at half time to distract people from the taste of the so-called pies.
Ã¢ÂÂIt's CrouchyÃ¢ÂÂ comes the shout, and sure enough behind the cheerleaders is a lanky fella moving like he's possessed.
Unfair mockery rains down upon him throughout his routine Ã¢ÂÂ who'd have thought a football crowd could be unwelcoming? Ã¢ÂÂ but others note the girls in front of him and wish they'd thought of joining a dance group in their younger days.
The second half kicks off and Southampton are on the attack again. Both teams are playing well and if anything, Northampton look the better side Ã¢ÂÂ apart from their finishing.
Then the linesman, who seemed to miss everything in the first half, decides Dean Hammond's effort has crossed the line for 3-0, surely the end for the Northerly Hampton.
Hammond gets another, this time in his own net, to spark some life back into the fans in the North and West stands.
With 25 minutes to go, surely they have left it too late even for an FA Cup fightback.
With seconds left on the clock, the Cobblers fans are streaming out. With the ground half empty, Northampton are awarded a penalty.
The fans flood back into the stadium to see Ryan Gilligan slot home a 94th-minute penalty which is succeeded by the final whistle.
We tiptoe back over Northampton swamps to recover our car and after a 30 minute struggle to get the wheels free, we head back home.
Previously, on The Long Road To Wembley:
FA2 preview: A North(ampton)m vs South(ampton) clash
FA1: Fire and ice at the Abbey
FA1 preview: Enter the big boys
FA4Q: Barked shins, dark toilets & no pies
FA4Q preview: Ploughing through
FA3Q: A local affair at Lowestoft
FA3Q preview: All hail the 4x4ers
FA2Q: Coke, poodle rock & half a fence
FA2Q preview: Let's spend a night together
FA1Q: Lawro, ducks & a care home
FA1Q preview: The preliminaries are over
FAP: Dogs, daughters & dodgy tellies
FAP preview: Preliminary problems
FAEP: Dereham dreams alive and kicking
FAEP preview: The long road starts here