And so to the Polegrove, home of Bexhill United who have the greatest badge in all soccer (it’s a picture of a football and the words BEXHILL UNITED), for a second qualifying round match in the FA Women’s Cup. Owing to the weird parallel world in which the FA operates its barely a month since the final which saw Chelsea dispose of Notts County in front of 30,000. Today the crowd probably didn’t reach 100 – although it was loud, passionate and involved – but those that did find themselves in this part of the sunny south coast were able to witness what football writers call ‘a proper cup tie’.
Surrey Eagles were formed in 2014 and hail from Carshalton. In three league games this season they have scored 12 and conceded 1, and have yet to lose. Bexhill, on the other hand, have only one point from their three league games. But it was the hosts who opened the scoring within the opening few moments when a mix up between goalie and defender set up a straightforward tap in for Tillie Earley. After a scrappy first half in which both sides enjoyed decent spells but didn’t create many clear chances that was how the teams went in to the tunnel.
The second half was faster and there was plenty for the growing crowd to get their teeth into as hard tackles and half chances were the order of the day. Around the 60 minute mark the Eagles equalised with a goal redolent of Bexhill’s – a run through that should have been dealt with leading to a reasonably simple finish. It would be half an hour before we got another goal. Until then we had to make do (!) with a cup tie in which no quarter was asked or given. The ref called players over, managers and team-mates bellowed, and the game stayed on the simmer without boiling over. It was tense. It looked like we’d have extra time until a powerful strike from Faye Hayden sparked celebrations that wouldn’t have been out of place if they’d won the final at Wembley. Owing to delays there was still about ten minutes left but the Eagles held out with Bexhill groaning as they hit the bar and forced several near misses. It was not their day though and it is the pink ladies who go get their name in the hat for the next round.
This was a tremendous game of football. One that reminded you all over again that when two well-matched opponents give their all that sport is just wonderful. Mind you, I write that as someone who could enjoy it as a neutral and soak in the pleasing atmosphere of a bar where a half time coffee comes in a Scooby Doo mug. Losing that will have hurt.
I took my camera and walked around a bit. The local paper may use a couple (I’m gracious like that). But there’s a bunch here. One team from today will enjoy looking at them a whole lot more than the other.