There’s an unspoken rule in football. An observation. When a game is about to go into extra time watch the teams. The one that sits or in any way relaxes is about to lose. The photo above is moments before the start of the first period of extra time. Both teams are champing at the bit, a game which drifted for long periods in regular play coming alive in a frenzy of hard tackles, red cards, chances, challenges and running as the ninety minutes ended. And the fans were the same: what started with a few people almost killing time in the stand ended with everyone up to the barrier and beyond. A proper cup tie, you could say.
“This feels like a very long game …” so said the lineswoman as play carried on the ensuing gloom at the far side of the field. She meant it positively. “So much has happened,” she added. Far more than I can relate, given that I don’t take notes and spend endless time cursing my ability to focus the lens properly. Ashford, in luminous green, took the lead in the first half when a shot that should have been saved beat Bexhill’s stand-in goalie in bright orange. They held the lead until early in the second half when their own keeper in bright orange let a dolly shot go between her legs – the only blip on an otherwise commanding display, such is the lot of goalkeepers.
There were some good moves but the heavy pitch led to some leaden running and encouraged some very hard challenges. From very early on there was an edge as players from both sides made sure the other lot were being kept honest. The only surprise, in the end, was how late it was when it all flared up. A challenge, a retaliation and suddenly there are 20 odd players and coaches going for it. The tension hung in the air afterwards but there was nothing to spark another incident.
Instead, we got a demanding extra thirty minutes. Both sides created but it was a strong strike from distance by Bexhill that won the day.
So, at the end of the day, Bexhill progress to the next round. But if they crave league points more than cup glory they know they will have to do it all over again. Ashford are just above them in the table and the two sides must meet in the league. The way this game sizzled throughout, it should be another hot and tasty one when that happens.
I took my camera. It took some photos. They will be here later in the week.