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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Nantwich are champions!

Hillingdon Borough 1 Nantwich Town 3

When I looked through the first draw back in July and chose Tunbridge Wells, I was looking forward to the final being held at the new Wembley stadium. Well we all know of the Wembley saga and several months ago, it had been announced that Birmingham would host the final. In the end, not the worst thing that could have happened as this was my first trip to St Andrews. Quite a long train journey, but Birmingham, being in the middle of the country, is accessible from everywhere. I shared part of the journet with a load of Leicester rugby fans and it was interesting listening in as they tossed about the various permitations still possible for their play-offs. Birmingham New street station has to be seen to be believed and is actually more like an airport than any station I've ever been do. Surprisingly, it seems to run a lot more efficiently than most, much quieter stations. I'd run an AA route from the station to the ground. The first instruction told me to leave the station and turn right. What it didn't tell me was that the station had about 6 different exits. I had no idea where to go and being in a major city, the whole surrounding area looked vast. I eventually selected the exit where the taxis were and more by luck than judgment, discovered that I was going the right way. The Birminham Bullring is an impressive looking building, but I wanted to find the ground and didn't have time for a proper scout round. I can't say I particularly enjoyed my walk through Birmingham, give me Chipstead in October any day. I found the ground a lot easier than I had any right to and was delighted to find a MaCdonalds only 200 yards from the entrance. On arriving at the stadium, I asked a steward where the ticket office was. He pointed to an area of the ground. Last year at White Hart Lane it was a complete bun fight buying tickets with people everywhere. This year, I gently walked to the window and paid straight away. the hugely disappointing crowd of under 3 and a half thousand people probably explains why. Entering St Andrews reminded me why I follownon-league football. The place really has no character and is exactly like most other football league grounds you see, only Blue. The bar area inside the gates is very small, fine for our meagre ground but must be hell on premiership match days. The pitch was not bad but not as pristine as White Hart Lane. Only 5000 programmes had been printed and were only being sold outside the ground, I had to ask a steward to let me out to buy one, others in the ground could not get one as somehow they seemed to have sold out. Poor! Nice to see Trevor Francis performing the honours, I coouldn't think of a better person for where we were. I like watching the teams in their pre-match warm-up, it tells you a lot. Hillingdon were waving to the crowd and breaking away from their warm-up to continually have their pictures taken. Nantich were just getting on with it like in any other match.
In the end, Hillingdon froze on the big stage and were never, ever in it. Them shaking their heads at the end told the whole story. Nantwich were terrific. Fastest, most imaginative, fiercest and most clinical, they were never going to lose. They kicked off and had about 10 touches before a Hillingdon defender manager to toe it out of touch. Nantwich hit the post after 5 mins when they should have scored but still managed to take the lead on 15 mins. A Hillingdon defender failed to shield the ball out of play, Nantwich cut the ball back from the dead ball line to KINSEY who faked to shoot gaining a yard and then picked his spot low to the keepers right, a very composed finish. The lead was doubled on 33 mins. A break down the left saw an interchange of passes inside the box, it was eventually played out to SCHEUBER who hit a 22 yard left foot low shot across the keeper and in. Hillingdon tried to lift it at the start of the second half but only created half scrambled chances. The game was made safe on 70 mins. KINSEY picked the ball up on the edge of the box, side-stepped a challenge and blasted a shot past the keeper at his near post, Kinsey then dislocated his shoulder throwing his shirt into the crowd, a good job they won as he'd never live that down otherwise. Hillingdon got a consolation on 90 mins. A deep cross from the right was headed back across goal, Tilbury hit the post and Nelson scuffed in the rebound, the linesman declaring that the ball had just crossed the line.
And that was it, an enjoyable, if one-sided final.
Congratulations to Nantwich, worth winners. Roll on July and the draw for next season.

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