VCD Athletic 2 West Auckland 1
When the draw was made for this round, I decided on VCD as I hadn't yet visited a Kent league club this season. I consulted my Cherry red directory & saw that they ground shared with Lordswood. This ground is a fair treck from Chatham station & I was starting to have a few doubts. On visiting their web site, I noticed that they'd actually moved back to their home in Crayford and my enthusiasm returned. Now, two days before this game, Britain had experienced the worst storms for 20 years along with vast amounts of rain. I half expected the game to be cancelled but set off in the hope that my luck was in. About 10 minutes outside London Bridge, I saw a sight to warm the cockles of any grounhoppers heart....2 games of park football being played. This gave me hope that the rain had only been a mild monsoon in Crayford and I left the train with a positive spring in my step. The ground is a simple 10 minute walk from the station, normally at this point I would comment on my choice of lunch, but I was so keen to find the ground, that I flew straight past MacDonalds, KFC & various other assorted pubs, kebab shops & cafes. As I turned the final corner before the ground, I was once again greeted with a marvelous sight, this time the West Auckland coach. Since they'd come all the way from Durham, they surely wouldn't arrive to find the match off. The gateman confirmed that the game was on & I was a very happy man. For some reason, Kent league grounds often verge on the quirky, Greenwich Borough for instance is the only ground I've visited where you pay on the door. I'm happy to report that VCD is a definite exception. I loved this ground, you enter through the turnstile and see a steepish path which leads down to the ground. This high ground gives a great ariel view of the game to those interested. There's a stand that sits about 150, the rest of the ground is uncovered with hardstanding around a white rail. The pitch looked and indeed played fabulous and for a change, was dead flat. There's a fair sized clubhouse with at least 3 TV's showing the lunchtime premiership match. I was slighlt perturbed when there was a sudden power cut behind the bar, I had visions of floodlight failure, but the locals took it all in their stride & this is clearly a common occurence. Lunch was a burger from the van inside the ground, not exactly fine cuisine but was pleasant enough. I learnt that there had been a morning pitch inspection, but I've seen games playd on 10 times worse a surface. So to the game. The first half hour was extremely scrappy with the blustery wind causing a few problems. West Auckland took the lead on 28 mins. A free kick was given centrally 25 yards out. Whilst the wall was being set, Fairhurst asked the referee if he could take it quickly, the ref. blew his whistle & Fairhurst side footed a shot into the bottom corner whilst the keeper was still miles out of position setting his wall. West Auckland were suddenly well on top and VCD will be glad that halftime came when it did. VCD's halftime talk did the trick and they equalised on 48 mins. A corner from the left was half cleared and played back out to the corner taker. He whipped in another cross that Peneny met with his head, his effort at goal squirming in under the keepers body. We suddenly had a wonderfully competitive, evenly matched cup tie played in a marvelous spirit. West Aucklands keeper made a great double save from a VCD forward, but just as extra time was loomig, VCD scored again on 87 mins. A Forward was bundled over on the right edge of the area. I was very close to this incident, sure, it was a foul, but I have to say that it looked suspicously like it was just outside the box. Anyhow, the referee pointed to the spot and Probets put away a neat penalty. And that was that, an unexpected gem of a match at a ground where so many things are done well.
Unfortunately, I'm away for the next round..Roll on the quarter finals.