Billingham Synthonia 1 AFC Totton 2 aet
Totton won 5-4 on pens.
I thought long and hard about going to this game as it was a hell of a long journey. In the end, my lack of Northern clubs visited and the fact that I love this competition won me over, I took a deep breath and went for it. The hardestt hing was getting to Stevenage, the annual 2 months of weekend work on the rails have arrived again & it's replacement bus service time yet again. Fortunately, the wife took pity & probably because she wanted to watch Paint your wagon in the afternoon, gave me a lift. The journey then went like clockwork and I was more than pleased when the first train turned up 6 mins early. The coach I got a seat on was right next to the buffet area, convenient, but extremely noisy. A group of Geordies decided to camp out there for the whole journey and basically treated it like a bar. It did add a bit of colour to that leg of the journey and the train had a real buzz about it with always something going on. The connection to Thornaby from Darlington was fine. I then had to spend 35 minutes waiting for my final train at Thornaby. Never have a been to a place with so little to do & so little going on. I went and asked the ticket office clerk what platform to stand on just for the company. Desperately boring. The final leg was only two stops, the train stopped at signals for a minute conveniently right next to Billingham Towns ground, strangely they were also at home. If they'd bought their kick-off forward by three hours, they probably would have had a good sized crowd, I'd have certainly gone to both. The one positive thing to come out of Thornaby was when I heard two guys talking about the game. I discretely followed them from Billingham station therefore not having to worry about finding the way. They never sussed me, maybe I should go into detective work. The ground is only about a 10 minute walk and on a main road. I queued at the only burger van & was fascinated to see that it had cooked an actual beef & pork joint. I selected a meat sandwich which was a load of beef & gravy piled into a roll. Fantastic! as a well known TV programme says, Northern boys love gravy. The ground at Billingham is just spectacular for this level. A huge, huge stand along 1 side which must have had about 1500 fans into it. very imposing & extraordinary for this level although when all the fans cheered it made a thunderous sound. There's also raised grass banks around the rest of the pitch. There were 2300 people there and everyone had a good view. I don't normally like running tracks around football grounds, this ground has a dirt track around it but it works due to the height of the viewing areas. A special mention to the ballboys who all stayed as keen as mustard throughout despite the biting wind. A request to however is in charge of weather, Could we place have semi finals next year without 30mph winds. It came very close to spoiling both legs of this tie. I'm not sure how many times the ball went out for a throw over the far side but it must have been around 40! Totton appeared sporting shocking pink shrts much to Billingham fans merriment. It was Totton who were smiling though as Osman headed home after only 2 mins to level the tie. Aftert his, the team kicking with the wind were well on top in both halves. There were several near misses until Stevens converted a low cross with only 9 mins to go. You knew that wouldn't be the end of it & Wells chipped in deep into stoppage time to take us into extra time. Billingham won a penalty for a trip on the substitute which was brilliantly saved by the legs of McCormack. Billingham thought the tackler should have been red carded as last man, they had a fair point but it would have been desperately hard on the Totton defender who had been immense all afternoon. Both keepers made spectacular saves as the game went to penalties. It's never fair to state who scored and missed, Totton though came out 5-4 winners. A fabulous two-legged tie that had just about everything and was a credit to both teams. Synthonia have a ground to be proud of & it was a fitting setting for the conclusion of this contest.