I’ve got into a routine now for vase final day. My mate arrives from Somerset, car to Stanmore for a couple of pints in the ‘Moon’ pub, drive to Northwick Park for free on-street parking a minute from the tube station & then a 5 minute tube journey.
Well, the Moon in Stanmore was fairly busy but mostly with local punters having a Sunday lunch out. But due to Stanmore being within a certain radius of Wembley, no glasses were allowed for our beer. Instead we had to make do with dodgy plastic things that you felt could split down the centre at any second. I fully understand caution for really big, grudge matches but this really seemed like overkill.
My mate is now officially a west country resident despite his protestations, as regardless of him living in the Harrow area for 25 years as a kid, he took the wrong turning on the way to the pub.
Needless to say, the ticket machine at Northwick Park station swallowed my £10 & we had to call for assistance. The machine had to be re-booted and was taken out of action for 10 minutes. We were allowed through the barrier and told to pay at Wembley Park. Again, needless to say, there magically appeared three ticket collectors seconds after I got on the train. To be fair, they were fine about it. I asked why the lady who had re-booted the ticket machine could not sell us a ticket & was told that it was now policy in an attempt to reduce staff. Utterly ridiculous!!!
The two stop return fare cost £7.30!!! as you had to get a travelcard. Checking afterwards, it would have been £5 cheaper if I had an Oyster card. I must invest in one!
We decided to buy tickets for the Coalville end as I’d enjoyed seeing them twice in the earlier rounds and we got nice seats 9 rows from pitchside. A 5-a-side tournament was taking place on the nice carpeted courts just outside the stadium and we enjoyed watching these keenly contested games for a few minutes.
A modest crowd of just over 8000 were in the stadium, the majority of them Coalville or neutral. I suppose the smaller Whitley Bay attendance is understandable due to the expense and distance required to travel and the fact that they’ve been in the final every year for the last 35 years (Or it seems like it!).
The game itself was a fabulous affair full of incident & chances. When one player miss-kicked halfway through the second half, I suddenly remembered that this was only non-league football that I was watching.
Excellent end to end stuff throughout although there was an inevitability that Whitley Bay would once again win the trophy. Although Coalville settled the quicker and had some good chances, the first goal came on 28 mins from Whitley Bay. The right winger comfortably beat his defender and the low cross saw CHOW completely unmarked and he scored easily. Coalville had two glaring misses in this final although when they did score it was a beauty. The best cross I’ve seen in a long time from the left was perfect for the forward who scored from 8 yards despite the keeper almost stopping it. But 4 mins later & Whitley Bay again went in front. A neat inside out turn of the defender resulted in a cross from the right that was met by a beautifully flicked header by KERR that the keeper had no chance with. But Coalville kept coming forward and on 80 mins, a cross from the right was well headed home from where it came from 8 yards. But again the lead didn’t last and on 85 mins a free kick was given 25 yards out. The shot came down off the bar, hit CHOW’s toe and rolled in.
Whitley Bay have now won it three years in a row and despite being given a real test here, seem to win this tournament almost at will. Yet they always fall just short of promotion. Strikers Lee Kerr & Paul Chow could play at a higher level with no problem at all, Kerr would not be out of place in a conference team and yet they seem more than happy not to test themselves at a higher level.
I’m not knocking their achievements or ability in any way, but it’s getting a bit like Man Utd entering the LDV vans trophy and winning at a canter. I really hope that their run ends now and that their tremendous achievement is applauded before people get utterly fed up with the monotony of their final appearances.
So another Vase campaign reaches its conclusion. Big clubs such as Kings Lynn, St Neots, Poole & Coalville threatened only to fall just short. Most deservedly got promotion & I’m sure they can’t wait to play at a higher level. I had glorious days at Raynes Park, Bustleholme & Kings Lynn. Miserable days at Wick, Stotfold & Coalville and classic games at Bloxwich & Wembley itself.
This tournament continues to intrigue and I love the fact that I never have any idea what direction the draw will lead me.
The draw for next years competition is in only 2 months. I can’t wait!