Brantham Athletic 1 Shildon AFC 4
I'm feeling positively spoilt. Two Vase matches on consecutive Saturdays at new grounds. I could probably try again next Saturday with all the postponements, but will leave it until the next round.
About a minute before leaving home, there was a knock at the door with two Jehovah's witnesses itching for a discussion. I let them down politely, "Do you follow a different faith??" they asked, "No, I follow the FA Vase" was my slightly cheeky reply.
Once again my first train was 6 minutes late, then all the way into London, a door between two carriages kept swinging open every time there was a slight jolt. It ended up with a guy leaving his foot there to try and keep out the howling gale. Still, fares keep going up and this is the shocking service that we have to put up with.
I went via Highbury & Islington to Stratford, where I caught the connection to Manningtree. It was piddling down with rain at Stratford, so I was pleasantly surprised when arriving at Manningtree to see there was barely a cloud in the sky. Mind you, I nearly missed my stop as I was so gripped reading 'Scarecrow' by Matthew Reilly. If you've never read any of his books, give them a go. Thrill a minute stuff!
A brisk 20 minute walk from Manningtree station to the ground mostly along a busy A road. I actually thought that Brantham was in Essex, but it's just over the Suffolk border in a quiet little area with a nice looking Chinese restaurant which seemed somewhat out of place to me.
Lunch was a cheeseburger and chips from the busy clubhouse. Not bad although the chips were slightly undercooked. However, the ladies behind the hatch were working their socks off.
The ground really reminded me of Littlehampton where I'd been earlier this season. A raised gallery over the clubhouse and no hard standing on the near side where both common features. There was a stand on the far side and a covered seating area behind one area of the near goal, I understand there seats came from the old Layer road.
The PA was blasting out disco music, being a kid of the 70's, I was foot tapping and singing along to myself quite happily. A word here for the PA announcer. He was absolutely hillarious throughout the game with his good spirited quips and banter whenever the opposition scored. Great fun!
As so often happens when Northern teams travel at this stage of the Vase, they brought a lot of fans with them. Much beer was drunk but everyone thankfully behaved themselves and was in good spirits.
The game was never really in doubt. Brantham couldn't take a couple of early half-chances, but were actually out-played, out-thought, out-fought and generally well beaten by a team that seemed to get to every ball first and just wanted it more.
They scored on 17 mins from a header and got 2 more early in the second period. Brantham did pull one back but then immediately gave away a penalty which was converted to restore the 3 goal cushion.
All in all, a satisfactory trip complemented by some football chat with a couple of other travellers on the train back to London.