Eastbourne United 2 Ampthill Town 1
The more grounds you visit, the trickier it gets at this stage of a competition. I did Sholing in the last round, I did St Andrews in a league match last year and Dunston was just too expensive. I'd also visited Eastbourne United but not for about 25 years. So off I went with a spring in my step as the rains finally relented and a lovely day was forecast. I actually never even checked the internet before leaving to confirm that it was on, just like the old days!
I had the pleasure of my wife's company on my first train to London, this made this leg more tolerable as once again we were 15 minutes late arriving into King's Cross. Note to First capital connect - What's the point in apologising if the very same thing is going to happen again next week?
Any train to Brighton is always entertaining, it's always full of weird and wonderful characters. Brighton definitely has a unique population, my one issue is that whenever I need to change there, the connection is 5 minutes or less to find and board my next train. So once again, I belted up the platform like a lunatic and jumped on my Eastbourne train with 1 minute to spare.
My parents used to own a bungalow in Polegate and I had a nostalgic stop at the station, looking up roads that I hadn't walked on since the late 1980's - Doesn't seem to have changed at all!
Eastbourne was packed, everyone seemed to be out and why not on the most perfect of early Spring days. I was spoiled for choice with eating establishments but eventually settled on a cafe down a back street, usually the sort of place I love. I probably should have been suspicious when the cafe didn't seem to have a name. There were half a dozen delightful customers who all seemed to have special needs but were loving their lunch and each others company. The Eastern European lady serving was also a delight with banter and remarks that made all her customers seem special,. Sadly, my cottage pie with chips was once of the poorer lunches I've had on my travels. The chips were fine, but the cottage pie, billed as home made, although hot, tasted processed and also tasted like there was a spoonful of salt in every mouthful. Seeing a lovely fish restaurant just after leaving the cafe almost made me weep.
The afternoon was simply glorious, wall to wall sunshine and warm with only a gentle breeze. I actually sat on the beach for a few minutes, tossed a few pebbles and fired off a few texts. The walk along the seafront firmly put all those months of rain behind me and made me feel completely refreshed.
I'm sure when I went to the ground before, it was open and I'd love to have a tweet from anyone who knows if this was the case. It would have been some time in the 80's that I visited. Now it is surrounded by a wooden fence, there are two little stands on the near side and hard standing. A big clubhouse and also a never portakabin that housed the refreshment hatch.
Amptill are from the higher step, yet Eastbourne have been pounding all opposition. A fascinating match in prospect.
The game was dramatic throughout with a real cup tie feel, the referee was excellent in my neutral opinion although he had to put up with the usual histrionics from both teams.
Amptill had most of the early possession and looked really lively. They ended up going behind to an outrageous 30 yard volley from the right touchline that flew over the keepers head. I was right next to the guy when he hit it and I'm still unsure whether it was a shot or ended cross. Whatever it was, it was spectacular!
Amptill took a roasting from their coaching staff at half time, audible to all around the tea area as they hadn't closed their windows. I was astounded when they took off their most dangerous looking forward, although it was just after their left back was sent off for two yellows and could have been tactical. I clearly know very little as Ampthill equalised shortly afterwards with a 20 yard volley from a corner hot to the edge of the area at the far post.
I had no idea which way this tie would go now but Eastbourne got the winner on 77 mins as a header into the area was bundled home.
Amptill threw the kitchen sink at Eastbourne for the last 10 minutes and the Eqstbourne keeper made a couple of desperate saves. Another Amptill defender was sent off right at the death for a second yellow but this was too late to have any impact on the result.
So the Eastbourne bandwagon keeps rolling on and I thoroughly enjoyed my day by the seaside.