Portsmouth has been at the centre of many famous battles over the years, from Nelsons flagship HMS Victory to the D Day landings. but they can now add Porchester v Tunbridge wells, 3rd round of the FA Vase to that role of honour, as this was a battle on and off the pitch, and like all good battles, the good guys won.
There were a couple of concerns in the build up to the game, would the recent rain and overnight frost cause problems with the Portchester pitch, and more importantly would Dave find the stash of beer I hid at The Den a couple of weeks previously. Thankfully neither concern materialised and it was game on and another Vase adventure was underway.
With recent good performances behind them, the confidence was high in the supporters section as we gathered at silly o'clock for our journey to the south coast. In the days leading up to the match there were rumours that alcohol was not to be consumed on the journey, this was obviously never going to happen, especially on Mao's bus, but a quick lemonade before the journey started was in order just encase.
There was a slight concern when we turned up at the clubhouse and they players were still there, a slight issue with their luxury coach and the caviar supplier, meant a delay and some P.M.T (pre match tension) ensured, little things like this can make you think that it's not going to be your day. But in the end something that could have gone terribly wrong sorted itself out and everything turned out ok, this was to be the template of the whole day.
To stop us drinking ourselves into oblivion on the 2hr journey to Portsmouth, we decided a quiz might be in order, so myself and Fud decided to test the intelligence of all with some mastermind style questions. Gracie and James stormed the quiz, basically due to James being Sky TV movie champion and Gracie copying the answers, but some fun and banter ensured.
We arrived in Portsmouth after a quick stop at cobham services in jovial mood, West Ham Gary brought a friend with him who in turn brought Ralf and Huey with him when he got off the bus, and it wasn't a surprise when he didn't make it back on the bus at the end of the day, and after a short walk we arrive at Wicor Recreation ground.
AFC Portchester are a team trying to build something, some recent additions to the ground and a decent clubhouse was a welcome sight after a long journey, all they need to add is some sense of humour and they could go places. In fairness amongst some early hostility their bar staff were great for their cup final and the burger boy called me Sir, which was a nice touch these days, Portchester billed this as the biggest game in their history (like most teams we play!) and they apparently invited over 100 kids to boost the atmosphere and show just what a child friendly club they are under a new regime.
The game itself wasn't pretty to start off with, Portchester in their orange which never is a good colour for a football club, red is best, and some amusing chants relating to budget airlines followed, But we had our lucky white shirts with a red short combo and looked the part. Portchester started brightly, and edged the first half despite not creating too many chances, we looked a bit nervous but the most notable part was when Legend had to go off midway through the half with an ankle injury, and the wizard slotted in at right back and played a blinder. Towards the end of the half The a Wells came into the game more with a succession of freekicks and corners, but the only notable chance fell to Radders who fired over the top of syrups goal.
During the half most of the away fans banter fell on former Arsenal legend, Portchester coach Graham Rix. Football is full of banter, but there is always a line that shouldn't be crossed when it comes to serious events outside of the football pitch, and as you can see in the below diagram Tunbridge Wells didn't cross that line at any point:
After some half time lemonade's, we were back underway, the second half was again a midfield battle with neither keeper particularly tested, our defence was excellent today and kept the Superstar forward pretty quite all day. The clear blue winter sky's disappeared, the temperature dropped and if Fud had any hair on his naked legs, then they would surely have stood on end. At this point the lights came on alough they were pretty dim and it was hard to see the game. We made the Portchester coach aware of this situation with the lights, an action that seemed to be misinterpreted by the Portchester staff who paid us a visit. This fired up the away fans just in time for the decisive moment in the game, when after a corner Brad Potter swept the ball home into the corner of the net, cue a rather large jostle from the away section.
One goal was always going to be crucial in a tight game like this, but we could have had a second when Powell almost embarrassed syrup in goal, but there was not enough power for the ball to cross the line. After several minutes of injury time the referee blew the final whistle and The Wells had negotiated their way through a tough fixture, and into the draw for the 4th round.
We then took over the clubhouse and sang for an hour after the game, to be fair to the Portchester crowd they welcomed us and our money when they must have been frustrated at playing well but not getting a result, but this is what cup football is all about. So a game where things could have turned out very badly on and off the pitched, turned out all right in the end and we left Portchester with our reputation just about intact and wallets empty.
The Vase takes a backseat for a few weeks now with league action back at The Den on Saturday against Rochester. The players deserve a good turnout from us and by then we will know our next opponents in the Vase. The competition now goes national but it will be great for the clubs finances, our livers, our wallets and our marriages to have home draw in round 4.
For an alternative view of the game, go to Wink's blog here: www.thatbetheday.blogspot.com