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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
FA Cup Trail:
FA Cup First Qualifying Round, 14/09/02
Leyton 0(0)
Team: 1. Mark Coleman 2. Danny McWilliams 3. Nick Daniels 4. Darren Jameson 5. Shaun Tiernan 6. Rick Kimball 7. Carl Lawes 8. Peter McBean 9. Mark Jameson 10. Nigel Fretwell 11. Paul Pickering
Marlow 1(1)
Team: 1. Lee Carroll 2. Grant Goodall 3. Michael Floyd 4. Tim Cook 5. Luke Evans 6. Alex Rodrigues 7. John Issacs 8. Simon Goodram 9. Robert Gibson 10. Michael Wilkins 11. Sam Sheppard
Scorers: Evans 44 mins

Referee: I Searle (Bishops Stortford)
Crowd: 125
Conditions: Dry, overcast, a little chilly later on

Entry: 5 adults, 2.50 concessions
Programme: 1 for full colour cover + 32 colour photocopied pages with two staples
Refreshments: 50p for tea, 80p for coffee
Distance travelled: 110 miles (43 there 67 back)

"E10 specials"
By Baz Barry
 
The trail continues. But with the first hint of the slightest of misgivings. We thought we had all angles covered. We know it'll be tough to see a minimum of thirteen games. We know we might end up going to Torquay or Hartlepool or Luton. We know there may be problems with tickets and replays. What we hadn't twigged until we eventually left the North Circular and headed into deepest East London was that there may be places on the Trail that we don't fancy returning to. And with due respect to the people of Leyton and without going into details (okay, it's grim and grey and generally uncomfortable) Leyton is one such place.

So it was easier to shout for Marlow, not only because they're our home team but also because it seems we're destined for each other. From the depths of both the Long Buckby and Leyton programmes a couple of uncanny coincides have emerged.

Firstly, it transpires Marlow were one of the original entrants in the first FA Cup competition in 1871 and contributed a share of the 25 that bought the first trophy. Furthermore, Marlow have the unique distinction of being the only club to have entered every competition since its inception, although inexplicably one year they entered but did not play. And after plodding along for a hundred years or so, their glory years came about when a certain Mike Keen joined as Manager in 1985 and led them through two successive promotions. (And if I'm not mistaken it's the same Mike Keen who has recently closed his camera shop in Marlow High Street.)

Leyton FC have a bit of history too, and are proud of it, constantly reminding all and sundry that they are the oldest senior football club in London. They've moved grounds countless times, even playing at Brisbane Road and once amalgamated with Wingate for a dozen years. More recently, half the committee and all the senior players left to form Leyton Pennant, down the road, which is almost like the board of a professional team, Wimbledon say, completely relocating themselves, to Milton Keynes for example, leaving the diehards to pick up the pieces.

Nowadays, it's safe to say Leyton are going places. Except in the FA Cup, that is. They have gained successive promotions from various Essex leagues and were unbeaten for the season. They have a new board of directors in place and have pinched a gaggle of players form Enfield. They are sponsored by Carling, the lager people, they have their own club call line, a more than passable website and the impressive programme features a page of merchandise and a page of players sponsorship, including socks for 5 a season. All of this for crowds of 105. A detailed read of the sponsorship page reveals that the Chairman, Costa Sophocleous, backs six players including their American goalie and a chap called Mark Sophocleous. Ah, this makes sense. "My son plays for the club so I'll become the Chairman" or is it "I'll become Chairman as long as my son plays for the club"? Suspiciously, Mark Sophocleous didn't make the squad and if you check the website, the Chairman's picture is the only one missing from a fearsome collection of mug shots of officials and staff.

For this trip there were three of us, with Dave making the biggest sacrifice, turning down a free ticket to see his Chelsea against Newcastle the same afternoon. Sadly the boy, Sam pulled out because he wanted to skateboard with his mates rather than watch "boring non-league football with my boring Dad". How hurtful? Cruelly, just as we left I played the card that we may not be able to get him a ticket for the Final but after a moment's hesitation he declined and went back to teasing his sister. Luckily we had an able replacement in Dave's Dad, Bryn, who used to have a season ticket at Walsall.

The Leyton ground is tucked away off the main drag from Leyton to Hackney Marshes and conveniently next to the Hare and Hounds pub. A typical London hostelry with a large back bar with high ceiling and offering "E10 specials" for lunch which included sandwiches with as much crust on the sweaty grated cheese as on the soft white bread.

Entry to the ground was through a proper turnstile manned by a chap in blazer and tie. Freshly painted, with a well-groomed, new pitch, on one side there is a low roof covering a shallow terrace behind the dugouts. Opposite were assorted sheds and a pair of seated stands where the majority of the crowd congregated.

Except, of course, the core dozen Marlow fans who positioned themselves behind the goal "The Blues" (for that is their nickname), playing in red, were attacking. One of their St George flags even has "Behind Both End Boys" written on it. There seemed to be the same faces, singing the same songs with one of the dozen videoing the whole game. And for this game they were joined by Nicky Ryder, the Marlow goal machine, who was suspended for being sent off for fighting against arch rivals Slough Town. Still in his red boots, having warmed up with the team, he seemed to take pleasure in leading the singing, abuse of both sets of players and goal celebrations when they came.

There was no sign of a home crew, apart from a collection of boys who occupied the opposite end, and overall there seemed to be a much lower misfit quota. And no wasps.

We met up with a chum, Alan, who combines a solid following of Marlow, home and away, with an unhealthy interest in visiting the "brew" pubs close to the grounds he visits. We worked out "brew" pubs to be places that sell real ale. He turned up ten minutes late with a glazed look on his breath, talked non-stop for twenty-five minutes about the Marlow players, the committee, the fans, pubs, beer and life before he disappeared to get some chips from the tea bar.

Sadly, the game wasn't spectacular. Neither goalie had a save to make in first half, which eventually saw the Leyton manager being ordered from the dugout for dissent. I'm not sure of the effectiveness of the punishment because he just jumped over the fence and stood next to the dugout and carried on his tirade. The goal came from a back post header at a corner and was scored by the Welsh centre back Luke Evans, who is a cross between a young Robert Page with a heap of Sean Dyche aggression. Within a minute the Marlow No.10, Wilkins, missed a sitter.

After a super save by the Leyton goalie, tipping a header on to the bar, the rest of the second half was punctuated by a succession of Leyton bookings and seemingly endless substitutions. Leyton pushed for the equaliser and had a couple of good chances but it wasn't to be.

Marlow pick up a winners' cheque for 7,500 and another away trip in the 2nd Round Qualifier next Saturday (28th), against Grays Athletic of the Ryman Premier Division.

We'll be there. Come and join us.