Sunday, January 30, 2011

Well that's another weekend of FA Cup action over.

An old joke about the Scotland national team is good on paper, shit on grass. Turns out this weekend's fourth round matches were the opposite of that. I didn't think it was a very exciting draw when the balls came out of the pot a few weeks ago. There didn't seem to be any real chances of decent shocks or games that would have you on the edge of your seat. How wrong I was!

Crawley Town are the talk of the round, of course. And so they should be, just not for all the reasons that have folk fawning all over them though.

The Torquay-Crawley game was the tie of the round. What a cracking match. Real football at a real football ground. I was really hoping that it would go to a replay as I could definitely have watched another 90 minutes of it. There's not a lot of games these days that leave me disappointed that it finishes, but this had it all.

A Cup "upset", sending offs, two penalties awarded, two penalties being saved, needle, flying tackles, end to end action. Everything you want from a football match, including the woodwork coming into play. If you haven't seen it, find it to download somewhere.

Crawley's 1-0 win is technically a Cup shock. They're the first non league side to reach the Fifth Round since Kidderminster Harriers in 1994 and only the sixth side since the second world war. They're far from being your normal non league side though. No non league side has made the sixth round and thankfully it looks like Crawley won't be the first as we'd never hear the end of it from them. If they do beat Manchester United at Old Trafford though then I would give them all the plaudits they deserve.

From nearly going bust two years ago, to the huge cash investment, to where they are today. It's a great story and for me, a grumpy old traditionalist, sums up a lot of what's wrong with football. Just plough in money to buy success and then become arrogant assholes with it.

That said, Crawley are a very professional set up on the pitch and they play some nice football when they choose to just do that. They should go up from the Conference as champions this season. I'm hoping this Cup run will catch up with them and allow my AFC Wimbledon to go up the easy way, but with the players at their disposal, you can't see past them just now.

I don't want to be two faced about it. East Fife won the Third Division Championship in 2007/08 thanks to Willie Gray's big cash influx. It's not that, per se that I dislike Crawley for. It's their attitude to their new found fame and status.

They're a hard Club to like. Their fans have become hugely arrogant and in their manager Steve Evans, they have one of the most unlikeable bosses in the game today. The way the players have been acting on the pitch is also disgusting and it was on full display at Plainmoor yesterday. Feigning injuries, kicking out at opposition players, timewasting. Believing the hype a little bit too much me thinks. They're not Billy Big Boots, they're just big fish in a small pond, for now, and they really need someone to bring them back down to earth with a bump and remember where they were two years ago. Failing to go up this season would do just nicely.

Can't believe I'd ever not want a non league Club to pull off Cup shocks but there you go. What their win and Cup run does do though is to boost the non league football scene and hopefully it will help some fans check out their local teams and boost the game there. It really is where it's at in England!

The atmosphere at Plainmoor was fantastic. It was real football at a proper football ground and so was Stevenage's game at Broadhall Way against Reading.

Stevenage were the story of the last round for me and they fought so hard in their fourth round tie, falling agonisingly to a late goal from the Championship side.

The Stevenage fans were tremendous throughout and it was another case of what football should be about. Forget your Premiership sides, this was fantastic stuff. I watched five of the games yesterday and these two were easily the most entertaining. Just a shame they never got the live TV audience to see them and they wanted to focus on the bigger sides.

Leyton Orient were one of the other lower league heroes, clipping the wings of high flying Championship promotion chasers Swansea City, whilst Brighton looked impressive against Watford. Elsewhere it seemed to be a case of so near and yet so far. Coventry and Huddersfield will be kicking themselves for seeing their chances of a Cup shock slip away to late goals from their Premiership rivals, whilst Notts County may feel that their best chance of an upset against big spending Man City has now gone, but they'll fight for their lives in the replay in Manchester.

Finally, we have three candidates in the "What The Hell Were They Thinking About?" category over the weekend.

In third place, Arsenal's Sebastien Squillaci, who must have known he was going to see red for blatantly taking out Huddersfield's Jack Hunt. Nearly cost his side the game or given them a replay they just wouldn't have wanted.

The runner-up goes to Torquay United's Chris Zebroski for one of the worst handball's you'll ever see. Why did he do it? What good could come of punching the ball away in your own box? Although the subsequent penalty wasn't scored, his dismissal ultimately cost them a place in the fifth round and it could have been the Gulls going to Old Trafford in the next round.

The winner though has to go to Swansea City's Darren Pratley who decided to chest home Scott Sinclair's goalbound effort from an offside position on the goal-line. Living up to the Prat part of his name wonderfully, as his side crashed out 2-1.

So once again the FA Cup has delivered a fine weekend of action. The Fifth Round draw looks way more exciting on paper than the fourth round one. I'm pretty sure it's going to live up to it's billing on grass as well.

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