Friday, November 01, 2013

The dream dies as the rain pours... Needham Market 0, Cambridge United 1

And so, the big day came for our local Ryman League Division One North team, as the big boys from the Skrill Conference National came to town for their FA Cup, Fourth Qualifying Round tie.

To put it in perspective, there's a three division gap between the two teams - think Premiership and League Two - and Cambridge United are top of their league, having gone sixteen games without defeat. But, where there's life, there's hope, as they say, and Needham Market had only lost their first game of the season less than a week earlier.

A crowd of 1,784, the largest ever to grace Bloomfields, and including Ros and I, settled down in anticipation of a slaughter, if the Cambridge fans were to be believed. I wasn't overly optimistic, but then I knew the odds, but was confident that the Marketmen would give it their best shot. And indeed, at half-time, with the two teams goalless, it was hard to tell which was the Conference side. Needham Market were playing the better football, without creating too many chances, whilst Cambridge looked as though they had rather underestimated their opponents.

The second half was a different story, as the visitors began to impose themselves, and the snap gradually disappeared from the home team - the disparity in fitness levels and experience was beginning to tell. Goalkeeper James Shea, a former Arsenal trainee, was coming into the game more and more, making a string of high-class saves as the rain began to bucket down.

But, just as the outnumbered home supporters were beginning to dream of survival and a place in the draw for the First Round proper, their hopes were dashed as tired defenders lost an attacker and substitute Adam Cunnington nodded home a simple goal.

There was a brief flurry by Needham Market in the ten or so minutes that remained, but it was to no avail, and it would be fair to say that, overall, the better side won. The minnows weren't disgraced though, and the funds generated by the best cup run of the club's history will doubtless be reinvested into its future.

And, I suspect, I'll be back from time to time, as my other commitments permit, to watch them as they try to reach the promised land that is the Ryman League Premier Division.

Come on you Marketmen!

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