Saturday, December 09, 2006

Game 22: Salisbury City 1:1 Nottingham Forest 03.12.06 (FA Cup)

Finally the big day had arrived. I was up early listening to the Radio Wiltshire coverage and daydreaming while listening to "Thee Army", local band Pyeshoppe's FA Cup song. By 10.30 I was ready to get going and wandered down to the bus station to catch a bus up to the ground. Managed to jump on a Stonehenge bus, forgetting that it went via the train station so eventually arrived at the ground just after 11.

There was a real buzz about the place and the bright Winter sunshine was perfect weather to take it all in. Seeing the Match of the Day vans in place and the temporary studio erected above the away end brought it all home - this really was the big game.

Walking towards the turnstiles, I wandered past Mark Bright and the queue for the hot bacon buttys being served up by the mobile caterer. Once in the ground it was a case of finding the best spot and staying there - I decided to go behind the goal to the left with the barrier behind me so I could lean back against it and not have to worry about anyone surging over me. By 1pm the terrace was full and people were filling up the hatched areas before the stewards moved them on.

As part of the occasion, Aon the FA Cup sponsors had been handing out free 'klackers' that you could inflate and knock together to make some noise which went down well with the kids.

Salisbury kicked off and made the most of the surroundings - Forest seemed to struggle a bit more with the bobble of the ball and both teams took some time to get used to the wind coming off the plain. Balls were cleared into touch rather than passed around and it seemed the Forest team talk was to play it safe and take their time.

After 20 minutes I began to relax a bit - City were taking the game to Forest and were battling for everything. It looked like they could hold their own against a team three divisions above them.

However Forest started to use the possession a bit more and Ryan Clarke had to make a good save from John Curtis for a corner. As the players lined up for the kick Nathan Tyson was left unmarked on the edge of the box and when the initial corner was cleared, he was able to score from an acute angle. A good goal but from the Salisbury perspective it was a soft goal to give away. It took a few minutes for the part-timers to get going again and Forest gained in confidence.

Salisbury ended the half with a couple of half chances and going in 1.0 down gave everyone hope that the game wasn't over yet.

The second half started and it was City who started to dominate - the ball came in from a freekick and the Forest keeper punched it out to the edge of the box. Wayne Turk then hit a beautiful shot over the keeper but just as it looked to go in, one of the Forest players managed to get his head onto the ball. The closest to a goal City had come and the crowd started to encourage them more.

Clarke had to pull off some stunning saves to keep City in the game and then the moment arrived. Jon Bass came forward and hit the ball high into the box for Paul Sales to head down. Matt Holmes put his head in and managed to knock it forward to Matt Tubbs who dragged the ball back and as Holmes jumped up, he planted the ball in the back of the net in front of the home terrace. M-E-N-T-A-L. The whole terrace turned into looney leapers as the team piled on top of Tubbs on the far corner.

Matthews then came on for Sales and the game started to flow from end to end as both teams looked for a winner. Robbie had a couple of half chances but the ball just wouldn't fall kindly. Finally it was all over - Salisbury were heading to the City Ground for a replay and were in the draw for the third round. A great performance and one of those goals that will be talked about for years in this part of Wiltshire.

As I left the ground I gave Alan a call and chatted about the game until the draw came on - a Home tie against Premiership Charlton was the reward for the winners - one to dream about!

As I walked back into town, I took a detour into Victoria Park. It somehow seemed appropriate to pay homage to the memories of my time growing up here and watching some classic FA Cup games back in the 70's and 80's. One man and his dog on the old pitch. How times have changed.