Sunday, 29 March 2009

Game 10: Chalfont St Peter 3, Glossop North End 3

Semi-Final, 1st Leg ~ Saturday 28th March 2009
Venue: Mill Meadow, Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
Attendance: 1,185

Distance travelled: 48 miles

Listening to the radio on Saturday morning it was hard to believe that there were Semi-Finals of a national football competition taking place. The football planet inhabited by the big boys continued to spin like a dervish on its axis as the airwaves were filled with stories about the World Cup Qualifiers, Beckham's 109th cap, the League 1 and the League 2 fixtures. Sidelined in Surrey, I felt the need to check that the FA Vase last four games were still being played and could only imagine what the inhabitants of Chalfont St Peter, Glossop, Whitley Bay and Lowestoft were feeling as D-Day dawned.

Yet I needn't have worried. The sound of clicking turnstiles as we arrived at Meadow Mill, the tidy little ground of Chalfont St Peter, prodded at the relative tranquility of the Buckinghamshire surroundings. By the time the travelling blue and white army from Derbyshire had emptied themselves from vehicles into clubhouse, there was no doubting whatsoever there was an important game about to take place. It wasn't long before the first renditions of "Wemberleee! Wemberleee!" pierced the March air. This was game on. Once again, the FA Vase delivered another beauty; final score 3-3, it could have been 5-5 and a tie left delicately balanced with everything to play for in the 2nd Leg.

Strangely though, the game took quite some time to find a gear. The weather had a huge part to play, with a very strong (and cold) wind blowing down the length of the pitch. In the first half the home side had the advantage of the wind behind them, and Glossop struggled with their tactic of trying to hit their wide men using the long ball. The only incident of note in a scrappy first 15 minutes was a small hailstorm; I predicted a low scoring affair at this stage. Yes, I know, I am an idiot.

With the wind at their backs, Chalfont could afford to play a very high line; the visitors were caught offside on numerous occasions and Glossop's goalkeeper Ashlea Gotham failed to reach the halfway line with his kicks. Chalfont really had most of the possession and pressure and they opened the scoring on 21 minutes. A shot from the edge of the area was fired in, Gotham reacted well, but the ball fell to Charlie Strutton who prodded home. Glossop failed to string more than two passes together and were half a yard off the pace. The Glossop captain Dave Young struck a long range effort wide on 23 minutes, this being their first real sight of goal.

Chalfont played the conditions better; they managed to keep the ball on the floor and brought both wingers into play whenever possible, Terrell Lewis on the right having a particularly good game. Chalfont increased their lead on 32 minutes. A corner was dropped in right on top of Gotham at the near post, but the visiting keeper somehow contrived to drop the ball thus presenting the simplest tap in for Chalfont's skipper John Carroll.

Things didn't look promising for Glossop. The massed blue and white travelling support behind the goal had lost their pre-match fervour. The Hillmen were simply not at the races, being beaten by a quicker team and a stiff gale. Disappointingly, Glossop failed to change their approach and still tried the long ball into space behind the back line. The assistant referee's raised flag thwarted them over and over again. But then suddenly, out of nothing, Glossop managed to jam their foot in the door of a game that was closing shut on them. A well delivered corner from Jamie Kay was met with a thunderous diving header from Jay Gorton, right into the roof of the net. 2-1 with 5 minutes to half-time and Glossop had bagged a lifeline.

As the teams emerged for the second half one sensed that Glossop, playing with the wind, would now take control and it would be Chalfont St Peter who would struggle. But within 4 minutes of kick-off, The Saints had restored their two goal cushion. Once more, it was sloppy defending that allowed a Chalfont player to turn in the box and square the ball for Barry Brosnan to tuck a shot just inside Gotham's left-hand post.

This is just what Chalfont had needed and looked as if they would go on and dominate. Glossop, however, refused to rollover. The game opened up now; Glossop attacking with the wind at their backs and, at last, managing to get somewhere with their wide players exposing the home defence. Chalfont still looked dangerous and likely to add to their tally as they managed to break at pace on several occasions. Glossop were in a difficult position now. The next goal would be crucial and the visitors could not afford to concede again. Stick or twist? To Glossop's credit, they pushed on and took the game to Chalfont at every opportunity, in a brave attempt to try and get back into the tie.

On 59 minutes a mad scramble in front of the Chalfont goal saw the ball pushed away to Lewis, who continued to threaten. As he advanced on the Glossop goal, he was brought down. The resulting free-kick was blasted over the Glossop bar. A minute later Gotham horribly skewed a kick from a back pass; he was having a poor game. A Glossop fan behind me moaned "Glossop are not playing very well at all". I had to agree. The clock was ticking down and Chalfont looked as if they were going to hang on and take a welcome advantage into the 2nd Leg.

And, just as I thought that, Glossop were back in the game. That long ball to Hodges on the left, which had failed in the vast majority of the game, caught the Chalfont defence napping. This time, the assistant referee kept his flag down and Hodges ran onto the ball and with one touch coolly lobbed the very tall Mark Oliver in the Chalfont goal. The ball nestled into the net and Hodges continued running to the delighted Glossop fans behind that goal. If the game had ended there and then, with 73 minutes on the clock, I'm sure the travelling support would have happily taken a 3-2 scoreline back to Derbyshire.

But, quite amazingly, we were treated to a barn-storming conclusion to the game. With Chalfont's heads down, Glossop drew level with 11 minutes to go. Another long ball was the undoing of a tiring Chalfont rearguard and this time it was Tom Bailey who outpaced his marker to slot home. Dramatic stuff and Glossop were well and truly back in the tie.

But it didn't end there; both sides could have won it in a frenetic last couple of minutes. On 90 minutes, Bailey again broke through for Glossop only for Oliver in the Chalfont goal to get to the ball first. Up at the other now and Lewis sprinted down the right and Edward Chemial flashed a header inches wide. Edging into the 4th minute of added on time, the excellent Lewis again found space to cross, only for Chalfont's Adam Louth to blaze over. The last action of the game saw Glossop's Sam Hind reach the dead-ball line and cross into a swarm on on-rushing blue shirts. Some tired leg-swinging from the players in blue and some last ditch defending meant that Glossop were agonisingly denied a dramatic last ditch winner.

At the final whistle, the reaction of the Glossop players told its own tale; they stood to a man with their hands on their heads. They genuinely felt as if they could have won it at the end and it was Chalfont who probably came off the pitch the most relieved. For me, PB and Mackem, another marvellous afternoon's entertainment.

This was a very good game between two committed teams, but I must admit the atmosphere seemed a tad muted, even with such a large and enthusiastic crowd inside Mill Meadow. Maybe the strong wind carried the noise off over the hills? Perhaps the very open ground dampened the sound of the support? It is an understatement to say I am very much looking forward to the 2nd Leg at the more compact Surrey Street where there is everything to play for and where there promises to be an electric atmosphere in front of a sell out gate.

I'm sure this FA Vase has another helping of tension, nail biting action and excitement in store. Already the mind games have started; Danny Edwards (the Chalfont St Peter manager) has declared that Glossop "will be favourites so the pressure will be on them". The good news is this: there isn't long for us all to wait to find out.

For more of my photos from the game, please pop over [here].

Friday, 27 March 2009

Semi-Finals Day Is (Almost) Here

At last, the day of the Semi-Finals is almost here. That First Qualifying Round game at Oakwood last September is but a distant memory. 6 months, 9 games and 1268 miles later, I am off to Chalfont St Peter tomorrow with my good friends PB and Mackem. 280 miles north, Whitley Bay will be hosting Lowestoft Town in the other Semi. At opposite ends of the country, fans from four non League clubs will now being getting really anxious and excited in equal measure. Nothing will be decided tomorrow, as 2 legs need to be negotiated, but even so...Wembley is a matter of 180 minutes away. Deep breaths all round.

The town of Glossop has gone FA Vase barmy, and I am reliably informed that football fever has taken its grip. The local newspapers are now giving tomorrow's game in Buckinghamshire front and back page coverage, even the Manchester Evening News has got in on the act. Ticket sales for the home leg on 4th April have been crazy, and the local press are reporting that they have all but been sold, over 1000 going in the first few days. Ahead of tomorrow's game, some news from the last few days:

1. The G.N.E. Bitter. This is great. The local Shaws Brewery has produced a special ale to celebrate Glossop's Semi-Final games. They have called it 'G.N.E. Bitter' and it has been well received. Some ingenuous Glossop North End fans are working out how to smuggle a keg or two onto the coach on Saturday. I look forward to trying some! Thanks to Mandy at the Star Inn for the photo above.

2. The Glossop View. I listened with interest after the Semi-Final draw when the Glossop manager, Steve Young, said that he was disappointed with not being at home in the 1st Leg. This a strange thing to hear as the majority of managers and coaches up and down the land normally prefer to be away in the 1st Leg; go to 'their' ground, shut up shop and finish them off at home in the 2nd Leg. Young's take on this was quite revealing; he explained that clubs at this level in the FA Vase really know nothing about each other. His plan was to shock Chalfont in the first game, and he would have preferred home advantage first to execute this plan. By the 2nd leg, they will know far more about each other and there will be no element of surprise. Young still intends to use the shock tactics tomorrow: "It's important that we go to Chalfont looking to win".

3. The Chalfont View. Chalfont have been a little more reserved in their build up to the game. They have a very young team (average age 20) and are based in a part of the country that is not traditionally a hotbed of football. They play in front of crowds of 75-80 but are expecting closer to 1000 tomorrow. Chalfont St Peter FC are a real community club and over the past 8 years or so, since the current Chairman Denis Mair took over, they have worked hard to build a solid club infrastructure and have developed a sound coaching set up. They do not pay their players. They have been favourites to win the FA Vase ever since the Fourth Round, a tag they are keen to dismiss. Coming from a small community they have had less coverage than other teams in the competition and they believe they are underdogs for the tie. The Chalfont manager, Danny Edwards, has a pragmatic view: "It will all come down to who adjusts and copes best with the pressure".

4. The 'W' Word. I am intrigued to understand how both sets of players, being so close to Wembley, actually feel at the moment and cope with this "pressure" that Edwards talks about. How do they control their nerves, how do they channel their excitement, how do they keep their feet on the ground? Can the pressure be simply too much? I put these questions to two Glossop players, captain Dave Young (son of manager Steve) and Rick Whelan. Both were very clear on this subject; their manager keeps them in check. Using the old cliché, they really do take one game at a time and are still in the hunt for League honours. The manager has them well focused and ensures that their feet are firmly nailed to the floor. Young believes that "whoever conquers their nerves will go through" and the manager has worked hard to ensure the players do not get carried away with things. The word 'Wembley' is well and truly banned amongst the North End players and coaching staff. Mention the 'W' word and a swift £5 fine follows. I wonder how big the kitty is?

5. Prediction? Talking of a kitty, throughout this FA Vase I and my friends have had small wagers to predict the scoreline of games we have been to. In the early rounds, PB seemed to scoop the kitty every time. But after any of us failed to get the score correct at Bitton AFC (2-0 to Glossop) and more understandably at Glossop (5-2 against Marske United), for tomorrow's game there is a double-rollover at stake. On this blog I have never predicted scores, in an effort to maintain an air of neutrality. A bit like Switzerland. To keep with tradition I'm not going to tell you want scoreline I have predicted for tomorrow. However, knowing our prediction skills, and the total unpredictability of this wonderful FA Vase competition, I would guess that we may have another rollover for the Wembley Final in May.

As Paul Gascoigne once said: "I don't make predictions and I never will".

Friday, 20 March 2009

Who Would Be A Secretary?

For the first time in 14 years, Chertsey Town reached a Cup Final, only to be thrown out of the competition a matter of days later. Last Saturday, the Surrey club won 1-0 at Worcester Park in the EL Records Premier Challenge Cup Semi-Final, the knockout competition for Combined Counties League clubs. But it was later discovered that they had fielded an ineligible player.

I had spoken to a number of Chertsey Town fans prior to the Semi-Final, and they were excited about a potential Friday night April Final at Woking FC. It promised to be a big occasion, with well supported clubs Camberley Town and Molesey contesting the other Semi. I was genuinely saddened by the news for two reasons. Firstly, I had every intention of going to the Final to cheer on my local club and a trip to Woking with family and friends would have made for a good evening out. Secondly, I know the club secretary down at Chertsey Town and I'm sure he will be distraught at the news and it his him I feel most sorry for.

It is a thankless task being a club secretary, and the many I have met in the last few seasons all demonstrate the same personable traits. They are passionate about their club. They are extremely hard working. They are selfless with their own time that they volunteer. And they are sticklers for detail. They have to be. One job in a secretary's million-and-one jobs is to ensure that players are eligible to play when they walk out onto the pitch. Believe me, this is not as easy as it sounds. Rules are numerous and complex, changes are common, season in season out, and there are a whole raft of subtly different rules depending which competition you are in. You'd need a brain the size of Saturn to know and understand the subtleties of all the rules, let alone keep up with them as they change.

I spoke to an official at the Combined Counties League this week, and I've been told that Chertsey Town has appealed against the punishment. The ineligible player in question also played in Chertsey's Quarter-Final win at Bookham. The problem was that he had not played 3 League games for Chertsey Town before appearing in the Cup. In my opinion, it is unlikely that any appeal will be successful.

The fielding of ineligible players is not uncommon. Look at any of this season's non League tables and they are littered with teams that display an asterisk against their name. Clubs deducted League points this season include Bognor Regis Town, Colwyn Bay, Goole AFC, Maldon Town, Potters Bar Town, Dulwich Hamlet and Caernarfon Town. Lower down the pyramid at Steps 5, 6 and 7, I counted at least another 38 clubs that have been penalised for using an ineligible player this season alone, and that was before I gave up counting (I struggle with double figures). The Conference teams are not immune either: Crawley Town, Oxford United and Mansfield Town have all contravened the rules. Even the secretaries at semi-professional clubs struggle to get it right all the time.

I started this season's FA Vase trail with Chertsey Town, and this competition is has had its own fair share of ineligible player headlines. One of the most famous cases has to be that of Beckenham Town; at the start of the 2004-05 season, the Kent club fielded an ineligible player in their FA Vase game against Lordswood. The FA banned them for 5 years from the FA Vase and 6 years from the FA Cup. This was a particularly severe punishment, and Beckenham Town have spent the last 5 years wondering 'what if?' in the knowledge they were missing out on potential prize money that these competitions offer. Only last week, the FA agreed that Beckenham Town can be reinstated in the FA Vase next season, something they are most relieved about. In the words of Peter Palmer, the secretary at Beckenham:

"As the secretary, I take responsibility for what happened and it has made me far more vigilant when it comes to signing new players. It is a case of leaving no stone unturned. Even if a player insists he has not signed for anyone else this season, we make sure we go through all the channels and check everything out".

Chertsey Town has not had much sympathy this week following their dismissal from the League Cup; in fact, there has been a deal of animosity directed at the Alwyns Lane outfit. I know that when this kind of thing happens at clubs, when teams are deducted points or ejected from competitions, it is usually the secretary that gets it in the neck. But spare a thought for the hard working club secretaries up and down the land; these are the ladies and gentleman that work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the clubs going. They are like you and me, only human, and make the odd mistake. But without them, where would we be?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

A Ticket To Ride

A smidgen less than weeks to go to the Semi-Final 1st Leg at Chalfont St Peter, and plans for both legs are well under way. The big topic of conversation since the draw for the Semis is whether entry to either games, or both, will be by ticket only. It seems strange, after feeling conspicuous in gatherings of under 100 in this season's FA Vase, that this subject is even up for discussion. But early last week Glossop made an announcement that their home tie, the 2nd Leg on 4th April, would indeed be an all-ticket affair. All of a sudden we are talking about demand possibly outstripping availability, and for the first time on this run I felt that awful pang of concern; would I get a ticket for the game? Would this season's road to Wembley falter, trip and stumble at the very last hurdle?

The answer to those questions: I really don't know yet.

Glossop North End have imposed a capacity of 1588 for the 2nd Leg, and this FA Vase run has sparked so much interest in North Derbyshire that it is likely that many more than that would have turned up. Glossop had little option but to make it all-ticket; if the 'sold-out' signs are up on the day of the game, then there will be no entry for anybody without a ticket. Not bad for a side whose home gates average around 200, with only 70 paying at the turnstile for a midweek League encounter with Winsford United back in October.

Glossop fans are now eager to know what the ticket sale arrangements will be, and understandably so. As I write, details are not yet known. There is an increasing sense that there will be a big clamor for tickets and some fans could miss out. For fans who live at the opposite end of the country from Glossop, there is a growing fear that come the scramble for tickets they could be the ones at the back of the queue. This is no doubt a not unusual feeling for fans of League clubs where ticket rationing happens a little more frequently; my guess is that Glossop fans may never have encountered this before.

For the game in two weeks at Chalfont, the picture is somewhat clearer. That will not be all ticket - the capacity at Mill Meadow is over 2500, so the Buckinghamshire club has announced that fans will be able to pay on the gate. An entry fee has also been set at £8 (£4 for concessions), which will be the highest we will have seen in this FA Vase; still not bad value! Having said that, there is some confusion between clubs as it was initially reported that Chalfont would be charging £10 on the day. Still not unreasonable for a Semi-Final, but a significant enough hike in cost to cause debate in some quarters.

For me I would be happy to pay £10; I have felt spoilt on this FA Vase run, paying no more than £5 for any match and that price, at some of the earlier games, included a programme and car parking. My travel costs will also be minimal for the 1st Leg game; it will be a mere 24 miles from door to door which will make for an extremely short and leisurely journey. One of the Glossop players, who has really impressed me in the two games I have seen, is Dave Hodges. A source at the club told me that Hodges was delighted with the Chalfont draw; he lives in Westminster, London and he will be grateful for only a short tube journey on the day. He travels north for every Glossop game, impressive dedication at this level of football; if I was wearing one, I'd take my bobble hat off to him.

The Glossop fans will have a longer journey and they are reserving tickets of a different kind for the 1st Leg. Coaches have been booked - an 83 seater plus plans for a second, 50 seater - and the travelling contingent are booking up; £25 secures a ticket to ride. It will be interesting to see how many Glossop fans make the trip; Chalfont have an option on 300 tickets for their trip north in the 2nd Leg; if I was a betting man, I would guess that Glossop fans travelling to the 1st Leg would exceed that number. Chalfont have already announced that they will be producing a bumper, 72 page programme for the 1st Leg, to which I have been asked to write a small piece. They will be printing only 500 copies and expect to sell out.

Much still has to be sorted, and these small clubs are not necessarily geared up for this amount of organisation. Chalfont St Peter and Glossop North End would not have it any other way - only one step away from Wembley - but dedicated teams of hard working volunteers are toiling behind the scenes to ensure that both Semi-Final ties run smoothly. It is going to be a very busy few weeks for both clubs, but well worth all the effort.

All I have to do in the meantime is keep my fingers, and everything else, crossed in the hope that I can get a ticket for the 2nd Leg. But before that, a trip to Chalfont awaits.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Football Plus A Little More Football

A week on from the fantastic game at Glossop, and I've now had time to calm down a little and take a few things on board. It has been a very busy week for me, mainly at work but also at home. I was so shattered yesterday evening – both mentally and physically – that by the time I had got my son to bed, and my wife was out partying with friends, I was ready for bed myself. 9pm on a Saturday evening. How sad is that? After a good night’s sleep, it is time now to put a few things into perspective:

1. Glossop In The Semi-Finals! Stating the obvious I know, but that really does sound good. Imagine what the Glossop fans must be feeling; a whole raft of emotions coursing through their bodies. 5-2 against a strong Marske United side was a great result, but the thing that stood out for me was the performance. The Glossop team really do have some strong players, and in the two games I have seen them play I have been impressed with a number of them; David Hodges, Ashlea Gotham and Rick Bailey to name but three. The Hillmen are riding high at the moment; their fans must be besides themselves, praying they can negotiate the final hurdle and grace Wembley.

2. It is Chalfont Next. Yesterday, Chalfont St Peter and Needham Market played out their Quarter-Final replay. After 90 minutes, it was 0-0. After extra-time, it was 0-0. After 5 penalties apiece, it was 5-5. Chalfont scored the first sudden-death spot-kick, but then Needham's Jon Sparkes missed and that was that. Chalfont St Peter v Glossop on March 28th, the return leg at Glossop one week later.

3. Tickets Please? There was a huge crowd at Glossop for the Markse game. The inevitable questions about the Semi-Final games have already started. Will the games be all-ticket? Will they be moved to bigger grounds? (AFC Fylde did this in last season’s Semi-Final). I think we won’t know the answers to these questions for a few days yet, but I really hope that the games, particularly the second leg in Glossop, stay at the club’s home grounds. It just won’t be the same if it moved to a bigger, vacuous venue. Let’s save that scenario for Wembley.

4. A Little More Football. Away from the FA Vase, there is no avoiding football. My son has signed up with Chertsey Town U9s and he had training on Friday night; I played in a game of ‘kids v parents’ at the end of the session, and after a day of playing golf in impossibly boggy and waterlogged conditions, this almost killed me. Blessed with no footballing skills whatsoever, trying to control a ball as ten ‘wasp-like’ 8 year olds swarm all over you is impossible. Especially for an old crock like me. Saturday morning my son was then involved in a 1-0 defeat against league leaders AFC Brooklands. It was a close tense game, and I’ve never been so nervous watching a match. Despite the defeat, it was a great team effort and my son won 'Best Effort' award, for the second week running. I maybe a crocked Dad, but I’m also a proud Dad.

5. Even More Football. Now my son is the proud owner of the full Chertsey Town kit and tracksuit, and is a fully fledged member of Spencer Day’s revolution at Chertsey Town, he can now get into their home games free of charge. I and a friend took our respective offspring along yesterday to Alwyns Lane to see Chertsey Town beat Badshot Lea 2-0. Chertsey still have an outside chance of promotion from the Combined Counties Premier League and are chasing table toppers Bedfont Green. In the few months since I saw Chertsey Town lose at Arundel in the FA Vase, they are a noticeably improved side. With Spencer Day’s money improving the club facilities and now trickling down through the youth structure, the future looks bright at Chertsey.

6. Semi-Final Plans. Arrangements are now underway for the next FA Vase game, which is 20 days away. The Glossop fans are sorting out their scarves, flags, musical instruments, songs and transport for their long journey down to Buckinghamshire. I have yet to make contact with the Chalfont club or fans, but I’m sure they are still celebrating after yesterday’s nail biting win. For me it will be a short hop around the M25, 30 minutes at the most. Time for me to chill today and relax with my family; the toughest decision I’ll have this Sunday is choosing which pub to visit near Chalfont St Peter from the ‘Good Pub Guide’. It’s a hard life.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Semi-Final Draw

Waiting for the Semi-Final draw to be made today, I couldn't help wondering whether there would be another 'balls-up' (no pun intended) from the FA and how anything could possibly go wrong with only five teams left in the competition. Mistakes are so frequent on their website they are now to be expected. It must be highly embarrassing for the FA, but no longer newsworthy. But today they excelled themselves. This is the message that appeared at lunchtime on their site:

"The draw has been made for the Semi-Final of The FA Vase, with last year's losing Finalists Whitley Bay being drawn out to face 2002's winners Whitley Bay".

Add to that the fact (as I write this on Monday evening) they still have the Needham Market v Chalfont St Peter result from Saturday’s Quarter-Final as 0-0. The game actually ended 1-1. For the game I was at, they report that Ben Thompson scored two goals for Marske United (both in the 23rd minute?!) when in fact he only scored one.


Anyway, the actual draw has sent Glossop North End to either Needham Market or Chalfont St Peter in the Semi-Final 1st Leg on Saturday 28th March. The 2nd Leg at Glossop will be on Saturday 4th April. The other Semi-Final pairs Whitley Bay with Lowestoft, a repeat of last season's Semi-Final.

More reaction from me on this draw - and the logistics of Whitley Bay playing themselves - later in the week.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Game 9: Glossop North End 5, Marske United 2

Sixth Round Proper ~ Saturday 28th February 2009
Venue: Surrey Street, Glossop, Derbyshire
Attendance: 1,120

Distance travelled: 404 miles

There are some games that will stay with you for a very long time; as age takes its toll and memories fade, hours and hours of football will be archived to the dark recesses never to see the light of day again. But occasionally, one game comes along that is special, for a whole variety of reasons; these are the ones that you'll remember clearly, as if it were only yesterday. One such match took place yesterday, on the extremities of the Peak District. Played against a backdrop of rolling dales, crisscrossed by dry-stone walls, beneath the laden reservoirs of Valehouse, Rhoadeswood, Torside and Woodhead, blanketed by a heavy grey sky. In a town called Glossop, on a cold February afternoon, we were treated to a special game that shaped a truly memorable day.

It was a long day for me, but worth every minute. 200 miles via the M25, M1 and the Woodhead Pass down into Glossop, I was joined by Vase stalwart PB and my publisher and photographer, David Bauckham. David had travelled to my house from Eastbourne, so his day was even longer than mine. We were made to feel very welcome at Surrey Street by Haggis (press officer & match reporter), Neil (programme editor) and Ben (High Peak Radio) and many others that we chatted to throughout the day, including the marvellous Marske United fans. My Dad also made the short journey over from Cheshire; for someone that was born and bred in Glossop, this was even more of a homecoming for him than it was for me.

The basic facts about this FA Vase Quarter-Final tie will be written into the record books. Glossop North End won 5-2, with goals from Dave Hodges (2 minutes), Rick Bailey (12 and 29), Jamie Kay (59) and Sam Hind (90). Marske United's Ben Thompson and Craig Skelton bagged one each (21 and 61).

But there is much more to tell about this game than the mere sequence of goals. Let's start with the ground and the crowd. Over 1000 were packed into Surrey Street. This was my first visit, and I'm sure that Glossop won't mind me saying it has a rather ramshackle feel to it. Peeling paintwork, rusting corrugated iron, ageing concrete; Surrey Street has certainly seen better days. But let that not be a criticism; the old venue contributed immensely to the cup atmosphere and it was evident that a vast amount of hard work had gone on at the club to prepare for this big day with extra facilities provided. With all parts of the ground occupied it was by a country mile the biggest crowd I have seen on this FA Vase run. Both sets of fans were in good voice; Marske United fans were excellent value for money, marshalled by their 'bulldog' mascot. They sang constantly throughout the game and never lost heart, even towards the end of the game when the cup exit door was slightly ajar.

The game itself was enthralling and of a good standard. This was an end-to-end spectacle, and we were treated to seven goals. It could have been more. Even with Glossop leading 4-2 into the dying minutes of the game, Marske battled and never refused to lie down and the tension in the ground towards the end was almost unbearable. Glossop took their chances, of which they had many. They had pace in attack and strength in midfield and it was the speed down the flanks that exposed the visitor's fullbacks which was ultimately Marske's undoing. In this credit-crunched recession, you'll have to travel far and wide to find such great entertainment for a fiver.

With hindsight it's easy to reflect that Glossop killed the game off after only 12 minutes. In reality, it never really felt that way and there were times in the game when, if someone had suggested this was going to end 6-6, I would have struggled to disagree. Glossop exploded out of the blocks winning a corner straight form the kick-off and Bailey forced a good save from the Marske keeper Brendan Ledgeway. With the turnstiles still clicking, Dave Hodges opened the scoring when he reacted quickest to a loose ball in the area. Ten minutes later the scoreline was doubled. An accurate cross from Darren Hamilton was confidently converted by Bailey.

Marske enjoyed enough possession of their own. On 18 minutes, Thompson forced a good save from Ashlea Gotham and Marske won a corner after a momentary mix-up between Gotham and a defender. Thompson was proving to be a handful for the Glossop defence and he was rewarded on 21 minutes when he headed in a Derek Bradley cross. Marske were back in the game.

Glossop didn't react particularly well to conceding, and for a spell they rushed their long-ball game and they squandered possession far too easily. Just before the half-hour mark, Dave Young gave the ball away and Bradley chipped just over the bar from distance. A let-off for the home side. Glossop went straight up the other end; a long ball was taken well in his stride by Bailey who evaded two defenders to calmly slot home. 3-1 to Glossop and Bailey was really starting to impress.

The first half ended in a flurry of activity, so much so I can barely read my hurriedly scribbled notes. Both teams were committed to attack; Marske pressed and a good interchange of play between Thompson and Ross Diamond resulted in a fine effort on goal from Diamond. Gotham again saved well. In the dying minutes a scramble in the Glossop goalmouth had the Marske fans clutching their heads in despair; the ball then broke out to Hodges who sprinted away and put in a marvellous cross which the Marske goalkeeper fumbled to safety. Then straight back down to Glossop's end, another great cross, this time met by Marske's Glenn Wesson who headed down into the turf rather than anywhere on target. Breathtaking stuff. The referee blew for half-time, and it was time for us all to take a breather.

The second half was equally entertaining. Hodges was again playing very well on the left, and really started to panic the Marske right-back, Andy Raw. The No. 2 had a poor game, giving the ball away frequently; Hodges must take some credit for the pressure he applied. Marske changed to a 4-3-3 formation in an attempt to win more possession in the final third. This nearly paid dividends 50 minutes in when Andrew Swallwell had a shot blocked. But Glossop were once again swift on the break, and the heavy pitch was taking its toll on the Marske defence. On 51 minutes a mazy run from Hodges, leaving three Marske players in his wake, ended in a disappointingly weak shot. A minute later, a rising Hodges shot from a tight angle forced a great save from Ledgeway.

The Glossop midfield, in particular the excellent Jay Gorton, was now starting to boss proceedings. Bailey, Hodges and Hamilton were allowed much of the ball, and Marske were on the back foot. Just before the hour mark, Bailey set off on a weaving run, his pass inside found Hodges whose shot struck the foot of the Marske post. Moments later, Glossop worked the ball out wide to Bailey and Jamie Kay turned the cross in to make it 4-1. Bailey had now scored two and made another; he was already my man of the match.

All over for Marske? Not at all. Within two minutes, they pulled a goal back when substitute Skelton scored with a low shot. Marske still believed they could get something from the game; a superb double block by Gorton in the Glossop box prevented Marske adding to their tally. But, once again, back came Glossop and that man Hodges. By now, Raw was having a 'mare' of a game and I felt sorry for him; Hodges' driving runs were relentless. The end-to-end play continued; Marske shot over after a good move around the 70 minute mark. Glossop had a chance to settle the tie minutes later when a cross was arrowed in to a totally unmarked Dave Morris; Morris must have been shattered as he was barely able to jump off the ground and the ball sailed inches over his head and away from danger.

Both teams were now visibly tiring, but their commitment and desire drove them on still. Thompson flicked a header wide for the visitors with 10 minutes remaining and Gotham was forced to save at the foot of his post a couple of minutes later. Into the last 5 minutes, a sweet drive from Mark Swales clipped the Glossop bar. Glossop were hanging on; you could cut the tension with a knife.

With the Marske fans singing "you only need two more", with the clock ticking down, with Glossop nails bitten to the quick, there was time for one final twist. In the dying seconds, Marske were caught exposed at the back as Bailey found space to advance into the area. His shot rebounded off the post to a grateful Sam Hind who slotted home to send the Glossop fans berserk. 5-2 the final score. By 'eck - dramatic stuff.

And then there were the celebrations at the end. Fantastic scenes at the final whistle, the home fans spilling onto the muddy pitch to engulf their players. Glossop were through to the Semi-Finals of the FA Vase and the hosts were entitled to celebrate wildly. The reaction of the Marske fans was also top class. They stood to a man to applaud their own team's efforts, and were magnanimous in defeat. Marske United have enjoyed a wonderful cup run, and the massed travelling support were going to enjoy the day, whatever the outcome. Reports are filtering through this morning of how Marske fans congratulated Glossop fans, as they made their way out of Surrey Street, with handshakes and generous back slapping. A credit to their club; this surely is what football is all about.

If anyone had any doubts about the FA Vase, in terms of its importance, of what it means to clubs and fans, they should have been in Glossop yesterday. This was an occasion in every sense of the word, a day that will live in the memories of many. Unfortunately for Marske, it ended in a trough below the Peak; but for Glossop, they are still living the dream and there are pages of yet another chapter waiting to be turned. Wembley is almost 200 miles from Glossop, but it is so close now they can almost smell it.

Hold on to these very special memories Glossop, but at the same time leave a little room for a few more.

For more photos from the game, please click [here].