Road to Wembley 17/18: 1st Qualifying Round

We are through the preliminary rounds, and now we get into the proper qualifying rounds. Alright, so it’s not that straightforward a way to number the rounds, but it works, and our FA Cup Reporters continue their individual Roads to Wembley. This time, we have fewer games, but goals galore!

 

Cheshunt 2-0 Takeley

I started this season’s ‘Road to Wembley’ at FC Broxbourne Borough.
Had it not been for a huge thunderstorm that day, I’d have popped along for a glimpse of the ground of near neighbours Cheshunt FC.
As fate would have it, I didn’t have long to long for a chance, as the 1st Qualifying Round draw sent Takeley and myself to Theobalds Lane.
At least I knew the way there!

This was to be a step up for Takeley, with Cheshunt being in the Bostik North League, a division above the visitors.

Takeley were on fine form though, with seven wins out of seven under their belt for the season.
They were top of the Essex Senior League, having only conceded two goals all season.

Cheshunt had started a lot slower, with only one point gained in their first four league games, and has conceded 14 goals in the process.

Despite not having home advantage, and being a level below, I strongly fancied Takeley to cause an upset. However in the days leading up to the game, Cheshunt decided to sack manager Paul Wickenden, and replace him with Steve Newing.
Could the ‘magic touch’ that so often brings instant success with a new manager work for Cheshunt?

Following an eventless, and almost identical journey as I took to Broxbourne, I arrived at the ground in decent time.

The first thing that I noticed about the ground, was the extensive wasteland around the stadium.
Certainly not a ground hemmed in between houses.

There’s plenty of room inside the ground too.
Each end has a small covered ‘sheds’ and seating on either side.
The seating on the far side stands a good way back from the perimeter though.

I met up with Southend fan Steve inside the ground, and we discussed what might happen in this week’s episode of our journey.

Cheshunt produced a decent programme with plenty to read, especially the article written by Howard Bailey on the ‘Road to Wembley’ in which Steve and I both got a mention.
I loved the way Howard described what we were doing as being the ‘Groundhoppers Grand National’.

A decent crowd of 185 was building, and the game started competively.

In the first minute Takeley keeper Ronnie Yates had to push Johnny Ashman’s effort onto the post. Ten minutes later, Ashman then tested Yates again, but his effort went straight at the keeper.

Cheshunt had started strongly and it took 20 minutes for Takeley’s best chance of the game so far, with Mike Castle’s glancing header from a corner going close.

The Ambers captain Jason Hallett went on a great run, and had a couple of efforts blocked soon after.

Takeley were in this game though, and Mitchell Das made Cheshunt goalkeeper Richard Hayward pull off a great save with his legs.

Half Time came with the tie still goalless.
Takeley’s defence was still looking strong, but I imagine this had been the biggest test of the season so far.

Cheshunt had a shout for a penalty early in the second half, when Kyle Roberts was brought down by the keeper. Having already shot, the referee was reluctant to give it. I’m sure if this had been an Erith Town game, he’d have pointed straight to the penalty spot.

Roberts got his name on the scoresheet in the 64th minute, when he bundled an effort in to finally break the deadlock.

Three minutes later Jason Hallett doubled Cheshunt’s lead with a header.

It seemed harsh on Takeley, but Cheshunt were putting on an impressive show for their new manager.

They even had the luxury of bringing on 43 year old Scott McGleish. It’s incredible that I actually saw Scott make his Charlton debut more than 20 years ago.

Takeley were really pushing in the last 5-10 minutes, but Cheshunt held out.

On the way out, I got to meet Cheshunt chairman Dean Williamson.
He was naturally pleased with the result, and no doubt happy that his decision on managerial changes seems to have worked, certainly in the short term.

I only got to follow Takeley for a brief period, but hope they can continue their excellent in the Essex Senior League this season.
Hopefully I’ll get to visit Station Road soon, but my immediate loyalties are with the Ambers now.

The draw for the 2nd Qualifying round has paired Cheshunt with Dorking Wanderers who are a division above them.
The Ambers have the crucial home advantage though, so I’m looking forward to another game at Theobalds Lane in a couple of weeks.

Our thanks to Andy Phillips. Follow his Groundhopping Grand National on Twitter!

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