True Blue: A Wingate & Finchley fan’s view of the FA Cup
- Credit: Archant
Wingate & Finchley blogger Simon Swingler discusses the Blues’ involvement in the FA Cup and Sunday’s goalless draw at home against Biggleswade Town in the first qualifying round.
Most people think that the FA Cup starts with the third round in January when the Premier League big boys enter the competition, but us followers of non-league football know better.
The competition actually begins with a series of preliminary rounds before eventually arriving at the first qualifying round stage, which is where Wingate & Finchley entered the competition yesterday.
This season we were lucky enough to be handed a home draw against Southern League Premier Division outfit Biggleswade Town.
Entering the FA Cup can look like a futile exercise for a club such as ours as let’s face it, our chances of walking out on the hallowed Wembley turf in May to compete in the final of the competition is remote in the extreme.
However, the prestige in competing in the world’s most famous cup competition, coupled with some impressive prize money for progressing through the rounds, is an incentive that any club of our size and stature would be foolish to ignore.
Additionally, for FA Cup fixtures, any profits made at the turnstiles are split evenly between both the visitors and the hosts.
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If, as a non-league team, you can win your way through to when the big boys come into the competition, you could potentially be rewarded with a money-spinning draw at a big stadium with a large crowd – and of course you would be entitled to 50 per cent of those proceeds.
Last season, for example, Hastings from our league fought their way through to the third round proper and were duly handed an away tie at Championship outfit Middlesbrough. I also recall Havant & Waterlooville playing Liverpool at Anfield in recent times.
Wingate & Finchley do not have a massive pedigree when it comes to the FA Cup, having failed to make it past the second qualifying round since the turn of the millennium.
To find our heyday in this competition you have to travel back to the 1952-53 season when, as Finchley FC, we made it to the third round proper and entertained Crystal Palace at Summers Lane in front of a bumper crowd - a game which I doubt anybody with the exception of perhaps our longest-serving fan Maurice can remember.
Our game this weekend was moved to the Sunday to avoid a clash with the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. Many of the volunteers and officials of the club are of the Jewish faith and would not have been able to attend if the game had taken place on the Saturday.
The game wasn’t one for the purists, with the game resembling a chess match as two well-organised sides attempted to nullify each other, and so it transpired that the game ended as a goalless draw with barely a shot in anger from either side over the 90 minutes.
The best opportunity to break the deadlock arguably fell to young midfielder Spencer McCall, who blazed over the bar with the game still in its infancy in the first half.
The hastily-arranged replay will take place in Biggleswade on Tuesday night. It won’t be easy for the fans to get to and from the game unfortunately, especially if the tie was to go into extra-time and penalties.
Let us hope it’s a worthwhile journey for the Wingate travelling faithful, and that we get a winnable tie in the next qualifying round.
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