Still on That March

Sunday 10th January 2016

Cup ties are so incredibly different to League matches. An obvious statement to all those of us who follow the beautiful game. But it takes some explaining to those who are not. After all, it is ‘just a football match’ apparently!

If things get close in the league, factors such as victory margins, goals scored and goals conceded can come into play. Yet in the cup you can win 2-1, 6-5 or 15 nil and progression to the next round is the only result.

19 years ago we had a new manager at the helm and on a cold Saturday afternoon he was to get his first personal experience of the World’s greatest cup competition. Very few of us could have believed that during his tenure he would produce teams that would go on to win the trophy 6 times (and counting….)

Sunderland were our visitors that day and despite taking the lead with a John Hartson goal we ended up with a replay on our hands that was not just frustrating because we hadn’t gone through at the first attempt but it meant we had to make the long trek to Roker Park twice in the space of 4 days, our away league encounter due to take place on the Saturday before the replay.

3rd Round January 1997

3rd Round January 1997

The sport of Darts has always been popular but none more than these days and back then the World Championships took place at the Circus Tavern in Essex. Attending the Saturday night semi finals was something our Maidstone group of Gooners used to do on a regular basis.

After our draw with the Wearsiders was one such occasion. Eric Bristow losing an amazing game to Phil Taylor and Dennis Priestley beating Denis Evans adds to the many things that make that period feel a lifetime ago!

Despite winning the replay it wasn’t to be our year of course but considerable success was just around the corner as we know.

I’d be very surprised if there are any Arsenal fans out there that don’t like the FA Cup. Even if you ignore our many successful trips to Wembley and Cardiff some of our very best memories have come in this competition.

And as a result I was thoroughly looking forward to yesterday afternoon.

On a grotty old day we did enough to deservedly go through, scored 3 excellent goals and our love affair with this competition goes on.

Giving some of our youngsters a chance is always difficult. Throughout Mr Wenger’s management he has used the League Cup consistently for just that and overall pretty successfully I feel.

We as fans would all like to see young players make that huge step up to the first team but we are also very guilty of being critical if we lose due to our understandable demands for success. So it is incredibly difficult to get that balance right.

I thought our visitors played ok yesterday and that suggests if we had made even more changes and/or given more youngsters an opportunity we might have come unstuck.

As a game I felt we looked good in the first 20 minutes or so until a defensive error allowed Sunderland to take the lead. Despite the remainder of the half not being particularly inspiring we scored a fine and important equaliser and I felt confident at the break we would go on to win the game.

The second period was pretty much all us but might not have proved quite so successful had our visitors scored instead of hitting the woodwork midway through the half just a few moments after the Ox had done the same at the other end.

Joel Campbell had an excellent game I felt and is getting better and better each time he plays. He took his goal well and his pass in the build up to our all important second was quite superb.

So 3-1 and the march continues.

A midweek trip to Anfield comes next, always one of the toughest fixtures on the calendar.

Before that we have the FA Cup 4th Round draw on Monday evening. Everyone will have their own thoughts on who they would like but for me personally it is always about getting something ‘different’ to the week to week norm.

Wycombe, Bury, Eastleigh, Newport, MK Dons, Bristol City and Exeter are all in the hat but have still got 3rd Round opponents to get past. I have been to some of them but never to see the Arsenal.

Oxford, Colchester, Walsall and Shrewsbury are all through and play at stadia where I’ve not seen us play. For that reason I would love an away tie at one of those.

Although there is as much chance of this happening as any other draw i’ll be amazed if it does. Cynical I guess but I can’t help but think it will be something ‘boring’.

See you at Anfield.



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