Tomorrow’s game is a step into the unknown, as we’ve never played Weston Super Mare before, and it’s also an unfamiliar feeling to be enjoying an FA Cup run, even if it’s only in an embryonic state.
Our replay victory over Harrogate in the last round ended the longest run of FA Cup matches in the club’s history without a win. We’d gone six matches, starting with the third round defeat to Stoke in January 2015, without victory before Akil Wright and Luke Young’s goals earned us the trip to Somerset.
Obviously, that means we’ve reached the first round of the FA Cup for the first time since 2014, when we beat Woking 3-0 at home thanks to goals from Neil Ashton, Wes York and Andy Bishop.
We haven’t always neglected the FA Cup since we dropped into the National League. The run which culminated in Stoke was the fourth consecutive season we’d reached at least the first round of the competition.
The last time we went out in the first round was in 2012, when we were defeated in a bizarre match at home to Alfreton Town. We were given a penalty in the first thirty seconds of the match, which Ashton converted, but were level after an hour when an incredible incident turned the game on its head.
Goalkeeper Joslain Mayebi’s error had led to the first Alfreton goal, but that was no preparation for what would come next. He caught a corner and then, inexplicably, elbowed an Alfreton player in the head while still holding onto the ball. The referee had no option but to send him off and award the away team a penalty, which was converted once substitute goalkeeper Andy Coughlin, who had made his professional debut the previous month, had been given enough time to take up his place between the posts.
Wrexham’s fans would have been flabbergasted by this remarkable incident, were it not for the fact that Mayebi had done exactly the same thing eight weeks earlier in a home game against Hyde United! On that occasion he got away with it, possibly because the referee couldn’t believe his eyes!
The fun wasn’t over, though. Two minutes after scoring the penalty Dan Bradley was sent off for a poor tackle, but Alfreton went 3-1 up with eleven minutes left. With five minutes left Danny Wright pulled one back, and he was left furiously frustrated moments later when his goal bound header was handled, but the referee played on.
The game ended as a competition in the last minute when Ben Tomlinson scored his second goal to make it 4-2, but the madness wasn’t quite over as he then earned the third red card of the match for his provocative celebration!
I’d settle for a nice quiet 1-0 win tomorrow rather than go through all that again!
Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.