8.45 a.m. and in one of the 4 Supporters Club coaches to Stockport for the first round proper of the F.A.Cup. I'm not superstitious but I'm wearing the same clothes as the Sudbury game three weeks ago, the undergarments having been washed, of course. A good journey up, and at 1.15, we were in the Working Mens (Person's?) Club adjoining Edgeley Park, home of Stockport County of the Nationwide 2nd Division. (Beer is Â£1.40 a pint - they don't know they're born these people.) An 11,500 seat stadium, it could have been Wembley for the 800 or so Saints fans who sounded like a lot, lot more.
Today, The Dynamic Duo selected Wilmot in goal; 4 at the back: Gould, Brown (C), Campbell and Smith; 4 in the middle: Oakes, Challinor, Castle and Kean; and up front: Browne and De Souza. On the bench: Moran, Mackail-Smith, Crawshaw, Naylor and Roberts D.
A bright start by City, good competitive football, tight on the opposition, the Lads weren't over-awed by the occasion. After 15 minutes or so, County seemed to step up a gear and opened the scoring with a super goal. With his back to goal just outside the box, Luke Becket took a pass on his chest, looped the ball over his shoulder and Campbell, allowed it to bounce and chipped over Wilmot. 1-0. County enjoyed their best spell of the match but the visitors defence held firm until just before half-time when a free-kick from just in front of the City supporters, not one of whom agreed with the referee's decision, was headed home from 6 yards by Fradin. H.T. 2-0.
Within 10 minutes of the re-start it was 3. A County corner from the left was headed goalwards but cleared of the line beside the right hand post. The referee allowed play to continue but his attention was called to the linesman on the left side line who saw a hand-ball through the melee. The referee showed the red card to an astonished Gould. A penalty was a harsh decision, but the player that the ball hit was Rob Kean, clearly caught by the Match of the Day cameras. It will be little consolation to Gould to have the red card rescinded on Appeal. The division's leading scorer, Ben Burgess duly despatched the penalty. 3-0.
Other team's may have collapsed but not The Saints. Spurred on by the terrific vocal support, City weren't here just for a day out. Within 10 minutes, skipper Brown scored from a powerful header from a City free-kick. 3-1. Moran came on for Campbell, and Crawshaw for De Souza. County were rattled and City pressure might have paid off over the next 10 minutes or so. Stockport created several good chances but a combination of poor finishing and stout defence kept the visitors in the game. Mackail-Smith replaced Kean. With a few minutes left, Burgess took the ball from just inside the City half, and from just outside the area hit a fierce dipping shot that gave Wilmot no chance. One of the goals of day, I should think, rivalled by Stockport's first. 4-1. F.T.
A very good performance by the Saints. They competed well throughout the game and showed great character particularly when reduced to 10 men for most of the second half. Everyone played their part. Wilmot, Smith, Campbell, Kean, especially, but my MotM?, a captains role from Brown. They continued to try to play football and they well-deserved the generous applause from the home fans as they left the pitch. (That's the City players leaving the pitch, not the home fans.) The Travelling City Faithful were tremendous, today, although for the 95th consecutive year, St. Albans City F.C. have failed to win the F.A. Cup.
Entertainment 9/10. Atmosphere 10/10. Technical Merit 9/10. Referee 6/10.
Match report by Awayday