Sunday, 3 September 2017

Potters Bar Town 1 v 0 Bishop’s Stortford

Saturday 2nd September 2017
FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round
Parkfield, Potters Bar
Admission: £10.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 181
Match Rating: 2

Having missed the previous two qualifying rounds of this season’s FA Cup, I very much wanted to take in a game today. There was not a great selection at grounds I had not previously visited, and in the end, I decided to tick another ground in the Isthmian League, with the attraction of the home team playing against a team from a step above from a different league.

Parkfield is about a 15 minute walk westwards from Potters Bar train station, and the entrance is reached after walking through the car park and down a path to the side of the clubhouse. Once thought the turnstile block, there is a large grass area which, for today at least, had some large gazebos for shelter, in front of the clubhouse. Pitchside, straddling the half way line on one side is an all-seater stand, which is neat and compact and a good place to watch the game from. On the opposite side, there is a much narrower and more basic stand, with a couple of rows of bench seating and room for standing to the rear. Immediately behind one goal is a narrow stand covering five terrace steps, whilst around the rest of the pitch there is just hard standing. Apart from a few shabby areas and a some abandoned small buildings, the ground is generally neat and tidy, with a pleasantly hemmed in feel to it with plenty of trees around, and housing behind one length. The 16 page programme was a disappointment for the £2 charge and for a Step 4 club. It had an attractive cover, but contained only the briefest of welcome messages, potted history and penpics for both clubs, fixtures and results for the home side, an article about the FA Cup and possible line-ups.

Having transferred from the Southern League Division One Central in the close season, Potters Bar have had a good start to their campaign in the Isthmian League Division One North, winning three and drawing the other of their four league games so far. In the previous round, they beat Essex Senior League outfit West Essex 4-1 at home. They will certainly be hoping for a repeat of last season's run in the FA Cup, when they reached the Fourth Qualifying Round, only losing 1-0 away at Chesham United. After comfortably suffering relegation by 13 points from the National League South, bringing to an end 13 seasons at Step 2, Bishop's Stortford have not had a great start to their Southern League Premier Division campaign, losing their first four league games before picking up their first point in a goalless draw at home on Monday.

On another warm and sunny afternoon, although nowhere near as hot as last weekend, the first half was a rather forgettable affair, with a distinct lack of quality on show from both sides and the magic of the cup was seeming to pass the players by. It was no surprise it remained goalless at the break, with hopes that the respective managers would spur the players on to avoid a goalless second half too.

Bishop’s Stortford controlled most of the second half, having most of the possession but rarely carried a goalscoring threat. They did have a great chance on 51 minutes though. As the Potters Bar defenders appealed for a foul, Dipo Akinyemi found himself clear in the penalty area and faced with just the keeper, he shot just wide of the post. Eight minutes later, Potters Bar's Michael Murray spotted the keeper off his line, but his shot from virtually the half way floated just over the bar. But on 65 minutes, Potters Bar did take the lead, Eoin Casey heading home a cross from the left. The visitors did come close twice to force a replay, on 88 minutes Darren Foxley shot from the edge of the area but the keeper tipped the ball over, and in added on time, a first time shot at waist height went just over the bar. But it was not to be for them and for the fourth season in a row since reaching the First Round when they played Northampton Town, they have exited the competition at the first hurdle.

Instead it was Potters Bar who caused a minor shock to progress to the next round, although a goalless draw would probably have been a better reflection of a disappointing game that just never really got going. Indeed, as FA Cup matches go, this was about as underwhelming as it gets.

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