Saturday 13th September 2014 – Biggleswade Town FC 2 – 1 Arlesey Town FC
FA Cup Qualifying 1st Round @ Carlsberg Stadium, Biggleswade
Apologies for the lack of photos – had access to Windows Phone only.
As of c. 6pm this evening, there will be very little football for fans of clubs in the top two divisions for a fortnight, unless you can rouse yourself to get excited about England putting in a shift against European powerhouses San Marino and Estonia. Next Saturday however is FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round weekend, and you could do worse than take a trip down to your nearest non-league club (if they are still in the competition….) for a game. Fixtures can be found here.
I will officially be in ‘gone fishing’ mode next weekend, but looking at the fixtures prompted me to write about the last FA Cup game I went to a couple of weeks back, the “Battle of the River Ivel’ between Biggleswade Town and Arlesey Town.
Until last season, my attendance at FA Cup games had ranged from 3rd round games in January through to a solitary QF against Arsenal c. 5 years ago. Hull’s cup pedigree was never great, and it was usually all over before Valentines Day.
That obviously all changed with Hull progressing as far as the final last year, a great day out, but one which ultimately ended with defeat.
So it seemed fitting that my next FA Cup tie should be a match at the very outset of the competition. For the armchair fan, the great FA Cup competition normally starts in January, when ITV et al pitch up at far flung clubs, light years away from the riches of their Premiership visitors, hoping for a ‘shock’. For the more interested fan, they may even watch the 1st Round proper in November.
But it actually starts in August, when the clubs below Conference North and South, start off in their quest for that lucrative big money tie.
The match was quite opportune, and co-incided with the visit to a friend who lives in the town of Biggleswade. It represented an opportunity for a catch up, and a ground-tick.
For those who do not know, Biggleswade is a small market town in Bedfordshire. It has expanded rapidly in recent decades, as priced out Londoners move to more affordable digs a short train ride away from the capital. It actually has two non-league clubs; Biggleswade Town of the Southern League Premier Division and Biggleswade United, of the Spartan Midlands Premier Division.
The aptly named Carlsberg Stadium (unfortunately the “if Carlsberg did stadiums” analogy does not apply here) is on the outskirts of the town, c. 15-20 minutes walk from the train station. Not the greatest of routes, effectively through an industrial estate towards the motorway, but the ground itself, whilst obviously small, is nice enough with very welcoming staff and stewards.
My friend and I were running slightly behind schedule so didn’t get chance to sample the pubs en-route (another time perhaps), but we did get chance for a quick pint in the affable club house. Usual fare; nice and spacious, decent range of beer / ales on tap, and a TV in the corner with the scores on. There is also an outside area for when the sun is shining. Couple of nice touches too, such as a raffle in relation to ‘last goal scored’ (which unfortunately wasn’t on the 17th minute) and some sort of lottery, the kind of things I avoid at Premier League grounds, but don’t mind so much in the non-league world, when the money clearly helps the club out.
Interesting mix of people at the ground (attendance was close to 200); Arsenal fans who’d just got back from the earlier midday KO between Arsenal and Man City, fans of other clubs glued to iPhones and a pleasant smattering of fans from both clubs as well.
The ground has one stand just outside of the club house, with the remainder standing only. Randomly the dug-outs are at the opposite end of the pitch to the main stand / tunnel.
The game itself was decent enough, though whilst a derby, not quite as heated as you might expect from the likes of Rangers vs Celtic! The most interesting fact of the day was that Arlesey are managed by none other than ex-QPR and Fulham legend, Rufus Brevett.
It was Biggleswade who were victorious, 2-1 after going down to an early goal. For them the dream of making the first round proper remains ‘on’, for Arlesey it is back to the league.
If you happen to be in Biggleswade on matchday, it is well worth a visit. £10 to get in, nice family feel to the club, and a good standard of football too.
Biggleswade play Maidstone United at home this coming weekend; I wish them the very best of luck, and encourage others to embrace the competition in it’s infant stage before the better known teams throw on their stiffs for a run-around.
*** POST PUBLISH EDIT – Biggleswade is actually in Bedfordshire NOT Hertfordshire as originally published. Thanks to those who corrected, and my apologies for poor geographical knowledge. ***