Walthamstow 4 Crawley Green 1

Tuesday 10th August 2021 – The FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round at Wadham Lodge, Walthamstow

Whilst the clubs in the Premier League and Championship have shown their disdain for the world’s oldest cup competition, for clubs playing at the opposite end of the footballing pyramid, it offers hope of a decent payday and some national media attention, for the right story to bring “The magic of The FA Cup” to our attention.

After a season of ties being decided on the day, replays were back for this season’s competition but it was the torrential rain that had seen this Extra-Preliminary round tie shifted from Saturday to Tuesday night.

Tracing their roots back to 1868 through various iterations including Leyton FC, Pennant FC, Leyton Pennant, Walthamstow Pennant and more recently, Waltham Forest, Walthamstow FC are a club on a mission. In the past two curtailed season they finished in third place but missed out on the restructure promotion spot to Hashtag United in the summer, which is a significant achievement considering their respective resources.

A tip for anyone planning on heading to Wadham Lodge by car. Whilst it is very easy to find, located just off the North Circular, parking is resident only until 9pm so be prepared for a bit of a walk, although a pit stop at the Dog & Duck on Chingford Road is recommended. The small-sided 3G pitches adjacent to the ground were full, a real multi-cultural affair whilst the queue to get in snaked back into the car park. After 10 month absence of competitive action, football was back for the Walthamstow fans.

A lot of football fans head to Waltham Lodge for the excellent match programme, which was as I expected, excellent. I’d love to have the time, or find the volunteers at Lewes who could produce such a fantastic publication. Despite managing our digital version, which I’m very proud of, I’d still love to be publishing a physical one. But I’m also very aware that the demand from fans at Lewes has been inversely proportionate to the effort we’ve put in over the years and to continue to publish one would mean taking money from elsewhere in our budget. A loss is a loss.

The hardcore of Walthamstow fans congregated behind the goal underneath the low roof which amplified their noise. I don’t think I’ve seen such a high percentage of fans in a stand drinking cans either. Big tick there.

Despite some early pressure from the visitors from Luton who play their football in the Spartan South Midland League, it was Walthamstow who took the lead in the 20th minute. A corner was headed goalward but was blocked on the line before Adalberto Pinto bundling it home despite a despairing effort from the Crawley Green keeper. A protest in vain by the visitors was waved away by the referee and the goal was given.

The hosts doubled their lead in the 42nd minute when Jason Hallett cheekily back heeled the ball in from 12 yards, wrong-footing the defence. Two minutes later he doubled his tally, nodding home a cross from Harrison Carnegie.

The comfortable lead was cut down in the opening exchanges of the second half but they run out of steam and a fourth was always on the cards, finally coming from substitute Nolan-Samuels in the final few minutes.

Walthamstow’s reward for victory was a cheque £1,125 and a tie in the next round against Step 4 Hullbridge Sports. Who knows, perhaps this is the start of something beautiful for The Stags. Hope is sometimes the best strategy in the Non-League game.

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