Sunday 21st November 2021 3pm – The FA Vase – Foxbury, Chislehurt
The FA Vase is the best domestic tournament we have. Perhaps a slightly controversial statement but there’s few other tournaments where there is such an open field of teams that are competing at similar levels both in terms of the resources and finances.
The incentive of a day out at Wembley is a great incentive to all sides and in recent years, with a decline in the domination of the teams from the Northern League, it has provided us with a hatful of new names of clubs hoping to use the competition as a stepping stone to greater things.
In the last six competitions, eleven of the twelve finalists have since been promoted to Step 4 or above, including last season’s finalists Warrington Rylands and Binfield. Despite the pressure of fixture pile ups, it seems that building a winning momentum on the way to Wembley aids rather than abets league form for clubs.
The Northern League sides have dominated the competition for many years, primarily due to the strength of the sides in that league who for many years rejected the chance to move up the pyramid. From 2009 to 2017, the competition was won by a Northern League side, with the only exception being in 2014 when West Auckland Town lost to Sholing.
Since 2017, with promotion mandatory from the Northern League to Step 4, three of the four winners have come from areas outside of the North East. This season only four sides remain from what was the strongest league at Step 5 and 6 in the last 64 clubs underlining how times have changed.
The fixtures prior to Christmas come thick and fast, with games every two-three weeks as the competition reduces 618 entrants downwards, reaching the Second Round Proper in mid-November. With Glebe FC having hosted, and beaten Hanworth Villa 24 hours previous, tenants Stansfeld OBC took on Badshot Lea on a very chilly Sunday afternoon.
It is rare these days you have to queue to get into football, but the line of fans outside Foxbury Avenue at 3pm suggested there would be a decent crowd. Less than a minute into the game and the home side took the lead which led to the 30 or so fans queuing outside to stand on tip-toes to get a view over the fence (the scorer was later confirmed as Rob Hughes).
The game pitted the South Eastern Counties Division One side against Combined Counties Premier League South Badshot Lea – or Step 6 versus Step 5, with a possible cup upset on the cards although it was hard to see any difference in two teams as they competed for every loose ball and 50/50 decision. However, it was the home side who doubled their lead in the 12th minute when a free-kick from distance struck the bar and Milton was first to react and headed home the rebound.
You got the feeling that Badshot were not out of the game and they pressed up the hill looking for a goal back. In the twentieth minute they got their reward with Upton bundling in the ball at the far post after a free-kick had been flicked on. The visitors dominated the rest of the half but simply couldn’t convert any of their possession into chances on goal.
Half-time saw 75% of the crowd head for Glebe’s bar just outside the ground, offering sanctuary from the bitter cold and I dare say that a few didn’t make it back, happy to be watching the Premier League in the warmth. It was a win-win for the landlords with a bumper crowds in the bar and in the ground.
The second half saw plenty of huff and puff but ultimately the home side held on for a historic victory which mean they progressed into the Third Round for the first time in their history.
Stansfeld reward is to host another Combined Counties Premier League South side in Frimley Green, local rivals of Badshot Lea, in the last 32 of the competition next weekend and with Glebe also at home in the competition, it looks like it will be another pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll down to Foxbury to see if Stansfeld can take one step further towards Wembley.