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The Journey to Wembley starts at the pit face

This season the FA Cup started for many teams before a Premier League ball had been kicked.  Andy Hudson gives us his view on Jarrow Roofing’s long long road to Wembley, starting with an away trip to Glasshoughton Welfare FC.

The journey

photo (51)11am – Boldon Colliery. Huddled in a car park behind The Shack social club are a collection of players and committee members. A 33-seater bus rolls along the road. “I expected something a bit bigger than that like,” starts a voice behind me. A car roars behind and comes to a sudden stop in space. “Right, who hasn’t got their European Championships England international cap?” shouts player/assistant manager Dean Nicholson? “FINE!” Among the dissenting voices as players realise there’s no way they could have the latest item of the week, something each player must bring in order to avoid a fiver fine, is Dean brother Stuart: “That’s where it went to…that’s mine that!”

The highlight of the trip down is getting the Roofing’s Fantasy Football League sorted, players on their mobiles sorting their team before the 12.45pm deadline. “Lads, you’re all wasting your time man…I’ve got the league wrapped up already,” laughs Dean.

Although Roofing have been to the second qualifying round of the FA Cup, as well as an FA Vase semi-final, it’s the ex-Hebburn contingent of co-manager Paul Bennett and the players who crossed South Tyneside with him in June when he moved to Jarrow Roofing who have the real pedigree in this competition. Two seasons ago Benno’s team held Gateshead for an hour before losing 3-0 at the final qualifying stage – one of the best Cup runs in recent history from a Northern League team, especially considering Hebburn were a second division club at the time, as Roofing currently are.

After a stopover at Wetherby Services – “Bloody huge!” according to Steve Forster – the bus pulls up outside the ground, met by left-back Ian Davison and his dad Brian who have already made the trip down by car.

The match

The Roof’s road to Wembley started with a win in Yorkshire, against higher league opposition in Glasshoughton Welfare, thanks to goals from the Nicholson brothers and Stephen Young despite falling behind again.

For the third successive game this season, The Roofing gave the opposition a one goal headstart, this time Dan Kirkup nicked the ball off Daniel Clayton’s toes as the winger sped down on goal only to agonizingly watch as the ball skipped past Dan Regan and inside the post after 37 minutes.

Until this point it was Roofing who had been the better team, despite Clayton giving Jack Stanley, making his FA Cup debut, a torrid time down the left wing.

Stephen Young thought he had given Roofing the lead after 24 minutes when he finished a short passing move involving Danny Carson and Paul Gardiner, but the forward had just strayed into an offside position when the ball fell at his feet.

Roofing needed have worried, about either the offside goal or going behind, as their fire power, and in particular the impressive Gardiner and Stu Nicholson, were going past their markers with ease.

It was Nicholson, the elder brother, who fired the Roofers level within 60 seconds of conceding. Dan Kirkup nodded a right wing free-kick from the back post back towards the penalty spot where Carson tapped the ball to the front post and the waiting Nicholson who applied the finish.

With half-time score remaining at 1-1, Roofing made an early second half substitution with Jamie Marshall replacing Stanley at full-back, and Marshall’s pace nullified Clayton.

Roofing almost took the lead early in the second half when first Dean Nicholson’s curling shot smacked against the post, with Glasshoughton’s number eight Darryl Young running into the upright in attempting to clear the ball, and then Stu Nicholson smashed the rebound low towards goal only to see it rebound off Young’s head on the goalline as the home skipper lay injured and unaware on the line.

A quick fire double midway through the second half shot Roofing one step further along Wembley Way when first Dean Nicholson got on the end of Dan Regan’s long kick and lobbed Paul Hagreen in the Glasshoughton goal after 63 minutes before the home ‘keeper rushed from his box to succeed only in heading the ball backwards to the waiting Young to tap home Roofing’s third goal of the game only 42 seconds later.

With Glasshoughton throwing everything they had forward, the central defensive pairing of Dan Kirkup and Ian Dixon were comfortable dealing with balls in until with three minutes remaining Callum Ward nodded in Greg McGrory’s centre to reduce the deficit to one goal.

With seconds remaining of injury time, an innocuous tackle by Young resulted in Glasshoughton’s Liam Tuck taking great exception and petulantly grabbing the Roofing forward around the throat. When the dust had settled, Young was controversially dismissed for violent conduct while Tuck, who had then pushed away players who were trying to calm the situation, escaped with merely a booking as the young referee continued his day of making decisions that confused those in attendance.

The aftermath

photo (52)The bizarre refereeing decisions continued to impact after the game. The Glasshoughton manager forced into shaking hands with his opposite number after first refusing, two home subs getting slightly heated and causing a handbags-brawl in the dugout at the final whistle having made a grab for a Roofing player, Liam Tuck being stopped by an invisible wall as he attempted to storm the Alamo (well, the Roofing dressing room) when all the visiting players were inside and unaware, and the charming fans choosing some choice words that didn’t upset the Geordies but greatly offended the Mackem members of the squad who in no way would want to be a “Geordie bastard”. Though after a couple of pints, the team did what they had been told to and did indeed “fuck off”. A shame as the gentlemen involved with the home club were splendid, yet some players, management and fans were as far from that as Jason McAteer would be from solving that puzzle in Good Will Hunting.

Man of the Match Ian Dixon shirked his media duties by dodging out of the ground and returning just as the players were boarding the bus – with a massive bag of Chinese takeaway.

“Nearest shop please driver!”

That’s a mistake as the shop decides to hike their prices up for normal cans and bottles on the shelves. If they haven’t ramped the cost up for us then the locals are happy paying pub prices for cans of Fosters. £13 plus for four bottles of Kopparberg? Premier Castle Parade Store have missed a trick though as they could probably hike the prices even further if they chilled their drinks. Just a thought.

Co-manager, chairman, treasurer, sponsor, groundsman, plus much more at the club, Richie McLoughlin – one of football’s longest serving managers having been in charge since 1987 – now has Stu’s England cap on, while Dean is still complaining about his stolen training top, which miraculously emerged shortly before kick-off having been missing since before the previous Tuesday’s match against Seaham Red Star.

Darren Reay’s dance music blasts out on the trip back, making it seem like we’re travelling to Mars. Not because of any ‘freak-on’ but more because it makes the journey up the A1 more like an endurance test. Jeff Forsyth, sitting next to me, looks like he’s going to put a fist through a speaker any moment. He spent the journey down complaining about the heating being on. Everyone complains about it on the way back. “But it isn’t even on,” says the driver, oblivious to the fire being blasted out of vents that is slowly cooking everyone alive.

“We really need to find somewhere, anywhere, to stop for a piss! Driver, just pull off the motorway at the next exit and we’ll go be the side of the road,” comes a voice from the back. “Hey, I’m not going by the side of a road,” shout female physiotherapist Shaunagh Lillie. We wait until Scotch Corner services.

“I can’t wait until the next FA Cup Saturday,” Benno beams. “They are the best days of the season.” Hopefully the next one will be a bit special when Dunston UTS, a league above and FA Vase winners in 2012, travel to Roofing’s Boldon C.A. Sports Ground – a place that Richie’s has built himself, adding bits on over the years – with a place in the first qualifying round at stake.

Andy Hudson is a freelance football writer.


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