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Saturday 28th September 2013 ko 15.00

FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round

CANVEY ISLAND 2 (Dumas 19 Belotti 83)

ST NEOTS TOWN 2 (Hilliard 5 Adjei 74)

Att 256

Entry £10

Programme £2

It would be all-too-easy to write off Canvey as a Chav Town, full of takeaways and amusement arcades, bereft of any history and culture. I’ve yet to visit a place that fits that description, and Canvey is no different!

The interest didn’t take much finding either, just after crossing on to the island on the A130, you see the first of two octagonal houses. These are relics from the 17th century when the Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyen was employed to drain the island’s land and wall it against the River Thames. An agreement was reached in 1623 which stipulated that in return for inning and recovering the island, the landowners would grant a third of the land as payment, the result being that to this day several of the street names still have Dutch names and the final two Dutch octagonal houses are still preserved, one as a folk museum.

I decided to have lunch at the 17th Century, Grade II listed Lobster Smack Pub. It’s adjacent to the estuary, and typically you do have to climb the seawall to see the sea! The pub is mentioned in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and it does take a little finding, its past the Gas Holders, right at the end of Haven Road. In fact its isolation is partly its making, as it was a popular haunt in the 19th century for bare-knuckle boxing. The most famous bout staged here was between Tom ‘The Brighton Boy’ Sayers and Aaron Jones on 6th January 1857. The fight lasted for three hours, and 65 rounds, and was finally declared a draw when it became too dark to see. Sayers won the rematched bout a month later in London.

In more recent times the Island became a haven for the Pub Rock music scene, featuring the likes of Graham Parker and Elvis Costello. Dr Feelgood were based here, and former guitarist Wilko Johnson was born in Canvey.

Park Lane is one of those football grounds you just have to take a little time to explore, there are so many little touches to make you smile. There’s the line to point out that unless you are on the ever-so-slightly waved terrace, you are in fact below sea-level! Look out for the lego stadium in the club shop and the stanchions on the main stand change as you walk towards the corner flag. The pièce de résistance is if you stand on the terrace and wait…. for the inevitable container ship heading for Tilbury Docks. It almost looks likes its floating on the harbour wall!

The game was exactly what the FA Cup is all about at its fourth stage; two teams from different leagues slugging it out towards the distant dream of Wembley in May. The experiences are very different however. Canvey have played as high as the Conference, and now are 2 notches lower in the Isthmian League, Premier Division, whilst St Neots are playing at their highest level ever, the parallel Southern League, Premier Division.

Perhaps predictably there wasn’t much to choose between them, St Neots made the faster start, Ed Adjei crossing for Lewis Hilliard to fire home in the 5th minute. But Canvey responded, and when Rene Steer was adjudged to have blocked Simon Thomas, Mike Jones had the opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot. However his penalty was parried by Niall Conroy, but Ashley Dumas was the fastest to react and he fired home, much to Jones’ relief!

It was end-to-end to stuff, but surprisingly it took until the 74th minute until we saw the next goal, Adjei’s shot taking enough of a deflection to wrong-foot Josh Vickers in the Canvey goal. Its was rather unfortunate for the hosts, so perhaps an equaliser was deserved, and with 7 minutes left Spencer Bellotti’s control and shot was a fine goal to take this engrossing tie to a replay.

And here’s the best advert I can think on for Tuesday’s replay. I wouldn’t want to stake a pound on the winner!