Tuesday 29th November 2016 ko 19.45
Surrey Premier Cup, 2nd Round
BANSTEAD ATHLETIC 5 (Smith 43 90 Maddock 54 Hill 67 Frost 90)
OLD WILSONIANS 2 (Gravesande 12 Steadford 16)
Just every groundhopper has been in this position, stood by the pay gate while the referee paws nervously at a hardening, frosty pitch. You know that it’s too late to head elsewhere, even my other possible fixture at Sittingbourne was to fall foul of the weather. You try and dig a heel into the turf to see if the cold ground will take that mythical stud. You fret, and thinking selfishly I really wanted to see this game, as it was one of the more interesting ties in a County Cup this season.
Banstead play in the second tier, first division of the Combined Counties League, but spent from 1979 to 2006 playing firstly Athenian League then when that league folded in 1984, Isthmian League football. Whilst it’s fair to say that at no point did they set either league alight, Merland Rise, with cover on 3 sides does reflect their lost status.
But the fascinating half of the draw was Old Wilsonians. Many cup competitions feature inter-league play but a side from an entirely different Football Association is, I think, a new one for me! Old Wilsonians are affiliated to the Amateur Football Association; the 1907 schism was covered in the West Wickham article. They were formed by former pupils of the Wilson’s Grammar School in Camberwell in 1883, and are now based in Hayes, playing in the top flight of the Southern Amateur League. They do have one famous ex-player, after-dinner speaker Bob “The Cat” Bevan, and they are still linked to the Grammar School.
It was refreshing to watch a game where neither side knew much about the other, and if Banstead thought playing a SAL team would be a simple assignment they were given a very rude awakening. Two early goals rocked them, and with the temperature falling I did wonder whether pressure would be put on the referee to abandon the game.
As it transpired Martin Smith’s goal gave the home management a dilemna as half-time neared. Should they take a replay if one were available, or do they back themselves to win the tie? The manager restricted his activities to a gentle enquiry, while the substitutes jogged on the pitch at half-time presumably to keep the surface malleable. Talk about hedging your bets….
I’m not convinced that once the game started referee Luis Nunes had any great thoughts of ending the action early. Yes, the pitch was hard, but no worse than a dry, end of season surface. Eventually Banstead scored 4 times, including a winner from the rather appropriately named Frost. The scoreline was harsh on the visitors, even if the place in the third round went to the correct side.