Saturday 21st August 2021 ko 15:00
FA Cup Preliminary Round
MULBARTON WANDERERS 1 (Eagleton 2)
HADLEIGH UNITED 0
I suppose you could look at this as yet another foray into the Eastern Counties League, it is a fairly regular destination for me. You could look at it as yet another long drive along the A11 towards Norwich and its hinterland, but oddly enough it really didn’t feel that way. I’m sure the return from watching the likes of Loch Ness had something to do with it, I was well and truly back in my footballing comfort zone, but more than anything else what made it feel different was that it was an FA Cup game.
It’s an oddity of the modern game that clubs tend to take the World’s greatest knock-out competition less seriously the further into the main draw you go, but here at preliminary round level it was obvious what it meant to both clubs. Perhaps it meant even more to Mulbarton as it was only their second time in the competition. Their rise through the East Anglian footballing pyramid has been remarkable.
They were formed as recently as 1993 and since then were promoted from the Central & North Norfolk, into the Anglian Combination in 2007 where 6 promotions in 6 years saw them elected into the Eastern Counties League and with average points used over the last (incomplete) two seasons used, they’ve found themselves in the Eastern Counties’ top flight for this season.
Mulberry Park reflects that rapid elevation. On one hand it remains the village football ground on the common with the players changing in the local hall, on the other the ground is railed, enclosed, lit and a quirky stand erected. There’ll be more improvements as the club adjusts to life at Step 5 but even to outsiders it was obvious that there’s real enthusiasm at their club and half the fun of being at this game was seeing the village get behind the team.
There was the group of young lads who rather outnumbered the one girl who was with them. They clearly were interested in her and had decided the way to win her heart was to wear as much “Lynx” as possible. When they sat in the stand Robyn has to move for fear they’d trigger her asthma! Then there was the tea bar, a hub for all those present. Just about everyone seemed to call in a some point and I could have easily taken a set of “Folk at Mulbarton’s tea bar”
The game was every inch as close as the score would suggest. One defensive error settled it, and we’ll skirt over the details, and try as they might Hadleigh couldn’t find a way to find a way through an obdurate home defence. But truthfully I’m unlikely to remember much of the game in the future, what I will is the little club in Norfolk enjoying the ride they’re on. All the best to them.