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Saturday, May 10, 2008

FA Trophy Final

Ebbsfleet United 1 Torquay United 0
FA Trophy Final
Wembley Stadium, Wembley, Middlesex

FA Trophy FinalStanding halfway along Wembley Way (or Olympic Way as I believe it has been rechristened) watching Ebbsfleet and Torquay fans make their way to the new national stadium it was interesting to see the variety of Ebbsfleet/Gravesend & Northfleet shirts on display. Once I was over the momentary confusion caused by the Torquay replica shirts that is which, at first glance anyway, appeared to be emblazoned with the words SPANKWORLD, but on closer inspection actually carried the name SPARKWORLD the Devon club’s sponsor. Confusion caused, I should point out, by my failing eyesight rather than any bedroom predilections. But I digress.

FA Trophy Final

There seemed to be some sort of street cred thing going on. The older your replica shirt/t-shirt the longer you had been a supporter of The Fleet, the more recent your shirt the more likely you were to be a Johnny (or Janet) come lately or a MyFootballClub.co.uk member. I fall into the middle category, my connection to the club being by virtue of my birth in Gravesend rather than the latter (although I decided not to opt for the offer from a colleague of a red shirt carrying the caption “I’m an Ebbsfleet Supporter and it didn’t cost me £35”). After all if just the regulars turned up they could have played the game at Wembley FC’s Vale Farm ground, so whatever their reasons for being at today’s game 25,000 Ebbsfleet fans is a pretty decent number in anyone’s book, easily outnumbering the Torquay fan’s in the 40,000 crowd.

FA Trophy Final

I was quite taken with the new Wembley on my two visits last year (to the FA Vase and FA Cup Finals) and still am for that matter. Mrs ExtremeGroundhopping – attending today’s game mostly under sufferance as footie is not her thing at all – is not. She failed to be impressed with the place particularly given it’s well documented timetable and cost overruns. “£800M – you’re having a laugh”. Its not that she doesn’t care for stadia as she was most impressed with the Stade de France, Paris (visited October 2006) and in awe of the Olympic Stadium, Berlin (visited April 2007), but Wembley, arch and all, just didn’t press the right buttons. Never mind.

FA Trophy Final

Sat in the upper tier today on the Royal Box Side, the view of the action was excellent, but one thing that became very obvious when the FA Trophy was presented to Fleet captain Paul McCarthy is that you can’t actually see the Royal Box from any of the seats in that part of the stadium (this was not the case at the old Wembley) because of the way top tier overhangs the two below it. You can watch proceedings on the screens at either end of the pitch, but that’s pretty much the same view that viewers would have had on SKY TV in the comfort of their living room, which is not quite the same thing. A mild annoyance I guess.

FA Trophy Final

A bigger annoyance and not the fault of Wembley per see, is the length of the post match presentations. In the old days the players and match officials climbed the 39 steps up to the Royal Box, there were handshakes, the presentation of the Cup/Trophy/Vase and medals, both teams did a lap of honour (both sets of fan’s sportingly remaining behind for this) and that was that. Now there are 107 steps to be climbed (around half way up the players completely disappear from view behind an area of seating), the Cup/Trophy/Vase and medals are presented, down everyone trudges back to pitch level where the winners make their way to a platform. Here they cavort about while fireworks and ticker-tape are let fly in the background. By the time the lap of honour comes around a good twenty minutes has passed since the final whistle and the losing end of the stadium is unsurprisingly empty and the lap of honour becomes a half lap. But enough whingeing.

FA Trophy Final

The Torquay fans may have been outnumbered but they certainly made themselves heard in the opening period of the game and their side may well have gone ahead very early on – D’Sane’s shot going just wide of the post. The Gulls certainly looked more purposeful in the first twenty minutes but Ebbsfleet gradually got the measure of the pitch and the opposition creating a number of moves that lead to long range shots from Stacy Long, Long again and Michael Bostwick. Then on the half hour mark Torquay ‘keeper Rice pulled down Luke Moore in the box – Penalty! But Chris McPhee’s low spot kick to Rice’s left was easily saved and with it Fleet’s chance of taking the lead.

FA Trophy Final

But McPhee’s chance to atone for his miss would soon arrive. As half-time approached the ball was played out to the left wing and as Chris Todd tried to marshal the ball out for a goal kick John Akinde’s persistence paid off. He wrestled the ball away from the Gulls defender and hit a low firm cross into the six-yard box and McPhee was waiting to side foot the ball firmly into the Torquay net.

FA Trophy Final

Chances for Ebbsfleet came and went after the break too. James Smith headed wide from a free-kick, a similar attempt was saved by Rice in the Torquay goal, the rebound being headed wide by Akinde, and Akinde was again close with a cross cum shot that flashed across the goal mouth. Torquay had their moments too, Sills headed straight into the arms of Fleet ‘keeper Cronin and later saw another header cleared off the line, while Benyon should really have levelled the scores but steered a free header wide of the post.

FA Trophy Final

Three minutes of added time were announced to cat calls and whistles from the Red end of Wembley. Ebbsfleet wisely played keep ball deep into the Torquay half and then the final whistle blew on what had been an entertaining final and an amazing season for my home town club!

FA Trophy FinalWebsites:
Ebbsfleet United
Torquay United
The FA
Wembley Stadium

Vital statistics: Admission 25 pounds, attendance 40,186.

Match Number: 1438

posted by chevblue at 10:00 pm

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extreme groundhopping

a (mainly) pictorial account of one man's obsession with football stadia, floodlight pylon's and ipswich town football club

recent posts

Cardiff v Portsmouth Tickets anyone?
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Crap Football Songs
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