|My favourite game||
Other WFC-related Sites:
(This article was originally published in the WFC Programme in the 2001-02 season. It has not been changed, and may no longer be fully up-to date)
Paul Allison gets nostalgic for the days when we actually had cup runs
As a veteran of literally hundreds of top class matches, involving both Southampton (including the 3-1 grey shirt day, and the 6-3 win the following season) and Scotland (e.g. the first “last game at Wembley”, when Hutchison scored and Dailly didn’t), and 8 World Cup Finals matches (no, of course they didn’t all involve Scotland), it may come as a surprise when I nominate a scrappy County Cup match played in appalling conditions as “the greatest match I ever saw”.
‘Twas the spring of 1999, and I’d only been following the Rebels for a matter of months having had my evenings and alternate weekends freed up by a change of jobs when the Semi-Final of the Sussex Senior Cup Final came along. Now, the Rebels had been having one of their typical seasons (eventually to finish in the position now exclusively reserved for us: twelfth) and were pretty inconsistent, albeit with a record away match unbeaten run.
I’d only been to a handful of Rebels’ games since my first match in late January, although one of those games was the Quarter Final win against St Leonards. I’d also seen Crawley Town a couple of times that season, including their 3-1 demolition of Hastings (the only Sussex game played that New Year), and (ironically) their QF 2-1 win at Whitehawk – I was living in Hove at the time, so it was a local game. I came away convinced it was 1-1, and only realised that Crawley had scored their first right after half-time (I was still thawing in the bar!). I was well aware of the threat that Ben Abbey and co would pose to Worthing’s often erratic defence, particularly as this was a team that was third in the Southern League at the time.
On the night of the match monsoon-like rains swept across mid-Sussex. We had never been to Horsham before, and mistakenly thought that Queen Street would be easy to find. After several wild goose chases around the assorted floodlights of Horsham, Helen and I made it in to the ground just in time for kick-off. To be honest, we were surprised that the referee was even considering starting the game – the pitch was already a mud bath, and you could barely see from end to the other for the torrential rain. A poor crowd of around 250, with a lot less Crawley fans than expected, huddled round to watch the kick-off – we paid the extra 30p to watch from the comfort of the grandstand.
The actual game itself was a bit of blur (as I’ve said in previous articles, we don’t have the benefit of video highlights at this level!), but I remember Worthing, in the plain sky blue Adidas kit, quickly took the lead before we were a man down. Danny Smith then fired us two up from the edge of the box, before also being sent off, with all of 25 minutes played. Worthing then proceeded to play the most determined, hardworking solid football I think I’ve ever seen. Ben Carrington was left up front on his own, and he chased every ball (and every lost cause), harrying and even tackling defenders. Ben Abbey (later to play league football for Oxford and Southend before returning to Crawley this season), normally a very talented and professional player, let his frustration show by losing it in front of the Rebel’s dugout, causing a minor brawl (I have an abiding memory of Tango can being thrown at, an missing, Sammy from a rowdy Crawley supporter).
Half-time came and went with Worthing still playing out of their skins, and as the second half wore on the concern grew that the referee would abandon the game. There was little grass on the pitch and the ball just seemed to stick in the mid after every kick. After what seemed like an eternity of injury time, the ref blew up and the Worthing contingent exploded in celebration. I’ll always remember the noise and singing coming from the Worthing changing room on the way into the clubhouse.
And I’ll always remember standing with my drink in the bar when the players came in, in ones and twos, to standing ovations and cheers. Bearing in mind that I was still new to the Rebels, and almost an “outsider”, I really felt part of something special that night.
Others may nominate alternative matches for their own favourite games, and I have to say that Dover away in the FA Cup, and Barton at home (8-2, with Dave Cameron getting five) rank up there in my estimation. Others may say Rotherham away (a great day out, but not the best-ever performance) or Hastings in the SSC Final (a great result, but it was very easy!) - but for me, the sheer determination and winning against all odds “nine-men-against-a-better-team” mentality of the Crawley semi lifts it above just about every other game I’ve ever seen.
|Web space courtesy of:|
|Site design by||Site launched
7th Feb 2004