Ah the magic of the cup. Big clubs being taken out of their comfort zones and having to play at tiny non-league grounds, heroic acts of giant killing and the thrill of little numbered balls being drawn out of a bag. Of course, none of these things apply to OTFC and the AFA County Cup, but never let the facts get in the way.
What does apply is painfully long journeys across London into the unknown of playing a team in a different league structure; will they be any good, what are the showers like and is the post match hospitality worth the 90 minute drive each way?
The answers to these questions were – not bad, they didn’t look great but had incredible water pressure, and yes. Throw in a win and progression to the next round and the journey becomes worth it.
Tiffs managed to scrape together a bare 11 players to journey into the depths of North London and the pre-match team talk focused on geometry and, for the love of god, not going to extra time. With these words ringing in their ears Tiffs got off to a flying start. An early goal from Dylan Brillante settled the nerves and quickly the Purps started to dominate possession and make more chances. Before they knew it, Ben Dawes had added a second from a corner, Ben Harrison a third from an excellent passage of actual football down the right flank and Alex De Stefano a 4th. 0-4 Tiffs after just 30 minutes, the 2nd round beckoned to them.
Of course, 0-4 is always a dangerous score line and a lapse in concentration allowed Finchleians a lifeline before half time.
Half time was spent discussing how the penalty area wasn’t in fact smaller than others, because all penalty areas are created equal, and that the game was there to be won as long as we remained disciplined.
An undisciplined 2nd half promptly followed. Finchleians got themselves an early goal and sensing a chance continued to push forward. A change in formation had made the difference for Finchleians and mid-way through the half they scored a third goal and the horrific thought of an equaliser and extra time descended on the ground. Tiffs got themselves back together and Finchleians struggled to create more chances, with the frustration boiling over into a nasty late challenge from one of their midfielders. Unchastened by his yellow card he spent the next few minutes espousing opinions and left his manager little choice but to sub him off, and with that all Finchleians momentum was lost. With no further chances the last 10 minutes were fairly comfortable and Tiffs ended up worthy 3-4 winners.
POTM: Ben Dawes