A game a bit nearer to home today with the Unibond League representatives Lincoln United taking on Cambridge United of the Conference in the final F.A. Cup Qualifying Round with the chance of taking on one the League big boys. Except the draw is already made before the game kicks off and so we know who awaits the winners, Ilkeston Town.
Ashby Avenue is the venue today with a capacity of 2,700 and the Club are hoping for a crowd of over 1,000, hopefully boosted by fans of Lincoln City. I pick up Keith, my fellow Fox fan who is to be my guide today, and who actually played for Lincoln United a few years ago and it should be pointed out that the groundsman is also a Foxes fan who has come to games with us in the past. We park up and make our way to the Clubhouse which is outside of the ground and is shared with the cricket club which you pass to get to the ground. The clubhouse is packed and a large number of Cambridge fans are in attendance, some of whom we are told were at the ground at 10am! The focus of most people is on Sky's coverage of the Premiership game between Liverpool and Manchester United. We depart before half time of this game as a queue is already building up outside the turnstiles. This presents me with a first on the Non League scene, segregation, with Cambridge being given the side stand accessed through separate turnstiles. When we get in its fairly packed down the side stand so we make our way to the stand behind the opposite goal. There is a good following to our right from Cambridge in a stand with a mix of seats and standing.
The Cup upset that we hope to see looks on as veteran Jamie Forrester lobs Potter after only 3 minutes and its almost 2-0 before the shaky Cambridge defence clear it off the line (although someone at that end insists the ball was over the line). After weathering this early storm Cambridge start to show their class and the game is over by half time with a 3 goal burst, scorers for Cambridge McCauley, Willmott and Hatswell.
We get a pass out at half time and head back to the Clubhouse. Its just as full but the Premiership supporters are out in force and its a little bit like being in Liverpool and when they score their second the cheering is unbelievable. A guy near me turns and says "This is what is wrong with football". I think I agree, they seem to be totally oblivious to the fact that there is a Cup tie going on only yards from where they sit. I get talking to my fellow traveller who has travelled from the West Midlands for today's game. He tells me he is a groundhopper now in response to my question "who do you support" and goes on to tell me he has been to over 300 grounds, and nearly completing down to Step 4. I bid farewell to him and we head back into the ground.
The second half is not as dull as I feared but Cambridge have control of the game and there seems to be only one team that will score. However both defences hold out and Cambridge see out the game and into the First Round proper against the Robins of Ilkeston. We leave the ground to be faced by a large number of the local plod. It has to be said that there was no hint of trouble that I saw and the day passed off without incident.
Lincoln United 1-3 Cambridge United
More photos of Ashby Avenue here.