LCM travelled with the 329 Imps faithful to Telford this weekend in our annual FA Cup 1st Round outing. I think our trip last year to Kettering was well documented, as it appeared we slipped back in time on the way down the A1.
This year the route would be slightly different, and would take us past both Villa Park and The Bescott Stadium. However this year I had a more challenging task to complete, namely navigating my way around the West End of Lincoln in search of my car sharing Imps comrades.
Due to a change in circumstances recently (which the lads I drove down may be painfully aware of) I now have an empty car for the away trips, and as such offered a handful of my fellow fans a ride. Sam, Ollie and James all took me up on my offer, and after a brief jaunt round town on a collection mission we were on the A46 and heading to Telford. Via Nottingham. Oh and via Tamworth. Then Birmingham.
We set out in good time, and managed a brief break at Tamworth services where we saw no red and white striped shirts, in stark contrast to my last stop at Tamworth back in 2005 before the Millennium Stadium trip. You could argue our FA Cup tie today was every bit as important, as in my mind the most important game in any season is always the next one.
I’d manage to blag a free ticket and a car parking space at the ground through Benny the Buck from Telford. Approaching the ground I called him and dragged the poor guy out of the shower! He got us in the ground, and we set off in search of the local boozer.
On our way we were met by the car park attendant who set the mood for the rest of the day – he friendly, approachable and more than happy to have a League Club visit the New Bucks Head. He was also more than happy to fill us in on the goings on down the road at Shrewsbury, or as they refer to it ‘The Porn Star Stadium’. He also told us he expected 1,500 Imps fans to come along, and estimate that our group found a little excessive. We’d already discussed anywhere from 300 (Sam) to 500 (Me) with James sitting on the fence at the 400 mark. Ollie didn’t say a lot.
After the usual exchange of witty banter he pointed us in the direction of a pub called The Summerhouse, with a thinly veiled warning that ‘you should be alright, the trouble makers will be coming in on the train so you’ll be able to avoid them’. Great stuff.
We found the pub, quiet, relatively empty and clearly set up to take a few Imps fans. We grabbed a pint (£2.70) and settled into the quiz machine in the corner. It was at this point that Ollie found his voice, and appeared to be a fountain of knowledge on a variety of subjects such as ‘Science’, ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Cricket’. Sam proved himself brilliant at the art of guessing whilst me and James filled in the blanks. However after winning nothing and spending around £10 we figured it wasn’t our day.
The pub was soon populated by a large group of Lincoln fans dressed very smartly in the usual Rockport and Stone Island gear; all who wanted to watch Paulton Rovers on ITV. We weren’t going to stop them! A police officer entered the pub and had a nose around, so we drank up and headed back to the ground.
At this point the lads went into the ground and I accompanied Poacher the Imp into the ground. Benny the Buck came to meet me in his guise as a real person, and took me into the New Bucks Head. The ground is very tidy, a nice home end, a smart away end and to the left of the away end a cracking main stand. Sadly to the right the sparse terracing seems to back onto a school sports hall, but nonetheless the ground was tidy and spacious for the level of football they play.
However the Telford hospitality really came into its own once I met up with Benny. I was given a brief tour of the back room area, and then shown the control room. The guys in the control room were fantastic, showing me how the scoreboard worked, how the attendance was counted and so on. The police officer from the Summerhouse was there and we had a natter about the hooligan element and the issues facing the police that day. He then surprisingly cited Kettering Town fans as amongst the worst he’d encountered at Telford, a claim backed up by other members of the control tower. I felt like I was in heaven at a nice, tidy non league ground who shared my hatred of the Cherries.
After this Poacher went out and did his thing, receiving the usual chants from home fans, a few boos and a decent reception from the travelling support. Even in and around the ground the stewards were excellent, one actually approached Poacher and asked him to inform fans that the inflatable’s they’d brought along would be taken away during the game and returned at the end. It was becoming apparent that AFC Telford Utd were a shining example of how to run a non league club from the top down.
The pre match entertainment consisted of the Telford 1984 FA Cup run side being paraded on the pitch – the same side that beat the Imps in the first round that season!
The game itself was a typical FA Cup 1st round affair. Sergio Torres put the Imps ahead with a smart finish, before a cracking header equalised just after half time for Telford. City then took the game to their lower league opposition, and retook the lead through Jamie Clarke’s first goal for the club. A good day for City was rounded off just before the end by an Aaron Brown thunderbolt.
The only real issue from the day was getting out the car park at the end of the game; it took a good 45 minutes and involved annoying several people before we got out. Mind you spending 45 minutes laughing at a man in a Focus Estate getting agitated but not being able to move anywhere did brighten our day even further. Turning on 909 mw revealed that Grimsby had also been beaten – topping off an almost perfect day.
Sadly for my car companions I kept droning on about my own personal life on the way home, every so often checking that Sam wasn’t asleep – with Ollie it’d have been difficult to tell!
Bring on Northwich Victoria in the 2nd round, and another away trip for the Maudlin Mondeo and its Moaning Master.