One of the fun elements of the FA Cup is to travel literally in a different direction and arrive at a new ground. Recently, our gallant few supporters trekked to Hampshire and now we’re off to Surrey in the FA Cup Third Round.
OK, it’s the Qualifying Round. For us, the distance is only mid-range, at just over 140 miles. Expect around 3 hours on the road, accidents at Swindon permitting. Enter RH1 3QB into your SATNAV. We know the London Bulls are excited with the prospect of an easy away trip. Get yourselves there guys and boost our numbers.
Yep., we’re off to Merstham FC, a Step 3 club with Cup ambitions of their own. In 2016, the Moatsiders reached the First-Round proper for their first and only time. They plucked a home draw v Oxford United FC, and the BT cameras were on hand to see the EFL club win comfortably. To this day, our hosts are still re-using footage from that game. Their cup ambitions are sharpened by beating Step 5 Balham “we overcome a banana skin” and an impressive 4-1 win over Margate (6th in the Isthmian League) in the Second Qualifying Round.” We had some nervous players out there.”
The football club have slowly hauled themselves upwards from their humble beginnings in the 19th century. They secured promotion through the Play-offs in 2015 into the Step 3 Isthmian League and have retained their status since. Tenth is their highest position though they have narrowly avoided relegation twice. This season, they are struggling again thanks to a lack of goal scoring and with an average attendance of 200, quick fixes are hard to find. League admission is £10 adults, £6 concessions though expect a higher price “because it’s the FA Cup.”
The Moatside oh sorry the Whisky Blue Stadium has a theoretical “wet-finger in the air” maximum of 2,500 though that’s never been tested. here are even seats are behind one goal. The Venue, the Moatsiders clubhouse, is open 7 days a week with both Sky and BT. It’s a members bar so may be some restrictions on entry. They have a beer bar apparently. Doesn’t every bar?
Estate agent Frank Wilson was appointed as manager in June 2019. He’s been around the Isthmian League scene for some years and is known for encouraging young players. He is assisted by one Barry Hayles. Barrington to give him his full name is a Jamaican international, with nearly 850 games behind him, mainly in the EFL and still adding to them – at the age of 49. We thought Craig Stanley at 38 was getting on a bit..
The Moatsiders have their own Bull. That’s goalkeeper Toby Bull on loan from oh dear Brighton. Another opponent to watch out for is 19-year-old Dylan Adjei-Hersey, on loan from AFC Wimbledon. A wide player, known for his pace ad rated Man of the Match in the previous round.
The town of Merstham is smaller than Leominster with just 8,000 people but is surely more prosperous with 20% more senior managers than the national average. The settlement can trace its lineage back to 942 with a later gratuitous mention in the Doomsday book. The name is literally a “homestead near a trap set for martens or weasels.”
As a charity fundraiser, 3 men are following the FA Cup Wembley trail. This involves going to watch every round of the FA Cup, following the winner of each game into the next round, from the extra preliminary round, to replays and right through to the Final. As if that wasn’t enough, in the week before each match, one of the Three Men will be cycling the equivalent distance between the two clubs playing that weekend. The 3 men are currently following Merstham. Stick with us guys if you want some serious mileage. See link for more info.
By Simon Wright