This afternoon I belatedly got on the road (or should that be train track) to Wembley as I took in my first FA Cup game of the season.
A mate suggested a day trip to the big smoke for our game so after some deliberation we opted for Merstham versus Cray Valley Paper Mill. This was my suggestion in order to assist my seemingly never ending quest to complete all the ground down to non-league step 3 - just as I was getting close there was a league restructure this summer and I now have another 8 grounds to visit in order to finish off the third tier.
|Team line ups - that is former Charlton and Leyton Orient|
striker Kevin Lisbie lining up for Cray Valley PM
It was an early start as I left the house at the crack of dawn in order to catch the 0615 train to Euston. Obviously with such an early start it meant arriving in London before 9am. This meant there was time for full breakfast in Wetherspoons in Lee (not my choice as these days I am reluctant to hand over any of my hard earned to that Father Jack look-a-like) before catching a bus up the road to Blackheath for a few pre-match light ales. Our choice for imbibing was the fabulous Zerodegrees with a fine selection to choose from.
Merstham Football Club were formed in 1892 and were founder members of the Redhill and District Football League in 1897. The club remained in that league until the 1950's when they joined the Surrey County Intermediate League before moving up to Surrey Senior League.
The club transferred to the Combined Counties League in 1984 and in 2008 they were league champions and earned promotion to the Isthmian League Division One South. In 2015 they were promoted to the Premier Division after beating Folkstone Invicta in the play off final. The club have remained at step 3 in the non-league pyramid since.
Today the club were once again on the trail of FA Cup glory as they welcomed Cray Valley PM to the Moatside. On paper it appeared to look an easy tie for Merstham against opposition from two leagues below. However, football matches are never decided on paper!
The game finished goalless, with chances few and far between. As the game progressed it appeared more and likely the game was heading for stalemate as Cray Valley dug in for a thoroughly deserved replay. Indeed the visitors from the Borough of Greenwich, who play two divisions below Merstham in the Southern Counties East league, had the best chance of the game but Joe N’Guessan fluffed his strike with the goal at his mercy. Merstham had a couple of half chances towards the end of the game but that would have been incredibly harsh on Cray Valley.
Edit: The replay ended 3-3 and Cray Valley won 4-1 on penalties. They will now travel to Oxford City in the 2nd Qualifying Round.