Two FA Cup draws everyone wants…and the one Rovers actually got
This article is written by Lizzie Robinson, our first guest contributor at ITEN. Lizzie is a Rovers season ticket holder who can be found on Twitter here.
The first week of November is special for many reasons. Obviously, it is a time to acknowledge Guy Fawkes’ attempted attack on parliament by burning effigies of him on bonfires and setting off as many fireworks as possible (no pyro, no party and all that). However, it is also the first week of a tournament that thoroughly excites football fans throughout the leagues. A cup that is treasured by all the nation’s teams, from those relegated out of the National League right through to those who are Champions of England. The FA Cup allows fans from this wide variety of clubs to begin to speculate wildly about the prospect of a good cup run, the chance to visit a new ground, an opportunity to be analysed by Gary Lineker on ‘Match of The Day’, whilst in the process generating much-needed funds and an immense level of excitement for all involved.
As a Rovers fan, I couldn’t help but look back at our previous FA Cup endeavours before the draw took place for the first round. I wondered how it would pan out this year and whether it would live up to all that has occurred in the past…
To put it simply, it didn’t. Either way, here are two FA Cup draws Rovers fans wanted this season compared to the one we actually got.
A visit to a ‘quaint’ non-league ground
Although Rovers have had vast quantities of success in my lifetime, I’m well-aware that we used to be one of these teams I’m about to speak of. Nothing fills me with excitement more than going to a ground like this. When you visit them it feels like they’re the only places football is meant to be played at, in comparison to sleek, corporate grounds with no character and a lot of sponsorships plastered everywhere. However, not every non-league experience is as perfect as I’m currently making them out to be.
Doncaster Rovers’ trip to Weston-super-Mare is certainly unforgettable for all the wrong reasons, and it’s certainly more apt to refer to the place as ‘Weston Super Nightmare’ due to the tragic events that unfolded. Following a two-hundred mile journey to the coast, the headline-making tie ended embarrassingly with the TV cameras, players and disappointed fans turned away due to a measly puddle inside the six yard box. Everything about the outing was abysmal. The day was wasted, the in-ground food was pathetic and the travel time simply wasn’t worth the hassle. It’s safe to say I didn’t even consider attending the rearranged game.
Playing host to a ‘big club’
The concept of a ‘giant killing’ has very much become part of the FA Cup’s branding at this point: the idea of a little lower league team doing the unthinkable, the David and Goliath story everyone enjoys hearing. The whole thing is like poetry in motion, especially when it’s little old Donny who are given the chance to play host to the bigger clubs. It’s very rare we actually do any killing ourselves though.
One of the most notable encounters of this ilk was when we played host to Aston Villa. After smashing them 3-0 in the league cup four years prior, Rovers fans were ecstatic to be up against them again. Despite eventually losing 3-1 in the replay, the initial game is one that will be remembered by many, especially the absolute blinder Neil Sullivan had in the net. However, for me at least (a young’un in comparison to many fans), the most memorable big club tie was last year against Stoke. With the love of my life Paul Keegan donning the captain’s armband and Nathan Tyson scoring an absolute beauty, we genuinely seemed to match Mark Hughes’ men for most of the game. In addition, there was this atmosphere at the Keepmoat that has never occurred before. A sold out stadium is something that genuinely gives me chills even now – especially since I’ve attended the Keepmoat when only 1500 people were in attendance – and games like that have so many benefits for clubs like Doncaster Rovers. They’re the reason I always hope we make it to the third round.
Bloody Oldham Away
And now, the draw we actually got. The draw we knew we’d get. The draw we seem to get every single year in one cup or another. I genuinely think I’ve been to Oldham away in all competitions more times than I’ve visited some of my relatives. It seems to be a bit of a curse at Doncaster Rovers, to the point where I get unnecessarily hyped up about it before the draw even happened. That is because by this point, I don’t hate our constant trips to Oldham. There’s something about it that endears me. Perhaps it’s simply how naff the place is. Perhaps it’s because it’s always the first game I dig out my thermals for. Perhaps it’s because I distinctly recall the time Paul Keegan ran the length of the field to punch Joe Mills after a brutal tackle and didn’t even get a booking. Perhaps it’s because I’m just used to it and have become numb to the plethora of disappointments it brings. Or maybe it’s time to stop psychoanalysing myself. We all knew deep down that we’d draw Oldham again, and the best thing to do is to just accept it and enjoy the game regardless.
Enjoying anything about it was much more of a challenge than it should have been. The game itself is one that was certainly forgettable in many ways. In fact, I don’t really remember much apart from the blistering cold. The decision to stick Mathieu Baudry in holding midfield was less John Stones-esque tactical genius and more of a terrible, thoughtless decision that led to Oldham’s preventable second goal, especially taking into consideration the capability of our defenders on the bench. Tyler Garratt also didn’t impress, and was substituted for Cedric Evina – the better option unfortunately. However, scoring the penalty at the end of the game can only be a confidence boost for the young Liam Mandeville who, unlike Alfie Beestin, worked his socks off all afternoon.
It was certainly an FA Cup run to forget. Rovers embarking on a disappointing, mediocre trip to Oldham has become a staple of the FA Cup, a tradition you begrudgingly partake in year after year. Although I’d definitely change it if I could, as would anyone else in their right mind.