Barber’s FA Cup weekend

My FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round ties at the weekend were Clapton v Bowers & Pitsea (1-1) and Tower Hamlets v Felixstowe & Walton United (0-1). The London Tigers v Takeley replay in Greenford tomorrow will be my 450th match in the competition.

I hadn’t been to Clapton’s ‘Old Spotted Dog’ ground for at least 20 years. There was some track replacement work on the relevant tube lines, so I took the 2.10 overground train from Liverpool Street to Forest Gate. The eight-carriage train was empty when I got on it but within five minutes it was rocking with ‘Tottenham! Super Tottenham! We are Tottenham from the Lane!’

The entrace to Clapton FC in east London.

The home of Clapton FC in east London, where The Barber saw FA Cup action on Saturday

I made my way along Upton Lane, police vans hurtling past with sirens wailing. Clapton’s home since 1887 is one of those grounds that is so well hidden that you could be a few yards away and not know it was there. I paid my three quid and stood behind the goal for an all Essex Senior League affair that had a goal after six minutes. 

Clapton are a club with a fascinating history. They won the old FA Amateur Cup five times – there is a picture of the 1924 team on the clubhouse wall – and they once played Nottingham Forest ‘at home’ in an FA Cup tie. It was switched to Upton Park, Forest scraping home 14-0.

Saturday’s match was a typical early-round tie in The FA Cup with both teams clearly ‘up for it’. Bowers might have added to their early lead during a good first 20 minutes for them but the home side equalised and arguably did enough in the second half to claim the £1,500 prize money and a place in the Preliminary Round. The replay is at the Len Salmon Stadium tomorrow.

There was another trip to east London for some FA Cup action for ‘The Barber’ on Sunday. 

Tower Hamlets from the Essex Senior League were playing Felixstowe & Walton United from the Eastern Counties League on a sunny but fairly blustery afternoon at Mile End Stadium. This impressive ground, with a running track round it, is only five minutes’ walk from Mile End tube.

Like Saturday’s, this was another Cup tie that could have gone either way. The only goal came from a classic Felixstowe header on the hour. Two more matches in my favourite competition. I watched my first with Dad, Crystal Palace v Hitchin Town in the First Round Proper, my hero ‘Budgie’ Byrne scoring in a 6-2 victory. Could it really have been 54 years ago?

Twitter: @thebarberfan